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, November 30, 2012

GIVEAWAY from Audrey Eclectic

I'm so happy to introduce you to my Mystery Guest today:  "Audrey Eclectic" folk-artist and fellow blogger, Heather Sleightholm.  She has partnered with me for my December Giveaway (more about that in a minute).

Let's hear it for social networking!
Through someone's Scandinavian Pinterest Board, I discovered Heather's beautiful artwork and, eventually, her thoughtful, meandering blog and lovely Etsy shop, both named Audrey Eclectic (after her young daughter, Audrey).
Audrey Eclectic, "God Jul Sisters"

After several conversations on Facebook and visiting each other's blogs, we gleefully discovered that we share many similar interests - Russia, iconography, all things Swedish (especially Tomte and St. Lucia), and books (especially those by Tasha Tudor and Jane Austen), to name a few.

Audrey Eclectic, "St. Lucia"
Before I tell you about our Giveaway, I thought I'd ask Heather some questions...

What were some of your favorite children's books, growing up; and what are a couple of your daughter's favorites now? 
Growing up I really loved books about ‘old timey days.’ The American Girl Dolls books were favorites of mine (I had Kirsten, which is probably where my love of Sweden comes from!) and I also loved the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My daughter is a book lover as well, and I can’t wait for her to start reading on her own! Right now her taste in books is really wide-ranging—she loves books by Lane Smith (John, Paul, George and Ben and Grandpa Green) as well as fairytales like Cinderella and she also likes the book The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren.

[Note to my readers, Lane Smith's books and illustrations are great - visit his website here.  Not to be missed: Princess Hyacinth, The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated]

When did you realize that you loved to draw/paint? Why folk art?
Drawing and painting has always been a part of me. I can’t remember not doing it! I drew all over furniture as a child, painted rocks as ‘paper weights’ to sell in my mom’s garage sales, and took art classes all through school and college. To me, making art is my ‘happy place.’ It’s almost like a source of meditation. My mind becomes quiet and calm when I’m painting or drawing. My focus on folk art came about gradually as I tried different types of painting. When I first started selling pieces here and there as an adult, they were actually watercolor paintings. Then I started getting more into collage and mixed media, so I moved more into acrylic paints. As mixed media became more prevalent though, I decided I wanted to move onto something that was more unique to me, and decided to move toward acrylic painting without the collage element, and the style that came most natural to me was a more folksy, naïve art style. I really enjoy Americana and European folk art, specifically Scandinavian folk art, so that is another draw to Sweden for me! So it’s been a bit of an evolution, and I hope that I keep trying new things and improving, although I think what I’m doing now (folk art) suits my personality and skills the best!

Audrey Eclectic "God Jul Tomtes"
Are you Swedish?
As far as I know I am NOT Swedish. Can you believe that!? Well, surely there’s some Swede in there somewhere—I’ve done a lot of research on ancestry.com and haven’t been able to find the actual point in which a family member got on a boat and came to America--- seems we’ve been here since about the beginning! My maiden name was Van Winkle, which is Dutch in origin. There’s also a healthy strain of English and a bit of German in my background. My married name is Sleightholm--- which comes out of North Yorkshire, UK (there’s a Sleightholme Moor there). However, some of my family research into that side of the family leads me to believe that “Sleightholm” (which sounds Scandinavian, doesn’t it?) might have been a name created by Viking settlers in Britain. So perhaps…in a very round about way hundreds of years ago….there’s a dash of Scandinavian in my background!

So - on to the Giveaway.  Heather will send a lucky someone this beautiful set of 6 (six) "God Jul" postcards and envelopes.  

All you need to do to enter the Giveaway is to leave a comment here, or "like" or comment on the link to this post on my Good Books Facebook Page.  
My December Giveaway ends tomorrow, December 1st, at 11:00 a.m. (PST).  Winner will be chosen randomly and announced at noon (PST), Saturday, December 1, 2012. Giveaway over 12/1/12
And remember: you can visit the Audrey Eclectic Etsy Shop to see more of Heather's art - including her unique prints, calendars, and dolls.  Isn't her artwork stunning??  What's your favorite?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Cards: Little Blessings in My Mailbox, and a Giveaway for YOU!

