Rachel Eugster on Books as Nourishment

Rachel10I’m happy to welcome Rachel Eugster to Good Books to Share. Both of our new books feature warm relationships between mothers and sons and were inspired by experiences we had with our own children. Rachel and I have attended writing conferences together where we commiserate and share inspiration.

Rachel Eugster wears two professional hats: one as a writer and editor, and the other as an actor, singer, and music director.

Rachel’s first picture book, The Pocket Mommy, was inspired by the day when she dropped her son off at kindergarten and he announced that he wished she was tiny enough to keep in his pocket all day. The book was released by Random House Canada (Tundra Books) in August, 2013.

Rachel is also the author of Beans and Other Pulses, Fruits, Grains and Cereals, Seeds and Nuts, and Vegetables, published by Franklin Watts as the Ingredients of a Balanced Diet series. As a magazine writer, her focus has been concentrated on food, healthy living, medical science, and interesting people. She has also written articles for children on such fascinating topics as horse communication, the Robotarium, ringtones for leopards, reawakening volcanoes, and exploding toads.

A former editor of Walking magazine, Rachel has edited nearly every form she can think of, from fiction to poetry to medical journals to architectural writings. She particularly enjoys editing the manuscripts of writers for children.

In Rachel’s parallel career, she is a founding member of the theatre company Bear & Co. (http://www.bearandcompany.ca/) and the ensemble Dragon’s Tea Trio (with cellist Joan Harrison and guitarist Andrew Mah).

Born in one national capital (Washington, D.C.), Rachel now lives in another (Ottawa, Ontario) with her husband, two sons (when they are home from university), two cats, and a greyhound.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

That is as difficult as describing my first taste of solid food! Who remembers the first banana they tasted as a baby?

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What was your first taste of solid food like?

Books have been a constant, as far back as I can remember. They were companion, refuge, entertainment, distraction, sustenance.  There has always been one in my hand or within easy reach—and here is photographic evidence.

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Nothing like a little philosophy before bed.

I don’t remember being read to, although I’m quite sure I was. But I do vividly remember being taught to read by my mother, whose hand-lettered cards and brilliantly conceived phrases rewarded decoding with a nugget of humor.

Thus, I entered kindergarten one of two children who could read. In one of my only memories from that class, Miss Bucket held up the book she was about to read aloud, and asked the two of us if we would read the title to the class. Painfully shy, I wasn’t confident enough to speak, so the other child (worse: a boy!) got all the glory, and I spent the rest of the day kicking myself for looking like a fraud. Shyness goes deep, and books were everything to me, as they are for so many shy children.

One important early gift was Bulfinch’s Mythology, from my grandmother. She, too, was a writer, and often asked what books I was reading. It took her aback when, at age of 9, I asked for Bulfinch’s. Her only condition was that I read it. Needless to say, there was a teacher behind the wish: ours had been reading from it to my class.

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I kept my promise to my grandmother.

But I read everything and anything, and have never stopped reading children’s books. That’s less unusual for adults these days, but my mother used to say I was the only person she knew who read them “as if they were literature”!

Now that you are an adult, what are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

I don’t remember many picture books from my own childhood, and reading to my own kids as a young mother led to wonderful discoveries. Both boys are in university, now, but I still have most of the collection we accrued. How can I get rid of Goodnight Moon? Blueberries for Sal? Grandfather Twilight? Bea & Mr. Jones? Perfect the Pig?

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As my sons grew older, I loved sharing books from my own past, as well as exploring the new things that were being published. We read everything, and even though they are very much children of the computer age, both of my sons still do.

The bedtime ritual of reading aloud that we established very early continued right up until my older son left for school. With four and a half years between the boys, it was sometimes a challenge to find things that would interest the whole family. Books from my past often came to the rescue: Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family, Tove Jansson’s Moonintroll books, Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, L. M. Boston, Madeleine L’Engle, Susan Cooper, James Thurber.

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Since my own book, The Pocket Mommy, came out last fall, I have also loved reading it to children in bookstores and libraries. Watching them sit entranced as I read, hearing them giggle in exactly the places that I think are funny—this is deeply fulfilling.

As an author visiting bookstores in cities far away from home, one of my best experiences so far occurred when a child who had just left the store pulled her mother back in so she could meet me—because she had recognized my book as one she loved from her school library. And this was only three months after it had been released!

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

Really, there’s only one tip to give: Read to them. Whenever you can. Wherever you can. Whatever you can.

Whenever means start reading to them when they’re really little—the earlier, the better. It also means read to them when they’re happy, when they’re fussy, when they’ve woken up or are about to go to sleep; whenever they ask, and at the drop of a hat.

Wherever means at home or away, snuggling in bed or while standing in lines, waiting in cars or sitting at the airport.

Whatever means anything and everything: Shakespeare, poetry, economics, history, mathematics, newspapers. Read them anything you love and believe in. Nothing you love will be too hard for them, as long as you are ready to answer questions.

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Also, be sure to read for your own pleasure, and be seen to be enjoying reading! Make sure it isn’t just newspapers and magazines, either. Let you kids know, by showing them, that you, too, like to read books, whether in print or electronic form.

Great advice! Thanks, Rachel.

Pocket Mommy

The Pocket Mommy is a perfect back-to-school choice.  What other books have you found helped to ease the transition back into the fall schedule? Share your suggestions below.

Connect with Rachel: 

Websites:

http://racheleugster.com/

http://www.randomhouse.com/book/223093/the-pocket-mommy-by-rachel-eugster

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thepocketmommy?bookmark_t=page

https://www.facebook.com/rachel.eugster.1

Twitter: @RachelEugster

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Time Together

Little Gray Time Together image cropped2
© Laura Bryant

One evening, as I was tucking my daughter into bed, she said, “When I grow up and you grow down . . . .” Then she went on to chat about what fun we would have if she were my mother and I were her child.

My daughter’s words flew like a spark to my imagination and eventually became Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Little Gray, too, dreams about switching roles with his mama. He would fetch her tasty leaves, shade her from the sun—even roll in the mud with her.

I wanted this story to celebrate the joy found in the ordinary. Rolling in the mud would be unusual for us, but it’s just what elephants do. What makes their activities special is that Little Gray and Mama share them. They are together.

I love this image of Mama and Little Gray sitting side by side at the close of the day. Our culture seems to pride itself on doing more and trying harder. But it doesn’t need to be difficult to simply be together. And if we pay attention, we can see the beauty of right now. Of how our child’s eyes crinkle when she laughs. Of hanging around in our pyjamas at the Saturday morning breakfast table. Of one more story. Of watching the clouds roll by.  

Let’s appreciate the good times we already enjoy.

In celebration of everyday beauty, l’ll be giving away some gifts that I hope will enliven your time with loved ones.* 

You can enter in one of three ways:

1. Post a comment below about one way you have enjoyed spending time with a child.

2. Subscribe to my blog, Good Books to Share. You’ll read stories of how children’s books have enriched people’s lives.

3. Subscribe to my newsletter. It features behind-the-scenes stories of the creation of children’s books and includes tips straight from their authors and illustrators on how to make story time fun and memorable.

Let’s cherish the many ordinary, awe-filled moments we share.   

Enjoy your time together!   

Sincerely,

Aimee

*Contest details: Entries must be received by May 11th (midnight, EST). Prizes will be drawn at random on May 12th. Winners will be contacted by email. One entry per email address.