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, September 24, 2014

It's Finally Fall, and Our Owl is Back!

Our neighborhood owl is back!  A couple of nights ago I heard him:  the "hoo-hoo-HOO" of a Great Horned Owl, in one of the big trees just outside our window. Somehow, he knows it's fall...
(Illustration by Valerie Greeley)
Just like the owls, we are all thankful for cooler mornings and evenings here in Orange County!  We don't get freezing temperatures or huge amounts of fall color, but I love the deeper slant of the sun, and the still-warm breezes that scatter the fallen, dry sycamore leaves across our brick patio in the autumn.

That must be a cue for the Great Horned Owls to start looking for a mate - their breeding time is from October through December here in SoCal.  Below is a photo my son took at sunrise early one spring morning a couple of years ago, of two of them after nesting season was over.

Today I have to share an adorable children's book about owls! (you can also go here for my past post featuring other owl book recommendations.)

The book is Owl Babies, written by Martin Waddell and beautifully illustrated by Patrick Benson.  It's a story about waiting and reassurance...
And it is my grandson Peter's current favorite library book (my daughter told me he's checked it out three times!)  Last week I found a cute board book edition that came with a little stuffed owl, which I mailed off to Peter - he was quite ecstatic.

Toddlers and preschoolers can really relate to this simple story because, like most young children, the baby owls - "Sarah", "Percy", and "Bill" - miss their Mommy. Especially Bill, the youngest, whose only line (my grandson's favorite to chime in on) is: "I want my Mommy!"

The story starts as the worried owls wake up one night, in their little owl habitat (which the author describes perfectly), to find that their Owl Mother is gone.  They do lots of wondering and thinking - "all owls think a lot" - and waiting.  It's dark and things are moving all around them.  They have to be brave and stick together, and finally, just as they closed their eyes and began wishing... sure enough, "SHE CAME!"

Watch the charming animated version of the book below to find out what Bill's one line of input changes to at the end of the story...and Happy Fall, dear readers!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"The World Was Hers for the Reading": The 10 Book Challenge

“Oh magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words.” 
“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived. 

As she read, at peace with the world and happy as only a little girl could be with a fine book and a little bowl of candy, and all alone in the house, the leaf shadows shifted and the afternoon passed. ”
-from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (1943)

Facebook statuses have recently been overflowing with The 10 Book Challenge: "In your status, post 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard. They don't have to be the 'right' books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way." 

I was tagged and have decided to share my faves here on my blog.  I have to say that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn quickly came to mind!  

Here is my quick list of books that have had an impact on me (sorry, I couldn't quite keep it at 10, so here are the Top 15 Books I Love)...
1.    Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
2.    Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
3.    Heidi by Johanna Spyri
4.    Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard
5.    The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
6.    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
7.    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
8.    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
9.    Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries (& Harriet Vane) by Dorothy Sayers
10.  Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
11.  Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy by Sigrid Undset
12.  84 Charing Cross Road (and all others) by Helene Hanff
13.  Andy Catlett: Early Travels: A Novel by Wendell Berry
14.  Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis
15.  Father Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father translated by Vera Bouteneff

Honorable mention/Not to be missed: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene; James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small series; Little Britches books by Ralph Moody; The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett; Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes; Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth Jr.; Pride and Prejudice and Emma by Jane Austen; David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; Mitford Series by Jan Karon; Grand Duchess Elizabeth by Lubov Millar.

Did I leave out any of your Top 10...15...or 20???

Monday, September 1, 2014

Traveling In Lincoln's Footsteps

I was born in Illinois, living there until first grade, and was always proud to know that Abraham Lincoln, though born in Kentucky, lived much of his life in my home state before becoming our 16th President.  I moved away from Illinois without ever having visited a home he lived in. It took a road trip back to the mid-west, with our little grandson in tow, to finally get there!
At a fun coffee shop across the street from the Lincoln
Home National Historical Site in Springfield, IL.
We were able to make a stop at the only home Abraham Lincoln ever bought when we visited The Lincoln Home and Neighborhood in Springfield, Illinois, where he practiced law.  We found it fascinating to follow in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln while exploring the beautifully restored historic neighborhood homes surrounding his home of seventeen years.

Below is a photo of the house, that I took from the same vantage point as the black and white photo (taken in 1860) in which you see Abraham Lincoln and his son standing behind the wrought iron fence.

The house was originally constructed in 1839 as a one-and-a-half story cottage.  It was later expanded by the Lincolns into a two-story house with corner columns, moulding and other Greek revival features, to accommodate their growing family.  The Lincolns lived in this house from 1844 until Lincoln's election as President in 1860.

We stopped by the museum gift shop, which was full of books about Lincoln's life.  Go here to read about two exceptional picture books I reviewed about Abraham Lincoln in a past blog post.

Did you know...?
In 1860, eleven-year-old Grace Bedell wrote to Lincoln suggesting he grow a beard: "let your whiskers grow...you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President."
Last beardless photo - August 13, 1860
The President-Elect responded, "As to the whiskers, have never worn any. Do you not think people would call it a silly affection if I were to begin it now?" 
Photograph taken two days before
he left Springfield en route to Washington, DC,
for his inauguration - February 9, 1861
Well, the next time he visited his barber William Florville, he announced, "Billy, let's give them a chance to grow." By the time he began his inaugural journey by rail from Illinois to Washington, D.C., he had a full beard.  [source and more photos: go here]

In 1909, President Lincoln appeared on a one-cent coin and became the first American president to have his face appear on a regular-issue American coin.
Go here for more information, photos, and virtual tours of the Lincoln Home.

Travel Tip:  Stop in for food, fun decor and art, and great coffee at Wm. Van's Coffee, right across the street from the Lincoln Home historical site.
If you're interested in visiting more Lincoln sites, there are quite a few places that you can visit, as outlined in the book In Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Guide to the Lincoln Sites in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.