Sending and receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite holiday traditions. So I'm super excited to announce that I have partnered with a Mystery Guest Artist who has offered some of her lovely Christmas postcards for my DECEMBER GIVEAWAY! Make sure you check back here tomorrow, when I'll reveal my Mystery Guest and the Giveaway details!
sourcce: Wikimedia Commons
Do you still send out Christmas cards? With the cost of postage constantly rising, as well as e-cards becoming more popular, I've wondered how long the tradition of sending and receiving Christmas cards will hold out. Each greeting - a reminder of friends and family near and far - is like a little Christmas blessing that shows up in my mailbox, and eventually goes on display somewhere in my home.
Who delivers the cards?  Why the Jolly Postman of course! Read all about this fun Christmas book for children here, on my past post (you'll also find some Christmas-card-making-activities)...

This clever idea of wrapping gifts to look like postal packages for your kids - which I found on Pinterest - reminded me of a unique Christmas book by J.R.R. Tolkien...
source - right click for how-to
Letters from Father Christmas is a compilation of letters received by Tolkien's children every December from 1920 - 1943. Tolkien, as Father Christmas, wrote the letters, which were accompanied by humorous illustrations (also drawn by Tolkien). Read more...

When I saw these cute vintage postcard-inspired Christmas plates from Williams-Sonoma, I was reminded of another wonderful Christmas picture book ...
Aunt Olga's Christmas Postcards, by Kevin Major, which was one of my favorite Christmas book finds last year, even comes with a vintage postcard for your child!

Aunt Olga (who happens to be 95-years-young) takes advantage of a holiday visit from her favorite niece, Anna, to share her antique postcard collection and the memories that come with it - she received her first card from her brother when he was a soldier during World War I.  All decked out in red, Aunt Olga is ready for fun as she teaches Anna how to write her very own Christmas rhymes.  We, as readers, get to delight in Aunt Olga's collection too!  Written with warmth and slightly quirky humor, this unique story shows how sweet and loving a relationship can be between a youngster and an oldster.

I hope you go out and get some of these whimsical holiday books this December - you can find more recommendations here, on my Christmas Book Resource Page.  Did I miss any of your favorites? Remember to stop by my blog tomorrow and read about my Mystery Guest and her lovely artwork for my GIVEAWAY on December 1st!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Over the River and Through the Woods

I'll be traveling to be with out-of-town family for Thanksgiving this year, but you can find my book recommendations for the holiday here, in my past Thanksgiving posts.

From my home to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Can't Get Enough Horse Stories!

I know it's barely been a month since my War Horse post, but I am beyond excited about a discovery I just made about another famous thoroughbred...

An audio book of Come on Seabiscuit! from two of my favorite storytellers:  author Ralph Moody (1898–1982), who also wrote the Little Britches books, and narrator Jim Weiss (Greathall Storytelling Recordings).  You can download the audio book here, from Learn Out Loud.com, or order the CD (2003) here, from Greathall.
Available here.

As a young girl, I went through a "horse phase" of literature and movies: Billy and BlazeMy Friend FlickaMisty of ChincoteagueNational VelvetBlack Beauty, and The Black Stallion. But somehow, I missed the book Come On Seabiscuit - maybe because I wasn't as interested in racing as I was in horses. 

As an adult, I saw the movie Seabiscuit and have gone to a racetrack once (at Del Mar, "where the surf meets the turf"), and let me tell you, it was fun and exciting to see horse racing live and up close.  I hope I can go again soon! 

Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) rides the title horse
 in the film adaptation of "Seabiscuit."source

The original book about Seabiscuit, written in 1963, was illustrated by Robert Riger, and recently returned to print by the University of Nebraska Press.
Look at this cute vintage edition, available on Etsy, here.
Description (Publisher's Weekly): Long before Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" became a bestseller for adults, Moody's book (which is referenced in Hillenbrand's work) introduced the great racehorse to a younger audience. First published in 1963, Moody's title has recently experienced a resurgence, thanks to the more recent title and the feature film it inspired. Noted children's storyteller Weiss confidently takes the reins here, tracing the thoroughbred from his humble, knobby-kneed beginnings, through periods of doubt and scorn as expressed by his early owners to his triumph as one of the biggest-hearted racers in history. Weiss immediately assumes his typical leisurely pacing, drawing listeners in by capturing the flavor of historic details and setting the stage for exciting races, including the ultimate contest against his rival, Triple Crown winner War Admiral. This well-rounded selection is bound to captivate horse fans, sports fans and anyone who enjoys being wowed by a good story. Ages 8-up. 

