Meet Children’s Authors at the Newburyport Literary Festival

Newburyport Literary Festival - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Sweet Pea and Bean at a workshop with children’s author Anica Mrose Rissi during last year’s Newburyport Literary Festival.

For book lovers, literary festivals are akin to music festivals. Live discussions, readings, and conversations with those who inspire us with the written word are often a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Newburyport Literary Festival is just that, taking place in our historic city for its 11th year on April 29th and 30th. This year, the festival boasts an impressive line up of novelists, poets, and children’s authors. We are so fortunate to have such a comprehensive, annual literary festival right here in Newburyport!

Last April, our family attended almost all of the children’s events at the festival. We spent the day at the library together, with a stop back home to rest and eat lunch. It was our first experience with the festival, and one of the monkeys favorite weekends of the year!

We met Jarrett Krosoczcka (Lunch Lady series), Anica Mrose Rissi (Anna, Banana series), and the Newbury-Award winning author Avi. Not only were the monkeys captivated by their presentations, but we were also impressed with the stories the authors shared about their writing journeys. The monkeys even asked questions, eager to learn more. It was an engaging experience for kids and grown ups alike.

After each event, the authors were available to chat and sign books, which you could purchase through local bookstores. To be a kid and have a book that was touched by and signed by the actual person who wrote it? Priceless.

Instilling a love of reading has always been a priority of mine as a Mom. It’s so important for kids to learn outside the classroom. I go out of my way to bring the monkeys to meet authors. I’ll never forget the first author they met when Sweet Pea was 2 and Bean was 5: Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious series). They were completely star struck!

Newburyport Literary Festival - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Author Victoria Kann signing a copy of “Silverlicious” for Bean back in 2010 at Newbury Elementary School.

For children, meeting an author is like meeting a rock star. With their name across the bottom of a favorite book, they’re totally famous. Some more than others, but that’s not the point. Authors bring stories to life in your imagination, taking children to places they’ve never been before.

Literacy is even more critical in this digital age. Interpreting information from multiple sources makes growing up today much more complex. Discussing books becomes even more important than reading them. And what could be better than discussing a book with the person who wrote it?

Children learn from modeling our behavior. If we’re excited about a literary festival, they’ll be excited too. Check out the schedule and mark your calendar for the events that interest you most. Most events are free! Then head to the library to borrow some of the books that will be discussed at the event. Get excited together!

Events we’re planning to attend at the Newburyport Public Library:
– 9:00 a.m. Red Knit Cap Girl: Make origami hats with Naoko Stoop.
– 11:00 a.m. Pets With Benefits: Learn how to build a worm farm with Newburyport author Lucia Greene.
– 1:00 p.m. Let’s Make a Poem: Create and illustrate your own poem through collage with Micha Archer.
– 1:00 p.m. Families: The Good, the Bad, and the Wacky: Win door prizes and learn author secrets with Elizabeth Atkinson and Newburyport author Dana Alison Levy.
– 2:30 p.m. Writers in Wonderland: Write about your own wonderland with Genevieve Morgan.

Writing is a gift that authors share with us page by page, book by book. I hope you can make it to the Newburyport Literary Festival this year. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something.

If you’re not in the area, stay in touch with your library to find out when authors will be visiting for local events.

February Vacation in Stowe

February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe- Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog
February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog February Vacation in Stowe - Under the Monkey Bars blog

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Twelve pictures must tell a hell of a story!

We managed to strike a beautiful balance between getting outdoors and downtime during our February Vacation week in Stowe with the monkeys. Highlights included bowling, ice skating, night sledding, the library, shopping, dinner with friends, and of course skiing.

The freezing temperatures gave us extra time for reading and baking. We made 3 batches of those honey biscuits

I know I speak for all 4 of us when I say that we’re well rested and recharged — and I didn’t even make it to the spa! Back to reality.

Simplify Holiday Traditions

Simplifying Holiday Traditions - Under the Monkey Bars blog

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But is it?

The holidays create so much extra stress layered on top of already busy lives. We search for the perfect gifts, decorate to the nines, angst over the perfect holiday card photo, host and attend numerous holiday parties. It’s exhausting!

The holidays always overwhelm me. I try to carry the sentiments of gratitude and mindfulness from Thanksgiving into December, but it’s not easy with such a long list of To Do’s.

I only started to feel the spirit of the holidays the other day when I snuggled up on the couch with my monkeys to watch the TV special Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus. You know that feeling that swells up inside you and fills you with hope and joy? There’s not much in our crazy world that does that anymore.

After the show was over, Sweet Pea was struck by the tangible example of how one person can truly make a difference — even a little girl. Virginia’s letter to the New York Sun impacted the whole city. One article in the paper lifted spirits, fostered giving, and created holiday cheer.

It’s amazing how hope can change us. At a time when our world is suffering from strife and anxiety, we must cherish every moment of peace and love. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes often simplifies problems. While watching an uplifting holiday movie will not bring us world peace, it can spark sentiments needed to create change.

As parents, Don and I have been through ten years of holiday traditions. Some traditions are fleeting and only last through certain ages, while others carry on from year to year. Our Christmas this year will be very different from our first Christmas as parents in 2005.

In the early years, we went overboard on absolutely everything without even realizing it. We’ve simplified our traditions so that we can spend more time together and feel more relaxed. We still decorate our tree, send cards, play holiday music, and exchange gifts. It’s taken me ten years to realize that the Christmas spirit will thrive in our home whether or not I spend hours upon hours preparing for it. Keeping it simple allows this time of year to be truly wonderful.

One of our favorite holiday traditions is the twelve books of Christmas. It not only fosters a love for reading, but it also builds our home library. I collect books for the girls throughout the year, stocking up on used books at the Great Old Book Sale at the Newburyport Public Library and buying the rest at bookstores locally.

We give each little monkey a basket of wrapped books as a countdown to Christmas. The girls choose one book per night to open until Christmas Eve. The excitement lies in deciding which book to choose and seeing the number of books in the basket decrease. We’ll curl up by the Christmas tree to read the new books together before bedtime.

Books have always played a large role in our holiday traditions. On Christmas Eve, we read Twas The Night Before Christmas in front of a roaring fire. I’ll never forget the first year that each of my daughters read the whole book themselves. It was truly magical. We cherish this Holiday tradition most of all.

This holiday season, welcome new and old traditions to foster holiday cheer without the stress. I hope your holidays are magical and the most wonderful time of the year for you and your family.