St. Patrick’s Day books

I have several books for St. Patrick’s Day or about Saint Patrick and Ireland in my library:

Shamrocks, Harps, and Shillelaghs: The Story of St. Patrick’s Day Symbols by Edna Barth is more than just a listing of St. Patrick’s Day symbols and customs. It’s a children’s introduction to the history and culture of Ireland, with chapters on Irish literature and poetry, the history of Irish Catholics and Protestants, Irish dress and food, and Irish folklore, as well as the story of St. Patrick himself threaded throughout the ninety-five page book. And there’s bibliography of “Stories for St. Patrick’s Day” at the back of the book which includes many of the books on this list.

St. Patrick, The Irish Saint by Ruth Roquitte, illustrated by Robert Kilbride. “There’s a day in the spring when people wear green. . . On that day almost all of us would like to be Irish.” This book tells the story of the life of Magonus Sucatus Patricius, the man we call Saint Patrick in forty-six page with illustrations. It would be a good read aloud book to introduce children to the man and the holiday named in his honor.

Shamrock and Spear: Tales and Legends from Ireland by F.M. Pilkington, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Tales of giants and beasts, princesses and dwarves, Cormac Mac Art and Fionn Mac Cool make up this well told collection of more than twenty Irish folktales.

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jan Brett. Young Jamie Donovan wants to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but his family says he’s much too small to make it all the way to the top of Acorn Hill. Read about how Jamie proves that he is big enough to march.

Pegeen by Hilda van Stockum. Pegeen is something of a wild thing who makes up stories and dances like a gypsy and gains the affection of the entire O’Sullivan family in spite of her irresponsible ways. Other books about the O’Sullivan family of Bantry Bay are Francie on the Run, which takes place before Pegeen and The Cottage at Bantry Bay, the third book in the series.

Count Your Way Through Ireland by James Haskins. A numerical introduction to the country of Ireland with numbers in Gaelic, counting such things as sports, symbols, foods, stripes in the Irish flag, and one and only one St. Patrick himself.

Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Ireland by Virginia Haviland. Five stories suitable for elementary aged children.

The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum, illustrated by Willy Pogany. Mr. Colum was a poet and a playwright and a friend of James Joyce, but his retelling of myths, legends, and folklore for children came to be his most enduring work. The King of Ireland’s Son is a novel based on an old Irish tale about a prince who wins his bride, Fedelma the Enchanter’s Daughter, but must reclaim her after a long and adventurous journey of searching for the kidnapped Fedelma.

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePoala.
Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka by Tomie dePaola.
These two picture books tell about Jamie O’Rourke, the laziest man in all of Ireland and his adventures with first, a leprechaun and then, a pooka. Jamie’s lazy ways get him into troubles, but for the most part all ends well for the lazy Jamie.

Do you know of any other Irish and St. Paddy’s Day books for children that are must-haves for my library?

Sir Cumference and the Fracton Faire by Cindy Neuschwander

Is it didactic, a story built specifically to teach a lesson about fractions? Absolutely.

Do some of us prefer our mathematics lessons encased in a story? Yes, indeed.

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. And for some people, math equals medicine.

The Sir Cumference books are designed to engage young readers who like knights and ladies fairs and castles and to teach them a bit of math on the sly, so to speak. This latest Sir Cumference book is all about fractions. Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter go to visit their friend the Earl of Fracton at the annual Fracton Faire. At the fair, they purchase cloth and cheese and other stuff in fractional parts, and a group of thieves target the market. However, the Earl and Lady Di and Sir Cumference use fractions to catch the bandits.

The ending is a bit lame. (The thieves get away, but the loot they took from the merchants at the fair is recovered.) Everyone lives happily ever after, and fractons later become known as fractions. Nevertheless, this story would be a memorable and gentle introduction to or review of the subject of simple fractions.

