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 15, 2017


If my daughter had time to blog, I'm pretty sure she'd pass along today's latest conversation with her five-year-old son.  Since I'm a doting Grandma, I'll let you in on their day...

My grandson woke up this morning and was so excited to see that Advent had arrived.  My daughter had made and set up a Christmas tree of cardboard that he and his little brother can take turns hanging little cut-out ornaments on after they unwrap a Christmas book each night during Advent. (For my daughter's guest post on How to Make a Library Book  Advent Calendar, go here).

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He then told his little brother, "We are not having Dutch Babies for breakfast (that's what our family calls a German pancake made with eggs, flour, milk, and butter, that puffs up when it cooked and is then doused in maple syrup or fruit, and whipped cream) because that's a fancy food and during Advent we eat simple food...like pancakes!" So they had regular pancakes for breakfast.

The rest of the day he kept asking my daughter when it would be nighttime so he could open and read their first book.

Traditions are so important to kids. I've blogged a LOT about Advent and how to create fun book calendars as a countdown to Nativity.  Go here for my list of favorite Christmas books.  So many to choose from, but these are my special favorites - tried and true by our family!

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Whether you, like we, begin Advent on November 15th according to the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition of 40 days, or you begin to observe Advent on December 1st, I pray that you and your family have a blessed and prayerful season as we await Christ's Nativity!

To visit all my posts about Advent, go to my "Advent and Christmas Resource page", here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Boo - Guess Who? Just Me!

Kids love dressing up for Halloween. 

I think it's reassuring for them to know that on Halloween they can assume any persona, but under the costumes and masks it's still just them.

Our own children certainly enjoyed the costume aspect of Halloween, and these days we enjoy hearing our grandsons tell us what they want "to be for Halloween".   

This year my older grandson decided on a Great White Shark.  And his little brother, who loves anything having to do with Thomas the Tank Engine and loves to be just like his brother, at first said he'd be a "Gordon Shark".  

Eventually that changed to "just Gordon", and today his talented Mama crafted an amazing Gordon costume for him.  Sadly he ended up getting a fever, but even though he couldn't wear his costume or join in the trick-or-treating, believe me: he will wear that Gordon costume a lot.  Probably everyday for awhile!

Today I have two books that are obviously fun Halloween stories -  but I think most kids would asked for them to be read over and over, no matter what day it happens to be!

Space Case (originally published in 1980) never gets old!  After landing on the corner of Maple and Elm on Halloween night, a Thing from Outer Space - sent to observe Earthlings - joins a group of kids as they go trick-or-treating. The fun continues when the Thing ends up going to school with a boy and acts as his space project for class. A silly Halloween story that kids ages K-3 will enjoy.  Our kids wanted to hear it again and again. 

Pre-schoolers will be happy that The Little Blue Truck and his friends are making a costumed appearance in Little Blue Truck's Halloween...Beep! Beep! It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Just lift the flaps in this large, sturdy board book to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too?  Of course he will - but don't worry, it's still just good ol' Blue!

Do you and your children have a favorite Halloween read?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thanks for the Memories, Dad...

It's finally here! My Dad's last book Memories of His Mercy, published five years posthumously, just arrived on my doorstep...
Memories of His Mercy, by Fr. Peter Gillquist, is available from Ancient Faith Publishing.

It's a true labor of love, and feels like a gift from him (and Ancient Faith Publishing) to our family.  But although it's a treasure for us, my father's motivation in writing it was "to share with other people the faithfulness of God in a way that I hope will motivate them to trust in Him more than they do now". 

Dad thought about doing this book for a long time.  Finally, early in 2012, he dictated most of the chapters in a recording session at his home with John Maddex, CEO of Ancient Faith Ministries.  

But in June of that same year, Dad was told by his doctors that (after thirteen years) his metastatic melanoma cancer had returned, was already in stage 4, and was untreatable.

My father had hoped finish work on the manuscript before his death, but his health declined too rapidly. After Dad's passing, John talked with my brother Greg about the recordings and Dad's wishes, saying we could proceed if and when we were ready. 

John sent us the audio files of Dad's dictation. How comforting our father's voice sounded to my mom, siblings, and me as we were able to listen to the recordings on our home computers!

