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)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Most children enjoy helping their parents with cooking. Especially when kids are just starting to read, cooking is not only a good family bonding experience, but a great learning activity too. Cooking involves math, science, thinking skills and...reading!

Watch for this new children's picture book biography
    about Julia Child,  coming out in May 22,  2012!

So grab an apron and a cookbook! You can point out words in the recipe, while you explain to your child how the words correlate to what you're doing as you measure and bake. Grocery shopping is also a great way to help kids get involved in reading - they can help you read labels as you search for the recipe ingredients!

Playing with your food...
I recently blogged about food-themed books - you can find "My Top Ten Picture Books About Food" post here.  What about book-themed food? Here are some fun ideas:

Eric Carle's Hungry Caterpillar lunches...
from My Food Looks Funny

from Nurture Store
A pretty Princess and the Pea Cake...
from Family Fun
Pigeon Cake...
From an Edible Books Festival
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs...
from Parents Magazine (photo Tara Donne)

Here's a short trailer for the brand new book titled Funny Food, by Bill and Claire Wurtzell.  It's got 365 "fun, healthy, silly, creative breakfasts" for you to make with or for your kids.  You won't believe some of the creations!

 Another unique book is Once Upon a Recipe, by Karen Greene...More than fifty delicious, healthy recipes with cooking tips and  allusions to works of children's literature. For instance: Babar's Carob French Toast, Shakespeare's Breakfast Sandwiches, Rumpelstiltskin's Pillow, and Bambi's Salad Bowl.
As Julia would say: "Bon Appetit!"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Give-Away Winner

Congratulations to Mel, over at Luna Secrets -- she was the winner of Valerie Greeley's White is the Moon.  Thanks to all who stopped by and left such lovely comments.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know Valerie a little bit!  And I hope you consider getting her beautiful book from Amazon, now that it's back in print...
Title page

Thursday, April 19, 2012


...until the Give-Away!  Don't you just love this artwork from Valerie Greeley's White is the Moon?  Her book was chosen as one of the top ten picture books for children by Redbook Magazine in the year 1991.  Now it's back in print and we're doing a Give-Away tomorrow! (Update: 4/20/12 - Give-Away over.  As soon as I make contact with the winner, I'll post her name. )
All you have to do to enter is post a comment here or on my past post and interview with Valerie - go here. Good luck - I'll post the winner's name tomorrow, Friday, April 20, 2012.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Be sure and leave a comment on my post from yesterday (click here) for a chance to win my Give-Away of Valerie Greeley's book, WHITE IS THE MOON - the winner will be chosen on Friday, April 20, 2012.  And don't miss Valerie's website, her Acornmoon blog or her Etsy Shop!

Are you an Etsy fan?
If you haven't heard of this website, Etsy.com is a huge shop full of hundreds of thousands of unique handmade and vintage items from an online community of independent sellers around the world.  Whether you're looking for a hand-knitted teapot cozy, a unique bookplate, or a plaid collar for your pet, someone has probably offered it on Etsy!
Ribbon available from guess where....Etsy!

I don't know if the DIY Etsy trend inspired these books, but crafty kids and their parents will love my picture book recommendations today: the first is about a young fashionista and her creative mom, the second is based on a Yiddish song about remaking things, and the third book involves a town, a little girl, and a ball of yarn...and they're all perfect for reading aloud.

I stumbled across this adorable book, I Had a Favorite Dress, a couple of weeks ago and snapped it up, because I know just the little fashionista who will love it.  What girl doesn't have a favorite dress? The unamed girl in this story wore hers "every Tuesday, because that was my favorite day of the week."  But there's a slight problem: little girls eventually grow - out of their favorite dresses!

Not too worry. Snip, snip! Sew, sew!  The distraught girl's Mama is ready to improvise and teach her daughter a valuable lesson: "don't make mountains out of molehills" - make a new something out of an old something!  You'll be delighted at how many times (and stylish ways) this crafty Mama transforms the dress! Julia Denos' whimsical collage style art makes Boni Ashburn's fun story jump right off the page.

As I was flipping through the pages of I Had A Favorite Dress, I kept thinking that it reminded me of another tale.  Sure enough, it's a modernized (and frilly) version of a Yiddish folktale, which was also the inspiration of Simms Taback’s Caldecott-winning book, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.

Like the main character of "the dress book", Joseph also has a favorite piece of clothing: his overcoat - "it was old and worn".  So he makes it into a jacket, then a vest...until finally, there is nothing left. But then he makes something out of nothing.  What's the "something"?  You'll have to get the book and find out. I absolutely love Taback's mixed-media artwork, with bold and colorful die-cuts.

