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)




Tuesday, August 31, 2010

BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKS ABOUT ART & ARTISTS


Do you have a child who is interested in art?  Or should I ask:  do you want your child to be interested in art?  The are quite a few good children's books out there that will help foster a love and appreciation for well-known artists and their famous paintings.

ART APPRECIATION:
A Child's Book of Art: Great Pictures - First Words, selections by Lucy Micklethwait.  You may have to look at the library for this out-of-print large format book.  The selection of paintings is arranged by themes that even the youngest children can relate to:  Pets, Animals on the Farm, Birds, Fruit, Colors, Shapes, Seasons, Faces, the Five Senses, A time to Play, A Time to Eat, and so on.  From ancient to modern works, Micklethwait's selections feature children, actions scenes, and a vibrant palette.  (ages 3 and up).
How Artists See... (series), by Colleen Carroll.  This series focuses on an interactive, inquiry-based approach to art, as the author presents various artists' work, according to the theme of each book.  Each volume presents 16 painting.  The text is full of thought-provoking questions, as well as activities. Biographies of the artists presented are provided at the end of each book, as well as suggestions for further reading and an international list of museums where each artist's works can be found.  (TITLES IN HOW ARTISTS SEE...FAMILIES: Mother, Father, Sister, Brother PLAY: Sports, Toys, Games, Imagination;  FEELINGS: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Love; ANIMALS: Mammal, Fish, Bird Reptile; THE WEATHER: Sun, Wind, Snow, Rain; HEROES: Myth, History, War, Everyday; CITIES: Streets, Buildings, Shops, Transportation)

ARTISTS:
Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists - series,  by Mike Venezia.  Some of the artists featured:  Da Vinci;  Michelangelo; Henri Matisse; Mary Cassatt; Rembrandt; Edgar Degas; Georges Seurat; Botticelli; Pierre Auguste Renoir; Monet. (grades 2 -5).  These are easy-to-read biographies of famous artists. Venezia's quirky cartoons of speculative events from the artists' lives are interspersed throughout the books.
Linnea in Monet's Garden, by Cristina Bjork, Lena Anderson, and Joan Sandin. (ages 7 and up).  Your child will feel like he/she is looking at Linnea's scrapbook of her trip to Monet's famous garden, in this creative book.   Sweet watercolor illustrations showing Linnea at Giverny, are juxtaposed with old fashioned photographs of Monet himself,  as Linnea shares, in her own words, her visit to see the famous water-lilies. There is also a biography of the artist, his family tree, and even a brief guide to Paris.
Katie Meets the Impressionists (series).  James Mayhew, author/illustrator. (ages 4-8)  In each book of this adorable series, Katie goes with her grandmother to visit a local art museum or gallery.  Your child will share lots of adventures with Katie, as she steps in and out of the paintings she and her grandmother encounter.  Each book ends with information about the artists that are highlighted.  (others in this series:  Katie and the Mona Lisa; Katie's Picture Show; Katie and the Spanish Princess; Katie's Sunday Afternoon; Katie and the British Artists; Katie and the Sunflowers.)

HANDS-ON ART:
Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters , by MaryAnn F. Kohl, Kim Solga.
Great American Artists for Kids: Hands-On Are Experiences in the Styles of Great American Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl, Kim Solga.
Storybook Art: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of 100 Great Picture Book Illustrators by MaryAnn F. Kohl, Jean Potter.
Primary Art: It's the Process, Not the Product, by MaryAnn F. Kohl.
Preschool Art: It's the Process, Not the Product, by MaryAnn F. Kohl.
First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos, by MaryAnn F. Kohl, Renee F. Ramsey, Dana Bowman, Katheryn Davis.
(Click here for MaryAnn's website, where you'll find her blog and several of her favorite links to other blogs about art projects for kids.)
Drawing with Children, by Mona Brookes.  This book will teach your children to draw what they actually see, not what they think something should look like!  For parents and teachers who want to help their children develop spatial awareness, see lines and shapes, and build artistic skills.  It's like having an art tutor... in a book.  (My kids and I had great results with this helpful teaching tool.)

