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, April 18, 2018

Beyond The Great Green Room...

Have you ventured past the "great green room" of Goodnight Moon and into any of Margaret Wise Brown's other stories?  When my children were young, Goodnight Moon (1949) and The Runaway Bunny (1942) were among their first favorites. If you can't get enough of her charming, rhythmic, rhyming writing, this post is for you!

Brown penned over 100 published works during her life. My personal favorite growing up was Home For A Bunny (1956), illustrated by Garth Williams. 

After Margaret Wise Brown’s untimely death at age 42 in 1952, dozens of her unpublished writings were found almost forty years later in 1990. The papers, preserved in a cedar-lined trunk and stored in the attic of a Vermont barn belonging to Brown’s sister, had sat largely untouched since the early 1950s.  Those stories are now being published as brand-new books (read more here).

Sometime after my first grandson was born, we discovered The Fathers Are Coming Home (2010, illustrated by Stephen Savage and previously blogged about here).

My daughter discovered Two Little Trains (2003, re-illustrated, but first published in 1949) at their local library for grandson number two.

A must-read for any train obsessed child, Two Little Trains follows the parallel journeys of a real train and a toy train. The toy train mirrors the real train's journey to the West, but in a house with objects like a rug track, a book tunnel, and a bathtub river.  

The illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon are sleek, with muted colors.  They fit Brown's imaginative story perfectly.  Any child's imagination would be stirred by the fun pictorial match-up details of both trains' journeys!

Recently, since the birth of our third grandchild, I've discovered three more books by this prolific children's book author!  The first two are stand alone stories that also happen to be included in my newest find and third recommendation, Mouse of My Heart, a collection from the archives of Margaret Wise Brown.

Book #1 - All the Little Fathers (2015), has colorful, fun illustrations by Marilyn Faucher...
Animal fathers are caring for and playing with their animal children.  The lions are roaring, the dogs are getting bones,  the monkeys are hanging out, the cats are purring... and of course in the end, the fathers are putting their children to bed.  This book would be a perfect Father's Day gift!

Book #2 - The Diggers, first published in 1960 (with illustrations by Clement Hurd), is a timeless narrative about the universal experience of digging, from a worm winding its way through the earth to the swinging of the great jaws of the steam shovel.

I haven't seen the original book, or the one illustrated by Daniel Kirk, featuring a child's foot on a shovel (published in 1995), but I was immediately drawn to the bright, quirky, fun pictures by French illustrator, Antoine Corbineau in the newest edition, published in 2013!  Future diggers and engineers will love it!

Finally, Book #3 - Mouse of My Heart, A Treasury of Sense and Nonsense, (2001) with sweet illustrations by Loretta Krupinski, has won my heart!

It's a collection of 56 poems and stories by Margaret Wise Brown, many previously unpublished.  This anthology is grouped according to themes such as Adventure, Love and Friendship, Bedtime, Happiness, Big and Little, and Nature. 

I found my copy used online - and it's a treasure! The introduction is by Brown's noted biographer, Leonard S. Marcus. The whimsical illustrations by Loretta Krupinski are gorgeous, done in jewel-tone colors.

All of Margaret Wise Brown's stories and poems are timeless, as she invites us in...

Do you have a favorite?


Mouse mouse
Why do you start
Timid and shy
As a human heart?

Mouse mouse
Where do you glide
Like a soft gray shadow 
Trying to hide?

Mouse mouse
Where is your den
Far from the eyes 
Of cats and men?

Monday, April 9, 2018


Christ is Risen! I hope you had a glorious Pascha (or Easter, last week, if you follow the Western calendar). We celebrate according to the Julian Calendar, and our service started late Saturday night and went into the wee hours of the morning on Sunday.

Bright Monday is one of my favorite mornings!  I'm a bit more bright eyed than on Sunday morning, and I love my favorite pairings: coffee and cream, bacon and eggs, strawberries and croissants (with Pascha Cheese that I make for our parish celebration after the Pascha liturgy - recipe here).

Breakfast gets prepared as we listen once again to Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture.

I love how strains of the Paschal Anthem, "Let God Arise" and "Christ is Risen From the Dead" are woven in and out of the symphonic music.

The weather is fine today, and the butterflies are out!  And I need to get back to blogging.  Watch for my post on Margaret Wise Brown, coming soon.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Cookbook With More Than Recipes!

Food blogger I may not be, but I do enjoy a good cookbook.

