Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr

The title sort of tells the whole story here, but we like it. The book is brightly colored. My daughter mentioned that a guy spills his milk in the story, and she sometimes spills her milk too. "But it's okay," she explained to me. The author Todd Parr also lives in nearby Berkeley.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bunny Mail by Rosemary Wells

This lift-the-flap book features 2 sibling bunnies, their grandma and the mail man. (Although my daughter pointed out that the mail man is not always the same color; thus indicating it actually features more than one mail man.) The older sister bunny throws a July 4th picnic while the younger brother bunny asks Santa for a Sand Spitter motorcycle. The real story is about the little bunny struggling to communicate without written language, which is fun and interesting.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Little Owl's Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

Little owl doesn't like her scarf, but her mom says she has to wear it to stay warm. After several attempts, she succeeds in losing it. They replace it with a scarf that little owl likes better. I like the artwork and self-directedness of the character. My daughter likes the scarves. I wear scarves all the time (even in summer); so, my daughter probably associates them with me.

Reminder about our book reviews: As you know, we pull books off the library shelf, somewhat  randomly, every week. I blog about the ones we love most.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Olivia by Ian Falconer

I remember when this book came out. I had just gotten a new niece named Olivia. I thought about getting her this book and related Olivia paraphernalia, but I didn't because I figured everyone else would have already thought of that and done it. I have regrets. This book is fantastic -- totally worth the hype back then.

My daughter says she likes everything about this book: that Olivia changes her clothes, that she wants her mom to read her 5 books, that she gets a time out. These are all things my daughter does every day. It's like reading a book about herself.

The artwork is very cool too, and I like the red and black. Of course, I love the inclusion of Edgar Degas, Jackson Pollock and Maria Callas -- you can't start cultural conditioning too early. I also love that they got to a museum. They obviously live in New York City.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Am Small by Emma Dodd

This beautiful book tells a sort of poem-story about a baby penguin. The images and print quality are stunning. The poem is right on in terms of parents and babies feel about each other.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by Kimberly and James Dean

Pete the Cat rides around on a skateboard checking in with his friends. The language is hip and artwork bright and fun. My daughter likes that they move around. I like that too. And the hip language and vibrant unpretentious artwork.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Peanut and Fifi have a ball by Randall de Seve

Two siblings fight over a ball. My daughter likes that they are fighting. I like the healthy competition and also the fine artwork.

Reminder about our book reviews: As you know, we randomly select books off the library shelf. Well, not entirely randomly. I reject books that have too many or too few words in them. I reject books that are thematically inappropriate (like "My teacher is having a baby" which seems focused on a particularly event, for example). But that's about it. Since we will go through a lot of books throughout my daughter's childhood, I try not to miss any by going shelf-by-shelf, and the library organizes these shelves by author's last name. I blog about the ones we love most.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Empty Fridge by Gaetan Doremus

I love this book. I love so many things about this book, I'm not sure where to start.

When I was a child, I remember hearing the book Stone Soup. In it, a community comes together to make a delicious soup despite each not having very much. I ordered Stone Soup for my daughter, but I got a version where some con men come to the town and take advantage of the villagers, manipulating them into making the soup instead of building community together with them. I did not like that version.

Empty Fridge is the same community-building story, even better. They live in an apartment building, and they get together all the time to make a meal together (it turns out in the end). What's more? They don't make soup, they make a quiche.

Now I am going to buy this book for my family and every urbanist family I know.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Short Giraffe by Neil Flory

A sweet book about family togetherness, a bunch of giraffes attempt to take a photo together and have to deal with one of  them not fitting into the frame. I love the art. My daughter loves that one of the giraffes is short and that some of the giraffes are yellow.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

This little urbanist from the SFGate halloween costume contest inspired us. Maybe next year we'll do something similar.

Sidenote: our friends made the sushi roll shown as image #3. Yum.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Maisy books by Lucy Cousins

My daughter loves the Maisy books. We recently took out of the Library
Maisy Learns to Swim and
Maisy Goes on a Sleepover.
I asked my daughter what she liked best about each one. In both, she likes what the ate (or that they ate, hmm...). She's also very interested in swimming and the idea of a sleepover (never having been on one). I like the chicken in the swimming pool and the design on the outside of Maisy's friend Tallulah's house.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

hardly strictly all the best artists who played

My daughter and I love the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival every October in Golden Gate Park. We don't get to stay very long because young miss can only stay cool for so long. But this year, my favorite artists we saw were:
Malawi Mouse Boys
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Of course, many amazing artists played. These were just our (read: my) favorite this year. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Get out and play, Excelsior

