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, October 27, 2011


Update on 9/17/12: OLD BLACK WITCH is available now! Here: Purple House Press
Update 4/6/12: Reprint publisher, Purple House Press, will be re-issuing this favorite childhood book, Old Black Witch, in the fall!

By the time I was six, I knew from the Brothers Grimm story of Hansel and Gretel that mean witches were bad and would get their just due; but I also knew from Dr. Seuss' Grinch that cruel hearts could change and grow with kindness. On our little black and white television set that sixth year of my life, I had watched the annual showing of THE WIZARD OF OZ and had witnessed Neil Armstrong become the first man to set foot on the moon, making me think pretty much anything was possible.
I can't say for sure, but maybe all those things contributed in making the unlikely book, OLD BLACK WITCH, one of my childhood favorites. Like the mother and son in the story, my family had just moved into an old Victorian fixer-upper, that needed some new paint and tender loving care. Nicky and his mother start a fire in the fireplace after moving in, but as they begin scrubbing and cleaning, who should stumble out onto the hearth from the smoke filled chimney, but an old witch (who is not as scary as she thinks she is!)
She tries to frighten them away, but they are determined to stay - they have put all their money into the house and plan on converting it into a tearoom - the menu is even planned. When the tearoom finally opens, with its red and white checked curtains and Sweet Williams on the tables, the society ladies love it so much that Nicky's mother needs help.  That's when they discover the Old Black Witch can cook! She wins everyone over with her delicious dishes, despite her witchy ways.
Nicky's mother sets Old Black Witch up in an attic bedroom and she loves sharing it with the cobwebs and bats. She only wishes she had a couple of toads to keep her company...
Well, she gets her wish when she saves the tearoom from two robbers ("not all the people who heard about the tearoom were nice quiet ladies") after she zaps them and promptly turns them into - yes - spotted toads.

The story is quite eccentric and the artwork is wonderfully detailed.  At the end of the book is a recipe for Old Black Witch's Bewitching Pancakes.  What kind?

"Boil cauldron,
make a brew,
What kind of berries
make a pancake blue?"

This is one of many obscure books published by Parents' Magazine Press, which operated a children's mail-order book club in the 1960's and '70's. Through this club's affordability and popularity came many books that Baby Boomers (like me) remember fondly. Some titles are so popular, that they've become quite collectible.  CLICK HERE, if you'd like to browse which titles Loganberry Books has available in stock.  (You can also scour your own neighborhood bookstores and libraries, or google the titles to find them on Amazon or Ebay.  I literally wracked my brain for years to remember this book title, and finally came across it this fall!  I guess OLD BLACK WITCH is one of the most requested books! When I looked up the customer comments on Amazon, most everyone had the same wonderful memories as I did and were thrilled to have found this old childhood friend. )

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


From a tribute in THE NEW YORKER: "...the fifty-year birthday of a good children’s book marks a real passage, since it means that the book hasn’t been passed just from parent to child but from parent to child and on to child again." (read the full article HERE).

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTHby Norman Jester (ages 10-12) is a fantasy story of a mysterious tollbooth appearing in the home of a young and bored time-waster, a boy named Milo. Boys especially will enjoy the humor, wordplay, and brain teasers as the tollbooth allows Milo to stumble upon many adventures of the mind! (An example of the quirky humor, fun use of words and logic? Milo arrives at the "Island of Conclusions" by jumping, of course!)

The Phantom Tollbooth Turns 50 - Documentary Trailer from Phantom Tollbooth Documentary on Vimeo.

Monday, October 24, 2011


You know those obscure (often unavailable and out-of-print) picture books you read as a child over and over again? The ones that delighted and stayed with you over the years - and sometimes still haunt you when you can't think of the title!

THE SHEEP OF THE LAL BAH, by David Mark, illustrated by Lionel Kalish (published in 1967) was one of my favorites. Happily, my parents saved it and I was able to read it with my own children. The good news is, if you google this particular out-of-print book, you're more than likely to find it available online.

A sheep named Ramesh was the "lawn mower" for a big park named Lal Bagh, "in a little city in the heart of India".
Hard working people from miles around came to visit the beautiful park.  "They came to see the big white petals of the lotus flowers opening and closing in the pond.  And the rubbery plants and stickly plants and curly plants in the glass house..."

On holidays Ramesh mowed the grass in very special patterns.

The women came and rubbed his head. Children took rides on his back.

But one day, the forward thinking mayor decides the city needs a modern machine to make the people feel proud of their city.

Ramesh leaves and the people stop coming to the park (because you can't climb on a machine's back and ask it for a ride!)