And besides, what could be better than scrumptious, easy-to-follow recipes and beautifully styled and photographed food?  
(Right up my alley.)

This book is full of them. The stories and recipes, lovingly collected by author, Erin Farha Kimmett (who also happens to be an Orthodox iconographer and priest's wife), are a tribute to Erin's grandmother, "Sitey" (My Grandmother, in Arabic).

"Favorite recipes and cherished memories 
inspired by a grandmother's kitchen, 
where her love of God was ever-present, 
traditions of hospitality and joy were handed down, 
and lessons of faith, life and love were learned." 

I absolutely love the format of this large, hardcover cookbook (and how it looks in my newly remodeled kitchen!!)  Martha Stewart could not have done better!  Erin had the expert help of her good friend, photographer Alexis El Massih.

The titles of each beautifully photographed section make you want to delve right in...
Slow Mornings
Coffee And...
After Noon
Always Room at My Table
Cozy Suppers
Sweet Traditions
Just Desserts

Delve in is exactly what my husband and I did after I returned from my visit to New York to help with my new granddaughter.  (I purchased Hospitality and Joy at the St. Vladimir's Seminary Bookstore while I was there.  It's also available on Erin's website.)

I sat and read this book cover to cover with a cup of coffee! Then my husband flipped through the pages, started drooling, and decided to tackle the Maple Oat Pecan Scones (he's quite a good cook, and makes a killer Eggs Benedict, passed down from his dad.)  The scones were dee-licious!

Each mouthwatering recipe in this cookbook is carefully explained, step by step, with an Ingredients List, Make Ahead Tips, "First Things First" Preparations, then Assembly and Cooking Directions (and did I mention, beautiful photography?)

At its heart, this unique cookbook is about the role we play in ministering to others when we cook for them... it's "about food and faith, cooking and ministering: two different but integrally connected kinds of nourishment."

As someone who grew up with a loving Grandma who baked her grandchildren the world's best chocolate chip cookies, I highly recommend this lovely cookbook.  

Give it to someone you love.  It would make a perfect wedding, birthday, anniversary, Pascha, or Mother's Day gift.

You can visit Erin and Alexis' website to read their blog, try their recipes, and to order Hospitality and Joy - here.

Happy Cooking! Make some memories...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lexi, The Word Wrangler

My grandsons were so excited to have their new baby sister, Lexi, come home!  I really enjoyed thinking up fun things to do with them so their Mommy could rest.  Googling around, I found a fun picture book about another Lexi (but with an E on the end)!

My five-year-old grandson is just starting to read (he loves the beginner set of Bob Books), and I knew when I read the description that we had to get Lexie the Word Wrangler by Rebecca Van Slyke (with illustrations by Jessie Harland).

Lexie is the best wrangler west of the Mississippi—word wrangler, that is. She watches over baby letters while they grow into words and ties shorter words together into longer ones; she herds words into sentences, hitches sentences together, and pens them all in to tell a story. But lately, something seems off at the ranch. First the D goes missing from her bandana, leaving her with a banana to tie around her neck, and soon afterward every S-T-A-R in the sky turns into R-A-T-S. There’s no doubt about it—there’s a word rustler causing this ruckus, and Lexie plans to track him down . . . even if it means riding her horse through the sticky icing of a desert that’s suddenly become a giant dessert.

The book quickly arrived in the mail. My grandson loved the humor and wordplay! After we'd read it a couple of times, we got out his magnetic alphabet letters and did some wrangling ourselves on his chalkboard! 

Made for quite a fun afternoon!  And his Mama had a nice nap.  :)

I highly recommend this amusing book for ages 5-8.  Perfect for a reluctant or enthusiastic reader!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Wait is Over!

Grandchild #3 is here!  It's said the third time's a charm, and Alexandra Elizabeth - "Lexi" - is most definitely charming! 

Reading The Happy Egg by Ruth Krause and Crockett Johnson (originally published 1967) together with my grandsons before the baby's arrival, we all recognized the seemingly endless anticipation we felt just like the mother hen. 

Lexi arrived on February 10th, and boy did she sing!

Her Mommy and Daddy and two big brothers are smitten with their lovely little Valentine!

Her Grandma is back home now, sad that my four weeks in New York are over, but happy to have been able to help out and spend time with my daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren... 

We read lots of books together, and I'm ready to blog about them.  February may be gone, but lots to share this month in my upcoming posts!

