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)

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Yesterday, while at my friend's house, I was directed by her young cartographer son, Jude, to look on her refrigerator door at an amazing hand drawn aerial "map" of their house.  His mom told me that he had also drawn a map of the whole floor plan of Smart and Final (a huge grocery store.)  They plan on photo-copying the artwork and giving it to the store manager!  

I love supportive parents like my friend, who encourage and applaud their kids' talents and interests!  Books are also a great way to help ignite these sparks of interest (or fuel the fire that may already be there!)   If you have a little engineer or architect in-the-making, you should check out some of these great CHILDREN'S books on PHYSICS, TECHNOLOGY, INVENTIONS, AND ENGINEERING:

The Lever and The Pulley by Hal Hellman (ages 4-8)
Mickey’s Magnet by Franklyn M. Branley and Eleanor K. Vaughan.  One of my kids' favorites!  (ages 4- 8)
How Do you Lift a Lion? by Robert E. Wells (ages 4-8)
Wheels At Work by Bernie Zubrowski (ages 9-12)
Diary of an Early American Boy by Eric Sloane.  This is a reprint of an actual early-19th-century diary  of a 15-year-old boy.  The concise notebook is accompanied by Sloane's 72 drawings and explanatory narrative. (ages 10 and up)
Robots, What They Are, What They Do by Fredericka Berger (ages 4-8)
The New Way Things Work by David Macauley (And his others: CityCastle, CathedralPyramidUndergroundShipMillBuilding Big.  (ages 6 and up - young children will love just looking at the pictures; the story/text is written more for ages 10 and up).
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (ages 4-8)
Amazing Impossible Erie Canal by Cheryl Harness (ages 8 and up)
Eureka! It’s an Automobile by Jeanne Bendick  (ages 8 and up)  Out of print - look at the library for it.
Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick.   Another of our family's favorites. (ages 9-12)
Rocket: How a Toy Launched the Space Age by Richard Maurer.  (ages 9-12)
Story of Inventions by Frank P. Bachman (ages 10 and up)
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham.  Fascinating biography of Nathaniel Bowditch, an eighteenth-century nautical wonder and mathematical wizard.  (ages 10 and up)

Monday, September 27, 2010


Maybe it's the fact that today it was 112 degrees outside (here in Southern California) that got me thinking about Ancient Egypt.  Not sure; but whatever the reason, today I'm blogging about some great books for kids out there that are centered around all things Egyptian!

The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo, illustrations by Ruth Heller.  An inventive re-telling of the classic tale.  In this version, Cinderella is "Rhodopis", a Greek Slave girl in ancient Egypt. (ages 4-8)
The Egyptian Cinderella
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tomie dePaola.  "On their journey down the Nile, dePaola's duo transport readers from the mummified past to a living present. Time distinction is abolished as the Nile Queen, the Grand Hotel, cars and umbrellas, sarcophaguses, sacred jewels and sphinxes are all part of the setting for an ancient story that still bears retelling. Shades of blue and gold strengthen the mood of the mystery and adventure." (Publisher's Weekly).  Full of fun and humor! (ages 4-8)
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile (Paperstar)
Pyramid by David Macaulay.  Macaulay's detailed pen-and ink illustrations frame his fictional story of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who commissions a pyramid to be built for him.  The book brings a mix of the architecture, history, and mysticism of ancient Egypt and will engross children and adults alike.  (ages 8 and up)

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  To gain her freedom, Mara, a slave girl, plays the dangerous role of double spy for two arch enemies in the royal palace of Thebes. Exciting story of adventure, romance and intrigue in Ancient Egypt, in the days when Queen Hatshepsut ruled. (ages 8 and up)
Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Puffin Story Books)
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  Ranofer is an orphan in ancient Egypt who desires nothing more than to follow in his father's footsteps as a goldsmith, but must thwart the plottings of his evil brother, Gebu. A story of mystery and suspense, in which Egyptian life from impoverished hovel to magnificent palace is dramatically portrayed. (ages 8 and up)
The Golden Goblet (Newbery Library, Puffin)

Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki.  My daughter was always intrigued by this detailed and wonderfully illustrated book about the 70-day process used by Egyptians of long ago, as they prepared and wrapped their dead to last forever.  (ages 8 and up)
 Mummies Made in Egypt (Reading Rainbow Books)
Tut's Mummy:  Lost...and Found (Step-Into-Reading) by Judy Donnelly.  The author starts with simple details about how King Tutankhamen was buried and the ancient Eygyptians beliefs about death.  She then moves ahead to Howard Carter's five-year search (in the 1800's) for Egyptian treasure, which resulted in his discovery of the young king's tomb. (ages 4-8)
Tut's Mummy: Lost...And Found (Step-Into-Reading, Step 4) 
Exploring the Past:  Ancient Egypt by George Hart, illustrations by Stephen Biesty.  This brief yet information packed, over-sized book is a beautifully illustrated, exciting exploration of the world of Ancient Egypt. (ages 8-12) 
 Exploring the Past: Ancient Egypt

Thursday, September 23, 2010


If you read my post about the book UNDER THE GRAPEVINE, by Chrissi Hart, then you've already been introduced to the beautiful artwork of Claire Brandenburg.  Claire, herself, has written and illustrated four beautiful children's books I'd like to mention today...