I am a huge fan of Ralph Moody's Little Britches books - honestly, I can't recommend them highly enough!  You can read my past post about Ralph Moody here. Jim Weiss is a master story teller that I've highlighted on my blog several times - here - and I'm thrilled to know he recorded this wonderful story.

Go to: Seabiscuit American Experience WGBH | PBS to watch the online documentary about this extraordinary horse.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"It's the Most Wonderful [and Busiest] Time of the Year!"

Lord Jesus, You have come so many times to us and found no resting place. Forgive us for our over-crowded lives, our vain haste, and our preoccupation with self. Come again, O Lord, and though our hearts are a jumble of voices, and our minds overlaid with many fears, find a place however humble, where You can begin to work Your wonder as you create peace and joy within us. If in some hidden corner, in some out-of-the-way spot, we can clear away the clutter, and shut out the noise and darkness, come be born again in us, and we shall kneel in perfect peace with the wisest and humblest of men.

Help us to enter into this Nativity Fast with humility, yet with joy. And finally, Lord, give us Christmas from within, that we may share it from without, on all sides, all around us, wherever there is need. God help us, every one, to share the blessing of Jesus, in whose name we keep Christmas holy. Amen 

What will you be reading during Advent? This prayer is from a book I am using this Nativity Fast, Daily Meditations and Prayers for the Christmas Advent Fast and Epiphany, by Harakas and Coniaris.
(Sometimes I recommend good books for older "young souls".)

Winner of the Advent Calendar Giveaway is...

Thanks to all my readers and followers who participated in my 2012 Advent Calendar Giveaway.  I truly appreciate all your kind comments and input!  Congratulations to Marianthy Karantzes, the winner of the beautiful calendar!

I'll be doing another Giveaway in December - for St. Lucia Day.  And later today I'll post my Advent and Christmas Resource page, to help with all your book choices for this Holy Season.

I'd like to extend my thanks also to Monastery Greetings, who donated the calendar, with artwork by Ruth Sanderson.  It can be purchased here, from their website.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Artwork by Ruth Sanderson
Tomorrow, November 15th, marks the first day of Advent for those of us who are Eastern Orthodox Christians.  Remember to comment on any blogs I've posted since November 12, 2012 to enter my Advent Calendar Give-away. Enter as many times as you'd like - by commenting here, or on my facebook page.

Here are some picture books I'm adding to my Christmas Book Resource Page this year. I highlighted pictures from the books on yesterday's post, so if you couldn't guess which books the illustrations were from, I've revealed the book covers below...

#1 - Olivia with the Nutcracker from...
#1  Olivia Helps With Christmas, written and illustrated by Ian Falconer.  Everyone's favorite little Pig helps out Mommy and Daddy with Christmas - or does she?

#2 - St. Lucia, from...
#2 The Story of Christmas, by Barbara Cooney, illustrations by Lorett Krupinski.  Cooney relates traditions from around the world that have led us to the Christmas celebrations we have today.

#3 - Writing postcards, from....
#3 Aunt Olga's Christmas Postcards, by Kevin Major, illustrated by Bruce Roberts. (my review here)

#4 - Romantic Christmas scene, from...
#4 A Star for Christmas, written and illustrated by Trisha Romance.  If you love all things Scandinavian, you'll love her old fashioned Carl-Larsson-style illustrations. (read about the book here)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Do These Illustrations Look Familiar?

I'm in the process of updating my Christmas Book Resource Page.  The stories are lovely, but the illustrations really inspired me to add these books to the list this year - do any look familiar to you?  (The first one is the easiest - would you like to take a guess as to the books or illustrators?)

Check back tomorrow (11/14/12) for the names of the illustrators and book titles that I'll be adding to my 2012 Book Resource Page.  And be sure and look at my post on November 15th - I'll announce the winner of my Advent Calendar Giveaway (comment here on this post to enter the Giveaway).

