Doing Good in San Mateo and Around the World

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Do-Gooders Unite!

Someone recently argued, during a policy debate, that those who disagreed with him were "just a bunch of do-gooders!" Our shop is full of products that do good in the world so we decided to lift some of them up in this newsletter.

Tomorrow (Friday March 25th) we're getting a visit from a wonderful organization called Limitless Horizons IXIL, helping women in Guatemala create sustainable lives AND creating scholarships so that their children can go to school.

In today's newsletter we'll talk about that (come on over tomorrow if you're free) and other ways the people of San Mateo and the peninsula are DOING GOOD with us here at Reach And Teach.

The photo at the left, by the way, is of Craig and Derrick with Cynthia Chin-Lee's family. Cynthia is the author of Operation Marriage (a true story about marriage equality told through children's eyes  that has done a lot of good in the world).

Doing Good with Limitless Horizons IXIL

At the front of our shop you'll always find beautiful scarves, bags, and other treasures hand-crafted by the women of Chajul Guatemala. Limitless Horizons IXIL, a Santa Cruz nonprofit, works with these women, helping them create sustainable lives for themselves, AND, pay for their children to go to school.

Tomorrow, Friday March 25h at 11am, Lisa Krigsman, the Associate Director of the organization, is coming by our shop to bring us all new goods and tell us about all the good things that are happening in Guatemala. in part, because of all the support we and our customers have provided. Come by and meet Lisa and check out the newest crafts.

Doing Good with Soap

We're thrilled that a lot of San Mateo and surrounding community folks come into our shop lugging plastic jugs and bottles all the time. Why? Because they've run out of laundry detergent, hand soap, shampoo, or dish soap. Rather than tossing containers into the recycle bin, or worse, into the trash, these folks come by our shop and use our earth-friendly soap filling station.

We offer soaps that are good for the planet and good for your wallet. Come in with an empty container and we'll fill you up.

Doing Good with REALLY GOOD Chocolate

Nine out of ten doctors say that eating a bit of dark chocolate every day is good for you. The tenth doctor was too busy chewing on our Dark Chocolate with Caramel Crunch and a touch of Sea Salt too weigh in on this idea.

When you buy small-farmer fair-trade chocolate in our shop you are helping farmers all over the world to have a sustainable living, to care for the earth, to raise living standards in their communities, protect labor rights, and reduce the number of middle-people in the chain that goes from farmer to consumer.

Doing Good with Stories

We love to tell people the stories behind our products because we believe that the shortest distance between two people is a story, and the difference between an enemy and a friend is a story. So, come on by our shop some time soon, pick up a product, and ask us to tell you a story.

OK, any product except the one shown here.

Well, actually, there is a story but you'll have to come in to hear it.

For now, thank you for being our partners in peacemaking, having a positive impact on a world that can sometimes, especially now, seem scary.

You help bring light to the darkness and today we need that light. Shine on!

Show Your Stuff at San Mateo Pride

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Reach And Teach is honored to once again be a sponsor of San Mateo Pride which will take place on Saturday June 4th from 11am to 5pm in the beautiful San Mateo Central Park. This year's theme is PRIDE withOUT borders: Embracing Culture and Diversity!

Craig Wiesner, as part of his role as a San Mateo County Commission on the LGBTQ Commission is helping the Pride Initiative find great businesses to show their stuff at this year's pride.

We are actively seeking local business vendors from San Mateo County to have a booth at the event. Last year, we had approximately 600 participants at the event from all over San Mateo County. This is a wonderful opportunity for vendors to show their support for the LBGTQQI2S community and gain exposure! The cost to participate is minimal. For vendors that have their own canopy, table and chairs the cost is $75 to participate and $150 for vendors that need these provided. Exhibitors from past years all stated that participating in this event is very easy and fun! The deadline for participating is April 1st, 2016. 

Click here to download the vendor form.

Contact craig@reachandteach.com if you have any questions.


Moso Natural in the House!

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A Problem: Stinky Places

We have a dog. We have a bathroom, We have a laundry room. We have some stinky places.  For most of our lives we've used various sprays to get rid of, or cover up, odors. Here's the problem with most of those sprays. They only work for a short time, they're expensive, the containers they come in can't be reused, and the science is not very clear on whether they are bad for the environment and our health. But..... we don't like stinky places! So, what can we do? 

