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)

Monday, September 30, 2013

The d'Aulaires: Artists and Historians

Edgar Parin was born in Switzerland on September 30, 1898. He took his mother's name, d'Aulaire, when he became an artist.

Edgar and Ingri d'Aulaire

Edgar met Ingri Mortenson at art school in Munich in 1921. The couple married in Norway, then moved to Paris. As Bohemian artists, they often talked about emigrating to America. “The enormous continent with all its possibilities and grandeur caught our imagination,” Edgar later recalled. They immigrated to New York in 1929.

The couple collaborated on their first children's book, The Magic Rug, at the suggestion of a New York city librarian in 1931. Next came three books - the first of which is Ola - steeped in the Scandinavian folktales of Ingri’s childhood in Norway.

What a cute book!!!  source

Next they shifted their attention to books featuring American heroes such as Pocohantas, Benjamin Franklin and Buffalo Bill, before turning to the realm of mythology.

The husband and wife team eventually produced over 20 picture books for children. The D'Aulaires established the picture book biography as a valued staple of library collections. They worked as a team on both the art and text throughout their joint career.

here - from Beautiful Feet Books

Originally, the d'Aulaires used stone lithography for their illustrations. A single four-color illustration required four slabs of Bavarian limestone (one for each color), with each stone weighing up to two hundred pounds! The technique gave their illustrations a wealth of authentic detail and vibrancy. 


In the early 1960s, when this process became too expensive, the d’Aulaires switched to acetate sheets which closely mimicked the texture of lithographic stone. (Many of the old stones are now housed in the University of Minnesota's Kerlan Collection.)

The d’Aulaires' career spanned nearly five decades. They were working on a new book when Ingri died in 1980 at the age of seventy-five. Edgar continued working until he died in 1985 at the age of eighty-six.

Abraham Lincoln received a Caldecott Medal in 1940 and the d'Aulaires received the Catholic Library Association's Regina Medal for "distinguished contribution to children's literature." The D'Aulaire's Trolls was a New York Times outstanding book of 1971.

[sources: New York Review Books and The Children's Literature Network.]

Have you seen their picture books for young children?  Book of Animals, Too Big, and The Two Cars - here, for ages 2-5.

Or their folklore collection? Norse Myths, Trolls, The Terrible Troll Birdhere, for ages 5-12.
here, for ages 5-12

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Gift of Harper Lee's Mockingbird

Atticus said to Jem one day, "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird."
Published July 11, 1960
That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. 

"Your father’s right," she said. "Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” 

An introduction to Harper Lee...
Harper Lee - photo source

She is an American writer, famous for her novel To Kill A Mockingbird, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. 

To Kill A Mockingbird became an international bestseller and was adapted for the screen in 1962.   
Scout (Mary Badham) and Harper Lee on set - source

Don't you think Mary Badham (the young actress who played Scout in the movie) looks like a little Harper Lee?  Like Lee, Badham grew up in Alabama amid racial tension and segregation.

Lee was 34 when the book was published, and it has remained her only novel. 

Descended from Robert E. Lee, the Southern Civil War general, Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926. 

Lee's father was a former newspaper editor and proprietor, who had served as a state senator and practiced law in Monroeville.

Lee developed an interest in English Literature in high school, and then went to an all girls college in Montgomery, where she was eventually accepted into law school.

But after her first year in the law program, Lee began expressing to her family that writing - not law - was her true calling. She went to Oxford University in England that summer as an exchange student. 

Returning to her law studies that fall, Lee dropped out after the first semester. She soon moved to New York City to follow her dreams to become a writer. [more here]

"Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books."
-Harper Lee, in a letter written to Oprah in 2006

In 2007, Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush.
White House photo by Eric Draper - source
To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced the character of our country for the better. It's been a gift to the entire world. As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book will be read and studied forever. 
- President George W. Bush about Harper Lee's work.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Shop Around the Corner: What was the "Storybook Lady" Reading?

You've Got Mail is one of those cozy movies my daughter and I can watch again and again!  How about you?

For us, the setting (a children's bookshop in New York City) and the music (Nora Ephron's movies always have brilliant soundtracks of oldies and forgotten treasures), play as much of a starring role as the actors.  

