Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Children of Bookworms Get...Books!

Happy First Day of Fall!
I've been spending a lot of time doing Fall Cleaning because we are getting ready to do some remodeling.  I'm getting a home library!!!!

Wish it could look like this...
Haha!  Just kidding.  This is the Los Angeles Central Library Children's Literature Room.  You can ready my past post about my visit there by clicking here.

Below are a couple of photos I found on Pinterest.  I'd be really happy to style my home office/library after either of them! First, a very chic look...
This next one would be nice because my house is Cape Cod style...
Anyway, back to Fall Cleaning.  It's been exhausting going through and trying to organize all the mementos I've kept over the years! Birthday cards, Christmas cards, family letters...

And of course, I'm trying to sort through books.  I sent off four grocery bags of old paperbacks already.  

I. Have. So. Many. Books.
Many of them were in our sunroom - not a great place to store books. And now they're getting all packed up.  

Some are getting sent off to my kids, who have inherited (and will continue to inherit) their childhood favorites.
The children's books I'm keeping (as much for me as for my grandchildren who visit), and our grown-up books, are going into bins and boxes.  I've packed up six long bins and five boxes so far!!!
They'll be unpacked and put back onto shelves, once the library is finished. I can hardly wait! Any tips??

In the meantime, I'm bringing autumn inside, since there's not much evidence of it outside, here in Southern California!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Giveaway Winner...

The randomly chosen winner of Mary T. Wagner's cute chapter book, Finnigan the Circus Cat, is Theresa M. (I use List Randomizer on random.org to choose my winners.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Miss Out On Finnigan the Circus Cat!

Today I'm reviewing and giving away a fun little chapter book geared toward 7-10 year olds. Finnigan the Circus Cat is about a tiny foundling kitten who finds a home in a barn that also houses a former small town circus museum. There he meets a pair of "circus mice" cousins who become his closest companions.

The author (and illustrator), Mary T. Wagner, says she was inspired to write this book because of her own family's experience with a rescue kitty named Finnigan.  

Much of the story is closely modeled after that cat and his antics; and the fact that the author's younger daughter is a contemporary circus aerialist certainly didn't hurt the inspiration for this story either!  (You can read more about the "real Finnigan" here.)

This adorable tale (pun intended) is full of action and humor.  It reminded me a little of Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle, where the comings and goings of a human family just serve as a backdrop for the real excitement that's going on between the animals.  

Lots of good old fashioned fun!  (Go here for some of my other favorite cat and mouse books.)

And, honestly, what child doesn't love a circus story?

Maximillian and Leroy are two circus mice cousins who think they've got it made at the old Farnsworth Circus Museum...no dogs, a safe path to a full pantry in the empty house, and a barn full of dry hay and old circus wagons to hang out in.

But when a new generation of Farnsworths move in, things start to shake up a bit. And when eight-year-old Lucy Farnsworth brings home a tiny rescue kitten and hides him in the barn because her dad is allergic to cats, Max and Leroy need to think fast if they're going to be able to stick around.

With the help of Boomer - the strangely silent family dog - Max and Leroy take the new kitten under their care and show him the ropes - figuratively and eventually literally...in the end it's Finnigan to the rescue!

You can find this book on Amazon (paperback or Kindle edition), here.  It's the first of a coming series, and I can't wait to read the others.

Today I'm giving away a paperback copy, signed by the author!  To enter for a chance to win, please leave a comment on this post.  Be sure to include your first name and last initial.

  • Giveaway ends at midnight, Friday, September 16, 2016.  
  • Winner announced Saturday, September 17, 2016.
  • The winner will have a week to contact me with a mailing address, so I can send the book off to you!

Friday, September 9, 2016

REDO: Con-GRATTIS to My Scandinavian Giveaway Winner!

Thanks again to all my wonderful readers who left comments to enter my Swedish Picture Book Giveaway.  

Since I never received an email or comment from the winner of this giveaway, I've let List Randomizer choose another one!

The winner of this Giveaway is:  Lisa W-R.  Joan C.

Congratulations, Joan!  

Please contact me via email (found in my profile linked in the right sidebar of this blog, under "About Me".) - send me your mailing address within a week, so I can get these three wonderful picture books off to you quickly.

(I used List Randomizer on random.org to choose my giveaway winner.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Have You Heard About the - Ahem - "Who Pooped" Series?

It's "back to school" time and that means back to learning!  And let me tell you, these picture books are so interesting, your kids might not even realize they're getting a science lesson!

The book I'm reviewing today is Who Pooped in Central Park? by Gary D. Robson, illustrated by Robert Rath.  Both men live in Montana, and they have done a whole series together of the Who Pooped? books.

