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)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vintage Collectible Art - in Books!

The "hunt" is the best part of the BOOKISH business I share with my daughter at The Brick Basement in Fullerton, CA.  (Hopefully I'll be able to sell some of our finds online - more on that in the near future).
I'm especially excited about some books I found recently from the set  BEST IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS, because they are from my own childhood - my mom read aloud to us from the books in the set we had growing up.  Our volumes didn't have the book covers, so it's doubly fun to see the books with their original covers intact!

The 42 volume set, published between 1957 and 1961 by Nelson Doubleday.  Each volume highlighted a mix of classics, original new stories, poetry, and non-fiction from many notable authors.  They also showcased art from some of the better know illustrators and artists of that time.

Here are a few favorite illustrations from the books I have:
Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier
illustrated by Idellete Bordigoni (from volume #37)
Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit
illustrated by Maruice Sendak (from volume #35)

Volume #33 (1960) was full of vintage treasures:
Favorite Mother Goose Rhymes
illustrated by Adrienne Adams
Sophocles the Hyena by Jim Moran
illustrated by Andy Warhol (yes, you read that correctly)
A Dime's Worth for Free by Marion Holland
illustrated by Richard Scarry

Volume #31 (1960) is especially poignant, because of some very collectible art by the late Maurice Sendak that I'll show you in my next post;  but I'll end today's with these illustrations by the Petershams...
The Picnic Basket by Margery Clark
illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham

Not to be missed:  Volumes 1 and 18, with artwork by the D'Aulaires; Volume 20, with Jean de Brunhoff's Babar; Volume 40 has Dorothy and Oz by L. Frank Baum, with illustrations by Richard Scarry; and other volumes throughout the series that include art by Leonard Weisgard, Don Freeman, Paul Galdone, Barbara Cooney, and Peter Spier, to name a few.
Go here for a complete list of the 42 volumes and their author/illustrators.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is "Present Absence" Becoming the Accepted Norm?

Look at the scenario below - do you recognize yourself in this state of "present absence" with a child or grandchild (or spouse)?
...when parents focus on their digital world first — ahead of their children — there can be deep emotional consequences for the child, Steiner-Adair says. "We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don't matter, they're not interesting to us, they're not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them," she says. Read more here.

We're all guilty of it: being distracted, not living in the moment. And with the emergence of smartphones, we've got more distractions than ever - right in our pockets - making it harder than ever to pay attention to the people right in front of us and our important communal relationships!

"Ignoring family and friends who are in the room, while text messaging someone far away, is counterproductive to solid, healthy, relationships...The age of technological advancement has it's advantages, but it also has a dark side. When we spend the majority of our waking hours text messaging, talking on mobile phones, or becoming lost in cyberspace, we've become self-destructive, having succumbed to an addictive behavior that blocks true spiritual, social, and mental growth. Technology has it's place, but we must not allow it to become a god unto itself." -Abbot Tryphon (from his blog, The Morning Offering - here.)
As our society delves deeper and deeper into technology and social networking, I've been seeing lots of articles on how they're affecting our families, friendships, and attention spans.

I mean - my goodness! - even the smallest child can hold a computer right in his little baby hands.  Have a look at this recent (and rather alarming) article, "Infants unable to use toy building blocks due to iPad addiction" - here.

With the onset of smartphones, it seems that mobile cellular devices are invading our homes, classrooms, restaurants and theaters, as well as our offices and streets (even churches and campsites - is no space sacred enough for silence anymore?).

But in reality, the problem isn't the devices; it's us.  Because as with any kind of media - and especially "mobile media" - lack of control stems from addiction - and bad habits are hard to break.

Teens especially are struggling with this addiction to "instant connectivity and always-on devices" - as noted in this important article.

Stop the madness!
Name it...
Having trouble putting down the device?  A good place to start is by naming and recognizing the root of your addiction problem:  are you suffering from loneliness, boredom, laziness, procrastination, depression, anxiety...?  Guess what?  Compulsively checking your social media sites on your smartphone will only make it worse!

