Both of my kids are off at school these days and it’s meant that at the end of the day they don’t have quite the stamina for the multi-book bedtimes that we’ve been used to. More than once this fall, both kids have been softly snoring by the time the six o’clock bells chime across the street. Still, reading picture books before bed remains the most beloved time of our day. Lately we’ve been reading lots of simple, quiet books. Just by chance, or perhaps not at all, lots of these titles follow kids on simple walks around their worlds, pointing out everyday magic, or making it themselves. A lot of these books hit the sweet spot of capturing the comfort of routine and the thrill of discovery. Childhood, in a nutshell, in other words. I hope they offer a bit of quiet comfort to your families. And, as always, I want to know what you’ve been reading, too.
A little bit strange, a lot-a-bit magical, this wordless story is transporting and fanciful and just a lot of fun to look through. My kids love mimicking the facial expressions of the make-believe characters and imagining what they’re up to.
+ WINDOWS, words by Julia Denos, illustrations by E.B. Goodale
This book has been a favorite of ours since last winter. The story follows a little kid on an evening walk around their urban neighborhood. Walking around the city at dusk and getting to peek into other people’s lives is the best thing about this time of year and our ever shorter days. This book helps remind us of that magic.
+ CITY MOON, words by Rachael Cole, illustrations by Blanca Gomez
We’ve reached full-on moon mania with Silas. In addition to our beloved and oft-mentioned THE MOON IS GOING TO ADDY’S HOUSE, this book is a near nightly read for us. It follows a parent and child out for a nighttime walk, spotting the folks in their neighborhood and, of course, looking out for a bright full moon.
I love the simultaneous sense of comfort and possibility that this book gives little kids. It’s a perfect before bedtime book, especially for little ones getting used to new routines and looking for a bit of choice in the matter.
+ GROW, words by Cynthia Platt, illustrations by Olivia Holden
A kid, a garden, and a whole community of people working to make a tired place in a gray city a whole lot greener. I have a soft spot for city books, as you can see, and this one is especially nice.
+ YOU BELONG HERE, words by M.H. Clark, illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault
Another lovely read for kids who might be experiencing changes, or tumult, or who are just in a need of a reminder that they’re right where they’re supposed to be.
A big dose of magic, if you need some. (And you do.)
+ HOMEMADE LOVE, words by bell hooks, illustrations by Shane W. Evans
This is such a sweet reminder, for parents and kids, of the love kids should feel at home. We’ve been so lucky to have a really smooth and decidedly fun transition to full-day school for both of our kids this year, but it’s nice to have a simple reminder of the particular reassurances of home and family.
This is my very favorite new book. It perfectly captures the joy that is kids finding treasures on their weekday walks. A red bottle cap, a yellow leaf… It’s been the perfect thing to read this fall, but the illustrations are delightfully seasonless. It’s Faye’s very favorite right now, too.
Silvery branches outside of our apartment are clinging to small rust colored caps. The leaves that made up the rest of their autumnal wardrobes have all blown off this week, but the trees’ loss is our gain. We get sunshine bouncing off the slate roof across the street and an apartment that’s at least 20 percent brighter now than it is in the summer months. But there’s another thing that’s making our apartment brighter these days, and it’s a little quirky but maybe worth sharing in case anyone finds themselves in a similar conundrum.
When we moved back into our apartment this spring, we were reluctant to rehang our cotton curtains. I’d made them myself–simple white cotton curtains that hung doubled over a bit of wire stretched between two screws. They’d always been plain, but against the freshly painted walls, they looked just plain dingy. Besides, the painters had made a mess of the wire, making our never-perfect curtain fix even less so. Over the summer we slept with no curtains at all, but as we started to lose our bit of leafy privacy this fall, I recommitted to finding a solution to work for us.
The windows in this space have always been tricky. (Our last solution was the second one we tried in this space—the first featuring clips I later came to regret.) The windows are high and set into shallow dormers. They’re also two different sizes and they’ve got little room for mounting hardware. Deep sills and sloping walls make lots of the most straightforward kinds of solutions impractical. (If I could find a record of the number of times I’ve Googled “window dressings for dormer windows” and come up empty the number would be truly staggering.) Most solutions are fussy or expensive and nearly everything results in a considerable portion of the window remaining covered at all times. I didn’t want to sacrifice even an inch of light, let alone a whole foot.
Finally, it struck me: We needed curtains that could be taken down altogether. Endlessly inspired by the work of Kiva Montyk of Thompson Street Studio, I decided to try my hand at the Korean quilting—pojagi—that she uses in much of her work.
I rummaged through my bag of fabric scraps—scraps I’ve held onto from my wedding dress, and favorite baby swaddles, and old curtains, and handkerchiefs that belonged to my great aunts and grandfather. I hand-stitched the pieces together in as much of the traditional method as I was able to teach myself through online tutorials. Together the scraps make our new curtains—fabric screens to hang up at night and take down again come morning.
To hang them, I nailed three tacks that look like oversized map pins along the top of each window. (I found my tacks at a local shop and haven’t been able to find an online source, but other slim tacks, or any kind of long nail would work as long as you like the look of it.) Along the top of each panel, I sewed three black o-rings. When we want the windows covered, we hang the loops from the pins and when we want the light to stream in, we take them down again. During the day, the panels are folded neatly into a basket that we keep under the bed. It’s not anything you might call usual, and yes, I need to drag a child’s chair over to the window to reach the tacks, but it’s exactly what I’d call perfect for me. Any perfect solutions in your own imperfect spaces lately?
Yesterday, Americans elected 117 (and counting) women into public office. 42 of those women are women of color. 100 of them are Democratic. In the House, there’s a Democratic majority. And a majority of…
tucked in upper cabinets, candy. on sidewalks, leaf tannins. outside windows, orange. in mugs, cider. in the oven, muffins. on the stove, soup. at dinner, darkness. piled on beds, blankets. on the street, murmurs.…