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)




Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Decking the Halls with Boxes and ABC's!


Update: Everything is topsy turvy at my house...
I'm blogging in what used to be our dining room, cooking in what used to be our laundry room, and pretty much living in the middle of stacks of boxes while new construction is being done on our home.

I'm taking a quick break from packing, dusting, picking out plumbing fixtures, dusting, and addressing Christmas cards to share a sweet little Christmas board book with you for St. Nicholas Day (we didn't do much to celebrate his day this year).


The book is The ABC's of Christmas by Jill Howarth, and it couldn't be any cuter!  I've given a copy to my little godson and am bringing another copy with me to New York for my toddler grandson when I travel there tomorrow!





This book offers a festive way to learn all the letters of the alphabet using fun Christmas-themed word associations!  

Of course Santa shows up at the end.  Shhh.  (He's catching some sleep... Zzzzz...because he's so tired from all his hard work!)

Happy St. Nicholas Day, and a blessed Advent from our house to yours!



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gratitude, Grace, Gobbling, and Strawberry Jello Salad

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
  

We can always make room for gratitude in our hearts!  We certainly find room for turkey in our tummies, eating lightly throughout the early part of the day in order to gobble up all the yummy foods from our Thanksgiving tables.

How can we help our kids maintain an "attitude of gratitude" throughout the year, and not just at Thanksgiving?  I think the best way is by remembering to constantly thank God for all we have. 

An easy way is to "say grace" every day at our tables before we eat our meals.

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise by Tomie dePaola

"Grace" comes from the Greek word kharis.  And that leads me to another important meal of thanksgiving... many Christian families participate in the Eucharistic meal of Holy Communion. 

"Eucharist", in Greek eukharistia, literally means ‘thanksgiving’; it comes from the Greek word eukharistos ‘grateful’ - eu ‘well’ and kharizesthai ‘offer graciously’ (from kharis ‘grace’).


H is for Holy by Nika Boyd

B is for bread.  Jesus called Himself the "Bread of Life".  The Bread of Holy Communion is Christ's Body.  Jesus died and rose from the dead; His Resurrection gives us eternal life.

The Eucharist teaches us and helps us to have an unceasing remembrance of God.

Today as I prepared my contribution for our extended Braun family Thanksgiving meal, I remembered especially our Matriarch who passed away this summer.


We all love Grandma's Strawberry Sour Cream Jello Salad!  


Since my kitchen is being demo'd next week, most of my baking things, pots and pans and dishes have been packed up. So it was especially poignant that one of the last things I made in my pared down kitchen was her family recipe.  We miss her so!


Meals are important vehicles of love and grace!  May we all remember to give to those in need out of our abundance, and remember to give thanks to God not only for food, but for all things during this holi-(y)-day season.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

ADVENT RESOURCES AND ST. NICHOLAS BUNDLE GIVEAWAY WINNER REVEALED...

The Nativity Fast - Orthodox Advent - has begun, with Western Advent soon to follow.  In preparation not only of Christ's birth, but also His Second Coming, Advent is a time of fasting, repentance, and almsgiving. If you would like some fun ideas of how to involve your children in this special time of preparation and anticipation please go here.

Click here for my Christmas and Advent Resource Page

On to my giveaway of Emilia's Post St. Nicholas Bundle.  Thanks to all who participated! (There were 78 entries!) It's still not too late to buy the bundle for a little loved one (remember, 50% of the proceeds go to IOCC).  Go to Kelsey's etsy shop, Emilia's Post, here.



I'm happy to announce that the winner is...
ROXIE L.
Congratulations, Roxie! Please send me your mailing address so I can notify Emilia's Post. You can message me on my Good Books FB page or send it via email : wendyb[spam]1963@sbcglobal.net by 11/21/16.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Good News: Early Giveaway for St. Nicholas Day!

Giveaway sponsored by Emilia's Post ($50 value)
Thank goodness November isn't just for elections!

