‘Sesame Street’ Celebrates 45th Anniversary of ‘The Monster at the End of This Book’

There are educational television programs and then there’s Sesame Street.

The beloved children’s program has been warming the hearts of preschoolers and adults alike for over four decades. Yesterday, Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, announced the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the treasured children’s title The Monster at the End of This Book.

First published in 1971, it has sold more than 12 million copies globally, making it the best-selling trade book in Sesame Street’s 47-year history. My three-year-old son adores the book and looks for it every time we visit our local library.

He and countless children around the country have been mesmerized by the anticipation of seeing the “monster” at the end of the book, only to find the friendly, fuzzy and furry Grover greeting them.

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The Monster at the End of This Book is available here, $3

The Monster at the End of This Book is a timeless story, which Sesame Street fans have enjoyed and shared with their children for generations,” Jennifer A. Perry, Vice President and Publisher, North America Media Products at Sesame Workshop, said in a release. “It remains relevant today in supporting families as they teach preschoolers about strength, making decisions, and overcoming their fears with help from their furry friend, Grover. We fully expect to be introducing this funny, relatable, beloved classic to new Sesame Street kids for many years to come.”

In honor of the iconic title’s special milestone, Sesame Street will conduct a series of social media videos inviting fans to create their own version of Monster artwork, and recall their favorite memory of the book using #Monster45.

The anniversary celebration will continue this week on social media with a special reenactment from @Grover and other surprises.

While my son is too young for social media, I do plan on showing him a few posts to get him grooving with Grover!

Who’s your child’s favorite Sesame Street character? Who was yours growing up?

Children’s Book ‘Rice & Rocks’ Author Talks Food, Family and Tradition

It’s no secret that children’s books can foster critical thinking, boost confidence and expand vocabularies exponentially in young readers. Not to mention ignite imaginations by unlocking creativity in leaps and bounds. The new book, Rice & Rocks, by debut author Sandra L. Richards, does that and more.

Inspired by her late nephew, Giovanni, the book follows a young boy who shuns his family’s tradition of preparing rice and beans meals, but soon realizes that it’s not just about the food, but about the rich culture and heritage behind it.

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Click here to purchase Rice & Rocks, $14

The book is a beautiful tribute to the family dinner and the significance it plays in all cultures. Illustrated with warm, yet vibrant drawings by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan, the story takes readers on a lovely journey exploring culinary traditions and mealtime rituals that transcend backgrounds.

Rice & Rocks is one of those rare reads that’s intended for children, but has such a compelling story that it’s just as intriguing and captivating for adults. It’s truly a celebration of family, food and diversity!

I recently caught up with the author to talk about this sure-to-be bestseller, her beloved nephew and of course rice and beans!

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Below, read on for our Q&A:

BGG: Rice & Rocks is an excellent way to teach young readers about diversity, culture and heritage. What were some of your favorite and/or most memorable family traditions/meals growing up?

Sandra Richards: Of course growing up I loved rice and rocks, I mean beans! And in fact, I still do. On Sunday mornings I enjoyed ackee and salt fish with fried dumplings for breakfast. It’s a traditional Jamaican dish. When I was growing up, my mom and dad had a Saturday routine; leaving our home in Long Island in the late morning to head to Brooklyn, NY to their favorite butcher, and then to the record store. The last stop was to Mr. Chin’s bakery to get beef patties and coco bread. That was the best beef patties I ever had!

BGG: My children love the book! In fact, my daughter told me that after reading Rice & Rocks, it felt like she had taken a real adventure with Giovanni. Have you received similar reactions from other readers you’ve met? If so, what have been some of their responses?

SR: Thanks so much for sharing that! I’m so glad your daughter enjoyed it. I have heard similar responses from kids and adults alike. The common theme has been, “I’ve learned something new!”  But my favorite responses are the ones where people share their own “rice and rocks” story because it inspires me to visit other places around the world!

BGG: Did you always aspire to become a children’s book author? I know your late nephew inspired the book, but did you want to become an author prior to his passing?

SR: I have always loved to write and I enjoy storytelling. I have written poems, short stories, essays and had even started writing a novel years ago. But those have mainly been things I have done to entertain myself and relief myself of thoughts and ideas that linger in my head until I write them down. Those writings had been to satisfy my own needs but Rice & Rocks was different. Something about it kept tugging at my heart that this one needed to be shared with others. I was moved and inspired to go forward with sharing it with a larger audience when I read Maya Angelou’s quote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

BGG: As a debut author, what have been some of the most surprising lessons and learning experiences throughout the publishing process?

