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, December 31, 2015

A New Year for the Nursery Set!

Wow - I can't believe this is my last post for 2015!  How about this for a New Year's Resolution: Commit to reading nursery tales and rhymes to your little ones in 2016!

What better place to start then with Richard Scarry?

Then move on to this unique and gorgeous book of nursery rhymes, A Pocketful of Posies, by talented crafts-woman, Sally Mavor...

Young children love the rhythm and fun in stories that rhyme.  Some of my favorites include Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and The Big Red Barn.

Lately I've been seeing lots of Nursery Tale (and other literary) inspired children's products!  How cute are these???

from Zulilly

from Out of Print

on Amazon

from Cafe Press

Happy New Year!  Here's an apropos quote for us book lovers...

...from his book, Diary of a Player - have you read it?

Monday, December 28, 2015

It's Grandson Tested and Approved: My Current Favorite "12 Days of Christmas Book" (For Toddlers and Up)

I'm pretty sure there is not a child on the planet that won't be completely taken with this Twelve Days of Christmas book - mainly because of the flickering "Ani-Motion" technology (also called "scanimation") used for the cute illustrations.

Watch as the three french hens peck the ground and the drummers drum - the story literally springs to life as you turn the pages!

And that's good news for a parent looking for a way lure their child onto their lap for a fun moment in the midst of all the after-Christmas-commotion-and-gift-opening-hubbub!

My 3-year-old grandson absolutely loves this book and already has the song memorized.  He sings right along with him mommy!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Nativity Hymn

Merry Christmas!  Today's book pairs liturgical poetry with sweet images of Christ's birth in the style of Byzantine iconography. Its simplicity and beauty draw its readers into the profound "Today!" of our Lord's birth...

Available HERE, from Orthodoxchristianchildren.com

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, 
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! 
Angels with shepherds glorify Him! 
The wise men journey with a star! 
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

Christ is Born!
Glorify Him!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Pigs and Rabbits in the Snow: Two Adorable Christmas Picture Books

Book #1...Pigs
What's a pig to do? Two pigs, actually.  They don't know what to get each other for Christmas.  But don't worry, they go through this every year, and they will figure it out!  (In spite of the suggestions they get from Opal.)

Because they do care about each other and are the very best of friends, even though they like different things.
Toot and Puddle's Let it Snow, is an adorable story, written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie.  Perfect for preschoolers and up.

Book #2...Rabbits
It's been snowing for hours, it's almost Christmas, and Squirrel and Hare are waiting in the little house at the end of the wood for Little Grey Rabbit to return from market with the Christmas fare.  But where is she?
This is a book you will want to look at again and again.  The pictures by Margaret Tempest are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter.
The sweet narration harkens back to all the elements of an old-fashioned Christmas and friendship...

sledding, carol singing, evergreens, presents, and a party.

The author of Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas, Alison Uttley, whose own childhood Christmases were spent in the countryside, has written a story full of warmth that you and your children will love!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Little Angels Doing Good Deeds

This sweet book might inspire your little angels to be helpful to others!

For a culture that couldn't be more devoted commercialism and materialism, this picture book is a good reminder to our children of simple acts of kindness that should be at the forefront of our Advent season.

On a cold Christmas Eve, ten little angels quietly fly through the night. They've come to the aid of the lost, lonely, and weary - even assisting Father Christmas with his heavy sack full of gifts.

Your young ones will enjoy counting each consecutive angel on the top of each page. On the last page, the tenth busy angel lights the tree and reveals the singing cherubic faces of all ten angels. 

Originally published in Germany in 1933, The Christmas Angels is a simple, yet clever Christmas counting book with timeless appeal - written and illustrated by Else Wenz-Viëtor. A unique design of cut-out angel heads running across the top of the book will enchant young readers, especially when each black and white illustration is transformed into color with every turn of the page.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Little Porcupine's Christmas, illustrated by Felicia Bond

Little Porcupine's Christmas, from the illustrator of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie would be a fun addition to any kindergartner's library.  It's sweetly told by Joseph Slate about a prickly porcupine who is more than a little trepidatious about trying out for his school's Baby in the Manger play...
His mother believes in him (she calls him the "light of her life", after all.)  But unfortunately, his classmates convince him that he's just not right for any of the parts.
The countdown to the date of the play begins, and Little Porcupine still doesn't have a part or a costume.  The expected night arrives, and not until Little Porcupine raises the curtain do any of them realize that something crucial is missing!

