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)

Saturday, June 30, 2018


Saturdays are perfect bubble days, don't you think?

After a yummy breakfast this morning, my visiting grandsons were full of energy and started chasing each other around the house with a couple of kites their grandpa had gotten out of the garage the night before.

But unfortunately this morning there was no wind. Then remembered I had two unopened bottles of bubbles.  That's when the magic began!  What is it about these weightless little orbs that bring so much joy to children?

Bubbles are INSTANT FUN, and so is this book - Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy (illustrated by Polly Dunbar).

When little Mabel’s bubble gets away from her, it’s her baby brother who gets into trouble. Soon he’s floating out of the house, above the fence, and all over town! And it’s up to Mabel, Mother, and the rest of the townspeople to get him safely back down. Who knew that so much trouble could come from one little bubble?

If you'd like more bubble book suggestions, you can look at my past post, "The Fun and Science of Bubbles", here.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Breakfast Pancakes with Pettson and Findus

If you don't know about Farmer Pettson and his cat Findus, go to my past blog post here. I had fun visiting an awesome interactive children's exhibit featuring the books during my visit to Lund, Sweden. You'll be guaranteed many laughs from these picture books by Sven Nordqvist

The Birthday Cake is one of my grandsons' current favorite read alouds.  All Pettson's neighbors think he's a little crazy as they mistaken his round-about quest to obtain an ingredient for some birthday pancakes as eccentric, bizarre behavior. Well, it actually is eccentric and bizarre, but it has a purpose...

Pettson's cat Findus celebrates his birthday three times a year. When Pettson sets out to make the pancake-cake, he finds that he's missing a key ingredient: flour. This starts a hilarious chain of events resulting in Pettson distracting a bull, in order to climb through a skylight into his attic to find his fishing pole to fish the key out of the well, so he can open his shed, fix his flat tire, then ride to the store to buy some flour (and a new pair of overalls) - all in order to make a tasty cake for Findus!

The last page of the book has a recipe for the pancakes.  My daughter and I decided to make them with my grandsons.  

It made for a fun morning and the pancakes were super tasty, served with whipped cream and blueberries!!

Interesting tidbits about Sven Nordqvist...
Sven Nordqvist was born in Helsingborg, Sweden. Although he studied architecture, he always wanted to be an illustrator and found work illustrating advertisements, posters, and textbooks. He is a renowned children’s book illustrator and writer in Sweden and across Europe. When he’s not illustrating books for children, he spends time building playgrounds, children’s play areas at hospitals, and decorations for schools. Carpentry has always been an important part of Nordqvist’s life—often reflected in the actions of his industrious character Pettson—with the central goal being the enrichment of children’s lives.  [Source: go here.]

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Back in Print: Memoir of a Romanian Princess

I couldn't be more excited that I Live Again, A Memoir of Ileana (Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria, who later in life became Mother Alexandra, founder of an Orthodox Women's monastery in Pennsylvania) is back in print from Ancient Faith Publishing.

Father Remus Grama gives a perfect summary of this book in his Prologue: "I Live Again sums up not only the dramatic ups and downs of the life of a princess but the epic poetic story of the triumph of true faith in the face of adversity...written with the American reader in mind.  It reveals the life journey of the young princess, from the peace of her royal chambers to the stinking, lice-infested rooms of wartime hospitals.  It confesses the loss of that bygone world and the struggle to regain the essential meaning of life in service..."

You can read more about Princess Ileana/Mother Alexandra in my past blog post, "A Monastic Princess and the Jesus Prayer".

I Live Again was originally published in 1951. The Ladies' Home Journal printed the first of four installments of Princess Ileana's memoirs in 1951 under its own title of I Was A Princess. You can see this wonderful 4-part series with lots of nostalgic photos online, HERE.

For more of her writings and articles about her, go here [http://www.tkinter.smig.net/PrincessIleana/index.htm].

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Word Lovers UNITE! (With E.B. White and Others...)

The back story as to how I discovered this delightful new biography for children about E.B. White is rather sad...

It involves my favorite children's bookshop, Once Upon a Storybook, which (until it closed a couple of weeks ago) was one of the three children's bookstores here in Orange County. 

I had stopped in to make some purchases and say goodbye, reminiscing about the first time I took my grandson and my goddaughter there three years ago.  :..(

My grandson and my goddaughter, peeking in the window
during their first visit to Once Upon a Storybook.

