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, November 14, 2018


It's coming!  As you get ready to prepare your homes, make your lists, and gather gifts in celebration of the coming of the Babe in the Manger, don't forget that most important preparation: our hearts, to welcome our Savior!

I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but planning is key!  For those of us who are Eastern Orthodox Christians, Advent begins every year on November 15 - tomorrow - as a time set aside for fasting, prayer and almsgiving.  Western Christian Traditions begin Advent a little later, with four Sundays preceding Christmas instead of six.  

I think most people in our culture, whether secular or Christian, like to somehow countdown the 25 days of December leading up to Christmas. 

Every year I share new Christmas picture books that I've collected and saved in my little trunk. Our family loved picking a book each night to read together as we lit our Advent Wreath Candles for our nightly Scripture devotional and counted down the days until Christmas.

So watch my posts for this year's Christmas book finds! 

In the meantime, please visit my Advent & Christmas Resource Page, here, (or in the sidebar of my website) to see my past recommendations of fun activities like Making An Advent Calendar of Books, Christmas Traditions Around the World, and celebrating St. Nicholas, St. Lucia, and the Twelve Days of Christmas.  

Here's my current list of Christmas Book Favorites.

click for book list

And don't forget to go to my last blog post and leave a comment with your name for a chance to win my Book Bundle Giveaway!

Click here to leave a comment for my giveaway.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


My giveaway today has something for everyone...a board book for your toddler/preschooler, a chapter book for your 7-12 year old reader, and a devotional book for the family.

First, the board book: 
I Pray Today by Angela Isaacs, illustrated by Amandine Wanert.  This precious new book published by Ancient Faith is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  It's all about their day - its ups and downs.  And one small prayer goes with each: "Lord have mercy".

We follow a little girl from the time she gets up through the time she goes to bed. Among other things, the in-between time is filled with prayer for a sick friend, prayer for her picnic, prayer when she gets hurt, and even when she has a tussle with her little brother.

I really like the illustrations.  They are as cozy and sweet and simple as the text.  Your child will love this book!  For bedtime or anytime.

Book number two: 
The Barn & the Book.  I reviewed this chapter book in my last post, here.  It's the second in a fun series by Melinda Johnson.  I think girls and boys alike with really enjoy this story - and feel like they've visited a monastery without even leaving home.  (But I hope you actually do consider taking your child to visit a monastery!)

The third book in today's Book Bundle:
A new offering from Fr. Lawrence R. Farley. This not-to-be missed devotional will be a welcome addition to your daily prayer time.  It's A Daily Calendar of Saints.  Fr. Lawrence's short accounts of these ancient men and women of faith are very readable, and great for personal or family devotions.  Or or two saint's lives are shared each calendar day, and at the end of the book readings for the Paschal Cycle are also included.  And the cover is gorgeous! 

So, I hope you like this bundle!  Leave a comment and your name on this post by Friday night, November 16, 2018 for a chance to win.  Comments must be posted by 11:59 PST.  And tell a friend!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Visit a Monastery - in a Book!

Those of you who follow my blog regularly know that I am an Orthodox Christian. I like to share books and little tidbits about my faith when I can in my blog posts because there are lots of folks in America who don't know much about the Orthodox Church.

And this is one of those posts. I'm excited about a new children's book by Melinda Johnson, (the second in a series - hope there are more to come, Ancient Faith Publishing!) 

Melinda's newest book, The Barn & the Book again centers around characters from her first story Shepherding Sam: a dog named Saucer, who happens to live at a monastery, and a boy named Sam.

With Advent and Christmas fast approaching, The Barn & the Book is a perfect reading choice for ages 7-12. 

Sam wants to know if the monastery farm animals (especially Saucer!) will talk at midnight on Christmas Eve...should he spend the night in the barn?  And Sister Ana has been given the task of having her Sunday school students write a story about the monastery for a book that will soon be published for the anniversary of the monastic community.  Grace and Macrina volunteer right away. 

But doubts and insecurities, frustrations, and competitive spirits rise - and not just among the kids!

The Barn & the Book is a story about the traps we build when we try to see in the dark.  We tumble into trouble and confusion on our own, but God can steer us clear of our traps and shine His kindly light into our darkness.