Monday, November 12, 2012


It can be challenging to find ways to help children keep their focus on the birth of Christ during the annual "Countdown to Santa and Christmas Presents" that our frenzied culture of consumers gets so caught up in. Well, thank goodness for another kind of countdown: Advent, a time of joyous expectation.

source: onecharmingparty (right click)

Advent means "coming" or "arrival", referring to the coming of the Christ Child as Messiah.  It is a time of waiting and of preparation. For Western Catholic and Protestant Christians, the season of Advent doesn't start until the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  But for Eastern Orthodox Christians, myself included, Advent (also known as the "Nativity Fast") begins on November 15 every year, lasting 40 days.

In helping to mark off the anticipated days leading up to Christmas, many families enjoy using Advent Wreaths with candles and Advent Calendars with little windows to open.  Did you know there are ways to incorporate books into your Countdown?

Devotional Advent books for Children:

A daily prayer and activity book for families
during Advent. Link here (right click)
This book has a story for each night of December.
description here (right click)
A great resource during Advent, with Christmas
traditions, recipes, and crafts from many different countries.
right click to browse inside

An Advent Calendar of Christmas Books: 
I'd like to share some ideas for incorporating beautiful Christmas picture books into your family traditions during this time of anticipation. It takes a little planning, but it's worth the forethought and effort... 

1- You need to determine how many books you need - this will depend on how many days leading up to Christmas you'd like to do this activity (i.e. during all of Advent, during the month of December, or just the last two weeks leading up to Christmas).

 2-  Choose the books.  Gather Christmas books you already have (add some library books if you don't have enough of your own - just be sure to label and read the ones from the library first, so they won't be overdue).  This is also a nice way to start collecting Christmas picture books - buy a few a year to add in!  Click here for my Christmas Book Resource Page, if you need book recommendations.

3- Wrap the chosen books in Christmas paper and number each book according to which day you want your child to open and read each one. [If you're very ambitious, you could number envelopes to adhere to the books.  Inside you would put a card with either an Advent activity, craft, or bible reading written on it.  Refer to the 3 books I mentioned at the beginning of this post for ideas. Or - look here for Christmas crafts from Crafty Crow, and here for Orthodox readings for 40 Days of Advent].

Source here (right click)

4- Put the wrapped, numbered books in a special place...
Some families put them in a basket by the fireplace, ready for a book to be chosen and read each night.

source: The Blackberry Vine
You could also put them under the Christmas tree - opening and reading the last one on Christmas Eve and replacing it with presents for Christmas morning...

source: babyjaynes (right click to open new window)

You could line them across your fireplace mantel...

This ambitious idea is from Babycinno (right click)

Or on bookcase shelves...

from Sarahjanestudios (right click)

Whatever you choose, have fun!  



Giveaway: ADVENT CALENDAR from Monastery Greetings
From November 12, 2012 - November 14, 2012 (at midnight PST), you can enter my Advent Giveaway for a chance to win this beautiful 25-day Advent Calendar.
Drawing Results*: November 15, 2012  Giveaway over 11/15/12. Congratulations to mom2eleni!
This beautiful calendar artwork is by
Ruth Sanderson, from her picture book The Nativity.

1- Leave a comment here or on any of my blogs posted today (11/12/12) through November 14, 2012. 
2- "Like" or comment on this post (or any others I post through 11/14/12) on Facebook.  
3- Share this post from my Facebook page to yours, and I'll enter your name in the drawing twice.

Advent Calendar description: Mary lovingly embraces the newborn child Jesus in this manger scene. Prepare for Christmas by opening a window each day during December to reveal a special picture.
The front is accentuated with glitter. Bible texts that follows the story of the Nativity are presented on the back of each window. This Advent calendar measures 8 1/4" x 11 3/4". Easy to hang or display anywhere. 

