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, July 22, 2014

A Vintage Book About a Town Clock

Yesterday I happened upon a vintage book that I just couldn't pass up for my grandson.  It's simply titled, "The Clock", and I picked it up for $3.00.  What a treasure!

This delightful book, published in 1956, was written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina (1908-2002), a citizen of the U.S. who was born in Russia.


Leonard Marcus, a renowned children’s book scholar, noted that “as the first picture book artist to experiment with collage, Slobodkina pointed the way for many later artists. Directly or indirectly, the example of her work set the stage for the distinctive contributions to the picture book by Leo Lionni, Ezra Jack Keats, Eric Carle, Ed Young, Lois Ehlert, and Ellen Stoll Walsh.”

Slobodkina's colorful artwork tells most of the story about a Vermont town and its Old Clock in the church tower. The clock tells the citizens of the town when it is time to get up, go to work, and go to bed...

One day the clock breaks, and everything becomes chaos!  But an old lady named Mrs. Johnson temporarily takes the clock's place..."she was deaf and never waited for the chimes.  She just knew that when she woke it was time to get up."

When she sees that the streets and shops are empty, she gets worried and begins banging on doors.  If it hadn't been for Mrs. Johnson, the whole town would have slept in!

The townspeople finally decide that they will call a repairman to come and fix the clock.  He comes with his long ladder and black tool bag.

He discovers that all the clock needs is to be cleaned, polished, and wound.  The townspeople are comforted once again by the chimes that are the first thing they hear in the morning, and the last thing before going to sleep!

Do the pictures in The Clock look at all familiar?  How about the author's name? Esphyr Slobodkina (whose career began with Margaret Wise Brown) also wrote and illustrated the beloved children's book, Caps for Sale...

Friday, July 11, 2014


by Lori Degman, illustrated by Deborah Zemke.

What happens on a farm when the barnyard rooster decides to take a week long vacation at the beach?  Chaos! 

If you've got a 3-9 year old child, I know you'll want to run out and find this book.  

It's got just what this age group likes:  cute illustrations, clever humor, rhyme, cadence, and a twist at the end!
Each animal left on the farm tries lending his voice for the "wake up call" without success.  Farmer McPeeper (a very deep sleeper) just keeps on snoring.
Things go from bad to worse when the Rooster returns with a sniffle and sneeze (from the damp ocean breeze!)  What are they to do now??

You'll have to get Cock-a-Doodle Oops! to find out - the ending is hilarious.  A fun summer read, with a guaranteed laugh for preschoolers or independent readers!

Available on Amazon.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Just 20 Minutes...

Research has shown that just 20 minutes of reading a day can help prevent a child from losing literacy skills. Try this: Take 20 minutes every day as a family to turn off the TV and read – either silently to yourselves, or aloud to one another. You’ll notice a difference! [source - Parade Magazine interview with Lavar Burton]

Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you've heard about Lavar Burton's Kickstarter campaign to bring back the PBS show Reading Rainbow.  It was a roaring success - he raised 5 million dollars!

Yesterday's Parade Magazine featured an interesting interview with Lavar.  Among other things, he was asked about the importance of summer reading.  I loved his answers...

Parade: Kids are out of school.  But studies show that if they don't read during the break, they go back to class behind.  What can parents do?

Lavar: There's a critical window where a child either becomes a reader or not -- for life.  Between the ages of 7 and 9 is when that decision is made.  Parents ask me, "How can I get my kid to read?"  I say, "How much time do you spend reading in front of your kid? How many books do you have in your house?  How often do you have an evening where you don't watch TV and it's family reading night?"  Insist by example so your child gets that reading is an important aspect of life.

My Summer Reading Lists
Summer reading is so important!  I did a recent post on good book choices for summer, here.  "But you don't have to take my word for it!"  I've listed Lavar's picks below.

Lavar's Top 10 Summer Reads:
1.  George and Martha by James Marshall
2.  The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
3.  How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
4.  Miss Martin is a Martian by Colleen Murray Fisher
5.  Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
6.  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
7.  Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrew Beaty
8.  There's an Alligator in My Bed by Mercer Mayer
9.  Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
10. The BFG by Roald Dahl

Friday, June 27, 2014

Growing Family Memories in a Story Book Garden

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, how does your garden grow?  With story books, and alphabets, and fairytales all in a row!
My husband and I are finally tackling our backyard landscaping, and embarking on what I'm going to optimistically call "an adventure in gardening".  
There are so many options - should we do a raised bed, potager, vegetable, rose, herb, wild flower, fairy, storybook, or alphabet garden? Did I lose you with those last three?

I was on the internet this afternoon looking for design ideas, and I came across several "Theme Gardens" for kids.  Here are some of my favorites...

Alphabet Garden

How about an Alice in Wonderland Garden???
This cute statuary is available from the Victorian Trading Company
Available in white or stone.
And you have to have a bird feeder made from a vintage tea cup!

Peter Rabbit's Garden is totally doable -
There's even a little jacket and tam o'shanter!

My garden will have to have a Cinderella pumpkin vine, like this beauty! [source]

I might even allocate a little corner of my yard for a miniature Fairy Garden,
like this one with succulents in a shallow pot (I took this photo at a local nursery)...
or this one, planted in a old metal tub...
...or in a bird bath!

