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, February 27, 2013

Make a Book House Like Maisy's

The other day, a friend of mine showed me the cutest Maisy book she bought for her granddaughter - Maisy's House and Garden.  I can imagine any three to five-year-old would be thrilled with the cute "carousel" style play house book, complete with stickers and attached furniture, by Lucy Cousins...


Today I'd like to share something I came across last night on Pinterest from Crate Paper Blog - it's a DIY book house like Maisy's!  Amazing! Check it out...
from Crate Paper Blog
source: CP blog 
source: CP blog

I've done several blog posts about the art of paper cutting and paper engineering - including Book Making Ideas for Kids, which featured some "how to" tips and the pop-up art of Robert Sabuda.


Louise Rowe

Robert Sabuda
Make a pop-up butterfly with Robert Sabuda - go here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Pet Store (& Giveaway!) for Curious Kids

Visit a pet store without ever leaving your home! Look what I've got as a GiveawayThe Animal Store Alphabet Book, by Susan Bearman (signed by the illustrator, Rebecca Hamlin).  If you've got a young animal-lover in your house, they will definitely appreciate this book. Giveaway closed 3/27/13 WINNER: Theresa Marhoefer

Book-ended between the poetic opening and closing verses are pages full of unique and exciting pets, pictured within chunky alphabet letters, described in rhyme, and framed by fascinating facts!

Welcome to the Animal Store
Where this is what you'll see
The "who-knew zoo" just down the street
With pets from A-Z...

When looking for some things to do 
Next ho-hum afternoon
The animals all hope that you'll
Come back and visit soon.

I love this book - the illustrations and rhymes make science fun - who can resist?  And I've got a signed hardcover copy of the book and a cute "Animal Store Alphabet Coloring Book" to give away to one lucky reader - leave a comment here on my blog for a chance to win them both - winner revealed on Wednesday, February 27! (If you have trouble leaving a comment here, you're welcome to leave one on my Facebook post.) 

The book is based on author Susan Bearman's husband's pet shop, "The Animal Store", in Lincolnwood, IL.  One day Susan asked him for a list of animals in his store and discovered he had one for every letter of the alphabet. A picture book was born - but who to do the arwork?  Sister-in-law Rebecca Hamlin did the wonderful illustrations: 28 30"x30" paintings that now hang on loan at the Hope Institute Learning Academy in Chicago (an innovative public elementary school that serves typically-abled students, as well as a community of children with autism).

Pets as everyday as a Kitten and as exotic as a Nile Monitor are to be found in this alphabet book. I think the page with Hedgehog is especially cute...

Watch the book trailer below (and remember to leave a comment - here or on my Facebook page - to enter the Giveaway - winner revealed on Wednesday, March 27).  If you'd like to order the book for your child, it's available here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Made for Another World...

Quote from Lewis' Mere Christianity, photo source here.
The author who gave us Aslan and the land of Narnia, C. S. Lewis, was for many years an atheist. He described his conversion in Surprised by Joy: "In the Trinity term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God ... perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

Between 1941 and 1944, Lewis was invited to give a series of talks about Christianity on BBC radio. After the first set of talks was well received he also presented some lectures to soldiers, which he considered war work. His broadcasts resulted in many people converting to Christianity - and a lot of letters for Lewis to answer. The text of his talks was published in a book called Mere Christianity.

C.S. Lewis' seven Chronicles of Narnia were written and published between 1948 and 1956.  (Click here to read "Narnia: Fantasy in Fur Coats" from a BBC biographical article about Lewis.)

You are mistaken when you think that everything in the books 'represents' something in this world. Things do that in The Pilgrim's Progress [a 1678 allegory by John Bunyan] but I'm not writing in that way. I did not say to myself 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia': I said, 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.' 
-C.S. Lewis, quoted in Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide

The last book Lewis published, and one he considered his best, was Till We Have Faces, an unusual retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.  It's actually one of my favorite books - and is wonderful Lenten reading!

“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that's all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet” (from Till We Have Faces).
C.S. Lewis died on the 22nd November, 1963, one week shy of his 65th birthday. He never wanted his death to be widely acknowledged, and he got his way. American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on the same day. The author of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, also died on the 22nd.

Monday, February 18, 2013

DIG IN...To Lent...With Books!

(photo from Gwinnettmagazine.com)
Lent is a journey toward the Hope and Joy of Christ's Resurrection. It is a chance for us to slow down with our families and to focus and examine the condition of our spiritual life - which like a seedling plant, needs to be cultivated through prayer, fasting, acts of charity, and repentance.

A lovely new book from Jane G. Meyer illustrates this examination and cultivation perfectly: The Hidden Garden, illustrated by Masha Lobastov.
Within every heart is a hidden garden. We can neglect it until the weeds take over and the flowers wither and die. Or, with the help of Christ, we can care for it and make it a place of beauty, grace, and joy. This charming parable will encourage children (and adults) to open the gate to Christ and tend the garden of their heart with loving care. -Product description from Conciliar Press (update 12/13 - now Ancient Faith Publishing).
Don't miss Jane's new picture book - here just in time for Lent!  Through the eyes of an old man we learn how our heart can be like a desert, where we wander all alone with our anger and selfishness, not even willing to open the gate to Someone who knocks.  