The last "crafty" book I recently read and fell in love with is Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, with pictures by Jon Klassen.

Jon Klassen's understated style matches this quirky, sweetly told tale. At the very beginning, we're told: "This looks like an ordinary box full of ordinary yarn.  But it turns out it isn't."  A girl named Annabelle come across the box "filled with yarn of every color" on a cold winter day in her cold, drab town.  With the seemingly endless supply of yarn, she makes rainbow colored knitted creations for everyone (and everything) in the town - even the mailboxes and buildings.

A pompous and greedy archduke appears on the scene and tries to buy the box from Annabelle, who's not interested in selling it for anything.  He manages to have it stolen, only to find it empty. In a satisfying ending, we realize the box wants to be with someone who is generous in sharing any "extra" with others!

Feeling Crafty?
Did these books get you in the mood to do some sewing or knitting? I could't resist sharing a couple of links to some fun projects I've seen on Pinterest lately:
1. The Shirt Skirt from Sew Like My Mom

2. The Reycycled T-Shirt Ruffle Hat from Tao of Craft

3. Finger-Knitting Project for Kids from Craftzine

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Valerie Greeley Interview and Book Give-away!

Cheshire, England is a long way from Orange County, California, and if it weren't for blogging, I probably never would have "met" British author and gifted artist, Valerie Greeley.  
Every time I visit her blog, I am treated to a quick peek into her latest projects or wanderings around England! (Besides writing and illustrating children's books, Valerie is a textile and surface pattern designer.)

I'm delighted to tell you that one of Valerie's books White is the Moon has recently come back into print.  To celebrate, I'm doing an interview with Valerie, as well as a review and give-away of the book!  Leave a comment on this post today through midnight Thursday - for a chance to win the Give-away on Friday, April 20, 2012. (If you're not the lucky winner, you can find her book here on Amazon.) Update 4/20/12: Give-Away over - watch for my new post today.  As soon as I've made contact with the winner, I'll post her name.

White is the Moon is a poetic circle of text and color that takes us on a journey from forest, to sky, to sea - all in one day.  Beginning in the dark, with an owl and a full white moon, we are drawn into a day full of different colorful creatures and their habitats.

Title page.

Each of Valerie's perfectly detailed illustrations shows a peaceful scene as one animal encounters another, while her lyrical text leads us to the next creature's surroundings. The moon sees an owl, the owl sees a fox...

Red is the fox
Sly and fast
Sees a frog
Hopping past

The fox sees a frog, who sees the rising sun, which shines on a bird, who finds a crab...

Pink is the crab
Crawling up
Sees a seal
With her pup

The book ends after coming full circle, as nightfall returns with a full moon being gazed upon by a Puffin seabird.  A perfect bedtime story for ages 2-6. Remember to leave a comment at the end of this post, for a chance to win the Give-away of White is the Moon, on 4/20/12 - Friday! (shipped to an address within the U.S. only, please)

You can visit Valerie Greeley's website, which links to her portolio, Etsy page, and information about her other children's books.  Now that you've been introduced, let me help you get to know this very talented lady a little better...

Valerie, all your artwork is so beautiful.  What inspires you?
I have always been inspired by nature and in particular the sort of environment I am surrounded by. The lanes and woodlands around my home provide endless references, plants, flowers, birds, and bees that all appear in my illustrations.
How did you get started illustrating children's books?
I had some Camden Graphic's greeting cards in several high street shops in the UK in the eighties. A young lady with small children liked my cards and thought they would look good in the nursery. She happened to be Rosemary Lanning, the children's book editor at Blackie and Son ltd. She contacted the greeting card publisher and they very kindly forwarded her letter to me. (no email in those days!) 

She invited me down to London to discuss the possibility of illustrating a series of wordless baby board books. The office was in High Holborn, I remember it like yesterday. I waited in the board room, a library style room with a portrait of a kindly Cicely Mary Barker on the wall. I felt she was smiling at me, fortune certainly was that day!

Who are your favorite illustrators?
When I was a little girl my father introduced me to the world of books, and they were few but precious in our house. I particularly remember a Children's Treasury of Classics which he gave me as a Christmas present. There were illustrations by many of "The Golden Age" illustrators like Arthur Rackham and  Edmund Dulac and Heath Robinson. They were my earliest influences. Later I discovered the Pre-Raphealites and fell under their spell and tried to paint every leaf and blade of grass.

I also admire the work of Angela Barrett, Nicola Bayley, Gennady Spirin, Frances Tyrrell, Una Woodruff - and many more.

What keeps you busy, these days?
I am now working with my husband Tony Corrigan, a retired English teacher. We are creating new titles for young children, not only for print but for Apps also. We have been contacted by a publisher in South Korea and are in the process of finalising the contract for a new baby book which we have written together. 