Monday, January 29, 2018

New Book: Everything Tells Us About God

But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; 
And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; 
And the fish of the sea will explain to you. 
Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, 
In whose hand is the life of every living thing, 
And the breath of all mankind? 
~ Job 12:7-10

Sometimes I enjoy "virtual storytime" - as my daughter calls it - with my two young grandsons (ages two and five).  You should try it sometime!  Since they are far away from me, the boys just love Facetime-ing with their favorite books.  My trusty iPhone camera makes it easy to close in on the details of each page as I read aloud to them.

Today I was excited to share with them a brand new picture book from Ancient Faith Publishing:  Everything Tells Us about God, by Katherine Bolger Hyde.  It's so thoughtfully written, and Romanian illustrator Livia Coloji's colorfully fun, retro-feeling pictures really enhance the thought-provoking text. (It's sure to become a family favorite, which you'll soon discover, as you read along in my post)...

My ever enthusiastic five-year old grandson was especially all eyes and ears, since the inside cover and first page referred to the world as a GIANT puzzle. (He noticed there was one piece missing, but we had to wait until the end of the book to find out which one!)

One of my favorite lines in this book also really grabbed my grandson's attention (and I whispered it, of course)...
Every piece whispers one of His secrets -- all we need to do is listen.

Each page of the book reveals the puzzle pieces of creation and what they teach us about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The sun, wind, water, bread...

On the page following bread - referring to food - a little boy is shown picking a pear from a tree with his Daddy.  We zoomed in on the pear, and my grandson shouted, "Grandma! Like the fruits of the Spirit!"  (Yay! Somebody's been paying attention to his Bible lessons!)

Next we learned how rocks tell us
Christ is as strong as a boulder...

Then we moved on to hear how the ocean, seeds, stars and the universe ("it's outer space, Grandma!!"), animals (this was a favorite page too!), and even roads, playgrounds, and schools teach us about God.

I especially appreciated that Katherine included stories, and how they teach us "the One Eternal Story"...

Finally, we learned that all the people we meet help us understand that Jesus became human -- which brought us to one last piece of the puzzle.  Can you guess who that piece represents?


As soon as we finished, my grandson happily declared, "Grandma, this is the BEST book I've ever heard!"  High praise indeed!

At the end of the book,  you'll find an author's note/tribute, in which Katherine Hyde explains how Fr. Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory) actually inspired this story!

Oh, and one last thing.
Any young red-heads out there will appreciate the auburn hues on heads, young and old, throughout the book!  I'm sure Mrs. KBHyde (a natural born redhead) had something to do with that?  I LOVE that fun detail!

Katherine Bolger Hyde, author.

Katherine, thank you for this lovely book!  It's a perfect read aloud for the 4-8 year old range.  (And it would make a great read for Earth Day, coming up in April.  But honestly, for those who love God everyday is Earth Day, right?!)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Back in Print: Sweet Picture Book Adapted from a Winter Tale by Leo Tolstoy

Martin the Cobbler. I'll never forget the first time I read Leo Tolstoy's poignant short story "Where Love Is, God Is", in an anthology of Russian literature that my mom had passed along to me.

A few years later, I was super excited when my sister discovered a wonderful picture book adaptation for kids ages 4-8, titled Shoemaker Martin.  But sadly it was out of print, and we could only find used paperback copies from an online store.

Then a couple of weeks ago, my sister informed me that it is now back in print - in hardcover! Available online and in bookstores.  Hurray!  

First published in 1986, Shoemaker Martin has been re-designed in celebration of 50 years of NorthSouth Books working with Bernadette Watts, one of Europe’s most recognized and beloved fairy-tale artists. This story is sure to win over new fans as well excite old ones!

It's a tale about a cobbler named Martin, who lives and works in a basement room in a small Russian village. 

One winter evening, while reading his Bible, Martin wonders what he would say and do if he were visited by Christ. Woken suddenly in the middle of the night, he hears a voice call his name.  The voice tells him to watch for Him...tomorrow!  

In the morning, Martin looks excitedly out his window - eagerly awaiting the visit of this special stranger.  But by sundown, Martin is disappointed.  He has only been visited by three people in need from his village.

Opening his Bible once again, and reading a scripture from a page that it had fallen opened to, he realizes Jesus truly had visited him that day.

This story of compassion by Tolstoy is as relevant today as when it was first conceived.  Bernadette Watt's warm and cozy illustrations portray the quiet simplicity of Martin's Russian Orthodox faith, through details like a hand carved cross on the wall of his basement room and an icon above his bed.

"For I was hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto Me."
- from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25