Local author Dashka Slater's book, Baby Shoes, has been well-loved in my house since I picked up a signed copy at Cody's (sniff) when my oldest was a tot. I was so happy to meet her a few months ago at Mini Maker Faire. I love that she answered our interview questions both for herself and also Princess Amanita, the heroine of her latest book Dangerously Ever After.
What's your favorite playground in the Oakland area?
My favorite playground is my neighborhood park, in Glenview – Dimond Park. The play structures are fine (there are two, one of which is a fire truck), but the setting is incredible – right on the banks of Sausal Creek, surrounded by trees. In the warm months, the chief attraction is the creek itself – wading, throwing stones in the water, exploring the hidden paths, eating blackberries. It’s a place for the kind of unstructured nature play that urban kids get far too little of and it’s magical.
Princess Amanita’s favorite playground is the Botanical Gardens in Tilden Park.
What's the best discovery you want to tell parents with big kids in the East Bay about?
The East Bay Mini Maker Faire every October and the big Maker Faire in San Mateo in May. Both gatherings are celebrations of the culture of making, rather than of consuming. The East Bay Mini Maker Faire is smaller and less overwhelming and more focused on kids. The big faire is enormous, exhausting and inspiring. Both places offer endless options for creative, hands-on doing, whether it’s making robots or making pickles.
Princess Amanita’s favorite discovery is the East Bay Vivarium, where she got her pet scorpion.
Has your child participated in any amazing classes or camps that you want to tell us about?
I can’t say enough good things about the City of Oakland’s boating program. Kids learn to sail on Lake Merritt and eventually move up to sailing on the Estuary. The whole program is about developing both skill and independence — once they get certified on a boat, they can check out that boat and sail it for free on Lake Merritt. My son has spent many a summer with his friends sailing around the Lake – a rare opportunity for that kind of independence. From there they can keep going, learning how to sail catamarans and keel boats, learning to race, and eventually joining the racing team. Kids can start when they’re in elementary school and keep going all the way through their teen years. And it’s totally affordable.
Princess Amanita’s favorite classes are held at Kinetic Arts in Oakland, where she can do all kinds of fun and dangerous things, including dangling from ropes suspended from the ceiling.
What's your favorite way to treat yourself?
A bike ride through Butters Canyon, Skyline, and Tunnel Road (with maybe a detour through Canyon and up Pinehurst Rd.), followed by a swim at Lake Temescal, coffee at Bittersweet in Rockridge, and a massage and hot tub at Piedmont Springs.
Princess Amanita’s favorite time alone is riding her brakeless bicycle to any of the local rose gardens. She particularly likes the Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland.
Thanks again to Dashka and Amanita for sharing so many new places for me to check out!
- The Sea Serpent and Me
- Firefighters in the Dark
- Baby Shoes (I have this one memorized!)
- Dangerously Ever After
[All photos provided by Dashka Slater.]