Tag Archives: resources

Therapy in Picture Books

This post is for my sister—a soon to be licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  She asked for my opinion on books that deal with difficult subjects in a delicate way… to aid children in making sense of trauma or sadness or difficulty in their lives.

Note that I have NOT read every single one of these books. What I did, was pore over many, many lists, follow many rabbit-trails, read a few message boards, evaluated many reviews and compiled these titles that looked to be the most promising. This is certainly not exhaustive—I don’t doubt I’m missing some great titles.  But I did go ahead and ignore 90% of what was recommended for therapy books precisely because that’s what they were designed to be (e.g. “Mommy and Daddy Dinosaur Got a Divorce” or somesuch). In this scope (as in most others) I seek stories primarily… good messages secondarily.

There are some exceptions, but I do think the art of subtlety in this area is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when reading books with children. Kids aren’t stupid. They see through things that moralize or patronize very quickly.  But again… I have not read all these books personally so maybe a few of them do exactly this… let me know! I am only bookmarking this list for people to peruse who may want to investigate ways to cope with life stressors through the welcoming, non-threatening medium of picture books.  If you know of something that I’m missing here, please comment!!!

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The Jesse Tree in Picture Books, Model 2.0

*Although it’s only early November, I’m posting this to give ample time for library holds and purchases to be made.
In my first post on how to observe the Jesse Tree tradition in picture books (which has recently been updated to reflect new finds and indicates must read inclusions), I discussed how our family typically stops the Old Testament readings on December 17th to go into full Antiphon mode. It became clear to me that in the shorter years of Advent (like upcoming 2017) there will be only 22 days of the entire season!  This would mean that if we stopped the stories on the 17th, there’d only be 14 days of readings!  Well, this won’t do since the entire story of Salvation needs more than 14 sample stories to cruise up to the Nativity.  So here is a more simple plan for those who prefer it: a 24 day system. You can use this system in the way most ‘Advent Calendars’ are utilized: beginning on December 1st all the way up to Christmas Eve.  (This year—2014— Advent is 25 days long… so I’m stretching out Moses to three nights; it could easily be 4 or 5 if you want to subtract the less important tales of Balaam or Elijah or Belshazzar.)  So, we’ll be doing one story every day and STILL focus ALSO on the O Antiphons beginning on the 17th. For our family, some of these stories needed their own symbols made to be included on our actual tree (which for our family, is an actual tree branch I found, planted in concrete with little wooden ornaments I painted for the symbols). Remember that many of these are out of print but cheap online at amazon or eBay, etc.  And if you can’t borrow or purchase them all this year… just start with what you can!  Bring a little bit of color and wonder into your Jesse Tree readings by including a few picture book stories.  Without further ado:
The Jesse Tree in Picture Books, Model 2.0
Dec. 1: CREATION: best all around is Creation.
Dec. 2: ADAM & EVE: Paradise.
Dec. 3: NOAH’S ARK: Noah’s Ark or Noah’s Ark. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Dec. 4: THE TOWER OF BABEL: The Tower of Babel.
Dec. 5: THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM: Sarah Laughs.
Dec. 6: ABRAHAM & ISAAC: nothing notable in the picture book world that I’ve found! But it’s an important piece of the story so stick with a traditional children’s Bible book to tell it.
Dec. 7: JACOB & ESAU: Jacob and Esau.
Dec. 8: JOSEPH’S COAT OF MANY COLORS: Joseph (first half) or The Coat of Many Colors.
Dec. 9: JOSEPH AS PHAROAH: Joseph (second half) or Benjamin and the Silver Goblet.
Dec. 10: MOSES IN THE BASKET & THE BURNING BUSH: Moses or Exodus (first parts)
Dec. 11: MOSES PLAGUES, THE RED SEA & 10 COMMANDMENTSMoses or Exodus (second parts)
Dec. 12: BALAAM’S ASS: The Angel and the Donkey (1st choice) or The Donkey’s Story (2nd choice)
Dec. 13: RUTH: The Story Of Ruth.
Dec. 14: SAMUEL’S CALL: The Story of the Call of Samuel.
Dec. 15: THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON: The Wisest Man in the World or from the compilation: Kings and Queens of the Bible.
Dec. 16: DAVID & GOLIATH: David and Goliath.
Dec. 17: THE PROPHET ELIJAH: Elijah and the Fire from Heaven (1st choice) or Elijah and King Ahab (2nd choice).
Dec. 18: QUEEN ESTHER: Queen Esther Saves Her People (1st choice) or The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale.
Dec. 19: JONAH: Jonah and the Whale.
Dec. 20: KING BELSHAZZAR AND THE WRITING ON THE WALL: from Kings and Queens of the Bible.
Dec. 21: DANIEL IN THE LION’S DEN: Daniel and the Lord of Lions.
Dec. 22: JOHN THE BAPTIST: nothing notable in the picture book world that I’ve found! But it’s an important piece of the story so stick with a traditional children’s Bible book to tell it.
Dec. 23: THE ANNUNCIATION/VISITATION: from Mary or Mary: The Mother of Jesus or The Life of Mary.  All are good.
Dec. 24: THE NATIVITY: many good choices here. Choose your favorite. I like The Nativity: Six Glorious Pop-Up Scenes and The Story of Christmas best.