Other Sir Cumference books are:
Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens (in my library)
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (in my library)
Sir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle
Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi
Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter
Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland
Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert

Another “living math” picture book that I picked up at the used bookstore is The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. (Ms. Burns wrote two of the books in the Brown Paper School series, Math for Smarty Pants and The I Hate Mathematics Book!, and her name is on a series of math education books from Scholastic for preschool and primary readers, Marilyn Burns brainy day books.) The Greedy Triangle is about a triangle with a busy life who nevertheless becomes bored with doing the same old triangular things. With the help of a shapeshifter, our triangle tries out life as a quadrilateral, a pentagon, and a hexagon, then several other shapes all the way up to a decagon. But, of course, then the old life of a triangle starts to look good, and our shape-shifting shape asks for one last change.

I think this kind of “didacticism” is a just fine. Stories make math so much more interesting. Then again, I was usually the only one in my math classes who actually liked story problems best. Unadorned numbers make me cringe.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Young Sami and his family escape from the bombing of his Syrian neighborhood and go to live in a refugee camp, but Sami had to leave his pigeons behind. As others in his family and in the camp begin to make a new life for themselves, Sami cannot think of anything other than his beautiful birds.

The artwork in this lovely picture book uses “plasticine, polymer clay and other mixed media” to create a sense of beauty in the midst of war and desolation. Even young children can sympathize with Sami and his loneliness and depression as he tries to adjust to a new home without any of the things or people he had to leave behind in Syria, and especially without his pet birds. And I can picture young readers being inspired to use clay and painting and other mixed media to create their own pictures and art that perhaps speak to the losses that they have experienced themselves.

The book would even be a good art therapy book for older children and young adults. The use of literature, art and nature in helping people to cope with loss and with trauma is well-established by now, and this book would be a window for those who don’t understand much about the sadness and grief that refugees experience and a mirror for those who have experienced war or disaster firsthand.

“In 2015, looking for resources to explain the Syrian Civil War to her own children, Suzanne (Del Rizzo) came across the article of a boy who took solace in a connection with the wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp.” She wrote My Beautiful Birds in response to that article.

The Most Wonderful Doll in the World by Phyllis McGinley

I wrote a post a week or two ago about doll stories, when I was reading some of Rumer Godden’s stories about dolls. Now I’ve found another doll book to add to the list—the 1951 Caldecott Honor book, The Most Wonderful Doll in the World. Poet and author Phyllis McGinley wrote this tale of a girl, Dulcy, with a powerful imagination. In fact, Dulcy’s mother says she has “too much imagination” because Dulcy is always dissatisfied with the dolls she receives as gifts and must imagine them just a little bit different or better.

When Dulcy gets a new doll, Angela, from her friend, the elderly Mrs. Primrose, Dulcy thinks Angela is a fine doll, but she can’t help wishing that Angela’s hair were black instead of yellow. However, when Angela is lost, Dulcy’s longing and imagination transform the missing doll into the most wonderful doll in the world.

I couldn’t find much information about Helen Stone, the illustrator of this little story. She won two Caldecott honors for books upon which she collaborated with Phyllis McGinley. Her other Caldecott honor book is called All Around the Town by Phyllis McGinley, and it seems to be an alphabet book. Helen Stone also illustrated my favorite Phyllis McGInley story, The Plain Princess.

Read more about Phyllis McGinley here.
If you know or find out more about Helen Stone, please leave a comment.

The Language of Angels by Richard Michelson

The Language of Angels: A Story About the Reinvention of Hebrew by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Karla Gudeon.

I love nonfiction picture books about overlooked and under-reported events and people in history. The Language of Angels is just such a picture book, about Itamar Ben-Avi (Ben-Zion) and his father, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda who were instrumental in the revival and implementation of Hebrew as the official and modern language of the state of Israel.

I knew that when Israel became a nation, that new/old nation adopted Hebrew as their official language. But I had no knowledge at all of the people behind the revival of the modern Hebrew language. When Eliezer Ben-Yehuda moved to Jerusalem in 1881, no one spoke Hebrew as their main, or native language. Today more than three million people speak Hebrew in daily life.

How did Eliezer and Devorah Ben-Yehuda and their son, Ben-Zion, manage to reinvent a language that had been dead as a daily spoken language for over 1500 years? Well, Eliezer started schools where the primary instruction was in Hebrew. And he decided that his children would speak and be spoken to only in Hebrew—a decision which made for a lonely childhood for Ben-Zion, since no one else spoke Hebrew when he was a child. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda also wrote a Hebrew dictionary and enlisted his pupils to help him make up words for modern things such as ice cream cones and bicycles. (Read the book to find out how to add new words to an old language.)

