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, May 23, 2016

Gardens, Books, and Respite in New York...

Please excuse my absence from blogger-land.  My dear mother-in-law passed away last month, and I honestly haven't had the heart to write much since then.

In order to help my heart heal, last week I made a quick trip to New York to be with my daughter on her birthday.

Grandchildren and gardens are a soothing balm indeed.  I had never seen Central Park in the spring, and knew a stroll through its beautiful landscape would bring some much needed calm and restorative comfort, after days of sorrow and loss.

But before my day in Central Park, I made a trip with my grandchildren to their local library.  It is adjacent to a lovely little park, and tulips lined the walkway to the library entrance.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. 

Following our stop at the library, we were going to be making our way to a 250-acre urban oasis - the New York Botanical Gardens.  So I was excited to spot two perfect library picture books for the fun afternoon ahead...

1. Alphabet Garden (Preschool-K), written and illustrated by Laura Jane Coats.  (I really want a red wheel barrow like the one on the cover!)
"Walk under the arbor, into the garden.
Listen to the buzzing bees,
and pick a bright carnation." 
School Library Journal says: So begins the alphabet adventure of a blond boy and his cat as they spend the day at work and play, taking notice of the flowers, insects, and other creatures around them. The flat, cheerful pencil and watercolor illustrations portray a pristine garden enclosed by a white wooden fence; not a dead blossom is in sight, and even the dirt from the gopher's hole is piled tidily on an otherwise perfectly green lawn.

2.  The second book that caught my eye was by Mary Azarian - A Gardener's Alphabet.  I love the stunning illustrations in this book!  With her signature woodblock prints, Mary Azarian invites young readers into her own garden to discover its simple joys. Revealing the variety of life underground, the bright comfort of a greenhouse on a winter’s day, or the anticipation of starting seeds indoors in early spring, this striking alphabet book reminds us that gardens are perhaps our best way to live closer to the land and to the rhythm of the seasons.

Imagine our delight when we arrived at the Botanical Gardens and visited the Conservatory - complete with a scene much like the one in the above illustration!  (Tip: if you ever make a visit to the NYBG, the Children's Garden is NOT to be missed!  For spring, there was a caterpillar topiary!  In winter, you'll find it covered in pinecones.)

I ended my visit to New York with my much anticipated afternoon in Central Park...

There was just something about seeing my grandson bounding down the pathway - without a care in the world, looking for Stuart Little with his Mama and searching for Alice - that made me smile.

Like a child, I was living in the moment and experiencing Central Park through his eyes.  And I think his Great Grandma was right there with us!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Celebrating Motherhood with a Giveaway!

My Giveaways are coming in twos lately!  To help you celebrate Mother's Day, I'm offering two very special books for one lucky winner...You Made Me a Mother and Mama's Milk.

The first book, You Made Me a Mother, has an interesting "story behind the story" that involves a viral video...
Originally, author Laurenne Sala wrote the text as a poem for Boba baby carriers.  That company, in turn, used it to accompany a video that stimulated 40,000 shares on their Facebook page within a week!

Harper Collins got wind of the fact that most Moms couldn't keep a dry eye while watching the video!  So they contacted Laurenne and paired her heartwarming text with fun illustrations by Fancy Nancy's Robin Preiss Glasser.

The opening lines will surely prompt good discussion with your read aloud buddy:
I felt you.
You were a pea. Then a lemon. Then an eggplant.

Today I'm giving away a beautiful hard cover edition of You Made Me a Mother.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the sweet video of Laurenne Sala's poem that got Harper Collins' attention and created lots of buzz (get some tissues ready)...

You Made Me a Mother is definitely a love note to mothers, but guess what?  Laurenne's also got a tribute to fathers, coming in 2018.  You Made Me a Father is the title of course, and it has been preceded by a sweet video as well!

Now on to the second hard cover picture book I'm giving away... Mama's Milk.  This sweet book was introduced to me by a missionary Mama who is with New Horizons in Romania.  She loves reading so much, she is promoting reading aloud in that country, where it is not really a common practice for families to visit the library for read aloud books (well, not for long)!  She also translated Mama's Milk, written with rhyming text by Michael Elsohn Ross, into Romanian because nursing is not a commonplace practice in Romania either.

