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, October 12, 2015

Some Vintage Goodies On My October Bookshelf!

I spent yesterday gathering some October/Fall themed books off my shelf; and today I'm trying to decide which volumes to put in a book basket I'm assembling for our church's annual Oktoberfest Silent Auction.

This year some of the proceeds from our annual fundraiser will go to IOCC's Syrian Relief Fund.  Our church youth group and women's group are also making emergency kits to send in for Syrian Refugees.  (For more information about how to donate, go here.)

About the fabulous fall line-up of books you see pictured.  Most are vintage, but I'll start with the new ones first...

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the new illustrated edition from Jim Kay!

I can't tell you how excited I've been to see this book in person.  It will not disappoint, and will be such a great read aloud for fall (or anytime).

Jim Kay's illustration of "the Boy Who Lived".
Inside cover endpaper loveliness - Hogwarts.
One of my favorite illustrations - Hagrid and Harry.

Murder at Mansfield Park (2010), by Lynn Shepard.  I'm having a bit of trouble getting into and excited about this one.  I enjoyed Death Comes to Pemberly (2013) by P.D. James more, but maybe that's because I liked Pride and Prejudice more than Mansfield Park in the first place?  (Young adult)

Whoo's There: A Bedtime Shadow Book (2005), by Heather Zschock, illustrated by Martha Day Zschock.  This is such a fun and unique book!  You read it with the aid of a flashlight, which you shine through the page ''windows'' to cast pictures on the wall as you read with your child at night.

Sarah, Plain, and Tall (1985), by Patricia MacLachlan.  2015 marks Sarah's 30th Anniversary of publication, so I couldn't leave out this classic Newbery Medal winner! Sarah, Plain and Tall gently explores themes of abandonment, loss, and love. It's a surprisingly short book that delves deeply into the characters of Sarah and the family she joins to wife and mother.  Below is the edition I grew up with...

Pumpkin, Pumpkin (1986), by Jeanne Titherington.  Simple story in a sweetly illustrated picture book for fall: A young boy named Jamie plants a pumpkin seed in the spring and, after watching it grow all summer, carves a face in it for Halloween! But best of all, he saves some seeds that he will plant again next spring. (ages 2-4)

Costumes for Nursery Tale Characters, (1975), by Jean Greenhowe.  Let's hear it for Literary Costumes! (go here for my previous post)  I found this fun vintage book at my library bookstore, and couldn't pass it up.  Starting with a basic one-piece tunic and pants pattern, some of the character costumes include Cinderella, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Little Miss Muffet, and Little Red Riding Hood.

Now all I need to do is make a final decision about how to pack my basket of books for the silent auction.  And if I have time, I might put together a centerpiece basket of fall foliage to auction off as well, like the one pictured below that I saw at my sister's church over the weekend!  Happy October!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"The Secret Lives of Animals" - Blog Tour & Publisher's Giveaway!

Do you have a child who loves random facts about animals?  I'm happy today to be one of the stop-offs along a blog tour introducing a brand new not-to-be-missed book, The Secret Lives of Animals.

The book's intriguing subtitle will grab the attention of its target audience: kids aged 6-12...
1,001 Tidbits, Oddities & Amazing Facts about North America's Coolest Animals

I just love this book.  When my review copy arrived, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it and immediately sought the opinions of four experts: my three home-schooled goddaughters and their mom.  They all agreed that it's a fun book, and one they would enjoy sitting down together with! 

The authors, Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer have done an excellent job with the text which is at once informative and engaging. Their enthusiasm for the world of animals and nature is contagious! (This is their second book collaboration.  Their first was The Kids' Outdoor Adventure Book.)  

Having written a volume that's perfect for home schooled or traditionally schooled children, Ken and Stacy are inviting kids to become privy to lots of lots of random amazing facts and secrets about North American animals.

Take for example, the OWL:
Owls fascinate people all over the world.  They have gained a lot of popularity in the past several years, maybe in part because of Harry Potter.  Actually, there have been lots of owl characters in movies and literature over the years...

Little Known Facts
1. While owls mostly stick to themselves, a group of owls is called a parliament.
2. It might seem that owls can turn their heads all the way around, but that's not really the case.  They can turn their heads about 270 degrees but not a full 360 degrees.
3. Some owls often have to survive in the cold because their range goes well into northern areas.  One thing that allows them to do this is having feathers that go all the way down on their feet too.
4. Owls don't create (or excavate) their own nests out of trees.  Instead they find nests that have been created by other birds...
...and it goes on and on!  Twelve facts in all for the owl!