A Solution: Reusable Odor Absorbers

After finding it at a gift show, we tested out a Moso Natural air purifying bag when we noticed that our car was beginning to smell way too much like our dog. Following the simple instructions that came with the bag, we put it out in the sun for a few hours and then popped it into the back near the kennel and when we got into the car a few hours later, no more dog smell! We were sold. We've had the bags in various sizes available in our San Mateo shop and have gotten great feedback from lots of other customers. "My son's room was really bad. I put the Moso Natural bag in the sun for a few hours and then carefully opened my son's bedroom door and tossed it all the way in. The next time I opened the door, I could breathe!

The Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag is the easiest way to maintain a fresh, dry and odor free environment. Without using batteries or wires, the Moso Bag will work continuously to remove odors, allergens and harmful pollutants from the air. In damp, musty environments the Moso Bag will absorb excess moisture to prevent mold, mildew and bacteria from forming.

MosoThe Moso Bag is a safe alternative to air fresheners that are filled with formaldehyde, petroleum and fragrance, which can be carcinogenic and lead to numerous health problems. The Moso Bag is filled with non toxic, chemical free and fragrance free moso bamboo charcoal that allows your family and pets to breathe safely.

To use, simply place the Moso Bags in or near the effected area. Within a short time (usually less than 1 day) the effected area will be fresh, dry, and odor free.

With simple maintenance the Moso Bags are reusable for up two years! Most common air fresheners, in addition to being ineffective, don't last more than 45 days. Once a month, place your Moso Bag outside. The UV rays from the sun will clear out the pores of the bamboo charcoal, making it ready to absorb again. After two years as an air purifier, the Moso Bag makes a wonderful addition to your garden. Simply cut open the Moso Bag and sprinkle the bamboo charcoal into the soil, where it helps plants absorb moisture and nutrients. This completes its lifecycle as a product that comes from the earth and ultimately gives back to the earth.

Click here to learn more about and purchase Moso Natural bags.


We Are Living And We're Dying Every Single Day

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Now's not the time to be so sad and mournful
We are going to the funeral and we'll be dancing the night away
So, so, so don't be so shy, we are living and we're dying
We are laughing and we're crying every single day
 
The first time I heard this song by Brett Dennen, a musician Reach And Teach originally learned about through his work with The Mosaic Project, I was totally drawn to the music but I found the lyrics a little odd. I'd been to literally dozens of funerals and memorials and yes, at the receptions afterwards there were plenty of moments of laughter and joy as people reconnected with each other and remembered the person whose life we were honoring.... but dancing? No, I could not remember a single time in my life when I had gone to a funeral and later danced. Until, that is, yesterday. 
 
Yesterday afternoon we helped celebrate the too-short life of Jerry Wrenn. Jerry and his wife Joan had come into our lives around five years ago when Jerry called the shop and asked if we'd like to participate in a Fair Trade Fair at his church. Delighted to be invited we said yes and got to meet Jerry and Joan through that fair and then we became friends as the years went by. Jerry was one of the kindest, most generous, gentle, social-justice-seeking, people in the world. He'd died suddenly, unexpectedly, in his sleep last Saturday night, after doing one of many volunteer gigs at his church. 63 years old is way too young. 
 
His memorial service was beautiful, with folks remembering how he had touched their lives, his love of baseball, nature, family, coffee (fair-trade of course), his 30-some-odd year love affair and friendship with his wife Joan, and even how this Army veteran loved to have a peace symbol tattoo shaved into the back of his hair each time he got a haircut, even the one time the barber didn't know the difference between a peace sign and the Mercedes Benz logo. 
 
In our lives we've lost a lot of people, including my parents, including people taken way too young by AIDs back in the days of the pandemic, but Jerry's death somehow hit us in a different way, one which both Derrick and I felt but couldn't quite explain. As we got into the car after the memorial, Derrick said "Somehow Jerry made you feel like you were one of the very few people in his life, totally focused on you when he was with you, but then you realized, after talking with him for a while and hearing about many of the wonderful people in his life, that he made each person feel that way." 
 