This cozy book celebrates the warm and loving bond between mammal mamas and their babies. Sweetly illustrated by Ashley Wolff, it shows little ones doing what comes naturally - nursing their mamas! It is a perfect read aloud for young children - who may have questions about how new babies get fed - while they wait for (or after) the arrival of a new sibling. The last two-page spread gives facts about each of the mammals featured in the book.  (Did you know that foals nurse every 30 minutes?)

Get your comments ready!  I hope you're as excited about this giveaway as I am...Good Luck!

  • To enter, please leave a comment here and/or on my Good Books For Young Souls Facebook page. And please share this post on Facebook with any Mamas in your life who might like these sweet picture books.  (Both are available in your library, local bookstore, and on Amazon.)
  • Giveaway ends at 11:59 PST, April 28, 2016.
  • Winner announced April 29, 2016.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Charlotte Brontë, 200 Years Young: "Reader, I married him."

Happy Birthday to Charlotte Brontë, the author of one of my all time favorite novels, Jane Eyre. In my sophomore year of high school, it lit a spark of love for classic literature.  Back in 1979, I literally could not put down this timeless novel, first published in 1847!

Maybe it was the way little introverted Jane Eyre bravely faced hardships and sorrows and stood against cruelty, something I hoped I could do in my own (happy) life. Or maybe it was because Jane, as a plain and poor young woman, had the gumption to stand up and demand respect from Mr. Rochester - a man who had everything - for the validity of her soul and heartfelt feelings.  And then walk away from him...

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you!

In the end though, I think the reason I fell in love with this book was Jane's (actually Charlotte's) address to me, the "Reader", throughout the pages.  Disclosing her soul, speaking quietly and fervently to mine...

Two hundred years have passed since the birth of Charlotte Brontë (April 21, 1816 - March 31, 1855), and her timeless Jane Eyre remains a favorite to this day.

Charlotte had much experience with suffering. Maybe because of the hardships she faced in her own life (beginning in 1820, when her mother died from blood poisoning following the delivery of her younger sister Anne), she was able to pour them into her novel.

In August 1824 eight year old Charlotte went with her two elder sisters to a new school for daughters of clergymen, in Cowan Bridge, in what is now Cumbria. What happened there would torment Charlotte for the rest of her life. The school regime was dreadfully harsh, and her bright but unworldly sister Maria was singled out for punishment of both the physical and mental kind. Food was scarce and under-nourishing, and disease ravaged the school’s inmates. By June 1825, both Maria and Elizabeth had died of tuberculosis contracted at the school. The horrors she saw there would be later reproduced under the guise of Lowood School in Jane Eyre, and Charlotte would forever be indignant if anyone suggested she had exaggerated these scenes.
Charlotte became an overnight success after Jane Eyre, but shortly after its publication her world was thrown into turmoil again by the death of her brother Branwell and then Emily and Anne in quick succession.

Despite suffering increasingly frequent bouts of depression, she began to visit London and mix in literary society, at least reaping the rewards that her talents deserved. She wrote two more novels ‘Shirley’ and ‘Villette’, each a masterpiece in its own right and was in the early stages of her next novel ‘Emma’ when tragedy struck again.

She had been married for nine months to Arthur Bell Nicholls, but she died from excessive morning sickness aged 38. A sad end to a brilliant life, and yet at least she had found genuine joy and happiness in her final few months. [source]

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Giveaway: Two New Books from Animal Planet

Today I'm featuring and giving away two books from Animal Planet's new series of nonfiction "Animal Bites" softcover books for 4-8 year olds.

The new series provides emerging readers with the perfect bite-sized guide to the animal world.  The habitat-focused titles make it easy for kids to choose which animals they want to read about, and even reluctant readers won't be able to resist the bright covers.

Animal loving young children will be fascinated by all the fun facts—and more—found in Animal Bites, as they pour over the informative, fun pages of these books.

