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)




Monday, January 29, 2018

New Book: Everything Tells Us About God

But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; 
And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; 
And the fish of the sea will explain to you. 
Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, 
In whose hand is the life of every living thing, 
And the breath of all mankind? 
~ Job 12:7-10


Sometimes I enjoy "virtual storytime" - as my daughter calls it - with my two young grandsons (ages two and five).  You should try it sometime!  Since they are far away from me, the boys just love Facetime-ing with their favorite books.  My trusty iPhone camera makes it easy to close in on the details of each page as I read aloud to them.

Today I was excited to share with them a brand new picture book from Ancient Faith Publishing:  Everything Tells Us about God, by Katherine Bolger Hyde.  It's so thoughtfully written, and Romanian illustrator Livia Coloji's colorfully fun, retro-feeling pictures really enhance the thought-provoking text. (It's sure to become a family favorite, which you'll soon discover, as you read along in my post)...

My ever enthusiastic five-year old grandson was especially all eyes and ears, since the inside cover and first page referred to the world as a GIANT puzzle. (He noticed there was one piece missing, but we had to wait until the end of the book to find out which one!)


One of my favorite lines in this book also really grabbed my grandson's attention (and I whispered it, of course)...
Every piece whispers one of His secrets -- all we need to do is listen.

Each page of the book reveals the puzzle pieces of creation and what they teach us about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The sun, wind, water, bread...


On the page following bread - referring to food - a little boy is shown picking a pear from a tree with his Daddy.  We zoomed in on the pear, and my grandson shouted, "Grandma! Like the fruits of the Spirit!"  (Yay! Somebody's been paying attention to his Bible lessons!)

Next we learned how rocks tell us
Christ is as strong as a boulder...

Then we moved on to hear how the ocean, seeds, stars and the universe ("it's outer space, Grandma!!"), animals (this was a favorite page too!), and even roads, playgrounds, and schools teach us about God.

I especially appreciated that Katherine included stories, and how they teach us "the One Eternal Story"...


Finally, we learned that all the people we meet help us understand that Jesus became human -- which brought us to one last piece of the puzzle.  Can you guess who that piece represents?


YOU!

As soon as we finished, my grandson happily declared, "Grandma, this is the BEST book I've ever heard!"  High praise indeed!

At the end of the book,  you'll find an author's note/tribute, in which Katherine Hyde explains how Fr. Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory) actually inspired this story!

Oh, and one last thing.
Any young red-heads out there will appreciate the auburn hues on heads, young and old, throughout the book!  I'm sure Mrs. KBHyde (a natural born redhead) had something to do with that?  I LOVE that fun detail!

Katherine Bolger Hyde, author.

Katherine, thank you for this lovely book!  It's a perfect read aloud for the 4-8 year old range.  (And it would make a great read for Earth Day, coming up in April.  But honestly, for those who love God everyday is Earth Day, right?!)


Monday, January 15, 2018

Back in Print: Sweet Picture Book Adapted from a Winter Tale by Leo Tolstoy

Martin the Cobbler. I'll never forget the first time I read Leo Tolstoy's poignant short story "Where Love Is, God Is", in an anthology of Russian literature that my mom had passed along to me.

A few years later, I was super excited when my sister discovered a wonderful picture book adaptation for kids ages 4-8, titled Shoemaker Martin.  But sadly it was out of print, and we could only find used paperback copies from an online store.


Then a couple of weeks ago, my sister informed me that it is now back in print - in hardcover! Available online and in bookstores.  Hurray!  

First published in 1986, Shoemaker Martin has been re-designed in celebration of 50 years of NorthSouth Books working with Bernadette Watts, one of Europe’s most recognized and beloved fairy-tale artists. This story is sure to win over new fans as well excite old ones!

It's a tale about a cobbler named Martin, who lives and works in a basement room in a small Russian village. 

One winter evening, while reading his Bible, Martin wonders what he would say and do if he were visited by Christ. Woken suddenly in the middle of the night, he hears a voice call his name.  The voice tells him to watch for Him...tomorrow!  

In the morning, Martin looks excitedly out his window - eagerly awaiting the visit of this special stranger.  But by sundown, Martin is disappointed.  He has only been visited by three people in need from his village.

Opening his Bible once again, and reading a scripture from a page that it had fallen opened to, he realizes Jesus truly had visited him that day.