The chapters are organized by animal classifications. There are a couple of pages devoted to every animal, with a nice illustration by Rachel Riordan for each one. At the back of the book there's also an index of animals by state and province. 

In addition to the "little known facts" about each animal, your child will read about the animals' sizes, what they eat, who eats them, and where they hang out.  There are also science Q&A's, animal "all star picks" from around the world, and "go outside" challenges.

Shoes, book, and t-shirt giveaway! Click to enter publisher's giveaway.


The publisher is doing a cool giveaway, which you can learn about and enter by going HERE.  (There’s an added fun part…whoever wins gets to choose a friend to send a book and t-shirt to as well!)

The Secret Lives of Animals is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fall Giveaway Winner Announced...

The winner of my book giveaway, A Gift For Matthew, is Angie.  Congratulations, Angie, and thank you to all who participated and left such kind comments about this wonderful new picture book from Nick Muzekari and Masha Lobastov!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fall Book Giveaway: "A Gift For Matthew" Could Be A Gift for YOU

Today I'm excited to offer a review and giveaway for a very special picture book (about heavenly pictures) recently out from Ancient Faith Publishing:  A Gift for Matthew by Nick Muzekari.

"Reminders of heaven."

"Visual sermons."

"Theology in color."

Icons have been called all these things. Most of us are familiar with the Gospel verses where Jesus says,

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Iconography as God's Word in art is a "window to heaven" that helps us to experience the mystery of God and his truths in the way children do:  through our eyes and hearts.

Sacred images have long played a part in teaching Christians about their faith. In the earliest days, icons of the Church were a means of depicting Gospel events to Christians who may not have been able to read the Gospel themselves.

In A Gift for Matthew, a boy visits a peaceful monastery with his mother.  He meets the monastery cat, and learns from a kind monk, Brother Justin, what actually goes into painting - or "writing" - an icon.

As he helps the monk, Matthew discovers the symbolism behind the thin sheets of gold leaf and the egg tempera paints that are used; how prayer and layers of color are an integral part of icon painting; and that we can accomplish much with a quiet heart and patience.

I learned a lot about iconography from this book, and so will your child!  It's great for any age, but it will become a special treasure for children between the ages of 4-8 who love to draw, sketch, or paint, and for anyone who is drawn to the beauty of holy icons.

Masha Lobastov's warm and rich illustrations are a lovely accompaniment to Nick Muzekari's thoughtful and engaging story.  Kids will love the monastery cat, and enjoy the satisfying ending when Matthew receives a surprise gift from the monk!

To enter my giveaway for this unique book, A Gift For Matthew, please leave a comment at the end of this post by midnight (PST) Friday, October 2, 2015.  A winner will be chosen from a random drawing (I use list randomizer from random.org) on Saturday, October 3, 2015.

Go here to see a digital preview and trailer of A Gift For Matthew.  You can read more about icons and iconography in this article.

Friday, September 18, 2015

There and Back Again

“When going back makes sense, you are going ahead.” ― Wendell Berry

Hard to believe it's already mid-September! Traveling is always an adventure, but it's nice to be back home.

With my daughter and grandsons in tow, I had a lovely trip to my mom's in Indiana (see my last post) en route to our destination in New York - where I helped my daughter, her husband, and their boys get settled into their new home as my son-in-law attends seminary there for the next three years.

My airplane read, while flying the friendly skies back
to my husband and my quiet house.

For my daughter and her little family, "going ahead" has meant moving and going away from their families and friends in order to follow what God has for them.

But for me, "going ahead" - moving forward - has meant going back - to my dear husband and a very quiet home.

My two little grandsons were especially hard to leave, as we now have to love each other from afar. But we're all "going ahead" and being brave!

My grandson heading up to story hour at their new neighborhood library.

Today I'm giving you a peek into my journeys, which included adventures not only in Indiana and New York, but also Hawaii!  (Nice how that worked out: the beauty of Kauai really helped sooth my soul after our sad good-byes in New York!)

Back porches and lightning bugs.
We must be in Indiana...

