Author Archives: mozemet

Pandemic Book Shopping… Another New Normal

For bookworms like myself and my young’uns, bookstores are a sacred place offering an experience that cures whatever ails you. With each of our many moves I have managed to find a perfect bookstore to offer solace for my transient soul. After moving to Turkey, I found a two-story wonder with a decent selection of English titles and a phenomenal section of Turkish authors translated into English. I would disappear inside that shop for hours and imagine myself back in a world where the task of daily communication wasn’t exhausting. It was heaven.

Even Greg masked up at the bookstore.

When I returned to the US, I had a toddler in tow, so I had to start frequenting children’s bookstores. Bookstores soon did for my kids what they have always done for me, open a universe of possibilities. Trips to the bookstore have always been experiential, transformative and frequent. After moving to Massachusetts, it only took about three months before we found our spot – An Unlikely Story Bookstore in Plainville. This amazing independent gem also happens to be the brainchild of Diary of a Wimpy Kid genius, Jeff Kinney.

It was waiting for us just like we left it.

The boys and I have made regular pilgrimages to An Unlikely Story throughout our time here. If there was an early dismissal or day off, we’d make the 35-minute drive to hide out in the stacks and find new and exciting titles for our own bookshelves. But when COVID-19 hit, the entire state locked down, including our magical escape. We’ve waited six long months but when An Unlikely Story finally opened for ‘appointment only’ shopping, it was game on!

We counted the days until our bookstore fieldtrip, deciding to go in with no titles or styles in mind, rather hoping to be inspired by something peering out from the shelves. When we pulled into the empty parking lot my heart was a twitter. I’ve hated crowds even before the pandemic and this store was always packed. Seeing only two other cars meant there were only two other groups. Ahhhhh. Heaven.

At our allotted time a bookseller joined us in our socially distanced line in the parking lot, giving us a warmer welcome than I’ve received at family functions. “If you need suggestions or have questions, just ask. Our booksellers are as happy to see you as you are to see them. We are so glad you’re here.” 

It was like they were waiting for us!

Even my sarcastic 12-year-old was moved. “Mom, this is really cool. I feel important.”

After giving us the now requisite instructions about one-way aisles and hand sanitizing stations, we were unleashed into the store. Ahhhhh. Heaven.

We had 45 minutes to hang out with only 10 other people and we made the most of it. We settled in with some Star Wars STEAM books (I share our faves in Episode 5 of TwoLitMamas podcast) before scouring the chapter books. We moved through all of the mythology and science sections and did a serious dive into sci-fi and general middle grade fiction before exhausting our budget. We saved our last 10 minutes for their brilliant gift section because doesn’t everyone need Elizabeth Warren socks and Ruth Bader Ginsberg action figures? I know I do.

As we wrapped up our adventure and ordered me a coffee and the boys some brownies, the only black cloud of the day appeared. My 7-year-old burst into tears.

“Honey, what’s wrong? Wasn’t it good?”

“I don’t know, Mom. It was good but it wasn’t the same.”

And he’s right. While I absolutely adored my private shopping spree, it wasn’t the same. A bookstore isn’t just a retail space. It’s warmth. It’s safety. It’s shelf after shelf of possibilities and while all of those things were still there, it wasn’t the same. Unfortunately, it was a great reminder that while we’re slowly accepting our new normal, our kids might need a little more time. But in that time, we can devour a few books and hide away in some amazing tales.

Our epic bag of goodies!

Book Versus Movie, the Epic Smackdown

“Do I have to read it? Can’t I just watch the movie?” 

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that phrase in my 20 plus years as an educator, I’d be typing this from my luxurious, oceanside villa on Cape Cod rather than from my backyard deck adjacent to a pop-up pool in Plymouth. Most avid readers know that when it comes to adaptations, the book is always, always, always better than the movie. But when you’re 12 and you have the option between 2 hours on the sofa, munchin’ Jiffy Pop or actually engaging your brain for 300 pages, the choice is obvious. Unfortunately, the easy choice is seldom the best one. 

The problem doesn’t only exist in the classroom. We’ve had the same issue in my house, but I recently flipped the script before the whining could start. When I realized my eldest’s 7th grade summer reading list included Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightening Thief, I cut a deal. “Read the book first and then we’ll watch the movie. If they’re more than 75% the same, then you can always watch the movie first from here out.” He had no idea it was a set up. The Lightening Thief is a page turning ride that can keep even the most reluctant readers engaged. The film adaptation…not so much. As a former student once said, “Mrs. O, the only thing about that movie that’s like the book is the title!” Agreed kid.

After a few weeks of cozying up with the book version of Percy and Grover and joining them on Grecian inspired adventures, my son tuned in to Disney Plus for the film version. A couple hours later he reappeared. “Mom? What was that?” 

“Bad right?”