Last Father's Day - it had been four years since Dad's death - we finally felt ready to begin the process of honoring Dad's wishes in getting his book published.  I called my mom and she said my brother, Fr. Peter Jon, just that morning, had mentioned the book too. 

We knew the project would bring emotions and require much attention: delving into the manuscript, organizing the chapters, and finding someone to help in compiling and doing the work of editing the material.  

God brought us the perfect person for the job: Ginny Nieuwsma, a sincere, tender-hearted woman and gifted editor who knew and loved my Dad.  We felt very confident in trusting her with his manuscript. 

Memories of His Mercy is really a framework to Dad's prior best-selling book, Becoming Orthodox - it's pretty much "the rest of the story": a remembrance of God's mercy throughout my father's life. 

Ginny seamlessly pieced together and edited the chapters, and we contributed clarification and family photos - starting with my father's earliest childhood memories, to meeting my mom, to their work in Campus Crusade for Christ, their first fixer-upper, and then Dad's years at Thomas Nelson (and meeting Johnny Cash), the Orthodox Study Bible, and Dad's fight with cancer.  

The chapters are book-ended by a gracious Foreward, written by one of my Dad's dearest friends, my father-in-law V. Rev Jon Braun, and an Epilogue, written by my mother, Marilyn. She reflects on their last move -  to Bloomington, IN - and recounts the weeks leading up to my father's repose.  

At the very end of the book you'll find several tributes (the first from Fr. Gordon Walker, of blessed memory), and an interview with my Dad, reprinted from AGAIN Magazine.

I hope you'll enjoy this labor of love from my Dad and all the people from Ancient Faith Publishing (with special thanks to John, Ginny, Katherine, Carla, Matt, and Melinda), who worked tirelessly to make this book available to you.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Don't Miss Out On These Two Beautiful Adoptive Stories for Mother's Day!

Mother's Day is around the corner, and I'd like to introduce you to two newly published books about adoption that celebrate both birth mothers and adoptive mothers. The first one is a cozy picture book for children; the second one is a book for adults written by an adoptive mother of two Ethiopian girls.

Wonderful You: An Adoption Story [Random House Books for Young Readers] is a magical story with a happy ending. The fairy-tale-cuddle-factor of this book is evoked by the lyrical story telling of author Lauren McLaughlin and the dreamy, bright watercolor illustrations of artist Meilo So.

Lauren says in a note at the beginning of the book "I'll never forget the first time I saw my adoptive daughter.  She was perfectly formed and full of life.  When I extended my little finger toward her, she gripped it.  That was it. I was hers forever.  Since then our life together has been a wonderful adventure.  I wanted to celebrate this adventure, and the birth mother who made it all possible..."

The fairytale begins,

In a faraway land lived a lady in blue
with a babe in her tummy named Wonderful You.

The Lady in Blue finds parents for her baby after searching high and low.  They have waited so long and promise to love the child...

We will hug her and kiss her and tickle her too.
Forever and always, our Wonderful You.

In the rest of the story we read about the magic of childhood that the new family of three experiences together: adventures like birthdays, schools day, the zoo, snow days, and the seashore.

Although the experiences of adoption are as varied as families, this book would make a lovely gift for anyone who has been part of an adoption journey - a birth mother, an adoptive mother and father, or an adopted child.

My second book recommendation is from Ancient Faith Publishing.  It gives us a different perspective of the adoption journey: one of international adoption. The honesty which Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp shares with us in her inspiring personal story, Children of My Heart: Finding Christ through Adoption, will be appreciated by anyone who has considered adoption.  

Her purposeful story recounts not only the ultimate joy of seeing her children-to-be for the first time, but the doubts, fears, and challenges that parents face during an international adoption process.  Ashley also reveals insight into the real pain and adjustment that her adopted children experienced in going home with a Mommy and Daddy after spending years in the orphanage that was their haven and home.

From the first chapter, I was completely drawn into Ashley's story. As a young professional working in Jerusalem with her husband and experiencing a bit of a faith crisis, she struggled to embrace and live out her Serbian Orthodox faith with all her heart.

She never dreamed her search for an intimate relationship with Christ would lead her to a nuns' Monastery school for orphaned girls and then ultimately to Ethiopia and into the hearts and lives of two precious little orphan girls.

