Got kids’ books? Keller Williams wants to help you donate them

Barton Creek Elementary Library Council officers (from left) Sami Ireland, Albert Li, Alex Lange, Andrew Kearney, Nina Velacheri and Sarah Menefee read in the school's library during its BookSpring Read-A-Thon event. COURTESY OF AMANDA BRAWNER
Barton Creek Elementary Library Council officers (from left) Sami Ireland, Albert Li, Alex Lange, Andrew Kearney, Nina Velacheri and Sarah Menefee read in the school’s library during its BookSpring Read-A-Thon event.
COURTESY OF AMANDA BRAWNER

If your kids have outgrown some of their books, spread them around.

Keller Williams will be helping the community for its RED Day — Renew, Energize and Donate — on May 14 by collecting new and used books and giving them to schools that are served by BookSpring. BookSpring helps 21,000 kids a year served by Title I schools in the Austin Independent School District, at Head Start centers and other child development centers.

You can drop off new or gently used books by May 14 at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Ave., or donate money to at kw.com/bookdrive. Last year Keller Williams donated 7,000 books.

Learn how to finger knit with expert Vickie Howell

Vickie Howell will teach you how to finger knit at Toms on Sunday.
Vickie Howell will teach you how to finger knit at Toms on Sunday.

Here’s a fun event for kids and their parents who like to craft:

Crochet and knitting guru and Austin mom Vickie Howell will launch her book “Finger Knitting Fun” at Toms Roasting Co. at 1401 S. Congress Ave. 2-4 p.m. Sunday. She’ll teach you  how to finger knit and I’m told there will be cupcakes. Howell is the host of PBS’ “Knitting Daily TV” and the spokesperson for yarnspirations.com.

Fing9781631590702er knitting is really a great way for kids to do something with their hands that is not tapping on an iPad or holding a game controller. My daughter got into in one summer, and yes, we had evidence of her work throughout the house, but it was one time she wasn’t glued to a screen.

Austin couple continues son’s legacy with birthday party for Room to Read

Last June, Anu Saha and his wife Arati Bhattacharya show some of the books in their son Akash's nursery. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Last June, Anu Saha and his wife Arati Bhattacharya show some of the books in their son Akash’s nursery.
LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Last Father’s Day, I wrote about Anu Saha and his wife, Arati Bhattacharya, and their son, Akash, who died during labor. The family set up a donation page to honor their son by building Room to Read libraries in his honor — 10 in the first year, then an additional one each year. The libraries would be in India at first and then in other countries where Room to Read builds libraries.  You can read that story, here.

Ahash would have turned 1 yesterday. In his honor, the couple and the Austin chapter of Room to Read are holding a Bollywood Nights fundraiser on Saturday at the Clay Pit, 1601 Guadalupe St., from 7-11 p.m. Tickets are $45, $55 at the door. You can get them at https://www.roomtoread.org/Bollywood2015.

“What he’s made happen — he never breathed a day on Earth — but what he’s done is really inspiring,” Saha told us last year. “His legacy will outlive us.”

Find out more about autism, support local organization with run/ride

autismsocietyApril is Autism Awareness month. Autism Society of Central Texas is holding its seventh annual Autism Society Bike Ride and Fun Run on April 11 at Georgetown High School to support the organization. 2015 is the society’s 25th year of providing information and referrals, support, education, advocacy and recreational opportunities for individuals with autism and their families across a 24 county area.

Ride routes include 9, 24, 42 and 68 mile rides through Williamson County.  The fun run and walk is an untimed 5k around the campus and high school annex, which will finish at the post-event party and resource fair.  The fun run and walk is $25, all the other rides are $50. Kids younger than 12 are free and families are encouraged to come out and have fun at the kid zone and community resource fair.

To register or for more information: www.autismbikeride.org

Cures for the “I’m Bored” that might be part of the spring break ritual

Last year I wrote a guide to having an Austin-centric spring break. Today, as parents are into Day Four of a very long nine days, I offer you an updated version.

Zilker Park

There’s so much to do. Walk the trails, rent a canoe, ride the Zilker Zephyr train, play on the playground and throw breadcrumbs at the ducks. Make a whole day of it and picnic in the park. Nearby is the Zilker Botanical Garden and Hartman Prehistoric Garden. Don’t forget the Austin Nature & Science Center, with its dinosaur dig, aviary and wildlife sanctuary, plus trails to explore. The Zilker Botanical Garden just opened its Woodland Faerie Trail, which is open late Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Kids run in the Nature's Spiral at the Luci and Ian Family Garden.  DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Kids run in the Nature’s Spiral at the Luci and Ian Family Garden. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Things are starting to bloom. If you haven’t yet been to the Family Gardens, this is a great time. Don’t forget the meadows, butterfly garden and the arboretum. The arboretum has all kinds of different tree swings to try out. The center also has two programs for kids: Sprouts. 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Friday,  through May 29 for a weekly preschool program with story time, nature walk and more.  Nature Play Hour. Enjoy a guided nature tour and activity 10 a.m. Saturdays, through May 30.