So we've gone to the funeral and next we drove all the way across the Bay to our god-daughter's 18th birthday party. Claire, a jewel in our life, was born with Down Syndrome, and we have been blessed to be part of her life as she grew from a sassy toddler to a sassy teenager, all the while growing in her love of acting, singing and yes..... dancing. Wait for it.......
 
We got to the birthday party early, as requested, so that everyone could be in place on the red carpet when Claire arrived. It was going to be a surprise party, although every element of the party was something Claire had specifically asked for but just didn't know she was actually going to get.
 
Over many years we had seen Claire perform in plays put on by an amazing organization called Angels on Stage and there were lots of kids and parents from that group on hand for the party. As soon as we arrived, and I tried to do that thing that I as somewhat of a raging introvert (AKA - Shy -- See Brett's Lyrics again please) tries to do during that awkward time before an event really starts, trying to find a spot to hide in, a friend of Claire's spotted me and grabbed my arm saying "You can help me! Here, sit down and help divide this candy up." She then asked my name, told me hers, and showed me how to "EVENLY!" divide up the candy into two neat piles. When we were done I thanked her for including me and got up and once again tried to find a spot to hide. "Hi! What's your name?" Another friend of Claire's, whom I had seen perform in several shows, stopped me in my tracks. I told her my name and complimented her on her performances. Then I spotted it... an air hockey game and I grabbed Derrick and said "Let's play!" We played one point and then a tall lanky teen wandered over and looked at the game longingly. Derrick stepped aside and we spent the next 15 minutes taking turns getting our butts kicked by him. 
 
Stepping away from defeat (and a beaming kid taking on another challenger) and grabbing a beverage, another young man whom we had seen in plays came up to say hello, ask me my name and tell me his. "I went to Disneyland!" he told me with a giant smile. We then chatted about Disneyland, the best rides, the best food, and yes, how expensive it was. Here was a kid who looked like he was 18 or so, but talked like a boy of around 10, with such excitement about his Disneyland experience as though it had been yesterday, when in fact it had been months ago. 
 
A little while longer and everywhere I went there was another kid ready to say hello and connect with someone, as though that someone was the only person in the world. Yeah, it reminded me of Jerry. 
 
Then it was time to line up on the red carpet for Claire's arrival. She was SOOOOO surprised and spent the next 15 minutes hugging every single person who had lined up for her. Then, someone whispered in her ear that there was a dance room all set up for her and she literally shrieked "You've gotta be freakin' kidding me!" as she saw the flashing lights, the dance floor, and a DJ ready to queue up the music. 
 
The kids were going absolutely wild. Most of the kids on the dance floor had some kind of different ability, including a few locked into wheelchairs, but everyone was dancing, with more energy and emotion and gusto than I could ever have imagined. Pure, unfiltered, JOY filled the room. It was absolutely infectious. 
 
I danced. I couldn't help it. The introvert who'd rather hide in the corner finding something fascinating in the employment regulation posters hanging on the walls (someone's got to read them), couldn't help but be in the center of the dance floor with Claire and all of her friends, soaking in and spreading some of that joy that, started with something as small as a girl grabbing me and asking for help sorting candy, something as small as a mustard seed, had spread into a giant bush of happiness and love. 
 
The pastor had talked about that mustard seed at Jerry's memorial, how Jerry had spread tiny seeds like that through his entire life, and how we had to carry those seeds with us as we left that day to help spread them across the world. But those seeds need more than just to be carried, they have to be tossed wildly and recklessly about, maybe through the act of dancing.
 
So that was our day on Saturday. Going to the funeral and then dancing the night away  with a bunch of kids who would not let anyone be shy. We'll miss you Jerry but we'll keep carrying and wildly tossing those seeds. Thank you Claire for being the sassy dancer you are AND for gathering so many people around you and loving each one of them, hugging each one of them, as if they were the only person in the room. 
 
Oh yeah, and thank you Brett Dennen, for giving us so many songs that make us think, smile, cry, and to which we can also dance. 
 
Now's not the time to be so sad and mournful
We are going to the funeral and we'll be dancing the night away
So, so, so don't be so shy, we are living and we're dying
We are laughing and we're crying every single day 

Meet the Photographer of Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus

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BookCover.jpg650-759-3784

PRESS RELEASE
April 23, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus Photographer Bay Area Exhibit and Speaking Tour June 24-29

After vandals attacked this award-winning photo exhibit showcasing queer youth in Connecticut earlier this year, creator Rachelle Lee Smith and San Mateo publisher Reach And Teach are looking forward to a supportive and enthusiastic reception in the Bay Area. 

