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, December 26, 2013

Roundup of My "Twelve Days of Christmas" Posts

Below is a gathering of all my Twelve Days of Christmas posts:  

-Books about the 12 Days of Christmas, "Twelve Days, Twelve Books, Twelve Illustrators" - go here.
-Counting the Days, from 12 down to 1, go here.
-Posts about Good King Wenceslas and St. Stephen's Feast (Dec. 26/27) - go here.
-Posts about Epiphany/Theophany (Jan. 6) - go here.

I'll be taking a break from blogging until after the New Year and Epiphany...lots of celebrations with family and friends on my calendar between now and then!  

I hope 2014 brings you blessings, dear Readers!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Child

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself. 
- Charles Dickens

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas in the Big Woods

A perfect gift for Little House fans (Christmas or anytime), A Little House Christmas, Vols. I and II, include a compilation of short stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder about her childhood Christmases, chosen from the Little House series.

My favorite is from Little House in the Big Woods.  I remember my mother reading it to me when I was about five or six years old.  And I vividly recall the chapter, "Christmas", when Laura got her first doll...

In the morning they all woke up almost at the same moment. They looked at their stockings, and something was in them. Santa Claus had been there. Alice and Ella and Laura in their red flannel nightgowns and Peter in his red flannel nightshirt, all ran shouting to see what he had brought.

In each stocking there was a pair of bright red mittens, and there was a long, flat stick of red-and-white-striped peppermint candy, all beautifully notched along each side.

They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shining eyes at those lovely Christmas presents. But Laura was happiest of all. Laura had a rag doll.

She was a beautiful doll. She had a face of white cloth with black button eyes. A black pencil had made her eyebrows, and her cheeks and her mouth were red with the ink made from pokeberries. Her hair was black yarn that had been knit and raveled, so that it was curly.

She had little red flannel stockings and little black cloth gaiters for shoes, and her dress was pretty pink and blue calico.

She was so beautiful that Laura could not say a word. She just held her tight and forgot everything else. She did not know that everyone was looking at her, till Aunt Eliza said:

"Did you ever see such big eyes!"

The other girls were not jealous because Laura had mittens, and candy, and a doll, because Laura was the littlest girl, except Baby Carrie and Aunt Eliza's little baby, Dolly Varden. The babies were too small for dolls. They were so small they did not even know about Santa Claus. They just put their fingers in their mouths and wriggled because of all the excitement.

Laura sat down on the edge of the bed and held her doll. She loved her red mittens and she loved the candy, but she loved her doll best of all. She named her Charlotte.

Then they all looked at each other's mittens, and tried on their own, and Peter bit a large piece out of his stick of candy, but Alice and Ella and Mary and Laura licked theirs, to make it last longer.

"Well, well!" Uncle Peter said. "Isn't there even one stocking with nothing but a switch in it? My, my, have you all been such good children?"

But they didn't believe that Santa Claus could, really, have given any of them nothing but a switch. That happened to some children, but it couldn't happen to them. It was so hard to be good all the time, every day, for a whole year.

"You mustn't tease the children, Peter," Aunt Eliza said.
Ma said, "Laura, aren't you going to let the other girls hold your doll?" She meant, "Little girls must not be so selfish."

So Laura let Mary take the beautiful doll, and then Alice held her a minute, and then Ella. They smoothed the pretty dress and admired the red flannel stockings and the gaiters, and the curly woolen hair. But Laura was glad when at last Charlotte was safe in her arms again.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Sweet Song For Christmas

Author Jane Meyer has just added another wonderful children's book to her growing list of works (all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed - and know you will too!) You can read my reviews of her other books here.

I'm personally quite excited about Jane's newest book, Sweet Song, not only because I'm blessed to count Jane as a friend, but also because as a longtime choir singer I've considered the story of St. Romanos "the Melodist" as one of my favorites.

Young Romanos is devoted to Christ and His Mother and longs 
to be able to sing his praises to them.  But when he tries, 
his voice croaks and the words won't come.  
The other cantors make fun of him - 
until one miraculous Christmas Eve.

St. Romanos has long been honored and remembered as a prolific writer of sacred songs from sixth-century Constantinople, but he was not always looked up to for his hymnography - or singing!

