Mo Willems Is a Genius

Mo WillemsLast week, I actually cried while reading my daughter’s bedtime story. Looking back, I think I was set up for this moment.

My family is big fans of the books of Mo Willems and, in my opinion, there is no more imaginative and witty author of children picture books out there today. To say he is this generation Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak is not to do his creativity justice. That is not to say he is better than Dr. Seuss; no, what I mean is he is on his own path.

He is incomparable, unique.

And I, honestly, wish his books were around when I was my little ones’ ages. I would have devoured his books like a box of Macaroni and Cheese…

…or like a pigeon with hot dogs. Continue reading

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Re-Blog: Maurice Sendak Tribute

This morning on NPR’s Morning Edition (I am addicted to this show), they discussed a new book by Maurice Sendak. In many ways, it is his goodbye and is called My Brother’s Book. It’s not often that someone simply reading something on the radio can move me to tears but this did. The book’s illustrations are also gorgeous making me immediately think of William Blake’s work. When Maurice Sendak passed away last year, I wrote this piece in celebration of him. I hope you enjoy it.

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

There was always an element of darkness in Maurice Sendak’s stories that I found impossible to avoid.

With his passing, we hear and read again about his rough childhood fighting sicknesses, stuck in a room by himself, with only his imagination for company and the fear of death. His family were immigrants, just luckily avoiding the Holocaust; living with the grief that they were not able to save many of the people on his father’s side of the family. Yes, it was a childhood filled with death and the possibility of it around every corner. So it is not surprising that there is that darkness always someplace in his work, lurking and waiting.

In In the Night Kitchen, Mickey is almost baked in a cake by three heavy set individuals with Hitler mustaches. He emerges when he is put in the oven. When I first shared this book with…

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Writing About Genius: Discussing Authors on a Blog

I tolerate Garrison Keillor, but I am not sure how much I like him.

While I am impressed that he can write a two-hour show each week (and that is an accomplishment, make no mistake), I never found his fiction to be very good– comforting, yes; good, no. When planning for a trip to Italy with my wife, I picked up a bunch of his novels for all of the driving from tourist site to tourist site.  Well, on day two of the trip, I gave his books to another traveler, and picked up some new books at a bus stop… Yeah, that says everything right there.

So why do I bring up Mr. Keillor? Frankly, I don’t think he helps the image of English majors and readers on his show. English majors (and I will include librarians with us since they get attacked as well) in his opinion seem to always live a life of illusion, false grandeur.  Making us almost something to be pitied or laughed at… and they laugh every week.

Yes, English majors really don’t serve much of a purpose in the economy, no business manager has ever demanded an HR department to hire a new English major. When it comes to the American dream of moving up ladders and finding success, English majors are on the outskirts; because, honestly, our dreams are different. Continue reading

10 Favorite Books To Read To My Kids

After writing about Maurice Sendak and his work yesterday (You can read that editorial here), it inspired me to really think about what books I enjoy reading to my kids.

Oh, like my kids, I do have favorites… I also have the “opposite of favorite” books…

Am I the only parent who hides books they can’t stand to read again? Is that just me?

Anyway, here is my list of my 10 favorite books to read with my children: Continue reading

Maurice Sendak: Childhood Visionary

There was always an element of darkness in Maurice Sendak’s stories that I found impossible to avoid.

With his passing, we hear and read again about his rough childhood fighting sicknesses, stuck in a room by himself, with only his imagination for company and the fear of death. His family were immigrants, just luckily avoiding the Holocaust; living with the grief that they were not able to save many of the people on his father’s side of the family. Yes, it was a childhood filled with death and the possibility of it around every corner. So it is not surprising that there is that darkness always someplace in his work, lurking and waiting.

In In the Night Kitchen, Mickey is almost baked in a cake by three heavy set individuals with Hitler mustaches. He emerges when he is put in the oven. When I first shared this book with my son, I was floored, and my belief about the sequence was confirmed when I investigated it the next day. Yes, that moment was inspired by the Holocaust.

To think parents and libraries were annoyed by the naked boy in the illustrations, there was a whole other secret message about evil they were too blind and ignorant to even see! Even in Sendaks’s childhood dreams, darkness is near. Continue reading