Big Apple Books: The Hula Hoopin' Queen

My newest Big Apple Book takes place in Harlem on West 139th & Broadway, home of The Hula Hoopin' Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin. Love this story!

Kameeka, a spunky gal who is desperate to win a neighborhood hula hoopin' contest, forgets that she needs to help her mother prepare for a birthday party for their beloved neighbor, Miz Adeline. While she helps mama with chores, she gets distracted and ends up being sent to the grocery store for a missing cake ingredient. Long story short, Kameeka ends up learning an important lesson about responsibility, while also discovering a secret that Miz Adeline has been hiding.

Love the characters and illustrations in this book. The perfect gift for a little hula hooper in your life!


New Campaign in NY Announces Children have #SeenEnoughTobacco

I am so glad that I see fewer and fewer people smoking. I hardly know anyone who smokes anymore, and that's amazing news considering I've had family members who sadly died from lung cancer. But to say that the tobacco industry is going away is a vast understatement. In fact, the way they target children in their marketing efforts is just horrendous, and as such, I'm proud to share the work of Tobacco Free NYS. Their current campaign (#SeenEnoughTobacco) is centered around children's over-exposure to tobacco promotions.

Did you know that in New York State, tobacco companies spend more than a half a million dollars every day to place promotions in stores where kids can see them? Stores located close to schools contain nearly three times the amount of cigarette promotions. There is a direct correlation here: the more children see these ads, the more they will want to try cigarettes. The average age of a new smoker is 13 YEARS OLD.

And if that wasn't enough for you, the U.S. Surgeon General calls smoking a "pediatric epidemic," directly stating that “Advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.”

It's time to stand up against these marketing efforts towards children. You can pledge your support of Tobacco Free NYS' #SeenEnoughTobacco campaign HERE.


Thanks for doing your part!

Disclosure: I received compensation to assist in promoting this campaign by Seen Enough Tobacco. All opinions are my own.


Big Apple Books: My Story, My Dance

"The best works of art are the ones that are the most personal." - Alvin Ailey

This week's Big Apple Book might not originate in New York City, but it most definitely ends there, leaving an artistic legacy that will go on for generations. My Story, My Dance, by Lesa Cline-Ransome, tells the tale of Robert Battle, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

As a child, he was forced to wear leg braces, and it wasn't until Robert was a teenager that he discovered ballet was his passion. But by that point, many of his fellow dancers had been training for years -- he knew he had a lot of catching up to do. While watching a performance of Alvin Ailey's famous Revelations when he was a high school freshman, he just knew he had to be a part of this ballet company. Through the gift of amazing teachers and a supportive family, Robert went on to Julliard in NYC, where he'd received a full scholarship. Years later, hard work and an incredible talent for dance led Robert to where he is today -- right here in New York City, as the artistic director of Alvin Ailey.

The perfect book for lovers of dance and determination! And if you want to catch a performance of Alvin Ailey this weekend, June 16th-17th, at Lincoln Center, there are still several performances left. See HERE for schedule & ticket info.

This legendary company is a must-see, not only for their tremendous talent, but also for their spirit of giving back. The Ailey Spirit Gala, taking place this evening, in fact, raises funds each year to provide vitally needed scholarships for talented students of The Ailey School and support Ailey's innovative Arts in Education & Community Programs.


A Morning w/ Citizen STEM Award Winners & Good Housekeeping

I recently attended a tour of Good Housekeeping's Research Institute at Hearst Tower as part of a group from the New Jersey Center for Teaching & Learning. The NJCTL, an independent non-profit that focuses on empowering teachers & students in STEM training, hosted a contest with Citizen for 9th grade physics students in New Jersey, and the four winners & their families were invited to NYC to take part in the tour.

With four (potential) future engineers in the room, the NJCTL wanted to demonstrate the many possibilities in the engineering field, and the kind of work performed at Good Housekeeping's Research Institute is an excellent example. I found the tour fascinating; did you know that Good Housekeeping stopped taking cigarette ads 12 YEARS before the Surgeon General's report on the effects of smoking came out? Good Housekeeping's engineers & technologists are proud of the research behind their Seal of Approval, as well they should be!

the view atop Hearst Tower

Congrats to the following winners (who were also gifted with a CTO watch from the Citizen Watch Drive collection):

Gabrielle Grupenhof, River Dell High School
Desire Trudy Walker, 9th Grade Academy, Trenton
MacKenzie Szabo, Secaucus High School
Isaac Hyungwoo Yi, Bergen Tech

Interested in learning more about the NJCTL? They offer free course materials on their website that are available for download, from kindergarten through 8th grade algebra & beyond! Summer vacation is coming up, after all...

Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Citizen.


Broadway Benefit for the NYSPCC

This Sunday, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (The NYSPCC) will host their 5th Annual Family Benefit, which includes a reception brunch at Sanctuary Hotel's HAVEN Rooftop (for Golden Ticket level supporters), followed by a matinee of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway.

The mission of the NYSPCC, the world’s first child protective agency, is to respond to the complex needs of abused and neglected children, as well as those involved in their care. Sunday's special event will directly support Safe Touches: Personal Safety Training for Children, the agency's child sexual abuse prevention program.

First launched in 2007, Safe Touches is geared towards K-3rd graders, teaching them what parts of the body are private by using colorful puppets in role-play scenarios. Specially-trained clinicians help children recognize the difference between safe and not-safe touches and identify who to tell if they have experienced a non-safe touch. With child sexual abuse a chronic, under-reported tragedy in the United States, this programming by the NYSPCC is all too important. As of last year, Safe Touches workshops reached over 5,000 students from NYC area schools.

The NYSPCC is led by Executive Director Dr. Mary L. Pulido, who has worked to help child victims of abuse and neglect for more than three decades. I'm so proud to stand with her as I help spread the word about this organization and the amazing work they're doing to benefit NYC children. Please consider Sunday's benefit (ticket information can be found HERE) -- what a special treat to be able to give back while checking out one of Broadway's most exciting and family-friendly new musicals!


Big Apple Books: Mimi's Adventures in Baking

... New York Style Pizza!

There really is nothing like it, and for a lot of people, the tasty food is one of the first things that comes to mind when you say NYC. Pastry chef & author Alyssa Gangeri agrees, and has created Mimi's Adventures in Baking New York Style Pizza as a loving tribute to one of her favorite foods.

In this book, Mimi discovers all the Big Apple has to offer in addition to yummy pizza, and she even shares a recipe for homemade pizza sauce and dough (insider tip: we tried it & it's delicious - the fresh basil was our favorite part)!

I loved reading this book with the girls, then making pizza together afterwards, which is an easy way to get kids involved in the kitchen while seeing a project through from start to (yummy) finish. Check out some of Mimi's other baking adventures HERE - a great series for little foodies!


Staying Safe with Wipeout Dry Erase Protective Gear (& a giveaway!)

I think we can finally say that warmer weather is here to stay. Hurrah! As a result, we've been spending as much time outdoors as possible. We live across the street from a beautiful park, so there's plenty of room for the girls to explore on their scooters or bikes (and while there's still a learning curve on the whole riding a bike thing, we're getting there)!

With this increased time spent on wheels, it's as good a time as ever to stress the importance of scooter & bike safety by wearing a helmet and protective gear. May is National Bike Month, and it's the perfect time to increase awareness about the health and environmental benefits of bike riding. And oh yeah, it's FUN!

I've partnered with Wipeout Dry Erase Protective Gear to remind everyone that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by an estimated 60% and brain injury by 58%. Wipeout gear sets itself apart by allowing each child to personalize their own helmet and knee pads with provided dry erase markers and stencils. Kids get to decorate everything themselves, promoting ownership and increasing the likelihood that they'll wear their helmet with ease (not to mention the comfort factor; Wipeout's helmets are cushioned on the inside yet built with ABS hard-shell construction for durability).

Feel free to get creative on your own, or see some of Wipeout's creative tutorials HERE. The caterpillar design is my favorite! Along with scooting and biking all over the place, I see roller skates in our future, too. Wipeout's knee pads, helmet and wrist guards will continue to be used for years to come. Here's to mixing safety with artistic creativity -- I love it!


Now here's some fun news. Wipeout is conducting a giveaway for one helmet and accessory kit! See Rafflecopter instructions below, and good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with product and compensation to conduct this review. All opinions herein are my own.
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