Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Week At Circus Camp

With all the excitement around getting ready for my new job, I forgot to share how amazing my week at AYCO (the American Youth Circus Organization conference) was. Aside from some nasty heat rash, Sarasota treated me right. I met such wonderful educators who are truly dedicated to sharing circus arts with young people. I can't even begin to explain how talented these kids are!

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Craig from He's opening up a new circus studio in New Jersey with a group of wonderful people. Circus Place opens this month, and I think they're going to do some fantastic work there, particularly using circus arts as a tool for working with children with special needs. What I love most about their work is that they live my favorite ethos: art that's created for children should be created for ALL children despite varying levels of "ability."

Enjoy this video full of pictures and videos from the week!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amazing Artist Annie

How lucky am I to be working with some amazingly talented people? My desk neighbor, Miss Annie Sklaver, is a Brooklyn-based visual artist. Annie learned how to cut paper in preschool and hasn't turned back since! Her beautiful work, often 3-dimensional, is brought to life with a scissor and colored or patterned paper, and she specializes in illustrations and custom portraits. I'm particularly partial to the circus pieces.

Right now, Annie is working on writing and illustrating a book for children. I think her work is so well-suited to children’s literature and could bring a story to life in a very new, interesting way! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with and hope that we can all get a sneak peek here. I'm holding out for a pop-up book!

Her work is currently featured at Brooklyn Collective, which Joe and I checked out on Friday. We left with three of Annie’s note cards and tons of inspiration.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spectacular Steamtown and Astounding Amtrak

I have come to appreciate trains as part of my life. Joe’s love of Amtrak , inspired us to pack up the car and head out to Steamtown for the day, where the Amtrak 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train was on display.

The train is touring the United States and sharing the history of Amtrak. Each decade of the company is represented in its own passenger or baggage car. They’re filled with uniforms, timelines, dining sets, and videos.

I was most excited to learn about Amtrak’s programs for young people. Not only did I pick up this nifty conductor’s hat, I also got a kid’s train conductor handbook published by the company. It seems like Amtrak is really trying to reach out to families with young children. In addition to these cute perks, they’re offering free tickets to kids under 12 in honor of the 40th anniversary.

After doing a bit more research, I learned that Amtrak has an online destination just for kids called The Amtrak Kids Depot where they can play transportation-related games and print train coloring pages.

I can think of few things more exciting to a child than boarding, riding, and walking on a long-distance train. Using Amtrak’s resources, a child’s trip on a train could be planned out and feel like a true adventure!

All aboard!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

American Girl Debuts New African American Doll

I know way more than I need to about colonial American textiles, furniture, undergarments, food, and livestock. Why? Felicity. She will always remain my favorite birthday gift! I immersed myself in historical dramatic play with my Felicity doll and was the richest 8 year old in the Bronx until my next AG purchase was made. Felicity taught me to save my money for things I wanted; a lesson I’ve carried with me through adolescence and into adulthood. She still has a special place in my home.

I’m excited to announce that the company, now owned by Mattel, has recently launched a brand new doll! Cecile Rey is an African American girl from the 1850’s. You can learn more about her on the AG website here. I was very disappointed with the Huffington Post headline, “American Girl Moves Past Slavery, Introduces New African-American Doll,” however. It’s true, until Cecile’s launch, Addy Walker remained the sole African American historical doll available.

I remember when Addy was introduced. My best friend gushed. She couldn’t wait! The Civil War was her favorite period in American history. She and I consumed the books and learned much more about slavery and the war than was being taught in our third grade classrooms. Addy taught me about the atrocities of slavery. I love the character and doll for that reason. She was real to me and far more interesting than Samantha’s “poor little rich girl” routine.

As we celebrate Cecile, I think it important to acknowledge Addy and Pleasant Company for their efforts in educating young girls across America about the controversial nature of and personal stories from the Civil War. I hope Addy continues to be a mainstay doll and book series.

Welcome, Cecile! I'm excited to learn more about your story and your time period.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Changes at Chorion

If you work in children's media, you know Chorion. Unfortunately, Chorion is in a lot of trouble. Below are the Cliffs Notes so you're up to speed and in the know!

The Backstory
Chorion is a UK-based media company that owns many well-known properties including Paddington Bear, Peter Rabbit, The Mr. Men, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Olivia, and The Octonauts. In 2006, the company was purchased by 3i but has continued to carry a debt of approximately $113 million.

What Happened
On August 25th, it was announced that Chorion’s chairman Lord Waheed Alli and deputy chairman William Astor resigned from the company. As soon as this news hit, I started to scheme ways to buy Paddington Bear. If I considered this, you know executives were making phone calls! Kidscreen posted a great article that you can access here.

What It Means
The properties will be sold. More about that here. Some of Chorion's properties are on television and doing well. Olivia is featured on Nickelodeon while The Octonauts is successfully airing internationally. It seems like some big names are putting their hats in the ring, which could mean a whole new slew of series, books, and merchandise.

Stay tuned and stay informed! Share your updates here...