Each soft cover book contains more than 200 striking photographs, easy-to-understand graphics, and maps that bring the world of polar and ocean animals alive for young readers.

The two books I'm giving away are Animal Planet Ocean Animals and Animal Planet Polar Animals by Laaren Brown (Time Inc. Books, April 2016, ages 4-8)

Animal Planet Ocean Animals highlights life in and around the deep blue sea all around the globe. Do you have a child that wants to know about killer whales and green sea turtles?  Or maybe moray eels, sharks, and dolphins?  He/she will love this book!

In Animal Planet Polar Animals kids will learn all about the animals that survive and thrive in the subzero temperatures of the Earth's polar regions.  Amazing adaptations allow Arctic foxes, lemmings, Emperor Penguins, jellyfish, and many more species to call these frigid regions home. And your child will see them all in the beautiful photographs of this book!

Go here for some fun posters and activity sheets to go with the Animal Bites books. They're new, and Time Inc. created them for use at home in addition to the classroom and library.

To enter my giveaway, leave a comment here on this blog post and/or on my Good Books For Young Souls Facebook page by midnight Friday, April 22, 2016.  Winner announced Saturday, April 23, 2016.  Be sure to check back, to see if you are my lucky winner!

[Thanks to the Blue Slip Media for providing the giveaway copies of these books.]

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Thanks to all my readers who participated in this fun giveaway!  I've got a couple more coming up for Earth Day and Mother's Day, so I'm hoping you'll stop back by.

The winner of these awesome baseball books chosen randomly for my Home-run Giveaway was Joan.  (Joan, please send me your mailing address so that I can get these great books out to you!  You'll find my email in my profile information, by clicking on the "About Me" in the sidebar.)

(Winner chosen on Random.org, using List Randomizer.)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Batter Up! This Giveaway is a Home Run...

Get your comments ready to win not one, but two fun baseball books from Sports Illustrated Kids!  If you know any kids who love baseball, you'll be excited for my Spring Giveaway...

BOOK #1: Sports Illustrated Kids' My First Book of Baseball
This sturdy hardcover book will help coach your youngest baseball enthusiasts through the game.  It's filled with MLB action photography, bright graphics, and easy-to-understand text.
This book would be fun to sit and read with any 4-8 year old.  Kids will watch for the Little Rookie character on every page who is always ready to "play ball!"

BOOK #2: Sports Illustrated's Baseball, Then to Wow!
Not to be missed, this hardcover book belongs in every 8-12 year old baseball fan's home library!
Rookies and parents alike will enjoy the engaging two-page spreads. Baseball Then and Wow! is a fun and comprehensive overview of how the sport of baseball has evolved in America since the 1920's.
It's full of MLB action photographs, fun illustrations, stories, statistics, player bios, history, and trivia...fun for parents too!

-Please leave a comment here on my Blog post (and Facebook page, if you want to enter twice) for a chance to win these two great books.
-Last day to leave a comment is Friday, April 15, 2016.
-Winner announced Saturday, April 16, 2016.
[Giveaway copies provided by Blue Slip Media; Publication date 4/5/16]

Looking for more baseball book recommendations? 
Go to my past post here, to read about some baseball stories that will have you yearning for the past, including Players in Pigtails and three vintage baseball stories by Matt Tavares

Monday, March 28, 2016

Beauty! Joy! And Sewing...?

Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice.
-Mr. Emerson to Miss Honeychurch
from A Room with a View by E. M. Forster 

Have you ever seen the beautiful Merchant Ivory film "A Room With A View"? Today I'm feeling rather like George Emerson in the scene that has him up in a tree, embracing the eternal "yes" and yelling, "Beauty! Joy!"

Because my weekend was all about Beauty.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian I have not yet celebrated Easter, but did have an incredibly joyous weekend in spite of that fact. (Go here to read the explanation Rita Wilson - wife of Tom Hanks - gives about Orthodox Easter, "Pascha", and why it's usually celebrated on a different date than Western Easter.)