We recently created our first children's App with Mobile Children's Books called The Bird with the Rainbow Tail and are looking at getting a print version to market, whilst working on a new calendar for 2013 and a range of greeting cards. I am also very involved with the study of traditional print making techniques, bookbinding, and hand bound books which is a whole new world of discovery.

Well, I'll look forward to reading about that world of discovery on your blog! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and good luck with all you do!
With all good wishes from a very warm spring day here in England! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012


From my house to yours...

Christ is Risen!  Today in the Orthodox Church is Easter Sunday, otherwise known as "Pascha".

Cover art by Bonnie Gillis, from Pascha the Feast of Feasts, from
the Three-Day Pascha series by Mother Melania
(formerly Sister Elayne)

This beautiful little book is available here (can be ordered individually, or a set).
Life has blossomed forth from the tomb, creation is made new, the doors of the Kingdom are opened wide. So, the Resurrection is the core of the Christian Life. Only because Christ is risen can we forgive one another, be healed of all our diseases of soul and body, and rise to the Life God intends for us-His own Life, of which we can partake because Christ has fully partaken of our own.
A supplement to the series for children of the Twelve Great Feasts, this set uses simple verse and colorful illustrations to acquaint children with the themes and imagery of Holy Week.
About the author and illustrator:
Sister Elayne is a member of the community of St. Barbara Orthodox Monastery in Santa Barbara, California. Since the time she wrote this series of poems, she has been tonsured as a stavrophor nun, and has received a new name, Mother Melania.
Bonnie Gillis is an iconographer and illustrator. She recently moved to Langley, British Columbia (in Canada), where her husband, Father Michael, is pastor of a new Orthodox mission.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


[note: I'm saying good-by to the blogopshere for about a week. If you are a Catholic or Protestant Christian, I realize you'll be observing Good Friday tomorrow, but in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Holy Week is just ahead of us.  Our Easter - Pascha - is April 15th this year.]  
Holy Week is the perfect time to focus on the miracles of Christ. The last Saturday of Lent (just preceding Passion Week - or Holy Week) is focused on Jesus' miracle of the Raising of Lazarus.  Of course, Holy Week itself, our journey with Christ to Pascha, ends with the ultimate miracle of the Resurrection, as Jesus frees the dead from Hades.

In my home, I display an Easter Egg Tree every year.  I made my own last year with pussy willow branches stuck into florist foam, which I nestled down into a pretty tin. (In Europe, pussy willow branches are used in place of palm branches on Palm Sunday, since palms are not available in that region.) When our children were young, during Holy Week they looked forward to hanging beautifully decorated eggs on our Easter Egg Tree each day.  By Easter - Pascha - the tree would be full.

This year I thought I would do it a little bit differently, decorating the tree for Holy Week with icon cards of "The Miracles of Christ" hung from the branches, and eventually adding in my Easter Egg collection for Pascha.. 
Pack of 18 cards. I got them here.

To all my readers:  I'll be back after next week. Blessed Pascha (Happy Easter)!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Are you old enough to remember "Holly Hobbie"?   Her creator, the real Holly Hobbie, is an American writer and artist who was born in 1944. (Born Denise Holly Ulinskas, she married her husband Douglas Hobbie in 1964.)

Holly first sold her distinctive old-fashioned artwork of homespun children to American Greetings in the late 1960's.  The series of illustrations became so popular that her originally nameless character with the blue bonnet became known as "Holly Hobbie".

This cat-loving girl with a patchwork dress and over sized bonnet was all the rage during the 1960's and '70's. In 1974, Knickerbocker Toys licensed the Holly Hobbie character for a line of rag dolls.  (I think I may have even had a Holly Hobbie lunchbox at one time!)

The real life Holly Hobbie is the author of the Toot & Puddle picture books, The Art of Holly Hobbie (her illustrated memoir), and several others (too see a full list and read excerpts from all of her picture books click here). She's also the mother of three grown children, and lives with her husband in Conway, Massachusetts.

Last week I came across Holly Hobbie's newest book, an (almost) wordless story titled simply:  Gem.

Two letters - exchanged between and a Grandmother and her granddaughter - bookend this wordless story told in lush watercolor illustrations about a toad named "Gem" and his journey to Gram's garden. It's a perfect Spring tale, and made me almost feel like I was there watching this toad's adventure.

If you like Beatrix Potter, Joan Anglund Walsh, Jill Barklem, or Tasha Tudor books, you'll love Holly Hobbie's Gem.  Her precise watercolor artwork reminds me of another gifted favorite author/illustrator, whose book I'll be reviewing and giving away this month (to be revealed very soon...).