Jane's descriptive narrative and Dorrie Papademetriou's luminous illustrations make Romanos' story come alive for kids of all ages.

Children will feel the range of emotions that young Romanos experiences: his awe at the presence of God in the glorious fifth century Byzantine church, Hagia Sophia; his contentment in completing his duties at the church; his sadness at being unable to sing well; his fear and embarrassment when he tries and fails and is made fun of; his fervent prayer for God's help and tears before the icon of the Virgin Mary; and his surprise and thankfulness when God grants him a miracle.

This book is now available here from Ancient Faith Publishing, and is not to be missed!  At the back of Jane's book, you'll find further information about St. Romanos and the history of Hagia Sophia.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

THE CHRISTMAS WISH Giveaway Winner is...

Thanks to all who left comments here and on Facebook for a truly wonderful book about a little girl named Anja: The Christmas Wish (written by her mom Lori Evert, with photos by her dad, Per Breiehagen).

My GIVEAWAY winner is mommy blogger Amelie!  She makes great book recommendations over at Amelie's Bookshelf blog, and I'm so happy that she is my winner today!

I hope all your Christmas Wishes come true, like Anja's did!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Speaking of Norway - While You Wait For My Giveaway - Two Books By Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Not To Be Missed!

If you saw my last post, you already know that tomorrow I'm giving away a very unique and special children's book, The Christmas Wish, by husband and wife team Lori Evert (author) and Per Breiehagen (Photographer), starring their daughter, Anja, who portrays a little girl in Norway who wants to help Santa deliver presents.

Well, while you're waiting (and so you can leave more comments to enter my GIVEAWAYover - as many times as you'd like - here, or on my Facebook link), today I thought I'd tell you about two more wonderful Norwegian stories by another husband/wife team, Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire.  

I promise you that both of their books will make you feel like you've stepped into a Norway of the past!

The first charming book, first published in 1932, is about a boy named OLA.  (I am lucky enough to own a copy published in 1939).

Ola is the enchanting story of a dauntless Norwegian boy who goes skiing one day and has many unusual adventures before returning home. He meets new friends, joins a merry wedding party, encounters a howling dragon, and learns bits of folklore from fishermen in the far north while pulling codfish from the icy waters. 

My favorite page

 The second book, Children of the Northlights was first published in 1935.

Children of the Northlights introduces readers to siblings Lise and Lasse and to the captivating Sami (also known as "Lapp") people and culture of northern Scandinavia. At times mischievous and at others quite courageous, Lisa and Lasse, and their Sami culture, are brought brilliantly to life in the d’Aulaires’ illustrations.
Inspired directly by a remarkable journey the d’Aulaires took to northern Europe and their time spent among the Sami, Children of the Northlights is a brightly illustrated portrait and celebration of the Sami people, culture, and snow-covered landscapes of the frozen north.

GIVEAWAY for "The Christmas Wish" book ENDS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT. Winner announced tomorrow, 12/17/13. Be sure to leave a comment 1) here, 2) on my Facebook post link, or 3) on yesterday's blog post to enter my Giveaway.  I've been asked if this giveaway is open to my readers outside of the U.S.  There don't seem to be Media Mail rates internationally, so I'm sad to say I'll have to limit my giveaway to those of you here in the U.S. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

An Adorable Norwegian Christmas Book

My ancestral roots and my love for St. Lucia Day get me thinking about Scandinavian Christmas books every December...So I was thrilled when I received my Chinaberry Christmas catalog in November and saw a new children's Christmas book about a little girl from Norway on their cover!!!
I knew I had to see the inside of this book, so I immediately sent off an email to the publisher and could barely wait until I received my review copy - which I am excited to be offering to you as a GIVEAWAY today! 12/17/13 Update: Giveaway over.  I'll let the photo illustrations speak for themselves:

The Christmas Wish is a gift from husband and wife team, Lori Evert and Per Breiehagen to us and their daughter, Anja, the main character who's adorably dressed up in traditional Norwegian garb!
Anja sets out on an adventure to find Santa Claus so she can make her dream come true: to be like one of Santa's Elves and help him deliver toys to children.  Lots of woodland animals (my favorite is the polar bear) help her in her wintry endeavor - but will she succeed?  You'll have to read the book!