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Upcycling Books

Who knew?!  I thought the upcycling book projects were relegated to rogue internet crafters and Pinterest lurkers… but lo and behold there are entire BOOKS published on the topic!


And my wallet loves the fact that the main three that interest me all happen to be at my library! I wonder what new ideas they can offer me. Most of MY books remain intact and I’m not sure if any of these projects are appropriate for children’s picture books… but it’s worth a look!

Tonight, my two year old threw The Giving Tree into the bathtub and let it soak for 10 minutes before telling me about it.  *Sniffle*… it will not be able to be repurposed and most certainly will need to be replaced when I get the chance.  I do however have 3 or 4 very exciting books waiting in my craft closet wings for projects… maybe these books will provide inspiration… ?

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Top 10 Books about Books

Here is a non-typical list of Books About Books.  Most of the lists I’ve read of this nature have to do primarily with literature selection and include extensive booklists. Well this list isn’t entirely like that since I don’t have 10 whole books about booklists that I agree with 100% and would call EXCELLENT.  Instead this is simply books about books in the general sense. So read my comments carefully before putting all these books in your shopping cart; they may not be what you are looking for! These are simply my 10 favorite books about some aspect of BiblioZeal and it was quite challenging to narrow this BROAD subject down, once the topic got opened up past simply literature selection lists. So in no particular order:

 Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt.  This is one of the most oft-recommended resources for parents who are looking HOW to choose the best picture books for children…  and for good reason. It was one of my first books specifically about picture books that I ever read and includes detailed lists.

 How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. Best title ever that succinctly describes what’s in it.  All educated people should read this really well-laid-out book on how to make the most of their reading, whether it be for scholarship or delight… especially before going to college!

 Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden. A highly inspirational book to savor. This is one that is fun to let sitting about for middle-aged children to find and be encouraged in. This discusses all that you need to know in creating your own beautiful masterpieces. Could be an excellent source for gift-making. Writers aren’t just published people!

 The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This is an absolute must-read for all parents in my opinion. It discusses WHY reading aloud is so very important in families and classrooms, examines some pretty startling statistics about what that can do for a child and will completely convict parents to NOT overlook reading aloud to even older children. I like many of the books in Trelease’s extended booklist… but don’t agree 100% about all his recommendations for quality literature. So get this book for the informational content, not for the lists in the back!


 A Picture Perfect Childhood by Cay Gibson. Now this is a book with which I CAN agree 100% on the lists included! And they are sorted in many useful ways, from great picture books for months of the year, countries of the world, virtues to teach, etc. All this plus many great notes on the goodness and importance of picture books in general make this a must have for Biblio-Zealots.

 How Picture Books Work by Maria Nikolajeva and Carole Scott. I admit that most of you will want nothing to do with this book. It must of been written for a college course I think because it is pretty technical, thick reading. On picture books of all things! Still, I found it fascinating to explore different concepts of what makes some picture books successfull classics and not others. All the details about the relationship between writer and illustrator and publisher, text to picture placement, font choice… etc. There is so much going on in great picture books that the average reader doesn’t usually perceive. I would liken it to a book on cinematography… what makes a movie brilliant is the coherence of scripting, acting, camerawork, soundtrack, and on and on. The trick for successful artists and writers is to make it look simple and beautiful and enjoyable.  This book is interesting for nerds like me to pore over.

