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, July 30, 2014

Road Tripping Through Laura Ingalls Wilder Country...(or: "The Yellow Brick Road Trippers")

With the help of Roadtrippers.com, our daughter has planned some adventures and sightseeing for us as we make the looong drive from California in order deliver her and our grandson - and their "stuff" - safely to her husband near Chicago, Illinois.

Kansas, the "Sunflower State" - source

After traveling to Utah's Zion National Park and some sites in Grand Junction, Colorado, we're moving on to....Kansas!

Yes, we'll be road tripping through Dorothy Gale and Laura Ingalls Wilder country on our way across several Midwestern states to Illinois...

The Road to Oz...
I'm hoping we can visit the OZ Museum in Wamego, KS!
According to the Kansas Historical Society website,
Kansans have mixed feelings for Baum and his story. Dorothy, a little girl from Kansas, lives in a bleak, drab environment...The Kansas Baum describes was based on his experiences living in South Dakota in the 1880s.  Many Kansans found this description of Kansas unjust and untrue...but after having traveled through the colorful and exciting Land of Oz, Dorothy exclaims as she taps together the heels of her ruby slippers, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." Many Kansans point to Dorothy's desire as the more important message of the work.

The "Real" Little House on the Prairie...
This map shows the Ingalls' family travels in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Unfortunately our route won't take us as far south as Independence, Kansas, to see a replica of the real Little House on the Prairie...
...so we'll just have to settle for a tour in the video below from the awesome website about Laura Ingalls, Frontier Girl.


In 1869, the Ingalls' family moved to this location, 12 miles southwest of Independence, Kansas. They stayed here about a year before returning to their earlier home in Pepin, Wisconsin. Laura Ingalls Wilder was only 3 when the family lived in Kansas, but when she started writing the "Little House" books, she based Little House on the Prairie on memories of her older family members: Pa, Ma, and Mary. The Michael Landon television series Little House on the Prairie was not set at this location, but at Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where the family moved in 1874. The small Little House on the Prairie cabin at this location is a recreation [of the original home] based on the description found in the book. The foundation of a small house believed to have been the home of the Ingalls' family, was found at this location in 1977.  [source: kansastravel.org]
(Click here for my past post about Laura Ingalls Wilder.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Road Trip Detours: Frozen Custard and Zion National Park

"Those who live on the mountain have a longer day than those who live in the valley.  Sometimes all we need to brighten our day is to climb up a little higher."  ~Ella Flagg Young
When our children were young, we loved escaping the busy pace of life by camping at Zion National Park.  So of course we had to plan a little detour to go there during our road trip to Illinois...

But before we detoured to Zion, we had to "pre-detour" for something even more important – Nielsen's frozen custard in St. George Utah!

It's seriously the best dessert ever - the texture of it is smoother than ice cream.  Definitely worth the detour!!  If you're ever near one, GO.

On to Zion...I liked it when you could drive through and sightsee yourself; but now because of the park's popularity and to save on car emissions, they only allow visitors to experience Zion via shuttle buses.  

You catch them at the visitor center, where we saw some great books (and lots of other fun stuff) for kids.

There are tons of amazing hikes - quite a few are easy enough for children.  My husband and sons went on the challenging Angel's Landing hike, then we all went (with my grandson in the stroller) to Emerald Pools. 

It was a lovely way to "brighten our day".  Now we're on the road again heading to Colorado. 
July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Life is an Adventure

Sometimes leaving is a part of growing up - change definitely is...

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.

Peter Pan wanted none of that. He just wanted to have fun - and stories.
"Do you know," Peter asked "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories."
Marjorie Torrey illustration. From the Random House book, Peter Pan, (1957)
edited by Josette Frank from 
Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. [source]

Like Peter Pan, my toddler grandson, Peter, loves stories. I thoroughly enjoy reading them to him everyday (I am "Wendy" after all) - and like Mrs. Darling, I'd love things to remain like this forever.

J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy has long been a favorite around our house (and on my blog, here). That is why, about 6 weeks after my grandson was born, I couldn't help but choose a Peter Pan theme for a "Sip and See" party I hosted for him at my sister's house when we traveled "back home" for Thanksgiving.


Baby Peter's maternal great-aunties and great-grandmas, cousins, and a handful of close family friends, came to sip tea and meet the newest family member.

New Adventures...
That was over a year and a half ago.  We had no idea then that Peter's Daddy would be joining the Navy Reserves.

After a three month separation from "Dada" during Bootcamp, my daughter and grandson were recently happily reunited with him during a quick trip to the PIR (graduation) in Illinois (I blogged about it over Father's Day weekend.)

Today we're starting a road trip across the mid-west with Peter and his Mama in order to deliver them safely to my son-in-law in Great Lakes, IL, where he is anxiously awaiting their return as he starts his nine-month training.