This story of compassion by Tolstoy is as relevant today as when it was first conceived.  Bernadette Watt's warm and cozy illustrations portray the quiet simplicity of Martin's Russian Orthodox faith, through details like a hand carved cross on the wall of his basement room and an icon above his bed.

"For I was hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto Me."
- from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Favorite Fantasy Books For 'Tweens

My friend's almost twelve-year-old daughter loves reading, but she is in a bit of a reading rut at the moment. She needs a little Jump Start for the New Year. (By the way, this post isn't about books for girls, so if you have a 'tween son, keep reading).

photo: Annie Spratt

She's done the Anne of Green Gables and Betsy-Tacy books.
She moved on to Narnia and Harry Potter and found she loves fantasy.
She tried Ender's Game, but says she isn't as fond of science fiction ("yet," said hopefully to me by Mom).

So as it now stands, my friend's daughter is reading the Percy Jackson books over and over because she just doesn't "know what else to read".

I passed along some fantasy titles that our sons and daughter really enjoyed during the 'Tween Years...did I leave out your favorites?

1. The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. This (not-to-be-missed!) series of children's fantasy novels recounts the adventures of a young man named Taran, who is awarded the humble "honor" of Assistant Pig-Keeper (of an oracular pig, named "Hen Wen"), but dreams of being a grand hero. He finds himself caught in a struggle between good and evil with the help of his unlikely companions: stubborn Princess Eilonwy; a bard named Fflewddur Fflam; a wild, yet gentle creature called Gurgi; and a dwarf named Doli. The book focuses on Taran's progression from youth to maturity, with the series being loosely based on Welsh mythology. The Book of ThreeThe Black CauldronThe Castle of LlyrTaran WandererThe High King (ages 9-12).

2. George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie. Although George MacDonald wrote The Princess and the Goblin primarily for children, his fantasy continues to delight readers of all ages. This fantasy story surrounds a young princess (Irene) and a miner boy named Curdie. The princess's great-great-grandmother, who lives high up in the castle turret and appears either as very old or young and beautiful, admonishes Irene to behave courageously and to overcome her fears as Curdie strives to save her from the evil goblin's plan to kidnap her. MacDonald's books contain the elements of good story telling—an exciting, well-paced plot and believable characters, who have human weaknesses as well as strengths. (ages 8 and up)

3. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Jester (ages 10-12) is a fantasy story of a mysterious tollbooth appearing in the home of a young and bored time-waster, a boy named Milo. Boys especially will enjoy the humor, wordplay, and brain teasers as the tollbooth allows Milo to stumble upon many adventures of the mind! (An example of the quirky humor, fun use of words and logic? Milo arrives at the "Island of Conclusions" by jumping, of course!)

4. Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (ages 9-12). From Books That Build Character: "This novel is widely considered to be one of the masterpieces of children's literature...critic Humphrey Carpenter has noted that TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN is, in essence, a reversal of PETER PAN. In Pearces's novel, a boy has to come to terms with the fact that time cannot be stopped, that change and growth and loss are part of human existence...Tom's brother has measles, and so Tom is forced (unhappily) to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle...one night he hears an old grandfather clock strike thirteen. When he goes down to investigate, he decides to step outside, and he discovers himself in a beautiful garden rather than a paved driveway...he meets a pretty young girl named Hatty. After many puzzling visits, he begins to realize that each one occurs at a different point in time in Hatty's life...she perceives him as a ghost who appears only after long absences...The author resolves these mysteries in a satisfying and moving conclusion. Tom's experiences cause him to leave his angry, self-preoccupied life behind, and learn something about love, time, and the importance of memory." The descriptive writing and plot in this book made a huge impression on my older son. To this day, he sites it as a favorite.

Happy Reading in 2018!
So many books, so little time!

Do you have a 'tween who enjoys mysteries?  Go here for my past "Who Dunnits for Preteens" post.

How about sci-fi?  You'll find my book list here.

Time for me to get working on a non-fiction list for 'tweens!  Any recommendations?


Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Night Before Christmas is Almost Here...

And here's a striking pop-up book to usher it in!
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS: A MAGICAL CUT-PAPER EDITION 

This gorgeous cut-paper edition of Clement Moore's celebrated Christmas poem evokes the snowy magic of the season through moonlit silhouettes, touched with red and green splashes of color. Each page reveals scenes that transform to reveal the elegant details and surprises of a festive family home.