SR: I have learned a great deal along the way, and am still learning every day. The editing process was interesting. In the early days of the manuscript, it went through many rounds of editing with strong suggestions to change some of the text and remove some characters like the dogs from the story as they were not deemed relevant. I had to learn very quickly to remove the emotions from the equation and accept the critiques and leave some things on the cutting room floor. However, as equally important, I had to stand in my convictions and beliefs about things that mattered to the integrity of the story. And my dogs, Skye and Honey, were important to the story; though they played a small part, it was meaningful. Besides, how was I going to explain to them that they didn’t make the cut? (laughs)

BGG: The illustrations are beautiful and exude a sense of warmth and familiarity. Tell me, how did your working relationship with illustrator Megan Sullivan come to be?

SR: Megan is a brilliant illustrator, she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I am so glad she believed in Rice & Rocks as much as I did. She and I were connected by a mutual friend, Wendy Murphy. Over the course of nearly two years while working the book, we met about three times in person. I sent her photos of my family and the rest of the details were from her creative mind and skillful hands!

BGG: What’s your favorite part/scene of the book?

SR: I have a few. One of my favorite parts is when Grandma is serving the food and Giovanni announced that dinner is served. He proudly declares that it is his Grandma’s specialty. The other part is when Giovanni discovers that Louis Armstrong loved rice and beans too!

BGG: How did you choose the cultures that Giovanni explored throughout the book? Were they based on actual people in your life?

SR: The cultures were based on things that Giovanni related to and people that were in both of our lives. Japan was an easy choice because he loved Godzilla! And as he says in the book, it’s “home to the King of the monsters.” Given both of our love of jazz music, New Orleans was a perfect choice. And he had a friend in school and she was from Puerto Rico.

BGG: What advice do you have for an aspiring children’s book author?

SR: If you are an aspiring children’s book author, talk to kids!  Spend some quality time with them. I had a focus group of kids, made up of family members and those of friends, who helped me along the way. I would let them read the story, or I would read to them depending on the age, and take their feedback. This was one of the best things that I did – kids are super honest, no filter!

BGG: I’m sure your nephew would’ve been proud of Rice & Rocks. What do you think would’ve been his favorite part? And why? 

SR: I think Giovanni would have loved all of the adventures. He had a curious and imaginative mind and I think he would have enjoyed learning about all of the other cultures. He would have loved the visit to Japan—I’ve never seen a kid who loved Godzilla so much!

What’s your family’s favorite meal?

Color Me Happy: Doodling to Reduce Stress

Who said coloring books were just for kids?

For the past few years, coloring books have become popular among the older set. Adults are now realizing that drawing in swirly shapes and cool doodles can be an easy and cost-effective stress reliever.

And now that chilly weather has arrived, it’s the perfect time to tap into your inner child and unleash your creativity. Curling up on the couch with a coloring book in the fall can be the perfect antidote to a bad day.

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Bouffants & Broken Hearts” by Kendra Dandy available here, $16

For me, I enjoy coloring books that are whimsical, playful and simply speak to me. Right now, I’m totally obsessed with Kendra Dandy’s, “Bouffants & Broken Hearts.”

Fashion and pop art inspired, the book takes coloring to new, imaginative heights. Being a beauty buff, adding color to lipstick tubes and tropical fruit instantly ignites my soul. There’s something about putting colored pencils to the blank, outlined pages that produces a calming sensation. Her brilliant, quirky artistry allows me to escape the day’s hardships and unwind. I’ve already colored a few pages and can’t wait to fill in more of the funky prints.

If you’re looking for a relaxing and therapeutic way to spend some me-time, pick up this coloring book.

We can all add beauty to our lives, one pencil or crayon stroke at a time.

Do you enjoy coloring books as an adult? How do you unwind after a hectic day?

3 Inspiring Reads to Get You Through the Year

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for new beginnings!

Whether you’re searching for clarity, on the brink of a breakthrough or just need a bit of inspiration, I’ve rounded up a few good reads that will help get you through the year ahead.

From motivational tales to empowering tidbits, the following books will give you the boost you need to create and live your best year yet!

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Being the driving force behind hit TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” it seems everything that Shonda Rhimes touches turns to gold. Her debut book, “Year of Yes” proves to be no exception. This memoir is a treasure trove of hilarious, anecdotal advice about how saying “yes” changed the course of her  life and how the same positive approach can change yours too. Available here, $15

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Hoda Kotb, the witty author and Today show co-anchor is back with a new inspiring read: “Where They Belong.” The breast cancer survivor shares stories of self-reflection from individuals who ditched doubt and dared to live the life of their dreams. Available here, $15

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Auntie Oprah always knows best! “O’s Little Guide to Finding Your True Purpose” will get you pumped up and on the path toward fulfilling your destiny. This trusty compilation guide is packed with inspiration and advice. It’s the perfect book to kick-off the new year! Available here, $15

Are you a fan of motivational self-help books? What do you hope to accomplish or achieve this year? 