It's been a joy having them temporarily live with us, and I know everyday I will miss them dearly! Especially when I think of the stories we've shared and the memories we've created.

We're all growing up, and life's adventures will continue, but we don't want any forgetting!

We may not have a Pinch of Pixie Dust, but the modern magic of Facetime and Skype will take us to them over and over while they're gone - almost as good as a quick flight to Neverland!

"Second star to the right, and straight on until morning"...

In the meantime, off we go...stay tuned for some road trip fun as we tootle on across the states to Chicago!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Good Cheer Book

This post WWI book, published in 1919, is a gem!  I found "The Good Cheer Book" at the Brand Bookshop, a used bookstore in Glendale. (Sadly, this book browser's heaven is going out of business.  Happily, all the books were 70% off!)

The gorgeous cover is what first caught my eye.  I bought the book thinking I'd sell it in my "Bookish" shop; but after opening the cover and perusing inside, I knew I had a keeper!

It's an anthology full of thoughtful quotes and poetry.  The author asks in her introduction, "Why the Good Cheer Book?"  She answers:

The greatest war of the ages has passed, leaving in its wake maimed bodies, broken hearts, shattered hopes, unrealized ideals, soul-hunger, and menacing social and economic unrest...

There are many people - sick people, discouraged people, lonely people - who need nothing so much as an understanding and sympathetic friend to help them to discover themselves and their power to create their own good cheer.  May this little book prove to be such a friend....

~Blanche E. Herbert

The first excerpt in Part I: "The Diagnosis", puts forth several questions that could be asked today.  The answer?  Well, one would not be given this diagnosis today!  (In this age of self-vicitmization, I found the straightforward answer refreshing - what do you think?)...

Are you enjoying life?  Do you feel a certain kind of expectancy and glad looking forward when you awake in the morning as to what the events of the day may bring to you?  Or is it with an uneasy, disappointed, and somewhat guilty feeling that you find yourself when consciousness returns?  Have you come to fell how insincere and degenerate all the people around you have become, and how few people can really be trusted in the world today, and how little true religion there is, and what a hard time you have had, harder than anyone else?  

Then there is something wrong with you.  Not with life, nor with your fate or lot, but simply with you, with your own character.  As the mother told her boy, you are one of the uninteresting good people who have lost their interest in the problems of life, and so have become uninteresting.

-John Edgar Park

Watch my Good Books Facebook page for lots of inspiring quotes from this Good Book!

"Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man."
-Sir Walter Foss

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Pet Advice" From Maggie Rudy's Super Cute Mice

Do you wish sometimes...

that you had a pet?

Maybe even just a little roly-poly?  

If this sounds like your child, you've got to run out and find this adorable new picture book from talented artist Maggie Rudy...

Maggie's hand sewn mice and charming dioramas will lead you and your child into a "Mouseland" that you'll want to venture a peek into again and again!

And her little mice offer plenty of good advice about what it means to own a pet, such as...
1. Pick a pet that suits your style.
2. A pet is not a doll (it might not like to play dress up)...
3. Your pet might like to play fetch...
4. Care for you pet...
- Keep it clean
- Keep it comfy, fed, and watered.
- And when it makes a mess, clean up after it!

You'll discover lots of other criteria for becoming a pet owner in this adorable book, but most important of all remember: "Pick a pet who will be your friend..."

I Wish I Had a Pet is Maggie Rudy's second book (after The House that Mouse Built.)  Hat tip to one of my blog followers - Martha from The Scrumptious Life - who turned me onto Maggie's amazing work!

I immediately got in touch with Maggie, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions so we could get to know her a little better:
Maggie holding her newest book,
I Wish I Had A Pet
source: http://mouseshouses.blogspot.com/
I understand that you and your sisters acquired your first felted mice during a year that your family lived in England. What were a few of your favorite children's books growing up?
Maggie: I loved The Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams; Ferdinand The Bull, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, and my first chapter book, The Adventures of Sam Pig, by Allison Uttley, illustrated by Graham Percy. I loved Sam Pig! I was always drawn to the pictures in books at least as much the stories. Our father also read us the entire Ring series by J.R.R Tolkien when I was about six, and much of the imagery from those books stays with me still.

What led you into the world of art and creating your own little creatures?
Maggie: My grandmother and mother were both artists, so I had the example of people around me making things, and there were always art supplies to be had. And my sisters and I spent hours making little environments from moss and sticks for our troll dolls. I'm not exactly sure how, but those two things were certainly starting points for the creation of Mouseland.

When did you decide to take the plunge into the world of children's books? 
Maggie:I took a photograph of some mice one year for a Christmas card, which gave me the idea of using them as illustrations. My sons were leaving home and I was eager to explore new career possibilities, so I enrolled in a children's book illustration class at our community college. The instructor told me that I had something special with the mice, and that I should pursue a career in the field. So I did!  