We've got Thanksgiving to look forward to, and - if you're an Orthodox Christian - Advent is just around the corner too, starting on November 15th!  

Advent is about anticipation. It might seem early to be talking about St. Nicholas Day (celebrated on December 6), but with the election behind us, I'm sure we can all use some saintly wisdom and a fun giveaway to help families celebrate his day while also anticipating Christ's birth!

Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy. 
source
+ St. Nicholas of Myra  

I'm so excited to be hosting this amazing St. Nicholas Bundle Giveaway from Emilia's Post again this year.  My talented friend and Etsy-artist-Mama, Kelsey, has put together an even bigger bundle than last year's, and it's all ready to be delivered to your doorstep to help your family, godfamily, and friends celebrate St. Nicholas Day!

In the spirit of giving and St. Nicholas, Kelsey decided to develop the Bundle as a fundraising effort for IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities). She gives 50% of the profits from the sales of any St. Nicholas Bundles directly to IOCC. (If you'd like to order one or two of these bundles for someone special, hurry! Last year she sold out within two weeks and raised a very good sum for many in need around the world!)

BUNDLE DETAILS:

  • 1 "Celebrating St. Nicholas Day" Print 
  • 8 St. Nicholas Illustrated Postcards from Emilia's Post 
  • 1 St. Nicholas Illuminated Prayer Print from Emilia's Post  
  • 1 copper, Ukrainian Bishop Cookie Cutter from St. Nicholas Center 
  • 1 Traditional St. Nicholas Cookie Recipe Card 
  • 3 small children's books from Potamitis Publishing (Saint Nicholas and the Three Poor Maidens, The Nativity of Christ, and The Gifts of the Magi
  • 1 sachet bag of 15 half-dollar sized, milk-chocolate gold coins

The Bundle ($50 value) comes packaged with paper and string inside a sturdy, cardboard literature mailer.

GIVEAWAY CLOSED GIVEAWAY RULES:
ENTER NOVEMBER 9-16, 2016, UP TO THREE TIMES...

  1. Please leave a comment with your first name and last initial here on my blog post anytime between November 9-16, 2016.
  2. You can also enter for a chance to win this Bundle by leaving a Facebook comment on my Good Books page giveaway post, here.
  3. A third way to enter is by liking Kelsey's Emilia's Post Facebook page and leaving a comment there about the giveaway. Go here.

ONE WINNER WILL BE CHOSEN AT RANDOM, AND ANNOUNCED ON NOVEMBER 17, 2016.
Bundle will be mailed to winner as soon as he/she emails me at wendyb1963@sbcglobal[dot]net, with their mailing address.
This is a time-sensitive giveaway, so if the winner does not contact me by 11/21/16, another name will be chosen. 


Friday, October 28, 2016

I'm In Love With The Littlest Dragon (And All The Dragons of Blueland)!

Halloween is coming!  How about some dragon dress-up and epic dragon tales?

Yes, he's a dragon with a light saber.

Please, please tell me that if you haven't read My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett to your children, you will ASAP!  (you can preview it digitally, here)


Years ago, when I discovered The Tales of My Father's Dragon books in Jim Trealease's Read Aloud Handbook, I could not WAIT to get my hands on them.  And my kids LOVED them.

They are seriously some of the best read aloud books on the planet, and a perfect introduction to chapter books for young children 4-8 years old. In the books, you'll follow the adventures of Elmer Elevator (the narrator's father as a boy), as he runs away with an old alley cat to The Island of Tangerina in order to rescue a flying baby dragon on faraway Wild Island. Such awesome adventures - the quirky stories read like an epic quest for children!

The books have fun black and white illustrations (drawn by the author's talented step-mother, no less!).  The pictures, along with the imaginative text, make this series a perfect transition from picture books to chapter books for new readers (or, as I said earlier, engaging read alouds for preschoolers).


