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, February 6, 2016

New York Wanderings Part II: Ferdinand in the Big Apple

Today's entry is a guest post by my daughter, Mary...

Hello Good Books for Young Souls readers!  We'll get to Ferdinand in a minute, but first I want to share a little bit about my love of New York City with you.

I remember so well my first visit to The Big Apple. I was 17, and it was November of my Senior year of high school when I embarked on a tri-generational visit to NYC with my dearest Mama and her mother, my Grandma . I loved the city that I had come to know through books, TV, and film. Experiencing New York first hand was intriguing. I embraced the energy of this "city that never sleeps."

Fast forward to now - as a mom of two young kids, I find that the city, though ever-diverting, can become exhausting and overwhelming rather quickly with my little family in tow. The constant barrage of sensory stimulation suddenly seemed way beyond just an energetic "city vibe" when my husband and I went on our first NYC excursion with our two young sons for a stroll from Grand Central station to meet a friend in SoHo, nearly two miles of city blocks south.

Since that initial and somewhat overwhelming family visit, I've tried to relax my standards a bit and focus on helping my family enjoy New York City, rather than becoming distracted by my "to do" list or trying to do too much in one day.

With the help of Mommy Poppins (an indispensable website for families), we tend to choose one neighborhood or destination to explore, bring lots of snacks to enjoy when our excursion is finished, and then find ourselves a special and renowned treat before we head back home.

So our visit with my mommy dearest, Good Books Grandma, followed much the same format. We decided to go to the Upper West Side (which we love, especially because of its prominence in Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail)...

Upper West Side

...and planned to spend the day trying new things like Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard's characters in Breakfast at Tiffany's, another of my favorite New York City flicks!

After enjoying a leisurely drive past snow-covered Central Park and a delicious lunch at a cute and kid-friendly eatery that we stumbled upon, we headed to the New York Historical Society.  (It's right next to the American Museum of Natural History - another favorite spot that my mom blogged about here.)

This was a first visit for both of us, and seemed like a great spot to soak up some local history and art, while also finding some fun for my boys. A big draw was the NYHS's Holiday Train Exhibit, which my three-year-old loved!


But what I had really been wanting to check out was the "Little New Yorkers" program in the NYHS's DiMenna Children's Museum. It turned out to be fantastic, and just the sort of "New York moment" that I had been looking for for my oldest son.

We arrived at the colorful and interactive Children's Museum (in the downstairs of the NYHS) a few minutes before their Friday 3:30 program began. My three-year-old had fun exploring the train table and making new friends...

...while my little guy helped grandma as she perused the wall of books in the Children's History Library. There were lots of great titles we found to read during our visit, many of them about New York and US History. (I loved the NY skyline mural which made this feel like a rooftop library!)

Soon it was time to begin the program, and after a fun sing-along song and short introduction to today's book with our wonderful educator, our group took a short field trip up the elevator to find a more fitting setting in which to read Munro Leaf's Ferdinand, which was the book selection for the day...

How perfect! While we listened to Spanish classical tunes softly playing throughout the gallery, our educator talked with the children about Picasso's "Le Tricorne" which is newly on exhibit at the NYHS. (Note the PICASSO signature in the photo below.)

Measuring roughly 20 square feet, this HUGE curtain (once meant to be a backdrop for a ballet, and believed to be Picasso's largest painting) really brought the bullfighting story to life for me. I can only imagine how much more so for the tiny people who were enjoying the story so intently!!

After finishing the story and discussing Picasso's painting, we took the elevator back downstairs to work on this week's "Little New Yorker's" craft: a bull mask, complete with a flower crown.

Because as we all know...

"he liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers"

Now, my oldest son has loved Ferdinand since he was about 20 months old. "Except I don't like when he sits on that lil' bee," he'll tell you.
Fair enough, my son.
Regardless to say, he took the task at hand very seriously...

"...there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand."

"All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their
heads together...but not Ferdinand."

"He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers."

He wore his mask all day, and enjoyed wearing it all around the DiMenna Children's Museum while he explored the exhibits. (See that little bull horn peeking out from between the windows?)

And for all I know, he is sitting there still, wearing his bull mask, smelling the flowers just quietly.

He is very happy.

We really loved our visit to the New York Historical Society! We ended the day by finding some macarons from the whimsical and decadent Sugar and Plumm - Purveyors of Yumm for the trip back home.

But of course, what we enjoyed most was our visit with Grandma! I'll never forget how we found a quiet but engaging spot in the midst of the Big Apple, with a little help from Ferdinand!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

New York Wanderings, Part I: A Unique Children's Library and a Book for Groundhog Day

I'm having a lovely visit in New York with my little grandsons.  Yesterday my daughter and I took them to an adorable children's library.  The unique thing about this library is that the whole building is dedicated solely to children's books!

