Let me start, as always, with full disclosure:
That sweet house? That’s Emily Neuburger’s parents’ house. That I can see out my front windows.
And that really beautiful gold-framed trio of watercolor pears? Emily's mother painted that. Emily herself is a treasured friend, one of the loveliest people I know, and the talented crafter whose garland-making method I am nearly constantly referencing (from her amazing blog). The fact that she, like my friends Nicole and Debra, has a book newly published by our nearly local Storey Publishing might make you feel like there’s some kind of Western Massachusetts craft mafia brewing. And it should.
That all being said? When the review copy of her new book, show me a story, arrived, I did not get a chance to look at it for three days.
|"Oooh, Birdy, should we do this Word Tag activity?" "Oh, Mama, I'm sorry, I actually already did that one. But I'd totally do it again with you if you wanted!"|
Birdy took it and read it cover to cover. Then she marked it all up with post-it notes. Then she started making things from it.
|It's the kind of book from which projects develop and evolve on their own. "I don't think it's the kind of book that cares if you do the projects exactly the way it says too," said the wise Birdy.|
And it has been one of the most creatively inspiring objects to come into our home, that book.
For one thing, it's gorgeous: Emily did pretty much all of the craft styling in it, and everything is just utterly charming and beautiful to look at. Plus, Emily's beautiful daughters grace many of the pages.
|Three of Birdy's story stones. I am so glad we collected that enormous Cheetos' bag full of rocks at Race Point beach in Provincetown! Plus, now that they're used up, we won't keep thinking there are Cheetos and then being disappointed.|
For another thing, it's thrifty-minded: many, if not most, of the craft projects use materials you already have lying around (rocks, brown paper bags, scraps of fabric and paper, old magazines and calendars), which I find tremendously delightful. And for another other thing: it's a book for kids of all different ages.
|Ben's story stones, including mustache and inchworm.|
The thing is, I knew it was going to be a fantastic book, just because of who Emily is (she runs famously wonderful children's craft workshops, among other things). But what I did not know was that it was going to be a fantastic book for my kids.
|Magic Flower Wand.|
I thought for some reason that it was going to be better for younger children, and that it was going to require of me a great deal of narrative finessing, which (strangely) is not a great skill of mine, given my tendency to space out. Plus, I get all this weird performance anxiety. "And then the princess said, uh, why don't you like spinach? And the prince said, uh, I actually do like spinach." Zzzzzz.
|Mama's story stones, including pear and mason jar. I gave the mason jar away, and the children were very mad about it. Now I can't tell a story about canning pears by starlight.|
It is not like that at all. Or, rather, not unless you want it to be. What it is is "40 craft projects and activities to spark children's storytelling," and there are about a million ways to use it--including creating traditional narratives. We, for example, spent an entire week making story stones (this is kind of Emily's signature project), and it was the most deliciously perfect activity just for its own sake: like creating a series of tiny, framed collages. We loved it. Birdy made hers with storytelling in mind: a night sky, a daytime sky, an ocean, and a series of characters and landscapes. She uses them for storytelling. But Ben sees it as more of a trading game (although I do want him to tell a story about an inchworm impersonating a mustache). Me? I just wanted to make pretty ones. Though I am kind of thinking of turning them into refrigerator magnets.
I actually had to intercept one of Emily's across-the-street visits to show her the joyful story-stone chaos of our living room. And there was much Groaning and Misery when I finally insisted that we clean it up.
|Birdy was home sick for a week, and the book basically took care of her the whole time.|
In sum: it is a magical book. Plus, it's been out for, like, 5 minutes, and it's already won some kind of amazingness prize. I hope you buy it. But also, if you want to try your luck first, Storey is graciously sponsoring a give-away! You know the drill. Leave a comment here by noon on Friday for your chance to win a copy in a random drawing. (And for a second-chance give-away, visit the Storey blog.) Yay! Good luck!