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 12, 2019

A Crown and Braided Bread for St. Lucia Day

For a digital download of this cute Lucia crown, go here

Tomorrow is St. Lucia day, so I wanted to share a link for a paper Lucia candle crown you can download and make (go here) and some pictures my daughter sent of their Lucia bread baking day...

Celebrate by reading a book! Go here to my past post for Saint Lucia book recommendations.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Baking Gingerbread Cookies for St. Nicholas Day

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!  Did you know that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of - among other things, like sailors - bakers?  In many countries on this day it is traditional to give some kind of spiced gingerbread cookies to children, along with chocolate coins!

I recently bought a cute terra cotta cookie mold at Cost Plus World Market that I wanted to try out.  So Wednesday night I spent a quiet evening baking a new recipe I found for Soft Glazed Gingerbread Cookies to give away to godchildren and friends.  They turned out pretty well, and were a good precursor to the book I want to tell you about today!

The Baker's Dozen, by Aaron Shepard with illustrations by Wendy Edelson.
Van Amsterdam the baker was well known for his honesty as well as for his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. He always gave his customers exactly what they paid for -- not more and not less. So, he was not about to give in when a mysterious old woman comes to him on Saint Nicholas Day and insists that a dozen is thirteen! The woman's curse puts an end to the baker's business, and he believes it would take Saint Nicholas to help him. But if he receives that help, will it be exactly what he imagined? This is a great way to teach young children about the the joy of giving, and about the life of St. Nicholas.

Read more about The Baker's Dozen and activities for Saint Nicholas Day on the St. Nicholas Center website, here

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Celebrating My Goddaughter's Third Birthday and Black Hair with Hannah Lee's Debut Picture Book!

My goddaughter Cecily just celebrated her third birthday, and I was so excited to gift Hannah Lee's cute rhyming picture book, My Hair, to her after our day at the zoo!

Allen Fatimaharan's warm and colorful illustrations are so fun. (And I have to mention that my goddaughter's mother had no idea I was giving her this book - the similar hairdos right down to the blue bows are a total coincidence!)

Like my goddaughter, the little girl in the book has a birthday to celebrate, and she has an important decision to make: how to style her hair!

My birthday's coming up so soon, 
I'll need new clothes to wear. 
But most of all, I need to know, 
How shall I style my hair? 

Joyous and vibrant, this picture book captures perfectly the excitement of getting ready for a celebration, as well as showcasing a dazzling array of intricate hairstyles.

Off we go to the hairdresser's.
To get it done professionally.
As for what style I choose,
You'll have to wait and see!

The little girl looks to her family - father, mother, sister, grandmother and others - for inspiration. There are so many choices to be considered and embraced...locks, corn rows, or a twist out? Braids or a high-top fade?

Which hair style does the little girl choose? Her Mommy has an idea. You'll have to read the book to find out what they decide!  

Oh, and here's my goddaughter's birthday hair - courtesy of her Mommy, not a hair salon...Happy Birthday to this sweet girl!

Meet the author and illustrator: 
Hannah Lee was born in London, where she still lives. She always loved books, but yearned to see more stories that featured children like her – so now she is writing them! 
The illustrator, Allen Fatimaharan, was born in Sri Lanka, but grew up in Southern India and France. Now living in the UK, he works as an illustrator and animator.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571346875
Number of pages: 32

Friday, November 15, 2019

ADVENT GIVEAWAY: A Beautiful Coloring Book

For Orthodox Christians, today - November 15 - marks the first day of Advent.  Our Metropolitan Joseph shared this thought as we focus on our spiritual health and begin this 40-day journey toward celebrating the birth of our Savior:

The Season of the Nativity is about nothing other than preparing a little room for the Lord Jesus Christ to come and shine in our souls.

And what better way to make this effort more tangible for our children than to hand them some crayons or colored pencils and let them spend time with the beautiful images of the incarnation found in this sweet new Orthodox coloring book, Beautiful Christmas.

Beautiful Christmas, illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Gilbert, is a 64-page coloring book for children aged 5-12. As they color Christ in the cave or the shepherds glorifying God with the angels, they are cultivating their own sensibility to beauty while learning to recognize some of the meaningful symbols, elements, and motifs of the Church.

Besides the coloring pages, there are several mazes to be completed and even a page of cookies to be decorated.  I like the fact that St. Lucia, St. Nicholas, a Jesse Tree, and Twelve Days of Christmas page are included among the many biblical scenes.

