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, March 24, 2014

Mid-Lent: Finding Comfort in the Cross

This past Sunday - the third Sunday of Lent - Orthodox churches everywhere celebrated the feast day of the "Adoration of the Cross".  And today I happen to be reviewing the book, Every Time I Do My Cross, from The Orthodox Children's Press about the ancient Christian practice of making the sign of the Cross as we pray.
Each year during the service mentioned above, I can't help but notice how the children especially are so reverent, bowing down low in prostration as the Cross is brought in a solemn procession to the center of the church (where it will remain for the entire week), a reminder and encouragement that we have reached the "halfway point" of our journey towards Christ's Resurrection.

Children understand the Cross, with its deep message of power and comforting assurance, and I think they will want this brand new picture book that reflects just that on their bookshelf!

With simple, yet charming text and illustrations, Every Time I Do My Cross, by Pres. Angela Alatzakis, seeks to show children the reasons for making the "sign of the Cross" as they pray.  The author brings us along to watch a little boy using the sign of the Cross during his various daily activities as well as at church.

Every time I do my cross it's for a different reason;
whether to thank God,
or to pray for help
with a big decision.
It doesn't matter the time or day
or even where I am,
when I need to say a prayer, 
doing my cross is where I begin.

Every Time I Do My Cross is available here from The Orthodox Children's Press.  Presvytera Angela (Married to Fr. Thomas Alatzakis) started this publishing company and Every Time I Do My Cross is her first book.  She has been a teacher for many years, and has always loved reading children's books.  She attended Hellenic College, receiving a degree in Human Development; Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, with a Masters of Theological Studies; and The University of Massachusetts, with an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"S" is for Shamrock: A Fun St. Patrick's Day Read-Aloud for the Whole Family

S is for Shamrock by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Matt Falkner, is part of the Discover the World book series by Sleeping Bear Press (2007) - and is a perfect read aloud choice for your family this St. Paddy's Day!

 "P" is for St. Patrick...
St. Patrick taught the fish to jump.
He drove the snakes away.
It seems the whole world honors him 
on each St. Patrick's Day!

 "W" is for Writers...
There are so many writers
that it's hard to name them all.
How could they have fitted
in a country that's so small?

The reason I'm recommending this blarney book as a family read aloud is that the full page spreads for each letter of the alphabet have short rhyming verses that are fun for younger kids, while parents and older children will enjoy the further information and historical details given in the sidebars.

For example, on the "W" is for Writers page (pictured above), the author notes that long ago Irish storytellers, shanachies, went from house to house telling their tales and were welcomed and revered by the people of Ireland.  She then shares about some famous Irish storytellers from modern times.

So sit down, brew yourself a pot of Irish Breakfast tea, and read this book with your kids on March 17!  (Go here for my other book recommendations for St. Patrick's Day.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Blog Post Roundup: LENT & EASTER

photo source
Book Lists For Lent -
"Dig In...to Lent...With Books" - go here
"The Legend of the Cross" - go here 
"Learning to Wait With Little Chick" - go here
"A Little Book Stack for Lent/Holy Week" - go here

Holy Week -
"Willows, Palms, Crosses, and Donkeys for Holy Week" - go here 
"Holy Week: The Miracles of Christ" - go here
"Holy Week: Journey to Pascha" - go here
"Quiet Activities for Holy Friday and Saturday" - go here

Getting Ready For Easter/Pascha
"Why Eggs for Easter?" - go here
"Bright Colors in my Kitchen" - go here
"Pysanka, A Ukranian Celebration of Life" - go here
"Russian Pascha Treats for Bright Week" - go here
"Egg Crafts and Traditions for Easter" - go here
"Book Themed Easter Baskets (They're Sugar Free!)" - go here
"The Feast of Feasts, Holy Day of Holy Days" - go here
"Bright Week Treasures With My Grandson" - go here

Friday, March 7, 2014

A New Retelling of an Ancient Legend, Just in Time for Lent (and Easter!)

