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, November 30, 2010

christina rossetti, poet (1830-1894)

Christina Rossetti was born in London, one of four children of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti. Her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, also became a poet, as well as a painter of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement.  She was educated at home and encouraged to write by her family; in fact, her teenage poems were printed by her grandfather on his own press.

Rossetti wrote a collection of verses for children in 1872.  It was titled SING-SONG and was illustrated by Arthur Hughes.  But she is best known for her ballads and her mystic religious lyrics.
Her poetry is marked by symbolism and intense feeling.

Rossetti's best-known work, Goblin Market and Other Poems, was published in 1862. The collection established Rossetti as a significant voice in Victorian poetry.

By the 1880s, recurrent bouts of Graves' disease made Rossetti an invalid, and ended her attempts to work as a governess.  She died of cancer on December 29, 1894.

by Christina Rossetti
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

"Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss."
-Verse from Rossetti's poem A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Christina Rossetti is also the author of many Advent and Christmas poems, posthumously published in her POETIC WORKS, in 1904. Her most famous, A Christmas Carol became a favorite Christmas hymn entitled In the Bleak Midwinter after it appeared in The English Hymnal in 1906, with a setting by Gustav Holst (and later by Harold Darke).  It has been performed by choirs and soloists ever since, including the Robert Shaw Chorale, Chanticleer, Julie Andrews, Sarah Mclachlan, and most recently, James Taylor (who sings my favorite modern rendition).

Gustav Holtz version, performed by James Taylor

Harold Darke version, performed by Winchester Cathedral Choir

Monday, November 29, 2010


Myko Bocek Studios, Etsy
...NOT EVEN A MOUSE!  Seems like mice turn up everywhere in children's literature!  Who could ever forget C.S. Lewis' "Reepicheep", E.B. White's "Stuart Little", or Leo Leonni's "Alexander"?   Here are some fun winter and Christmas tales that feature these furry little creatures...

WINTER STORY by Jill Barklem.  (ages 4-8). The author spent five years researching before she started her stories of the mice of Brambly Hedge.  This winter story is highlighted by a Snow Ball, as the mice set to work to make an "Ice Hall" for the festivites.

THE MITTEN by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Yaroslova. (ages 4-8). Based on a Ukrainian folktale...deep in the forest on the coldest day of winter a little boy drops his mitten. The mitten stretches and stretches -- and stretches -- to provide shelter for many woodland creatures, the first of whom is a little mouse.

CHRISTMAS MICE by Richard Scarry.  (ages toddler-preschool).  This Little Golden Treasures book may be hard to find, but it was a favorite of my kids.  Two little mice awaken on Christmas morning and find presents left by Santa.  Even something for them...

MR. WILLOWBY'S CHRISTMAS TREE by Robert Barry (ages 4-8).  Your children will love this rhyming story about all the places Mr. Willowby's trimmed treetop is shared (unbeknown to him), with the very tip top ending up in a mouse family's hole.

To read my past post about more MOUSE tales, click HERE.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Once upon a Christmas Eve
Just after it had snowed,
The Jolly Postman (him again!)
Came down the jolly road;
And in the bag upon his back;
an...interesting load.

One of my kids' favorite Christmastime books was THE JOLLY CHRISTMAS POSTMAN by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.  (The holiday sequel to THE JOLLY POSTMAN).  What child wouldn't want to open pocket page envelopes with letters to and from nursery ryhme and fairy tale characters - from Goldilocks, from Granny to Red Riding Hood, and even a tiny jigsaw puzzle for H. Dumpty in the hospital?

This is a great book to keep your kids busy while you work on your own family Christmas letters and cards!  Speaking of cards, I found a fun "12 Days of Christmas" website from the POST OFFICE that has some links for free e-cards. (It's also got some links to crafts, recipes, etc.)  And FAMILY FUN MAGAZINE has some really fun ideas for homemade Christmas cards that you can make with your children.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Back when my daughter was in her "ballet years", once Thanksgiving was over we were in full NUTCRACKER mode, with rehearsals and shows, costumes and tights, family and friends coming to watch...it made Advent a challenge, and I was glad it was over by mid-December so we could have our daughter back!