The owner, Miss Susie, is the sweetest woman in the world. She loves children's books, and she recommended Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White to me.  I wish her all the best in her future book endeavors (I know those endeavors will not stop!)  

This captivating biography (for grades 3-7), written and illustrated by the gifted Melissa Sweet, will immediately draw you into the childhood world of Elwyn White (1899-1985) as he chases words through dictionary pages and weaves them into poems for St. Nicholas magazine.

Elwyn Brooks White became a writer while he was still wearing knickers.  He was seven or eight years old when he looked a sheet of paper "square in the eyes" and thought, "this is where I belong, this is it."

You'll follow him as a young man, when his love of words leads him to big city newspapers and a brand new publication, The New Yorker (where he worked with writers like John Updike and James Thurber).  

Of course you'll also learn the backstories about his most-loved spins, Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, which were written from his farm in Maine during his mid-life years.

Melissa Sweet uses White's own letters, photos, journals, sketches, and manuscripts - interspersed with her fun, original collaged art - in this wonderful glimpse into the life of beloved author, E.B. White.

Young writers will be inspired by Melissa Sweet's inclusion of E.B. White's revision work on Strunk and White's Elements of Style (1959) - true evidence of his love of the written word.  White's most famous writing advice?  "Omit needless words".

If you've got a word lover/grammar nerd in the family, I have a couple more book recommendations for today:

The ABeCeDarian Book (1964) by Charles W. Ferguson.  This engaging book is a treasure for adults and kids alike.
An alphabet book of big words for adults with the curiosity of children and for children with the capacity of adults.

Jacket: "In this delightful book, Charles Ferguson spins out the life histories of words of all kinds - pretty, sad, or scientific.  He tells you all their secrets, using unforgettable anecdotes as well as solid linguistic facts, so that each word becomes known in its fullest sense..."

And one more:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (grades 7 and up) by Lynne Truss.

A friend of mine recently introduced me to this hilarious tribute to punctuation.  The title is based on a joke:

A panda walks into a cafe.  He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit.  The panda produces a badly punctated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he says, at the door.  "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
"Panda.  Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China.  Eats, shoots and leaves."

Get ready to laugh as you brush up on punctuation.  There's also a very simplified version for young children (grades 1-3).

All the books I highlighted today would be great reads for inquisitive older children who are curious about words and language - and a great introduction for those who aren't (yet)!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Beyond The Great Green Room...

Have you ventured past the "great green room" of Goodnight Moon and into any of Margaret Wise Brown's other stories?  When my children were young, Goodnight Moon (1949) and The Runaway Bunny (1942) were among their first favorites. If you can't get enough of her charming, rhythmic, rhyming writing, this post is for you!

Brown penned over 100 published works during her life. My personal favorite growing up was Home For A Bunny (1956), illustrated by Garth Williams. 

After Margaret Wise Brown’s untimely death at age 42 in 1952, dozens of her unpublished writings were found almost forty years later in 1990. The papers, preserved in a cedar-lined trunk and stored in the attic of a Vermont barn belonging to Brown’s sister, had sat largely untouched since the early 1950s.  Those stories are now being published as brand-new books (read more here).

Sometime after my first grandson was born, we discovered The Fathers Are Coming Home (2010, illustrated by Stephen Savage and previously blogged about here).

My daughter discovered Two Little Trains (2003, re-illustrated, but first published in 1949) at their local library for grandson number two.

A must-read for any train obsessed child, Two Little Trains follows the parallel journeys of a real train and a toy train. The toy train mirrors the real train's journey to the West, but in a house with objects like a rug track, a book tunnel, and a bathtub river.  

The illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon are sleek, with muted colors.  They fit Brown's imaginative story perfectly.  Any child's imagination would be stirred by the fun pictorial match-up details of both trains' journeys!

Recently, since the birth of our third grandchild, I've discovered three more books by this prolific children's book author!  The first two are stand alone stories that also happen to be included in my newest find and third recommendation, Mouse of My Heart, a collection from the archives of Margaret Wise Brown.

Book #1 - All the Little Fathers (2015), has colorful, fun illustrations by Marilyn Faucher...
Animal fathers are caring for and playing with their animal children.  The lions are roaring, the dogs are getting bones,  the monkeys are hanging out, the cats are purring... and of course in the end, the fathers are putting their children to bed.  This book would be a perfect Father's Day gift!

Book #2 - The Diggers, first published in 1960 (with illustrations by Clement Hurd), is a timeless narrative about the universal experience of digging, from a worm winding its way through the earth to the swinging of the great jaws of the steam shovel.