You'll have to get the book to find out where they find Ramesh and how they get him to come back.

Lionel Kalish"s detailed illustrations and David Mark's descriptive text made me feel, as a young child, like I was visiting India...

I was reminded of this obscure picture book about India recently when I read that New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art is bringing to light some obscure artists of that country in the exhibit, “Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India 1100-1900”, which is at the MET from September 28th until January 8th, 2012. (Photo source: HERE)

“Jahangir Receives Prince Khurram at Ajmer on his Return from the Mewar Campaign” 
By Balchand, 1635
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 11 15/16 by 7 15/16 inches
I read in THE ECONOMIST - "This is the first time that an exhibition of this scale has concentrated on particular artists, their families and ateliers, rather than on the regions of India or particular patrons and rulers. The Met show begins with examples of the earliest surviving portable images in Indian art. Between the 12th and 16th centuries these manuscript illustrations, painted on palm leaves, were miniaturised versions of the vast murals that decorated Jain and Buddhist monasteries. The images, painted in flat, primary colours, are often the only surviving visual record of those murals."
“Rao Jagat Singh of Kota at Ease in a Garden”
Attributed to Hada Master, 1660
Opaque watercolor on paper, 10 5/8 by 6 15/16 inches
Obscure? "The scholars found signatures embedded in many paintings just waiting for someone to take the trouble to look. More often, connoisseurship was their tool. This combination of a good eye, intelligence and intuition, combined with long experience of looking at Indian art, led to the identification of dozens of artists. Links between generations have become clear, as have the influence of brother upon brother, the place of an artist in an atelier, the travels from one court to another and the influence of imported European art."

“The Village Beauty”From the first generation after Manaku and Nainsukh, 1785
Opaque watercolor on paper, 7 1/2 by 5 1/8 inches
Don't the two paintings above remind you a little of
the Lal Bagh Park from this vintage children's book?


 ages 4-8
grades 1 and up
grades 3 and up

Friday, October 21, 2011


Google Doodle today in honor of Mary Blair's 100th birthday

Click HERE to read my daughter, Mary's past post about Mary Blair and some of the classic children's books she's illustrated.

Do your children love the Small World Ride at Disneyland?  They have Mary Blair to thank.  She was one of Walt Disney's favorite artists and she worked on quite a few animated Disney films...

My husband I were recently at Disneyland and saw their tribute to Mary Blair in an exhibition of her work at the Disney Gallery, "The Colors of Mary Blair". 

If you missed it, you can view this beautiful exhibit on the YouTube video below:

Thursday, October 20, 2011


“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence, and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.”
- from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Yesterday I wrote a post on the book JOHNNY APPLESEED, illustrated by gifted folk artist Kathy Jakobsen.  Today I'd like to highlight another stunning book, this one illustrated and written by Ms. Jakobsen... about the "Big Apple", where she lived for eight years.

MY NEW YORK is both fact-filled and F-U-N! On the inside front and back cover of the original book (published in 1993) is a folksy map of New York City, dominated by Manhattan, with the city's leading sights pinpointed - including Central Park and the World Trade Center. There are also two harbor views seen from the Staten Island Ferry, one of a sunset, the other a spectacular show of fireworks exploding over the tall ships, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the New York skyline -- prominently dominated by the Twin Towers.

About the first edition, and its images of the World Trade Center, Kathy said, ''It's become a positive link to the tragedy. It's become a memory.'' When Jakobsen's publishers asked her to do a new edition for the book's 10th anniversary, she faced the sad dilemma of how to paint the skyline minus the Twin Towers. In the harbor scene of the 2003 anniversary edition, she painted two columns of light where the Twin Towers used to be.

This book is a visual treat. The 10th anniversary edition also includes 7 foldout scenes and 23 new paintings. We learn from a little girl named Becky about The Big Apple in all its splendor, through a chatty letter she is writing to a friend who will soon visit her from the Midwest.

Becky lives near the NY City Public Library (remember the Library Lions?) and gives us an amazing tour of Manhattan, as she visits places with her family and friends. If you've ever been, do you miss it as much as I do...Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, Radio City Music Hall, the Museum of Natural History, the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, FAO Schwarz - they're all here in this spectacular book!  At the end there are fun facts and a reader challenge.

This is New York by Miroslav Sasek (originally published in 1960)

New York, New York: The Big Apple from A to Z, by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Frane Lessac

I can't resist adding:  Stuart Little (New York, through the eyes of a Mouse) by E. B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams.