But she loved it, and since going to see "The Nutcracker" is a Christmas tradition for many families. it was a joy to see the smiles and happiness it brought to so many children in our community.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same; the story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.
When Marius Petipa had the idea to choreograph the story into a ballet, it was actually based on a revision by Alexander Dumas, a well known French author. His version reflects more of what we have come to love as the Nutcracker Ballet. (from NutcrackerBallet.net)

End of the "Battle Scene" between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Beautiful "Snow" scene

The Nutcracker Prince and Clara

The NutcrackerSusan Jeffers has one of the best children's books on the market about this ballet (she intentionally based in on the ballet, not the original story).  She said it took her three years to finish.  I think you'll agree with me that the illustrations are absolutely enchanting.  Click here to read my past post about this author.

THE NUTCRACKER by Susan Jeffers

Thursday, November 25, 2010


A BOY'S THANKSGIVING, by Lydia Maria Child (1844)

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather's house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather's house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for 'tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood-
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose,
as over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood
and straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go extremely slow-
it is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood-
when Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, "o, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for every one."

Over the river, and through the wood-
now Grandmothers cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

This song originally appeared as a poem written by Lydia Maria Child. The poem appeared in Flowers for Children, Vol. 2 in 1844.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


We all know about the harvest feast in 1621, between Plymouth colonists and Wampanog Indians, which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. But do you know when and how Thanksgiving came to be an annual National Holiday?

For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1827, noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale (author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians.

Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

I think you'll enjoy reading Sarah Josepha Hale's, "Editor's Table," from Godey's Lady's Book, 1858:


"All the blessings of the fields,
All the stores the garden yields,
All the plenty summer pours,
Autumn's rich, o'erflowing stores,
Peace, prosperity and health,
Private bliss and public wealth,
Knowledge with its gladdening streams,
Pure religion's holier beams --
Lord, for these our souls shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise."

We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States -- as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, and which, we hope, will this year be adopted by all -- that the LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY Of NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people. Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of wordliness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart. This truly American Festival falls, this year on the twenty fifth day of this month.

Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing. These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular heart; and if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling. Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to the "feast of fat things," and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and of peace and good-will to all men. Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world.

(FDR later changed the date of Thanksgving permanently to the fourth Thursday in November - to read why, click here.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Having family in various places, we always seem travel during Thanksgiving and Christmas.  When our kids were little and we made the 2 and 1/2 hour drive on holidays, I tried to have good books in the car for the trip or to look at with Grandma and Grandpa after we arrived.  The kids would get so excited, it was nice to have something to help calm them down for a little quiet time in the middle of all the hustle and bustle!  Here are some fun holiday versions of books that I featured in a past post that will keep your kids busy "looking" and "spying":

I SPY CHRISTMAS, by Jean Marzollo, Walter Wick (4-8)
I Spy Christmas: A Book of Picture Riddles

I SPY LITTLE CHRISTMAS, Jean Marzollow, Walter Wick (baby-preschool)
I Spy Little Christmas

Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas

LOOK A-LIKES CHRISTMAS by Joan Steiner (4-8)
Look-Alikes Christmas: The More You Look, the More You See!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Tomte were mythical elf-like creatures of Scandinavian folklore.  They were believed to inhabit farms and take care of the farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the house folk were asleep

Sometimes a Tomten can be mischievous...

Hedgie's Surprise

HEDGIE'S SURPRISE written and illustrated by Jan Brett.  After viewing Goosey-Goosey's brood of chicks, Henny the hen longs for her very own offspring. But each morning a greedy, elf-like "Tomten" steals her newly laid egg, insisting he needs "a little yummy for my hungry, hungry tummy." Henny awakens her friend, Hedgie the hedgehog, with a loud wail, "No eggs, no chicks, no peeping babies," and he offers to help Henny put a stop to the Tomten's thievery. (Click here to read my previous post about the author,  Jan Brett.)

THE TOMTEN by Astrid Lindgren, illustrations by Harald Wieberg.  I love the moonlit scenes of the quiet farm.  This is an adaptation of the poem written by Viktor Rydberg.  To read my previous post about Astrid Lindgren and this book, click here.
The Tomten

Rydberg's poem, written in the 1880's, with illustrations by Jenny Nystrom, was the beginning of the Tomten's association with Christmas.