From the book jacket:
"Author Lori Evert is a prop, set and wardrobe stylist who loves books, nature and being Anja's mother. She was so inspired by the beauty and magic of an image of Anja with a reindeer that she began spinning a narrative about who they might be and why they were together.  Thus began the four-year family project that is The Christmas Wish.

Award-winning photographer Per Breiehagen grew up in the small mountain town of Al, Norway.  He spent his childhood exploring the dramatic landscapes near his home...Assignments for clients like National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, and Audubon have brought Per to some of the most remote snow-and-ice-covered regions in the world...Anja's love of the outdoors and winter is a great inspiration for Per."

Leave a comment here and/or on my Facebook link about this post to enter my Giveaway.  Winner announced on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. (You'll get the book in time to put it under your Christmas tree!) Updated 12/17/13 - Giveaway over.

You can order The Christmas Wish yourself here from Amazon. (Chinaberry has sold out of their copies.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Crown of Light for St. Lucia

Sulamith W├╝lfing – "Crown of Light"

Lucia means "light".  She is commemorated on the day of her martyrdom, December 13.  To read about how this 4th-century Christian girl from Italy who died for her faith came to be celebrated throughout Europe and especially the Scandinavian countries, click here.

Some glimpses of my parish's St. Lucia celebration...
After our Lucia Procession, we had a reception for all the families.  Coffee and Lucia Buns were served, and a very special visitor showed up...
He brought lots of gold coins!
My goddaughters enjoying themselves - making
Lucia buns was hard work!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Books In A Brick Basement

Hi, Mom! 
[dear Readers, please know you're welcome to read along as I pen this quick note to my mother...]
As promised, here's an update about our Bookish space at the "The Brick Basement" [a local antique mall] in downtown Fullerton.  Your granddaughter and I are having FUN!  Take a peek at what we've done...

I'm finding lots of used and vintage books to sell, and Mary is having fun crafting beautiful things from the old music books you sent us.

Your little great-grandson even comes along once in a while to charm all the shoppers...

That's about it for now.  We had our St. Lucia Procession at Church yesterday, and I'll be posting about it soon!

We miss you and wish you were here!  Dad would have loved this place!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Have a Cookie for St. Nicholas Day!

Thanks to all my readers who participated in my Giveaway (winner revealed below).  Out of 56 entries, List Randomizer could only pick one of you, but anyone can visit the ultimate St. Nicholas resource - the St. Nicholas Center website - for traditional St. Nicholas Day Spice Cookie recipes (there are even vegan and gluten free versions).  The website has lots of kids' activity ideas and poetry to help you celebrate this special day!
Dutch artist Anton Pieck (1895-1987) source
Congratulations to the winner of the Springerle Cookie Collection and the St. Nicholas book, A Baker's Dozen --  Jill M!  And thank you to Alice from The Springerle Bakery for partnering with me for this scrumptious giveaway!

How much do you know about St. Nicholas?  Did you know that besides being a patron and protector of children, he is also the patron saint of fishermen and sailors?

A Rhyme for Nicholas
(from Ten Saints by Eleanor Farjeon
Oxford University Press, 1936)

Nicholas, Saint of Children,
Loves to spend his wealth
On pretty toys for girls and boys,
Leaving them by stealth.
The wind in the chimney
Hears children call:
"Bring me this, Saint Nicholas!
Bring me that, Saint Nicholas!
 A silky scarf, 
 A bag of sweets, 
 A big gold ball!" 

Nicholas, Saint of Sailors,
Children of the sea,
When their sails are torn by gales
Close at hand is he.
The wind in the rigging
Hears the sailors cry:
"Save us here, old Nicholas!
Save us there, good Nicholas!
 Saint of Sailors,
 Bring us safe
 Home, high and dry!"

Thursday, December 5, 2013

St. Nicholas Day, Dutch Style!

Updated 12/6 - Giveaway OVER LAST CALL: You have until 11:59 AM (PST) tonight to enter my Giveaway of Springerle Christmas Cookies and the book "The Baker's Dozen, A St. Nicholas Tale", by simply leaving a comment (here and/or on this post link on Facebook - go HERE for details). It's okay to comment more than once.  Winner will be announced tomorrow, on St. Nicholas Day, December 6th!


