Category Archives: Children’s books

The Railway Children

Illustration by Inga Moore…

Somehow I missed reading the books of Edith Nesbit as I was growing up. I would have loved them! Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to make up for missing them in childhood by gifting myself an E. Nesbit read every so often. That’s my way of making the pleasure last longer and I won’t run out of her books so soon!

My most recent Nesbit pleasure was to listen to the audiobook version of The Railway Children narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Virginia Leishman. What a fun way to spend some rainy hours indoors! And I would highly recommend it for families on road trips!

Publisher’s summary…

Father has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. Now Mother has moved Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis from London to an old English country house. Missing the hustle and bustle of the city, the children are ecstatic to find that their new home is near a railway station. Making friends with both the porter and the station master is great fun. So is waving to a kindly old gentleman who rides through on the 9:15 every morning. When mother gets sick, it is he to whom they turn for help. And later, when a fortunate twist of fate returns their father to them, they are surprised to find the old gentleman involved once again.

Written by an unconventional woman whose friends included H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, this classic has been popular since it was first published almost 100 years ago. Virginia Leishman’s enthusiasm translates these adventuresome children into heroes for modern listeners.

Public Domain (P)1999 Recorded Books

As with all the Nesbit books I have read so far, the main characters are very nice, bright children who have great imaginations, love stories and outdoor play, and who change the world around them with what is called  “loving kindness” in the book. Oh how I wish I had read this book to my students while I was still teaching! The modeling of loving kindness is so important in today’s world…and how better to teach the idea than to read this beautiful story to young people and let them love those railway children and their adventures, and make those connections themselves.

illustration by C.E. Brock.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

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Natalie Babbitt

natalie-babbitt

I am so sad to hear that Natalie Babbitt has passed away. She is one of my favorite authors and I loved reading her books aloud to my 6th grade students when I was teaching. Most people remember her as the author of Tuck Everlasting, which is a book I loved and loved to use as a unit of study in the classroom.  But my personal favorite of all her books is the hauntingly beautiful love story, The Eyes of the Amaryllis, a story about how love transcends death.

Her writing is so beautiful and her stories so honest and full of wisdom. Her books stole my heart many years ago and I loved sharing them with young people year after year. Her intelligent, beautiful, lyrical voice will be deeply missed!

Click here to read her obituary in the NY Times.

the-eyes-of-the-amaryllis

 

Home

Home

We had a lovely Thanksgiving this year with all the family at home, including the Grandboy. We didn’t go anywhere, except for long walks, and the family just enjoyed being at home, quietly doing their own kinds of things over the extended weekend. The best kind of holiday!

Home, by Carson Ellis, is a wonderfully illustrated picture book about HOMES, and all Ellis’s fun illustrations introduce young children to the idea that there are homes of all kinds around the world and in imagination. I really fell in love with this book because it is filled with a combination of fun and fancy, and very important ideas. Children (of all ages) will enjoy this compassionate introduction to diversity.

Carson Ellis is a local artist (Portland, Oregon) who has also worked collaboratively with her husband, Colin Melloy, (of the Decemberists) illustrating their terrific series, Wildwood Chronicles.

Home 2

 

Sunshine in the House

a_grandchilds_laugh

What’s all that laughter I hear from the Grandboy’s bedroom upstairs? He and his daddy have been reading aloud a whole stack of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books they picked up at the library. There are three sounds I love on a rainy afternoon like this:  The sound of the rain…  the sound of someone in another room reading aloud…  and the sound of my Grandboy’s laughter.

Grandboy books

Tasha Tudor, 100 Years

Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor is one of my favorite artists. She was the author and illustrator of many children’s books, including my favorite edition of The Secret Garden, and she is beloved worldwide. She was born 100 years ago today, and so to celebrate her centenary, I bought a copy of a lovely book about her: Tasha Tudor’s Garden, by Tovah Martin, with beautiful, beautiful photographs by Richard W. Brown.

There is so much beauty and inspiration in this book! I look forward to reading it and learning more about Tasha Tudor, about her elegantly “simple” lifestyle, and about her gorgeous gardens. I will read it slowly, absorbing as much as I can of the natural beauty she created and surrounded herself with during her long life.

Please visit her family website to learn more about her life and her work.

photo by Richard W. Brown

photo by Richard W. Brown

The Dolls’ House

dollhouse

When I was a little girl, I had a dolls’ house. It was made of painted metal, nothing fancy, and although it had little plastic furniture, I don’t remember any dolls that might have come with it. I loved it, though, and with my own collection of dolls spent hours and hours lost in imagination.

Dolls'HouseRumer Godden wrote some wonderful novels for children. I just read her book, The Dolls’ House, and, yes, I would have loved it as a child! And I would especially have loved the edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor!

The story is of the dolls who “live in the nursery of two little girls called Emily and Charlotte Dane.” The oldest doll, Tottie, once belonged to Emily and Charlotte’s great-grandmother and their Great-Great-Aunt Laura. Tottie was made of wood, a “farthing doll,” and was a very kind head of the family. We get to know each doll and their unique personalities, but as we all know, dolls depend on their owners to come to life:

It is an anxious, sometimes a dangerous thing to be a doll. Dolls cannot choose; they can only be chosen; they cannot ‘do’; they can only be done by; children who do not understand this often do wrong things, and then the dolls are hurt and abused and lost; and when this happens dolls cannot speak, nor do anything except be hurt and abused and lost. If you have any dolls, you should remember that.

The dolls dream of having a house of their own to live in, so they don’t have to live in a shoebox any more. One day, the girls are given an old Victorian dollhouse, and the dolls are wonderfully happy…until Marchpane, a very vain and selfish porcelain doll arrives on the scene.

The writing and the imagination in this little story are lovely and fun. The book was written for those of us who love dolls and were even lucky enough to have a dollhouse at one point in our lives. I just wish I had found this book and read it during my own dollhouse years. It’s one I would have loved and remembered forever.

RumerGodden

Reclaiming my Youth

Girl-Reading

Artist: Dennis Smith

Through the dark winter months, I enjoyed reading and listening to books that I somehow missed reading when I was growing up. It’s been a delightful way to spend many winter hours indoors. I would have loved them as a child, so to honor that child in me, I’m continuing to find missed treasures and appreciate and love them. It’s never too late to read wonderful books!

Here are the books that brought delight to a dark gray winter…

  • The Psammead Trilogy, by E. Nesbitt, includes with Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, and The Story of the Amulet. The continuing adventures of Robert, Jane, Cyril, Anthea, and The Lamb (little brother who was given that name because his first word was Baa) who find a sand fairy (a psammead) who grants them one wish a day. They had to make very careful wishes, however, because each one turned out so differently than they had anticipated!
  • The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. The adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Toad was a joy to read!  I’ll never look at a river or woodland again in quite the same way since meeting these wonderful characters.

Leo Lionni

We’ve had a month of dark foggy days, and this week our gray rainy days will return. It’s early-January winter! I am reminded of a favorite book, read aloud many times in my classroom[s] over the years, and it brightened this gray winter morning to pull it off my shelf and re-read it.

Frederick

Frederick, by Leo Lionni, is about a group of mice gathering food for the winter. All are busy except for Frederick, who seems to be sitting on a rock in the sunshine doing nothing. But he IS doing something…he is collecting sun rays and colors and words. Later, in the middle of the dark, cold winter, when the food is scarce and the spirits are low, Frederick begins to tell the mice his stories. He weaves his memories of sunshine and colors into beautiful words which warm the hearts and lifts the spirits of his fellow mice. He is a storyteller and a poet!

Frederick2