The Who Pooped in the Park? series is an ideal tool for teaching young children about animal behavior, diet, and scats and tracks identification — it’s the perfect companion in the car or classroom, or in the field on your next trip to the park. Fun illustrations of the animals and their scat and tracks supplement the charming story, and a quick-reference chart at the back makes field identification a breeze.

Robson's picture book series started out in Yellowstone National Park, and the concept was so popular that other national parks began requesting their own editions. All of the editions feature 8-year-old Michael and his family touring different parks and learning about the animals through their poop and prints. The story is similar in all of them, but the animals and landscapes are all different. (Go here for a list of all the books).

In Who Pooped in Central Park? your child will explore this city park with Tony, Lily, Jackson, and Emma as they come across different animal scat (poop) and tracks (footprints) and discover which animal made them.

Each two-page spread features extra facts, "The Straight Poop", about some of the creatures found in Central Park, such as:

Eastern screech owls were reintroduced (brought back) in Central Park in 1998. "Owl pellets" that you might find under a tree aren't scat - they're bones, fur, and feathers that owls cough up after eating small animals whole.

My kids would have loved reading these books as we travelled around to places like Zion, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks!  The colorful pictures show nice detail, but are almost cartoon-like, which will make even the most reluctant readers pick up this book (the title helps too, haha)! 

At the end of the book is a handy reference of "Tracks & Notes", showing all the animals discussed in the book and that can be found in Central Park.

This series has sold over 400,000 copies to date, and Who Pooped in Central Park is the 20th title that encourages kids to put down Pokemon Go for a while; and it helps them identify the real animals, insects, and tracks in their own backyard--even in the middle of the city!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Last Chance for Scandi-Giveaway

Yesterday I spent a quiet afternoon out on my patio doing some bloggie "investigative research" -- perusing D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths in between reading chapters of The Brothers Lionheart.

Reading Norse Mythology is giving me some good insight into the strong influence Scandinavian folklore culture has had on the imaginations of creative writers like Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson (to say nothing of J.R.R. Tolkien - who isn't even Scandinavian!)

Gnomes, dragons, trolls, feasts, gods and godesses, darkness and light.

Take for example, Astrid Lindgren's picture book The Tomten: The setting is a quiet farmstead, deep in the forest...
Here is a lonely old farm, where everyone is sleeping. All but one... 
a little gnome-like creature from Swedish folklore, a "Tomten" who guards the farm. No one has ever seen him, but sometimes his little footprints are visible in the snow. He checks on all the barnyard animals and talks to them in Tomten language (a silent little language only they can understand). He tiptoes to the house and peeks in on the sleeping children before going back to his cozy corner of the hayloft, where he dreams of the coming of summer.  

Or how about Lindgren's haunting story The Brothers Lionheart -- and her mythical land of Nangiyala, a place from "the days of camp fires and sagas"...
In Nangiyala you have adventures from morning till evening. 
That's what courageous Jonathan Lionheart tells his sick younger brother, Karl.  When both boys tragically die and are united in this "land beyond the stars", their adventures do begin. Together with a resistance group they go on a quest to lead the struggle against the evil Tengil, a black knight who rules the land with the aid of a fearsome fire-breathing dragon, Katla. (This is an engrossing, but sad book. Disclosure:  the brothers die again at the end.  For a full summary of the book, check out Read Aloud Dad's excellent review, here. I would recommend this book for kids no younger than 8 years old - but as always, use your discretion.)

I have to think Hans Christian Andersen was influenced by Norse Mythology when he penned The Snow Queen (and when C.S. Lewis thought up his White Witch) -- read the description of a beautiful maiden with an ice cold heart from the Book of Norse Myths by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire...
As she lifted her snow-white arms to push open the door to the hall, a strange radiance spread from them and lit up the gloom of Jotunheim...
He knew that the maiden he loved was Gymir's daughter Gerd and that he had no hope of ever winning her, for her heart was as cold as a seed in frozen ground.
(Luckily, in the Norse Mythology version her frozen heart melts.)

If you missed my post about Tove Jansson's Moomins, go here.  Unlike trolls and other monsters of dark Norse Mythology tales, Moomins are happy and kind of cute.  But similar to Norse Mythology, there are lots of magical adventures.  I have to say, I thought of the Snork Maiden losing her fringe of hair when I read the D'Aulaires' retelling of "Sif's Golden Hair".  Sif was Thor's wife.  After her beautiful hair is chopped off in the middle of the night by Loki, he promises to have the gnomes forge new hair for her - out of real gold!
Here's what happened with the Snork Maiden, who wasn't so lucky...
Moomintroll bent down to wake the Snork Maiden up, and then he noticed a terrible thing. Her beautiful fluffy fringe was burnt right off. It must have happened when the Hattifatteners brushed against her. 
What could he say? How could he comfort her? It was a catastrophe! 
The Snork Maiden opened her eyes and smiled. 
"Do you know," said Moomintroll hastily, "it's most extraordinary, but as time goes on I'm beginning to prefer girls without hair?" 
"Really?" she said with a look of surprise. "Why is that?" 
"Hair looks so untidy!" replied Moomintroll.