“It’s nothing like the book. The book is totally amazing and that was nothing like what I had in my head.”

“Well which was better, your head or the movie?”

“Duh, Mom, obviously my version.”

“So, I guess you’ll be reading the books from now on, huh?”

While I have some really strong opinions on film adaptations, I encourage you and your crew to test the theory for yourselves. 2020 has seen a slew of middle grade and YA adaptations with more to come. Challenge your family to read the book and then watch the movie. Afterall, there’s still a pandemic going on and everything is cancelled so you’ve got plenty of time on your hands. Afterwards, make a T-chart to list all the similarities and differences between both, then the experiment will not only count towards quality family time, but you might score bonus points for homeschooling or e-learning.  

To help you get started, here’s a quick list of book-to-movie adaptions for 2020 and where to find them. Enjoy!

Disney Plus:

My One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Culfer

Netflix:

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry 

Emma by Jane Austen

PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han (sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before)

Theatrical Releases – Available for rental on Amazon Prime:

Call of the Wild by Jack London

Dolittle (Based on The Story of Doctor Dolittle) by Hugh Lofting

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Witches by Roald Dahl – 10/20/20

The Dragon Rider – Cornelia Funke (Wide release coming in the fall)

2020 Releases Moved to January Due to Covid 19

Peter Rabbit 2, (Based on Peter Rabbit) by Beatrix Potter

Chaos Walking, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Let us know in the comments what book/movie you chose and which you preferred. You can get the Two Lit Mamas opinions on their favorite adaptations by tuning in to Two Lit Mamas Podcast Episode 6. And, to hear to them chat about adaptation failures, check out podcast Episode 5.   

5 Ways To Get Kids Out Of The Quarantine Quagmire

Like most people with small children, I feel like I’m on day 5,000,000 of pandemic parenting. In addition to protecting them from cooties, we’re also expected to keep our little bundles of joy from strangling one another and remain calm as they shred our last nerve. We have to entertain them with something other than screens and then nourish their minds and bodies while preparing them for school in goddess only knows what form coming this fall. Easy peasy right? Um no. Seriously, where do I tender my resignation?

Somewhere in the midst of our electronic-filled, junk food-fueled utopias, our kids growing brains missed out on proper tending. Last school year, we spent the last three months limping to the finish line like a chunky runner with a stubbed toe. Fifty percent of our energy went into maintaining academic skill levels and the other 50% went into keeping them sane and safe. And after what felt like a wholly unvacation-like summer vacation, we’re about to start the limp again in a matter of weeks, but this year we’re not just fighting the old summer slide, we’re fighting the quarantine quagmire. 

So how does a worn-out parent rally the troops and keep those little brains firing? Here are a few tips from one lit mama to help beat the slide and combat the quagmire.

  1. Keep them reading.  Set aside a time every day to read. Seeing their parents reading is a powerful motivator for kids but if they don’t want to read on their own, do it together. Even my middle school students love to be read to, so take this time to get back to the fun of reading to your kids. My kids are five years apart and we still manage to find lots of amazing books to read together.  
  1. Remember, blackjack is math. Math is a struggle with my youngest and flash cards are not his jam. While there are tons of great games and apps to help with math facts, nothing beats a good old card game. War is great for number sense and if you pull two cards per turn, you’ve got Math Facts War – add, subtract, multiply whatevs, you do you, but the highest wins. Best of all, what’s better than working on addition with a few hands of blackjack? Hit me.
  1. Blowing things up is the best kind of science. Science is everywhere, every day but if you’re tired of nature walks and identifying trees, try blowing things up. Baking soda and vinegar in a sandwich bag is good for a serious bang and altering the amounts alters the booms. Alka-Seltzer in film canisters turned upside down makes awesome booms. Mentos in soda are always a fan fave. When you’re done blowing up the neighborhood, have your kids look online to find out the science of why the explosions happened.
  1. Write on. Encourage your kids to write the wildest, most ridiculous, most fart-filled tales their little minds can muster. For once, boogers, farts and turd-brains are not off limits. See who can write the most insane tale or take turns writing the story one sentence at a time. You can build creativity, word work, vocabulary, spelling and handwriting without them even noticing. If your little one is too small for writing, create oral stories and ask them to draw pictures to go with them. 
  1. Chew on this – one of the easiest things you can do combat the quagmire is cook with your kids. Cooking requires reading skills, math work, processes and procedures and independent thinking. My kids are freakish foodies and we bake together on the reg. Recipes can be super simple or challenging. We make a range of goodies from boxed brownie mix to Turkish bread. We’ve had successes and we’ve had flops, but the payoff of homemade baked goods is always worth it.

So, before their gray matter turns to oatmeal, try some of these backhanded learning techniques. Learning without knowing you’re learning is the kid equivalent of exercising without realizing it. Hang in there, parents. We’ve made it over four months so far, we can make it a few more.