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. ~Pablo Picasso

Saturday, August 28, 2010

UNDER THE GRAPEVINE

UNDER THE GRAPEVINE is a beautiful story told by Chrissi Hart, about her grandmother, as a young child.  She lived with her family on the island of Cyprus.  The author, also born in Cyprus, tells us in the preface:
This book is based on a true story about my grandmother that my mother used to tell me.  Now I tell it to my children, and I want to share it with others so they may learn about Saint Kendeas..."

For us in the modern world, this simple retelling comes across as refreshing and innocent, as the storyteller lovingly unfolds a quiet tale, handed down over several generations, about a very sick girl, her worried (but faithful and believing parents), and a saint who lived over a thousand years ago...

The doctors didn't know what was wrong with Christina, but she couldn't walk.  Her mother lit candles for her in church every Sunday and prayed for her healing.  Christina, too, would pray as she lay under a grapevine near the field where her parents worked on their farm.  But she grew even sicker.

Fearing Christina might die, her mother began to ask Saint Kendeas, a much loved Wonderworker and local saint, for his intercessions. 
Christina's mother knew God worked through him and other saints to heal  the sick.  "Please hear my prayer and help our child get well" her mother prayed with all her heart and soul, "Lord Christ our God, Son of God have mercy on us and save us.  Mother of God, save us."  Her mother would pray all day long and into the evening.

A miracle begins to take shape when an old "grandfather" comes to Christina under the grapevine and takes her to a church with a small cave "filled with icons and candles...and a holy spring."  You'll have to read the book to see what happens.

The pictures in this book are a wonderful backdrop for the storytelling.  I love the old-world feel of Claire Brandenburg's beautiful illustrations of  countryside farms and the village church with its familiar, yet ancient icons of Christ and His Saints.

There is a note at the end of the book about St. Kendeas, who  lived sometime between the seventh and tenth centuries.  His love for Christ led him, at the age of 18, to become a monk.  He left his homeland (modern Germany) and lived a monastic life in the desert of Jordan. Eventually he travelled to Cyprus, where he lived in a cave alone.  By God's grace, many miracles have been attributed to him during his lifetime, as well as after.

Author, Dr. Chrissi Hart, a clinical psychologist, helped troubled children for 20 years in England.  She now writes stories for children and has a podcast, READINGS FROM UNDER THE GRAPEVINE, on Ancient Faith Radio, where you can hear her soothing voice reading aloud books of all kinds for all ages.  Dr. Hart's children's books are available from Conciliar Press, if you click here.  Visit her website, http://chrissihart.com/, for her blog, information about her books, and psychology resources for children.

There is nothing impossible unto those who believe; lively and unshaken faith can accomplish great miracles in the twinkling of an eye. Besides, even without our sincere and firm faith, miracles are accomplished, such as the miracles of the sacraments; for God's Mystery is always accomplished, even though we were incredulous or unbelieving at the time of its celebration. "Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" (Rom. 3:3).
-St. John of Kronstadt

Thursday, August 26, 2010

FUN WITH NUMBERS AND COUNTING


Whether you are sending kids off to preschool, or will have them home with you, these books make counting and numbers fun for children ages 4-8.  (Some are even fine for little ones 2 and up.)  Summer is drawing to a close - it's time to get those little brains thinking and math juices flowing!


COUNTING:
Anno's Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno (ages 4-8).  Beautiful watercolors on pages full of symmetry and things to be counted.
Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar by Masaichiro and Mitsumasa Anno - father/daughter authors/illustrators.  Again, gorgeous watercolors - this time with factorials on each page.
Anno's Counting House by Mitsumasa Anno (ages 4-8).  In this book of counting, children will be introduced to algebraic concepts, as they practice all the combinations of numbers that add up to 10.
Count! by Denise Fleming (ages 2-6)  Young children will enjoy the brightly colored animals, as they count them from 1-10 and then by 10's to 50.
Counting Wildflowers by Bruce Mcmillan (ages 4-8).  Number concepts from 1-20 are shown in beautiful and colorful photographs of wildflowers (which are captioned to identify the common name of the flowers.)
Each Orange Had 8 Slices by Paul Giganti (ages 4-8).  This book is a great introduction to mathematics!  Kids will have fun using patterning, multiplication, and creative thinking!
Roar!: A Noisy Counting Book by Pamela Duncan Edwards, illustrations by Henry Cole (ages 2-7).  A lion cub in Africa is looking for someone to play with, but the animals are afraid of him.  Fun rhyming text and cute pictures in this counting book.
Splash!  by Ann Jonas (ages 3-8)  A simple story that helps kids see the results of adding and subtracting as creatures enter and leave a backyard pond.

