Wednesday, June 22, 2011


A perfect addition to any summer book basket, Fireflies just breathes summer and the excitement of the coming of fireflies. When we were on a walk in the woods the other evening, I noticed how early the fireflies came to the woods. Probably a full 2 hours earlier than they visit our backyard. I never knew that fireflies could vary their timing in the same general area. Seeing the children's joy over the fireflies made me decide to read them this book tonight while outside in the presence of the fireflies. What a magical evening story time!

One thing I particularly enjoy about this book is the simple illustration done in pencil with only the light of the fireflies in color. It really places the perfect emphasis on the fireflies' light and allowing you to feel the magic through the pages.

I can remember as a child one of my favorite parts of summer was chasing fireflies with my cousins and trying to keep them as pets. I don't quite remember how long they lasted as pets, but I know that if I would have had this book back then, I might have been kinder to the poor fireflies and set them free.

And once they are free, they are enjoyed all the more with the backdrop of the moon and the night sky.

*Sorry for my extensive absence from this space. Life has been busy and unfortunately that meant this blog got the short shrift. I hope to be back here more regularly soon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Suzette and Nicholas

Satomi Ichikawa's Suzette and Nicholas In The Garden is a treat for the eyes, one of those books that almost renders the words pointless because the pictures are so amazing that the book would be hard pressed to be made better or worse by the text. I stumbled on this lovely gem at a book sale benefit and my eye was immediately caught by the almost wallpaper look of the cover.

When I opened the book, I was struck by the beautiful soft color of the illustration, lovely rendering of the gardens, and the sweet floral frame surrounding the text on each page.

The illustrations definitely have a bit of Japanese flair and wonderful pops of color make the scenes burst alive with springy air. You can almost smell the blooms and feel the warm sun on your face as Nicholas and Suzette travel through the garden surrounding their home.

It seems like a fitting tribute on this Earth Day. A book so full of pictures of a lovely garden and children enjoying the gardens. Even as they climb garden walls, peer into the pond, pull their baby brother in a wagon along the paths of blooms and investigate the insects therein, you see a childhood full of nature and children who appreciate this nature to it's fullest.

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Finn's latest book obsession is a gorgeous watercolor alphabet book called LMNOP and All the Letters A to Z. He's completely fascinated by letters and this book is a great way to help him become familiar with all the different sounds.

Finn's favorite part of each page is the letter found naturally in each picture. He can't wait to trace the letter every time we turn the page. The letter in each picture is a capital letter, which isn't my favorite way to help a child become familiar with letters and their sounds, but the illustrations are so beautiful, I'm able to forgive that aspect. The poetry is very lyrical and easy to become familiar with although some of the verses seem to be a stretch.

The letter C has many uses of the hard C sound (like S) which kind of annoys me, but other verses are simply lovely, like the L verse. You really become familiar with the lilt of the L sound through that verse.

Overall I wouldn't use this as a singular resource, but LMNOP is a beautiful, engaging, interactive way to help familiarize little ones with the alphabet and it's sounds.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Over In The Meadow

"Over in the meadow in the sand and the sun lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one..."

How many of us remember this rhyme or song from our childhood? I couldn't have been more excited to find that Ezra Jack Keats illustrated a book version several years ago.

All of the classic animals are there in vibrant paintings with soft ethereal surroundings counting and buzzing as rhythmically as ever before.

Even the ratties which were my personal favorite as a child.

Even though Keats is most commonly known for his classics, The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie, I really think that he had a special talent for painting animals and nature. His illustrations for Over In The Meadow seem to be a more sophisticated style of painting than his earlier picture books, and his contrast of colors and clean lines make this book appealing and distinctive.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Where Do They Go When It Rains?

One of my favorite spring books to return to the seasonal book basket last week was Where Do They Go When It Rains? Aside from the crazy acquisition of the book and the endearing adventure we had last spring based on it's contents, this story is so charming and gentle that my littlest one heads for it again and again.

From the sweet illustrations Gerda Muller never fails to deliver, to the irresistible frolicking of the children throughout the farm, to the authentic glimpses into the animals, bugs and other farm happenings, you'll wish you had a grandmother with a farm to visit!

Finn's favorite, of course, are the pigs rolling in their mud. Now he's asking to visit a pig farm. :) Surely there must be one near us...we'll have to check into that!

At the end of an action-packed day full of farm fun and roaring thunderstorm, a beautiful rainbow appears in the clearing sky. An invitation to return to this sweet farm soon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Sun Seed

I remember when I first stumbled across The Sun Seed. I had only been needlefelting for a brief period and the pictures, entirely needlefelted, were amazingly gorgeous and detailed. Such an inspiring glimpse into the possibilities of needlefelting!

The story is as beautiful as the pictures...the essence of spring. The wool is able to imitate roots in a wonderful wispy way, and the little shoots look so fragile and tender under the soil blanket.

I love how each page not only has the center story of the seed, but a trail of spring animals around the edges of each page.

The end of the story, when the bees are visiting the flower, is my favorite part. The soft ethereal quality of the felting makes you feel like you're looking through a sunny haze at the summery scene.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Pot O' Gold

In preparation for St. Patrick's Day, we've been reading some of our favorite Irish tales. A Pot O' Gold is one of our favorites and has been getting frequent use over the last week.