Here's what Mr. Trealease has to say about My Father's Dragon:

This is the little fantasy novel that has stood the test of time—surviving in print for a half century. So it must be good! The three-volume series is bursting with hair-raising escapes and evil creatures. The tone is dramatic enough to be exciting for even mature preschoolers but not enough to frighten them. The narrator relates the tales as adventures that happened to his father when he was a boy. This is an excellent transition series for introducing children to longer stories with fewer pictures. The rest of the series are, in order: Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland. You can get all three tales combined in a single volume The Tales of My Father’s Dragon: 50th Anniversary Edition


What a perfect introduction for young children to the lore of dragons (not all dragons are mean and scary)!  For my previous post about dragons and my list of favorite dragon tales, go here.

Now, for the real LOVE part: my daughter recently introduced the My Father's Dragon series to my preschool aged grandson, who of course adored Ruth Stiles Gannett's epic storytelling! And now his little brother is the cutest baby dragon ever!  They've taken many playful, imaginary trips to Wild Island, and I'm sure there will be many more to come...


Oh, and by the way: under the dragon cape, my toddler grandson is wearing the cutest dragon pj's! I found them at Target!!  I wonder if the designers read about the Dragons of Blueland when they were kids?



Thursday, October 20, 2016

A New Chapter: Shepherding Stories

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me...
John 10:14

This past weekend began another chapter in our daughter's family's life journey. There is a lot going on for this little family as they follow God's call!  Just a couple of weeks ago her husband was sworn-in as an officer to the US Navy Chaplain Candidate Program, and on Sunday he was ordained as a deacon into the Orthodox Church. 


Our son-in-law will be ordained as a Priest when he finishes seminary.  I love the parallel foreshadowing seen in this photo - my youngest grandson, like a little sheep, is rushing up to hug and greet his newly ordained Deacon Daddy, while at the same time glancing tentatively towards one of the Priests. 

A Priest is a shepherd after all, called by God to encourage us in our lives. Today I'm doing a giveaway to celebrate shepherds and sheep: one about a rather unconventional shepherd, the second about sheep and other farm animals.


The first book I'm giving away is a brand new chapter book from Ancient Faith Publishing:  Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson.

Aimed at early elementary readers, this book will find a niche with 8-10 year olds (although it would make a good story for parents to read aloud to younger children as well).


The central characters in the story are a Corgi dog named Saucer and a hurting, troubled 10-year-old boy named Sam.

Have you ever had the chance to visit an Orthodox monastery?  I highly recommend it, and a monastery farm is the unique setting of this book! It is the happy home to some sweet nuns and their quirky animals, one of which is Saucer.  

Melinda Johnson's engaging storytelling - at once humorous and tender hearted - is just plain fun. I appreciate that the children in the story are typical kids, very relatable to young readers.



As the action moves through the chapters, Saucer is searching for a herd to shepherd, and a lonely and angry Sam is trying to push love (and anything that resembles it) away.  Tenacious Saucer won't give up on his herding or on Sam. In an exciting ending, Saucer takes charge and finally finds his purpose.

According to Melinda in this podcast interview, Saucer has a message for us: God will show you what he wants you to be, if you never give up.  And it can happen in unexpected ways (just ask my daughter and son-in-law)!

Now on to the second animal-themed book I have to giveaway today: a new offering from Animal Planet, Animal Bites: Farm Animals (for ages 4-8).



 This large format, soft cover book is full of stunning photographs of farm animals in the barnyard, coop, and pasture.
  

Your young children will have fun while they learn about how animals survive and thrive on busy farms.


In many ways, farm animals are just like us.  They need loving caregivers and shepherds.  But we need animals too - like Saucer, they can help us heal and feel loved!

To enter for a chance at this giveaway... 

  • Please leave a comment with your first name and last initial.  
  • Tell me who you'd like to share these books with, or how an animal has had a healing influence in your life.  
  • Giveaway ends at midnight on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. Winner announced a week from today on Thursday, October 27, 2016.