Do you have any favorite children's books about New York that I neglected to mention? I found quite an extensive list you can choose from, HERE, on a page from "The New York Society Library".

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Johnny Appleseed, by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen. This folktale is one of America's oldest and it's based on a true story! John Chapman spent his adult life planting apple trees and maintaining orchards between his home in Massachusetts and the western frontier of Indiana. My kids loved this book (maybe partly because we have a "Jonny"!) The illustrations are done in a beautiful folk style, reminiscent of early American samplers.

From Library School Journal: This homespun book provides the perfect vehicle for the story of the legendary Johnny Appleseed. Lindbergh's poetic narrative, related by an elderly woman to her grandchildren, tells the story of John Chapman's life and travels, including tidbits referring to his kindness and piety, his nonviolence and bravery, and his respect for all living things. Grandmother Hannah's tale, simply told, holds the power to mist readers' eyes. Finely crafted folk art illustrations, painted on canvas and overflowing with tiny details, complement quilt pattern borders on the facing pages of text. Small panels within these borders show vignettes of Chapman's life and legacy. The full-page illustrations embellish Hannah's story and provide a clear glimpse of life on the frontier during the early 1800s. The book includes a short introduction and a page of factual information at the end. A map on the endpapers shows the states through which Chapman travelled.

Did you know --  author Reeve Lindberg is daughter of world-renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, the talented writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh. About the illustrator:  click here to see other books by Kathy Jakobsen.

You can get an idea of the poetic text and beautiful illustrations of this book from this Scholastic video:

Monday, October 17, 2011


“Ralph Moody's books should be read aloud in every family circle in America” — Sterling North.

This treasure is not to be missed!  During a recent stay at my sister's house, my 10- and 12-year old nephew and niece told me I had to read and review one of their family's favorite read alouds, LITTLE BRITCHES, by Ralph Moody, for my blog.  Inspired by their excitement (and the fact that another of my blog readers had also recommended this book), I started it immediately.

LITTLE BRITCHES: Father and I Were Ranchers, is the recounting -- by a boy -- of simpler times living on a ranch in Colorado in the early 1900's; but like the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books, simpler doesn't mean easier.  The tremendous difficulties this family faced and overcame are unfathomable by today's modern standards, but weren't all that out of the ordinary for families living out West a hundred years ago!

Denver & RioGrande Railroad
The book's author and main character, Ralph Moody, was the second of six children born in New Hampshire to Charles and Mary Moody.  The story begins in 1906, when Ralph is eight. His family buys a small ranch (sight unseen) in Colorado, hoping the dry climate will ease the condition of the father's tuberculosis. The farmhouse is in such bad shambles that Charles and Ralph are forced to spend many days scavenging for materials.  While they make repairs, the rest of the family lives in a Denver hotel. On the day the family finally takes the train to their new home, their two horses are frightened away by coyotes and become entangled on a railway trestle. So begin the adventures and life lessons that Ralph recalls more than forty years later.

The main theme of the book is the deep love and trust between a father and son, with some humor, lots of hard work, school mischief, a tornado, horses, cowboys, and roundups thrown in. (Boys, especially, will love this book.)
Colorado roundup
A true hero, Ralph is not perfect, and is always learning from his mistakes.  You can feel the joy in Moody's retelling of his childhood days, as well as the ache in his heart when recalls his patient father..."I wish I knew how Father was able to say things so as to make you remember every word of it.  If I could remember everything the way I remember the things Father told me, maybe I could be as smart a man as he was."

I was riveted throughout the whole book and shed tears at the end. (Don't worry, the gripping story continues in the next book of the series: MAN OF THE FAMILY). I loved LITTLE BRITCHES because without being overly sentimental, it relates the gallantry, love, and perseverance of families who settled some of the most challenging frontiers of our country.

"My goal in writing is to leave a record of the rural way of life in this country during the early part of the 20th century, and to point up the values of the era which I feel that we, as a people, are letting slip away from us." -Ralph Owen Moody

Source for this post: Littleton History.

Go to Beautiful Feet Books for information about all the books in the series, for 3rd grade and up.  (Note about the language:  the cowboys and some of the ranchers use a bit of rough language that is realistic to the time, but which can easily be edited, if you're not comfortable with that during family read aloud time.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"It is not enough to simply teach children to read..."

"...we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations--something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different 
from their own.”

- Katherine Patterson, author of BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA

Friday, October 14, 2011


Summer's over,
Now it's fall;
Just the nicest 
Time of all.

