This Week

Tee hee.  The girls and I were having a little fun last night.  My grandma, a former Tupperware lady, gave them these miniature Tupperware pieces.  I know the mixing bowl in the top picture was a keychain, but I'm not sure what the others were for.  They were perfectly Barbie-sized, though.

And now, what we've read and what we're reading!

I read:
I finished I Capture the Castle.  I loved it, I really did.  I wished I'd read it when I was in high school, because I know my teenage self would have swooned over it.  Cassandra Mortmain is such a wonderful character.

I'm reading:

Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Englie in Many Voices by Leonard S. Marcus.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Madeleine L'Engle is one of my favorite authors, and that A Wrinkle in Time is my all-time favorite book.  When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.  Marcus interviewed many different people in L'Engle's life, from family members to old acquaintances, editors and marketers to fellow writers.  The result is not so much a single portrait of L'Engle - although most agree, in addition to being a great writer, L'Engle had a flair for the dramatic - but a series of portraits, with differing viewpoints and perspectives.  Needless to say, I'm loving this book.

When I saw Leonard S. Marcus's name on this book, it cemented my need to read it.  The man is a wonderful historian of children's literature.  One of my favorite references for the history of children's publishing is Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature  (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008).  I know I've mentioned his lovely coffee table history of Little Golden Books, Golden Legacy (Golden Books, 2007), but as a fan and collector of LGBs, it really is a fun, informative book.  I've read his biography of Margaret Wise Brown (Beacon Press, 1992) and his recent Show Me A Story: Why Picture Books Matter.  A Conversation with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators (Candlewick, 2012), but my favorite is a book he edited:  Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom (HarperCollins, 2000).  Nordstrom directed the Harper's Department of Books for Boys and Girls from 1940 to 1973.  Some of the books produced by Harper during her tenure include Charlotte's Web, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, Harriet the Spy, and it was her idea to commission Garth Williams to provide new, uniform illustrations for Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series.  Her letters are fascinating.  They provide so many awesome historical insights into classic children's literature, and because she was such a wonderful writer herself, they are incredibly entertaining.

The girls and I read:

The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies by Ammie-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Christa Unzner.  Tanglewood Press, 2009.

Oh, goodness, this would be perfect for International Fairy Day!  The story is simple - children search for fairies - but the illustrations are what make this book a treat.  The backgrounds and children are all photographs, with cute illustrated fairies superimposed.

The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child, captured by Polly Borland.  Hyperion, 2006.

This one isn't new to us - we've checked it out before - but it had been a while.  (We also checked out two Charlie and Lola titles, as well as a DVD, this week.)  I love the funny, conversational style Child uses in retelling the familiar fairy tale.  (See also:  this beautiful book here.)  The amazing 3-D world Child created, photographed by Borland, had us oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing all over again.  Lauren Child is one of my favorites.  I'll admit, I think I like her - and Charlie & Lola - more than my kids.  I'm so excited for Big Sis to start her Clarice Bean collection.

What the girls and I are reading:

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth  Williams.  HarperCollins, reprint.

Why yes, we're still reading this.  (We were reading it this summer, too.)  The awesome news is that the story is so vivid, even if we put it down for a month - or two, maybe three - when we pick it back up, the girls still remember everything.  (We discuss it a bit first.)  We are finally approaching the end of the book.  Pa has just returned from his trek east for work, and last night, we read the beautiful chapter in which the family ventures to the church for an evening Christmas service.  The family hears the new church bell, and the girls see their first Christmas tree, covered with gifts brought west by the Reverend and Mrs. Alden.  There were squeals when Laura got her new fur cape and muff!

And Little Sis and I are working on Winnie the Pooh, and sometimes we all read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Big Sis is reading so many Junie B. Jones books that I can no longer keep them straight.  I just received a super-awesome package in the mail today.  Chronicle Books had a contest on their blog, and I was a winner!  I won The Nutcracker: A Magic Theater Book by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Kristina Swarner, and flipping through it, it looks fantastic!  I was so sad to pack away the girls' Nutcracker goodies, so it will be nice to have one more happy Nutcracker item to look at.  (Yes, I could wait until next Christmas to show them, but I know me too well.  We will look at it tonight.)  They were also cool enough to send us the Ivy & Bean paper dolls (which we have, but now the girls can each have their own set!  Ivy & Bean is still such a favorite) and the book A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long.  Have you ever read any of Aston and Long's books?  We checked An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy out from the library, and both were wonderful.  Big Sis in particular loves science and nature, and I am so excited to show her A Rock is Lively - she collects rocks with her daddy!  I do love Chronicle Books' children's output, and these gifts are perfect for my children.  Gifts...  Actually, perhaps I should sit on these until Valentine's Day.  Can I wait a month?  Cabin fever is starting to set in around here, but we do have the library...

Anyhoo, what are you reading right now?  Finished anything cool?

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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Rainy Day Art

It is a cold and rainy day.  Perhaps it is the weather, but Little Sis is in prime artist mode.  I had nothing planned for the day.  I needed to harness her creativity!