Watch for my upcoming post on how to incorporate books into your Advent traditions.
Thank you to Monastery Greetings for participating in this Advent Giveaway with me!  You can visit their wonderful website, HERE

*I'll be using List Randomizer for the drawing results.  Winner will be chosen on November 15, 2012.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

1000 Good Books

Orchard Window 1918, Daniel Garber,
American Impressionist Painter (1880-1958)

A Book by Edgar Guest

“Now” - said a good book unto me -
“Open my pages and you shall see
Jewels of wisdom and treasures fine,
Gold and silver in every line,
And you may claim them if you but will
Open my pages and take your fill.

“Open my pages and run them o’er,
Take what you choose of my golden store.
Be you greedy, I shall not care -
All that you seize I shall gladly spare;
There is never a lock on my treasure doors,
Come - here are my jewels, make them yours!

“I am just a book on your mantel shelf,
But I can be part of your living self;
If only you’ll travel my pages through,
Then I will travel the world with you.
As two wines blended make better wine,
Blend your mind with these truths of mine.

“I’ll make you fitter to talk with men,
I’ll touch with silver the lines you pen,
I’ll lead you nearer the truth you seek,
I’ll strengthen you when your faith grows weak -
This place on your shelf is a prison cell,
Let me come into your mind to dwell!”

Click HERE to view this comprehensive list on the Classical Christian Homeschooling website
-These titles can be viewed by age group or author
Additionally, they have a very good 100 Great Books List
-These titles can be viewed by according to time period

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Vote (for the most inspiring picture book of 2012)

On the eve of Election Day, I've been considering what might be the most inspiring picture book of 2012.  My vote?  Seed by Seed, The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman.

Reading through this book is like walking through a living history museum!  In the opening pages, author Esmé Raji Codell asks, "When we look out our windows, what do we see?"  She then begins to describe how things used to look, as Lynn Rae Perkins' soothing pictures take us through a "tree-bough-tangled world" of the past...  

Illustrator Lynn Rae Perkins immersed herself in the life and times of Johnny Appleseed for her research: visiting museums, hiking, and even spending hours stitching a beautiful sampler that appears in the book.

Lynn Rae Perkins: Esmé writes about the “five footsteps” Johnny left for us to walk in, ideas that we can emulate in our own lives. I decided to try to embody those ideas in physical objects. I thought it would make it easier for kids to remember them. Also, I like, really really like, making stuff. This meant more research, because I wanted the objects to represent the idea, but also to be of Johnny’s time and place. I wanted them to be things that would have words on them: maps, books, embroidery, painted signs. But what did those things look like back then? Which things were present in ordinary people’s lives?

1. Use what you have.
2. Share what you have.
3. Respect Nature.
4. Try to make peace where there is war.
5. You can reach your destination by taking small steps.

Here at Good Books For Young Souls, I've done a couple of posts on Johnny Appleseed, and this particular book is very unique.  Author Esmé Raji Codell is, I think, the biggest John Chapman fan/enthusiast I've ever come across! Why did she write this book, when there are so many others out there?  On her blog, she explains:
...what I was really looking for was a book that not only walked through the narrative of John Chapman’s storied life, but one that would make the legend of Johnny Appleseed relevant to the modern, urban readers in the Chicago Public Schools, the children with whom I was reading. The question wasn't "who was Johnny Appleseed?" The question was, "Why should we care who he was?" I wanted a book that made readers love Johnny Appleseed, be inspired by him and want to emulate his example, even over the distance of history. I had that experience, and I wanted to share it. So the first thing I did in approaching SEED BY SEED was think, what is it about John Chapman that transcends time? What about him touches me in both a secular way and a spiritual way, and how can that been written about so it will touch someone else?

One of my favorite stories that Esmé relates about Johnny?  
It is said that John Chapman used his open shirt pocket as a pouch to carry his books.  It is also said that he ripped books into chapters in order to circulate them between settlers.  He liked to gather children and their families around him and delight them with a story time...In this way, he was the frontier's first librarian!

I'm sure we can all take a lesson from Johnny Appleseed, a man who lived by example, was kind and pious, and had respect for all living things:
Seed by seed, deed by deed,
Johnny Appleseed changed the landscape of a nation.
And now it's your turn.
One small deed, every day.

Tomorrow, go do your good deed for the day and exercise your freedom to vote!  And if you treat yourself to this book, you'll find a recipe for Johnny's favorite dessert on the last page!  Apple Pie and voting - it doesn't get much more American than that!