(Disclaimer: JBS is a longtime friend and I was asked to review her books.)
Bluedorn, Johannah. My Mommy, My Teacher. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2002.
-- The Lord Builds the House: The 127th Psalm. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2004.
-- The Story of Mr. Pippen. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2004.
-- Bless the Lord: The 103rd Psalm. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2005.
Johannah Bluedorn writes and illustrates based on her experience. My Mommy, My Teacher is a fictionalized account of an idyllic young family engaged in many traditional activities throughout the day. Literature is obviously a high priority; at least six books are mentioned being read through the day, in addition to the Bible. Animals are named in MM, MT, reflecting the role they play in Bluedorn family life as well.
The Story of Mr. Pippen is an affectionate memoir of raising a raccoon from infancy to his return to nature, complete with photographs at the end. Hints of red and green appear on every page spread, pointing to Mr. Pippin’s love for cherries. There are plenty of amusing details: Mr. Pippin peeping around the quilt on the title page, Mr. Pippin gorged with cherries and sneaking jelly beans, meeting the future Mrs. Pippin who is holding a bouquet of cherry blossoms. I like how Johannah captures the unique postures of a raccoon, so that he looks almost real.
The Lord Builds the House and Bless the Lord illustrate how these verses may apply in life, both in nature and in the home. The reader will be rewarded by paying attention to the details (is that Mr. Pippin and his family?).
In all four books, Johannah’s illustrations are undoubtedly lovely. Her eye for detail is highlighted in frames and borders that compass the text or subject on nearly every page. Her settings have a consistently old-fashioned feel, paying homage to the work of Tasha Tudor.
Her affections are obvious as she includes recognizable family members, pets, weaves flowers and vines in many scenes, and scatters neatly-ordered bookshelves throughout the pages.
Johannah’s artistic skill matures with each book, though I must briefly comment on a few weaknesses. From a literary standpoint, MM, MT and TSoMP lack conflict and tension, so that beyond quiet narratives, the stories have limited depth. I am also uncertain about the intended audience of MM, MT, because I expect that most young ladies who are reading Men of Iron would say “Mother” or “Mama” instead of “Mommy.” In BtL, some of the twilight/wooded pictures are too richly detailed at the cost of clarity in the illustration.
Overall, however, the influence of Tasha Tudor is evident, the artwork charming. The primary question should always be, would children enjoy these books? My toddler son enjoyed looking at the pictures, and I am always glad to read Scripture to him. I look forward to seeing more of Johannah’s work.