Sunday, August 2, 2015

Penny Paperheart

"Sharing happiness one heart at a time" is the sweet message from the adorable Penny Paperheart.  Little Penny made her debut as a doodle on a greeting card for Hallmark, but is now a character in her own book Penny Paperheart that is followed by many "Hallmarkers" - apparently this is the term for people who shop frequently at Hallmark. Now you can find Penny merchandise, such as Penny Playsets, at all Hallmark stores as well as online that give a whole new feel to paper doll play.  Also on Hallmark's website are cute videos starring Penny and her friends as well as downloads that include coloring pages, finger puppets and paper hearts to share. Follow this link for some Penny Paperheart fun (the videos are about half way down the page)!

The book Penny Paperheart was left for Emmy a few months ago by the fairies who visit the little fairy houses that she makes around the house. Let me explain...Since we live in an apartment on the fifth floor, we don't have direct access to the outdoors, so collections of nature items can be found in Emmy's room.  These items are often made into little fairy houses that cannot be taken down until evidence of a fairy visit are found.  So, unbeknownst to her, I leave evidence of their existence. Sometimes I simply rearrange the little house, but other times I leave little trinkets hidden in her fairy houses.  Trinkets such as a pretty rock, a polished stone, an interesting seashell, a handwritten note or something a bit bigger like this book.  It brings me much joy that Emmy still believes in fairies and it is such a relief when the fairy house is put away and vacuuming can commence once more!

I must share the back story to Penny Paperheart, as stated at the end of the book, as it is one of friendship, collaboration and inspiration.

One day an artist named Terry Runyan drew a little doodle.  She gazed at the little gril she sketched and then began to noodle.  Isn't she cute?  Who could she be?  Terry continue to think, then showed her sketch to her talented friend whose name is Mary Fink. 

Mary thought Terry's charming sketch was oh so very sweet, so Mary designed the girl's paper town and when it was complete Terry and Mary thought to themselves, "It's time for her to be named" "Not just a name, she needs a story!" the two artists both exclaimed.

Andre du Broc is a writer friend.  Playing with words is his art.  When he saw their little sketch he squealed, "She's Penny Paperheart!" The three friends loved their paper girl and that love just grew and grew.  Penny Paperheart had a name but not a thing to do.

That's when their dear friend, Stacy Lamb, offered a bit of advice:  "She gives away her paper hearts - that's what makes Penny so nice!" And that's how four devoted friends all played a wonderful part in bringing to life a paper girl named Penny Paperheart.  

After our first reading of Penny Paperheart, Emmy went off and gathered art supplies and began making hearts with notes on them to share with family members, friends and the neighbors in our apartment building.  Emmy highly recommends this book to readers of all ages as she says, "Penny is so cute and when I read her story, I want to be kind to everyone."  We hope that you will have a chance to get to know Penny and spread kindness to those around you.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Children of All Lands Stories

Baldface Books ~ Dover, NH
Just the other day I walked into a used bookstore and walked out with a treasure!  I discovered the author Madeline Brandeis and brought home one of her beautiful books Little John of New England from her series The Children of America Stories.  I would have liked to have brought home the entire collection found on the shelf as it also included books from her other series The Children of All Lands Stories, but the wallet only allowed for one this time around.

With a bit of research, Emmy and I learned that Madeline Brandeis wrote works of fiction about children from the United Stares and from Europe that were interspersed with facts about these areas.  Her inspiration for her writing about children from many lands came from reading books with her daughter Marie.  They realized that many of these books were written many years ago and didn't portray children in modern times.  With her daughter in tow, Ms. Brandeis took photographs on her reflex camera, nicknamed Ref, of the various regions as well as of actors who portrayed the characters she was writing about.  Marie offered important insight to her mother.  Brandeis said, "It was Marie who guided my footsteps along the right road towards child understanding while the trusty camera made possible the illustrations."

Although the books in Brandeis' series were written in the late 1920's and the 1930's, we still feel their relevance.  I chose to purchase the book Little John of New England since this is the area where we live. Emmy enjoyed hearing the story of John who lived in Boston, but was left to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Maine while his parents went on a "motor trip."  The story includes letters from John's mother telling of her New England adventures with his father.  Emmy and I were both thrilled whenever she talked about a place where we have been.  We both enjoyed John's relationship with the teacher at the one room country school.  Miss Wells helped John come up with a plan to keep his dog Pal close by when his Aunt and Uncle sent the dog away to live in town due to his mischievous behavior.

Whenever Emmy and I are in a second hand bookstore, we will look for Brandeis' books.  It will be like a scavenger hunt to us and when we find one, we will celebrate!  We hope that you, too, will look for her beautiful books especially if you are searching for interesting chapter books to read with your child.

UPDATE 8/30/15
*We recently connected with Chris Otto who writes about all things ephemera on his blog Papergreat.  I must admit that I had to look up the definition of ephemera!  Ephemera is any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved; items of collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed ones, that were originally expected to have only short-term use.  Chris' blog is full of beautifully illustrated post cards, recipe booklets and book covers from the past. My favorite sections on the blog are School Days where old basal readers can be found along with Tucked Away Inside where Chris features items he finds inside vintage books like a Dubble Bubble quiz tucked inside of an old school book.  As a child, I loved reading the comics and the fortunes inside of Dubble Bubble gum!