Adoption is definitely at the center of Ashley's story, but this is also a book about faith.  It's about those we may not think about often: Palestinian Orthodox Christians living in the Holy Land, and about the many Ethiopians who live everyday in poverty. A inspiring read for all! You can listen to Ashley talk about her book here.

Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp is an international consultant for Girl Child Protection and Adaptive Behavior Change. She works for international humanitarian and development organizations on issues pertaining to adolescent girls and women. She specializes in prevention of harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, and trafficking. She currently resides in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with her husband, daughters, and cat. She attends St. Frumentius Greek Orthodox Church.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
- 1John 3:1-2

[Disclosure note:  Both books above were sent to me as review copies by the publishers.]

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Littlest Bookworm

The blond head, the pjs, the chair, the owl on the bookshelves...I love this sweet illustration.  Just wish I knew what it was from and who the artist was!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Boo and Baa in Windy Weather

Had enough of Winter Storm Stella? Say goodbye to March!

Boo and Baa in Windy Weather by Scandinavian author and illustrator (a husband/wife team), Lena and Olof Landström, was the perfect read for my grandsons in New York during the snowy, windy winter days that were brought on by Storm Stella a couple of weeks ago. 

After reading the story, the boys had so much fun making little masterpieces inspired by the book.  They used Q-tips, glue, construction paper, and my daughter's cut out renditions of Boo and Baa for their cute craft project!

Boo and Baa in Windy Weather follows the misadventures of Boo and Baa as they try to get home with their groceries during a snowstorm.  Their trip starts off well enough (they are sledding downhill), but the trek back home is "slow as a snail" as they push their sled uphill.

They pull their caps down so no snow will get in their eyes.  (My older grandson did the same when he went out to play - maybe he was inspired by Boo and Baa!)

Things really become difficult for Boo and Baa when their cabbage suddenly rolls off their sled.  Preschoolers will enjoy the antics and humor of Boo and Baa, as well as the problem solving at the end of the story.

Growing up, I always loved snow days!  They're such a perfect time for catching up on reading. 

But with April around the corner, hopefully much of the northern and eastern U.S. can say "goodbye" to snow.  I'm sure we'll still have wind - time to break out the kites!

I always think of Winnie-the-Pooh when the wind kicks up! What books do you like for Blustery Days?  Here are a couple I can think of...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kingdom Travel: How to Pack Your Bag

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matt 9:14

More often then not, we adults can learn important things from young children. Jane G. Meyer's newest picture book The Suitcase has us doing just that!  This sweet story celebrates a young child's enthusiasm to put into practice the words of Christ: to feed and clothe the poor; help the needy; and love one's neighbor.

Thomas feels safe in his ordered life on his family's farm. He happily spins in circles for hours while reciting the alphabet, chats with his goat each morning, and then lines up his whole collection of blocks - starting from his upstairs bedroom and ending down in his backyard.

But one Sunday, after coming home from church, Thomas does something unexpected. To the surprise of his questioning family, he shows up at the dinner table with...a suitcase!

When his mother asks him where he's going, he replies, "To the Kingdom of Heaven." As he begins to show his family the contents of his suitcase, they (and we, the readers) are touched by what he's packed, and how he's literally taken to heart the messages of Jesus' parables.

If you're a parent, you have undoubtedly observed that for young children (and especially those on the autism spectrum), abstract ideas can be difficult, so things they hear are often interpreted in a very literal, concrete way.

But shouldn't we all be more like children?  Thomas has packed food and clothing for the poor, a platter to serve them, some coins, a mustard seed, and a pearl, among other things.

And thank goodness no one laughs at him when he asks, "So, can I go now?" His father gently explains that the Kingdom of God is right here, and that Thomas - because of his giving heart - has already gone through its gate and is on the path.

The story ends with Thomas's family joining him on his journey, as they share the Kingdom with others by serving a meal to the homeless.  May we all be inspired to "pack our bags" with good things for God's Kingdom.

Nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or "There!" For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst. - Luke 17:21

Chiara Pasqualotto's warm and soothing watercolor illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Jane's sweet storytelling.
Published by Paraclete Press, The Suitcase is available there, and on Amazon.
Click here for Jane's awesome Activity Guide to the book.

NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.