Be Mindful...
Don't think you can survive without having your phone on 24/7? We have to re-learn mindfulness.
The goal of mindfulness is to be in the moment, when you're doing something. Instead of letting your mind ruminate or compulsively checking your cell phone, work on training your focus onto what you're doing -- if you're eating just eat, try to taste everything...From "Your Cell Phone is Not Part of Your Body - You Can Let it Go!" - read more here.

Institute "Smart" Phone Boundaries...
All those mini-moments of disconnect add up!  Do you have any tips that help limit your computer/smart phone/iPad use?  Here are mine:
1 - Just like with computers and television, no smartphones or iPads at the table during mealtimes.
2 - No smartphones during time with friends and family - strive to be in the moment.  Return calls/texts later.
3 - Consider not even uploading social network apps for sites like facebook, instagram, etc. on your phone, if they pose a distraction for you.  Be with your real community, not just your "virtual" one.
4 - Check your devices only occasionally for new emails, texts, or missed calls - not out of boredom.
5 - Don't substitute kids' apps for read aloud time and playtime with your child.  Remember "face-to-face" interactions are the primary way children learn! Read more here.
6 - Turn off your smartphone when you are in a worship service at church.  Whatever it is, can wait.  (This boundary should apply to theaters and libraries too.)

If These quotes Don't Motivate You to Put Down Your Smartphone, I Don't Know What Will...
 "We are always getting ready to live but never living." 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Forever is composed of nows." 
-Emily Dickinson
"Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes a place for that." 
-John Green
"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” 
-Benjamin Franklin
"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time." 
-Abraham Lincoln

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day: Honoring Our Country's Fallen Heroes

"They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation"
-Henry Ward Beecher
Today we honor all the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. 

Originally known as "Decoration Day", this holiday originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971 (as declared by President Richard Nixon). 

Flags are flown at half-staff today to show grief for the lives lost.  

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wow - What a Calamity!

Today I'd like to tell you about a new children's book, from photographer Olivier Toppin (he did the pictures for Molly Coxe's Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue, which I reviewed here.)
The book is Calamity Chick(translated from the original French edition, Pouissin Catastophe!). This playful story explores the fun adventures, hopes, and dreams of an accident-prone little chick named "Calamity".  Your children will be captivated as Calamity accidentally finds a passage from his new country home to the subterranean living quarters of "Molly" the Mole.  

This quirky little chick comes from the imagination of two artists from a studio based in France: photographer, Olivier Toppin and designer, Serge Rosenzweig. 
Photographer Olivier Toppin
The visual world found in this book has a unique style, conceived by these two talented artists. The lighting that looks like a perfect spring day was created in a photographic studio, and every set was built with a lots of rich natural elements and vintage objects. (It reminds me of the "I Spy" books that my kids used to love searching through for hidden objects.)
Designer Serge Rosenzweig
Olivier's original sketch rendering...
The finished set.
Young children will have fun discovering the circles on almost every page, which Olivier told me symbolize not only the passage of the chick from one surprising place to the next, but also speak to the creativity and ultimate realization Calamity finally has of his life long dream - as he comes "full circle"!  (There are some hearts hidden as well throughout the photographs.)

Olivier and Serge have certainly created a unique world for children to explore with Calamity Chick.  What is this chick's dream?  You'll have to get the book to find out! [hint: if you were a chick, what would you most want to be able to do?]  This joyful book is available as a kindle or paperback edition - here, from Amazon.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Bear and A Boy (well, three boys...)

This Mother's day, one of my favorite gifts was from my oldest son.  He gave me a 1961 edition of Winnie-The-Pooh (originally published in 1926).  What did I say?  "I'm so surprised, I love it, and it's just what I wanted!"
Why do I treasure this book?  We spent many happy hours reading aloud the "Pooh" stories when my son (boy #1) was little. (Read more here in "Making Friends With Pooh".)  

Also, Ernest H. Shepard's illustrations are simple, yet exquisite.  They are perfectly paired to the text.
I had never read A.A. Milne's dedication until now:

Hand in hand we come
Christopher Robin and I
To lay this book in your lap.
Say you're surprised?
Say you like it?
Say it's just what you wanted?
Because it's yours --
Because I love you.

