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, October 30, 2010


We've always been pretty old-fashioned about Halloween.   As a child, my dad was the pumpkin carver, working with us out in the backyard on our old picnic table.  We children were the designers.  As a mom, the fun continued, as I'd glimpse those faraway looks in my own children's eyes, and catch snippets of their conversations with each other about what they wanted to dress up as, and what kind of creations they were going to challenge their dad with carving for them.  It was all about fun and imagination, with a lot of anticipation and excitement thrown in.

Something about going out in the dark of night and seeing all the illuminated neighborhood windows and Jack O'lanterns was - though cozy on the one hand - a bit mischievous and unfamiliar, so we didn't encourage goblin, witch, or gruesome costumes -- just walking around our dark neighborhoods was spooky enough!

Which brings to mind a mesmerizing book by a very talented lady:  THE CAT AT NIGHT, by Dahlov Ipcar.  In this story, we get to spend an evening watching a cat stroll around after dark.  Cats can see in the dark and that's when they like to go exploring!  The pages alternate between almost total darkness, with only silhouettes of the things the cat is passing by, followed by the same scenes in full color that show what is visible to the cat.  He meets other cats before the dawn finally comes, when he must finally leave them and go back to the farmhouse.  He's greeted by the farmer's wife and given milk.  Then he curls up to go to sleep...
And the farmer says, "What a lazy cat.  
He sleeps all night and he sleeps all day, too!"  
But the cat doesn't hear him.  He is dreaming 
about all his adventures in the long, wonderful, dark night.

Another beautiful book by Ipcar (also with an autumn theme) is HARDSCRABBLE HARVEST, in which there is a running battle between a farmer and his wife and the mischievous animals who plunder their fields.  The story is told in rollicking verse, with the distinctive illustrations of Dahlov Ipcar bringing the verse to life.

To read more about Dahlov Ipcar and see her other books and artwork, click here .

Friday, October 29, 2010


From THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE:  Aslan with Susan and Lucy

Readers will be forever indebted to illustrators such as E.H. Shepard (Winnie the Pooh) and Pauline Baynes (The Chronicles of Narnia), who not only contribute to the success of a book, but somehow make real the magical worlds that would only live in our imaginations, were it not for their visual creations which become almost inseparable from the beautifully crafted text of the authors...

Illustrator Pauline Baynes was recommended to C.S. Lewis through her friend, J.R.R. Tolkien.  Tolkien loved her stunning medieval illustrations, which were a perfect fit for several of his books (Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil).   She also did a magnificent job creating the detailed map of Middle Earth and some of the cover artwork for Tolkien's first-edition paperback Lord of the Rings

In a true collaboration of writer and illustrator, Baynes' stunning artwork helped bring to life C.S. Lewis' land of Narnia (which have sold over 100 million copies) and will forever be linked with those seven stories...but she also illustrated over 100 other books, many of which - in her later career - were of a religious theme.

THE LAND OF NARNIA: Brian Sibley Explores the World of C.S. Lewis
The Land of Narnia: Brian Sibley Explores the World of C. S. Lewis
The Tale of Troy: Retold from the Ancient Authors (Puffin Classics)
Arabian Nights: Tales of the Arabian Nights
 I Believe: The Nicene Creed
The Coat of Many Colors
The Moses Basket
The Story of Daniel (Stories of Jesus (Lutterworth))
NOAH AND THE ARK (This book is out of print - beautiful illustrations!)
Good King Wenceslas (First Books (Lutterworth))

Pauline Baynes died at the age of 85, in August of 2008.  You can read Brian Sibley's beautiful tribute to her HERE.  Examples of her gorgeous fine art prints (these are not her book illustrations) can be seen and purchased here at Bridgeman ART ON DEMAND.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Home from our visit to Indiana!  We saw lots of fall color, bought apple butter, and tasted scrumptious apples that my niece and nephews picked at a local orchard...so, as a follow up to my "Happy Fall! It's Apple Picking Time!" post, today's entry involves a story that's a geography and cooking lesson in one!  Thanks to my friend Yumi, and her daughter Sophie (true picture book enthusiasts), for this great book recommendation.

HOW TO MAKE AN APPLE PIE AND SEE THE WORLD by Marjorie Priceman. The world becomes a young girl's grocery store, as she goes on a global journey to find ingredients for an apple pie.  (And yes, there's a recipe at the back of the book!)  Ages 4-8.

(Priceman has also written a fun Fourth of July book, HOW TO MAKE A CHERRY PIE AND SEE THE U.S.A.  Ages 4-8.)
How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A

Fall is definitely the time for trying out apple recipes from all the different varieties (there are 2,500 in the U.S. alone!)  Click HERE for some YUMMY APPLE RECIPES!    

Look here for fun apple facts and trivia...do you know how much a "peck" of apples weighs? (it's different from a "bushel").  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Had a great time in Bloomington, Indiana, visiting my parents.  The cute "square" in the center of the downtown has two independently owned bookstores and lots of shops, all surrounding the county Courthouse.  Of course, I had to buy a picture book!  I chose THE LITTLE FUR FAMILY, by Margaret Wise Brown, with adorable illustrations by Garth Williams.  Who could resist a book that starts:
There was a little fur family
warm as toast
smaller than most
in little fur coats 
and they lived in a warm
wooden tree.

I'm so happy that this old childhood favorite has been reissued!  The little bear has a busy day out in the woods, visiting his Grandpa and catching fish.  At the end of the day, his parents tuck him into bed, hold his paw, and sing him a song.  Precious!  This will definitely be one I can't wait to read to my own grandchildren someday...perfect for ages toddler - preschool.

My parents also had fun carting us around to lots of local antique stores, where I bought...More Picture Books.  I found a beautiful 1946 Golden Book, BEDTIME STORIES, with illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren for $3.99  My dad glanced at it and said, "I remember reading to you kids from that book."  (I'm sure it had been his or my mom's childhood copy!)  I love book memories!

Next, we made sure to stop in at the Monroe County Library's Annual Book Sale, where I bought...you know.  All children's books were 25 cents each!  Among others, I was excited to find a used paperback copy of SLEEPING BEAUTY with unique silhouette illustrations by Arthur Rackham.  I also found a wonderful hardcover edition of NOAH'S ARK, illustrated by Pauline Baynes (I'll do separate posts about them in the near future!)

It's fun to visit new places and books are easy souvenirs to transport back home, thank goodness!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon...

This quote is from a classic poem for children, THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, by Edward Lear.  Touring downtown Bloomington, Indiana yesterday with my parents, we spied an adorable restaurant by the name of Runcible Spoon.  I couldn't remember where I'd heard that phrase, so I googled it when we got back to their home and was reminded of the poem.  (Now if I could only figure out what Mr. Lear meant by "runcible"!!) 

THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT by Edward Lear, illustrated by Jan Brett.  "Edward Lear's nonsense poem about two unlikely sweethearts--an elegant owl and a beautiful cat--has found a perfect match in artist Jan Brett. She traveled to the Caribbean (the land where the Bong-tree grows, perhaps?) to research her illustrations as well as the settings, costume details, plants, and fish native to the area. Readers can follow an illustrated subplot of two yellow fish who also fall in love under the pea-green boat. A charming treatment of a classic children's poem." -Amazon Review. (Ages 3 to 7)
The Owl and the Pussycat