Monday, November 14, 2011

The Rescuers (Retro Reads)

The Rescuers
Margery Sharp, author.
Garth Williams, illustrator
1959; re-released 2011

I can sing every word of the songs from the animated Rescuers movie--truly, one of the classics of its genre. So, it was with delight that I discovered a month or so ago that it was a book first!! Imagine my added interest when I realized that Garth Williams was the illustrator (he did Charlotte's Web and The Little House books).

And, yes, the book is about two mice named Bernard and Bianca who rescue someone. And there the similarity ends. Disney's animated version did a good job of portraying Bernard's and Bianca's characters, but they completely made up every last little bit of detail and plot for the movie. You might say that the movie was "suggested" by the book.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Retro Reads)

The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Paul Galdone
2005 (reprint)

We are HUGE fans of Galdone's folk tales around here; I've highlighted his Gingerbread Boy before. Thankfully, some of his best folk tales are being reissued with newer covers. Yea!!

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Galdone style, is a wonderful telling of this classic folk tale. If you haven't read this to a small group of young children, you're missing out--they will reenact it over and over and over and over. You're liable to hear repeats whenever you go under (or over) a bridge while out and about.

Galdone tells this tale with all the gore you'd expect from a good, classic folk tale. The troll is fully planning to eat these billy goats and the last billy goat does some damage to that mean ol' troll. Kids need that kind of reconciling action at the end of a story like this. Let them enjoy it! Let good soundly trounce evil... even if that means the big billy goat defeating the troll.

New cover at top; old below.

Play With Me (Retro Reads)

Play With Me
Marie Hall Ets
Caldecott Honor

We don't have only sweet, quiet books here at our house, but I think far too many people in today's society overlook these older, quiet books--so I'm bringing them to your attention during National Picture Book Month. I listed this title in an older post on Restful Illustrations. That's a great description for this gentle book.

A little girl goes outside to play (by herself!) and tries to get various animals to play with her. Eventually, she sits down and is quiet, discouraged perhaps because all the animals have been running away. As she sits there, though, the animals begin to creep back out and be with her.

This is a great book for young children, both for naptime reading time and other times throughout the day. Take it on your next picnic and read it outside! This is the kind of book my kids have enjoyed looking at on their own--something about those peaceful illustrations invite pondering.

May We Sleep Here Tonight? (Retro Reads)

May We Sleep Here Tonight?
Tan Koide (author), Yasuko Koide (illustrator)

This is a "retro reads" book because it is 20 years old! It has been reissued with slightly adapted cover art (as of 2000), so it is still available. Since this is apparently Picture Book Month (who knew?!), I thought I'd highlight some oldies, but goodies. This is a great place to start because May We Sleep Here Tonight is not as well known as some others. It's not a major award winner or terribly progressive or overtly educational.

It IS gentle and beautiful. A Japanese husband-wife team wrote and illustrated this charming picture book (you'll notice Japanese words in the pictures). It strikes the perfect balance between suspense and reassuring for young children. Small animals are lost in the woods and find shelter in a stranger's house. The stranger returns and there is some initial question about this stranger's benevolence....

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray
Ruta Sepetys

What happens to the people in a country that "disappears" from the map? It depends on the conquering country, but I would imagine that many displaced people groups suffer similar things to Lina and her family.

Lina and her family are part of the large Lithuanian (and Latvian/Estonian/Finnish/etc.) deportation enacted under Stalin's brutal regime in Russia and its neighboring countries. Lina's family is deported to Siberia, where they survive (some of them) for an unbelievable length of time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An update to our favorite homemade chai concentrate recipe

If you've tried the popular homemade chai concentrate recipe before, you may be interested in the update to the original that I just posted here. The spices are stronger and it's not as sweet, and my (Megan's) husband actually prefers it without vanilla! Feel free to adjust to your own taste, of course.

I strongly recommend Betsy's scones as an accompaniment. Thanks for joining us!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Pat Mora, author
John Parra, illustrator
Pura Belpre Honor Winner

This is a wonderful picture book to check out this time of year. Gracias/Thanks is a bilingual celebration of giving thanks no matter what. The child in the book doesn't direct his thanks to anyone or anything in particular--which gives parents the freedom to discuss their own religious traditions and holidays. For instance, my family focuses on how we are to thank the Lord in everything, in all situations. Because this book doesn't say to thank the earth or some other entity, we are free to interpret as we choose. And we can read it at any time of the year because the holiday of Thanksgiving is never mentioned or alluded to (partly because the boy in the story is Mexican-American and may or may not celebrate that holiday).

Illustrations are delightful and showcase what the boy is thankful for. This book is original and a great complement to the myriad Thanksgiving oriented books--we can give thanks all year!

The Mommy Manual

The Mommy Manual
Barbara Curtis

This book doesn't get a lot of attention in my particular Christian community, and it should. We spend a lot of time discussing books that help us know how to discipline our children; this book spends more time on the training of some of those heart attitudes.

Barbara Curtis is mom of 12: some biological, some adopted, some special needs.... And she's done it all: public school, private school, home school. She's a former Montessori teacher, and you will see that training come through in this book. She's also a believer and encourages moms SO much in that arena (even discussing how much praying she does in her laundry room--a room where she spends MUCH time).