BAY AREA TOUR:

The creator of the award-winning photo essay book, Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus will tour the Bay Area June 24th-29th and participate in PRIDE weekend.

The book was published in Winter 2014 by San Mateo publisher Reach And Teach, an imprint of Oakland publisher PM Press.

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages fourteen to twenty-four, identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Each portrait is presented with a stark white backdrop, acting as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final print. With more than sixty-five portraits photographed over a period of ten years, Speaking OUT provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth.

In April, an exhibit of the photographs was vandalized at the University of Connecticut, prompting a rally by the university and local community against those who vandalized the art and in support of LGBTQ people. The vandalism, which included inappropriate drawings on photographs in the exhibit and the message "god hates the gays" written in the exhibit's sign-in book, is still being investigated.

“We were truly impressed by the response to the vandalism and the outpouring of support from the campus and community.” Craig Wiesner, publisher of Speaking OUT, said. “The book has been wonderfully received, has garnered stellar reviews in places like the School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, and we’re so excited to have Rachelle Lee Smith here in the Bay Area to talk about the ten year journey she traveled to create this book.”

Rachelle Lee Smith will present images from her book, talk about its creation, and sign books at:

  • Laurel Books in Oakland on Wednesday June 24th at 7pm

  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC) store on Castro Street in San Francisco on Thursday June 25th at 7pm

  • Reach And Teach Bookstoreand Cultural Gift Shop in San Mateo on Friday June 26th at 7pm

  • Gay Pride San Francisco Queer Youth Space and PM Press booth (Civic Center) during the day on Saturday June 27th and Sunday June 28th

  • First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto on Sunday June 28th at 7pm

  • American Library Association San Francisco Conference Pop Top Stage Reading and Signing on Monday, June 29th from 12noon to 1pm

  • Green Arcade Books on Monday, June 29th at 7pm

About Reach And Teach:

Reach And Teach works to transform the world through teachable moments with books, toys, fair-trade gifts, games, curriculum and other products that promote peacemaking, sustainable living, and gender equality, with a shop on 25th Avenue in San Mateo and online at www.reachandteach.com

About PM Press:

PM Press creates radical and stimulating fiction and nonfiction books, pamphlets, T-shirts, visual and audio materials to entertain, educate, and inspire. www.pmpress.org

About Rachelle Lee Smith:

Rachelle Lee Smith is an award-winning, nationally and internationally shown and published photographer. Rachelle’s work in Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus combines her passions for activism and photography to tell the stories of, and provide a rare insight into, the evolving passions, confusions, prejudices, fulfillment, joys, and sorrows of queer youth. www.rachelleleesmith.com/speakingOUT

Speaking OUT has been showcased in magazines such as The Advocate, School Library Journal and showcased by the Equality Forum, the Human Rights Campaign, National Public Radio, The Huffington Post, World Pride and the U.S. Department of Education.

The ongoing photographic essay was published this year by PM Press and Reach & Teach with a foreword and afterword by HRC's Candace Gingrich and Graeme Taylor.

For more information or to arrange for an interview before or during the Bay Area tour, please contact Craig Wiesner (craig@reachandteach.com) 650-759-3784.


Collecting Books for Women and Youth in Prison

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Our fans were so generous last year in the State Assemblywoman Sally Lieber's Book Drive for Women and Youth in Prison. Time to do it again this year. We're accepting fiction and non-fiction paperbacks, children's and young adults' books, easy reading paperbacks and adult reading level books, and also recent magazines in good condition. Collecting in front of our shop until May 15th.

Here's more information about the drive and other drop-off locations:

Book Drive for Women and Youth in Prison April 15th through May 15th.