Leaves of red and gold and brown
Come falling,

Lois Lenski's life was a balance of family and career. Her close family and small town upbringing provided a strong foundation and served as an influence in all she did. Mrs. Lenski wrote and illustrated over 100 books - in addition to illustrating another sixty or so written by other authors. Some that I've blogged about are her MR. SMALL books (3-7) and the Betsy-Tacy series (ages 5 and up) that she illustrated by Maud Hart Lovelace.

Have you seen her (now out of print) DAVY books? I think they are adorable. She wrote them about her grandson.

To read more about Lois Lenski's life and see a list of all her books, CLICK HERE.
Source reference:  Milner Library, Illinois State University.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I sometimes get frustrated that I live so close to Los Angeles, but rarely go there. Yesterday, my daughter and I, along with our good friend, Monika, decided to brave the traffic (the main reason I don't go) and visit the Central Public Library.

We were not disappointed - it's a true landmark...
Note about parking: it's expensive, so make sure you go to their website for details of where to park and how to get a validation discount.  (Read this carefully - you have to apply for a library card - if you don't already have one - in order to get validation.  It's free to residents of LA, Orange, and Ventura Counties, but be prepared to wait in line.)

Finally out of the parking structure, we approached the steps, fountains, and entryway in the McGuire Garden...
These elements comprise Jud Fine’s major art program, “Spine”, and feature inscriptions and sculptures symbolizing an open book. Flanking this Flower Street entrance to the gardens are two pieces not unlike the frontispiece or end sheets of a book. Looking ahead is a series of stairs past raised pools titled “Bright,” “Lucid,” and “Clear.”
Risers on the steps on either side of the fountains encompass a slightly patina brass finish with letters from 19 languages etched in green; black copper plate with printed words in nine languages cut into the surface in white; and symbolic communications in higher math, art and poetry established during the electron age, etched on stainless steel plate in black.
Source: To learn more, look HERE and also check out the library website's page, "Art & Architecture in Central Library".

Entrance off Flower Street, "WISDOM OF THE EAST AND WEST"

Once inside the library, we went to the Tom Bradley Wing...it was built after two arson fires in 1986 damaged the building and destroyed 20% of the Library’s books. Many of the surviving books suffered smoke and water damage. 

Mayor Tom Bradley and Lodwrick Cook, then CEO of the oil company ARCO, co-chaired the $10 million fund-raising drive to repair and replace the books that were damaged or destroyed. Their “Save the Books” campaign is commemorated with the renaming of the main rotunda for Cook, and the modern wing for Mayor Bradley.

The escalators and walkways at each level provide different perspectives on the atrium, and on three chandeliers decorated with a rather enigmatic collection of objects and figures.                                                                   
Each chandelier contains a ton of aluminum and fiberglass. They’re the work of Therman Statom, an artist primarily known for his work with sheet glass.

On each of the three landings on the atrium’s lower floors is an Illumination, a “functional sculpture” by Anne Preston. These four-meter-high lanterns refer to “light, understanding, and books.” They’re circular arrays of aluminum vanes, the top of which is shaped like an upside-down human profile.
We moved on to the Rotunda, which houses the Children's Literature Department. As we entered, we were surrounded with beautiful murals by Dean Cornwell...depicting four great eras of California history, including discovery, mission building, Americanization and the founding of Los Angeles. They were completed in 1932.


The first thing we noticed was a feeling of calm, as our eyes were met with inviting wooden tables and chairs, low lighting, and green carpet - patterned in a nature motif, with images like this cute bushy-tailed squirrel.

My favorite area was, of course, the picture book room, at the far end of the department!

So. Many. Lovely. Books.

Several of the tables had baskets full of board books for toddlers.

On the library website, I had noted there would be an International Language Picture Book Collection - "A historic collection of over 5,000 titles from more than 50 countries. We had fun digging up all the HARRY POTTER books we could find in different languages...
French (had my favorite illustrations)
German (gotta love the glasses!)

To us it seemed like this book opened backwards,
but not when you read the pages right to left!

Time to leave the library...

and go find lunch --

       at Philppe's on Alameda Street (it's been there since 1908!) Established by Philippe Mathieu, who claimed the distinction of having created the "French Dipped Sandwich."

Placing our order at the counter.
These are the prices, folks!
Yes, a cup of coffee is 9 cents. (The price 
remained a nickel until 1977.)

French onion soup. (We also got a home-made doughnut - for 70 cents -
to go with the 9 cent cup of coffee my daughter ordered.)
Bye, bye! (Seems kind of weird that young adults my daughter's age consider telephone booths with pay phones to be vintage. I must be getting old!)