I hope you enjoyed my little comparisons.  I had fun doing the "research" reading yesterday!

Today is the last day you can leave a comment for a chance to win my Swedish Book Bundle Giveaway!  One lucky winner will receive all three of these great picture books: Per and the Dala Horse; Lucia Morning in Sweden; and D is for Dala Horse.

  • Leave a comment with your first name and last initial on my previous Giveaway Post - go here.
  • If you already left a comment there, you may comment again here (remember to include your first name and last initial) on this post for an additional entry. 
  • Giveaway ends at midnight tonight.  
  • Winner announced here on my blog on Saturday, August 27, 2016.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hello, Mr. H.C. Andersen; Goodbye Scandinavia! (GIVEAWAY TIME!)

Today I'm ending my Literary Scandinavia Travel Posts with a GIVEAWAY and a few photos of the first bookish things I said hello to as my mom, sisters, and I started our tour in Copenhagen, Denmark....

We made a short stop at Langelinje Pier to see the famed statue of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid.  She has been passing time in the Copenhagen Harbor for over a 100 years.  She looked beautiful, and a little sad, sitting on her rock.

Then we stumbled upon a statue of the Danish author himself!  Right there, on the sidewalk along Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard!

You may recall that I mentioned Mr. Andersen in my post about the Nordic alphabet book D is for Dala Horse.  "H is for Hans Christian Andersen..."

Which brings me to my giveaway!  One lucky reader will win a bundle of three books for my Scandinavian Giveaway...

Book #1
D is for Dala Horse (ages 4-8) by Kathy-jo Wargin, illustrated by Renee Graef.  Go here for my post about this fun and informative Nordic alphabet book.

Book #2
Per and the Dala Horse (ages 5-8) by Rebecca Hickox, illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert.  With gorgeous illustrations, this imaginative book tells a Swedish version of a traditional "three brothers" folktale - complete with trolls, a magical Dala horse, and a brave boy who is trying to recover a gold communion cup that's been stolen from his church.

Book #3
Lucia Morning in Sweden (ages 4 and up) by Ewa Rydaker, illustrated by Carina Stahlberg.  The author invites you into her childhood home in this sweet book about St. Lucia Day, which is observed every year on December 13.  The resources at the end are wonderful: you'll find the legend of Saint Lucia; recipes for Lucia buns and ginger snaps; music and lyrics for the Santa Lucia Song; and helpful patterns for the Lucia (and/or Starboy) gown.

Well, dear readers - I hope you've enjoyed my little literary blog tour of Scandinavia.  

When my mom proposed the trip to my sisters and me, I didn't know I'd find such a profuse culture of children's books, especially in Sweden!

I've learned a lot as I've introduced you to (or re-acquainted you with) Pippi, Emil, and Moomintroll.  There is not a lot of depth to these fun books: these modern children's stories began appearing in the mid-1940's and are more about the curiosity, humor, and fantasy of childhood than about teaching children lessons through strong characters. 

I didn't really touch upon the well loved Swedish author/illustrator Elsa Beskow, who often combined reality with elements from the world of fairies.  But I did see her sweet books prominently displayed in bookstores!

Contemporary Swedish authors have no fear of taking on difficult and sometimes controversial subjects for kids. (Go here.)  *Read this for guidelines about how you as a parent can help your kids choose books that are in keeping with your family values - teach them to distinguish issues from virtues.  Some books focus on trendy issues rather than good character development, and many have a message agenda without much of a story.

Left out completely from my blog tour (except for the very Norwegian reference to trolls in the Moomin books and Lindgren's Tomten) are children's stories from Norway.  Other than the D'Aulaire's books (Ingri d'Aulaire was Norwegian) - Leif the Lucky (a Viking boy), Ola, and their book of Norse Myths - I don't really know much about Norwegian kid lit, and didn't have the occasion to come across any during my visit.


  • Please leave a comment here, with your first name and last initial to enter my Swedish Picture Book Giveaway.  
  • You'll have a chance to win this bundle of three outstanding picture books about Scandinavia!
  • Giveaway ends at midnight on Friday, August 26, 2016.
  • Stop back by my blog on Saturday, August 27, 2016, when the winner will be announced.
  • Winner must provide me with their mailing address to receive the books.