I stumbled across this volume at our local used bookstore, and it really has a great variety. The kids love the Finn McCool stories, and the various stories of saints, leprechauns, fairies, with limericks, poetry and Irish blarney thrown in for good measure, have all been well received.

They even included a recipe for Irish Soda Bread which I think we'll be making for St. Patty's day tomorrow.

David McPhail does a great job with the illustrations. They feel genuinely Irish and very authentic to the purpose of the book. His borders to various pages are intriguing and captivating as well.

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day and don't forget to read something green!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Two Cars

Did you think that the d'Aulaires only wrote books about Greek myths (or Norse myths and animals)? I did. That is until I saw The Two Cars. As it turns out, the d'Aulaires were quite prolific authors, but it wasn't until one of my frequent searches for new car books for Finn that I realized just how many books they authored.

The Two Cars, written in 1955, imitates many books of it's time by having a two-fold page of color followed by a spread of black and white pages. A cost saving measure of it's time, I love seeing the unique character brought by the contrasting images. This book in particular has adorable illustrations, just as cute in black and white as color. The cars have such personality in their gentle illustration.

One car is an old trusty engine. The other and new speedy model. They race around the town and back to the garage and find a few bumps along the road.

A vehicular version of the tortoise and the hare, no doubt, but I found it odd that this story ends by the older, law-abiding, steady car being pulled over by the police car in the end to be commended for his "safe and beautiful driving." Not quite the ending I was expecting, but I guess it's better to be recognized for a contribution to society than win a race against a loose-cannon young, hip car. I assume that's the moral they're going for anyway.

Either way it's a pretty cute book and one of Finn's go-to bedtime stories.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thornton Burgess treasures

If you were to ask my mother what books stand out most from her childhood, I'm willing to bet that she would start regaling you with stories of Thornton Burgess' Old Mother West Wind and her many animal friends. Her father used to read the stories to her as a young child, many of them published when he was a young child, and they clearly held a special place in her childhood. I'm not sure how then it came to be that I remember no Thornton Burgess books from my own childhood. Nevertheless, the tales of my grandfather reading these stories and my mother loving them stuck with me and about the time my first child was born, I decided to scour ebay and find a few copies of Thornton Burgess books for my own library.

Of course, what I ended up with, since I found them on ebay, were books a little too old and fragile for a small child to handle, and since I read the books on my own, and loved them, I decided to find a more user-friendly copy for my children to handle. Lo and behold, now you can buy this little tidy set of Old Mother West Wind and 6 Other Stories for a song in a slim, reprinted set.

I began reading them to my older children several years ago, and of course they adored each story, each character, each insight into the animal world, each sly trick the animals would play on each other. What depth, charisma and sweetness Burgess gave to these adorable, intriguing characters with names like Johnny Chuck, Bobby Coon, and Red Fox.

Now that Finn has started enjoying just listening to books that don't always have pictures, I've started reading the books aloud to him at naptimes. He's always full of questions about why the animals act a certain way or how the Merry Little Breezes pull Johnny Chuck's whiskers. I'm so glad he enjoys them. Maybe one day he'll even tell his own children how much he enjoyed reading Thornton Burgess curled up next to his mama at naptime. That's a nice full circle to envision.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tomie dePaola sheep adventures

A couple more books that we read before heading to the sheep shearing the other weekend were favorites by Tomie dePaola. Haircuts for the Woolseys is a gem we acquired at a local used bookstore. What a sweet little book! Charlie Needs A Cloak is another favorite that we borrowed from the library, although I'm convinced we own a copy if I could just unearth it...

In Haircuts for the Woolseys, the Woolsey children are dying to play outside in the lovely spring weather, although today is haircutting day.

The evening following the haircuts, a winter wind blows through and chills Fiddle-Dee-Dee Farms to the bone. Extra quilts are added to the sheep beds (isn't that adorable!)

And Granny settles in front of the fire for the evening.

The next day finds the Woolsey children playing outside in the spring snow with their new sweaters, knit from their own wool by Granny the night before. How adorable is that?!

In Charlie Needs A Cloak, Charlie clearly needs a new cloak as his old one is hanging in shreds over his shoulders.

After shearing his sheep...look at all those darling bald sheep!

And cleaning, carding and dyeing the that sheep barricading his wool from being dyed. :)

Charlie finally had a brand new beautiful cloak, courtesy of his sweet sheep. I love it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pelle's New Suit

As we were getting ready to visit shearing day at our favorite local farm, we dragged out a few of our favorite shearing books to get us in the mood. Right at the top of my list, one of my favorite Elsa Beskow books, Pelle's New Suit.

Elsa Beskow's renowned artwork is in it's element here on a little Swedish farm with the beautiful birch trees, colorful clothes, hillside homes and sweet animals.

I love the sheep-to-suit story here, but I also appreciate the way Pelle earns the work required to make his suit. He visits both grandmothers, his own mother, and a tailor working on their labor while they each help with a piece of his suit.

And the sweet scene of Pelle dyeing his wool makes me want to hitch up my own dyeing kettle. It's almost warm enough for that around here so maybe I should!

The end finds Pelle, not only thanking his own sheep for his fine new blue suit, but with all the labors who helped Pelle watching from the background. If only we knew the hands who give us the clothes on our backs. What a community to celebrate!