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)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Night Before Christmas is Almost Here...

And here's a striking pop-up book to usher it in!

This gorgeous cut-paper edition of Clement Moore's celebrated Christmas poem evokes the snowy magic of the season through moonlit silhouettes, touched with red and green splashes of color. Each page reveals scenes that transform to reveal the elegant details and surprises of a festive family home.

The final page reveals a spectacular pop-up, laser-cut finale. All the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve is captured by the art of Niroot Puttapipat.  

My grandsons love this book, and I'm excited to be giving them a companion Niroot Puttapipat book this year for Christmas: The Nutcracker.  (Trust me, it's gorgeous!  See it here.)

From my porch to yours...
Merry Christmas to all, 
and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's a Wrap!! Christmas Book Wrap, That Is...

I can always find something wonderful and unique from The New York Review of Books online shop, The Reader's Catalog. I love their opening tag line: "If you’ve found The Reader’s Catalog, chances are you’re passionate about the written word."

This year I was delighted to discover their Christmas wrapping paper - all covered in books, of course!!!

I seriously want to use this stuff as wallpaper!

Our Christmas countdown is definitely in full swing over here - my holiday cards are mailed out and I'm finishing all my gift wrapping.  How are you doing?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

St. Lucia on My Tree!

Maiden so sweet and fair, 
Bright candles in your hair,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!

Child of the Holy Light,
Banish the dark of night,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!

St. Lucia Day is always celebrated on December 13th.  Last November I went with my priest's wife Lynn (may her memory be eternal!), another good friend, Bonnie, and my oldest son to a fun Swedish Christmas Market and Festival at Old World in Huntington Beach, CA.

It felt like we were in Sweden, as we wondered around looking at all the baked goods and folk art.  I found the sweetest Papier-Mâché ornaments made by Anne-Marie (she's on Etsy, here, at Swede Heart Creations.)

We enjoyed a cup of hot Glögg* with the other adults and watched in anticipation as about 30 young girls - singing and holding candles - processed in behind the designated "Lucia", wearing her crown of candles.   

Happy Saint Lucia Day!  Here's my favorite Lucia book, to help you celebrate the day...

The refrain above is an excerpt from the Santa Lucia carol written by Katherine Hyde, based on traditional Swedish lyrics.  You'll find the song featured at the end of her book, Lucia Saint of Lightavailable from Ancient Faith Publishing.  

You can listen to an audio recording of this story read by Dr. Chrissi Hart, from Under the Grapevine, here.

*The recipe for Glögg is here, but you can sometimes find it at IKEA.  (Not a drink for children.)

And of course, don't forget the braided bread!  It's not quite as time intensive as making the traditional Lucia buns (I did a photo blog with my god daughters a few years ago - click the link).  Go here for the bread recipe, or here for the buns.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Fire and Ice, Sunsets and Snow...

The closest we’ll get to snow here in Southern California is these cute bookish postal stamps paying homage to Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day.

This weekend, there may have been a first snow in some midwestern, northeastern, and southern cities, but here in Southern California we’re still battling wildfires. And our December Santa Ana winds aren’t helping anything.

The sun is shining, the grass is green 
The orange and palm trees sway 
There’s never been such a day In Beverly Hills, L. A. 
But it’s December the 24th 
And I am longing to be up north…. 
I’m dreaming of a White Christmas…

I suppose a nice(?) side note for those of us out of range of the dangerous fires is the beautiful sunsets we’ve been witnessing, sadly thanks to the lingering smoke in our skies.

It’s so disquieting on the one hand, to hear that people are being evacuated (including the nuns from St. Barbara Monastery in Santa Paula, CA - which thankfully is safe for the moment), while at the same time we're receiving photos from our daughter in New York of our grandsons happily eating snow and making snow angels!

They are thrilled with their first snow of winter, just like Peter, the little hero in the children's classic The Snowy Day.

The source for the story-line in Ezra Jack Keats' picture book came from his memories of snowy days from his childhood in Brooklyn. Above all, Keats wanted to capture the wonderment of a child’s first snowfall, a feeling universal to all children. “I wanted to convey the joy of being a little boy alive on a certain kind of day—of being for that moment. The air is cold, you touch the snow, aware of the things to which all children are so open.” [Keats, Ezra Jack. Autobiographical excerpts in Lee Bennett Hopkins, ed., Pauses: Autobiographical Reflections of 101 Creators of Children’s Books (New York: HarperCollins, 1995) pp. 132-33.]