And who better to make you feel good than Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks?

When watching the movie, I'd never taken the time to figure out which book Meg Ryan's character, Kathleen Kelly, is reading as the "Storybook Lady".  But this time I quickly paused the dvd to see the book's cover...

And saw the word B-O-Y.  And I listened carefully to the passage she was reading aloud to the children...

I must tell you, therefore, that it was I and I alone who had the idea for the great and daring Mouse Plot. We all have our moments of brilliance and glory, and this was mine.

“Why don't we,” I said, “slip it into one of Mrs. Pratchett’s jars of sweets? Then when she puts her dirty hand in to grab a handful, she'll grab a stinky dead mouse instead.”

The other four stared at me in wonder. Then, as the sheer genius of the plot began to sink in, they all started grinning. They slapped me on the back. They cheered me and danced around the classroom.

“We'll do it today!” they cried. “We’ll do it on the way home! You had the idea, so you can be the one to put the mouse in the jar.”

Boy by Roald Dahl

The passage that we see Kathleen Kelly reading during her book shop's story time to the group of kids is from Boy: Tales of Childhood, an autobiographical children's novel written by Roald Dahl.

Kathleen Kelly's bookstore in the film was based largely on Manhattan's  Books of Wonder.  Meg Ryan worked the counter at Books of Wonder for a day as part of her preparation. Decorative props from the film can still be seen at the store.

The children's book store scenes in the film were actually filmed at Maya Schaper's Cheese and Antique Shop on 103 West 69th Street (which has since closed - life imitating art?). 

Did you know that You've Got Mail (1998) is based on a classic movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan?  The title?  The Shop Around the Corner (1940), of course! (Another film we watch again and again!)

Jame's Stewart's Alfred Kralik and Margaret Sullavan's Klara Novak.

[Source, and more fun You've Got Mail movie trivia here.]

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Official: Fall is Here!

Yesterday marked the first day of fall: the Autumn Equinox.  

Here in Southern California, that means stores are stocking pumpkin candy corn, and we finally have temperatures below 85 degrees. (But we might get an "Indian Summer" in October).

Oh, how I've been waiting for this!  I LOVE FALL!  Why?  If you check out my Pumpkin/Turkey/Fall Time Board on Pinterest, you'll see why:

Stories like Pumpkin Moonshine, by Tasha Tudor -

Now It's Fall, by Lois Lenski -

Peter in Blueberry Land, (and many more books) by Elsa Beskow -

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Herbal Tea...

Recipes - like homemade Pumpkin Coffee Creamer

and Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting:

Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Spice Bars:
Also - Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, and Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Spice Buttercream Frosting

Look at these Mums! ($13 from Costco!)

DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder via Martha Stewart:

(Non Scary) Halloween fun...If you've followed my blog for very long, you know I like to find ideas that are family friendly and book themed for Halloween -- like a "Storybook Pumpkin Patch", "Literary Themed Parties for 'tweens and Teens",  "Book or Treat", and "Literary Pumpkins".

Watch for this year's Halloween ideas - coming soon!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's All About Hobbits!

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
Greg and Tim Hildebrandt made their careers painting Tolkien’s world.

FOUR FUN FACTS For "Hobbit Day" and "Tolkien Week", in honor of the author...

1) Publication Date: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was published in England on September 21, 1937.  That first edition sold out by December of that year because of such glowing reviews!

2) Did you know Tolkien could draw?
...when J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he was already an accomplished amateur artist, and drew illustrations for his book while it was still in manuscript. See all his illustrations here.

How Tolkien envisioned the Shire [source]

3) The cover that Tolkien hated...
The 1942 edition of The Hobbit for Foyles book club, directed at British children. 

Tolkien is said to have remarked, "Surely the paper wasted on that hideous dust-cover could have been better used." (Believe it or not, that's meant to be Bilbo Baggins in the suit.) 
[source, Tolkien Library - here]


4)  Happy Hobbit Day!!  September 22 marks Bilbo and Frodo's mutual birthday, the date of the "Long Awaited Party", and was designated by the American Tolkien Society in 1978 as "Hobbit Day". 