Even with the afterword that has more information about these people and their language-making, I still had unanswered questions. How did Ben-Yehuda get people to agree to have their children educated in Hebrew, an antiquated and unused language at the time? How did someone talk the fledgling government of Israel into adopting Hebrew as the national language? What happened to Ben-Zion during World War II and after? (His father died in 1922.) Of course a picture book can’t answer all the questions one might have about a particular subject, but the fact that this one sparked so many questions is a good recommendation for it.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Philomena by Kate Seredy

Philomena is sturdy young country girl who lives with her grandmother in a village in the Czech Republic sometime in the early twentieth century. After her Babushka’s death, Philomena goes to the city of Prague to learn to be a servant and to find her Aunt Liska who deserted the family many years ago.

The story is very Catholic, and Philomena receives messages via circumstances that she believes are from the sainted Babushka. This aspect of the story didn’t bother me even though I don’t believe in praying to or receiving guidance from the dead. Philomena does believe that her grandmother is guiding her and caring for her from beyond the grave, and the device creates a gentle logic and organization to Philomena’s journey to the city and her growth from an innocent little girl to a self-sufficient and mature young lady.

“Everybody else in the village went to church every Sunday. First they listened to Father Matthias. Father Matthias was a wise priest who knew all about the weather, the sheep, and the chickens. He told the men of the village when to plant potatoes and corn. He told them what to do when animals got sick. He knew about God and Heaven, of course, but he also knew that people must have enough to eat to be happy, and therefore good, so he taught them to be good farmers. Good farmers have so much to do that there simply isn’t enough time left over for them to do anything that would make God angry with them! The good priest told them about Heaven, to be sure, but he just took it for granted that all his people would go there. He didn’t have to bother to tell them about the other place. He was a very wise man.”

While Father Matthias’ teaching or lack thereof doesn’t exactly fit with my own reading of the Bible and its soteriology, it is refreshing to read about such a good and down-to-earth priest.

Kate Seredy (pronounced SHARE-edy) was born in 1899 in Budapest, Hungary, and she grew up as an only child in the home of her teacher father. After World War II, Ms. Seredy emigrated to the United States and became an illustrator, first of cards and book covers and other low-paying artistic endeavors, then textbooks and books by other authors. Eventually, Ms. Seredy began to write and illustrate her own stories, mostly set in Central Europe, Hungary and this one in Czechoslovakia. The White Stag, based on Hungarian mythology and folklore and not her best book in my opinion, won the Newbery Medal in 1937. Philomena was published in 1955 after several other books, either written or illustrated or both by the talented Ms. Seredy, had won Newbery awards or honors.

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaele Frier

I would like to read I Am Malala, the book that Malala Yousafzai wrote about her own life and her activism on behalf of the education of girls around the world. Until I get around to reading that book, however, this picture book biography, translated into English from the French, gives a basic overview of Malala’s efforts and of her sacrifice for the cause of girls’ education and women’s rights.

I learned that Malala’s father is an educator himself and that he supports Malala’s efforts to protect and extend the rights of girls to have an education.

I learned that Malala was only fifteen years old in 2012 when Taliban extremists boarded her school bus and shot her three times. She was able to travel to England for medical treatment at a hospital in Birmingham where she was able to make a full recovery.

I learned that in 2014, when she was seventeen years old, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

And the book also includes some quotes from Malala herself:

“One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.”

“Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when were in Swat, the nor of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.”

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens.”

“It does not matter the color of your skin, what language do you speak, what religion you believe in. It is that we should all consider each other as human beings and we should respect each other.”

This beautiful book is wonderful tribute to Malala Yousafzai, and it’s a good introduction to her life and work for elementary age children.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden

The first book in my February project of reading the books you all recommended to me from my own TBR list, The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden is, according to the New York Times pull quote on the back of the book, “for little girls who love dolls, women who remember dollhouse days, and literary critics who can recognize a masterpiece.” I must say that having read a lot of more recent fantasy with its emphasis on non-stop action and sometimes crude humor, Ms. Godden’s “masterpiece” was indeed a breath of fresh air and if not a classic, at least a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Tottie Plantaganet is a wise old wooden doll who, even though her “doll age’ is only about seven years old, carries the wisdom of over a hundred years of belonging to little girls and playing with them.