The third annual Sunday Streets Excelsior event, in collaboration with the Excelsior Festival, is this weekend! The Sunday Streets route includes Mission St between Theresa/Avalon and Geneva Ave.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

a child-safe Pandora

My daughter and I were listening to "Let It Go" (from the Disney movie Frozen, which every preschooler I know is obsessed with right now) radio on Pandora this morning, and the music paused for an ad. I was appalled when that ad was to combat "muggers", "rapists" and other "creeps" with some special phone feature. My daughter didn't seem to notice. The music played on. When the ad played a second time, and I couldn't find a button to give it a thumbs down, I sent an email to Pandora. In their defense, they sent this response within a few hours:

Stations that have the word (Children's) in the title will automatically have explicit content filtered out, but you can also restrict Pandora from playing songs or displaying ads with explicit language. To do that you need to sign into your account on a computer.

Once you're signed in, click your email address (or name) in the top right corner and select Settings.

Select "No. Do not allow explicit content." To protect this setting with a PIN, choose a password and an email address to send it to in case you forget the PIN.

Click the Save Changes button when finished.

Enabling this filter will limit Pandora to playing music that could play on daytime broadcast radio. Note that this can only be applied to the entire account and NOT specific stations. Once set, this will restrict explicit content for that account on all devices, as well.

Maybe it's the mommy hormones talking, but I don't want to hear fear-mongering ads like that EVER.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Movies for a preschoolers that grown ups will love too

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I spent an exhausted Friday night watching Frozen for the second time. We like it: or rather... I like it, and she loves it. The evening gave me an idea. We should do a movie night every (exhausted) Friday night. So, I asked my friends for suggestions. Here is the list.

A Bug's Life
Elmo in Grouchland
Finding Nemo
Gnomeo and Juliet
Kiki's Delivery Service
Kung Fu Panda
Magic School Bus (series)
Mary Poppins
My Neighbor Totoro
Nacho Libre
Planes (the around the world one is really cute)
Shawn the Sheep
Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories
The Lego Movie
The Sound of Music
Toy Story
Wallace and Grommit
Willy Wonka

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rain -- Blue -- Bear

The Rain Train by Elena De Roo -- such gorgeous artwork (by Brian Lovelock)
Red Cat Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond -- we love the colors of the cats and the fun they have getting to be friends. Especially the yellow cat.
Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson -- cute story about a bear born from a book and his adventures, a unique and clever plot.

Friday, August 1, 2014

books going back today

A letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats -- cute story and amazing artwork
Peppa Pig -- my daughter appears to love.
A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley and Jim LaMarche -- a sweet and magical story (although maybe for an older kid than my preschooler)
Jack's Talent by Maryann Cocca-Leffler -- we just like it.
My Cat Pearl by Dona Turner -- surprisingly beautiful artwork for a sweet and simple story

Friday, July 25, 2014

Just Ducks! by Nicola Davies

I have a particular fondness for ducks. But I think other people will love this book too. It has a nice balance of artful illustrations, education, and a sweet story. We recommend it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Too many books

I shouldn't be surprised that SFPL stocks their shelves with great books. What would be the point if they didn't? I continue to be impressed with the books I "randomly" select to read to my daughter. Here's the list of books we particularly loved that I am planning to return today:

Sophie's Fish by A.E. Cannon: This is a cute story about a little boy who is worried about babysitting a friend's pet fish. The artwork is really cool.

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole: I'm a sucker for anti-traditional fairy tales.

All by Myself by Geraldine Collet and Coralie Saudo: My daughter loves this story about little chicks waiting and worrying about their mom. I love the artwork.

Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue by Molly Coxe: My daughter loves that this book is about a child rescuing her mother, and I think the story is so sweet. The "bad guy" is cared for into acceptable behavior. The pictures are artfully composed photographs of toys, and I get a kick out of imagining the photo shoots with the artist tweeking little dolls to look just right.

Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin: ...and so it begins: I learned a lot from this book about the lifecycle of a fly. I thought it would be yucky and technical, but it's super cute.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Current favorites

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees got lost under the bed for a while, and I really missed it. Who says there's only one way to dance? You just need to hear the right music. That said, the dance the giraffe ended up doing looked like a regular dance to me.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown: I liked this one because it was a quirky book about greening the city.

Pirate Boy by Eve Bunting was my favorite. It is the Runaway Bunny but with humans and the baby bunny goes on a pirate ship, and everyone, including the pirates is really nice. We might, and this is saying something because we have too much stuff, need our own copy.

Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham: we read a couple books in this series and really enjoyed them. I like it because everyone misbehaves like themselves and then they all want to be together again the next day.