You are invited to share the gift of reading by donating:
  • Fiction and non-fiction paperbacks
  • Children’s and young adults’ books, easy reading paperbacks and adult reading level books
  • Recent magazines in good condition
Our drop-off locations, April 15 – May 15:
  • Florey's Book Co. in Pacifica
  • Reach and Teach in San Mateo (144 W. 25th Avenue San Mateo)
  • Kepler's Books and Magazines in Menlo Park
  • Books Inc. Palo Alto at Town and Country Village
  • Books Inc. in downtown Mountain View
  • Sunnyvale City Hall (Planning Dept Lobby)
  • Santa Clara County Government Center Bldg. (lower cafeteria lobby) in San Jose
  • Antonella's Ristorante on Park Ave. in San Jose
  • The Levy Family Campus, Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos

About the Book Drive:

The Book Drive was started by interns in Sally Liber's State Assembly District Office and has been held annually since 2005 and has collected and delivered thousands of books for use in libraries in California’s state prisons, including the California Institution for Women, Valley State Prison for Women and the Central California Women’s Facility and county jails in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties.

This year organizers will also be delivering donated books to area juvenile facilities.

We need books for all reading levels, including picture books, easy readers, young-adult, teen and adult reading level books. We need both fiction and non-fiction. We cannot accept ‘true crime’ books, textbooks that are more than three years old or water damaged books.  

We strongly prefer softcover books, but will gratefully accept hardcover books as well. We welcome recent magazines in good condition.

If you would like to volunteer, would like to host a collection site, have questions or need a helping hand with your donation, please contact the organizer, Sally Lieber through this link: 

http://www.sallylieber.org/Contact.html 


Santa Claus is Coming to San Mateo and Other Reach And Teach News

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The season is upon us and we invite you to join us at Reach And Teach for a decorating party on Friday November 28th, Santa's visit on Saturday November 29th (which is also Small Business Saturday), and we've got some great volunteer opportunities to help you raise money for Doctors Without Borders or your favorite cause. All of this is happening at our shop at 144 w. 25th Avenue in San Mateo (across from the Post Office and next door to the wonderful Kobeya Japanese Kitchen and two doors down from The Spot on 25th and three doors down from She Sells Resells.... and next door to the Singer Sewing Machine Repair Shop and Spectrum Hair Salon.... we LOVE our neighbors).

Santa Claus on the Saturday After Thanksgiving

Our dear friend Santa Claus offered to spend a few hours at our shop on Small Business Saturday, November 29th, from 1pm to 3pm. He would love to hear your holiday wishes and is VERY open to taking a few selfies with any elves that would like to snap a good photo. Bring your own camera, cell phone, tablet or whatever.

There's NO CHARGE for spending a few moments with Santa but we will happily accept donations for our ongoing fundraiser to help Doctors Without Borders.

Small Business Saturday November 29th

American Express is once again promoting small businesses by offering up to $30 to cardholders who shop at small businesses like ours on the 29th. American Express® Card Members can register their cards to get up to $30 back when they Shop Small® on Small Business Saturday®.

You MUST register your card online with American Express to be eligible (takes a few moments). 

Click here to register your card with American Express.


Decorating Party Friday the 28th

On the day after Thanksgiving, Friday November 28th from 11am to 6:30pm, we invite you to stop by the shop for a warm cup of cider, some delicious treats, and beautiful music and help us gussy up the place for the holidays. We'll decorate all day so come by any time to hang a few ornaments or toss a little tinsel (and no, those aren't code phrases for anything naughty).



Volunteer Opportunity - Gift Wrapping

We'd love to be able to offer our customers gift wrapping but, well, except for Derrick, none of us are really very good at it. So, if you have a flair for gift wrapping we'd love to have you spend some time in our shop wrapping presents. We'll ask customers to make a donation for each wrapped gift, either to go to Doctors Without Borders, OR, any organization you choose. If you're part of an organization and want to raise money for your cause, we'll be glad to give you time slots to do wrapping at our shop. Contact Craig if you'd like to get involved.


Holiday Hours and After New Year

We'll be closed on Thanksgiving Day. Between then and Christmas we'll be open Monday through Saturday, 11am to 6:30pm. On Christmas Eve we'll close at 4pm. We'll close early on New Years Eve at 4pm and will be closed on New Years Day. After New Years Day we'll return to our regular weekly schedule of Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 6:30pm.


How Can We Ever Thank You Enough?

We are so grateful to all the people in the Bay Area who have made Reach And Teach their one-stop-shop for books, gifts, toys, and other products that promote peacemaking, sustainable living, and gender equality. Thank you!!! We hope to see you during this holiday season.