Children can happily get lost in a read-aloud book like this!  And with all these fires, it's nice to take a snowy break from the news.  Please keep those in our state who are in close proximity to the fires in your prayers...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Saint Nicholas: Why Do Children Love Him So?

The most famous story about St. Nicholas concerns a man who, because of extreme poverty, had agreed to sell his three daughters into slavery. St. Nicholas heard about it and came in the night, leaving behind him a bag with enough gold in it to save one of the children. Three times he came secretly so that the man would not know from where the money came. On the third night, the man saw him and asked for the Saint's forgiveness because he had nearly sold his children as slaves. Because of this and similar acts, St. Nicholas became the patron saint of children and the type of the cheerful giver of good gifts. 

In the Protestant West, which suppressed the invocation of saints, Saint Nicholas became popularly known as Santa Claus. 

In accordance with early Christian tradition, saints are remembered in the Orthodox Church on the date of their passing from this life into the next. Saint Nicholas is thus remembered on December 6. 

Orthodox Christianity maintains that even though people are dead according to this life, that they are alive in the spiritual realm, and continue to pray for us. Our "prayers to the saints" are actually requests that they pray to God for us, much as we ask believers who are still alive in the flesh to pray for us. [source]

My Other Posts about St. Nicholas:
(click on titles for links)

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Blue Christmas...

It is with a touch of sadness (but not despair) that I type my first post for December 2017. Yesterday our priest's wife, my dear friend Kh Lynn Wilson, passed into God's loving arms after a long, brave fight with cancer.

Prepare O Bethlehem by Niko Chocheli
The Nativity, illustrations by Ruth Sanderson
The Christmas Angels, by Else Wenz-Viictor
Hans Brinker, retold by Bruce Colville; Lauren Long illustrator
When It Snows, by Richard Collingridge
Woodland Nutcracker, illustrations by Francis Tyrrell

As a lover of all things Scandinavian, Lynn's cozy home became a kind of Christmas cottage during Advent, when she added  all the bright touches of red that she could to her lovely blue and white home decor.  This post is dedicated to her.  May her memory be eternal!

As we await the coming of our Lord, let us reflect: "Behold the dwelling of God is with men.  He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more."  (Rev. 21:3-4).


Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours! 

At the moment, I am sitting and typing this blog post from my cozy new library/office, definitely thankful to be done with our home renovations and getting ready to be off-line for the holiday while I do my Thanksgiving baking and turkey trimming!

This time last year we were cooking in the laundry room (which is now a butler's pantry) while our kitchen was being remodeled, sleeping in our guest room while our small master bathroom was being enlarged and renovated, and basically living out of our burgundy dining room...

...which we turned into the gray-blue library/office pictured in remodel stages below!

My boxes of books (read my Bookworm post) filled up the shelves quickly!  Here's a peek...

With the help of my niece, who is an incredibly talented interior designer, we're almost done with all the finishing touches.  We still need to get a rug on the floor and some art on the walls, but we're almost there.  It's my new happy place!

If you can't find me, I'm probably there!

Which brings me to today's book, The Library by Sarah Stewart and David Small.  If you love books, you'll love this story!

Elizabeth Brown doesn't like to play with dolls and she doesn't like to skate. What she does like to do is read books. Lots of books. The only problem is that her library has gotten so big she can't even use her front door anymore. What should Elizabeth Brown do? Start her own public library, of course! With charming verse and watercolors Sarah Stewart and David Small celebrate one of America's oldest and finest institutions.
(The Library is a 1995 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year and Outstanding Book of the Year.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


With paint colors on the brain during our recent house remodel, I gleefully discovered a fun (new to me), vintage book: The House of Four Seasons, by the very talented mid-century modern author/artist Roger Duvoisin.

This colorfully illustrated book fits in perfectly with the current HGTV craze, and especially the hit show FIXER UPPER.  It's almost as if The House of Four Seasons gives us a quick glimpse into the elements that make Chip and Joanna Gaines' show such a success: family, creativity, anticipation, hard work, and oftentimes, compromise.

By the way, if you haven't read The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines, I highly recommend it.  I think it's the rare couple that complement each other's gifts and strengths so completely as this duo does.  But they don't rely on their talent alone.  They've trusted God, and put family first the whole way through their journey.  They've renovated broken houses into beautiful, functional family homes very intentionally - both for their own family and others - and it's lovely that they are so willing to let us in on how they do it!