Piano Piano by Davide Cali hit close to home. I wasn't forced to take piano, but my sister was. She doesn't play anymore. But what if she'd been offered another instrument? It might be too simple a solution; I don't know

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sunnyside Safeway renovation

Last year, we wrote the following letter regarding the proposed renovation to the Monterey Boulevard Safeway in Sunnyside. Later, I noticed the information posters came down in the Safeway, and I could not find more information the project for a while (perhaps I was not searching for the right words on the internet, though). I noticed recently that the renovation posters are back up at the Safeway and took a couple photos so I wouldn't lose the link again.

It appears that the proposal has been scaled down significantly which is terrible news. If our neighborhood is going to endure significant construction impacts, we should at least get a good project out of it. I stand by my suggestions below. Apparently Safeway's architect did not get my message. I strongly and respectfully urge them to take this design back to the drawing board. Good examples for inspiration are the Whole Foods on Ocean and the under-construction Safeway in Rockridge.

Sent: Wed, April 10, 2013
Subject: Monterey Safeway

Dear ...

I live a 4-minute walk from the Safeway, and I shop there several times a week. I understand the issue at stake right now is the trucking route, but I don't have an opinion about that other than from a practical standpoint -- Monterey Blvd is the most direct route and is only congested during commute hours. Phelan is congested with pedestrians, cars and cyclists most of the day. Midday-only
delivery would make the most sense on Monterey Blvd.

That said, I'm dismayed by the proposed design of the new Safeway. It is suburban-looking and automobile-centric. I bought my house in Sunnyside, instead of the East Bay, because I wanted to stay in the City. I want my daughter to grow up in a pedestrian-friendly, safe environment that is inviting and vibrant to walk, bike, and ride transit. Economic vitality follows good urban design --
Safeway will bring in more business if it is inviting to walk into.

* The parking should be all but completely invisible.
* The side of the store against the sidewalk should be completely transparent (windows).
* The building should be mixed-use -- preferably with housing on top. Other storefronts to lease in the building would be even better.
* The main entrance to the Safeway should be from the Sidewalk.
* The front of the building should be varied and not monolithic -- as should the top of the building.
* The design should allow for a relationship between the sidewalk and the store, for example, sidewalk tables and/or tables/chairs that look out onto the sidewalk.

I could go on, but I think that's enough for now. The construction impacts of this project on our neighborhood will be significant. I don't think the project is worth doing -- no matter how ugly the Safeway is now -- unless the outcome will be beautiful and inviting for pedestrian shoppers. I understand you must have gone through a process with the community already, but many of the houses have turned over in the past few years, and we, the new residents, want an urban, rather than suburban, design for the Safeway.

Thank you.

Sunnyside resident

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Favorites now

I've had a hectic past few weeks at work and gotten behind on my book updates. Of course, we are still going to the library, and my daughter still gets bedtime stories. I just haven't been returning our favorites or blogging about them.

As you know, we randomly select books off the library shelf. Well, not entirely randomly. I reject books that have too many or too few words in them. I reject books that are thematically inappropriate (like "My teacher is having a baby" which seems focused on a particularly event, for example). But that's about it. Since we will go through a lot of books throughout my daughter's childhood, I try not to miss any by going shelf-by shelf, and the library organizes these shelves by author's last name.

Today, we're planning to return some favorites because we have had them for a while:
Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen -- this is the story of a strong and competent little girl doing something extraordinary .... things don't go exactly as planned.
Hannukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown -- my daughter loved this one because a swing figured prominently. I loved it because it involved some of my favorite things: nature and natural events, Alaska and Hanukkah.
Mouse and Lion by Rand and Nancy Ekholm Burkert -- I remember this one from my childhood. The drawings are just beautiful and the story of kindness repaid is nice.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Reviews

We've had such good luck in recent weeks with the books we randomly selected from the library that I hardly knew what to say about them. I can't list the entire pile of 12 books -- that doesn't show discretion. I'm returning only about half the pile today... sometimes just because we've had these books a long time. I'll tell you now a couple of our favorites.

The Ninja books by David Bruins and Hilary Leung -- we had 2 of them recently and really liked the sweet messages in both.

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo -- I like the eccentricity of this family. I also liked that it appeared to be a single father. Finally, their love of learning is definitely something I am trying to impart to my daughter.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This week's favorite books

By far my favorite book this week was Silly Billy by Anthony Brown. The artwork was great, and the message sweet. My daughter tried to memorize the names of all (many) dolls in the story. It was cute how important she thought it was to know their names.

My daughter also enjoyed Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot (I thought this one was great too) and Don't Slam the Door by Dori Chaconas.