My mom in her new white rocker -
aren't back porches and rocking chairs the best?

Moving on, and moving in...unpacking in New York.

Coffee break!

 Super cute coffee place, yummy pastries.

Antique tables and chairs and a "book" shelf, to complete the vintage French shabby chic atmosphere.

And Latte Heart Art, 'cause he melts mine.

Home again to unpack and re-pack for a quick trip to Hawaii, where my husband and I saw...

Sea Turtles

A "Tunnel of Trees" and gorgeous waves

Waterfalls, cliffs, sunsets...

And a rainbow on the beach!

All good things must come to an end, but like I said, it's good to be home!  My friends wonder how I'm doing - making the adjustment of my grandchildren being gone. I'm happy and at peace, and "going ahead", because I know they and their Mommy and Daddy are where God wants them to be.

And it's probably helped that "saying goodbye" was the "norm" for me as a child...

If you've followed my blog for very long, you know that my Dad was a priest and writer.  He dedicated his life to helping people find the Kingdom of God on this earth, and he had to travel all around the United States to do that. He missed us, and I'm sure he often wished he didn't have to travel so much. I know we missed him!  But we all knew he was doing God's work.

After I was grown and married (I am the oldest of six), Dad once told me his goal as a parent was to someday be able to say (3 John 1:4):
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 

My Dad's goal wasn't that we should or shouldn't have certain careers, or that we had to live close to him and my Mom.  He never tried to pressure us like that; he knew that life - and God - could take us all in different directions.  He let us work out our own salvation.

And because our Dad walked in truth, we knew we shared a common bond in Christ that would never be broken - no matter how far away any of us lived.  That was the example my parents set for us, and I try to have the same faith in my kids as they make their life decisions.

My grandson visiting his (namesake) Great Grandpa's
graveside in Indiana.

A Nun's Advice on "Letting Go"
I happened across a very pertinent quote from the book Becoming Icons of Christ (my airplane "read" pictured at the top of my blog post) - it's a good reminder for Sundays when I am in church participating in the Divine Liturgy:

As we are present at the liturgy, we bring our lives, ourselves, our loved ones, the whole world to offer in sacrifice - to make holy - before God.  As we do this, we learn that the truest relationship we can have with others is to allow them to be themselves and to place them in God's hands. Liturgy teaches us that this is true prayer. It is the way of radically letting go rather than always attempting to control.  
-Mother Raphaela

A good place to end this post!  If any of you are struggling with being far from family, or "releasing"  your grown children to live their own lives, I hope this helped a little.

I highly recommend Mother Raphaela's collection of talks and essays, Becoming Icons of Christ.  She is the abbess at Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, which is on 220 acres of pastures, woods, wetlands, and a four-acre mill pond in Ortega, NY.  You can read about it here.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Amazing Airplanes" and A Happy Layover

En route to New York City yesterday, my daughter, two grandsons and I were happily delayed two extra days at my mom's lovely home in Indiana, where we've been visiting and spending lots of happy hours on her back porch - rocking on her new rocker from Cracker Barrel and listening to the rain and crickets and cicadas.

It seems there was a crazy Air Traffic Control computer malfunction in the DC area, and ours was one of thousands of flights in the East Coast area that was cancelled or postponed. (see NPR report)

We were lucky to have gotten a text notification before we left for the airport. Eighty minutes on hold with Southwest was a piece of cake compared to being stranded in an airport or grounded for hours on a runway!

Tomorrow, we'll head to the airport for the second leg of our journey across the friendly skies where my daughter and her boys will meet up with her husband for their newest adventure:  Seminary!

Hopefully there will be no further delays, and we'll be up in the air again reading some fun plane stories to my two-and-a-half year old grandson.  It can be so challenging travelling with little ones - most airlines no longer provide food, or tours of the cockpit and meet and greets with the pilot.

But my daughter is prepared with healthy snacks, and my grandson has his own little backpack full of fun activities...
-Books (of course) - Richard Scarry (lots of detail)

and plane stories, "The Little Airplane" by Lois Lenski, and "Amazing Airplanes" by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker.

-Small size toys - two little planes and a dino.
-Travel Magna Doodle (no mess!)

-Lollipops - (Organic YumEarth) for take-off and landing to help those little ears pop!

'Bye for now.  Be back soon!
What do you bring for your little one?