After discovering that Emmy and I were also fans of The Children of America Stories, Chris sent us three books from his collection!  To learn more about these vintage books with the beautifully illustrated covers, check out Chris' post Children of America Stories: 5 awesome vintage covers.

Thank you, Chris!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Books

Advent Calendar with Emmy's
elf Graham Cracker
Opening book #1
As the seasons change, so do the books in the basket we keep in the living room.  We have collected books about autumn, winter, spring and summer.  As a holiday approaches, one of our favorite things to do is to display our collection of holiday books in a separate basket.  Last Christmas we decided to made an advent calendar using our books.  Emmy chose 24 books from our collection of Christmas books and then wrapped each one.  We numbered each book as we wrapped and put them into a basket in numerical order.  Each night we opened a book at bedtime and read it together as a family.  We enjoyed this advent calendar better than any other that we have tried and plan on doing the same thing this Christmas.

We recently added two new books to our Christmas collection and Emmy asked that I share them with you.  So here it goes...
Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas by Julia Rawlinson illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2010)
Emmy and I first fell in love with Fletcher, or Ferdie as he is known in the United Kingdom, when we read Fletcher and the Falling Leaves. Rawlinson has created four Fletcher stories - one for each season.  Each of these stories about Fletcher and his forest friends has an underlying theme of true friendship and how giving brings just as much joy as receiving.

In the story Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas, Fletcher is worried that Santa Claus will not be able to find the rabbit family's new home and so he works with his friends on creating a stick path leading from their old burrow to their new burrow. They are invited into the Rabbit's home to share blackberry pie and sing Christmas Carols.  While they are enjoying the Christmas Eve festivities, snowflakes begin to fall and the sticks are buried under the snow.  Fletcher worries all the way home and decides that there is only one thing a true friend would do - stay awake all night to tell Santa the news.  Fletcher settles down to wait but can't help falling fast asleep.

When Fletcher wakes up on Christmas morning and sees the gifts left for him under his tree, he rushes to the Rabbit's burrow to apologize only to find them opening their Christmas gifts.  Santa found his way!

A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea (2011)
It's no secret that Emmy and I LOVE Olivier Dunrea whose series of books about some adorable goslings are still read around our house (read our post about Ollie the Stomper).  We admire his illustrations that are simple yet full of emotion.  When we came across A Christmas Tree for Pyn, we knew that we had to add it to our Christmas book collection.  This book isn't about Santa Claus or presents, it's about the true emotion of the season ~ that Christmasy feeling that we all look for. With each rereading, this book endears itself to me and Emmy more and more.
Oother, and his small daughter Pyn, live in a cottage "on top of a steep, craggy mountain." Oother is a "big, gruff man" who doesn't say much and when he does, it usually sounds like this,"Umphf." Oother loves his daughter very much, but he is a "bearlike mountain man who did not soften for anyone.  Not even Pyn."  Pyn's "Good morning, Papa" is always followed by "My name is Oother."  And so she would correct herself and say "Good morning, Oother."  Pyn is cared for and is happy as is evident in the work she does around the cottage as Oother goes into the woods to work, but you can sense a loneliness admist the text and illustrations.  Dunrea enlightens us to this feeling when Oother thinks to himself, "How very much like her mother she is."  There is no mother around and it is now evident that Oother is still adjusting to her absence.  When Pyn suggests getting a Christmas tree, Oother gruffly responds, "No Christmas tree."  

With gentle determination, Pyn keeps asking until she gets a "We'll see." response.  Pyn finally sets out on her own to chop down a tree, but finds herself stuck in the snow.  Oother is there to rescue her and they then set off together to find the perfect tree. Emmy and I both love how Oother and Pyn bow their heads to give thanks to the tree before they cut it down.  Once the tree is home, Pyn dashes around the cottage finding all of the special things that she has been collecting from the forest (acorns, berries, abandoned birds' nests and birds' feathers) and adorns the tree with her treasures.  Reluctantly, Oother begins to help Pyn place the items amongst the tree branches and when they are finished they stare in amazement at their beautiful tree.  

The finishing touch...Oother goes into the cellar and brings up a small package and says "For your Christmas tree.  It belonged to your mother."  Inside the package is a beautiful handmade bird for the top of the tree.  Now that space has been made in their lives for Pyn's mother, Oother's heart softens and when Pyn thanks him "Thank you, Oother." He corrects her and says "My name's Papa."
Emmy admires Pyn's determination to bring a Christmas tree into her home and calls Oother "A big softy."

This very gentle reminder of the spirit of Christmas is just what Emmy and I need.  With all of the hustle and bustle, the meaning of Christmas is often forgotten.  We will pause and appreciate the beauty of the season from the twinkling lights to the smell of pine to the festive music.  And we will be mindful to bring peace and happiness to those that we meet.  With that thought, we will end this post with these words from Longfellow's poem Christmas Bells.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow