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)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Spring Is Here Today! Winter's Gone Away!"

I brought out my vintage 1953 copy (second printing - it was originally published in 1945) of Lois Lenski's adorable SPRING IS HERE to show you, as I gather some things for our upcoming annual Annunciation Tea at church.

The Feast of the Annunciation, on March 25, falls close to the first day of Spring every year.  I find it a happy irony that in the midst of Lent, as we are saying goodbye to winter, the Annunciation is an event that reminds us to look forward to Christ's birth in nine months on December 25!

The women and girls of our parish always have a Lenten tea in March in honor of the Virgin Mary, celebrating the day she said "yes" to God when the Archangel Gabriel visited her.

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!"

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God..."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered.  "May your word to me be fulfilled."

I love what our Bp. BASIL said in his essay, Mary Our Cause Of Rejoicing:
"In a very real way, she [at just age fourteen] became the first to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She alone among all humanity can say that she not only received Jesus into her heart spiritually, but she housed Jesus in her womb, in her body."
(This essay originally appeared in The Handmaiden, Vol. 1 No. 1, published in the winter of 1996 by Conciliar Press. Bishop BASIL [Essey] is Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. You can read his essay in its entirety, here, on the Antiochian.org website.)

 Scripture above quoted from Luke 1:26-38 NIV

Monday, March 11, 2019

Lenten Meditations for Families

Can you feel your soul beginning to quiet?  Lent is here!  As I type this, my house is so still.  No television.  No music.  Peace.

Ancient Faith Publishing has a new book, Tending the Garden of Our Hearts, Daily Lenten Meditations for Families by Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wenger.  (I'll be giving this away, please read on!)

Parents/Grandparents, if you've read and enjoyed Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by one of the foremost Orthodox Christian theologians of the twentieth century, Fr. Alexander Schmemannyou know how helpful it is to have some insights and explanations of our services and meditations during this time of fasting, prayer, and contemplation.

It's wonderful to finally have a book that offers Lenten meditations for the whole family! This lovely volume offers devotionals for families based on the scriptures for each day of Great Lent, including explanations of various lenten services and questions to discuss and ponder. You'll also find an appendix at the end with hands-on activities to bring the lessons of the season to life for your family.

Need some other good books for Lent?

Adults and Teens:
Orthodox Worship: A Living Continuity with the Synagogue, the Temple, and the Early Church.
This is my new favorite!
Ancient Faith has produced a fresh update and redesign of a book cherished by a generation of seekers. Written in an accessible manner for the average lay person, Orthodox Worship offers insights into the Orthodox liturgy. Early Christians preserved a continuity of worship from the Old Covenant to the New, employing elements from the Jewish Temple liturgy, the synagogue liturgy, and the rituals of the Jewish home. The book shows how divinely revealed Old Testament worship is not only continued but also fulfilled in the Orthodox liturgy. A line-by-line explanation of the liturgy is included. A must read - you will come to love and appreciate the Liturgy more than ever.

The Tale of Three Trees:  A Traditional Folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt.
Once upon a mountaintop, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. Each of their dreams come true in an unexpected way in this lovely retelling of an old folk tale that points to Christ.

St. Christoper, The Holy Giant by Tomie dePaola.
This is dePaola's interpretation of the legend of St. Christopher, who originally had been a giant named Reprobus out to serve the world's most powerful king - - a ruler he finds when he carries the young Christ across a river. 

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger (I love this edition - Zwerger's illustrations with Wilde's telling are so poignant.) 
A once selfish giant welcomes the children to his previously forbidden garden and is eventually rewarded by an unusual tiny child. I cry every time I read this.

Those are some of our family's tried and true favorites.  I'd love to hear about yours!  
I'll send Tending the Garden of Our Hearts to the first reader who leaves a comment (please include your email so I can contact you for your mailing address)!

Go here to see my past Lenten/Easter blog posts and book recommendations. Have a blessed journey!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Lots of Folks Eat "Rice and Rocks"!

Today I'd like to tell you about the fun and imaginative book Rice and Rocks by Sandra L. Richards, beautifully illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan.  I tested my review copy out on my two little grandsons during their recent visit, and they thought it rocked!

Giovanni is excited that his friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, but his grandmother is serving rice and beans! Giovanni is okay with the rice, but doesn't especially like the "rocks", and he is embarrassed and worried that his friends will think their traditional Jamaican dish is weird.