Spend a day at Rodeo Austin, but really see the rodeo

Skip the rides and carnival for the livestock shows, pig races, mutton bustin’ and bull riding.

Go spelunking

We have several caves to choose from in Central Texas. We’ve tried Inner Space Cavern, Longhorn Cavern, Natural Bridge Caverns and the Cave Without a Name. For beginners, start with Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown. For something spectacular and off-the-beaten path, go for the Cave Without a Name. For beauty and the nearby wildlife ranch, choose Natural Bridge. For a fun, historical tale, go for Longhorn Cavern.

Gustavo Gomez, Amanda Serra, and Michael Marchese play the three little pigs who have become rock stars. AxelB Photography
Gustavo Gomez, Amanda Serra, and Michael Marchese play the three little pigs who have become rock stars. AxelB Photography

Pitch a tent and go camping nearby

Between state and LCRA parks, you’ve got a lot to chose from, but if this is your first time, try McKinney Falls. It’s close enough to home that if you need to abandon ship for your own beds, you can. We’ve also loved Pedernales Falls and Inks Lake, also not far.

Take in a show and read a book

Zach Theatre has “The Three Little Pigs on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Scottish Rite Theatre has “Jack and the Beanstalk,” 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays and 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.  Either before or after, you can head to BookPeople to explore some actual books. Saturday story time is at 11:30 a.m.

Go museum-hopping all week

Go on a tour of Texas history at the Bullock Museum, with its artifacts from settlers to modern politicians. Then dip into art at the Blanton Museum of Art and the Contemporary Austin. Round out your week at the Thinkery children’s museum, but don’t forget to buy your tickets online for the Thinkery and the IMAX at the Bullock to make sure you get to go when you want to go. You can also head out of town for two science experiences. We highly recommend the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City, especially for older children. The new Texas Museum of Science & Technology opens on Friday in Cedar Park with the “Body Worlds” exhibit of cadavers.

Eat your way through Austin

The food trailers close to downtown might be busy, but there are other spots away from downtown like the Midway Food Park off Loop 360 and Mueller Trailer Eats. This is also your chance to check out the local farmers markets on the weekdays.

A topographical sand map allows you to create mountains and watch the topography lines change. Hill Country Science Mill.
A topographical sand map allows you to create mountains and watch the topography lines change.
Hill Country Science Mill.

Tour de playgrounds

If you’re always going to the same park, try something new. We’ve loved Mary Moore Searight Metropolitan Park and Dick Nichols District Park for a while now, but we South Austin folks could head north for Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park or Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. You might even get some young adventurers to go on a hike with you.

Theater review: A “Three Little Pigs” for you and your piglets

"The Three Little Pigs" at Zach Theatre stars Gustavo Gomez, Amanda Serra, Michael Marchese, and Jacqui Cross. Photo by Kirk Tuck.
“The Three Little Pigs” at Zach Theatre stars Gustavo Gomez, Amanda Serra, Michael Marchese, and Jacqui Cross. Photo by AxelB Photography 

Friday night’s opening night performance of Zach Theatre’s “The Three Little Pigs” musical continued to prove why the theater’s education department lead by Nat Miller gets children’s theater right.

It’s smart. It’s funny. It doesn’t talk down to kids. It twists the classic fairy tale just enough to keep Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa interested, while not losing the fairy tale’s message. The production, produced by Carla Tyson and directed by Abe Reybold, will be on Zach’s Kleberg stage through April 25 and will be seen by about 20,000 kids including many school groups.

Schools pay a reduced rate depending on the school’s economic makeup; public shows are $15 for children and $20 for adults. Even for public shows, Zach doesn’t turn anyone away because of an inability to pay as long as there are seats available.

For Miller, the goal of children’s theater is about exposing young people to the arts, which creates a future generation of artists. “It inspires them to want to dream and use their imaginations, ” he told us in 2013.

The program continues to grow as “The Three Little Pigs” demonstrates. The three pigs, Cha (Gustavo Gomez), Siu (Amanda Serra) and Bao (Michael Marchese) have become famous, with a new book out about their adventures taking down the wolf. Their mother (Jacqui Cross) is the ultimate stage mother, setting up appearances, getting the book-signing table just right.