To celebrate, check out "A Visual History of Bilbo Baggins" from Buzzfeed.  And don't forget to have a Second Breakfast!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Arthur Rackham, Illustrator from a "Golden Age"

The first few decades of the 20th century have become known as the "Golden Age" of book illustration, when improvements in printing technology allowed publishers to produce lavish colour illustrations for the first time. 

Of all the artists who became famous in this period, by far the most popular was Arthur Rackham, who still maintains his hold over the public imagination a century later. [source]

Today marks the date of Arthur Rackham's birth on September 19, 1867, in London, England.  

His book illustrations are known for their luxurious color and fine detail.  Following a popular trend of the time, they were highly desired as Christmas gifts in signed and limited editions.

Rip Van Winkle (1905)

It was the publication of Rip Van Winkle in 1905 that put Rackham on his course to fame.

Following were Peter Pan In Kensington Gardens (1906), Alice's Adventures In Wonderland (1907), Cinderella - in one color plate and 60 silhouettes (1919), and a host of other popular titles

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens  cover (1906)

"A Mad Tea Party"
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Cinderella (1919, here)

Rackham invented his own unique technique which resembled photographic reproduction; he would first sketch an outline of his drawing, then lightly block in shapes and details. Afterwards he would add lines in pen and India ink, removing the pencil traces after it had dried. With colour pictures, he would then apply multiple washes of colour until translucent tints were created.  

He also expanded the use of silhouette cuts in illustration work... (source) 

Arthur Rackham's Cinderella (silhouette source)

With Rackham's death in 1939, his range and consistent high quality of work has remained unrivaled. His last book, Wind In The Willows, was published posthumously in 1940.

 Wind in the Willows (1940)
To read an excellent 8-part series about Rackham and see many more of his gorgeous illustrations, go here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Spending "Roald Dahl Day" with Some of His Best Quotes...

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”  - Roald Dahl, Matilda

Today would have been Roald Dahl's 97th Birthday, and September 13th is "Roald Dahl Day"! Here are some quotes to help you celebrate.  Which one is your favorite?  (I especially like the last one.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

End of Day: 10 Years Without the Man in Black

Ten years ago today the world lost a great man: singer and songwriter Johnny Cash, fondly known as "The Man in Black".  My dad, Fr. Peter Gillquist, was the ghostwriter for Cash's autobiography, which bears Cash's nickname.

Man in Black - published by Zondervan in1975

I’ll never forget the road trip our family made to Nashville, Tennessee, back in the 1970's when my dad was working with Johnny (he didn't want any of us to call him "Mr. Cash") on the book. We drove up to his office, the "House of Cash", in Hendersonville, and Dad parked the car. Dad got out, giving the six of us siblings explicit instructions to “stay in the car, kids”.

The "House of Cash" as I remember it - info
(photo source here)

But suddenly Johnny Cash was coming out the front door, walking right toward the car - tall, smiling, and dressed completely in black (of course).  Much to my father’s chagrin, my brother and I opened the back doors of the car and immediately hopped out, right at Dad’s heels. I guess neither of us wanted the other one to be the first of us kids to shake Johnny Cash’s hand!

Later, we drove over to the Cash's beautiful lakeside home (which has since unfortunately burned down) to quickly be introduced to June and John Carter.

Cash in front of their home, 1969 - THE TENNESSEAN/AP

The inside of their home looked like a beautiful log cabin.  June Carter came downstairs to meet us, her hair wrapped in a bath towel.  She'd just gotten out of the shower! (My mom later said she wished she could be that comfortable with guests!)

Today I happened to find this blog by Andreas Koutsoudis, with an article posted about Johnny Cash's faith, titled "Inside the Complicated Faith of Johnny Cash", by Dave Urbanski (originally written for Relevant Magazine, February 26, 2013).

Andreas also posted several good YouTube links to some great Johnny Cash songs, and also mentioned my Dad's involvement with the Man in Black book.

For the record, Dad was not a fan of the movie, Walk the Line, because it left out so much of Johnny and June Carter's strong Christian faith.  If you can find it, read the book Man in Black, told in Johnny's own words!!  A great read, for teens and up.

This is a photo that my dad had of Johnny Cash.
I wonder if he's singing "Man in Black"...
"Man in Black" by Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.