 A Landscape With Dragons by Michael O’Brien. This was the first “book about books” I ever read a good 10 years ago or so. It was really great that I found it before I really started my children’s library. O’Brien is known for his position on the importance of how Evil and Good need to be treated in literature, movies and pop-culture: everything in its proper place. When deciding on whether a story is good for children, one has to examine how things like magic and dragons and witches are treated. I love the booklists in the back of this book but many of the titles are out-of-print and hard to find. Still, it’s a good place to start when trying to define what kinds of things you’ll allow your children to be entertained by.

 For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittman. This is an incredibly useful book and I reference it often as I’m choosing books to supplement our schooling subjects. In all subjects (even math!) , there are great books for children of all ages to learn with and while I can and do make use of online resources that include much of this same information, Wittman’s book is a staple on my shelf for how it’s organized and for being… well… printed! I hate having to run to the computer every time I want an idea or resource, so this helps remedy that!

 Minders of Make Believe by Leonard Marcus. I found this book fascinating also… it’s really a history of where we’ve come as a culture in the development and publication of children’s books. I have learned a LOT by reading this and find it really interesting how many things and authors and ideas we take for granted without knowing from whence they came. Highly recommended for lovers of both children’s literature and lovers of history.

 Who Reads What When by Jane Williams. Really this compact little book is probably my favorite for a very straightforward and trustworthy resource on booklists. You can look up ages to start authors or series… or simply read the titles for each age listed. Its great appeal is in its simplicity and I enjoy having this on my shelf!

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    Little Free Library

    It’s finished! Last month, I begged my husband to build me a little library to put in our front yard. He has exceeded my expectations… and I am delighted that we are now home to our city’s first Free Little Library.

    Check out these images from our grand opening!

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    Spinning Straw into Gold

    There is a lovely blog celebrating all things fairy tale and the author, Christie, just published my article on mythology. Visit her piece of cyberspace and enjoy!

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    Not So Zealous?

    My dear friend wrote this:

    You need a blog post on devoting time to reading with children! Especially for the non-reader parents who wish for their children to love reading! Really, I find that I have so many things I could be doing in my day… We’re non-stop around here, it seems. Grabbing a few books and snuggling on the couch mid afternoon is not as second nature as I wish it were. I parents did this with me exactly zero times. I grew up not enjoying reading at all. There are so many factors at play but I think that’s one of them. I just can’t seem to want to carve out the time bad enough. I was a lot better at it when we had 1-2 kids. We read much more frequently than we do now. The house is filled with so much chaos. Constantly, it seams… I’m struggling to just through the end of the day.tragically, book/reading time falls way at the bottom of the totem pole.

    And to that I would say this:

    Be free from the guilt!  If you aren’t a natural bibliophile, you aren’t a bad parent.  If for whatever reason, you did not grow up doing much reading, you can still impart a beautiful gift to your kids.  If sitting down and reading to a child feels like a chore… that’s okay!  Here’s a few brief tips for my less than bibliozealous friends:

    1. Fake it ’til you make it.  Number one thing you can possibly do is to not let on your displeasure or annoyance to the child!  When I’m not “feeling” like reading to a child, I will say simply “Okay, just pick out one story (and I’ve no problem vetoing long books if I’m not up for it) for tonight.”  But I read it with as much gentleness and interest and love as I can muster.  The last thing we want is for our kids to pick up on stress and let story time become associated with memories of mom being at wit’s end.
    2. Make time.  You have to.  It’s not optional.  Being a good parent does not mean you have to feel warm fuzzies and spend hours in a treehouse together reading all the best books in the world.  But it does mean that you have to read to your child often. I truly believe that.  And I would say a few times a week, if you can’t manage daily.  It doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes.  But that investment of time will pay off HUGE dividends in the end.  If it feels like a chore to you, so be it. Add it to the list right after lunch and before laundry. Somehow, make some kind of routine time for it… and remember rule #1.
    3. Read books about books.  I’m currently working on a post about the best books about books available.  Reading great literature guides and other things will help you to warm up to books in general and get excited about reading.  Look for that within the month hopefully.
    4. Stock up on audio books. While this can’t replace a parent who’s not interested in reading… it can help tremendously.  The biggest thing is simply having a stock on hand!  Invest in a bunch now and keep them in a place (if they’re not mp3 files) where you will see them and remember to use them.
    5. Pray.  Seriously.  I think reading is so important that it’s worth praying to God that He help you find the time, energy and patience to make it happen.  If a child is raised to be interested in the truth and raised with a healthy appreciation (if not love) for reading… they can always find their way back to the Truth about Him.  The vast majority of fallen-away or lukewarm Christians I know, are non-readers.  Our children will be attacked.  They will be tempted to turn from God.  Reading opens up a whole powerful arsenal they can use to equip their minds with the proper defenses and truths about what nobility is and what goodness is and ultimately, what truth is. 
    6. Don’t give up!  Don’t just be tempted to think, “Well, I’m no good at this.  It’s a constant struggle.  I can never make it to the library. There is no time… etc.” Keep plugging away at it.  Seeds will be sewn even if you can’t see to buds yet…
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    Sometimes I love the Internet