On the flip side, I have vague positive memories of The Story of Babar (by Jean de Brunhoff) from my childhood, but I found the story scary, superficial and imperialist. Alas!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The week's favorite books

We're somewhere in the Bs (though not absolutely) as we work our way through the library's collection. This week, my favorite book was
Here Comes the Cat by Frank Asch

My daughter loved:
Black Dog Gets Dressed by Lizi Boyd and
Pocoyo and Friends.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Week's favorite books

Every week we go to the library and take out a stack of books to read for the week. We love it. I select the books more-or-less at random, working my way through the stacks. We're currently in the "B"s. We checked out 12 last week, and particularly loved 5 of them.

My favorites (for artwork and message) are:
Forever Friends by Carin Berger
Over in the Forest... by Marianne Berkes

My daughter prefers:
Swim, Boots, Swim (Dora the Explorer) by Phoebe Beinstein
Dini Dinosaur by Karen Beaumont
Feeding Friendsies by Suzanne Bloom

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Amazing Playgrounds Around the World

I stumbled on this slide show of some amazing playgrounds around the world. If you're thinking of planning a vacation around them, they are mostly in Japan, Scandinavia, Spain and Sydney, but I did also see St. Louis in there. Too far for a day trip from San Francisco, but a good note to self.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Weekly Favorite Book

Dora the Explorer: Say "Ahhhh!" Dora Goes to the Doctor, by Pheobe Beinstein
My daughter loves this book. I know lots of kids love Dora, but this was our first Dora book at home. I don't know why my daughter loves it, but I will tell you what I like about it. The story is positive, urban and multicultural. Dora's language has bits of Spanish. They ride the bus, and the narrative is interactive. The readers are asked to identify parts of the story as they go.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dance classes for children

Below is a list of studios that offer dance classes for toddlers and preschoolers. We don't have personal experiences with any of them, but they were all recently mentioned on a parents' list.
Mobutu Dance
Noe Valley Dance Space
SF Recreation and Parks
The Tutu School

Friday, February 14, 2014

Motivating your teen

One psychologist suggests that the way to motivate your teen is Tough Love. I would just caution that this is clearly in the case of an overly-protected and coddled teen. Related findings (such as in Po Bronson's books) find that praising actions rather than labels ("working hard" as opposed to "being smart") creates more successful personalities. But the article is about what to do when it's getting to be too late.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Manhattanization of Children's Bedrooms

Not long ago, when we talked about the "Manhattanization of San Francisco", we meant the increasing height and density of the buildings. We've moved past that -- given housing prices are higher in San Francisco by some measures. This causes a range of side-effects including, as discussed in a recent article in the New York Times, mixed-gendered siblings sharing bedrooms.

The article rightfully points out that not long ago, children didn't have their own bedrooms at all and instead slept where ever made the most sense... such as close to the warm fireplace. I would argue that the idea of everyone having their own room is a distinctly suburban one. When I was a child, my mother created an elaborate ruse because she decided one day it would be good for my sister and I to share room. This caused me to feel like I no longer had any room at all and didn't have a place in the house. Meanwhile a lovely large room stood empty right across the hall and, after many years, became part of the inlaw unit. I don't really understand it.

But the article touches on a bigger issue regarding raising a family in the city -- one of the barriers of entry and exit to/from the appropriate scale of housing for each stage of life. Some of my friends in San Francisco moved here after college and rented large apartments with their friends; the roommates dispersed and now those individuals have large rent-controlled apartments with their spouses and families.

But what about everyone else? There's a huge disincentive to leave a rent-controlled unit for a more appropriately-sized one -- you lose your low rent. Once you own, the transactions fees of correcting your housing investment can be prohibitive. Meanwhile emptynesters similarly have no incentive release their family-scale home back to the market in favor of a more manageably-sized one. All this causes a constipated market where housing prices are higher than they need to be because of unreleased of supply.

Siblings sharing rooms is probably a good thing regardless of gender. It forces young people to learn to get along with each other. It creates efficient use of space. And how luck are these kids to live in the cultural hubs of New York and San Francisco? They shouldn't be hanging out in their rooms anyway. But I wish it could be a more conscious parenting choice rather than one that is forced upon urban parents.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


I was excited to learn that Slate: Brow Beat is running a bi-weekly column "about cooking for children, and with children, and despite children." Frankly, this problem of getting my child to eat a healthy, balanced diet occupies way more of my mental energy than I would like. This week, the column is about tuna. We don't eat much tuna at home because I don't care much for it, but the mercury issues is a whole different layer. Regardless, it's always nice to have an outstanding pantry pasta recipe as presented at the end of the column.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Best City for Babies

You've probably heard the joke: "What does a Mission District kid get for his 5th birthday?
"A house in Layfayette"
On the flipside, the Chronicle reported yesterday that the website What to Expect named San Francisco as the #1 best city to have a baby: Surprise: S.F. top U.S. city for babies, website says.

It's true; the resources here are amazing. But there's always room for improvement. We also need to work on being a better city for kids.