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, January 13, 2016

Books Transport Us

My children and I really enjoyed traveling through books to far off lands and meeting the characters who inhabited them.  

As we compared these characters to ourselves, we often found we shared with them not only their adventures, but a common boundary of ideas and feelings about family and friendship, loyalties and truths.

Thus we often returned from our book travels with a new perspective on others and a renewed perspective of ourselves. 

Today I'm sharing a few of our favorite inspirational books that took us to another time and place.

TALES OF A CHINESE GRANDMOTHER, by Frances Carpenter. (Ages 9-12) Wonderful folktales of the Chinese culture, told by an old grandmother. Each chapter is a different tale. 
THE CHILDREN'S HOMER, by Padraic Colum. Exquisite pen and ink illustrations by Willy Pogany. (Ages 9-12) My kids were entranced by this telling of Greek mythology because it allowed us to see the Greeks through their own eyes.

THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (series), by Lynne Reid Banks. (Ages 8-12) Exciting, absorbing, and thought provoking story, alive with magic as two boys discover they can bring their toys to life by putting them in an old medicine cabinet that one of them receives - along with a small plastic Indian - for his birthday. They are faced with the responsibility of this tiny person and the consequences of their actions. Gives new meaning to the phrase, "the dignity of human life". 
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (series), by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes (Ages 8-12). It is so evident in these stories that Lewis respects children's imaginations - he does not dumb-down evil or sugar-coat goodness. At the same time, there is a wonderful sense of the everyday in these incredible fantasy books - hearth and home and the honest decency of ordinary characters who are motivated by love!!! The children, talking animals and creatures, and especially the great Lion, Aslan, will become endearing companions that your children will never forget.
REDWALL (series), by Brian Jacques, illustrated by Gary Chalk. (ages 8-12). This series was read to my children by my husband, and I'm not sure who enjoyed the reading more, him or the children! All the characters are animals, mostly mice and mostly heroic, with the exception of the villain, Cluny the one-eyed rat, and his horde. Matthias, a novice monk (mouse) at Redwall Abbey, has dedicated himself to the service of peace. But he slowly learns that, sometimes, it is virtuous to defend oneself and those one loves. (Many children have been known to read this under the covers at night with a flashlight, after read aloud time is over and dad and mom have gone to bed). Go to http://www.redwall.org/ for Redwall Abbey's fun website and a list of all the books!

THE BRONZE BOW, by Elizabeth Speare. (Ages 9-12) Beautifully told story of a boy living in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. 1962 Newbery Medal winner. A family favorite of ours! 
THE HOUSE OF SIXTY FATHERS, by Meindert DeJong, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. (Ages 9-12). The Japanese invasion of China during World War II is the backdrop for this touching story of a little boy named Tien Pao, who becomes separated from his parents. He is eventually helped by American soldiers and airmen. Throughout the search for his parents, he is determined not to despair.

THE ENDLESS STEPPE, by Esther Hautzig. (Ages 10 and up). Especially be cause it is a true story, this book made a huge impression on us.  The heroine, only ten years old, never loses courage or perseverance in the face of extreme hardship.  She and her family are forced to leave their beautiful home in Poland and move to Siberia in 1942 because they are Jewish.

"But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do." -C.S. Lewis


  1. Thanks for your blog! I am amazed how you keep coming up with books that sound really good that I've never heard of. Our kids are ages 4, 9, 12, 14 & 17. And sometimes the boys "judge a book by it's cover" and won't read it if it's too girly looking. :) We have the Narnia series and Redwall. The Endless Steppe really sounds good. Our 14 year old boy is interested in Russia.

    1. If you look on my right sidebar under "Labels", go to either "boys" or "Russia" for my posts on both! I've got quite a few. Your 14-year old might like "An Englishman in the Court of the Czar", written by Christine Benaugh, about the life of Sydney Gibbes, who was tutor to the Romanov children.

    2. thanks! I just went through the Russia label and there's a lot of info and beautiful photos there that I look forward to perusing. I finished "The Endless Steppe" today & really enjoyed it. I've read a lot of books by survivors of that period, but I didn't know that they deported civilians to Siberia. Esther reminded me of Laura Ingalls in "The Long Winter" and Anne of Green Gables for her love of learning and recitation. She was/is an amazing person. The ending was pretty miraculous, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

  2. Have you read the book "Everyday Saints and Other Stories," by Archimandrite Tikhon? I really enjoyed it. I read some of the stories to the kids. Father Nathaniel is a real character. :)

    1. No, I haven't read it, but it's definitely on my list of books to be read in 2016! Thanks! :)