And a unique thing about the building itself is that it was built in 1869 and used to be a private home.

Not only that, but it was the city of  New Rochelle's first brick building. You can read more about it's history and how it came to be a children's library in 1997, here.

This little "Huguenot Children's Library" was a perfect outing for my grandsons. The eight-month old slept, while the three-year-old explored...

Not only were there wonderful picture books downstairs, but also a train table, puzzle area, wooden doll house, and computer area - all of which my three-year-old grandson enjoyed immensely!

At one end of the big room downstairs, a colorful tiled wall mural not only encourages kids to "READ", but leads them upstairs to the chapter books for older kids...

Now, on to the cute picture book we found for Groundhog Day: Gregory's Shadow by Don Freeman...

Gregory is a shy groundhog, so having his friend Shadow close by makes him feel brave.

But one day Gregory and Shadow go outside to look for food, and they get separated.

Scared and lonely, they search and search for one another.

To make matters worse, tomorrow is Groundhog Day, and everyone will be waiting to see if Gregory and his shadow leave their home together.

You'll have to find the book at your local library to find out how they reunite, and to find out whether Gregory's shadow joins him on Groundhog Day.

Note: When Gregory is searching for Shadow, he thinks he sees a ghost.  If you're leery of ghosts being frightening for young children, you can easily leave out the word "ghost" and replace it with "a dark blue shape", etc.  (The "ghost" ends up being Shadow).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Books Transport Us

My children and I really enjoyed traveling through books to far off lands and meeting the characters who inhabited them.  

As we compared these characters to ourselves, we often found we shared with them not only their adventures, but a common boundary of ideas and feelings about family and friendship, loyalties and truths.

Thus we often returned from our book travels with a new perspective on others and a renewed perspective of ourselves. 

Today I'm sharing a few of our favorite inspirational books that took us to another time and place.

TALES OF A CHINESE GRANDMOTHER, by Frances Carpenter. (Ages 9-12) Wonderful folktales of the Chinese culture, told by an old grandmother. Each chapter is a different tale. 
THE CHILDREN'S HOMER, by Padraic Colum. Exquisite pen and ink illustrations by Willy Pogany. (Ages 9-12) My kids were entranced by this telling of Greek mythology because it allowed us to see the Greeks through their own eyes.

THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (series), by Lynne Reid Banks. (Ages 8-12) Exciting, absorbing, and thought provoking story, alive with magic as two boys discover they can bring their toys to life by putting them in an old medicine cabinet that one of them receives - along with a small plastic Indian - for his birthday. They are faced with the responsibility of this tiny person and the consequences of their actions. Gives new meaning to the phrase, "the dignity of human life". 
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (series), by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes (Ages 8-12). It is so evident in these stories that Lewis respects children's imaginations - he does not dumb-down evil or sugar-coat goodness. At the same time, there is a wonderful sense of the everyday in these incredible fantasy books - hearth and home and the honest decency of ordinary characters who are motivated by love!!! The children, talking animals and creatures, and especially the great Lion, Aslan, will become endearing companions that your children will never forget.
REDWALL (series), by Brian Jacques, illustrated by Gary Chalk. (ages 8-12). This series was read to my children by my husband, and I'm not sure who enjoyed the reading more, him or the children! All the characters are animals, mostly mice and mostly heroic, with the exception of the villain, Cluny the one-eyed rat, and his horde. Matthias, a novice monk (mouse) at Redwall Abbey, has dedicated himself to the service of peace. But he slowly learns that, sometimes, it is virtuous to defend oneself and those one loves. (Many children have been known to read this under the covers at night with a flashlight, after read aloud time is over and dad and mom have gone to bed). Go to http://www.redwall.org/ for Redwall Abbey's fun website and a list of all the books!

THE BRONZE BOW, by Elizabeth Speare. (Ages 9-12) Beautifully told story of a boy living in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. 1962 Newbery Medal winner. A family favorite of ours! 
THE HOUSE OF SIXTY FATHERS, by Meindert DeJong, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. (Ages 9-12). The Japanese invasion of China during World War II is the backdrop for this touching story of a little boy named Tien Pao, who becomes separated from his parents. He is eventually helped by American soldiers and airmen. Throughout the search for his parents, he is determined not to despair.

THE ENDLESS STEPPE, by Esther Hautzig. (Ages 10 and up). Especially be cause it is a true story, this book made a huge impression on us.  The heroine, only ten years old, never loses courage or perseverance in the face of extreme hardship.  She and her family are forced to leave their beautiful home in Poland and move to Siberia in 1942 because they are Jewish.

"But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do." -C.S. Lewis

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sparking JOY in 2016! Two Books About Tidying Up

My Grandma always said, "A place for everything.  Everything in its place."  But how do you get there???

