10 Things I’ve Learned From Children’s Books

Almost every day, I read a book called “Ruby the Copycat” to Anna. Maybe you’ve read this book to your child, or a child in your life, too. My copy of this story is nearly 30 years old; my mom introduced it to me once upon a time.

Anna loves this book. It’s about a girl, Ruby, who becomes enamored with her classmate, Angela, and begins copying everything about her—from the red bow in Angela’s hair to the poem she writes for a class assignment.

By the end of the story, Ruby learns the valuable lesson that her kind teacher, Miss Hart, imparts to her: “[You] don’t need to copy everything Angela does. You can be anything you want to be, but be Ruby first. I like Ruby.”

By the end of the story, Ruby and Angela also have become friends. Every time I read the last line of the book—“And at noon, Ruby and Angela hopped home for lunch”—Anna smiles and pronounces, “Happy.”

Children’s stories deserve happy endings.

Children's Books

At this point, I’ve probably read “Ruby the Copycat”—and I’m just guesstimating here—about 150 times. It hasn’t gotten old…yet. Not Miss Hart’s good advice (“be Ruby first”) or Anna’s literary analysis of the closing scene (“Happy”).

Maybe it’s just the writer in me. Or maybe we all can take away something meaningful from our children’s favorite stories.

Here are a few more lessons I’ve learned from the stories I’ve been reading and rereading to Anna and Grace lately. (What about you, friends?)

2. “The Adventures of Taxi Dog” – My sister gifted this book to the girls one Christmas. They love it. It’s about a homeless dog named Maxi who teams up with Jim, a taxi driver in New York City. Together, Maxi and Jim meet lots of interesting people and have adventure upon adventure.

That’s the moral of the story: You never know who might become a great friend, or which path may lead to amazing discoveries. Get out, make friends out of strangers, and discover.

3. “The Cat in the Hat” – We all know this one, right? Similar in theme to “The Adventures of Taxi Dog,” The Cat in the Hat encourages young readers to make their own fun, even when circumstances are less than ideal (a rainy day). Attitude is everything.

4. “The Day the Crayons Quit” – Have you heard of this clever tale? If not, check it out! Who knew crayons have personalities (and pet peeves) just like us?

For example, Red Crayon leaves this message for Duncan, the main character: “We need to talk. You make me work harder than any of your other crayons. All year long I wear myself out coloring fire engines, apples, strawberries and everything else that’s red. I even work on holidays!” (The following page shows a red-filled picture of Santa.)

The underlying message: Think outside the (crayon) box.

5. “Goodnight Moon” – Ahh, the children’s classic so many of us love. We delight in the poetry of the story, the way the words soothe us. When I read “Goodnight Moon,” Anna points at the pictures, finding the different objects being referenced—the red balloon, the kittens and mittens.

There are some pictures, though, that don’t match up with Anna’s understanding of the words. Case in point: “telephone.” The telephone pictured is an old-fashioned rotary landline, not a cell phone. My 2-year-old and I have had several conversations about how the rotary phone is, in fact, another kind of phone.

Lesson learned from “Goodnight Moon”: Some things are true classics; they’ll never go out of style, like “Goodnight Moon” itself. Other things have expiration dates. (Good night and good luck, rotary phone.)

6. The “Fancy Nancy” series – Some life lessons from this super-cute and intricately illustrated series about a girl whose favorite expression is “Ooh la la!”: Any occasion can be a special one; you just need the right accessories or décor. You can never have too many glitter pens, or wear too much fuchsia. Despite the messes little sisters may cause, they’re better than the best dress-up clothes.

7. “Corduroy”Friends, family, home—these are the things that matter.

8. “The Princess and the Pizza” – Witty, fun and better than any Disney princess story I’ve read or seen. The big idea: Ladies, you don’t need a Prince Charming to make your dreams come true. Be the hero(ine) of your own story.

9. “Chocolatina”As unbelievable as it seems, there is such a thing as too much chocolate. (Sorry, girls.)

10. “Harold and the Purple Crayon” – Possibly my favorite children’s book, ever, and the girls enjoy it too. We love little Harold and his adventure-seeking imagination. This story celebrates creativity, roads less traveled and “thinking fast.”

What this story taught me: Dream big. Set sail. Climb high. Rest when you need to. Keep your wits (and your purple crayon).

And whenever you get the chance, go for walks in the moonlight.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

What Happens Next? When Stories End Too Soon

One afternoon, I was rocking Anna and reading her a story, as I usually do before she falls asleep for her nap. The story was “Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend.” I finished reading the last page; then I closed the book.

Anna tapped her hand on the book. “More,” she said.

“No,” I explained. “The story’s over.” And it’s time for your nap.

Anna shook her head. “More,” she repeated. “Dubla Da!”

“Dubla Da” is how Anna says “Amelia Bedelia.” I understand Anna; I can speak Baby, as Grace says. In that moment, I also understood that my toddler daughter wanted to know what happened next in the story.

She wanted more.

What happens next?

As readers, we love finding a story so compelling that we can’t put it down. We want more. We want to know what happens next.

Eventually, we reach The End. And sometimes, we’re sorry The End has come so soon.

