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)

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Can you blame me?  I mean, could you have resisted buying a costume of Max's "wolf suit" (from Where the Wild Things Are) - half price - even if it meant saving it for your grandson for almost two years?

To the great delight of her local librarians, my daughter took her little two-year-old "King of the Wild Things" to their library story hour Halloween Party all dressed up and ready to make "mischief of one kind and another".  Here's a little photo blog of the day...enjoy!

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another...

...they called him the most wild thing of all and made him king of all wild things.

"And now", cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!"

And Max, king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.

But the wild things cried, "Oh please don't go - we'll eat you up - we love you so!"  And Max said, "No!"

Like all wild things, my grandson finally had to say good-bye and head for home to a good supper. Hope you have a Happy Halloween - be safe!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Andrew Lang, Rescuer of Fairy Tales

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 
 ― Albert Einstein
Andrew Lang's well-known "Fairy Books" are a series of fairy tales - a collection of twelve books in all - published between 1889 and 1910. Each volume is distinguished by its own color, all collected and edited (not written, as some mistakenly assume) by Lang.

Anita Silvey (The Essential Guide to Children's Books) said, "The irony of Lang's life and work is that although he wrote for a profession - literary criticism; fiction; poems; books and articles on anthropology, mythology, history, and travel...he is best recognized for the works he did not write." 

Fairy Book History:
Victorians favored realistic and instructive stories for children. In the late 19th century, interest in the native fairy tales of Britain had declined and there were very few books recounting them for young readers. 

In fact, fairy tales and magical stories in general were being attacked by some educationalists as being harmful to children.  Lang - who had taken pleasure in nursery rhymes and folktales since childhood - challenged this notion by collecting and editing fairy stories for the first of his "colored fairy books", The Blue Fairy Book (published in 1889).

According to the Folio Society:
Whilst other folklorists collected stories directly from source, Lang set about gathering those stories which had already been recorded. This gave him time to collect a much greater breadth of fairy tales from all over the world, most from well-known writers such as The Brothers Grimm, Madame d’Aulnoy and others from less well known sources. Whilst Lang also worked as the editor for his work and is often credited as its sole creator, the support of his wife, who transcribed and organized the translation of the text, was essential to the work’s success.

It's a Reading Rainbow of Books!
You can see the contents of each book here. The names and publication dates of Lang’s 12 "Fairy Books" are as follows:
  • The Blue Fairy Book – 1889 
  • The Red Fairy Book – 1890 
  • The Green Fairy Book – 1892 
  • The Yellow Fairy Book – 1894 
  • The Pink Fairy Book – 1897 
  • The Grey Fairy Book – 1900 
  • The Violet Fairy Book – 1901 
  • The Crimson Fairy Book – 1903 
  • The Brown Fairy Book – 1904 
  • The Orange Fairy Book – 1906 
  • The Olive Fairy Book – 1907 
  • The Lilac Fairy Book – 1910
J.R.R. Tolkein said, "None rival either the popularity, or the inclusiveness, or the general merits of the twelve books of twelve colours which we owe to Andrew Lang and his wife."

A Thirteenth "Fairy Book"?  Lang's very own work...
Did you happen to notice the title of the book pictured at the top of my post?  My Own Fairy Book was written by Andrew Lang, "made up altogether from his own head" (as the introduction says), and published in 1895.  Lang said he always felt "rather an impostor" because "so many children seem to think" he wrote the twelve fairy books. You can read "My Own Fairy Book" onlinehere, on Project Gutenberg.

If you especially love fairies, go here to read my past post, "I Do Believe in Fairies, I Do! I Do!".

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Today's post is in honor of my grandson (who turns two today) and Winnie-the-Pooh.  They happen to share the same birthday!  A A. Milne introduced Pooh in 1926 - which makes Pooh Bear 88!


Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh.
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty-two."
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is," said Pooh.

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew.

"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. "That's how it is," says Pooh.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I Survived the Cutting of the Spaghetti Squash...So Bring On Those Literary Pumpkins!

October likes to tease us with hot weather here in Southern California, just when the grocery stores are starting to stock an abundance of pumpkins and other fall vegetables, er, fruits. (Did you know that pumpkins are actually berries?!)
"I'm a what?" gasped Harry.
photo source
Despite the heat, I thought I'd share a cozy fall recipe that I made a few days ago. During the short-lived cooler temperatures we had last week, I went to the market and bought a large spaghetti squash to roast for a yummy pasta-less lasagna.  

I wrestled the huge squash for quite a while in my attempt to cut it in half and scoop out the insides. Quite scary, since my big butcher knife kept getting stuck deep down in the dense yellow flesh.
Luckily, it turned out beautifully for our dinner, and I've shared the recipe below (at the end of this post).  Next time, I think I'll just buy two smaller squash - which are much easier to cut then one large one.  

Do any of you have some squash-cutting tips...or better yet, pumpkin carving tips?  Because it's time for my annual round-up of Literary Pumpkin and Party Ideas that I've gathered from around the internet.  (You can find even more ideas on my "Pumpkin/Turkey/Fall Time" Pinterest Board.)

Here's to a BOOkish HALLOWEEN -

featuring pumpkin books by Tasha Tudor and others, for ages 4-8

for OZ, Jack Skellington, Cinderella, and Edgar Alan Poe inspired pumpkins!

for some not-too-scary Halloween/Fall/Woodland Party ideas, 
costumes, and pumpkins.

 Click here for my "STORYBOOK PUMPKIN PATCH" post...
full of Book-O'-Lanterns (pumpkins carved up to look like favorite storybook characters!)

Fun costumes, pumpkins, and parties based on classic children's books.

Sherlock, Steampunk, Sleepy Hollow, Edgar Alan Poe, 
and OZ themed parties and pumpkins.

Now for the promised recipe:


2 small-medium sized spaghetti squash*
1 T + 2 t. olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 lbs. ground turkey
1 jar chunky marinara sauce (Trader Joe's)
2 T. tomato paste, to thicken sauce
1/4 c. chopped green olives
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh leaves, stems removed)
1/2 t. dried basil (or 1 T. fresh, chopped)
1/4 t. dried rosemary
1 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

*Depending on the size of the squash halves to be filled, you may have extra sauce.  It can be frozen or refrigerated to reheat for another meal.

Preheat oven to 400.  Line cookie sheets with foil.

Squash Preparation: 
1. Slice squash in half length-wise; scrape out seeds.  
2. Rub 1/2 t. olive oil into each of the 4 squash halves.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place squash face down on cookie sheets and bake for 30-50 minutes (to test, flip over the squash and squeeze halves gently - you'll know they're done, when the middle is soft.)
4. Set aside when done.

Meat Sauce:
1. Meanwhile, saute onion, shallots, and garlic in 1 T. olive oil over medium heat until soft. 
2. Add ground turkey, cooking until no longer pink.  Drain off fat.  
3. Add jar of chunky marinara sauce, sliced green olives, and herbs.  When sauce begins to bubble, stir in 2 T. tomato paste, reduce heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes.

To Assemble:
1. Spread about a 1/4 c. ricotta cheese into the bottom of each right-side up squash half.
2. Spoon meat sauce into each half, mounding it a little bit.
3. Sprinkle 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese onto each of the four filled squash halves.
4. Switch oven setting to "broil", and place the cookie sheets in the oven.  Broil for about 2 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.  (Watch closely!  It browns quickly!)

To Serve:
Scoop out about 1/2 a lasagna-filled squash for each person - or if the squash are  really small, just eat right out of the squash half!  I serve this with sauteed spinach.  YUMMY!