As the first week of Lent draws to a close, I'd like to recommend a beautiful picture book that your child will want to read with you again and again during this holy season leading up to Easter.  It's the most recent collaboration of author Dr. Chrissi Hart and artist Niko ChocheliThe Legend of the Cross.

"Legend of the Cross" by Chrissi Hart
Niko Chocheli's stunning artwork brings a sense of majestic wonder to Chrissi Hart's poignant and heartfelt recounting of this medieval legend that traces the history of the special tree that would become the Cross of Christ.

From the Garden of Eden to Golgotha: the myth retold for young audiences...
You and your child will be transported as you follow the tree's wondrous and mythical journey in this beautifully crafted tale - from its origin as three seeds brought from Paradise and buried in Adam's grave, the tree grows tall and survives the Great Flood; gives shade to King David; is cut down by King Solomon; is forgotten and left at the bottom of a deep pit that miraculously becomes the Pool of Bethesda; floats to the surface many years later and is taken to its final holy destination on the hill of Golgotha, where the "Hope of the world" hangs upon it - the tree mystically participates in bringing man back to a New Paradise.

I think this mesmerizing book will bless all who read it for generations to come, and I hope you will add it to your child's Lenten bookshelf (or to his or her Easter basket!)  Just like the tree, we are on a journey to Golgotha during Lent.  And The Legend of the Cross points us toward our destination - the hope of the Resurrection! 
So let us rediscover Lent. A journey, a pilgrimage! Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the “bright sadness” of Lent, we see—far, far away—the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. And it is this vision, the foretaste of Easter, that makes Lent’s sadness bright and our Lenten effort a “spiritual spring.” The night may be dark and long, but all along the way a mysterious and radiant dawn seems to shine on the horizon. 
–Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Dr. Chrissi Hart is a Child Psychologist, author, and podcaster.  Born in Cyprus, Dr. Hart grew up in England from age three and writes stories for children from her cultural heritage that are inspiring and spiritually satisfying. 

Niko Chocheli, a native of the Republic of Georgia, is so highly regarded as an artist that, in 1997, he was granted permanent resident status by the U.S. government because of his "extraordinary ability in the arts." It's a recognition shared by the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Library Jay Gatsby Would Have Felt At Home In...

I visited Hearst Castle (in San Simeon, California) for the first time when I was in high school.  
I had just read The Great Gatsby, and my visit to this hilltop estate brought F. Scott Fitzgerald's story to life for me. I couldn't help but picture Jay Gatsby feeling quite at home in this Gothic chateau - complete with its grand dining room and guest rooms, lushly landscaped garden and pool areas, priceless art, and many antiquities that were part of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst's [1863-1951] own private collections.  

This past week my husband and I visited Hearst Castle and took the "Upstairs Suites Tour".  One of my favorite rooms was the exquisite, low-ceilinged library - home to many of Hearst's first-edition books and his collection of 150 ancient Greek pottery vases.
William Randolph Hearst's estate was under construction for 28 years!  It was finally completed in 1947. 
Among many other incredible requests, Hearst commissioned architect Julia Morgan to create several lampshades from the leaves of a medieval choir book.

I was pleasantly surprised by the two books that were on display in Hearst's beautiful Gothic study (his personal office and private library):  Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and Jack London's The Call of the Wild.  
After enjoying the indoor tour, my husband and I ventured out to see the gorgeous grounds of the estate... 
The landscaped gardens were a riot of color, profuse with all kinds of flowering spring bulbs and trees.

We followed the pathways which led us down to the outdoor Neptune Pool.
Aside from the surrounding mountains, the pool area was quite a perfect setting for one of the "Great Gatsby's" parties, don't you think?

Our afternoon at Hearst Castle ended with a quick visit to the fabulous indoor Roman Pool.
I hope you enjoyed my little photo blog of Hearst Castle. Want to see other libraries Jay Gatsby might have liked?  Go here: The Libraries, Studies, and Writing Rooms of 15 Famous Men - from "The Art of Manliness" Blog.

And go here to read more about the various tours offered at Hearst Castle (there is even a night tour offered, where tourists can mingle with docents who are decked out in period costumes).