Then his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue! She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take Giovanni on a magical flight across the globe, to the places where each of his Sunday dinner visitors' families are from. 

Giovanni is in for a surprise: in the different places they visit - Puerto Rico, New Orleans, and Japan - he finds lots of people eating "rice and rocks" too.  He and his friends have a lot more in common than he realized!

As you can see, Megan Kayleigh Sullivan's brightly colored and engaging pictures perfectly illustrate this story that celebrates the traditions of family heritage.

It's fun to help our children embrace the family histories and cultural traditions of the music and foods that are part of our ancestry.  And it's good to learn about the histories and family traditions of others - appreciating and honoring our differences as well as our similarities. 

I'm all about that - even more so after watching episode after episode of PBS's binge-worthy Finding Your Roots on Netflix!

Series host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. says:
As a parent, as well as an historian, I encourage you to introduce your children to their family history. A great way to start is by showing them photo albums and scrapbooks from the past. That's how my father got my attention. Look for family documents such as obituaries, birth certificates, diplomas - - anything that might show your ancestors' names and details of their lives. Talk to older family members. Track down distant relatives. And, write everything down! 
(source pbs.org: "Forming a Love of Family History" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)

Bravo to Sandra L. Richards for writing down a magical story full of humor and fun that celebrates her traditions and will inspire children to appreciate their roots - and eat their rice and beans!
Rice and Rocks
Age Range: 5 - 8 years/Preschool - Grade 2 
Hardcover: 32 pages 
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing (August 23, 2016)

Our country is such a melting pot, full of many wonderful cultural traditions stories, music, and food - like those celebrated in this book. Go here for a past post I did of books that honor America's history and diverse heritage. And here for some Scandinavian stories, that are from my ancestry!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Somebunny Turned One!

Since it's publication in 1940, Pat the Bunny has been one of the most popular books for a toddler's library!  Dorothy Kunhardt wrote and illustrated the book for her 3-year-old daughter, Edith. 

Children love the interactive features of this cute little book (the original "touch and feel" book), and my granddaughter is no exception!

She loves to feel the softness of the bunny's fur, play peekaboo with Paul, touch Daddy's scratchy face, put her finger through Mommy's ring...

Happy 1st Birthday to the sweetest girl!

My daughter was beyond excited to find some cute little bunny paper products to complete the "Pat the Bunny" theme of Little L's first birthday this month.  

Book themed parties are so much fun, don't you think?  Click on any of the titles below to read my past blog posts, for more ideas.
Seriously Cute Storybook Party Ideas
Books About Tea For Two Year Olds
Nursery Rhyme Tea Baby Shower
Parties With A Book Theme

Thursday, December 13, 2018

"With Light in Her Hair"

Today's post was inspired by the traditional Swedish song about Santa Lucia and these photos from my daughter, who was up late into the night baking Lussekatter ("Lucia Cats"). Such a nice treat for the children this morning as they lit their Advent Wreath candles and read the story of Saint Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent, 
Now hear its gentle wings,


In every room so hushed, 
Whispering like wings. 

Look, at our threshold stands, 
White-clad with light in her hair, 
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon, 
From earth's valleys.
So she speaks Wonderful words to us:
A new day will rise again 
From the rosy sky… 
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Saint Lucia was born in Syracuse, Sicily, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Making a vow of virginity, she gave away her dowry to the poor, and an angered suitor reported her to the authorities. She was condemned her to a brothel, but she miraculously became immoveable. After being set on fire she remained unhurt. She finally suffered martyrdom by sword. A tradition says her eyes were gouged out in torture, so she is considered by some as the patron saint of the blind. In Sweden, her feast day is also celebrated as the first day of Christmas. Traditionally, some families celebrate this day by the oldest daughter wearing a white robe with a red sash and evergreen wreath with candles.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Two Young Kings For Your Christmas Reading

A King of Kings and a King of Bohemia... I have two Christmas picture books that I'm recommending in today's post: The Christ Child by Maud and Miska Petersham, and Good King Wenceslas by Pauline Baynes. As I mentioned in my last "Prague Blog", both books have ties to my recent trip there.

