writing

Books Babies Love

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Lullabies (with pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Many mother and baby pictures, that little ones identify with easily, from various parts of the world are included. It’s also fun to “find” people from our extended family in the paintings.

The World of the Polar Bear (nature photography related to their interests)

This is a great one, if your toddler likes polar bears. Lots of amazing shots of mothers and cubs. Not limited to bears either; meet muskoxen, seals, walruses, belugas, and arctic foxes.

Corduroy and Goodnight Moon

These classic picture books never get old. Not even after ten consecutive repetitions 😉

A is for Altar, B is for Bible

Build a basic religious and liturgical vocabulary and begin (or enrich) the most important conversation you and your child can have. This Montessori-inspired alphabet book is a beautiful aid to handing on the faith, communicating the love of Jesus, and bringing even the youngest children into dialogue with the Word of God. (Catholic or High Church Anglican specific.)

Write Your Own Book! (or “Wreck This Journal”)

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In our blank book, we draw and name basic shapes, illustrate favorite nouns, explore with crayons and colored pencils, paste stickers, favorite greeting cards, and pictures, and practice fine motor skills with colored tape. Give your toddler freedom to scribble, rip, and experiment to his heart’s content but don’t be surprised if you like some of the pages so much that it becomes difficult to do that!

-Mrs. Aldertree

What’s On Your Nightstand?

Fast Food Nation  by Eric Schlosser is an amazing read. While I don’t agree with many of his solutions, the terrible and largely unforeseen consequences of Fast Food and Big agriculture are brought to light (and it’s not just about health concerns). Like it or not, the fast food industry has changed the way we farm, eat, advertise and shop. Throughout the book Scholosser seems to be pushing for unions and more government regulations to solve these problems  but in the end it’s about getting people to opt out on a large scale.  It’s informative, gripping, disturbing and yet he also maintains a sense of humor- Investigative journalism at it’s best.

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The Lost Traveller by Antonia White.

I’ve read her first book Frost in May last year and found her storytelling simple and completely engrossing. The second book, The Lost Traveller, is just as engaging and accessible as the first, the characters absorbing and writing clear. I am waiting for the heartbreak though. You sense a tragic tone from the onset.

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I’m also reading (thoroughly skimming?) Nourishing Traditions, rereading Woods Etc., avoiding journaling and in denial about my lack of interest in Theodore Roethke’s  poetry, despite my love for his poem the Root Cellar.

My husband’s nightstand, however, remains focused and avoids such disillusionments:

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What’s on your nightstand this month?

Mrs. Renner

Mrs. Renner managed the classroom with authority,  humor and a pinch of sarcasm. She was probably the best teacher I ever had; for she introduced us to good books. We read: Where the Red Fern Grows, Number The Stars, The Phantom Tollbooth, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Bridge to Terabithia.

I didn’t realize at the time what an impact those books would make on me or how they would help me later in life. When Mrs. Renner read to us, we weren’t listening to improve our language skills, we were encountering life, it’s beauty and it’s pains. These books taught us how to live, how to cope with boredom, loss, how to think.

I don’t remember ever being tested on these readings, they were given without attachment to scores, or outcomes. Mrs. Renner did not come between the student and the book. This made all the difference; these books spoke and she simply let them.

I was not a big reader at the time, but I quickly became entranced by  Billy’s love for his two dogs Old Dan and Little Ann, Karana’s shrewdness, her grief at losing her brother,  Annemarie’s courage, Milo’s adventures, but Bridge to Terabithia was my favourite.

Initially, I was disappointed that Terabithia was not another Narnia. A new world did not unfold, rather a sad story of friendship. In it I encountered grief in a new way. In Island of the Blue Dolphins the struggles were of a far off land in circumstances beyond my little world but in this one, loss was confronted in everyday life. The book stayed with me as good books do.

Four years later, my younger brother fell from a tree in our backyard woods and died. Those woods were our romping grounds. We were children in those woods, warriors, pioneers, confederate soldiers, doctors, nurses and then we weren’t. Childhood ended with the shock of death, the sharp pain of loss, the dull ache of grief.

As a Catholic, I had hope in eternal life. As a young girl with no actual experience of death until then, books inadvertently became a guide to grief. Thankfully, good ones had been set in my path by a good and loving teacher. And when I had the courage to walk in those woods again,  Billy, Karana, Annemarie, Milo, Jess and Leslie all came back to me, their losses, their grief, their grit. I was not alone.

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 -Mrs. Cooper

Small Bee

This evening I found myself looking at an old journal and reading the details of my own past life like a novel. I would never have remembered all this if I hadn’t written it down but, unlike with a novel, I didn’t just imagine the events I was reading about, I really did remember them.

On one of the pages, I’d copied out this poem.

Small Bee

I must tell you how it happened,
Believe it or do not –
An episode to end housewarmings
In granaries of song.

I say, the drowsy blossom closing,
A bee was trapped within;
Moonlight passed through clouds and darkness
Till lawns lay diamonded.