How can we find the key that will let Him in to show us "how to turn the desert into a place of color and beauty"?  You'll have to get the book to find out (and I guarantee it's a beautiful place you'll want to step into over and over again!) 

Children will also like the practical tips "To Help Tend Your Garden" at the end of the book - reminders for everyday, but especially as Lent starts.

This is a photo of my dad, Fr. Peter Gillquist (of blessed memory),
as a little boy - taken in the 1940's for a church bulletin.

The gift of Lent is that it is a time of preparation - to draw closer to God and to acknowledge that He is the reason that we exist.  We need to seize this opportunity with our children to grow spiritually, so that it doesn't become just a "what-food-are-you-giving-up-for-Lent?" experience.

Books About Prayer for Kids...
Prayer For A Child
by Rachel Field
The Monk Who Grew Prayer
by Claire Brandenburg
Anytime, Anywhere: A Little Boy's Prayer
by Marcus Hummon
Give Me Grace... A Child's Daybook of Prayers,
by Cynthia Rylant
Special Agents of Christ: A Prayer Book,
by Annalisa Boyd
Hear Me: A Prayerbook for Orthodox Teens
More Lenten Reading:
The Tale of Three Trees, by Angela Elwell Hunt

The Book of Jonah, by Niko Chocheli

The Life of St. Brigid, by Jane Meyer

Song of the Swallows, by Leo Politi

Letters to St. Lydia, YA Novel by Melinda Johnson

Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann

The Lenten Spring by Thomas Hopko

The lenten spring shines forth,
the flower of repentance!
Let us cleanse ourselves from all evil,
crying out to the Giver of Light:
Glory to You, O Lover of man!
-from Cheesefare Wednesday Vespers

Friday, February 15, 2013



Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and also "International Book Giving Day".  I wanted to donate some books, and decided to support my local library at the same time by donating some used children's books I knew I could buy from our library bookstore...  
With grandbaby in tow, my daughter and I went to one of our local libraries, where we were greeted by the cutest book display I've seen in a long time.  There was a sign that read, 


It seems that libraries (and high schools) all across the U.S. are getting into the act, trying to encourage people to read, and using Valentine's Day as their happy medium. 

Library card holders can check out a book from a shelf full of books wrapped in plain paper - their genre and title are hidden from the reader. 

Written directly across the wrapped book were words and phrases with hints telling library patrons a little about what’s inside; just enough to pique their interest! (The library barcode is on the back, for secretive check-out.) 

You unwrap your book when you get home, perhaps discovering a new favorite book or author. 

The best part? 
"If you don't enjoy the book, bring it back with no hurt feelings or awkward breakups."

So - what books did I end up with to donate on "International Book Giving Day"?  They were both chapter books. (I left them anonymously on a playground park bench with a note.)  Here are some hints:  

  • Book #1: "Meet a Girl"; "American"; "Victorian"
  • Book #2: "Bear"; "Orange Marmalade"; "Train Station"; "England"

How cute is this display? This library REALLY got into the Valentine spirit! [source]
Next year, inspired by the photo above, I think I'll wrap my books to donate as "Mystery Valentines" (kids don't go on blind dates!)

Even Maggie Smith has something to say about it! [source]

Monday, February 11, 2013

Paris (and Giveaways!), Je t'aime!

Before you learn about this special Valentine's giveaway, take a look at the book that inspired this post:

With St. Valentine's Day just around the corner, I was looking for a good "love story" to feature on my blog.  Of course, finding a good children's book about love is not particularly difficult.  The titles are abundant and diverse.  But I was looking for something truly special and unique, not necessarily about romantic love, but more of a love based in friendship.  I came across the perfect story, and after reading it, I can hardly wait to share it with you...

Kiki and Coco in Paris is the title I'm showcasing today.  Have you read it?  It is a positively charming story about a girl named Kiki and her adventure with her doll Coco as they travel together to Paris.  In addition to capturing the sweet love story a girl shares with her best-loved doll, the book features engaging and colorful photographs set on over-sized pages.  The pages are eye-catchingly bright, and remind me of the I SPY books my kids loved for years and years.  It's rare to find such wonderful photography in a children's book.  Author Nina Gruener's sweet and simple words are the perfect compliment to Stephanie Rausser's photographic chronicle of her trip to Paris with her daughter, Kiki.  And of course, don't forget Coco--the chic Jess Brown doll who travels with Kiki on her Parisian adventure.  

So why did I choose this as a Valentine story?  Well, first of all, the story takes place in Paris--the city of love...

...captured by photos so vivid, they'll take you and your child on a journey straight there!  

When I homeschooled my children, I would always make Valentine's Day a special holiday--we would enjoy a red and pink breakfast, make Valentines, read the story of St. Valentine, and my kids would receive small gifts (I know my daughter would've loved this book)!  I was reminded of this in the book...