Gustavo Gomez, Amanda Serra, and Michael Marchese play the three little pigs who have become rock stars. Kirk Tuck
Gustavo Gomez, Amanda Serra, and Michael Marchese play the three little pigs who have become rock stars. AxelB Photography

She takes us back to a time a year earlier, when her three little piglets were crowding the sty and needed to set out on their own. They were afraid at first; after all, the Big Bad Wolf killed their father. Yet, she assures them that he hasn’t been seen recently and it’s time for them to create their own stys.

Of course, we as an audience, soon learn that the Big Bad Wolf is alive and he can’t wait to taste some fresh ham. Wolf (played with a side of schmaltz by Russel Taylor) is in full young Elvis gear — black leather jacket, black pants and boots, pompadour hair — and he has all the Elvis swagger and sound. At first, he’s scary and the production plays up the fear during his introduction.

The cast uses different parts of the theater to enter and exit including parts of the audience. So, when he appeared in the audience shortly after his first song, he did frighten one child in the audience. To Taylor’s credit, he turned it around by being afraid of that child, sending the rest of the audience into giggles and letting the other kids know that there was nothing to be afraid of. (For those of you with younger children, you might want to prepare them for the villain ahead of time.)

The language of “The Three Little Pigs” feels very fresh. The wolf describing his hunger is a walking thesaurus of $1 words that most kids wouldn’t know, but it’s easy to get the context. There are, of course, plenty of opportunities to use pig references and humor. It’s “hogs and kisses” instead of hugs and kisses, for example. The audiences is in on the joke and your kids will love seeing how many different ways the words “pig,” “hog,” “bacon” and “ham” get used.

Russel Taylor plays the wolf. Photo by Kirk Tuck
Russel Taylor plays the wolf. Photo by AxelB Photography

Yet, for traditionalists, this “Three Little Pigs” manages to work in the classic language: “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.” “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin.” “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and blow your house in” are all there.

You will leave the theater singing the wolf’s song “I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff.”

The set design for “The Three Little Pigs” is smart, with three separate house frames that are movable and combine depending on the scene. Each pig adds a screen to show the different materials they make their house with. The houses move around and get put back together for the final house and get turned around for the Big Bad Wolf’s lair.

The five-person cast is strong and versatile, playing other roles to fill out the story when needed. Jacqui Cross stands out as the mother for her powerful vocals, but dishes out the humor as various tradesmen who sell the pigs their building materials. Taylor transforms from a nerdy fan into the rebel-with-a-cause wolf and knows when to ham it up but not go too far. The pigs work well together, but are also capable of holding the stage on their own.

While Zach’s adult theater has had missteps in the way it uses diversity, it’s education department gets it right. There’s no real reason that the pig’s mother is black and the pigs are caucasian and Hispanic other than those were the best actors for those roles. Reybold doesn’t play into any stereotypes and kids will not think anything of it.

That’s just smart.

Three Little Pigs‘ For ages 3 and up.  $20 adults, $15 children. 2 p.m. Saturdays through April 25. 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sundays through March 29. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org.

 

 

 

 

Learn to be an engineer on Saturday at the Thinkery

Ben Villalpando does his own engineering at the Thinkery over winter break. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman Staff
Ben Villalpando does his own engineering at the Thinkery over winter break.
Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman Staff

This Saturday, engineering professionals and students will lead activities including making a delta winged flyer, making a catapult and making a super golf tower as part of Engineers Day. It’s all about getting young kids minds working on solving problems in fun way. It’s the E in STEM learning that we’re all trying to promote.

Engineers Day is sponsored by the Austin Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Austin Intellectual Property Law Association. Additional support from the Greater Austin Contractors & Engineers Association, Baer Engineering, Hayward Baker, MWM Design Group and SAM Inc.

The first 400 kids get in free, so come early.

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org.

Watch the African Children’s Choir and Sara Hickman in action

 

ara Hickman met the children of the African Children's Choir, this July, These children are former touring choir members who are  now students at Music for Life  School in Entebbe, Uganda. This past July she led recording sessions in the girls dorms of the school…sang her songs with some Choir kids  for a project to honor the Choir orgs 30th Anniversary.  The cd/album is called " Love is a Journey" and is a collaboration with her friend, Lynne Dobson, and the African Children's Choir to celebrate their 30th Anniversary. Lynne has been a longtime supporter of the ACC and a humanitarian photojournalist and  philanthropist. Sara brought previously used recorders to all 106 students - from The Recorder Project here in Austin. Each of these students has never had an instrument of their own-- besides their own voices. PHOTO BY LYNNE DOBSON Credit: Lynne Dobson
Sara Hickman met the children of the African Children’s Choir this July, These children are former touring choir members who are now students at Music for Life School in Entebbe, Uganda. This past July she led recording sessions in the girls dorms of the school… and sang her songs with some choir kids for a project to honor the choir’s 30th anniversary. The cd/album is called ” Love is a Journey.” 
Credit: Lynne Dobson

At the end of November, I wrote about Austin musician Sara Hickman going to Uganda to record a CD with the choir. Last week, they performed in Austin several times. Now you can watch a video of the concert, here.

