Tag Archives: spring

The Easter Void

I suppose it’s time I speak a bit about Easter books then. Okay: it’s a seriously underserved genre!!! Unlike Christmas–which offers a broad spectrum of everything in between light and silly to evocative and religious– Easter falls flat. Maybe because we don’t promote the Easter Bunny, I find this to be so. See, St. Nick has a very real and relevant connection to Christmas… so he has found his way into our homes… but the Easter Bunny is so random and distracting from the Resurrection, the most glorious and important day of the Christian year, that I’ve little desire for his inclusion on our Sunday festivities. Oh, the children get baskets, sure. We do egg hunts and eat too much candy like everyone else, but their is no pretense of a giant bunny coming in the middle of the night. No, it’s a joyful, festive, relaxed day that follows a dramatic and spectacular vigil celebration Mass the night before.

That said, you’ll find a small handful of sweet bunny stories out there (mixed with the saccharine or kitschy stories), and you’ll find a small handful of religious books (of varying quality) out there. And you’ll find a select few wonderful out of print books out there too. But if you want to buy just one, beautiful story to be told year after year, it’s this one: The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith (one of my very favorite illustrators). It’s hard to find a book that doesn’t talk down to children about the Crucifixion (if it gets presented at all), but this one manages a perfect, family-friendly balance. And the gold leaf illustrations are superb. I bought this book two years ago and somehow it’s gone out of print since then, but you really ought to get a copy anyhow, used or otherwise. In the meantime, I really hope more authors jump on the bandwagon and start creating some lovely Easter tales…
“On Easter Day the veil between time and eternity
thins to gossamer.”
~Douglas Horton

Flicka, Snapp, Snurr.

Do you know Maj Lindman? Seeing how she’s a Swedish author and during the wintertime, I’m hot and heavy over all things Scandinavian, I thought it a good time to rave about the wonderful little series she created in the 1930s and 40s. They’re still in print today!

Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr are three young triplets who get into all sorts of fun predicaments before a happy ending and good moral end the story. We’re not talking phenomenal storytelling here. But don’t be deceived by the Dick and Jane vintage illustrations either… there is a real, good, edifying story to be told. It’s so charming and happy and just the sort of thing to read to a houseful of rowdy boys to perhaps interest them into wanting a respectable sort of day.
My personal favorite is Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, and the Gingerbreadbecause you are guaranteed giggles over three batter covered boys…
Of course, there’s also Flicka, Ricka and Dicka who were something of heroines to me when I was a young girl. I always wished they could have been quadruplets and I could’ve been, oh I don’t know… Nicka? Sticka? Blicka? Whatever… I just wanted to have a gaggle of girls around me to have as much fun as these three had. I loved the story of Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the New Dotted Dresseseven if it was terribly predictable.
See what’s so charming about these books is that they are so happily virtuous. They would never exist in today’s children’s literature world. The drama would be amped up. The girls would be seeking their individuality. But it’s quite refreshing to read a sweet, simple story about sweet, simple girls. And I think kids are inwardly hungry for this kind of innocent goodness. Think of Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka as you would a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning topped off with a dollop of honey and cinnamon… wholesome, sweet, simply good for you.
Here’s a quick, random video that shows the inside of Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and their New Skates. The new edition comes complete with paper dolls!

Library Pick of the Week: Brother William’s Year

New in 2010 was a wonderful, living picture book called Brother William’s Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey written and illustrated by Jan Pancheri. This was definitely our Libraray pick of the week (Maybe even month? Quarter? Pick of the year seems lofty but it would definitely be in contention for that prize!) Pancheri was the lead gardener of Westminster Abbey and has used this position to do research into “the way things used to be,” i.e., when the abbey was filled with Benedictine Monks before the property was stolen from the Church.

The book is a look at what medieval abbey life would’ve looked like each month of the year and since it’s January, the time is ripe for a picture book overview of seasonal life. Each page includes what’s happening in the gardens, which were of course the sustenance for the monks back then, not the pristine, manicured displays they are now. There are a couple recipes (Leek Soup!) and fun little tidbits to delight… like the building of a snow-monk. I want to build a snow monk this year!
I’m a fan of the book for a few reasons:
1-It’s historically accurate.
2-It’s reverent to the spiritual life without being a book meant to proselytize, thereby making it accessible to people of all faiths.
3- The art is just as lovely as the text.
4- I find the footnotes in the back very interesting.
Highly recommended.