Back to today's picture book...
Father, Mother, Billy, and Suzy - a very 1950's era family - take a drive in the country and see a house in shambles with a "For Sale" sign out front (and an owl in the attic window).

They buy the house, but each has a different idea of what colors they should paint the exterior.  The four family members each base their choice of colors on one of the four seasons.  This is where illustrator Duvoisin's gift for color palettes (like designer Joanna Gaines') shines, as he splashes the pages with everyone's visions of their dream home paint job.

The family goes off to their little neighborhood hardware store (remember those, before all the Big Box Do-It-Yourself Stores came into vogue?)  

But, oh dear, the store's owner only sells the primary colors!  
What's a fixer upper family to do??  

Not to worry: with a few tricks, Father comes to the rescue, explaining to his family how color works.  And your little readers, along with the family, get in on the secret.

You'll have to get the book and see how Father helps them come to a decision about what color to paint their house (you may or may not agree with Father's logic, but who cares?)  I'm sure to most kids it makes perfect sense!

In the end, even the old owl finds a happy home!

I've decided to post some before-and-after photos of the exterior of our happy little house...now we just have to do our landscaping and put up some shutters!  In my next post I'll reveal our new library!!!!

Don't miss out on another fun picture book that features a house and the four seasons - The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.  It's probably in the Top 10 of my own favorite childhood picture books!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


If my daughter had time to blog, I'm pretty sure she'd pass along today's latest conversation with her five-year-old son.  Since I'm a doting Grandma, I'll let you in on their day...

My grandson woke up this morning and was so excited to see that Advent had arrived.  My daughter had made and set up a Christmas tree of cardboard that he and his little brother can take turns hanging little cut-out ornaments on after they unwrap a Christmas book each night during Advent. (For my daughter's guest post on How to Make a Library Book  Advent Calendar, go here).

Click here

He then told his little brother, "We are not having Dutch Babies for breakfast (that's what our family calls a German pancake made with eggs, flour, milk, and butter, that puffs up when it cooked and is then doused in maple syrup or fruit, and whipped cream) because that's a fancy food and during Advent we eat simple food...like pancakes!" So they had regular pancakes for breakfast.

The rest of the day he kept asking my daughter when it would be nighttime so he could open and read their first book.

Traditions are so important to kids. I've blogged a LOT about Advent and how to create fun book calendars as a countdown to Nativity.  Go here for my list of favorite Christmas books.  So many to choose from, but these are my special favorites - tried and true by our family!

Click here

Whether you, like we, begin Advent on November 15th according to the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition of 40 days, or you begin to observe Advent on December 1st, I pray that you and your family have a blessed and prayerful season as we await Christ's Nativity!

To visit all my posts about Advent, go to my "Advent and Christmas Resource page", here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Boo - Guess Who? Just Me!

Kids love dressing up for Halloween. 

I think it's reassuring for them to know that on Halloween they can assume any persona, but under the costumes and masks it's still just them.

Our own children certainly enjoyed the costume aspect of Halloween, and these days we enjoy hearing our grandsons tell us what they want "to be for Halloween".   

This year my older grandson decided on a Great White Shark.  And his little brother, who loves anything having to do with Thomas the Tank Engine and loves to be just like his brother, at first said he'd be a "Gordon Shark".  

Eventually that changed to "just Gordon", and today his talented Mama crafted an amazing Gordon costume for him.  Sadly he ended up getting a fever, but even though he couldn't wear his costume or join in the trick-or-treating, believe me: he will wear that Gordon costume a lot.  Probably everyday for awhile!

Today I have two books that are obviously fun Halloween stories -  but I think most kids would asked for them to be read over and over, no matter what day it happens to be!

Space Case (originally published in 1980) never gets old!  After landing on the corner of Maple and Elm on Halloween night, a Thing from Outer Space - sent to observe Earthlings - joins a group of kids as they go trick-or-treating. The fun continues when the Thing ends up going to school with a boy and acts as his space project for class. A silly Halloween story that kids ages K-3 will enjoy.  Our kids wanted to hear it again and again. 

Pre-schoolers will be happy that The Little Blue Truck and his friends are making a costumed appearance in Little Blue Truck's Halloween...Beep! Beep! It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Just lift the flaps in this large, sturdy board book to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too?  Of course he will - but don't worry, it's still just good ol' Blue!

Do you and your children have a favorite Halloween read?