Meet the “World-Reading” Sandguppy

Author of “Applesauce on the Ceiling,” “An Embarrassment of Pandas,” and her own blog, “The Sandguppy,” shares the inspiration behind one of her awesome literary ventures.

By: Rachel Unklesbay

I watched a TED talk a while ago that made me think. Ann Morgan talked about perusing her bookshelves one day and realizing something new about herself. Although she thought of herself as a well-read and rather cosmopolitan person, there were almost no books on her shelf from foreign countries. That meant that, as well-read as she thought she was, she hadn’t read any perspectives except those from English—and occasionally, American—authors.

Of course, I immediately started mentally sorting through my own bookshelves. I had a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a few college books from African authors. And aside from that, I had the same culture-blindness. I set out to do the same thing Morgan had: read a book from every country.

She did it in a year. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a kid, though. And I think her budget for book purchases was higher than mine. (Since she picked up a lot of her books while visiting foreign countries, I’m pretty sure her budget for everything is higher than mine.) Anyways, I didn’t set a time limit. I just made a list of countries, and started asking for recommendations.

Fortunately, my husband works at a bookstore. That makes the finding process a lot easier.

I’ve read 30 countries so far, and I’ve got about two dozen more on my bookshelf, waiting for me to catch up.

The most surprising thing I’ve learned so far? Scandinavian humor. I’m pretty sure my family gets their sense of humor from our Swedish heritage. Everything I’ve read from the north of Europe so far has had a dry, hilarious ability to laugh at the most unfortunate of circumstances. And I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’m now on a side-track reading as much Swedish geriatric comedy as I can get my hands on. It’s funny stuff.

If you’d like to know more about Ann Morgan, click here.

And if you’d like to track my progress or read my book reviews, check out this page here.

Drop a comment below to send your love to Rachel for this great idea, sign up for my newsletter, and/or let me know if you would like to share about a favorite book you have read from an author around the world!

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival: Race to Save Qu Yuan

About the Dragon Boat Festival’s Story

This one is my favorite Chinese festival that I’ve learned about yet! Mostly because I think the origin of the story is fascinating. I even just recently discovered that Phoenix celebrates with its own boat races! So it’s possible that wherever you live, you can find a celebration to join in on too! I’m definitely looking forward to this year’s Dragon Boat Festival in Phoenix.

The whole thing seems to have started in honor of a man named Qu Yuan, although there has been some debate about it. Not about whether Qu Yuan was real, but whether his life inspired the beginnings of this great festival.

Legend or not, the story is popularly accepted as the most important story for the festival today. Qu Yuan was a great Chinese poet in the 3rd century, as well as a Minister to the Emperor. He penned many poems that you can find online or in stores today, such as, “The Nine Songs” and “Heavenly Questions”. However, because of gossip and rumors, the Emperor was tricked into releasing Qu Yuan from his court and leaving him to be exiled. In his absence, the great kingdom began to crumble from the bad advice and treachery of the very advisors that had wanted Qu Yuan gone. He was devastated, not knowing what to do, and eventually drowned himself. He had been a respected man and influential poet. In a traditional act to protect his drowned body, people lined the river in their boats hitting the water, and doing other small rituals to scare away any evil and guide his spirit. Sadly, the body was said to have never been found. Today, the tradition of honoring Qu Yuan has been carried on in the Dragon Boat races, where contestants row to be the first to save Qu Yuan.

Some people speak of Qu Yuan’s suicide and the villagers’ search as a legend – something historical, but not authenticated. Others, like the man in this video below, proudly claim it as their family history.

A wonderful report of the traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival and the depth of meaning this holiday has in China.

While super interesting and educational for an adult, I’d be shocked if any of you called over your kids to come watch the video above with you. If you did, please send me their reactions. I’m impressed. The little ones would be bored out of their mind in about 10 seconds. So I hunted through YouTube for you to find the most child-friendly, even two-year-old-approved version of the tale I could find. And you know what? I think I learned even more of the history and background of Qu Yuan from this animation!

Perfect for children of all ages! My 2-year-old was happy to watch the animation, but a 10-year-old could still find some complex themes to discuss in this short clip.