(Theoretical) Library Pick of the Week

This is theoretical because we’ve not actually checked this book out. It was on our holds queue and I was devastated when I couldn’t pick it up. Truth be told, we are currently blocked from the county library system. Apparently they don’t tolerate a $40 bill. See, when your library charges 25 cents/day/book for overdue items, this really, really adds up when you are checking out 30-40 books at a time. Now, there is no excuse really, we live within walking distance to our local library. But the trouble is when we “lose” a book (it’s under a mattress or behind the piano) and another user has holds on it, it is unable to be renewed… and accrues late fees. Couple that with an unfortunate incident involving a wiggly boy, a large glass of water and a $20 book, and your account quickly goes into the delinquent status. (As I type we are racking up fees for one errant book: Babar Visits Another Planet— because it is unable to be renewed since our account is delinquent and it is nowhere to be found) Meanwhile, the library keeps sending me notices that I have holds to be picked up which agonize me that I can’t pick up until our account is paid off–maybe next payday. But I digress.

I am certain that A Butterfly Is Patientis a fantastic book in the same vein as this author’s other two mentioned books here: An Egg Is Quietand A Seed Is Sleepy. I loved how the other two books wove readers into a spell of story and science and found the illustrations and prose delightfully engaging… these would certainly be worthwhile books to invest in full price for both the sake of its beauty and its academic merit. A Butterfly is Patient was released this May and after a 30 second perusal at a small bookstore on the Oregon Coast, I was convinced it merited mention even if I’ve not read it in its entirety yet. So look for it and its predecessors as soon as you’re in the mood for delight!


Library pick of the week

I mentioned this book in my Top 10 list for spring, but we don’t actually own it. Yet. After going through the library books that we’ve gotten this week, it looks like pretty standard fare (except for the fact that this branch had a Tin Tin book that the boys haven’t read yet… so that was exciting. But Tin Tin really does deserve his own post.) so I’m going to have to choose this as our book of the week. I need to just buy it already as we’ve checked out this (and it’s companion An Egg Is Quiet) enough times to convince me that there really is long-term relationship possibility here that needs to be assessed. The boys have loved finding which seeds we recognized in this book and are eager to identify monocots and dicots now. I had some old navy beans from last week’s soup that we covered in a wet paper towel and put them in a plastic baggy to see what would happen. A few days later, they began sprouting and shell shedding and now are ready to plant. Probably the easiest and most beginner-friendly science experiment ever. So without further ado, I can not recommend enough A Seed Is Sleepy.


Top 10 Best Spring Books

I’m just a fan of Top 10 lists; there’s something about the efficiency and pretended authority about them that just draws me in. ;o) But it’s a fun, exclusive exercise to think about: if I had to read only 10 springtime books for the rest of my life (oh how sad would that be?!), what would they be? We like to keep seasonal and relevant books on hand in our home and if I had to limit my springtime list to a meager ten, it would include these titles:
 Spring Story by Jill Barklem. If you’re not familiar with the Brambly Hedge stories, you are truly missing out. There is one for each season and a few other bonus stories as well. They are a delight to read and beautifully illustrated.

 Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow. The sweetest, most simple story of wool from a sheep being made into a suit with the help of the boy all along. Elsa Beskow evokes such a nostalgia for “the simple life.”

 Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. A woman tells her story… and does her part to beautify the world. Cooney is such a talented illustrator, a real artist.

 Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven. Anything from Elisa Kleven is just pure eye candy. In this one, a dreery town wakes the sun up from its slumber…

 Peter Spier’s Rain. A wordless delight. Peter Spier is one of my very favorites.

 An Egg Is Quiet by Diana Hutts Aston. If one is going to limit herself to just ten, she may as well include educational delights as well. One reviewer somewhere pointed out that this book is the type you want to leave lying about for a child to discover, rather than making a point to read it aloud.  Her accompanying titles A Seed Is Sleepy and A Butterfly Is Patient are gorgeous springtime gems also!

 Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn. An incredibly innovative, inspiring tale of a young lad who needs a place to have his creative genius appreciated.  I am so happy this is back in print!  Doris Burn is my very favorite…

 Spring Is Here by Lois Lenski. Just an old, classic bit of fun rhyme and excitement about the season. Lois Lenski doesn’t add any profound wonder to this category, but children seem to love the small size of her books and the simplicity in the vintage, early 20th century images.

 Persephone by Sally Clayton. This is a beautiful book to dive into with children. Not only do they get to delight in the story and superb illustrations, they become more culturally literate as they learn about the Greek mythology behind Persephone and springtime.

 And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano. This is a new book and one that I think makes for an instant classic; it’s patient and thoughtful and lovely and everything an early spring book should be.  I am so happy to own it and wrote about it more in depth here.

“Brambly Hedge is on the other side of the stream, across the field. If you can find it, and if you look very hard amongst the tangled roots and stems, you may even see a wisp of smoke from a small chimney, or through an open door, a steep flight of stairs deep within the trunk of a tree. For this is the home of the mice of Brambly Hedge…”