Do you know the history of Pooh and Milne's son Christopher Robin (boy #2)?  It has to do with a swan and a London Zoo bear...you'll have to read Milne's introduction in the book - or, you can go here to read my post, "Origins of Winnie-the-Pooh" for a short explanation and some fun facts you may not have known.

There's another boy (#3) who loves this Bear...my little 19 month-old grandson.  
He is smitten with Disney's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977).  He sings along with "Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood", and bounces like crazy to "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers".  
Thanks to the film, my young grandson has been introduced to lots of new friends:  "Pooh", "Liglet", "Eeyoore", "Ow-l", "Tid-der", "Babbit" and "Woo".
Even though purists my not want to thank Walt Disney for Pooh's red shirt...

I really appreciate Walt's hat-tip to the Milne books - especially the opening scene of the 100 Aker Wood, which almost perfectly matches Shepard's end papers in the books.

With or without the red shirt, Pooh is a family favorite!  When my grandson is a little bit older - around Piglet's age - I look forward to many happy hours reading aloud to him about Edward Bear.

But right now he's happy to settle for watching the movie and playing with his Pooh Bear in the bathtub (just like Christopher Robin).

Saturday, May 10, 2014


A Victorian Poem by Ann Taylor (1783-1866)
illustrations by Walter Crane (1845-1915)
 Who fed me from her gentle breast,
And hush'd me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
My Mother.

When sleep forsook my open eye,
Who was it sung sweet hushaby,
And rock'd me that I should not cry?
My Mother.

Who sat and watched my infant head,
When sleeping in my cradle bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed?
My Mother.
When pain and sickness made me cry,
Who gazed upon my heavy eye,
And wept for fear that I should die?
My Mother.

Who dressed my doll in clothes so gay,
And taught me how to play,
And minded all I had to say?
My Mother.
Who taught my infant lips to pray,
and love God's holy book and day.
And walk in Wisdom's pleasant way?
My Mother.

And can I ever cease to be
Affectionate and kind to thee,
Who was so very kind to me?
My Mother.
Ah, no! the thought I cannot bear;
And if God please my life to spare,
I hope I shall reward they care,
My Mother.

Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
My mother.
When thou art feeble, old, and gray,
My healthy arm shall be thy stay,
And I will soothe thy pains away.
My Mother.
And when I see thee hang thy head,
'Twill be my turn to watch thy bed.
And tears of sweet affection shed,
My Mother.
For Could our Father in the skies
Look down with pleased or loving eyes,
If ever I could dare despise
My Mother...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I'm Hooked! (i.e. Best Opening Lines, Part Two)

Beyond "Once upon a time"...
Today I'm highlighting some classic books whose exceptional opening lines are "hooks" that will grab kids' attention and make them want to keep reading...

"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him 'WILD THING!' and Max said 'I'LL EAT YOU UP!' so he was sent to bed without eating anything." Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak 

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."  Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans 

"Way out at the end of a tiny little town was an old overgrown garden, and in the garden was an old house, and in the house lived Pippi Longstocking." Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
"The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where had he come from? Nobody knows. Taller than a house, the Iron Man stood at the top of the cliff, on the very brink, in the darkness."  The Iron Man (changed to The Iron Giant in 1968), Ted Hughes

"The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world." The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson
"Up until I was fourteen years old, no boy on earth could have been happier."  Summer of the Monkeys, Wilson Rawls
"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
"Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares." A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett

"Most motorcars are conglomerations (this is a long word for bundles) of steel and wire and rubber and plastic, and electricity and oil and gasoline and water, and the toffee papers you pushed down the crack in the back seat last Sunday." Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, Ian Fleming

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”  The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

It's not too early to start planning your child's summer reading list!  I love re-visiting favorite childhood books - often reading their opening lines brings the whole story rushing back into my mind!

This is the second installment of my favorite opening lines (you can see Part 1, here).  I tried to include good examples for both boys and girls...Do you have any to add?