The Mamas and Papas in the audience are the first to notice.  Will Little Porcupine be able to save the play?  He does, as he manifests the truth of his mother's words.  (hint: he really shines!) I absolutely love the ending, guaranteed to warm your heart!


Friday, December 18, 2015

Up Close and Personal With Jolly Old St. Nick

As a child, whenever I heard Clement C. Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" I recall wishing I could actually spring from my bed into the poem to join the narrator and watch the children, the sugarplums, St. Nick, and the reindeer as he described them!

Well, if that was you too, today I'd like to recommend a dreamy picture book version of this lovely old poem (written by Moore in 1822), that will take your child face to face with that "Right Jolly Old Elf".

Robert Ingpen's illustrations have a wonderfully inviting quality and a "you're there too" perspective, starting with the Mouse (who though he's not stirring, is looking right at you!)

I love the soft, warm style of Ingpen's illustrations. If you want to see more pictures from this cozy book, curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and watch this Youtube video, courtesy of Palazzo Editions, Ltd (2011)...

Robert Ingpen has illustrated other classic titles which include: Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan & Wendy, A Christmas Carol, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Secret Garden (all published by Walker Books - go here for more information).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Birthday Announcement from Mr. Darcy

Mr. Darcy would like to wish Jane Austen a Happy 240th Birthday!  

He'd also like to announce the winners of my December Jane Austen Giveaway:

Caitlin T. and Marion C.  

Congratulations, ladies!

Monday, December 14, 2015

An Apple Christmas Book and Project

After reading today's book, Apple Tree Christmas, I was determined to make a clove apple pomander for my table like the one made by the mother in the story.

Do you recall that a clove apple also played a bit role in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods during Christmas time?

“Aunt Eliza had brought Ma a large red apple stuck full of cloves. How good it smelled! And it would not spoil, for so many cloves would keep it sound and sweet.” 
– Little House in the Big Woods

Funny, because Trinka Hakes Noble's Apple Tree Christmas seemed like it could be a chapter out of one of the Little House books.

Apple Tree Christmas is sweet story about a girl named Katrina and her family's beloved apple tree.  The tree provides apples for Mama's pies and apple butter, and it's twisting vines give Katrina's sister, Josie a place to swing.  But most importantly for Katrina, it has a perfect branch on which she can sit upon as she sketches.

Just before Christmas, there is a bitter ice storm that the tree cannot withstand.  Devastated, Katrina doesn't know how she'll be able to continue her drawing with her cherished branch.  And even though the tree has supplied them with much needed firewood and apples they had picked for the tree and Mama's special clove apple, it just doesn't feel like Christmas!

You'll have to read the book to find out how her Papa saves the day...I absolutely loved the ending.  On to the PROJECT:

Making a clove apple is simple!  Easy enough for a child - get them set up at your kitchen table, turn on some Christmas music, and you might even finish addressing your Christmas cards!

Make sure you cover your work area with wax paper, to catch the juice...

Use a bamboo skewer, knitting needle, or the prongs of a fork (my choice, because it was fast) to create holes in the apple. Then push the whole cloves in one at a time, until the apple is covered.  You can make a clove design, or just cover the whole apple.  Tie or glue gun a ribbon around the stem and - voila - you've got a ornament or cute little pomander for your table.  The scent is heavenly!

Please try this fun little craf! I found it therapeutic in the midst of the holiday busy-ness, to just sit quietly and press the cloves into that juicy apple while listening to Christmas music. So easy, and such a pretty little addition to my kitchen table.

My Jane Austen December Giveaway ends tomorrow! Go here for details to enter for a chance to win one of my two giveaway books!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Swedish St. Lucia Traditions

Every year I look forward to December 13 - St. Lucia Day.  Probably because my ancestral heritage is half Swedish, her day is extra special to me.

If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you've doubtless read one of my many posts (including yesterday's) about this beloved saint - aka "Saint Lucy".

Past Posts:

Today I'm sharing a tried-and-true recipe for Lucia buns - "Lussekatter" - and a tongue-in-cheek short video you can watch while the "Lussekatter" rise.  Enjoy!

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 pkg. dry active yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. cardamom
  • 2 eggs, well-beaten, plus one egg white
  • raisins or currants to decorate
(Prep time: 120 minutes.  Bake time: 15 minutes)

Heat milk to a light boil, turning off heat when it reaches the scalding point (with small bubbles across the top). Stir in melted butter, sugar, and salt.
Pour mixture into mixing bowl and allow to cool until “finger-warm” (still quite warm, but just cool enough to touch).
Stir in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.