Must-Read: Miss Jessie’s “Creating a Successful Business from Scratch—Naturally”

When it comes to quality products for curly hair, Miss Jessie’s is at the top of the list—period!

Now the trailblazing textured hair care brand wants to share the heralding story about their rise to entrepreneurial success in the new book, “Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch—Naturally.”  Written by Miss Jessie’s co-founder and CEO Miko Branch with her beloved sister and business partner, Titi Branch whom passed away from suicide last December—the memoir/business guide is an awesome read for budding entrepreneurs and business owners of all kinds.

Although you can’t help but think about Titi’s devastating death while reading the tome, her creative free-spirit is felt throughout the pages. Chock full of business advice told in the form of the sisters’ personal stories, the book gives readers an in-depth look into the trials and triumphs of being your own boss all while working alongside family.

miss-jessies-bookMiss Jessies’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch—Naturally” by Miko Branch with Titi Branch availalbe here, $18 

Beautiful, full-color photos of the sisters serve as a touching testament to the siblings’ special bond. It  also includes personal photographs of the sister’s paternal grandmother of whom the brand was named. The book is a true treasure for those of us who’ve followed the sisters’ career and used their popular products. And for all of those people who’ve questioned how they turned their passion into a formidable business, now those inquiring minds have a very detailed guide that can help them make their business dreams come true too!

Me, my friend Rashida and Miko Branch at the book release party at the Miss Jessie's salon in New York City on April 16, 2015.

Me, my friend Rashida and Miko Branch at the book release party at the Miss Jessie’s salon in New York City on April 16, 2015.

Reports suggest that the book was ready to be released earlier this year, but was pushed back as a result of Titi’s untimely passing.  However, that unfortunate delay allowed Miko to include a heartfelt letter she penned as a moving tribute to her her big sister, Titi.

The duo has been creating sweet-smelling creams and concoctions to enhance curly locks since the 90s—and although Titi is no longer with us, it’s pretty safe to say that there’s no stopping Miss Jessie’s! We’re rooting for Miko to take the brand to even greater heights!

The lovely cake by B Cake NY at the Miss Jessie's book release party on April 16, 2015 in New York City.

The lovely cake by B Cake NY at the Miss Jessie’s book release party on April 16, 2015 in New York City.

Have you purchased the new book? What’s your favorite Miss Jessie’s product?

Unlock Your Bliss With ‘O’s Little Book of Happiness’

Looks like Pharrell isn’t the only one who wants to make us happy.

Oprah Winfrey and her team are also on a mission to help us find and celebrate our inner joy with the release of  “O’s Little Book of Happiness.”

Right in time for spring, the editors of O, The Oprah Magazine have compiled a bevy of  uplifting and inspiring stories that have been featured in the magazine (over its fifteen year history) and turned them into a splendid audiobook.

O-Book-Of-Happiness“O’s Little Book of Happiness” audiobook available here, $14

With anecdotal stories from popular spiritual-centric authors such as Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and Marianne Gingher, the audio book is chock full of funny, thought-provoking and timeless advice.

Unlike Oprah’s best-selling, “What I Know For Sure” audiobook, this one isn’t narrated by the media powerhouse, but by a cast whose voices are just as soothing, entertaining and upbeat as hers.

Although we know that happiness is a choice—if you’re looking to unlock the sunshine in your life, this audiobook is a great starting point!

No matter what you’re going through, what’s the one thing that can always make you happy?

GIVEAWAY: Terrence J’s New Book ‘The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom’

Terrence Jenkins, better known as Terrence J has proven that he’s no one-trick pony.

Known mostly for his stint as the co-host of BET’s “106 & Park” back in 2006 (until earlier this year), Jenkins has gone on to act on the big and small screens while currently co-anchoring “E!’ News.” The popular television personality and actor can now add “author” to his growing résumé.

Jenkins’ book, The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom: Lessons That Made My Life Rich, is set to be released Oct 1st. Not quite a memoir, but still very telling of his upbringing/life; Jenkins provides readers with advice and inspiring personal stories that will encourage them to follow their dreams. He credits his mother, Lisa, for all of his success and dedicates this book to her as a gift of gratitude  for all of the valuable life lessons she instilled in him.

In addition to sharing his own stories, the book also encouraging stories  from T.I, Kevin Hart, Laz Alonso and Ludacris.

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On sale October 1st here,  $19.99

**Two lucky readers will win a copy of Terrence J’s The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom: The Lessons That Made My Life Rich. Simply leave a comment sharing one of the most valuable lessons that either your mom or dad gave to you or that you will give to your child. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Oct. 1st.