...and also of a breakfast I enjoyed with my husband when we went to visit my daughter and son-in-law during their 8-month stay in Paris!  

Our own Parisian breakfast...

Complete with a cafe, mmm!

I also found the sweet relationship of Kiki and Coco so endearing!!  They share many special moments together, as any girl who has a best-loved doll can tell you.  And they truly love each other...

...as you'll see throughout the book, but especially on this last spread.

What a treasure!!  Boys and girls alike will relate with the story of a child and her best-loved playmate.  And if you have a child interested in traveling, or you want them to become more interested, please give this book a try.  You will not be disappointed!  

ON TO THE GIVEAWAY... (now closed)
And while we're on the subject of Paris, I have some goodies to share!!  I've partnered with Galison/Mudpuppy for a fabulous giveaway for two of their adorable products!  One lucky winner will receive...

Sweet and colorful French-English flash cards
will help your child to learn 26 new words!
I think that's tres bien, don't you!!??
These adorable Paris-themed mini Sticky Notes will brighten anyone's day!
I'm sure you can find many uses for them, but I think I'd
use them to mark favorite quotations in my favorite books!!  

All you have to do is comment on this post to be entered into the drawing.  (now closed) It's that simple!!!  Comments left on this post through February 13th will be eligible for entry.  A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Valentine's day, February 14th!  Comments entered on Facebook posts or Pinterest will not be considered eligible for entry - just here on the blogpost.  *NOTE: I'm sorry to any readers from abroad,  but this drawing is for US residents only!!*

Finally, some parting (visual) thoughts: I came across this quick slideshow of Stephanie Rausser's photographs from her trip with Kiki (and Coco) to Paris.  Many of the images are featured in the book, but all of them are whimsical and playful!  Enjoy!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Tomorrow is the start of the Chinese New Year, the "year of the snake"! The Chinese calendar follows the moon and divides the years into groups of twelve. Each year is named for an animal, and people born in that year are believed to share the different traits of that specific animal. The SNAKE is the sixth sign of the Chinese zodiac, and represents wisdom, intelligence, and self-control. 
I'm honestly pretty squeamish about snakes.  Most that I've come across in children's literature are pretty mean - intelligent, yes, but not necessarily wise or full of self control!

  • Take for example "Asmodaeus Poisonteeth", from the Redwall series by Bryan Jacques - a giant adder who lived in an old sandstone quary near Redwall Abbey. When my husband would read aloud from the Redwall books to our kids, he'd always say "Aahhsssmodeussssss".
  • I'm sure most kids know about "Kaa", the Indian Python from Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book.
  • More recently there is "Nagini", Voldemort's giant python, from J.K. Rowlings' Harry Potter books.

Thanks to some suggestions that I received on Facebook from The Animal Store Alphabet Book (who I'll be partnering with soon for a giveaway), I was able to find a few picture book snakes of the nice variety!

My Snake Blake, by Randy Siegel, illustrations by Serge Bloc.
"My Snake Blake isn’t creepy at all. Blake the Snake is a little boy’s perfect friend right out of a birthday-present box. He calms the boy’s alarmed mother, spelling out reassuring cursive words with his body, and shows himself to be of invaluable service: Blake knows all the boy’s homework answers; helps with batting practice; and even walks the dog, serving as both ­walker and leash. It’s a very boy-centric story; snake-loving girls - seeing the contrast between reluctant mother and eager father, son and male snake - might wish for a snake book of their own". [source, NYT Sunday Book Review - here]

How about this vintage classic - Crictor, by Tomi Ungerer...
“Once upon a time in a little French town…” Madame Louise Bodot received a boa constrictor in the mail. She named the boa constrictor Crictor, and it became her pet. Crictor is a delightfully absurd exposition about what it might be like to have a boa constrictor as a pet.

For a more realistic snake story, try Verdi, by Janell Cannon.
Young Verdi doesn’t want to grow up big and green. He likes his bright yellow skin and sporty stripes. Besides, all the green snakes he meets are lazy, boring, and rude. When Verdi finds a pale green stripe stretching along his whole body, he tries every trick he can think of to get rid of it - and ends up in a heap of trouble. Despite his efforts, Verdi turns green, but to his delight, he discovers that being green doesn’t mean he has to stop being himself. 

I hope you enjoy these snake stories - why don't you read them while you snack on some fortune cookies!  And look for this cute book by Grace Lin...
Fortune Cookie Fortunes, by Grace Lin.
"Crack, crack, crack!" The cookies snap open and the family’s fortunes are revealed. Mei Mei wants to know how hers will come true. Jie Jie scoffs—they never come true. But Pacy isn’t so sure. As she waits and watches, she notices magical things happening in her family.

Could the fortunes really be right? And what about Pacy’s fortune: “You will see the world in a new way”? Well, yes, it’s true! Pacy has been seeing the world through fortune cookies!

This exuberantly illustrated story about every kid’s favorite part of a Chinese meal also includes a brief history of the fortune cookie.