Every year on the Saturday closest to March 25, our parish women's fellowship group celebrates the Annunciation with a tea for our women and young girls.  Our ladies host tables by bringing their own dishes and teapots, and we engage a speaker to come.

This year our Annunciation Tea speaker was Krista West.  As an ecclesiastical tailor, author, and lecturer, Khouria Krista has done a staggering amount of research on the history of ancient textiles and vestments. I hope you'll take some time to visit her engaging podcast, "The Opinionated Tailor", here on Ancient Faith Radio, where you can listen along as she discusses everything from Orthodox church vesture to faith and motherhood.

I can heartily say our women were all inspired by Khouria Krista's talk on the special role the Virgin Mary plays in our lives.  She also encouraged us to intentionally use BEAUTY in our churches and homes, and gave us tips on some of the practical and spiritual ways we can do that.  I look forward to exploring more about historical liturgical garments of the Eastern Orthodox Church in her book The Garments of Salvation. 

Krista and I share a love of books.  Knowing I have a blog about children's books, she asked me for some recommendations for her website because she wants to include a list of children's books about sewing.

Looking over some past posts I've done on the subject of sewing, I found a post about Beatrix Potter's Tailor of Gloucester here; one on quilt stories here; a post about a favorite dress, an overcoat, and yarn here; and the sewing of the flag that became the Star Spangled Banner here.

I did a little research today, and  I think Kh. Krista is going to be super happy with these unique books for her website...

The first book I have to mention is Tapestries: Stories of Women in the Bible by Ruth Sanderson. (ages 5 and up)
This book is stunning, and I have it in my home library. Here are stories of twenty-two Biblical women. Some of their stories are tales of bravery and cunning; other tales make use of traditional skills such as spinning, weaving, and sewing. Their stories are illustrated with lush portraits rendered in the style of tapestries, rich and decorative cloths of great beauty.  I have featured Ruth Sanderson's books on my blog before, here and here. A gifted artist and illustrator, Ruth's website is a joy to visit, here.
Pockets by Jennifer Armstrong.  Illustrations by Mary Grand Pré.
Booklist Review says: From Armstrong and GrandPre (of Harry Potter books fame!), a lyrical tale of imagination's transformative power. The story is framed in nautical imagery and metaphor. When "a slim schooner of a woman, driven by strong winds and a broken heart," fetches up outside a prairie town, the industrious residents take her in as their tailor, on the condition that she make only practical, unornamented clothing. She agrees--but in subtle rebellion begins lining pockets with glorious embroidery of ships and fish, shells, and mementos of exotic ports of call. Soon the townsfolk are learning the names of stars, discussing poetry, dreaming of Constantinople, and, hands in pockets, scanning the far horizons. In GrandPre 's rolling, expressionistic painted scenes, the dusky purple light that falls on dreary buildings and shadowed faces is deepened and enriched by the golden visions that swirl about people's shoulders and fill the sky. In the end, heart healed, the mysterious woman sails off alone through seas of grass, having worked a profound change through hidden means. (K-3)

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel.  Illustations by Melissa Sweet.
From acclaimed author Michelle Markel and Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet comes this true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. This picture book biography includes a bibliography and an author's note on the garment industry. It follows the plight of immigrants in America in the early 1900s, tackling topics like activism and the U.S. garment industry, with hand stitching and fabric incorporated throughout the art.  (I found this book from Anita Silvey's Book-A-Day Almanac.  Today, March 28, marks the birthdate of Clara Lemlich, born in 1886!)  For ages 4-8.

Rumpelstiltskin, retold and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. (ages 4-8)
This fairytale is about spinning straw in to gold, not sewing it, but I couldn't leave it off my list of recommendations!  It is beautifully illustrated, with oil paintings by Paul O. Zelinsky.  After a recent trip to the main branch of the NYC Public Library, my daughter told me about the library's "Picture Collection" exhibit, where she read about this book's illustrations.  The show featured an original oil painting from Rumpelstiltskin and one of the reference pictures Mr. Zelinsky used to figure out how to paint straw.
image source here
Do you have any others to add?