Then spirits stalked to beg for baptism
In the open halls of night,
Their silent footfalls never troubled
The clovers’ sleep nor mine.

Astonishing – that one night’s hostel,
The thousand shimmered dreams –
Who knows sleep’s charm inside a blossom,
Except the captive bee?

Leonardas Andriekus was a Lithuanian poet and a Franciscan priest. He died in 2003, not so long ago. I loved this poem all over again when I rediscovered it tonight. The spirits begging for baptism bespeak a uniquely priestly nightmare.

Let’s pray this month for the souls of the dead still longing for heaven, for the souls of the living in desperate need of baptism.

-Mrs.Aldertree

Prayer of St. Gertrude to release 1000 souls from Purgatory: "Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.":

Little Rosary Books

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Despite being baptized Catholic and receiving first communion, my first memory of a rosary was when my little sister was born. I was eight. A friend of the family gave my sister a large colorful wooden rosary as a baptismal gift. I was fascinated by it. What is it? I asked. I believe I shocked my mother, It’s a rosary! I didn’t know what that meant. A what?  A rosary, For praying. I had no idea how praying the rosary was done or why you needed beads for it but I stopped inquiring, I had embarrassed my mother. The rosary hung on my sister’s crib.

I didn’t learn how to pray the rosary until much later, confirmation age. I don’t remember being taught how to pray it, I learned from little booklets. The beads became a great comfort to me. I would finger them as I prayed, their smoothness soothed and their rhythmic clank seemed to croon with forgotten prayers. Yet it was these little rosary booklets that brought the beads- mysteries, to life for me. They informed and anchored my prayer. With a rosary book in hand I was able to overcome distractions and return to the sanctuary of meditating. And the good ones deepened my understanding of the sacred mysteries and my prayer life.

I have always loved the paintings which depict our Blessed Mother reading. I find these images so striking because they successfully portray Mary as a woman of prayer and study, of Meditation and action. They also render her humanity in a way bare feet can’t, Mary read. How beautiful it is to have the written word aid and center our prayer, for what are we meditating on but the Word made flesh.

And isn’t Mary’s heart not a book itself? “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:19.   I’ve always pictured her heart containing tender moments with the infant Jesus, the Christ Child, The God-Man,  both the joys and sorrows so close to one another! Rev. E. K. Lynch in his book The Scapular of Carmel describes Mary’s heart as a  “living library of every word that came to her from God.” This passage immediately brought to mind the poet’s, Jorge Luis Borge, words, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” And when I pray the rosary and rest a little, unassuming rosary booklet on my lap, I am looking into Mary’s heart- a book laid bare,  I contemplate it all, her Psalter.

 

-Mrs. Cooper

Upon Inheriting Books

I recently inherited some old family books. My Aunt who knows I run a little book store, gave them to me to sell: An old book of Plato, selections of Cicero and speeches by Burke. Nothing I was interested in reading myself anytime soon and so I began my assessment of the books. A completely economical glance- at first.

But when I touched them I felt touched by something. Nostalgia? Timelessness?  I  handled the old bindings, opened the copy of Plato and found my Great Aunt’s name inscribed in the front. Old catholic school cursive, similar to my grandmother’s and my mother’s. Workmanlike, neat, but not showy. My Great Aunt came back to me, her amazing jewelry, large rings set with semi-precious stones, gold bangles, plated brooches and an elegant voice to match one that cracked every now and then, deepened with age. Besides the jewelry I remembered the subscription to national geographic she bought my family one year and how I had consumed them. Oh, She was exotic! Beautiful- the picture of sophistication.

Aside from the inscription the interior was clean no marginalia I thought, too bad. How strange to hold one of her books. what other books did she read, enjoy? I had no idea.

I then opened Burke and found my grandfather’s name inscribed inside. As exotic and free as my Great Aunt was my grandfather was familiar and solid. Nostalgia swept over me and regret. Regret for not paying more attention when I was younger!  I tried hard to remember my grandfather’s house. More importantly, I tried to remember his bookshelves. I couldn’t.

But his desk came back to me, filled with papers, rubber-bands, paper clips, bills, a letter opener, an old hole puncher. His black, metal wastebasket that faithfully sat on the floor, materialized in my mind. When I visited, he would hand me some old recycled paper from that bin and tell me, go write! and I’d write. If I got a sheet of paper, I’d use his old typewriter which sat on his dining room table. If it was just an envelope I’d use his red, eraser less pencils.

What books did he enjoy? I don’t know. I remember his old chair and footstool in the corner of the living room, there he would sit, with his reading glasses on, and read the paper and his magazines. He was quite the correspondent. Writing letters to the editor often and he would send me clippings of articles he thought I would enjoy. (Mostly about horses since I was rather horse crazed.) I looked down at his signature again, So much personality and soul remained in those markings!

These unassuming texts had brought such depth to my childhood memories and startled by how much came back to me, I set them down.  Although I probably will end up passing them on, receiving them was a gift. Like finding a lost postcard in the mail from a long ago traveled journey.  

-Mrs. Karl Cooper, Jr.