If you want to tackle household clutter and dis-organization for 2016, I have the book for you!  Two, actually...

My husband and I have really enjoyed reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  (Yes, you read that right - my husband is reading it too! We want to do some re-modeling soon, and our house and garage are in need of major de-cluttering.  We need help, and this book has given us the courage to start.)

Chapter I: Why Can't I Keep My House in Order?
The "KonMarie Method" doesn't involve the latest innovations or short-cuts to cleaning; it's about getting rid of "stuff" and recognizing what things are truly useful, meaningful, and worthy of holding on to - because let's face it, having fewer things to clean makes life and it's quotidian chores a lot easier!

Illustration by Eloise Wilkin, from We Help Mommy

Marie Kondo is doing something right: more than 3 million copies of her "Life Changing Magic" book, translated into 35 languages, have sold worldwide!

Her first book was a helpful introduction to her tidying up philosophy: only keeping things that "spark joy", and putting them where they belong. 

But for those of us who are not natural organization gurus like Miss Kondo, it lacked some further helpful details...we needed diagrams of that shirt folding (her shirts stand up by themselves when folded, no kidding!), and pictures of what organized drawers and shelves should look like.

Not to worry! Now Marie Kondo has a new book: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

In her new book, Kondo expounds on her six rules of tidying:
1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
3. Finish discarding first.
4. Tidy by category, not by location.
5. Follow the right order.
6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

I can guarantee, if you follow her principals, you'll find yourself being able to "Whistle while you work!" because you'll be surrounded by things that give you joy.

If like me, following Epiphany, you have an annual house blessing for the new year, this book couldn't have been published at a better time!

The only recommendation from her books that I take issue with is her section for going through (getting rid of - gasp) books.  Most of my books are worthwhile, or I wouldn't have bought them.  

My home library is one area that I'm not going to pair down too much. Even if I'm unable to re-read every single one of my books, can one have too many?  After all, shelves and shelves of them make even the grandest of homes feel cozy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What Can You Tell Your Children About Theophany?

The Blessing of the Waters is a beautiful service that takes place in the Orthodox Church for Epiphany (also called Theophany).  Today our priest sent around a beautiful sermon by Father Mark Sietsema that began with the question,

Fr. Mark's expounds:
This was the question that little Israelite children were taught to ask at the Passover seder ritual (Exodus 12:26). This same question we too should ask in the month of January as we celebrate the Baptism of Christ. Through the liturgies of Epiphany and the blessings of homes, we also re-celebrate our own Baptisms, which are simply reenactments of His Baptism. 
(You can read the sermon in its entirety here.)

Archbishop Anastasios, Blessing the Waters [source orthodoxalbania.org]

Father Mark says that to comprehend the deeper meaning of the feast of Epiphany, we must look to the book of Genesis - and particularly the story of Creation, Adam and Eve, and The Flood in the time of Noah.

As Father goes on to explain, these Genesis stories will help us better understand Christ's own baptism because...
What we see on Epiphany, then, is a re-staging of the Creation: the Spirit hovering like a mother bird, in the form of a dove; the approval of the Father thundering from the open heavens; and out of the dark waters emerges the new creation—but this time God starts from the end and works backward! The first creature to emerge from the waters is a man—Jesus Christ. And so it begins—the healing of our nature, the re-harmonization of all creatures, the reconciliation of all living things to God. In time the New Creation will embrace the whole Universe...“For in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His Cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

Genesis Stories for Children
So, on to my book recommendations for today - gorgeous offerings from gifted artist, Jane Ray.

All her biblical stories are descriptive, adapted from Scripture (King James version), with vivid folk-art-inspired illustrations. I'm happy to say that all are available used, from Amazon!

This stunning volume, Let There Be Light, newer edition is The Orchard Book of Bible Stories) might be your best choice! It is a collection of the re-tellings of The Story of Christmas, The Story of Creation, and Noah's Ark.

To see all my posts and book recommendations for Theophany and Epiphany, go here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year for the Nursery Set!

Wow - I can't believe this is my last post for 2015!  How about this for a New Year's Resolution: Commit to reading nursery tales and rhymes to your little ones in 2016!

What better place to start then with Richard Scarry?

Then move on to this unique and gorgeous book of nursery rhymes, A Pocketful of Posies, by talented crafts-woman, Sally Mavor...

Young children love the rhythm and fun in stories that rhyme.  Some of my favorites include Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and The Big Red Barn.

Lately I've been seeing lots of Nursery Tale (and other literary) inspired children's products!  How cute are these???

from Zulilly

from Out of Print

on Amazon

from Cafe Press

Happy New Year!  Here's an apropos quote for us book lovers...

...from his book, Diary of a Player - have you read it?