What I like about this book:

  • strategies for inculcating heart attitudes of service, gratitude, and others
  • watching for opportunities even with your toddlers for encouraging these heart attitudes
  • an emphasis on the potential of your children (a realistic look, but positive nonetheless)
  • an honesty about her own background and walk with the Lord
  • a realism that doesn't come through in other parenting books
  • it's written by a mom--no matter how much I enjoy parenting books by men, they still lack that "mom" voice and reality.
  • encouragement!
The bottom line: Curtis will encourage you to seek out ways to encourage the potential in your child's heart, no matter how old that child is. You will come away from this book eager to seek opportunities to build heavenly treasure in and with and for your kids.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Remy Charlip

We are enamored with Fortunately around here! One of the rare books we have kept the entire three weeks from the library AND read it multiple times along the way. It's a terrific introduction for young children to suspense and irony. The first time we read it aloud, there wasn't a lot of reaction except for, "read it again!" By the third or fourth time through, everyone was laughing uproariously and pretending to guess what was coming. What makes this book so funny?


Brian Selznik

A few weeks ago, I finally read The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Why did I finally read it? Because Wonderstruck came out this year, and the blogosphere is hot with the discussion of whether it can qualify for a Newbery--does the text stand alone? Does the award require that? I wanted to read Hugo first, so I got to work.

Hugo won a Caldecott--quite a new direction for that award which is usually given to a picture book. If you haven't seen either Hugo or Wonderstruck, then let me assure you: Selznik FILLS his books with his art. He messes with the conventions of the book in an intriguing way. I don't believe either his text or his art can stand alone; they are completely interdependent on one another. These books are more like the experience of watching a movie in some ways.

I enjoyed Wonderstruck more than Hugo, but I'm still not wowed by Selznik's writing. His strength is in his art and the manner in which he constructs his story. The story in Wonderstruck is marvelous and another little known piece of historical timeline fictionalized for the book world. It is worth reading and features a young girl and a young boy. Both the girl and boy are struggling to fit in, to adapt to a world in which they have similar physical handicaps, and to find their true families. They are also separated by a number of years, but the stories come together in the end marvelously.

Julie over at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a nice, long interview with Selznik if you would like some more info!

Recommended for elementary and up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children

The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children
Lou Priolo
Calvery Press

We don't use a rating system on this blog (yet), but if we did, this parenting book would receive my highest rating. I don't know about you, but reading a really great, biblically based parenting book helps me "get back in the fight." I'm not referring to fighting against my children and making them bend to my wishes; no, I'm talking about fighting FOR my children--for their souls, for their training in godliness, for their heart condition. Sometimes this involves conflict between us as parents and our children; it should involve much more, though, and books like Priolo's Heart of Anger cover that "more."

So what makes this particular parenting book so great? There are others out there (and I hope to review some of them, too!). But I really appreciate Priolo's approach and wisdom:

  1. Examine YOUR heart first. Are you provoking your children to anger? (even unwittingly)
  2. Praise and encourage your child. (in addition to discipline--basically, don't overlook the importance of the positive)
  3. The Gumnaizo Principle (train, train, train--practice makes permanent)
  4. Call a spade a spade: If it's sin, then label the behavior/attitude/word as sin, not a "phase" or some other nonsense.
  5. KNOW YOUR BIBLE and USE it--just reading this book makes you realize how much more you need to read your Bible. 
  6. Recognize manipulation in your children--you'd be surprised!
  7. Strategies for getting at... you guessed it... the heart of anger.
Priolo does advocate spanking in the right context. I know some parents who don't believe in spanking. But I know others who err too much on the side of spanking and don't sprinkle in enough positive. Priolo seems to balance both. I found his approach unstinting in regard to truth, but gentle and affirming at the same time.

Bottom line: This book will challenge you to examine your own heart, to look for opportunities to discern your child's heart, and to spend more time in the Word.

Dandelion Fire

Dandelion Fire
N. D. Wilson

In book two of the 100 Cupboards Trilogy, we are plunged into a whole new experience. Henry, KS, forms a distant memory as Henry, Henrietta, and the rest of their family embark on otherworldly adventures. I'll just say that only one of these persons actually seeks out his or her adventure. The rest have their "greatness thrust upon them" as it were.

I won't tell you much more except to say that you must read my 100 Cupboards review if you're unfamiliar with this series. Then, you must know that this book continues that creation-fall-redemption framework with aplomb. Here we see the effects of the fall. Here we see evil, and the death it creates as it spreads its tentacles. And here we see redemption--at least the beginnings. We see heroes rise up. We see people stand in the gap. And we see brothers come together, families reunited, and hope spring anew. All because of a little dandelion.

Doesn't that whet your appetite? Wilson's writing is even better in this book than in the first.

Things to Note/Discuss
  • there are few mild expletives at one point in this book; I made a mental note only because I was reviewing this book for this site. They are certainly not worth not reading the book--but there are folks who would like to know.
  • there is more violence in this book; you might say it's "darker" than the first. That's to be expected since we are seeing the reach of Nimiane grow and she is truly evil. It's certainly in keeping with the plot.
  • heroic tradition: what makes an epic hero? (think of the unlikely hero and the quest and all those famous stories you know!)
  • the "Green Man" is a legend/tradition in its own right. Feel free to do a little outside research!
  • Also, there is a big difference in literary tradition between fairies, faeren, and the fae. You might be surprised to know that all are not like Tinkerbell. In fact, Tinkerbell is a rather modern creation....