Go here for more theme garden inspiration ideas.
And don't forget these fun garden-themed books like Mama, Is It Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure, from my past post.
Sigh. We hired a landscaper to help us, but we have so much to decide!  Stay tuned!  Any advice?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

School May Be Out, But Reading is Not!!

Summer colds are the worst, and I've got a doozy!  So this will be a quick post.  I thought I'd share some of my past summer reading recommendations and also give you a quick photo update on my "Bookish" space at the Brick Basement...

Isn't this antique school desk charming???  It's the perfect place for my daughter and me to display some of our fun vintage children's books...

...and finds, like this "Daniel Tiger" hand puppet from the '60's (remember him from Mister Rogers?)...and these cute Ex Libris labels.

Say "good-bye" to school for the summer, but not to books!
Have you come up with any good summer reading strategies for your kids?  It's helpful if you can use resources like Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook and William Kilpatrick's Books That Build Character to plan fun, engaging book lists for your kids to choose from.

Or, for quick reference, click on the links below to check out a few of my past posts: 

"I'm Hooked" (Best Opening Lines from Kids' Books - Part II) and Part I

Make this the Summer You Read Aloud J. M. Barrie's PETER PAN

Dragon Tales

Take a Trip to the Beach in a Book!

Lessons Learned: Looking Back on Harry Potter

Books for Children About Friendship

Chapter Books My Daughter Loved

Good Books For Teen Girls

Chapter Books Even Busy Boys Will Come Inside For

Good Books For Pre-Teen Boys

Good Books For Teen Boys

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hugs and Kisses for Military Fathers

The two books I'll be highlighting today are perfect for Father's Day, but especially for military dads and families - to whom I dedicate this post.
As the daughter of a man who travelled a lot because of his tireless vocation in church ministry,  I can relate to children of military dads. Their fathers are missed terribly during prolonged and frequent absences, but are greeted with insurmountable joy at their homecomings!

My own son-in-law, having recently joined the Naval Reserves, was away from my daughter and grandson and his family for three months during Boot Camp.  Their happy reunion was full of tears and smiles, as well as relief and exhaustion, after an acknowledgement of hard work, sacrifice, and a job well done was showered upon the graduates at their Pass and Review ceremony when Boot Camp was finally over.
Any parent who travels for work, or reunites with their family at the end of a long workday, can relate to these emotions in microcosm - so I think all parents and young children will love these book recommendations!

The first book is The Fathers Are Coming Home, by Margaret Wise Brown.  She wrote it between 1942-43 for WWII soldiers, but it was only recently published (2010). The illustrations are by Steven Savage.  I blogged about this book in the past, here. (My little grandson actually gave this book to his Daddy after Boot Camp graduation, for an early Father's Day gift.)
I absolutely love Savage's linoleum block print illustrations in this story that begins with fathers coming home at nightfall - fish fathers, bug fathers, dog fathers, bird fathers, and snail fathers (my grandson's favorite), to name a few - and ends with a boy's father, who is a sailor, coming home from sea.

The second book I'm sharing with you today is Catching Kisses (2103) by Amy Gibson.  My daughter found this book recently at the library, and we both were reminded of The Father's Are Coming Home.  We fell in love with Maria Van Lieshout's wonderfully detailed silhouette illustrations.
This story is about kisses and their journey all across America - your children are bound to recognize a few of the places that the kisses land in!  "At any given moment, someone, somewhere is blowing a kiss.  And somewhere, someone is catching it..."
Hints are given in the lyrical text (but there's also a map with locations on the back end page): "Some are velvet as peach fuzz. Some tickle like whiskers. Everyday, everywhere, kisses are flying..."
Kisses are meant to be caught and when you catch them, they stay with you always!
So whether you're a father at home, or afar, "Happy Father's Day!"

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vintage Collectible Art in Books - Part 2

Are you ready for Richard Scarry's drawings of OZ, and some wonderfully whimsical art from Maurice Sendak?  Both of these illustrators shared June birthdays (Scarry's was on the 5th, and Maurice Sendak's was the 6th), and I just had to share a few more lovely illustrations (mentioned here in my past post) from The Best In Children's Books - a vintage 42-volume set published between 1957 and 1961.
Richard Scarry's cover illustration of Baum's With Dorothy in Oz (Volume 40) brought memories of childhood read aloud time with my mom flooding back!

The pages of these treasured volumes hold wonderful story collections and original artwork that (in some cases) can only be found between the covers of these books!

Such is the case for the amazing original illustrations I've posted today, starting with Richard Scarry's vision of OZ...

From Maurice Sendak, I'd like to share these gems found in Volume 31. Sendak's illustrations accompanied "Windy Wash Day and Other Poems" by Dorothy Aldis...

"...perhaps the most intriguing part of the series is the illustrators. Their names are not given on the table of contents page, but are found only on the title page of the individual story. Because of this lack of credit, most of the illustrations done in this series are not mentioned in bibliographies of the artists' work. Thanks to the efforts of art director Diana Klemin, many now-famous illustrators did some of their earliest work in this series, including Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Peter Spier, Barbara Cooney, Feodor Rojankovsky, Richard Scarry, and even Andy Warhol...." [source: de Grummond Children's Literature Collection - read more here]