If you would like to enter my giveaway, please leave a comment and your email contact information at the end of this post by midnight PST on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.
*UPDATE:  If you are having trouble leaving a comment, please feel free to email me comments: wendyb[spam]1963@sbcglobal.net.

This book and many others are available from Ancient Faith Publishing.

Want to make an Advent Calendar of Books? Don't forget to check out my Advent Resource page for my Christmas book receommendations for kids. You can find it on the sidebar of my blog or go here.

UPDATE 11/21/19: Ileana won the giveaway.  Thanks so much to all who participated!

Thursday, November 7, 2019


Because of its famed children's area, I've had the Cerritos Millennium Library on my bucket list for quite awhile now.  I finally made a quick trip there!  What an amazing two-story space for books, reading, art, fish (yes, you read that correctly!), and multi-media.  Honestly, it's an architectural marvel!

First, the Children's Library...

My grandchildren would LOVE this space!  There's even an aquarium (sorry, no photos because it's temporarily closed until mid-November.) 

Fish, dinosaurs, a lighthouse, trees, a model space shuttle - does it get any better??  Yes!  Read on...

The Cerritos Library has gone through many changes and renovations, and the resulting designs, themes, and elements are truly incredible.  

This library was first dedicated on October 13, 1973, in honor of First Lady Patricia Nixon (a Cerritos, California native) and all other First Ladies, both past and present.  I appreciated the tribute to them all...

The aesthetic appeal - with cozy ready areas and study spaces, chandeliers, craftsman carpentry, and a futuristic style young adult area is only part of this library's strength.  

Its services are cutting edge, with interactive learning, a high tech conference center, museum quality art displays, and over 200 computer workstations. Amazing, and well worth a trip!




I hope you'll make time to visit libraries with your kids (or by yourself) soon.  I can't wait to go back to the Cerritos Library to explore their books and hang out in one of their fun spaces and read and read and read....

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Make Room on Your Shelf for This Graphic Novel!

Today I'd like to introduce you to an inspiring new graphic novel for kids - The Cross and the Stag; the Incredible Adventures of Saint Eustathius, by Gabriel Wilson. 

It is Ancient Faith Publishing's inaugural book into the graphic novel format, the first in their new "Among the Saints" series written to inspire both children and adults.

I am so excited about this book! Gabriel Wilson's illustrations are striking, and graphic novels are a great way to introduce kids to stories of the saints!

For those unfamiliar with graphic novels, they are like comics, but the format is longer and the self-contained story has a definite beginning, middle, and end. 

Wondering if graphic novels are a good fit for your child?  Click on the link to explore this article from scholastic: A Guide to Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens.

Now, on to The Cross and the Stag...

This is one incredible adventure story, about a very godly man and his brave family.  Not all saint stories would work well as graphic novels, but this one was practically begging to for it! (As are many others - I can't wait to see what more will come from Ancient Faith Publishing). 

In art school, author/artist Gabriel Wilson became very interested in graphic design, animation, and comics and was inspired to switch out super heroes for saints in his comic-format stories! Drama, action, love, adventure, death, and hope - they are all in this heroic tale.

Book description from AFP:
He lost his wealth. 
He lost his family. 
He lost his station. 
He endured it all, to gain everything. 
Roman Commander Placidas was a man of great power and influence. He and his family wanted for little, yet he knew there had to be more to life. Once baptized into the Christian faith as Eustathius, he faced trials beyond anything he had ever experienced on the battlefield. His faith was challenged, but that same faith gained him eternal life. Meet this great man in Ancient Faith Publishing's first graphic novel.

  • Age Range: 7 years and up 
  • Author/Illustrator: Gabriel Wilson 
  • Format: Paperback 
  • Dimensions: 7 x 10 inches 
  • Page Length: 56 pages 
  • Publisher: Ancient Faith Publishing

Listen to Bobby Maddex interview the author here, on Ancient Faith's podcast Ex Libris.  And then order this book, available here.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Beautiful Beetle Book. I'm Serious.

Though not particularly "bonkers about beetles", I'm definitely "bonkers" about this book about beetles!  And your child will be too.  
 Did you know that there are roughly 400,000 different species of beetles? These amazing creatures make up about 25% of all animals on our planet.
You'll find out all you ever wanted to know about these creatures in Owen Davey's Bonkers About Beetles.
As you can see from the Contents Page, there is loads of fun info to be found...
The mythology section is particularly interesting.
I love the fact-filled detail in the text and illustrations!