I haven't seen the original book, or the one illustrated by Daniel Kirk, featuring a child's foot on a shovel (published in 1995), but I was immediately drawn to the bright, quirky, fun pictures by French illustrator, Antoine Corbineau in the newest edition, published in 2013!  Future diggers and engineers will love it!

Finally, Book #3 - Mouse of My Heart, A Treasury of Sense and Nonsense, (2001) with sweet illustrations by Loretta Krupinski, has won my heart!

It's a collection of 56 poems and stories by Margaret Wise Brown, many previously unpublished.  This anthology is grouped according to themes such as Adventure, Love and Friendship, Bedtime, Happiness, Big and Little, and Nature. 

I found my copy used online - and it's a treasure! The introduction is by Brown's noted biographer, Leonard S. Marcus. The whimsical illustrations by Loretta Krupinski are gorgeous, done in jewel-tone colors.

All of Margaret Wise Brown's stories and poems are timeless, as she invites us in...

Do you have a favorite?


Mouse mouse
Why do you start
Timid and shy
As a human heart?

Mouse mouse
Where do you glide
Like a soft gray shadow 
Trying to hide?

Mouse mouse
Where is your den
Far from the eyes 
Of cats and men?

Monday, April 9, 2018


Christ is Risen! I hope you had a glorious Pascha (or Easter, last week, if you follow the Western calendar). We celebrate according to the Julian Calendar, and our service started late Saturday night and went into the wee hours of the morning on Sunday.

Bright Monday is one of my favorite mornings!  I'm a bit more bright eyed than on Sunday morning, and I love my favorite pairings: coffee and cream, bacon and eggs, strawberries and croissants (with Pascha Cheese that I make for our parish celebration after the Pascha liturgy - recipe here).

Breakfast gets prepared as we listen once again to Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture.

I love how strains of the Paschal Anthem, "Let God Arise" and "Christ is Risen From the Dead" are woven in and out of the symphonic music.

The weather is fine today, and the butterflies are out!  And I need to get back to blogging.  Watch for my post on Margaret Wise Brown, coming soon.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Cookbook With More Than Recipes!

Food blogger I may not be, but I do enjoy a good cookbook.

And besides, what could be better than scrumptious, easy-to-follow recipes and beautifully styled and photographed food?  
(Right up my alley.)

This book is full of them. The stories and recipes, lovingly collected by author, Erin Farha Kimmett (who also happens to be an Orthodox iconographer and priest's wife), are a tribute to Erin's grandmother, "Sitey" (My Grandmother, in Arabic).

"Favorite recipes and cherished memories 
inspired by a grandmother's kitchen, 
where her love of God was ever-present, 
traditions of hospitality and joy were handed down, 
and lessons of faith, life and love were learned." 

I absolutely love the format of this large, hardcover cookbook (and how it looks in my newly remodeled kitchen!!)  Martha Stewart could not have done better!  Erin had the expert help of her good friend, photographer Alexis El Massih.

The titles of each beautifully photographed section make you want to delve right in...
Slow Mornings
Coffee And...
After Noon
Always Room at My Table
Cozy Suppers
Sweet Traditions
Just Desserts

Delve in is exactly what my husband and I did after I returned from my visit to New York to help with my new granddaughter.  (I purchased Hospitality and Joy at the St. Vladimir's Seminary Bookstore while I was there.  It's also available on Erin's website.)

I sat and read this book cover to cover with a cup of coffee! Then my husband flipped through the pages, started drooling, and decided to tackle the Maple Oat Pecan Scones (he's quite a good cook, and makes a killer Eggs Benedict, passed down from his dad.)  The scones were dee-licious!

Each mouthwatering recipe in this cookbook is carefully explained, step by step, with an Ingredients List, Make Ahead Tips, "First Things First" Preparations, then Assembly and Cooking Directions (and did I mention, beautiful photography?)

At its heart, this unique cookbook is about the role we play in ministering to others when we cook for them... it's "about food and faith, cooking and ministering: two different but integrally connected kinds of nourishment."

As someone who grew up with a loving Grandma who baked her grandchildren the world's best chocolate chip cookies, I highly recommend this lovely cookbook.  

Give it to someone you love.  It would make a perfect wedding, birthday, anniversary, Pascha, or Mother's Day gift.

You can visit Erin and Alexis' website to read their blog, try their recipes, and to order Hospitality and Joy - here.

Happy Cooking! Make some memories...