Dragon Boat Activities

1.Watch the above animation and talk to your children about the history of the Dragon Boat Festival. Depending on their age and understanding you could ask them a number of questions on the different themes of this story:

  • Who was Qu Yuan? Why did the Emperor stop trusting him? What can happen when we tell lies about people?
  • Compare and contrast Qu Yuan and Zhang Yi. Who was a good/bad advisor? Why? What can you do if you see someone act like Zhang Yi and tell lies about another person?
  • What traditions did the villagers repeat every year to honor Qu Yuan? Why did they throw rice in the water and slap their oars?

2. Create your own Dragon Boats!!! I have created Expedition Dragon Boats complete with 3 Expeditions (lessons) for children pre-K to Kindergarten to learn all about the Dragon Boat Festival while practicing their numbers, fine motor skills, STEM activities, and coloring pages!

Expedition Dragon Boat Festival

Detailed instructions for 3 Expeditions, Printable Dragon Boat, Quick Access to books and videos about the origins of the festival, Counting and Color Matching activities


3. TRIGGER WARNING – Now this one is a little heavy, TRIGGER WARNING!

But there is a very important fourth theme in the story of Qu Yuan – suicide. Maybe someone close to your family has committed suicide. This festival could be a time of the year to talk about how we can try to prevent suicide, build others up, and preserve the memories of loved ones. Like the villagers who scared away the fish from Qu Yuan’s lost body, we can interrupt people from speaking poorly of others who are with us or passed on. We can “race” to save our loved ones by simply being kind. Be the first to say something kind, the first to help, the first to smile, the first to offer a hand.

This dragon boat festival may be different than years past, but the lessons remain the same. Hopefully these activities help you to make the most of this exciting holiday at home!

Buy it now, or head over to my shop to purchase it with the full Expedition China Bundle!

Expedition Dragon Boat Festival

Detailed instructions for 3 Expeditions, Printable Dragon Boat, Quick Access to books and videos about the origins of the festival, Counting and Color Matching activities


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Raise Your Hands, Mamas!

How many moms here have multiple kiddos? Do you feel like when you were pregnant with your second or third you were already so busy with the toddler(s) that you didn’t have time to do all the worrying, Google searches, planning and nesting that comes with pregnancy? Or is that just me??

But then, every now and again, you actually do something small to prep for your new little human to come and just burst with emotion because you’re having another baby! That’s currently where I’m at. So I’m gonna shout it out here:

I’m having a BABY BOY in May! 

Check out that baby bump! 26 weeks right here.

Let’s just acknowledge for a moment how May’s creeping up quickly. And how well insulated I am for someone living in Phoenix, Arizona. Have I said yet that I’m excited???

And all this outbursting of excitement stemmed from purchasing a laundry hamper. For $2. At the D.I.

That hamper is one of the last things I needed to have before completely redesigning our toddler’s room and moving all the baby stuff out to set up a new nursery area.

The excitement also stems from friends coming over for dinner this weekend and one asking about our soon-to-be baby boy by name! He’s the only person, other than my husband and I, to casually say the name we’ve been experimenting with, and I loved it! So I think we have a winner! And that was a rush to realize.

And our thrill also comes from seeing our toddler become such a communicative little person lately, who even sometimes listens, and loooooves babies. I’m pretty confident he’s going to be the greatest big brother.

So my husband and I have a lot to be excited about. And it’s gotten me thinking: How do other women and families around the world celebrate pregnancy, life, birth, and the hiccups that come with all the miracles. What traditions and experiences am I missing out on or unaware of?

Your Place To Shine

So tell me, what are things unique to being a woman and mother around the world? How do you celebrate your motherhood, or mothers in general? What do you think are the joys and struggles of pregnancy? What traditions, rituals, or celebrations do you associate with having babies? I would love to hear all about it!

If nothing comes to mind right away, I’ve made a list of prompts to help you think about something interesting YOU can share on the topic. And men, don’t pass this by just because you can’t give birth. If you celebrate life and/or have experienced welcoming a new life with someone,  or are willing to ask a woman these questions, then you have a place in this conversation too! Tell me anything and maybe you’ll see your input shared here in May!

Click HERE to go to the survey!

You can share your input below by leaving your comment and email in exchange for my newsletter, or click the link above to look through my prompt questions and share your thoughts and stories there!