The Baker's Dozen is a story that involves St. Nicholas.  The setting is an American Dutch colonial town (later known as "New York").  

It made me think of another Dutch story, Mary Mapes Dodge's classic 1865 novel for children, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland.

My treasured copy - not sure about the copyright,
but the inscription inside is dated "1926".

Below is a lovely excerpt about the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas Day, from the beginning of Chapter IX:


We all know how, before the Christmas tree began to flourish in the home-life of our country, a certain "right jolly old elf," with "eight tiny reindeer," used to drive his sleigh-load of toys up to our housetops, and then bounded down the chimney to fill the stockings so hopefully hung by the fireplace. His friends called him Santa Claus, and those who were most intimate ventured to say "Old Nick." It was said that he originally came from Holland. Doubtless he did, but, if so, he certainly, like many other foreigners, changed his ways very much after landing upon our shores. In Holland, Saint Nicholas is a veritable saint and often appears in full costume, with his embroidered robes, glittering with gems and gold, his miter, his crosier, and his jeweled gloves. Here [in America] Santa Claus comes rollicking along, on the twenty-fifth of December, our holy Christmas morn. But in Holland, Saint Nicholas visits earth on the fifth, a time especially appropriated to him. Early on the morning of the sixth, he distributes his candies, toys, and treasures, then vanishes for a year.

Christmas Day is devoted by the Hollanders to church rites and pleasant family visiting. It is on Saint Nicholas's Eve that their young people become half wild with joy and expectation. To some of them it is a sorry time, for the saint is very candid, and if any of them have been bad during the past year, he is quite sure to tell them so. Sometimes he gives a birch rod under his arm and advises the parents to give them scoldings in place of confections, and floggings instead of toys.

I just love the way Mary Mapes Dodge enthusiastically interweaves little explanations/asides like the one above about Dutch culture and history throughout the story of Hans Brinker.

Set against a backdrop of frozen canals, this beloved tale is about how 15- year-old Hans - a most honorable hero - and his younger sister Gretel yearn to compete in their Dutch village's most exciting event of the year: the great ice-skating race!  

With their hand-carved wooden skates, they don't seem to have a chance against their well-trained friends, who own steel blades.  The prize?  Silver Skates, of course.

The conflict?  The reason Hans' family is poverty stricken is that the father, Raff Brinker, who is sick and has amnesia from a head injury caused by a fall from the dike, cannot remember or communicate where he has hidden their savings.  (By the way, Raff is also prone to violent outbursts - lots of Victorian literary drama here!)

Hans, Gretel, and their mother must work very hard to make up for the incapacitated father's lost job and wages.  The Brinkers are looked down on by most of the community families because of the father's confused state of mind and because they are poor, but luckily a kind doctor enters their lives...I hope you'll read this truly heart-warming story with your kids!  Best for ages 8 and up.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Feeling "Bookish" after Black Friday and Cyber Monday...and SOME NEWS!

My family's Black Friday may sound strange to some...we had a late breakfast at our hotel, visited with extended family at my brother and sister-in-law's (while the now-adult cousins worked on a 3,000 piece puzzle), and then spent a wonderful afternoon walking along the breakwater and stopping for ice cream with my husband, kids, and grandson at the Santa Barbara waterfront.

Cyber Monday?  A pleasant blur.  I spent the day off my computer because I was at a local Antique Mall, The Brick Basement.  But I wasn't shopping.

I was setting up a space there with my daughter!

We're calling our little shop "Bookish".  We'll be selling antiques and gently used and collectible books and vintage "bookish stuff".  My daughter is re-purposing book pages and old music paper for her crafty creations.  She made us some really cute tags:

I'll post pictures of our space soon!

In the meantime, take a peek at some of the treasures we'll be selling...We'll see how it goes.  Do any of you have experience with selling (or buying!) at Antique Malls.  We'd love any tidbits of advice you could give.

REMINDER: my Giveaway is ending soon - you still have a few days to enter for the Springerle Cookies and St. Nicholas book!  Just leave a comment (on this post, or go for  Details here.)  Giveaway ends on December 5th - Winner announced on St. Nicholas Day, December 6th!  Updated 12/6 - Giveaway over.