I cut some strips of computer paper to fit three baby food jars.  Then she drew pictures on the strips of paper.

Then I got out some old watercolors.  We needed COLOR!

(She wants a beret.  This cute little cap would have to do.)

After the papers dried somewhat, I Modge Podged them to the baby food jars and added some washi tape to the rims.

While the paint was drying, Little Sis was made an art project of her very own, using her Fuji Instax Mini 7.

What started this project was her desire to provide the girls in her drawing with a bookcase.

Happy Thursday!

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Fairy Tale Love

Some fairy tale visions for a Wednesday...

"If you want your children to be bright, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be brilliant,
 read them even more fairy tales."  - Albert Einstein
Grimm's Fairy Tales, illustrated by P. Grot. Johann and R. Andre.   McLoughin Brothers, 1903.  

Prince Charming and Cinderella dolls by Madame Alexander for McDonalds.

Hansel & Gretel 

More fairy tales: vintage Little Golden Books.

First edition!

A few fairytalish delights:  Robyn & Whitney are featuring "The Three Little Pigs" on Pen Pals & Picture Books this week.  (You must see Whitney's reenactment starring a blow dryer.)  Look at this spectacular "Hansel & Gretel" birthday party at Giggles Galore!  And look at the "Little Red Riding Hood" desserts from this party, featured on the Amy Atlas blog.  And we have this book on hold at the library.

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January Nesting

Katie held still for the camera.  Thank you, Katie.
Slow cooker black bean soup (smitten kitchen recipe), with cheddar and plain sour cream.
Santa put nuts and peanuts in the stockings again this year.

January is spent at home.  Warm food on the stove or in the Crock Pot.  Christmas nuts and fruits and yes, candy canes remain on the table or in the treat bin.  Money is still low from Christmas.  Mr. B's vacation time starts over, meaning he can take time off to do household projects.  (There are no weekends on the railroad.)  Christmas decorations come down, and my eyes take in what's left.  My mind takes off...  what can be done with what's left...

Our house was built in 1950.  It isn't big.  It's a modest one-story house, situated in a neighborhood on the cusp between good and not-so-good.  When we bought it, we had big plans.  Then things went sour for a while - very sour - and we couldn't do the things we'd planned.

Now bit by bit, room by room, we're finally making our home look the way we want it to look.

Sometimes I get distracted.  When the girls, Grandma, and I went on a walking tour in Wichita's Historic Midtown district in October, I found a house I could really daydream about.

This used to be the "Christmas house."  It was the most magical house in the world at Christmastime.
Before that, it was in this movie.

Just kidding.  That's the historic Wey Mansion, and while it's for sale, I can't even imagine owning it.

Four bedrooms, fabulous bathrooms, remodeled kitchen and laundry area, hardwood floors...

No, this sweet craftsman four-square has been on my mind.  My grandmother lived in it for a short time in the '50s (I think it was a kind of boarding house then), and even though it wasn't officially part of the tour, since it is also for sale, they opened it up for tours.  The price is awesome.  The house has so much potential.  I have redecorated it in my mind, over and over again...

But we're not in a position to buy a house.  We own our own house.  Danzel, let's get back to your own house, okay?

Winnie the Pooh

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think about it."

                                        - Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard.

"I didn't know we had this kind of Winnie the Pooh!" said my five-year-old.  Yes, this classic-styled Pooh Bear was sitting high on a shelf.  He had been a baby shower gift when I was expecting her sister.  "He's sooooooft."

Then we read two more chapters of the book.  (We're ready for chapter 5 tomorrow.)

As an American child born in the 1970s, I grew up with Disney Winnie the Pooh.  There are pictures of me when I was a baby, in my yellow Swing-O-Matic baby swing, propped up by three stuffed Disney Poohs.  I had to seek out the classic literary Pooh myself, much later.

Little Sis brought this book to me last week.  I never read it to her sister, so this is our special book right now.

For the record, she does like Disney Winnie the Pooh.

Tee hee.

...     ...     ...     ...     ...

For the record...

...     ...     ...     ...    ...

Get it?

She's enjoying classic Winnie the Pooh as well.

I'll leave you with something special, though, that I first learned about via NPR:  three Russian-language adaptations made by the famed Soviet animation studio Soyuzmultfilm between 1969 and 1972.  My whole family loves these.  Mr. B and I read the subtitles, of course, but the girls know the stories well enough to be fascinated by the characters and songs, and I love the design.  Rather than copying the Shepard drawings, the Soviet characters have their own unique look.  And apart from the fact that they left Christopher Robin out entirely, the overall feeling is something closer to the stories as Milne wrote them.  You can read a bit more here and here, and if you want, you can check out this eBay store full of stuff I would buy if I could find some way to justify it.  Ha.  Enjoy Vinni Pukh!  

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Happy Epiphany!

"We three kings of Orient are..."

And for everyone else, Happy Sunday!

Sock monkey earmuffs and my hat are courtesy of my mom and stepdad.  Love wearable Christmas presents!

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