Monday, August 31, 2009

Mouse Cookies & More

Whenever I see a collection of stories by a favorite author, it almost always ends up on my shelf. It's great having all of the favorites together and I love it when they include information about the author and illustrator. Emmy recently discovered my collection of Laura Numeroff stories titled Mouse Cookies & More A Treasury and it is now an absolute favorite. The book comes with a wonderful CD that includes the first four stories in the series and some great songs. Emmy asks for this CD to be played every time we get into the car and with my mom recently visiting, Emmy was able to follow along with the stories and songs in the book as her Yaya turned the pages.

As you read through the collection you learn little known facts about the author, Laura Numeroff and the illustrator, Felicia Bond. Laura began writing stories and drawing pictures to go with them when she was nine years old and the little girl in the story If You Give a Pig a Pancake is Felicia Bond who wished she had a pet pig. Emmy loves pancakes for breakfast, lunch or dinner so she really enjoys the story If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Her favorite page is when the pig gets all sticky and wants to take a bath. Emmy is particular about her pancake. It must be cut into triangles with syrup on the side for dipping. Another fun fact is that Mouse has quite a few pairs of boxer shorts - polka dots, candy cane and plaid!

Also included in this treasury are recipes and activities. Emmy wants to try the recipe for a Pancake Party Bowl with Berries and Cream. It sounds delicious! Maybe you will want to give it a try as well....

*1 cup flour

*1 tablespoon sugar

*1 1/4 cups milk

*2 eggs

*1/4 teaspoon salt

* 4 cups mixed fresh fruit (or two 12-ounce bags mixed frozen fruit, defrosted)

*1/4 cup sugar

*1 tablespoon melted butter

*3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

*whipped cream

1) Thoroughly butter a 9-inch pie plate.

2) Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, milk, eggs, and salt ina bowl and whisk until bubbly, about one minute. Pour the batter into the pie plate. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the edges rise and the center is still soft.

3) While the pancake is cooking,

toss the fruit and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. When the pancake is finished, remove from the oven. Fill with the fruit. Sift confectioner's sugar over the top. Serve immediately with whipped cream.

Emmy would also like to make sock puppets which is the suggested activity after the story If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Emmy just laughs at Moose as he attempts to put on a puppet show from behind the couch, but his antlers stick out!

Emmy and I hope that you come across this collection as well. It is a wonderful treasury with well thought out songs and activities to go with the stories. Visit Laura Numeroff's website to learn more about her and her books.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Child's Garden

Our new house in the North Shore of Massachusetts comes complete with a beautiful garden! Wonderful for someone like me who really doesn't know much about gardening and just feels appreciative that the yard is vibrant and fragrant. My dad enjoyed gardening and I enjoyed being with him as he dug in the soil and planted the most colorful flowers. My mom and I would usually be pulling weeds while he planted, but that didn't matter. This rich image of being out in nature with my family stays with me to this day.

Nowadays it seems that being out in nature is tougher than it was when I was a child. Perhaps it's the "rush about" mentality that many of us have fallen into where we can't seem to just slow down and embrace what we have in the moment. I fall victim to this way of thinking constantly and struggle with how to maintain a balance of work and family. I know that I want Emmy to experience the wonders in nature as much as possible. I wish for her to have dirt under her fingernails and a multitude of messy treasures in her pockets.

With all of this in mind, it was a complete joy to come across the book, A Child's Garden by Molly Dannemaier, in a small bookstore in New Hampshire. This is a gorgeous piece of work that focuses on how to bring the out-of-doors back into the lives of children. Dannenmaier begins with an explanation of what children really do when they step outside, which is not always what adults think they do or want them to do - think tree climbing and bug digging and hideaways. When our children clamor to go outside, we build swing sets and slides, sign them up for team sports, take them to zoos and adventure parks, but rarely have them explore their own backyard. With beautiful photographs, Dannenmaier shows wonderful examples of the most exquisite backyards and parks throughout the world that will inspire you to shape a part of your yard as a place of delight and interest for your children.

Heading up a national movement for outdoor play is Richard Louv. If you would like to learn more about the importance of being out in nature every day, check out his latest book Last Child in the Woods as well as his website.

Now for the perfect gardening book to share with your child, try How Groundhog's Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry. With lush illustrations, Little Groundhog learns from Squirrel's teachings how to grow his very own garden. With subtle environmental messages such as, when Wren and Praying Mantis strike a deal with Little Groundhog: "If you promise not to harm us with bug spray, we birds and insects will help you with your garden. We will eat the harmful insects that hurt your plants." Cherry teaches us the importance of living in harmony with nature. Ever present in a book by Lynne Cherry, you will find realistic drawings, labels and information galore. Keep this book in mind for the Thanksgiving season as it ends with a grand feast of all the food harvested from Groundhog's garden and shared with his friends.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Elsa Beskow

Elsa Beskow (1874-1953) is the Beatrix Potter of Scandinavia, and for over one hundred years Swedish children have grown up with her books. With a focus on nature, the changing seasons and the adventures you can only have as a child, her books transcend nationality and time and are true classics.