Did you catch our monthly family calendar?

Each month we run a calendar in the Raising Austin calendar featuring a look ahead to the events coming up the next month.

Here’s some of the family fun December will bring:

Thousands of visitors poured through the main entrance of the Trail of Lights held at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, December, 22, 2013.  (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Thousands of visitors poured through the main entrance of the Trail of Lights held at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, December, 22, 2013. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Starry Nights. Explore GirlStart’s mini-planetarium. Free. 5:30 p.m. Thursday. 1400 W. Anderson Lane. RSVP. www.girlstart.org.

Teens Create: Open House. Ages 13-19 can join the Contemporary Austin on the Jones Center’s rooftop deck. Live DJ set, home movie lounge, improv games, community art wall and make-your-own buttons. 6 p.m. Thursday. Free. 700 Congress Ave.www.thecontemporaryaustin.org.

Thinkery Workshops. Candle Making, 10:30 a.m. Dec. 6. For ages 5 and up. $39 per parent and child. Gingerbread Tech-shop. Make a gingerbread house with lights. 2:30 p.m. Dec. 13, Dec. 20. For ages 8 and up. $44 per parent and child. Introduction to Soldering: Blinky Ornaments. 10:30 a.m. Dec. 14. For ages 7 and up. $34 per parent and child. Circuit Cards, light-up cards. 10:30 a.m. Dec. 19. $34 per parent and child. For ages 7 and up. The Thinkery also has Gingerbread Workshops all throughout December. Register online. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org.

“Kids of the Magi.” Austin’s own O. Henry’s classic Christmas story gets reimagined as two best friends make sacrifices. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Dec. 6, 13 and 20 and 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 21. $12 adults, $8 children 12 and younger. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St.scottishritetheater.org.

“The Nutcracker.” Ballet Austin presents this classic. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20. 2 p.m. Dec. 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22 and 23. $84-$15. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. balletaustin.org.

DeSTEMber Fest and Free First Sundays. Explore the Bullock Museum for free with special science, technology, engineering and math activities from GirlStart. Then continue the learning all month long with different activities at girlstart.org. Noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 7. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com.

Trail of Lights. Dec. 7-21. Gates open at 7 p.m. each night. Free Monday-Thursday. $3 Friday and Saturday. Zilker Park, but shuttles run from Republic Square Park and Burger Center. $4 round trip weekdays, $5 weekend. austintrailoflights.org.

“The Polar Express.” See the classic holiday film. 7 p.m. Dec. 11. Stateside at the Paramount. $10 adults, $5 children. 719 Congress Ave.austintheatre.org.

“Of Mice and Music.” See Tapestry Dance Company perform “The Nutcracker” in tap. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11-13, 18-20 and 2 p.m. Dec. 13-14, 20-21. $23-$34. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org.

“Holiday Heroes.” Zach Theatre’s classic children’s holiday story is back for its 15th year, and this time it’s in the Topfer Theatre. 10 a.m. Dec. 13 and 20. $20 adults, $15 children. Kleberg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org.

Second Saturdays at the Contemporary Austin. Make your own gingerbread house. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 13. $10 per family. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. www.thecontemporaryaustin.org.

“Disney Junior Live on Tour! Pirate & Princess Adventure.” Sophia the princess and Jake the pirate return to the Erwin Center with their band of merry Disney characters. 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 21. $20-$55. The Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St. www.uterwincenter.com.

“The Mutt-cracker.” See Circus ChickenDog’s version with rescued dogs. 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Dec. 18-Jan. 3. $30-$10. The Vortex, 2307 Manor Road. chickendog.net.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze. See performers twirl and bounce and soar through the air, plus there’s gingerbread men, snowmen, icemen and penguins. 8 p.m. Dec. 29-30. $40-$65. 2100 Avenue of the Stars.www.cedarparkcenter.com.

Ahora sí recommends:

Leer y Crear: Family Story Time. Hear “The Legend of the Poinsettia” by Tomie de Paola in English and Spanish. 10:30 a.m. Dec. 13. Free. Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.

Sabados en Familia Holiday Felt Ornaments. Create ornaments as a family for ages 5 and up. $12 per parent and child. 1 p.m. Dec. 13. Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.www.austintexas.gov/esbmacc.