Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Brock Cole 2000

Madeleine and I ADORE this book.  Set in the Regency time period, the patriarch of a family has burst the buttons off his pants and calamity ensues.  Each of his three daughters selflessly hatch a plan to get more buttons for their father (who can't leave his bed for shame!).  The oldest daughter, a beauty, plans to parade around and attract a handsome wealthy husband (who will supply buttons), the middle daughter will disguise herself as a young man and join the army where she will have plenty of buttons on her uniform.  And the silly youngest daughter decides to run through the fields every day hoping to catch buttons that fall from the sky.  None of the sisters' plans go accordingly, but even better things happen and in the end, thanks to a lovestruck cowherd, buttons are finally to be had!

The pictures are fun with costumes that suit the time period, and the story had us laughing out loud.   What a rare treat to find a story that is silly, sweet and charming with three capable heroines and romance all around.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Floral Fantasy

Just in time for spring- more of Walter Crane's beautiful flower illustrations.  A nice companion book to Flora's Feast a Festival of Flowers.

In an old world garden dreaming
Where the flowers had human names,
Methought, in fantastic seeming,
They disported as squires and dames.

A Floral Fantasy
Walter Crane 1899

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sister of the Birds and Other Gypsy Tales

This book has been our companion these chilly Spring nights.  As with all my kids, Charlotte is getting a healthy dose of fantasy before bed!  I'm familiar with many fairy tales and fables, many of which are just variations of similar stories, but these Gypsy tales are unlike any others that I've read before.  I particularly liked learning about their origin.   Jerzy Ficowski was sent to Auschwitz during WWII where he met many Gypsies and after the war he travelled with them collecting their stories, songs, and poetry.

Charles Mikolaycak does the illustrations, which is how I discovered the book in the first place.

Jerzy Ficowski
translated by Lucia M. Borski
illustrations by Charles Mikolaycak 1976

There's a handy pronunciation key at the back.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Where My Wellies Take Me...

Charlotte was home sick today, so in-between making soup and baking muffins, I read her parts of this book.  I can't stress enough how fantastic this book is!

Clare and Michael Morpurgo
designed and illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill 2012

It is indeed Wellington weather.  This is the kind of book I would love to make someday- filled with poems, part scrapbook, drawings of nature and the adventures of a child.  Clare and Michael Morpurgo say this in the introduction:  "For Clare and for me, some of the happiest years of our lives were spent growing up in the countryside.  We had walked on the wild side, gone where our wellies had taken us, and loved it."

A girl named Pippa, is staying with her Aunt Peggy.  Written in a journal format, she puts on her boots (wellies) and goes out for a walk.  I never have any idea of where I'm going, I just go.  Proper, long walks.  I don't care if it's raining, don't care if it's cold.

What a thrill for a child- to just wander around the countryside.  Unfortunately where we live, hedged in by busy roads and houses, my kids don't get that kind of freedom.  Perhaps in a small way, playing out back, running from neighbor house to neighbor house rounding up kids to play with, digging holes, collecting moss, and traipsing through the 'woods' behind our house has given them a sense of that kind of adventure.  I remember Madeleine and her friend Alexa playing for hours outside, mapping the pond and creek beyond our neighbor's driveway.  They gave the pond and the bridge poetic names and incorporated them into their fantasy play.  (Madeleine and her friends played "fairies" well into middle school!)

Lately reading this book with Charlotte as the weather stubbornly turns to Spring, makes me want to pull on boots and go wherever they take me!  As John Masefield says in one of the poems:
O, to feel the beat of the rain, and the homely smell of the earth,
Is a tune for the blood to jig to, a joy past power of words.

There's a wonderful fold out map!

I particularly like Walk This World With Music- a folksong by Chris Wood

It is good to be out on the road, and going one knows not where.
-John Masefield

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hello, Hello

Matthew Cordell 2012

I have a love/hate relationship with technology.  For 2 years I didn't have a cell phone (when I tell people that they usually gasp.)  I actually loved not having one even though it drove everyone else around me nuts.   They could never call or text me when they wanted.  There's a wonderful sense of freedom in not being connected ALL the time.  Life goes on.  If I'm running late, there's no way to call, people will be fine.  Someone needs something at the store while I'm there but can't reach me, it's not the end of the world.  My kids had to learn that sometimes you just sit outside the school waiting for your mom to come hoping she remembered to pick you up (this was how I lived my life as a kid!).

I realized what a state we are in when I noticed at the Dentist office that I was the only one in the waiting room with an actual BOOK to read (everyone else was texting on their cell phones).

Don't get me wrong- I love my computer and the internet but after awhile it starts to make me crazy.  I want something tangible and "real" like a piece of  paper and a pen.  I get tired of looking at screens.

A couple years ago my husband gave me an iphone 5.  I had told him that I sort of thought I wanted one (mostly because of the cool camera apps everyone seems to be using).  I'm thankful for it and certainly use it (and waste time on it).   When I first got it my brother was excited to use "facetime" with me and my mom exclaimed "Now I can text you all the time!"  And I jokingly told a friend that our friendship will get better now that I have a cell phone to keep in touch.   Yeah, I guess this is the modern age.

That's why I love this book.  A little girl's parents and brother are so busy with their electronics that they don't have time for her.  So she ends up being lured outside by a leaf and saying "hello" to nature and her imagination.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A House of Leaves

Kiyoshi Soya
illustrations by Akiko Hayashi 1986

What's more perfect than finding a little hideaway during a spring shower?   The Japanese illustrator Akiko Hayashi draws an adorable little girl named Sarah who is playing in the garden when drops of rain begin to fall.  When you're small, you can find little nooks and hideaways, and that's just what Sarah does.  "A roof of leaves makes a good roof," she whispered.  

But when you sit still and quiet in nature, you're not alone for long, as Sarah finds out. 

I like how the pictures are vignettes on the page, almost like you are peering through a hole in the leaves to see her.