All of Owen Davey's large format Flying Eye Books are striking artistically, as well as fun and informative in content.  Parents and kids alike will appreciate both aspects of these books!

I hope you'll take time to find this gorgeous book for your little science enthusiast!  And look for Davey's other titles: including:

Friday, October 11, 2019

Pregnancy Pilgrimage

Grandmother-ing, Mother-ing, and Godmother-ing are among my favorite callings/journeys EVER.  Being pregnant and giving birth? Not so much.

Today's book recommendation FERTILE GROUND, A Pilgrimage through Pregnancy by Laura S. Jansson will calm any negative or fearful perceptions you may have about pregnancy and childbirth. But it's not a typical "What to Expect When You're Expecting" handbook.  Thank goodness.

Fertile Ground explores the theology and mystery of pregnancy and birth, along with practical, thoughtful discussion on subjects such as ultrasounds, the umbilical cord, naming your child, having a birth plan, childbirth fears, nursing, and becoming a parent.

IF I HAD READ THIS BOOK when my first pregnancy pilgrimage began 35 years ago, my attitude and whole experience would have been different!  My heart, mind, and body would have been so much better prepared not only for that 9-month journey, but also the birth itself.

As Laura Jansson notes in her chapter "Self-Denial": 
Parenthood is a voyage into the deep sea of self-offering, and pregnancy is God's way of easing us in at the edge.

If you are on the voyage of pregnancy and parenthood, or know someone who is, I hope you will get this book!  It's new from Ancient Faith Publishing. (I'll be passing my copy on to my daughter, who is expecting her fourth child in December!!!!)

*Note - There are several Orthodox "Prayers of a Woman with Child" at the beginning of the book, as well as a gentle, but frank and personal discussion about miscarriage at the end, titled "Losing a Baby". 

Book summary: Pregnancy is not just a trek from one medical appointment to another but a journey of the heart. Here at last is a guidebook through its sacred terrain. For each week, Orthodox doula Laura Jansson provides a new reflection on a theme specific to the ground covered at that stage. From one milestone to the next, she helps us unearth the spiritual treasures buried within the physical experiences of childbearing. These are gifts of love from a merciful God who reaches out to us, making a perilous expedition into a path of salvation. 

About the Author: Laura S. Jansson is an Orthodox Christian doula, childbirth educator, and mother living and writing at the intersection of birth and faith. She earned her Masters degree in Theology and Philosophy from the University of Oxford, UK, and has also resided in the USA, Serbia, Germany, and Fiji. Since 2005 she has guided scores of expectant mothers on the path to parenthood, witnessing with wonder as bellies and souls grow along the way.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Truth About Hippos...

Roger Duvoisin's classic picture book, Veronica, may portray hippos as adorable, gentle giants, but don't be fooled! 

This fun, fictional story of how a hippopotamus travels to the big city sure makes for a cute story, but when hippos leave the water, watch out! They're hungry and are looking for food!

I recently returned from a wonderful trip with my husband to a South African game reserve. Our safari adventures were amazing - and we learned lots of facts we never knew, especially regarding hippos!  

For instance, if hippos open their mouths wide in what looks like a big smiling yawn, it does NOT mean they're content.  They feel threatened by you, and they are warning you to stay away!

Hippos, with their little wiggly ears, stubby legs, and comically rounded snouts, can be as deadly dangerous in the wild as a lion, crocodile, or rhino.  

We stayed in our touring jeeps (sitting) at all times.  

The hippopotamuses and other wildlife we saw were used to the vehicles, but they would definitely protect themselves by possibly attacking anything that approached them on only two legs!

We came across a young bull hippo who had been forced out of his herd and who was trying to join up with a Mama and baby rhino.  (The baby rhino would have none of it, but the mother rhino didn't seem to care less.)

I hope that hippo eventually finds a friend!

If you want a children's book that tells the truth about hippos, look no further than Hippos are Huge! by Jonathan London, with amazing illustrations by Matthew Trueman.

You can follow along with the Youtube video of the book below, or find the book at your local library or bookstore.  There are so many interesting facts about hippos.  And you don't even have to go on safari to find them!