On Children: Poignant Parenting Advice from Kahlil Gibran

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself… You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow…”

On Children: Poignant Parenting Advice from Kahlil Gibran

In the final years of his long life, which encompassed world wars and assassinations and numerous terrors, the great cellist and human rights advocate Pablo Casals urged humanity to “make this world worthy of its children.” Today, as we face a world that treats its children as worthless, we are challenged like we have never been challenged to consider the deepest existential calculus of bringing new life into a troubled world — what is the worth of children, what are our responsibilities to them (when we do choose to have them, for it is also an act of courage and responsibility to choose not to), and what does it mean to raise a child with the dignity of being an unrepeatable miracle of atoms that have never before constellated and will never again constellate in that exact way?

Art by Derek Dominic D’souza from Song of Two Worlds by physicist Alan Lightman.

A century ago, perched between two worlds and two World Wars, the Lebanese-American poet, painter, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883–April 10, 1931) addressed these elemental questions with sensitive sagacity in a short passage from The Prophet (public library) — the 1923 classic that also gave us Gibran on the building blocks of true friendship, the courage to weather the uncertainties of love, and what may be the finest advice ever offered on the balance of intimacy and independence in a healthy relationship.

When a young mother with a newborn baby at her breast asks for advice on children and parenting, Gibran’s poetic prophet responds:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Art by Alessandro Sanna from Crescendo.

Complement with Susan Sontag’s 10 rules for raising a child and Crescendo — an Italian watercolor serenade to the splendid prenatal biology of becoming a being — then revisit Gibran on authenticity, why we make art, and his gorgeous love letters to and from the woman without whom The Prophet might never have been born.

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Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

There’s a first time for most things – and often that can be a fine time. Pseudaletia has enjoyed encountering Toni Morrison and The Song Of Solomon:

It was amazing, and is the first novel in a long time that has stayed with me. I had read that she was a mix of Faulkner, Gabriel – Marquez and others, and she did not disappoint. I don’t know what her later works are like, but I have one on order from the library.

I don’t understand/am generally not interested in finance, and when I watched the film I still struggled to get what was going on (despite the “explanations for dummies” section). This book is fascinating – punchy, concise and full of fascinating characters. For the first time I can maybe see how finance could be sort of interesting.

Kitty Maule is successful in her work and actually has a couple of reasonably good friends. However, she has a huge blind spot that ends in a rather public humiliation. You walk alongside her for 180 pages just knowing that the fall is coming. When it does, Brookner doesn’t even give her a chance to put her hands out to brace herself. She is clueless to the very end. Just a metaphorical full faceplant. Brutal.

A depressed creative writing lecturer takes a sabbatical in the country to write the Great American novel, but the manuscript is stolen by a greedy bear, who claims the novel as his own, and is greeted by the New York literati as the new Hemingway. Beautifully written and laugh out loud funny – why this novel hasn’t become a classic is a mystery to me.

I am still deep in the teeming streets and tangled thickets of this magnificent book with no idea how it will be resolved, if at all. But for now all those streets and drawing rooms, woods and esplanades, may be very beautifully written but they also feel dangerous and sinister. First, Bowen’s prose can be incomparable, beginning on the first page with a breathtaking evocation of London in January. Second, there is the psychological acuity. There is, for example, a scene relatively early on in which Matchett, the servant, sits with Portia as she tries to fall asleep – it made me gasp several times as it revealed ever more, increasingly unsettling, layers to what had at first appeared to be merely an affectionate relationship based in familiarity. It was masterly. I cannot wait to finish.

I think it’s a lovely book. It seems unusual in that the characters are pleasant and considerate. I also like how Mr Myers has presented Robert as a character with limited experience but an intelligence that opens him to awareness and understanding. Myers also times the development of the characters really well.

The novel does what the best writing does – makes me envious of the skill and crafting of the piece and has put me, myself, in the narrator’s shoes. Also I think back to my own youth and some of my experiences.

It might not seem like an obvious choice, but it has a few things quite noticeably in its favour: firstly, it is set in the distant past, so we are spared any zany pop culture references; secondly, it isn’t blatantly modelled on an existing text, though it echoes One Thousand and One Nights; and it is the only Rushdie novel I’ve encountered with an invisible narrator, as opposed to some of the others, in which it feels like the author is Morris dancing provocatively just out of reach. The book is more in the realm of pure fantasy than “Magic Realism”, though historical figures are mentioned, including Vlad the Impaler, who is one of the pack of warlords, sultans and dictators who are engaged in bloody territorial disputes in the narrative. I highly recommend it for fans of escapism.

Now THAT is how you write a detective parody. Brautigan somehow manages to deliver a gripping (if slightly bizarre) private eye novel while simultaneously satirising the entire genre. It’s just great. I’m starting to run out of his books now … A sad day is approaching!

