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)

Friday, January 14, 2011


Today I had the immense pleasure of watching a male and female Western Bluebird eating berries from a vine on a wall outside my kitchen window. Bluebirds are often linked with happiness:

"If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I?"  -Judy Garland, Somewhere Over the Rainbow (from THE WIZARD OF OZ)
"The Bluebird carries the sky on his back."  -Henry David Thoreau (American author and poet)

"The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression."  -Gary Larson (FAR SIDE comic creator)
and last, but not least...
"Mr. Bluebird's on my shoulder..." -Zippity Do Dah (from Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH)...

Mytyl and Tyltyl,
from the 1908 MAT production

There's also a play titled The Blue Bird, by Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck. It premiered in 1908 at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia.  The story is about a girl called Mytyl and her brother Tyltyl.  They are seeking happiness, represented by "The Blue Bird of Happiness", and they are aided by the good fairy, B√©rylune.

The play has been adapted into several film versions (one starring Shirley Temple, which not successful at the box-office) and is referenced in several books, one of them being a favorite chapter book of my daughter's, BALLET SHOES by Noel Streatfeild.

Set in London, in the 1930's, BALLET SHOES is the story of three orphaned babies, Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil, who are all adopted by "GUM" - Great Uncle Matthew. (Uncle Gum is an archaeologist, who brought home lots of fossils to his home in England, until he was injured and decided to travel the world!) 

These particular "fossils" of Uncle Gum are not siblings, but are adopted one by one and raised by Gum's great-niece, Sylvia, and Nana, her old nurse while he is away. Sylvia takes in several boarders (including a dance instructor) who take charge of  the girls' education and help them get into The Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training.

At the academy, Pauline is given the chance to play "Tyltyl" and Petrova is assigned the part of "Mytyl"...
  They got home and Pauline told them all the story of THE BLUE BIRD, as she was the only one who knew it.
  "It's about two children," she explained, "called Tyltyl and Mytyl.  Tyltyl is a boy and Mytyl a girl."
  "That's a pity," Nana interrupted.  "With your hair you'd make a better girl, and Petrova the boy."
  Pauline shook her head. "The boy's the eldest, and has most to say.  It tells all the places they go to look for a blue bird, which really means happiness."
  "Did they find a blue bird?" Posy asked.
  "Yes.  It was at their home all the time.  Tyltyl's dove.  It was blue, but they'd never noticed.
  "Where do we look for it?" Petrova wanted to know.
  "In the Land of Memory; that's where the children's grandfather and grandmother and their brothers and sisters who have died, live.  And with Night.  And amongst the children who aren't born. And with the dead people.  In the end Tyltyl's dove flies away, and Tyltyl says to the people who are watching the play: 'If any of you should find him, would you be so very kind as to give him back to us?...We need him for our happiness, later on...' "  

There is a whole series of "Shoe Books" by Streatfeild (but this is the only one we read, since my daughter was in ballet at the time).  Click here to see more chapter books my daughter loved.

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