BACKWARDS COUNTDOWN:
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang (ages 2-6).  A bedtime counting book, in which a father and daughter do a backwards countdown to bedtime.
The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins (ages 4-8).  A plateful of cookies begins to disappear, each time the doorbells rings and visitors arrive.

NUMBER RECOGNITION:
Arlene Alda's 1 2 3: What Do You See? (ages 4-8).  In this counting book, each number is shown in whimsical color photographs.
City by Numbers by Stephen T. Johnson (ages 4-8).  Wordless book, with photo-realistic paintings of hidden numbers in city scenes.
Look Whooo's Counting by Suse MacDonald (ages 4-8).  Cut-paper illustrations, with numbers incorporated into the pictures and added to an owl's wings.

These books were recommended on http://www.preschoolrainbow.org/book-themes.htm.  It's a good website that has lots of crafts, activities, and recipes for use by parents and teachers of preschoolers.  Books and activities are arranged by theme.

Monday, August 23, 2010

AN OFFERING FROM THE EARTH BECOMES FOOD FROM HEAVEN...

Jane G. Meyer has written two children's books, THE MAN AND THE VINE, and THE WOMAN AND THE WHEAT, that reveal beautifully how humanity's simple act of cooperation with God's creation and abundance brings not only food and drink for our enjoyment, but also an offering back to the Creator in worship - as bread and wine for Holy Communion. 

Boys in a Pasture, by Winslow Homer
The illustrations, by Ned Gannon, are colorfully rich and warm.  I was immediately reminded of the farms, fields, and open skies often seen in landscape paintings by artists such as Winslow Homer.  The pictures match Jane's lyrical and rhythmic text perfectly and will hold your children's attention to the very end of the books.

The first story, The Man and the Vine, is about the prayerful care a Man gives to his vineyard and the joy and anticipation of his first taste of the grape juice.  The pages that follow show a waxing and waning moon, and a shadowy cellar full of wine bottles...

With a sigh and a song, with a wink and a blink,
the grape who was juice went to sleep for a year.
A long, quiet year in a long, quiet room
where other juice slept too.

Then of course, the juice "wakes up" and the wine from the earth is offered to God. It becomes a Heavenly food, as the Man and his family partake of Communion...and the heavens sang along.

Jane's companion book, The Woman and the Wheat, is equally engaging - and a bit familiar, if children have ever watched their mothers baking bread.  (If not, Jane, an avid baker herself,  has a great blog at http://www.janegmeyer.wordpress.com/ - where she shares some wonderful recipes and many experiences on baking and giving.) 

Ned Gannon again lends his gorgeous artwork that brings Jane's storytelling alive, as a Woman plants some wheat and waits until spring, when she'll start working and weeding in the field.  She prays for the harvest of wheat that eventually goes to the miller, where it's turned into flour.

Now it's time to make the bread...With a splash of water, and a shake of salt; a sprinkle of yeast and a bowl full of flour, the woman brought the dough to life.  She swayed to and fro like a long stalk of wheat, working the dough with her strong warm hands, and the dough grew soft and smooth.

In the field, in her kitchen, and at church the Woman prays...
On her lips were more prayers of all sorts:  for the rain, and the sun, and the moon, and the wheat - and the bread that was to come. 
And her offering from the earth is a gift to God - and becomes His Gift to us - as  Food from Heaven.

Both books were published and are available at St. Vladamir's Seminary Press (www.svspress).  Get to know more about Jane, when you visit her website:  http://www.janegmeyer.com/