My neighbor and my friend. #PlagueSongs, no. 14

Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was one of the kindest, most empathetic people in human history. We need more of his kindness and care in the world. That is one reason why this week’s Plague Song is the theme to his children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). I think, these days, fans of the show are…

Go! (a travel playlist)

Nearly 30 years ago, when my nephew Graeme was born, I sought music to give him. But most of what I found in record stores proved unsatisfying. (Why listen to kid-i-fied cover of a great song when you could listen to the original?) So, I started making mix tapes for kids — which later became mix…

The Archive of Childhood, Part 3: Earliest Memories

The third in my occasional “Archives of Childhood” series. The Archive of Childhood, Part 1: Crayons (27 Dec. 2014) The Archive of Childhood, Part 2: The Golliwog (13 Jan. 2015) What are your earliest memories? Recent conversations with family and friends have challenged my assumption that most people remember early childhood. I now wonder if it is…

Emily’s Video Dance Party

During the past week, my six-year-old niece Emily has invited me to — and I have joined — many dance parties.  “Dance party!” she declares, and then goes to the CD player to put on one of the (dance) mixes I’ve made for her.  She then skips directly to her favorite songs, and dances only to…

For Mom

My mother was my first best friend. My mother is the reason I have succeeded in life. My mother is the reason I managed to live through adolescence. There have been many other important influences. Let’s not forget my sister, stepfather, friends, teachers, neighbors, and the many patient people who have managed to put up…

A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teen-Ager (in the Iowa Review)

I’m honored to be a part of The Iowa Review‘s special section on children’s literature, and even more honored that the journal has chosen to feature my essay on-line, for free. Two and a half years ago, “A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teen-Ager” began as a blog post.  It means a great…

Created Equal: The Planned Integrated Community of Village Creek, Conn.

For America’s Independence Day, here’s a little-known chapter in the history of American anti-racism. Following the Second World War, progressives founded a dozen planned integrated communities across the country. While working on my biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, I learned about one of those communities — a section of Norwalk Connecticut directly adjacent to where Johnson…

The Archive of Childhood, Part 2: The Golliwog

The second in my “Archive of Childhood” series. Trigger warning: images of a racist doll appear below. I’ve included it because this post is about racism, and I didn’t feel I could talk about the racism without displaying the doll in question. NOTE. A revised and expanded inquiry into this subject forms the Introduction (“Race, Racism, and the Cultures of…

The Archive of Childhood, Part 1: Crayons

We tend to imagine the self as an unbroken whole, but it might better be described as plural, a series of selves that, though temporally contiguous (and often overlapping) are not always the “same” self.  That’s one of the conclusions suggested by Robert Krulwich in “Who Am I?,” a Radiolab podcast from 2007.  It is…

Ferguson: Response & Resources

This post has two parts: my response and some resources for teaching about Ferguson. Feel free to skip ahead to the resources section. My Response For two weeks now, I have been wanting to write something about the state-sponsored terrorism in Ferguson — and all that it represents (structural racism, police brutality, militarized cops, etc.). But it makes…