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).