DANIEL AND THE LION (Conciliar Press) is a unique picture book, set in modern times, about an American boy named Daniel, who must face his own "Lion" - fear - brought on by a bully who has been picking on him at school.  Find out how Daniel receives help and comfort from not only his friends and family, but his guardian angel and the saints, in facing his fear.

"Jesus have mercy on me. I am really afraid of that Paul guy at school Help me.  Take away my fear"

THE MONK WHO GREW PRAYER (Conciliar Press)  I love this sweet, simple telling of a Monk who prays continually day and night as he goes about his tasks, such as working in his garden and chopping wood.
As he works, he is really growing prayer.

SONG OF THE TALANTON (Conciliar Press)  A visitor to a women's desert monastery is awoken early in the morning for prayer with the nuns by the rhythmic summons of the talanton.   (A talanton is a board used in monasteries for tapping out the call to prayer for different services during the day.)  This book comes with a wonderful audio CD.

THE TUMBLED STONE (New Varatec Publishing) In this beautifully told and illustrated tale, a pilgrim visiting Spruce Island (of St. Herman) in Alaska, finds a smooth stone that God uses to reveal to him the Saints of North America.

To learn more about Claire and all her books, visit her website.  Claire lives in Taos, New Mexico.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


How mesmerizing it is to look at a soap bubble, just a thin film of iridescent soapy water that somehow forms a sphere around nothing but air!  Blowing bubbles is such a carefree activity for children...I love watching their little outstretched hands trying to reach for the bubbles, barely floating up and out of their reach.  I love hearing their squeals of laughter, if they happen to touch one and watch it  - POP! - or better yet, land on those hands.

In our homeschooling years, I came across several books on the science of bubbles. There are also some cute picture books about counting bubbles and getting clean with them.  Blowing bubbles is just plain FUN for an afternoon in the backyard or at the park, at birthday parties, and of course, in the tub!

Picture Books:
CLIFFORD COUNTS BUBBLES by Norman Bridwell.  Clifford, the Big Red Dog counts bubbles.
BUBBLE, BUBBLE by Mercer Mayer.  A boy creates all kinds of animals with his magic bubble maker.
BUBBLES, BUBBLES by Kathi Appelt.  Bath-time bubbles!

POP!  A BOOK ABOUT BUBBLES by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. (Ages 4-6)  Delightful color photographs accompany a text full of facts about bubbles.  Also, a page of experiments and a recipe for bubbles.
BUBBLES RAINBOWS & WORMS by Sam Ed Brown.  Science Projects for Preschoolers.
THE UNBELIEVABLE BUBBLE BOOK by John Cassidy, David Stein. (Klutz Press) Comes with instructions for using the attached "Bubble Thing" to create six-foot rainbow bubbles!  All ages.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


illustrated by Louis S. Glanzman
One of my all-time favorite chapter books as a young girl, had to be PIPPI LONGSTOCKING (published in 1945).  Have you ever met her?  She is the strongest girl in the world, has bright red hair done up in braids that stick straight out on each side, wears odd stockings with men's shoes, and lives all alone in a wacky house ("Villa Villekulla") with her horse and a monkey named "Mr. Nilsson".  She is completely independent and does things in her own, unique way:  she sleeps with her feet on her pillow and her head under the covers, she makes cookies on the floor, and takes on burglars single-handedly.   Her mother died when she was a baby, and her father was lost at sea.  She befriends her neighbors, Annika and Tommy, and they share many adventures with her.  (PIPPI GOES ON BOARD (1946); PIPPI IN THE SOUTH SEAS (1948).   (Please don't waste your time on any of the adapted films - some things are just better left to the imagination!)
Illustration by Nancy Seligohn

Another series of books written by Astrid Lindgren is THE CHILDREN OF NOISY VILLAGE.  Think of Laura Ingalls Wilder's LITTLE HOUSE books, only set in Sweden.  Charming stories of a simpler time.  These delightful tales include CHRISTMAS IN NOISY VILLAGE and HAPPY TIMES IN NOISY VILLAGE, with quaint illustrations by Ilon Wikland.  There are three Swedish farm houses that make up "Noisy Village", named so because of how many children inhabit these homes!.  The story is told in first person by 9 year-old Lisa about the mischievous adventures of the children.  All the adventures are innocent and full of fun, and will be enjoyed by boys and girls alike.

A third set of books by Astrid Lindgren that I'd like to mention is THE TOMTEN and its companion story, THE TOMTEN AND THE FOX.  These two gorgeously illustrated picture books were favorites of my youngest son.  The setting is a quiet farmstead, deep in the forest:  "Here is a lonely old farm, where everyone is sleeping.  All but one..." a  little dwarf-like creature (think of a gnome*) from Swedish folklore, called a "Tomten" who guards the farm.  No one has ever seen him, but sometimes his little footprints are visible in the snow.  He checks on all the barnyard animals and talks to them in Tomten language (a silent little language they can understand).  He tiptoes to the house and peeks in on the sleeping children before going back to his cozy corner of the hayloft, where he dreams of the coming summer.

The second story is much the same with it's moonlit scenes - as the Tomten sees a fox, Reynard, who is prowling around the hen house.  He shares his porridge with the hungry fox and the chickens are kept safe... for another night.  The restful watercolor illustrations were done by Harald Wiberg.

* THE GNOME CRAFT BOOK The Gnome Craft Book includes instructions for making Astrid Lindgren’s classic gnome, the Tomten. 
"Childhood is not age, but a state of mind".  Astrid Lindgren