Monasteries are great places for families to visit!  My daughter and her children just visited the Monastery of the Transfiguration (a women's monastery) in Ellwood City, PA on their drive back from New York to Michigan.  There was much to see and inspiration to be had (a new icon being installed!), services to attend, and walks to take.

If you saw my blog post about the book To Live Again, the memoirs of Mother Alexandra, a Romanian-Princess-turned-Nun, you'll be interested to know that the Monastery of the Transfiguration was founded by her in 1967!

The current Abbess is Mother Christophora.  In 2012 she celebrated her 25th year as Abbess.  She made some interesting observations about how the experience of visiting monasteries abroad affected her.  I wanted to include some of her thoughts...

In Europe, one of the refreshing things that we have noticed when we have traveled—we always travel two or three sisters at a time on a trip like that—they are just so natural. They are not so insecure, always looking at the neighbor. The nuns there are very simple, very happy in life. The monastic life is just life, and that is what we have to strive to find. If somebody comes here and says, “Oh, the nuns are so normal!” I always say, “That is the biggest compliment you can give us.” Jesus Christ, being truly human, was normal—in a healthy way. And that is how we would like to be. Emotionally and spiritually, we get a little “Oh, is this or that right? How many times do we have to do this? How far do you bow when you bow?” So it was refreshing to see their monastic life lived simply and so naturally. 

Mother Alexandra was a Romanian princess, part of a royal family that has a centuries-long history. After she had to leave her country, she raised her children and then got to fulfill her dream to become a nun. She was living in America but she went to France to become a nun. She saw our country was very rich materially but very poor spiritually, and she wanted America to have an Orthodox monastery. This was her gift; this was what she did. She gave America an Orthodox monastery, because she knew that it would add to life here. But she did not give America a Romanian Orthodox monastery or a Russian Orthodox monastery or a Greek Orthodox monastery. She gave America an Orthodox monastery for Americans. 

 In the 1960s when very little English was used in Orthodox churches, she was determined that everything would be in English from day one, that American women of all backgrounds would feel welcome here. I think her dream is being realized and has been realized. She saw that you do not have to be—and we all know this, but it still bears repeating—Greek or Russian or Ukrainian or Serbian to be Orthodox. America needs Orthodoxy. She knew that. We can also, as Americans, be comfortable in the Orthodox Church in our own way. Here we have enjoyed discovering that—like watching petals of a flower open as we live out our monastic life as Americans in this Orthodox monastery.

Want to visit an Orthodox Monastery?  Some, like The Monastery of the Transfiguration mentioned above, have guest quarters.  Here is a list of several Orthodox Monasteries in the U.S.

And stay tuned!  I'll be giving away The Barn & the Book and a new board book from Ancient Faith Publishing soon!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

If You Have a Garden and a Library....

"...you have everything you need."

Phew!  I really can't believe it's November!!!!  July, August, September, and October flew past without me doing much blogging.  

After my daughter and her husband and our grandchildren left this summer and moved to Michigan, we devoted a few months doing some new hardscape and landscaping to augment our recent home remodel.

So I finally have a home library, and new a little garden

So here was the challenge:  I'm a reader, but not much of a gardener!  So I decided to go with galvanized containers - not only to keep out all the squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons, but also because three containers shouldn't be too overwhelming...right?  

A sweet young friend came and helped me out. We'll see how it goes!  Right now I've got tomatoes, herbs, some snap peas, strawberries, kale, chard, and lettuces. Since I got a late start, and didn't plant until mid-October, the only thing I sowed from seed was lettuce.  

Did you notice the little statue by the fence?  It is of boy holding a jar with fireflies.  It's solar powered and lights up so sweetly in the dark!  I found it on Wayfair.

Some friends of ours recently had several big pine trees removed from their property.  I asked them for their biggest stump so I could fashion a little sitting area for my grandchildren in our side yard by the container garden.  I still have to get the little log stump stools, but the stump table is ready!

And our library is coming right along - it is a lovely, cozy space!  The rug, new chair and bird print really warmed it up.

Speaking of libraries, this week I got back from a quick visit to my daughter's new home in Michigan.  She has a sweet homeschool room set up, and a little library, too!  You really just need a place for shelves and, voila!

I have some new book reviews and give-aways coming up this month, so I hope you stop back by!  Happy November!  Happy Fall!

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].