I'm just crazy about Maggie's books and her fun blog that features the "newest exploits" of her mice!!  Maybe it's because when I was a baby, I was nicknamed "Wendy Mouse" by a close friend of my parents - he insisted that I was so small my cry was "just a squeak".  The pet name (pun intended) stuck, so I'm always ready for a good mouse story! Go here to read my past post, "FUN MOUSE STORIES (that aren't about Mickey!)"

Here's the book trailer for I Wish I Had a Pet.  What do you think? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Vintage Book About a Town Clock

Yesterday I happened upon a vintage book that I just couldn't pass up for my grandson.  It's simply titled, "The Clock", and I picked it up for $3.00.  What a treasure!

This delightful book, published in 1956, was written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina (1908-2002), a citizen of the U.S. who was born in Russia.


Leonard Marcus, a renowned children’s book scholar, noted that “as the first picture book artist to experiment with collage, Slobodkina pointed the way for many later artists. Directly or indirectly, the example of her work set the stage for the distinctive contributions to the picture book by Leo Lionni, Ezra Jack Keats, Eric Carle, Ed Young, Lois Ehlert, and Ellen Stoll Walsh.”

Slobodkina's colorful artwork tells most of the story about a Vermont town and its Old Clock in the church tower. The clock tells the citizens of the town when it is time to get up, go to work, and go to bed...

One day the clock breaks, and everything becomes chaos!  But an old lady named Mrs. Johnson temporarily takes the clock's place..."she was deaf and never waited for the chimes.  She just knew that when she woke it was time to get up."

When she sees that the streets and shops are empty, she gets worried and begins banging on doors.  If it hadn't been for Mrs. Johnson, the whole town would have slept in!

The townspeople finally decide that they will call a repairman to come and fix the clock.  He comes with his long ladder and black tool bag.

He discovers that all the clock needs is to be cleaned, polished, and wound.  The townspeople are comforted once again by the chimes that are the first thing they hear in the morning, and the last thing before going to sleep!

Do the pictures in The Clock look at all familiar?  How about the author's name? Esphyr Slobodkina (whose career began with Margaret Wise Brown) also wrote and illustrated the beloved children's book, Caps for Sale...

Friday, July 11, 2014


by Lori Degman, illustrated by Deborah Zemke.

What happens on a farm when the barnyard rooster decides to take a week long vacation at the beach?  Chaos! 

If you've got a 3-9 year old child, I know you'll want to run out and find this book.  

It's got just what this age group likes:  cute illustrations, clever humor, rhyme, cadence, and a twist at the end!
Each animal left on the farm tries lending his voice for the "wake up call" without success.  Farmer McPeeper (a very deep sleeper) just keeps on snoring.
Things go from bad to worse when the Rooster returns with a sniffle and sneeze (from the damp ocean breeze!)  What are they to do now??

You'll have to get Cock-a-Doodle Oops! to find out - the ending is hilarious.  A fun summer read, with a guaranteed laugh for preschoolers or independent readers!

Available on Amazon.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Just 20 Minutes...

Research has shown that just 20 minutes of reading a day can help prevent a child from losing literacy skills. Try this: Take 20 minutes every day as a family to turn off the TV and read – either silently to yourselves, or aloud to one another. You’ll notice a difference! [source - Parade Magazine interview with Lavar Burton]

Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you've heard about Lavar Burton's Kickstarter campaign to bring back the PBS show Reading Rainbow.  It was a roaring success - he raised 5 million dollars!

Yesterday's Parade Magazine featured an interesting interview with Lavar.  Among other things, he was asked about the importance of summer reading.  I loved his answers...

Parade: Kids are out of school.  But studies show that if they don't read during the break, they go back to class behind.  What can parents do?

Lavar: There's a critical window where a child either becomes a reader or not -- for life.  Between the ages of 7 and 9 is when that decision is made.  Parents ask me, "How can I get my kid to read?"  I say, "How much time do you spend reading in front of your kid? How many books do you have in your house?  How often do you have an evening where you don't watch TV and it's family reading night?"  Insist by example so your child gets that reading is an important aspect of life.

My Summer Reading Lists
Summer reading is so important!  I did a recent post on good book choices for summer, here.  "But you don't have to take my word for it!"  I've listed Lavar's picks below.

Lavar's Top 10 Summer Reads:
1.  George and Martha by James Marshall
2.  The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
3.  How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
4.  Miss Martin is a Martian by Colleen Murray Fisher
5.  Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
6.  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
7.  Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrew Beaty
8.  There's an Alligator in My Bed by Mercer Mayer
9.  Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
10. The BFG by Roald Dahl