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, July 26, 2014

The Good Cheer Book

This post WWI book, published in 1919, is a gem!  I found "The Good Cheer Book" at the Brand Bookshop, a used bookstore in Glendale. (Sadly, this book browser's heaven is going out of business.  Happily, all the books were 70% off!)

The gorgeous cover is what first caught my eye.  I bought the book thinking I'd sell it in my "Bookish" shop; but after opening the cover and perusing inside, I knew I had a keeper!

It's an anthology full of thoughtful quotes and poetry.  The author asks in her introduction, "Why the Good Cheer Book?"  She answers:

The greatest war of the ages has passed, leaving in its wake maimed bodies, broken hearts, shattered hopes, unrealized ideals, soul-hunger, and menacing social and economic unrest...

There are many people - sick people, discouraged people, lonely people - who need nothing so much as an understanding and sympathetic friend to help them to discover themselves and their power to create their own good cheer.  May this little book prove to be such a friend....

~Blanche E. Herbert

The first excerpt in Part I: "The Diagnosis", puts forth several questions that could be asked today.  The answer?  Well, one would not be given this diagnosis today!  (In this age of self-vicitmization, I found the straightforward answer refreshing - what do you think?)...

Are you enjoying life?  Do you feel a certain kind of expectancy and glad looking forward when you awake in the morning as to what the events of the day may bring to you?  Or is it with an uneasy, disappointed, and somewhat guilty feeling that you find yourself when consciousness returns?  Have you come to fell how insincere and degenerate all the people around you have become, and how few people can really be trusted in the world today, and how little true religion there is, and what a hard time you have had, harder than anyone else?  

Then there is something wrong with you.  Not with life, nor with your fate or lot, but simply with you, with your own character.  As the mother told her boy, you are one of the uninteresting good people who have lost their interest in the problems of life, and so have become uninteresting.

-John Edgar Park

Watch my Good Books Facebook page for lots of inspiring quotes from this Good Book!

"Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man."
-Sir Walter Foss

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Pet Advice" From Maggie Rudy's Super Cute Mice

Do you wish sometimes...

that you had a pet?

Maybe even just a little roly-poly?  

If this sounds like your child, you've got to run out and find this adorable new picture book from talented artist Maggie Rudy...

Maggie's hand sewn mice and charming dioramas will lead you and your child into a "Mouseland" that you'll want to venture a peek into again and again!

And her little mice offer plenty of good advice about what it means to own a pet, such as...
1. Pick a pet that suits your style.
2. A pet is not a doll (it might not like to play dress up)...
3. Your pet might like to play fetch...
4. Care for you pet...
- Keep it clean
- Keep it comfy, fed, and watered.
- And when it makes a mess, clean up after it!

You'll discover lots of other criteria for becoming a pet owner in this adorable book, but most important of all remember: "Pick a pet who will be your friend..."

I Wish I Had a Pet is Maggie Rudy's second book (after The House that Mouse Built.)  Hat tip to one of my blog followers - Martha from The Scrumptious Life - who turned me onto Maggie's amazing work!

I immediately got in touch with Maggie, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions so we could get to know her a little better:
Maggie holding her newest book,
I Wish I Had A Pet
source: http://mouseshouses.blogspot.com/
I understand that you and your sisters acquired your first felted mice during a year that your family lived in England. What were a few of your favorite children's books growing up?
Maggie: I loved The Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams; Ferdinand The Bull, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, and my first chapter book, The Adventures of Sam Pig, by Allison Uttley, illustrated by Graham Percy. I loved Sam Pig! I was always drawn to the pictures in books at least as much the stories. Our father also read us the entire Ring series by J.R.R Tolkien when I was about six, and much of the imagery from those books stays with me still.

What led you into the world of art and creating your own little creatures?
Maggie: My grandmother and mother were both artists, so I had the example of people around me making things, and there were always art supplies to be had. And my sisters and I spent hours making little environments from moss and sticks for our troll dolls. I'm not exactly sure how, but those two things were certainly starting points for the creation of Mouseland.

When did you decide to take the plunge into the world of children's books? 
Maggie:I took a photograph of some mice one year for a Christmas card, which gave me the idea of using them as illustrations. My sons were leaving home and I was eager to explore new career possibilities, so I enrolled in a children's book illustration class at our community college. The instructor told me that I had something special with the mice, and that I should pursue a career in the field. So I did!  

I'm just crazy about Maggie's books and her fun blog that features the "newest exploits" of her mice!!  Maybe it's because when I was a baby, I was nicknamed "Wendy Mouse" by a close friend of my parents - he insisted that I was so small my cry was "just a squeak".  The pet name (pun intended) stuck, so I'm always ready for a good mouse story! Go here to read my past post, "FUN MOUSE STORIES (that aren't about Mickey!)"

Here's the book trailer for I Wish I Had a Pet.  What do you think? 

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