This past summer, I published a short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story” (aptly titled, right?). I loved writing this story. I had fun figuring out the characters (flawed, but redeemable). I made the setting my beloved college town of Richmond, Va., and enjoyed revisiting it in my memory. And through the plot twists and turns, I considered how human beings tell stories, a subject I’ve always been interested in.

I heard from friends, as well as complete strangers, who read and reviewed “This Is Just a Story.” The majority of them said they really enjoyed it. Some felt parts could have been better, or different. All of them wanted to know what happened next.

Eventually, we reach The End. And sometimes, we’re sorry The End has come so soon.

“I wished the story kept going,” my good friend Allison wrote in her Amazon review. Meanwhile, a reviewer I don’t know added, “[I]t left me wondering what comes next.”

More.

What happens next.

As a writer, I love that my readers enjoyed my story and wanted it to continue. That makes me so happy—so happy, in fact, that I’m working on a sequel to “This Is Just a Story.” The title?

Yes, you guessed it: “What Happens Next.”

🙂

Yet.

Sometimes stories do, simply, end before we’re ready for them to. I don’t mean short fiction stories now. Beyond “Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend” and anything I might write…sometimes stories end too soon, in real life.

Sometimes we learn as much as we can about something, or someone. And that’s the end of the path for us and that experience, or that relationship.

Back in Richmond, I had a friend. We started as co-workers and became friends. She was friendly, fun, hard-working. Cared very much about her family members, some of whom had been through difficult times, and helped them whenever she could. I respected her very much.

Then I moved to San Antonio. She later shared with me that she was making a cross-country move too. We kept in touch, for a while. When I told her I had become a mother, she sewed a blanket and mailed it to me for Grace.

I still have that blanket, here in New York now.

What Happens Next

We aren’t close as we once were though, my friend and I. Long distance can do that to friendships. As much as I’d like our story to keep going, I have the sense that it ended. And probably, really, where it ended was in Richmond, before our paths diverged.

If our paths do cross again sometime…I’ll give her the biggest hug. I’ll be so excited to catch up. In the meantime, I wish her all the best and only the best, because that’s what she deserves.

Sometimes we reach the end of a path—or the end of a story—and that’s it. We have to let go. We can’t always know what happens next.

We have a primal need to know, but sometimes we have to let go.

We can, however, keep the journey close to our heart. Appreciate what we did have the chance to discover.

We have a primal need to know, but sometimes we have to let go.

This past weekend, I was chatting with a lovely lady I know. She shared with me that she’s retiring soon. She worked in her role about seven years. In her line of work, seven years is about the right amount of time, she told me, to come in, make a positive difference and then welcome new energy in. Seven years—sounded about right to me.

Sometimes The End comes too soon, and sometimes, we know to expect it.

Letting go can be hard. Coincidentally, I spent seven years in San Antonio. And four years in Richmond before that (unless you count the college years too—then, eight.) I love adventures, and exploring. Today, I love New York.

There are times, though, when I feel a pang for a place from before. In San Antonio, something I miss, of all things, is my local grocery store, and a lady who worked at the deli counter there—Miss Jennifer—I’m sure I’ve mentioned her to you before. I knew her since Grace was a baby…appreciated our weekly chats, which ranged from deli meats to grace (lowercase G grace)…and every now and then, usually on Sundays, wonder how she’s doing.

I hope we catch up again someday. Just like with my friend from Richmond, I’d give Miss Jennifer the biggest hug. And like moms everywhere, I’d show off how much Grace has grown, and Anna too.

What happens next?

Stories are like memories—not so much about what…or where…or when…but who.

Whatever happened to that person I knew so well?

Luckily, paths can cross, diverge and meet again. There’s always the possibility for sequels—in literature, and in life.

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

The Stories We Don’t Tell

I have two concerns with every blog post I write: 1) Is this piece narcissistic? Have I focused too much on myself and my personal experience, or have I done enough to share something of overarching value—something that might make a positive difference in someone else’s life? And conversely, 2) have I shared something I shouldn’t have—something sacred?

Life these days can feel like there’s no such thing as oversharing. We’ve become accustomed to 24/7 news cycles (although we usually tune in to the networks and narratives we already agree with). Our infinite wireless connections give us the capability to share, thumbs-up, angry-face, comment on and caption everything and anything, wherever we are, anytime.

There are lots of stories out there, individual as well as global, and they are constantly being told and talked about.

But what about the stories we don’t hear? And the ones we don’t tell?

We don’t have to tell all, do we, friends? And maybe, sometimes we shouldn’t.

The stories that are sacred to me are the ones I experience on a deep, quiet level with my family. Moments that have a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign hanging from the doorknob. Scenes from my life in which I feel joy, or sorrow, or the presence of a higher power—and to narrate that experience would be to besmirch the sacredness of it.

You probably have these experiences too—the ones that make you pause before you click “Post.”

benches

A few months ago, I wrote a rough draft of a post about moving from Texas to New York. The working title was “10 Signs You’re Not in Texas Anymore,” and included social-culture tidbits like, “Texas is a bit more ‘bling,’ while New York (upstate, at least) loves L.L. Bean.”

