Reviews

Owney The Mail Pouch Pooch

Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch

The book Owney the Mail Pouch Pooch is a tale of luck and adventure, as well as a celebration of the history of the US Post Office.  But at its heart, it is a dog story, for dog lovers, by dog lovers.

The dedications at the beginning of the book are to the beloved canines of the author and illustrator, which set the tone for the book, that covers an interesting historical time through the lens of a dog, Owney, who found himself working for the US Post office from 1888 to 1897.

The story, written by Mona Kerby, begins with the dog finding shelter in the Albany, NY post office, winning the hearts of the men who worked there, who in turn gained the loyalty of the dog for the US Postal employees and the US mail.

The story has the dog traveling by train to the various post offices of the country in his self-appointed task of looking after the US mail.  He quickly gains notoriety around the country as the mail dog and receives medallions from the post offices he visits, and every time he returns to the Albany office they can, by means of the medallions, trace his journeys.

He travels across the country and even around the world as the story unfolds.

The illustrations by Lynne Barasch depict late 19th century USA with a carefree and cheerful style that in keeping with the historical but lighthearted feel of the story.Image result for illustrations by Lynne Barasch owney the mail pouch pooch

The last illustration before the appendix is not an illustration at all but a photograph of the dog Owney on board one of the trains with the post office employees in the foreground.  This brought the history to life as it became apparent that this was a true story about a real dog.

On Saturday, September 15th 2012 the Danbury Railways Museum honored Owney, the dog who became the mascot of the United States Postal Service in the late 19th century. Back then mail was primarily carried across the nation by rail.

The last two pages talk about the process of researching for the story with a little more in depth historical detail of this famous dog.  I found it to be an excellent read and the children to whom I read it, my girls of 8, 6 and 4 agreed.  We spent some time afterwards discussing the story and decided that the next time we were in Washington, DC we should stop by the Post Office museum to see Owney, persevered by taxidermy as well as his bronze statue out front.

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-Mr. Karl Cooper, Jr.

 

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Cute Etsy Shop

My sister-in-law started a little Etsy store called HomeBlanketShop she sells handmade Crochet Dolls and can do custom orders too. I think they’re rather cute! Here are some of my favorites:

 


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My daughter and her new found friend.

Thank you HomeBlanketShop! We love the doll!

 

Motherhood: Books That Have Helped Me Along the Way.

 

The Birth Order Book

The Birth Order Book

The Birth Order Book is easy to read, it has helped me better understand myself and my children. It has also helped me see the difference between striving for excellence and perfectionism. The later can be a stumble block to bettering oneself.

The temperament God Gave your Kids

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Another quick and easy read! This book helped me understand how to motivate my children and discipline them according to their different temperaments. I liked how practical it was! I could apply what I learned right away.

Kon Marie’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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We’ve written several book reviews on Kon Marie’s books already but I had to put it on this list because it has helped me create a more peaceful home without spending a dime on organizational tools or home decor, and when your home is more peaceful, so are you, and so are your children!

Little House on The Prairie Books

Vintage Little House Children's Books Complete Series 9 Book Boxed Set (Paperback) 1971 & 1970s (Little House In The Big Woods; Little House on the Prairie; On The Banks of Plum Creek; The First Four Years; Farmer Boy; The Happy Golden Years; Little Town on the Prairie; The Long Winter; By The Shores of Silver Lake)

The Little House on The Prairie Books have been so wonderful to read with my children. They reaffirm the importance of hierarchy, authority, and obedience  within the family- a truth which has become politically incorrect these days. They are also a fascinating account of frontier life.

 

What Books have helped you? I’d love to hear!

 

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

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

Some Recent Discoveries

 

 Poems An Early-Start Preschool Reader

This is a great little reader. In the front it has a very handy list of the 107 words used inside. The book itself contains famous little poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, some short stanzas from Tennyson and some famous nursery rhymes.  I must admit having my daughter practice reading from this was  a nice break from the  Dr. Seuss and Frog and Toad readers. The Rhyme and meter seem to help beginners anticipate the next word, making their reading voice smoother and less labored. The selected verses are very accessible to small children, the illustrations are well matched. My only complaint was it’s brevity which is hardly a complaint at all.

Dogs & Dragons 
Trees & Dreams 

 Dogs & Dragons Trees & Dreams is currently out of print which is a pity. Karla Kuskin (Author of Roar and More) has complied some of her poems for children to create a great introduction to poetry. Throughout the book she gives quick synopses and talks a bit about poetry. Her commentary is informative, concise and easy to skip over if you just want the poetry to speak for itself. (She even gives you permission to ignore them.)  In this book you’ll be happy to find funny poems, somber poems, romping poems, nature poems, narrative poems, descriptive poems, even counting poems.

-Mrs. Cooper

The Romanov Sisters

The bulk of my personal reading time last month went to a book about Russian history: The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. I’ve been wanting to read more history for awhile — and failing to. This book however has the pace and human interest of a novel. One of Rappaport’s stated goals was to bring the characters of the four daughters of the last Imperial family of Russia out of their brother’s shadow and into clear focus. She sought to extricate them as individuals from the family group and from “hagiography” that erases human vividness. To do this, she drew richly on personal letters and diaries. In the process, she also gives a wonderfully sharp portrait of their parents — and their brother too. (For me, in many ways, he even remained the most compelling character among a cast of characters each thoroughly compelling.)

I fell completely in love with the entire family. Rappaport struck me as more critical of Alexandra, the mother, than of the others, but I found her intensely sympathetic and the criticisms, one and all, beside the point.

The Russian Orthodox Church canonized the whole family. One can look at that with skepticism but I was convinced, by this deliberately non-hagiographic account, of their real sanctity. They were spiritual relatives of the Martin family (what might have happened if Louis Martin had been on earth the King he was in his daughter’s eyes). And the only possible consolation for the wrongness of their murders will be to see them reign with Jesus King of Kings forever.

Mrs. Aldertree

The Bat-Poet

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Since reading Stellaluna a few weeks ago, my girls have been on a bat frenzy. Thankfully, I found The Bat-Poet and it seems to have satisfied their longings for bat stories- They loved it.

The Bat-Poet is a  wonderful little tale about a bat who, inspired by the Mockingbird’s songs, becomes a poet (a rather good one). Randall Jarrell, who was best known for his literary criticism but was also a poet himself, subtly explores the nature of poetry through the bat’s endeavors. It’s a thoughtful story and reads aloud nicely.

Of course, one can’t fail to mention Maurice Sendak’s contributions. His illustrations capture Jarrell’s tone perfectly and bring the story to life in the way only Maurice Sendak can. Their talented alliance created the perfect addition to our fall reading list. 

-Mrs. Cooper