“‘I am as I am,’ said wise little Tottie. ‘I couldn’t be all those things. In all these years, these hundred years, I can still only be me.’ It is very important for dolls that children guess their right ages; some thoughtless children make their dolls vary between six and six months. Mr. Plantaganet for instance was born twenty-eight years old. Tottie was about seven.”

Tottie and her family, Mr. and Mrs. Plantaganet, baby Apple, and Darner the dog, live with sisters Emily and Charlotte Dane. The dolls live a happy life with two girls who love and care for them, and their only wish is for a house that they can call their own instead of the drafty shoebox where they now reside. However, when they do get their own dollhouse, it comes with a new doll, Marchpane, that Tottie knew long ago when she was the property of Emily’s and Charlotte’s great-grandmother. And Marchpane is a home wrecker! What will the Plantaganet family do to counter the selfishness and spite of the conceited Marchpane?

I just thought the writing and the characterization in this 1947 story were so good. Be aware that one of the dolls does come to a tragic, but loving and self-sacrificing, end in the course of the story. Some children might find that aspect of the tale sad or even depressing, but I thought the theme and tone of the story was ultimately uplifting and redemptive.

Did you like doll stories when you were a child? Do boys ever read doll stories? (Maybe if they are disguised as toy stories, like the movie?) What are your favorites?

Here’s a list of some of my favorites in this fantasy sub-genre:

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. Hitty is a wooden doll whose first owner is a girl named Phoebe Preble. Hitty’s adventures over the course of the next hundred years are chronicled in this Newbery award winning book.

Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. Miss Hickory is a country doll made of an apple-wood twig, with a hickory nut for a head, so when her owner leaves New Hampshire to go to school in Boston, Miss Hickory is worried about surviving the winter on her own. Another Newbery award winner.

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, also by Rumer Godden. This one is on my list for reading this month.

Big Susan by Elizabeth Orton Jones. A family of dolls comes to life on Christmas Eve wondering if they will have a tree or gifts this year from the girl who normally takes such good care of them.

The Doll People by Ann Martin and Laura Godwin. “The Doll People series is about a family of antique living dolls that are made of porcelain and cloth. Each member of the Doll family has the ability to talk, walk, play, and, most importantly, go on adventures.” Books in the series are The Doll People, The Meanest Doll in the World, The Runaway Dolls, The Doll People Set Sail. I’ve read the last one, and on the basis of that reading I would recommend the series for doll lovers. A Guide to the Doll People series.

Mennyms Under Siege by Sylvia Waugh. Greenwillow, 1996. This doll story, the third in a series of five Mennyms books, is not a new book, and it won’t appeal to all readers, even those who like stories of dolls and the creatures living hidden lives alongside human beings. Mennyms Under Siege is much darker and more philosophical than most doll books (but not like the creepy, horror doll books I found in abundance when I looked up this subject), and its concern with the themes of death and thwarted love and over-protection feels almost young adult rather than middle grade.

In the Dollhouse: Doll Books Old and New at Book Aunt.

The Fairy Doll & Other Tales from the Doll’s House, by Rumer Godden at Charlotte’s Library.

And here are two series from the past that I would love to take a look at:

Josephine and Her Dolls by Mrs. H.C. Cradock, published in 1915 in England. Josephine’s “sixteen dolls keep her company, and she makes up story events for them. They include Sunny Jim who goes off to fight the war, two Korean girls and Quacky Jack, a yellow duck in a sailor suit.” More about Mrs. Cradock’s doll books.

The Lonely Doll is the first book in a series by photographer and author Dare Wright, published in 1957. Other books in the series are The Lonely Doll, Edith and Mr. Bear, A Gift from the Lonely Doll, Holiday for Edith and the Bears, The Doll and the Kitten, Edith and the Duckling, Edith and Little Bear Lend a Hand, Edith and Midnight and The Lonely Doll Learns a Lesson.

Have you read any of these doll stories, or do you have other favorite doll stories? Not scary horror story dolls!