Add cardamom to 3 1/2 cups flour; mix flour into liquid. Stir in two well-beaten eggs. Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough (just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You don't want to add too much flour).

Transfer dough to a large greased bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down risen dough. Lightly knead two or three times on a floured surface.
Pinch off small handfuls of dough (about 2 1/4") and roll into long "snakes." Shape snakes into "X"-shaped buns or other desired shapes.
Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with the towel again, and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour).

Decorate buns with raisins, brush with egg white, and bake in preheated 375º oven about 15 minutes, just until brown. Yield: 20  [SOURCE]

VIDEO: Swedish Lucia for Dummies
Whether you're familiar with this Swedish tradition or are being introduced to it for the first time, this slightly irreverent and very humorous short video won't disappoint...

And don't forget a special literary day coming soon - Jane Austen's Birthday on December 16th.  Have you entered my GIVEAWAY?
go HERE to enter

Friday, December 11, 2015

Celebrating St. Lucy, a Young Woman of Faith!

To be a woman of faith, even when you're just beginning to think of becoming a woman someday, means to reflect the light of Christ so brightly, that people see past your clothes and your friends and your plans. People see not just who you are right now, but who you were meant to be.  It means to grab Jesus so tightly, it's hard for even you to tell where his work stops and yours begins.
-Calee M. Lee, author of Women of Faith

With St. Lucia Day coming up on December 13, I wanted to tell you about a beautiful new picture book that celebrates not only St. Lucia, but twelve other brave women saints as well!

The book is Women of Faith, written by Calee M. Lee and illustrated by Lisa Graves. Each of the saints is featured with her own story, a short prayer and a luminous watercolor portrait.

Calee's sweet introduction at the front of the book about her "friends" from both Orthodox and Catholic traditions is heartwarming. She gives a beautiful explanation about why we call them saints, and she writes directly to her young readers who will want to hear these stories over and over again...

I would like to introduce you to some friends of mine.  As girls, I'm sure they were funny and brave, just like you.  The loved flowers and their families and the chance to play with friends.  As they grew, they learned to be brave and kind and love everyone around them.  From this, we can know them hundreds and hundreds of years after they died

I'm enthralled with the exciting stories and their pairing with Lisa Graves' gorgeous medieval-style paintings.  The book's large 8 and 1/2-by 11-inch format showcases the illustrations perfectly.  

Young girls will be drawn to the portraits of these early Christian women saints and martyrs from around the world (prettier inside and out than any Disney Princesses!), who lived and died so courageously.

Included are St. Genevieve of Paris, St. Brigid of Ireland, St. Hermione, and St. Barbara, to name a few.

Now I'll leave you with a prayer for St. Lucia'a Day:

O Saint Lucy, your faith in God was a light in the world.  Give me that same light in my soul so that I may avoid evil, be brave in performing good works and hate nothing more than the blindness and darkness of evil and sin. Pray to God for me that my eyes will see clearly and that I will use them for God's glory.

Lunch With "Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree"

My grandson is the lucky recipient of "story lunches", which my creative daughter wholeheartedly enjoys putting together for him.  

She cuts the food into shapes, creates a scenario on his plate, and proceeds to tell him a story about the lunch.  Sometimes they're made up on the spot; other days her stories are inspired from one of his favorite picture books.

Yesterday she sent me pictures that I just had to share with you of their "Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree" story lunch.

Are you familiar with this cute Christmas picture book by Robert Barry (first published in 1963)?

"Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree
Came by special delivery.
Full and fresh and glistening green-
The biggest tree he'd ever seen." 

I can guarantee that your child will love the story, told in rhyme, about all the places rich Mr. Willowby's too-tall-treetop (chopped off by his butler) is shared around the neighborhood -- unbeknownst to him!  

The very tip top ends up in a mouse family's hole as their tiny tree...

My grandson enjoyed a fun lunch of tortilla-gouda-apple mice and a snap pea Christmas tree!

"Then at the top, if you please,
They put a star made out of cheese!"

We had a good laugh, because our tree is actually a bit tall for my living room ceiling, so I don't have a tree topper yet.  "Should I get a cheese star?" I asked my grandson.  He just laughed and said, "Nooo, Grandma!"

For more Christmas stories featuring mice, go to my past blog post "Not A Creature Was Stirring...", here.

My December giveaway ends on December 15, 2015.  Go to my last post here to enter for a chance to win one of the two books I'm offering.  Winner announced on December 16, Jane Austen's birthday!