As I've mentioned previously, anything vintage just makes me absolutely melt. Elsa Beskow books do just that! If you love fairy, elf or gnome stories than these books are definitely for you. Elsa has created the most enchanting world for her characters. Set in the forest amongst beautiful plants and creatures live tiny people living harmoniously together. There are far too many to list here, but let me mention Emmy's favorite Beskow book at the moment. Around the Year (first published in Swedish in 1927 and then published in English in 1988) is a charming book of verses that gives me such an unexplainable, cozy feeling deep down inside. Much like Tasha Tudor's books, Around the Year captures the essence of childhood throughout the year as seen through the eyes of three children. The illustrations are fanciful and the poems are wonderful to read aloud. This simple book is a keeper - one that will stick with you long after you have closed the cover. Here is the poem for the month of August:
Floris Books, the largest children's book publisher in Scotland, has translated and published many of Elsa Beskow's books. Go to their site if you're interested in seeing her collection. Books by Elsa Beskow can be ordered through your local book seller or through our astore on Amazon.

A wonderful project that will embrace the seasons/holidays is to create a nature table in your home. Young children enjoy marking the seasons of the year. A nature table will help them to begin to understand the concepts of the passage of time, and the calendar with its months, weeks, and days as well.

Nothing is a better, soothing, more joyful activity than to bring home bits and pieces of a day's adventure or walk and place it on a table as a celebration of that day or season. Lovely things can be collected such as pebbles, seashells, feathers, pine cones, acorns, sticks, flowers, etc. Emmy always comes home with pockets full of items from our outdoor adventures. A nature table doesn't have to be a table. Emmy has several baskets where she keeps her collection of nature items. A drawer, box or shelf would work just as well. Just remember to put it in a place where it is accessible, but not likely to get knocked over. I believe that the ritual of a nature table, where items are displayed according to the season, will create a wonderful connectedness between Emmy and nature and instill an understanding of the rhythm of the year.

Here's a beautiful example of a nature table displayed prominently in a home.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Beach

Spending the day at the beach is Emmy's ultimate adventure. She loves everything about the beach: the waves, the sand, the wind, the sun, the seashells, the crabs... We recently returned from a family vacation in the Outer Banks, NC where she frolicked for hours on the beach. Now that we live 15 minutes from the beach, we can enjoy the wonder of the ocean any time we want.

There are many books written about the ocean that are wonderful to read, but once I came across this book.....well, in my opinion, there just aren't any others that compare. Suzy Lee has created a masterpiece of children's literature titled Wave. This book captures the universal childhood experience of spending the day at the beach. Without words, the sprawling illustrations tell the story of a little girl encountering the ocean with carefree adventure - timid at first and then full blast. With watery splashes and splatters of blue the ocean beckons the child and the reader to play. Lee's spreads of the beach use very little color (black, white, grey and blue), but are full of impact. We are right beside the girl as she taunts the wave and then becomes drenched in it's wake leaving behind the most wondrous gifts - lovely shells, starfish and pebbles. Emmy and I enjoy the secret goodbye the girl gives to the wave as she is guided by her mother back up the beach.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Finally - time to get back to Blogging about children's books. The extended break was due to our move from Texas to Massachusetts. I believe we are finally feeling settled in and ready to start our lives in New England. Now it's time to tackle the stack of books that I am looking forward to sharing with everyone!

First of all for all you parents and teachers out there - if you haven't read the book Parenting for a Peaceful World yet, I highly recommend it. This book brought an understanding of children that I just never recognized before. It made me stop and think about how I was parented and how my childhood experiences created the person/parent that I am today. What I found out is that I have a lot of work to do! This work has to do with ME - emotionally and spiritually. As this work is being done, my parenting style emerges as one that is much more emotionally connected to my child. To quote the author of this important piece of work, Robin Grille, "The way we bring up our children is what determines the kind of society we live in. Since the health of any society is dependent upon the emotional health of its children, children's wellbeing should be our top priority." To give you a brief overview of the work our society needs to continue to do, here's a video to view written by Robin Grille.

With that here are two books that you can share with your child to initiate conversations about the importance of treating others with kindness. We Are All Born Free contains the universal declaration of human rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Each of these rights, in simplified form by Amnesty International, is beautifully illustrated by 28 award winning illustrators from around the world. Emmy's favorite page is the one showing a classroom full of interesting characters, "We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people." Keep in mind that you do not have to read every one of the rights listed. Choose one or two to focus on and use them as a conversation starter. As Emmy would say, "Can we have a conversation?" By the way, royalties from the sale of this book go to Amnesty International.

If you're looking for a more subtle way to talk about treating others with kindness, try this book focused on good deeds. What Can I Do Today? is written by Allison Stoutland and illustrated by Cathy Hofner and shows a chain reaction of good deeds beginning with a lemonade stand and ending with a 'Happy Cake.' This would be a wonderful book to read to students of all ages at the beginning of the school year. A surprise is attached to the back cover - the recipe for happy cake as well as beautiful stationary to write a letter to a friend. We haven't tried the recipe yet, but it is on my list of things to do!

These three books are an inspiration to me to live my life with the utmost respect and kindness to others. This will serve as a model to Emmy as she continues to interact with others. I hope that you will feel inspired as well.

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart."
Helen Keller