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)

Friday, October 28, 2016

I'm In Love With The Littlest Dragon (And All The Dragons of Blueland)!

Halloween is coming!  How about some dragon dress-up and epic dragon tales?

Yes, he's a dragon with a light saber.

Please, please tell me that if you haven't read My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett to your children, you will ASAP!  (you can preview it digitally, here)

Years ago, when I discovered The Tales of My Father's Dragon books in Jim Trealease's Read Aloud Handbook, I could not WAIT to get my hands on them.  And my kids LOVED them.

They are seriously some of the best read aloud books on the planet, and a perfect introduction to chapter books for young children 4-8 years old. In the books, you'll follow the adventures of Elmer Elevator (the narrator's father as a boy), as he runs away with an old alley cat to The Island of Tangerina in order to rescue a flying baby dragon on faraway Wild Island. Such awesome adventures - the quirky stories read like an epic quest for children!

The books have fun black and white illustrations (drawn by the author's talented step-mother, no less!).  The pictures, along with the imaginative text, make this series a perfect transition from picture books to chapter books for new readers (or, as I said earlier, engaging read alouds for preschoolers).

Here's what Mr. Trealease has to say about My Father's Dragon:

This is the little fantasy novel that has stood the test of time—surviving in print for a half century. So it must be good! The three-volume series is bursting with hair-raising escapes and evil creatures. The tone is dramatic enough to be exciting for even mature preschoolers but not enough to frighten them. The narrator relates the tales as adventures that happened to his father when he was a boy. This is an excellent transition series for introducing children to longer stories with fewer pictures. The rest of the series are, in order: Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland. You can get all three tales combined in a single volume The Tales of My Father’s Dragon: 50th Anniversary Edition

What a perfect introduction for young children to the lore of dragons (not all dragons are mean and scary)!  For my previous post about dragons and my list of favorite dragon tales, go here.

Now, for the real LOVE part: my daughter recently introduced the My Father's Dragon series to my preschool aged grandson, who of course adored Ruth Stiles Gannett's epic storytelling! And now his little brother is the cutest baby dragon ever!  They've taken many playful, imaginary trips to Wild Island, and I'm sure there will be many more to come...

Oh, and by the way: under the dragon cape, my toddler grandson is wearing the cutest dragon pj's! I found them at Target!!  I wonder if the designers read about the Dragons of Blueland when they were kids?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A New Chapter: Shepherding Stories

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me...
John 10:14

This past weekend began another chapter in our daughter's family's life journey. There is a lot going on for this little family as they follow God's call!  Just a couple of weeks ago her husband was sworn-in as an officer to the US Navy Chaplain Candidate Program, and on Sunday he was ordained as a deacon into the Orthodox Church. 

Our son-in-law will be ordained as a Priest when he finishes seminary.  I love the parallel foreshadowing seen in this photo - my youngest grandson, like a little sheep, is rushing up to hug and greet his newly ordained Deacon Daddy, while at the same time glancing tentatively towards one of the Priests. 

A Priest is a shepherd after all, called by God to encourage us in our lives. Today I'm doing a giveaway to celebrate shepherds and sheep: one about a rather unconventional shepherd, the second about sheep and other farm animals.

The first book I'm giving away is a brand new chapter book from Ancient Faith Publishing:  Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson.

Aimed at early elementary readers, this book will find a niche with 8-10 year olds (although it would make a good story for parents to read aloud to younger children as well).

The central characters in the story are a Corgi dog named Saucer and a hurting, troubled 10-year-old boy named Sam.

Have you ever had the chance to visit an Orthodox monastery?  I highly recommend it, and a monastery farm is the unique setting of this book! It is the happy home to some sweet nuns and their quirky animals, one of which is Saucer.  

Melinda Johnson's engaging storytelling - at once humorous and tender hearted - is just plain fun. I appreciate that the children in the story are typical kids, very relatable to young readers.

As the action moves through the chapters, Saucer is searching for a herd to shepherd, and a lonely and angry Sam is trying to push love (and anything that resembles it) away.  Tenacious Saucer won't give up on his herding or on Sam. In an exciting ending, Saucer takes charge and finally finds his purpose.

According to Melinda in this podcast interview, Saucer has a message for us: God will show you what he wants you to be, if you never give up.  And it can happen in unexpected ways (just ask my daughter and son-in-law)!

Now on to the second animal-themed book I have to giveaway today: a new offering from Animal Planet, Animal Bites: Farm Animals (for ages 4-8).

 This large format, soft cover book is full of stunning photographs of farm animals in the barnyard, coop, and pasture.

Your young children will have fun while they learn about how animals survive and thrive on busy farms.

In many ways, farm animals are just like us.  They need loving caregivers and shepherds.  But we need animals too - like Saucer, they can help us heal and feel loved!

To enter for a chance at this giveaway... 

  • Please leave a comment with your first name and last initial.  
  • Tell me who you'd like to share these books with, or how an animal has had a healing influence in your life.  
  • Giveaway ends at midnight on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. Winner announced a week from today on Thursday, October 27, 2016.

Monday, October 10, 2016

An Orthodox Boardbook: "Goodnight, Jesus"

I am so delighted that Ancient Faith Publishing has put out an Orthodox board book for toddlers!! Goodnight Jesus, written by Angela Isaacs, with illustrations by Nicholas Malara, is about as sweet and simple as a bedtime story can get...
The sturdy format makes this bedtime board book a huggable companion for little ones who are just beginning to eagerly bestow goodnight kisses not only upon Mommy, Daddy, their siblings and a picture of grandma, but also upon icons of Christ and the Saints.

A kiss for Jesus, Savior and Lord, 
 A kiss for Mary, His mother, 
 A kiss for Andrew, the first He called, 
 A kiss for Peter, his brother...

Angela Isaac's gentle rhyming text, and iconographer Nicholas Malara's colorful illustrations pair together perfectly as they beautifully communicate the tender innocence of goodnight kisses given to those we love.
Goodnight Jesus is a sweet treasure.  I predict my 17-month-old grandson and his preschool-aged big brother will ask to have this bedtime story read to them over and over again!  (It's not too early to think about Christmas, is it?  I know I'll be giving this book to lots of special little somebodies in December!)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oh, Stuff and Fluff! Winnie-the-Pooh and His Friends are Back!

Back Where?
At The New York Public Library Children's Room.

Where were they?  
Out for for a year-long conservation/refurbishment with a textile restoration expert.

To get them all spruced up! Winnie-the Pooh, aka Edward Bear,  turned 95 this year!  (In 1921, on August 21, A.A. Milne gave the teddy bear, purchased at Harrods Department Store in London, to his son, Christopher Robin, for his first birthday.)

How long have they been in New York City?
Winnie and his friends Tigger, Eyore, Kanga, and Piglet (all former well-loved toys of Christopher Robin Milne) have resided at the New York Public Library since 1987.

Who are the two little boys looking at Pooh and Friends on display?
My grandsons! In August their Mommy took them to the NYPL to make and mail birthday cards for Pooh's 95th!  And, better late than never, I'm finally posting about it here on my blog.

Can I visit Pooh?
Anyone can visit Winnie-the-Pooh and his pals. Every year thousands of children and their parents come to see them in their grand quarters in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (NYPL). Pooh and his friends are as happy as when they lived in the Hundred Acre Wood.

What if I can't visit, but I want to send Winnie-the-Pooh a card?
You can send a card online, by clicking here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Leaf Man Is On The Move!

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert is a perfect read aloud choice for October. It is an imaginative picture book that both toddlers and preschoolers will love...
My daughter recently found it at the library. After she read it to my almost-four-year-old grandson, he couldn't wait to make his own Leaf Man (his little brother even joined in)!
He's got to go where the wind blows...
When the fall wind hits a pile of leaves, Leaf Man is on his way to an adventure.  He has no travel plans as he is blown aimlessly past leaf chickens, 
and turtles and fish in a lake.
The creative illustrations and playful text will put you and your child right there on the breeze with Leaf Man!  And I can guarantee that Lois Ehlert's colorful leaf collages will inspire your child to create his or her own beautiful nature collage!

Check out the Youtube below - it's a sweet reading of the book by a precocious four-year-old boy name Jonah...