THE CHRIST CHILD (ages 6 and up)
I found a used library copy of this book (published in 1931) by Maud and Miska Petersham at Shakespeare & Sons in Mala Strana, the "Little Quarter" in Prague.  (Whenever I come across an affordable old book by this incredible husband-wife writing and illustrating team, I buy it!)

The Petershams were truly pioneers in the world of children's picture books from the 1920-50's.  Maud was born in New York, and her husband Miska was a Hungarian immigrant. Their quaint and stylistic approach to story telling and illustrating is a unique blend of their backgrounds.

This book brings to life in vibrant color and small "chapters" the story of the birth and childhood of Christ from the text of the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

(Other books by the Petershams in my collection include The Circus Baby, Nursery Friends from France, Tales Told from Holland, and The Rooster Crows.  Many of the Petershams picture books can be found online, but it's a lot more fun perusing used bookstores, don't you think?)

GOOD KING WENCESLAS (ages 6 and up)
Pauline Baynes (well-known for her illustrations of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia) does not mince words in this re-telling of the exciting story of the young Bohemian Prince, Wenceslas - patron saint of Prague and the Czech Republic.

There are many legends surrounding this good saint, and his tragic death is recorded in history.  As with many saints' stories, Wenceslas faced his martyrdom bravely, and Baynes' hopeful re-telling (published in 1987) is book-ended with the words of the well loved Christmas carol about this good and brave King.

The other hero/saint in this Bohemian story is Wenceslas' grandmother, Ludmilla.  She brought him up in the Christian faith.

During our tour of Prague Castle, my mother and I were privileged to see both the Wenceslas Chapel (which contain his relics) in St. Vitus Cathedral, and St. Ludmilla's tomb in St. George's Basilica.

St. Wenceslas' relics are in the Wenceslas Chapel in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle.

Stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral by Mucha depicting (in the center) a young Wenceslas at his Grandmother Ludmilla's knee.

St. Ludmilla's tomb is located in a chapel in St. George's Basilica, Prague Castle.

A painting in St. George's Basilica near the tomb of Ludmilla, showing Wenceslas being taught by his Grandmother to care for the poor.

Just outside the walls of Prague Castle, I took a quick photo of my mom next to the statue of Wenceslas.

It had rained all day, so on our walk back to our apartment, we stopped at a little cafe for some hot tea. It was the perfect end to our wonderful time at Prague Castle!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Time Out for a Prague Blog

Happy St. Nicholas Day! Well, I took a little break from blogging to travel with my family to Prague.  After our last trip in 2011 (our son was at school there), you may have read my post about the Strahov Monastery Libraries 

On this trip we not only re-visited those libraries, but amidst the Christmas markets, cathedrals, a castle, incredible music and architecture, we discovered some English bookstores!

At Shakespeare & Sons (just around the corner from the Charles Bridge in Malá Strana), I immediately gravitated to the back room full of children's books and found several by the very talented Czech-born American author and illustrator Peter Sis.

Can you spot his picture book, Madlenka?  Madlenka's tooth is loose, and she wants everyone to know! Talk about an international city block! Her neighbors are -- a French baker, an Indian news vendor, an Italian ice-cream man, a Latin American grocer, a retired opera singer from Germany, an African American school friend, and an Asian shopkeeper.  As we look through die-cut windows to the images and memories they have carried from old country to new, we can see that Madlenka's block is as richly varied as its inhabitants.  (ages 4-8)

I was beyond excited about the second book I found by Peter Sis - The Pilot and the Little Prince.  My grandson is going to LOVE it!  Did you know that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a pilot before he was an author??  This fascinating biography is beautifully written and illustrated by Sis.  A must read for aspiring little pilots! (ages 5-8)

We also found an Expat bookstore - the largest English-language bookstore in Prague, with a cafe that serves an "American Style Weekend Brunch" and good coffee (yay!) - The Globe Bookstore and Cafe.

This bookstore caters to students, but on Sundays they offer a Storytime for Kids! 

They have a great children's section and I was super excited to find this brand new edition of P.L. Travers Mary Poppins illustrated by one of my favorites: Lauren Child!!!

Take a peek at my photos from the Christmas Market in Prague's Old Town Square...it was lovely!

Such a sight! Stay tuned: I found a beautiful used Christmas picture book (from 1931) at Shakespeare & Sons that I'll post about later, along with a favorite book about the Bohemian Good King Wenceslas!