    My mother was a pioneer.  She homeschooled when it was practically illegal.  She didn’t have the help of online forums or curriculum reviews or blogs any social networking sites to discuss her options.  God bless her!  She simply got all the books required through Seton’s catalogue for our grade levels and set us to work.  There was no question in her mind about which books to read or what education styles to employ.  She simply did the best she could with what was available to her at the time.  In some ways I envy that.  Choice isn’t always a great thing.  For some frazzled souls, the myriad of reviews and books and methods out there nowadays can serve to overwhelm one to the point of a paralyzed fear of “What should I do?!?!”  I rely so much on reviews and online discussions and great blog posts that have helped inspire me and shape my educational paradigm.  How does one homeschool without the great Petersen’s Bird App or Star Charts on her iPad?!  How does one purchase a book without first consulting the reviews on Amazon.com?!  Is it possible?!  Indeed.  People did it for thousands of years before Al Gore invented the Internet (*snicker*).

    What I’m getting at though, is just how great some of our resources are online.  So great.  I mean, if the world ends and we all have to live off the grid back-to-lander style, I’m okay with that.  Bring on the woodstoves and candlelight! But in the meantime, we may as well not fight the total attack on our senses and intelligence and brain waves (good book alert: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) and simply act as sieves rather than dams. Let in as much of the good as we can, while filtering out the twaddle and pure evil.  It’s not an easy battle.

    At any rate, we know there are great free books online.  This is in some ways antithetical to what a good “book” should be… a real, tangible, book smelling friend in you hands.  I don’t care how wonderful, economical or efficient the Kindle is, it’s not the same thing as a bound book so don’t try to convince me it is.  So, I just discovered a great site that maybe is old news to the rest of you but oh well, here it is:  www.booksshouldbefree.com. You can search Google Books and the Baldwin Project and Librivox but I really like how visual this website is.  Take note of their children’s book section and download a whole bunch of those goodies for your next road trip or mommy’s day off read-alouds or quiet times or meal times (meal times are EXCELLENT for audio books so everyone can enjoy some food while a third party reads…)

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    An Education in Pictures

    As it’s not in the scope of this blog to discuss homeschooling philosophies, I wanted to give just a glimpse at our upcoming year in a picture.  Our education is based on good, living books, and that’s largely what you see here.  I’m showing you a picture of our spine, not the myriad of supplemental picture and chapter books, copybooks or online resources that reinforce all that we are learning (especially with art, science, music, history, religion and poetry). Plus there’s a lot of overlap between these years as we’ll be doing much of this reading together.  I also haven’t put in the math for my 4th grader yet; can’t seem to win any auctions on e-bay for Teaching Textbooks 5!  As it is, while I love designing curriculum, I am becoming more and more of a Charlotte Mason purist. This is mostly for two reasons: when the rubber meets the road, you have to abandon your glorious ideals on a pedestal and do what works for your own family; also, the methods of a true Charlotte Mason education are incompatible with having a diverse plan of attack (e.g. There’s no sense in insisting on copywork if you are also forcing the child to do spelling sheets, handwriting workbooks and grammar lessons too.)  So while homeschoolers can certainly have a “Charlotte Mason flavor” to their curriculum… I sort of feel like the “atmosphere, discipline and life” is an all or nothing approach, at least for our purposes. So, just for novelty’s sake I present parts of the 2012/2013 year (beginning in August!) for my boys:

    Kindergarten:

    3rd Grade:

    4th Grade:

    “Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” 
    -Charlotte Mason 


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