Reviews

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