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“Giovanni’s Room was Baldwin’s bastard child in the way he was a bastard child.” Hilton Als on James Baldwin’s extraordinary novel.

The many literary landscapes of Tokyo.

Ann Cleeves on World Book Club.

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Jonathan Franzen's made-up climate change model sparks online pile-on

‘As a non-scientist, I do my own kind of modelling,’ claimed the author in the New Yorker, sparking a flurry of mockery online

It’s been almost a year since a Jonathan Franzen pile-on, so we were undoubtedly due another. This time round, the novelist – Mr “Oprah’s book club choices are ‘schmaltzy’”, Mr “I considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan”, Mr “I write in the dark with a blindfold on”, Mr “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction” – is under fire for declaring the fight against the climate crisis to be hopeless.

Citing the “consensus among scientists and policy-makers” that we will pass the “point of no return” for the planet “if the global mean temperature rises by more than two degrees”, Franzen writes in the New Yorker of how “as a non-scientist, I do my own kind of modelling”. He has, he says, “run various future scenarios through my brain” and “count[ed] the scenarios in which collective action averts catastrophe”.

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If You Build It, It Can Sell! A Novelty Book Primer by Salina Yoon (plus a giveaway)

by Salina Yoon

Ever wonder how those cute books with moving parts, lift-flaps, pop-ups, or touchable things get sold to publishers?

With a novelty book submission, the dummy is critical. Unlike other formats that may be story- or art-driven, a novelty book is format-driven. This means that the physical format can be even more important than the text, the story, the concept, or the art, though all of these elements have to work seamlessly together at the end. Creating a novelty book is like solving a puzzle on a multi-dimensional level. But the challenge is what makes it FUN!

The format has to be unique and versatile enough to work as a series.

But how do you build a book with moving parts?!

I’ll show you.

It begins with an idea. You sketch it out. This sketch is no bigger than 2”, but it’s got a lot of info here. The tail of an animal will wag by the pull of a pull-tab.

Since I already know that it would be important for the publisher to be able to make this into a series, I created a series title.

The things that I considered while creating the series title:

  • Must highlight its most unique feature on the book
  • Must be catchy
  • Must inform reader how the book work

I came up with a WAGGING TAIL BOOK. But I revised the series title to A WAG MY TAIL BOOK for the final submission, which the acquiring publisher kept.

Then comes the tricky part. Before I do anything else, I have to figure out how to make the tail wag with a pull tab. What if you’re not a paper engineer? While I consider myself a format engineer, I’m not a paper engineer myself, so I sought one out. I happen to have a good friend who can really make paper do anything! Having some experience with novelty, though, I knew the possibilities and limitations. I explained how I wanted the tail to move with a tab on the side. She sent me various options, and this mechanic worked the best for me.

You could hire a freelance paper engineer, like Renee Jablow or carefully open up other books with a similar mechanic to the one you want, and see if you could recreate it. No need to reinvent the wheel. All paper-engineers pull apart other paper mechanics to learn from them! Don’t worry about making it perfect. This is for the purpose of submitting it to a publisher so they see how it works. If the publisher is interested, they would send this dummy to their printer, and the printer would re-engineer it (and clean it up)—and supply quotes to the publisher. Pricing is KEY in getting through the acquisition process. If it’s too pricey, it’ll be passed. Be sure to only include interactive elements that are absolutely necessary and cost effective.

Once I had the mechanic figured out, I worked on creating an art sample. But since I want to show this format as a series, I created four covers. After building the four dummies, I had to source the fabric for the touch-and-feel tail. This could be done by visiting a fabric store, or even a party store that sells costumes. All I needed was a tiny piece of fabric for my dummy. A fully designed dummy shows the publisher exactly how I am envisioning this series.

But I wanted to offer less-expensive versions of the dummy, too, so I did not put fabric on the tails of all of the animals. It’s nice to offer options.

After building the dummy, I created a video to show how the dummy works. This would allow me to share the dummy without actually sending it, unless it was requested.


The acquisition process for a novelty book typically takes far longer than a traditional picture book, even when the publisher is excited about it. Expect 7-12 months…or longer to get an offer, if one is coming! Some books have been acquired as late as 18 months after submission!

The Wag My Tail series was sold to S&S as a 3-book deal (though more are coming). Instead of going with the original concepts, the publisher asked for holiday themes, which was easy to apply to this format. The first book HALLOWEEN KITTY is available now, and the others will follow.

Don’t be afraid to tackle a novelty book idea. Take it just one step at a time—beginning with the format. It’s challenging on multiple levels, but you’ll have lots of fun and maybe less hair than what you started with. Good luck!

Thanks, Salina! What a fascinating process. You are the novelty master. How could any publisher resist?

You can visit Salina and her books online at SalinaYoon.com.

To celebrate the release of HALLOWEEN KITTY, Salina is giving away 5 copies of the book!

Leave one comment below to enter. Five random winners will be selected in a couple weeks.

Good luck!

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