I'm Looking for Something for.....

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Wonderful people walk into our shop all the time and say "I'm looking for something for....." and then they go on to describe someone special in their lives or a special circumstance that brought them out looking for just the right.....

For example, a few weeks ago someone came into the shop and told us that her young niece was having a really hard time any time she made any kind of mistake. "The crying over such small mistakes breaks my heart! So, is there a book I could share with her that talks about mistakes in a healthy way?"

So first, we had to get over the fact that we didn't, in fact, at that moment, have the right book. We really feel TERRIBLE when that happens but it sets us off on a hunt and.... Here's the book! Actually, just in time for the next customer who came in with a similar request and we fell all over ourselves rushing over to the shelf where we had just placed the book. Later that same day a great teacher friend of the shop came in and saw the book on our front table display and told us that it was one of her favorite books too! 

Beautiful Oops! A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It's OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn't ruin a drawing-not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don't be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator. Barney Saltzberg, the effervescent spirit behind Good Egg, offers a one-of-a-kind interactive book that shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion "telescope"-each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder. The smudge becomes the face of a bunny, a crumpled ball of paper turns into a lamb's fleecy coat-celebrate the oops in life.

Click here to check out more about this book and BUY IT!

Looking for Something Else????

In the coming days and weeks we'll be sharing more special requests and the books, games, toys, and fair-trade gifts we recommend. If you've got someone special in your life for whom it is tough to find just the right gift, please drop us a line (click here) and tell us about that person. We LOVE to help!

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

Part of the inspiration for this series is a book we found, in of all places, a bookstore! The Reading Bug in San Carlos CA is a sweet shop with a special focus on children's books but we found Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops near the register and bought it and have been laughing ever since. The book is based on the blog of the same name which you can visit here.

(Finally, thanks to Pedro Ribeiro Simões for the beautiful photo that started this post. Visit his flickr pages.)


Order Any Books from Us

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Reach And Teach is an independent bookstore and while we have a special focus on books that promote peacemaking, sustainable living and gender equality, we can also get just about any book currently in print, usually within one or two days. Let us know what book you would like and we'll get back to you with a price and an estimated delivery time. You can pick up books here at our shop or we can have them shipped directly to you. 


Guardian Princesses - Books That Transform the World

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The Guardian Pricess Series - Review by Craig Wiesner

She was SOOOOO cute, this little girl who came rushing into the shop, her mother a few steps behind... The little one was completely decked out in princess attire, adorable. While many of our friends are quite comfortable being champions of little boys who want to dress up as princesses, there are some mixed emotions around the idea of little girls being over-enthusiastic about princess culture. Why? Too often princesses have been portrayed as beautiful outside without much inside, stereotypically white, thin, with perfect teeth and hair, and all-too-often needing to be saved by a handsome prince in order to have any worth at all. This picture doesn't exactly lead to high self-esteem among girls who don't quite fit into those glass slippers!

Shaping Youth's Amy Jussel, who has spent many years working to shine a bright light on media's unhealthy manipulation of children and empower parents, teachers and children to overcome the toxic messages of omnipresent marketing, has taken her own approach to princesses:

In my house, I brushed off princesses dismissively rather than give them any ‘heat' at all, preferring to subversively turn stereotypes upside down with a wink and a nod reading fairytales like The Paper Bag Princess (who does NOT live happily ever after with Ronald) and Dinorella (the dinosaur that saves ‘Duke Dudley's tail, quite literally). Sure, we read the classics, but it became a favorite past-time to add a dollop of irony to the usual palate of kid-lit and lack of cultural diversity in the princess posse.

Amy Jussel has a fantastic post about princesses on her Shaping Youth web site (click here). She knows that you can't overcome the massive amount of money spent to market to our kids by trying to shield our eyes and cover our ears. Instead, you have to flip things around through education and a little bit of subversion.

Reach And Teach is all about subversively turning stereotypes upside down which is why we love books like My Princess Boy and Goosebottom Books' Dastardly Dames series. We're always on the lookout for more titles like these so when Setsu Shigematsu reached out last year to tell us about a series of books she and a team of folks were working on, with princesses as the lead characters, but not your typical princesses, we were intrigued.