I worried that my post might come across as “poking fun at” either place, rather than “just for fun” about both. So I shared the rough draft with family and friends from both regions. Some of the “signs” prompted them to affirm, “Mm-hmm.” Others made them laugh. “Maybe this will go viral,” I said, half-joking.

Then someone noted that it would have to be snarky in order to go viral.

He was right: Snarky rules. It’s right up there with screen names and online personas, soundbite-heavy broadcast journalism, and hashtag-friendly campaigns (from advertising to political…if there’s even much of a difference).

Snarky isn’t my style. So I’ve saved this “10 Signs” story for face-to-face conversations, to limit any potential misunderstandings about two unique places, each amazing and special in their own right.

With all the sharing that does happen, we might turn to overemphasis and emojis galore (or, if we’re writers, clickbait headlines) to attract people to our stories. “Come on, folks—pay attention to me!”

Every now and then, though, it might be helpful to ask ourselves, “Is this a story I should tell the world? Or is it one better saved for face-to-face conversations?”

In the beginning, we told stories to explain the unknown. We didn’t have blog posts or phones or YouTube. All we had were one another, gathered around a fire—together.

If we were gathered together, like that, today—right now—would we speak in extremes? Would we lodge ourselves on opposite sides of the fire, or would we acknowledge the shades of gray that are part of life? Would we talk to one another?

Would we tell our stories, from the heart, about what matters to us? About the experiences that have shaped us? Would we share the moments that we know not to simply lob online?

For many of us, I think the answer would be, “Yes.” Yes, we’d really talk to one another.

We probably would find some common ground, too.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Sometimes, Our To-Do Lists Can Wait

A few days ago, I told my husband, “I really need to write on Saturday.” I’d been working on a magazine article, and had to finish it and submit it by the approaching deadline. Stanton completely understood and encouraged me to take whatever time I needed. He would take care of the girls, which is what I do during the week when he’s working.

Saturday came. In the early afternoon, Anna was napping. I got my car keys. Stanton and Grace were reading on the couch, the sunlight streaming in from the window behind them. In that moment, I realized I hadn’t talked with Grace lately.

Yes, I always ask her how school is. I give in to her request for a cup of Scrabble Junior Cheez-Its as I’m on the phone with her dentist’s office. I plead with her to play quietly in her room while I rock Anna to sleep in hers.

But we hadn’t really talked lately.

So, car keys in hand, I said, “Grace, why don’t you come with me?”

Grace perked up. “But you have to write a story.”

“I can always do it later tonight. But now, would you like to come to the coffee shop with me?”

“Just me and you?”

I smiled. “Yes.”

Grace grinned.

to-do-lists-image

A bit later at the coffee shop, Grace and I sat across from each other at a table for two. Grace was eating a cookie. I had a cup of coffee and a muffin. We chatted about her classmate’s upcoming birthday party and which present he might like, and her ice skating lesson the next day. I remembered something I wanted to include in my article, and scribbled the idea down in the notebook I always carry in my bag.

This notebook of mine has scribbles galore—countless stories waiting to be told, someday.

“Mom, I know a great story you can write,” Grace said.

I put my pen down. “What is it, honey?”

Grace finished chewing. “Me and Grace went to Perfect Blend together…and that was a very special day,” she said. “The end.”

I felt a lump in my throat.

“Do you like my story, Mom?”

“I love you, Grace,” I replied instead.

We have so many things we have to do every day. Some are nonnegotiable. But sometimes, our to-do lists can wait.

I meant to write a magazine article that Saturday afternoon. I had a date with my daughter instead.

As it turns out, we wrote a meaningful story together anyway.

“‘Me and Grace went to Perfect Blend together…and that was a very special day…The end.'”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Check Out My New E-book, Grace Notes!

grace-notes-cover-1-1-17Confession: I’m not a morning person. Maybe you aren’t either. Or maybe you are, but you could use another boost of energy as you sip your favorite blend from the “World’s Best Mom” mug your preschooler hand-painted last week.

This is the purpose of “Grace Notes: Start Your Day on a Positive Note.” “Grace Notes” is my new e-book, and I hope you’ll check it out!

Part creative nonfiction, part personal growth, “Grace Notes” brings together some of my most-viewed recent blog posts, each with a message of positive energy. I hope that these pieces give you the momentum you need to start your day with a hearty, hope-filled, “Yes!” Here’s to a truly “Happy” New Year, friends.

Read My New E-book, THIS IS JUST A STORY

This Is Just a Story Cover ImageUnrealized dreams. A family secret. The fine line between fact and fiction. “This Is Just a Story” by Melissa Leddy explores these themes in a short fiction narrative that’s part beach read and part pop-culture commentary.

Friends, I am so excited to share that my newest story is now published and available for you to enjoy!

This is the fourth e-book I’ve published through Amazon. I’ve been writing (and rewriting!) “This Is Just a Story” for about two years. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

“This Is Just a Story” takes about one hour to read—it’s the perfect companion as you’re taking a break at your favorite coffee shop, waiting for a doctor’s appointment or ending a long day with a good book and glass of wine.

Please let me know what you think! 🙂