anything but ordinary

Sending her off into the unknown.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

My oldest started kindergarten earlier this month. The anticipation for this momentous day had been building all summer. And by building, I mean me excitedly and confidently telling my daughter, everyday prior to THE day,  just how much of a big deal the first day would be.

My first day of kindergarten or first grade. c.1982 hence the grainy photo.

I don’t know how it is for most, but I’ve definitely been the type to get excited for summer’s end with a fresh start to a new school year.  The weather starts changing to pleasant temperatures. If you are lucky like me, your mother takes you back-to-school shopping for supplies and more importantly, some fun new clothes to wear. You look forward to seeing all those school friends you haven’t seen all summer.  New teachers, new classes and new books to crack open.

After high school, my back-to-school season excitement continued in college with the anticipation of moving into a new dormitory, receiving the fall semester paper course catalogue (I know I’m dating myself) and me happily choosing classes according to their course descriptions. Football games, homecoming, and more new textbooks to dive into. Even after university, once I entered the art world workforce, the fall season was always filled with anticipatory emotions. Refreshed from summer holiday, my coworkers and I were back at it installing the fall exhibition and gallery hopping from opening to opening those first weeks in September. The city was abuzz and bubbling with art talk and I couldn’t help getting caught up in it all.

Outfit, check. Backpack, check. Lunch bag, check. Ready for the big day!

Although grade school, university and gallery life is in my past, this time of year never fails to lift my spirits. And, I can happily say this level of enthusiasm has been passed down to my daughter. We have poured over catalogues and clicked through pages of online stores to find the perfect backpack and lunch box. We spent a good hour putting together the perfect first-day-of-school outfit. We had dozens and dozens of conversations about the school bus ride, her new teacher, lunch in the cafeteria, and meeting new classmates.

After hours in her kindergarten classroom—bright, inviting and full of stuff!

I would ask her from time to time, are you nervous? excited? scared??? The answer was always excited, excited, excited.  And right there it is. My daughter has an assuredness I never had. All of five-years-old, and she embraces the unknown. Yes, I loved the start of a new school year, but at five-years-old I remember how awkward, shy and nervous I felt to be doing something on my own without my mother’s confident hand.  I can’t say I saw or felt a moment where my daughter wasn’t ready. She hopped on that bus to a new school with a quick good-bye. She sat down to class ready even though she knew not what to expect or what her teacher and classmates would be like. She left beaming with a smile on her face and came home with an even bigger smile full of enthusiasm of what will be her new routine.  She gives me courage.


Which brings me to a new book my daughter and I have read over and over again these last few weeks, Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.

My daughter’s interest of late has been magic after watching some YouTube videos on the subject. This book was a perfect find at our town library.


It tells of the true story of Adelaide Herrmann one of the first female magicians.  Its beautiful illustrations brilliantly depict the ambitions of a young girl who was “anything but ordinary” and wanted to do and be something great. She aspired to “astonish, shock and dazzle” her audiences. She did just that becoming a master magician and entertainer.

My daughter truly loves flipping through the book for the pictures. She told me the illustrations remind her of paper doll cutouts. I love how vibrant each illustration is providing a unique format to tell the story of Ms. Herrmann.


This is an empowering story for young girls. It celebrates a brave, determined girl who becomes an accomplished woman in a male-dominated profession. Ms. Herrmann never let anyone tell her she couldn’t because of her gender. She conquered her anxieties at a moment when she knew it was important for her to push through the fear for a greater good. Ms. Herrmann reminds me a lot of someone I know.

My brave, beautiful one.



worlds of color: book picks for the littles

Detail of two rainbows on a stormy day. drawing by my five-year-old daughter, May 2016

My oldest daughter is really into drawing rainbows right now. She seeks color in everything. Clothes must be bright and if it sparkles, it’s a bonus. The best flowers in her opinion are ones saturated in the colors of pink, yellow, or purple. Her drawings must contain a minimum of three colors but more is always better. And lately, the pages of her library finds must be filled with a riot of color.


Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs by Davide Cali and illustrated by Raphaëlle Barbanégre is a retooling of the classic fairy tale we all know.  An evil witch, a forest, and dwarfs. This time around there are a whole lot more dwarfs, seventy-seven.  They are willing to protect Snow White from the witch but there is a catch. Chores, chores and more chores! Things pile up fast with so many dwarfs to tend to. By the end, Snow White is left wondering if she was better off with the witch.


The pages are end to end with rainbow-ordered color. My daughter’s favorite part of the story is when Snow White contemplates life with seventy-seven dwarfs:

“Snow White could see right away that life with the dwarfs might be difficult. For starters, how was she going to learn all their names?—Rufus, Kerfuffle, Dudley, Popsicle, Poodle, Bacon, Kiki, Blorp….”

Well, you get the idea.

When I read this page I recite each and every name of the dwarf in an increasingly exasperated voice for full effect. Snow White’ face is equally exasperated by story’s end.


Our next pick, Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael López, is a book that swirls with color and inspiration. The book is about a young girl who loved to draw and paint. She fills her room with color but her world outside is dull and gray.  One day a muralist arrives and together the young girl and the artist paint the walls of her neighborhood and transform it into something beautiful.

Mira, the young girl reminds me so much of my own daughter. I will often catch my daughter in a quiet moment to herself with her blank piece of paper, markers, pencils and crayons creating.

“In the heart of a gray city, there lived a girl who loved to doodle, draw, color and paint. Every time she saw a blank piece of paper, Mira thought to herself, Hmm, maybe…And because of this, her room was filled with color and her heart was filled with joy.”


The fluidity of colors will inspire young artists. Maybe Something Beautiful is based on a true story of how Rafael López, the illustrator of the book, and his wife brought together a community in San Diego, California and transformed their mundane neighborhood into a bright, bold and beautiful place filled with large-scale murals.

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs and Maybe Something Beautiful are full of vivid imagery that excite the reader’s imagination. The former offers a story with lots of chuckles from rainbow-colored, mischievous dwarfs and the latter encourages a young girl to turn her colorful dreams into a reality.

Now off to make my own rainbows with my daughter.


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