Imagine you are hearing some movie commercial music with a deep-voice saying "In a world where evil multinational conglomerates  seek to despoil the planet and enslave all its people, where toxic waste dumps spew poison into the rivers and free-thinking people are turned into mindless drones, who will come to the rescue to save the innocents and the entire world from death, despair and destruction?"

 

Princesses

 

The Guardian Princcesses will save the world! Using a combination of compassion, quick-thinking, keen intelligence, community organizing, and of course a little bit of magic, these princesses will help overcome the most nefarious evil-doers around. The Guardian Princess team has just released the first three books in their series, which can be purchased separately in paperback or combined in one hardcover book. Here's how the team describes the first three stories:

Princess Terra and King Abaddon

Princess Terra is the Guardian of the Land. Her role is to care for and protect the land that allows her fellow people to lead healthy and balanced lives. All is well until the greedy King Abaddon comes and tries to take it away and make it his own. How will Princess Terra stop King Abaddon from forcing them off their land? In addition to providing a wealth of inspiring lessons and ethical models for our children, our books are also designed to meet the current Common Core State Standards. www.corestandards.org Includes Etymology Chart, Glossary, Common Core Discussion Questions and Bonus Activity.

Princess Vinnea and the Gulavores

Princess Vinnea is the Guardian of Plant Life in the land of Hortensis. At harvest time, a mysterious stranger appears with Gulavores that destroy their crops and gardens. He then feeds the people his unnatural food which makes them ill. How will Princess Vinnea help her people? In addition to providing a wealth of inspiring lessons and ethical models for our children, our books are also designed to meet the current Common Core State Standards. www.corestandards.org Includes Etymology Chart, Glossary, Common Core Discussion Questions and Bonus Activity.

Princess Mariana and Lixo Island

Princess Mariana is the Guardian of the Seas. One day, Princess Mariana and her friends discover dangerous garbage that is polluting their beautiful waters. This garbage comes from Lixo Island, a land of trash and filth ruled by the Spumas. How will she prevent the Spumas on Lixo Island from harming marine life? In addition to providing a wealth of inspiring lessons and ethical models for our children, our books are also designed to meet the current Common Core State Standards. www.corestandards.org Includes Etymology Chart, Glossary, Common Core Discussion Questions and Bonus Activity.

So what are the people behind this new series of books trying to do? Here's what they say:

The Guardian Princesses provide a welcome and much needed alternative to the current princess culture which has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The "traditional" princess stories marketed to our children emphasize external beauty-as-virtue. The stereotypical story of a damsel-in-distress who needs to be saved by a prince teaches children that a girl's destiny and happiness is to be coupled with a man. We are not "anti-romance," but we believe that children should not be encouraged to focus on finding prince charming or a beautiful princess their life priority.

We thus aim to shift the focus of girls' self-esteem and self-worth. We want to encourage children's empowerment through their full development, promoting both their independence and a deeper understanding of the vital interdependence between people and other living beings.

Reach And Teach says:

How do we feel about these first three books? We like them! We like the way the princesses think (pretty sharp young ladies who have both book-smarts and street-smarts), their compassion for all creatures and the land, their use of community-building and princess teamwork, and their ethnic / color diversity. The stories are compelling and mirror real-life quandries communities across the world face. 

The first story felt a little heavy handed (King Abaddon trying to buy Princess Terra's community) but still fun to read and filled with plenty of fodder for great discussions. The next two books took themselves a little less seriously and were more fun to read, though still dealing with some pretty weighty issues. 

We'd like to see a little more diversity in future princesses and know the Guardian Princess team already has a few good variations in the works. Color and/or ethnic diversity clearly do abound in the princesses and all the other characters portrayed in the first three stories (giant kudos here), but the princesses themselves can use a little more shape and feature diversity. A girl with Down Syndrome, for example, will not see herself reflected in these princesses faces. Nor will a girl with a fuller body type or more "average" features see herself in these stories. The villains and plots of future tales could also be a bit more subtle, and perhaps a few could be female instead of male. We like these first three stories and are excitedly looking forward to future releases.

Buy the Book:

Click here to buy an "Heirloom" copy of the inaugural trilogy. 



Green America approved