The final page reveals a spectacular pop-up, laser-cut finale. All the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve is captured by the art of Niroot Puttapipat.  



My grandsons love this book, and I'm excited to be giving them a companion Niroot Puttapipat book this year for Christmas: The Nutcracker.  (Trust me, it's gorgeous!  See it here.)


From my porch to yours...
Merry Christmas to all, 
and to all a good night!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's a Wrap!! Christmas Book Wrap, That Is...


I can always find something wonderful and unique from The New York Review of Books online shop, The Reader's Catalog. I love their opening tag line: "If you’ve found The Reader’s Catalog, chances are you’re passionate about the written word."

This year I was delighted to discover their Christmas wrapping paper - all covered in books, of course!!!



I seriously want to use this stuff as wallpaper!


Our Christmas countdown is definitely in full swing over here - my holiday cards are mailed out and I'm finishing all my gift wrapping.  How are you doing?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

St. Lucia on My Tree!


Maiden so sweet and fair, 
Bright candles in your hair,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!


Child of the Holy Light,
Banish the dark of night,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!

St. Lucia Day is always celebrated on December 13th.  Last November I went with my priest's wife Lynn (may her memory be eternal!), another good friend, Bonnie, and my oldest son to a fun Swedish Christmas Market and Festival at Old World in Huntington Beach, CA.

It felt like we were in Sweden, as we wondered around looking at all the baked goods and folk art.  I found the sweetest Papier-Mâché ornaments made by Anne-Marie (she's on Etsy, here, at Swede Heart Creations.)

We enjoyed a cup of hot Glögg* with the other adults and watched in anticipation as about 30 young girls - singing and holding candles - processed in behind the designated "Lucia", wearing her crown of candles.   

Happy Saint Lucia Day!  Here's my favorite Lucia book, to help you celebrate the day...


The refrain above is an excerpt from the Santa Lucia carol written by Katherine Hyde, based on traditional Swedish lyrics.  You'll find the song featured at the end of her book, Lucia Saint of Lightavailable from Ancient Faith Publishing.  

You can listen to an audio recording of this story read by Dr. Chrissi Hart, from Under the Grapevine, here.

*The recipe for Glögg is here, but you can sometimes find it at IKEA.  (Not a drink for children.)

And of course, don't forget the braided bread!  It's not quite as time intensive as making the traditional Lucia buns (I did a photo blog with my god daughters a few years ago - click the link).  Go here for the bread recipe, or here for the buns.

source




Monday, December 11, 2017

Fire and Ice, Sunsets and Snow...

The closest we’ll get to snow here in Southern California is these cute bookish postal stamps paying homage to Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day.

This weekend, there may have been a first snow in some midwestern, northeastern, and southern cities, but here in Southern California we’re still battling wildfires. And our December Santa Ana winds aren’t helping anything.

The sun is shining, the grass is green 
The orange and palm trees sway 
There’s never been such a day In Beverly Hills, L. A. 
But it’s December the 24th 
And I am longing to be up north…. 
I’m dreaming of a White Christmas…

I suppose a nice(?) side note for those of us out of range of the dangerous fires is the beautiful sunsets we’ve been witnessing, sadly thanks to the lingering smoke in our skies.

It’s so disquieting on the one hand, to hear that people are being evacuated (including the nuns from St. Barbara Monastery in Santa Paula, CA - which thankfully is safe for the moment), while at the same time we're receiving photos from our daughter in New York of our grandsons happily eating snow and making snow angels!

They are thrilled with their first snow of winter, just like Peter, the little hero in the children's classic The Snowy Day.

The source for the story-line in Ezra Jack Keats' picture book came from his memories of snowy days from his childhood in Brooklyn. Above all, Keats wanted to capture the wonderment of a child’s first snowfall, a feeling universal to all children. “I wanted to convey the joy of being a little boy alive on a certain kind of day—of being for that moment. The air is cold, you touch the snow, aware of the things to which all children are so open.” [Keats, Ezra Jack. Autobiographical excerpts in Lee Bennett Hopkins, ed., Pauses: Autobiographical Reflections of 101 Creators of Children’s Books (New York: HarperCollins, 1995) pp. 132-33.]

Children can happily get lost in a read-aloud book like this!  And with all these fires, it's nice to take a snowy break from the news.  Please keep those in our state who are in close proximity to the fires in your prayers...