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Welcome Friends! Here is a place for teachers, parents, librarians and writers to learn what's going on in the world of book author Karma Wilson.

Lead-free? Books and Twigs!

I was just listening to the radio today and heard a  little news blurb.  It appears with all the “made-in-China” mayhem going on that book sales are soaring.  It’s kind of discouraging that it takes the fear of lead poisoning to boost book sales, but we authors will take what we can get. 

Honestly, as a child I had very few toys.  My kids are loaded with them.  And guess what?  They end up forgetting about them and tossing them under the bed (or my vacuum).  I’ve bought hundreds of dollars worth of Fisher Price doo-dads that ended up being doggy chew toys (thank God my dog didn’t die of lead poisoning). 

But growing up I had like one Barbie.  She had a kitchen bowl for a hot tub, a throw pillow for a bed, and a washcloth for a towel (and bedspread).  I played with Barbie quite a bit–but more often you could find me curled up in some nook or cranny with (surprise, surprise) a book!  When I wasn’t reading or playing with Barbie I was making my own toys out of twigs, rocks, and my mom’s forbidden jewelry and clothes (oops–sorry mom).  My Barbie never had a “real” Ken…she had a stick man I constructed with kindling and string. (Hey–he was a rugged kind of guy).

Call me old-fashioned, but I think a child’s imagination suffers when we fill in too many of the gaps for him/her.  It’s much more enriching for a child to pretend a twisted old branch is a light sabre than it is for them to pretend a Matel LightForce Sabre 5000 is, well, a Matel Lightforce Sabre 5000 (I made up that name–please Matel don’t sue me).   And what’s more endearing to watch?  A little boy swinging about a willow switch bellowing, “NOOO, I WILL NOT SURRENDER TO THE DARK SIDE” or watching the same kid swing the Lightforce around as it hums a mechanical “zhwoom, wooom” sound?  I vote for the stick.  It’s cheaper for one–and here’s a bonus–willow branches are certified lead-free.

But I’m a sucker too, like any modern parent.  I’ve bought the Elmos and the RoboDogs.  You know what it is, don’t you?  We parents fall for the momentary bliss on Christmas morning when our beloveds tear into packages and find the “have-to-have” toy of the season.  They squeal and dance around and we feel the Visa bill was worth it.  Then a week later we are cursing as we try to unclog the vacuum and our kids are whining about “being bored”.  (Not that all vacuum cloggers are evil–Legos are one toy I endorse whole heartedly).  But does that momentary bliss last? Not in my experience. 

But books?  I remember when my son Michael was little. I found a worn out, tattered copy of Jesse Bear What Will You Wear(by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Bruce Degen) at the thrift store.  It became an instant favorite.  We read that bedraggled copy hundreds of times.  I think the ten cent investment was totally worth it (I just bought Michael a hard bound copy for his hope chest–he’s now 15).  I got a lot more mileage from that worn out paper back then many other toys combined.

Believe me, I’m not happy that ANY child is unsafe due to corporate greed. But I am hopeful that this toy crisis will remind us–at least a few of us–that imagination is a lot like a kid: the healthier stuff you feed it, the stronger it grows.  And you know what?  Then the occasional “junk food” is a lot more exciting. 

I’m hopping down from my soap box.  Hope your Thanksgiving was marvelous.  Next giveaway is coming up in the beginning of December!