Middle Grade Book Wisdom 2016, Part Two

I’ve already filled one post with quotations from middle grade fiction of 2016, mostly from the fantasy books I’m reading for Cybils. And now here’s another installment of proverbs, maxims, and wisdom nuggets from middle grade fiction of 2016. Enjoy, and feel free to tweet.

“Just when you think you don’t have it in you to bloom anymore, you do.” ~The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd.

“You are living an extraordinary life, day by day by glorious day. Never doubt your starry aim.” ~The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd.

“When something seems like an unbelievable coincidence, then consider that it might not be a coincidence.” ~Once Was a Time by Leila Sales.

“Sometimes the greatest power comes from showing mercy. Especially to those who may not deserve it.” ~Neverseen by Shannon Messenger.

“To a truly creative mind, ‘can’t be done’ just means ‘look for another way.'” ~Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution by Scott Savage.

“Our memories make us who we are. . . Choose one moment in every day that is worth cherishing. Welcome that moment into your memory palace, nurture it always, and it will never leave you.” ~Time Traveling With a Hamster by Ross Welford.

“Even magic cannot create something out of nothing. It is possible to change matter from one form into another, but you can’t hold things in the wrong shape for long. Physics doesn’t like it.” ~The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers.

“The only way I know to find inspiration is to put in the time and effort. Art doesn’t appear in the world as a finished masterpiece. It always begins like a lumpy mound of clay.” ~Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino.

“Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.

“You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.” ~Ghost by Jason Reynolds.

“Don’t forget how to be gentle. Don’t let the hardness of the world steal the softness of your heart. The greatest strength of all is daring to love.” ~Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr

I’m spending my Thursdays here on the blog in the eighteenth century, 1700’s.

This picture book biography of the great preacher and theologian, Jonathan Edwards (b.1703, d.1758), is just beautiful. The book is hardcover, printed on lovely paper, large print, with both color illustrations and photographs of important documents and places in Edwards’ life. I want all of the books in this series.

The information about Jonathan Edwards is well-written and organized, and the presentation is, again, just lovely. Mrs. Carr, a homeschool mom and former teacher, tells students about Edwards’ scientific explorations of spiders and Newtonian physics. She explains the ins and outs of the First Great Awakening revivals, and the theological controversies that accompanied those revivals in terms that a tenor eleven year old could understand. She writes about Edwards’ youth and his courtship and marriage to Sarah Pierpont and his friendship and partnership with George Whitefield. The biography is thorough enough, but also with only 60 pages, it won’t exhaust the young readers it’s meant to engage.

At the end of the book Mrs. Carr includes a time line of Jonathan Edwards’ life, a list of interesting facts about Mr. Edwards and his lifetime that didn’t fit into the main narrative of the book, and a facsimile of an actual letter from Edwards to his daughter Mary in 1749. The letter is inspiring, It made me want to copy it and send my handwritten (plagiarized) letter to my own grown children who are far away from home.

Here’s just the beginning of the letter:

My dear child,
You may well think it is natural for a parent to be concerned for a child at so great a distance away, so far out of view, and so far out of the reach of communication; where, if you should be stricken with any dangerous sickness, which should issue in death–you might probably be in your grave before we would hear of your danger. But yet, my greatest concern is not for your health, or temporal welfare–but for the good of your soul.

Though you are at so great a distance from us–yet God is everywhere. You are much out of the reach of our care–but you are in His hands every moment! We have not the comfort of seeing you–but He sees you! His eye is always upon you. And if you may but live sensibly near to God, and have His gracious presence, it is no great matter if you are far distant from us. I had rather you should remain hundreds of miles distant from us–and have God near to you–than to have you always with us, and live at a distance from God.

Isn’t that the most deeply loving letter you’ve read in a long time? Read the entire letter here.

Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr is one biography in the series, Christian Biographies for Young Readers. Illustrated by Matt Abraxas. Published by Reformation Heritage Books in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Other books in the series, all authored by Mrs. Carr with the same stunning illustrations by Mr. Abraxas:

Augustine of Hippo.
Anselm of Canterbury.
Athanasius.
John Calvin.
John Knox.
Marie Durand.
Martin Luther.
John Owen.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.