A Chair for My Mother

A_Chair_MomWilliams, Vera B. A Chair for My Mother. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1982.

Happy Mother’s Day! I am home with my family today.  I feel surrounded by love.  I am so lucky.  When I was thinking about a book to share for this day, I remembered this one.  It conjured memories of moms and daughters and families.  How much family and community are important in one’s life.

In this book community and family came together to help Rosa and her mother and her grandmother after a fire destroys all their possessions.  Friends, family and neighbors all pitch in to help furnish a new place for Rosa, her mom and grandma. They brought a table, chairs, beds and other necessities.  What they lack is a nice, big, comfy chair to relax in at the end of the day.

Rosa and her family get a huge jar. They begin to save their change for the new chair.  Mom is a waitress at the Blue Tile Diner, half her tips go into the jar.  Rosa works at the diner too; half her earnings go into the jar.  Grandma adds coins to the jar when she can.  They add coins every day until not one more will fit!  The coins are counted and rolled.  Rosa and her mom and grandma take the coins to the bank.

You will have to read this book to find out what chair they bought.  Rosa’s grandma thought shopping for chairs was a bit like the “Three Bears’.  They were trying to find just the right one.

Read this book with a young person you know.  Snuggle up in your big comfy chair and talk about the book.  Do you have a savings jar that you throw your change into at the end of the day?  Why are you saving?  Are you saving up to buy something special for your family or someone you know?

Island Boy

Cooney, Barbara. Island Boy. New York: Viking Kestrel, 1988.

This lovely little book was a gift to Alexis for Christmas 1991.  I don’t remember how I happened to acquire this signed copy, but I am glad I did.  This is a stunning book.

It is a full circle story from youth to death. It is a story of determination and a life well lived. It is a story of leaving and homecoming. This is the story of a boy of Tibbets Island, Matthais. He is kind, loving, and determined.

Matthais’ Pa began the process of taming the island.  He called it Tibbets Island.  He cleared the land, dug a well and built a house.  When he was ready, he moved his family to the island.  At that time Matthais’ family had Ma, Pa, and three children.  By the time Matthais came there were six boys and six girls.  Matthais was the youngest.  When he was small he helped where he could.  When he wasn’t helping, he was sitting under the shade of the red astrakhan apple tree, his Ma had planted. He was watching his island and dreaming of the big, wide world.

In time, he joined his siblings in the steamy winter kitchen and learned to read and write.  He helped plough the fields and chop the woods.  As his brothers and sisters grew up, they left the island for jobs or to marry. His brothers told him he was too young to leave home.  Matthais didn’t pay attention to them.  He longed to see what was beyond his island.  His Uncle Albion was a ship builder.  Uncle Albion built a handsome schooner, the Six Brothers. When it made its maiden voyage, Matthais served as a cabin boy.  For fifteen years, he sailed on the Six Brothers.  He sailed with her here and there, up and down the coast in all kinds of weather.  He eventually became the master of this grand vessel.  Despite the work and joy from sailing, he remembered his island and he longed to return.  He decided one day to return and he did.  He was determined.

He returned to the island and repaired his boyhood home.  He married and lived a full life.  He was clever and knew how to make a good life for himself and his family.  The book ends with his death.  It would be sad, but he lived a life that spoke to so many people.  Many people came to pay their respects to him.  His grandson, Matthais saw all those people, who came to pay their respects and he heard comments like this,

“A good man…” “A good life.”

What more can we ask?  This is a wonderful book to read.  It could be maudlin, but it isn’t.  Matthias lived a full, useful life and it was laid before us in all its quiet glory.  With this book, a meaningful discussion can be had with children about life and how we live it.

This book is worth picking up just for its luminous illustrations.  It reminds me of the primitive folk art style that I have seen at Colonial Williamsburg and other museums.

Barbara Cooney

The book Island Boy is a story about beginnings and endings.  Barbara began her life in Room 1127 of the Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn on August 6, 1917.  Her family was prosperous and they lived in the suburbs. She began summering in Maine at the age of two¹.  It seems to call her back, just as it did, Matthias.  She returned to Maine to a little house overlooking the sea.  She died in Damariscotto, Maine in March of 2000².

It is said that these books are her most autobiographical, Miss Rumptious, Hattie and the Wild Waves, and Island Boy.  Like Matthias in Island Boy, she traveled widely, but was called back to the wilds of Maine. In Miss Rumptious, a book I haven’t read, Miss Rumptious is encouraged to do something to make world more beautiful². Barbara took this to heart and her books are beautiful.  She earned the Caldecott award in 1959 for Chanticleer and the Fox and again in 1980 for Ox-Cart Man.  Her illustrations are detailed and sumptuous. Illustrating books may have been a way to earn a living, but it gave her the opportunity to make the world more beautiful.

You can read more about this author on these websites.



Ten, Nine, Eight

ten_nineBang, Molly. Ten, Nine, Eight. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1983.

The day has been long and we are ready for bed.
It is after dinner and after bath.
We are both exhausted from the day’s aftermath.
We need a story before you lay down your head.
Scanning the bookshelf for a story or two,
We spy a book that we think will do.
We hop on the bed and snuggle up close,
This book begins with 10 little toes.
With Molly Bang’s Ten, Nine, Eight,
I don’t have long to wait.
As we  count down from ten to one,
You fall asleep as the day is done.

In 1984, Molly Bang received a Caldecott Honor award for this charming counting book.  When I was browsing my bookshelf for a new book to share, this one leapt into my arms.  I hadn’t read it in some time.  I had forgotten what a lovely book of grace and comfort it is.  It made me remember snuggling up and reading a drowsy child to sleep.

Molly Bang

Ten things to know about Molly Bang

  1. She was born in Princeton, New Jersey and went to public school in Baltimore.
  2. While waiting to get into graduate school to study Far Eastern Studies, she got a job as a translator for a Japanese newspaper. For this job, she traveled the United States. She reported on the Apollo missions and sat in the press box to watch the first landing mission to the moon take off.
  3. She has 2 master’s degrees in Far Eastern Studies, one from University of Arizona and one from Harvard. She decided a life of the scholar was not the job for her.
  4. She worked for the Baltimore Sun as a reporter, again another job that was not for her (she was fired).
  5. She always wanted to write and illustrate books.
  6. She started by retelling and illustrating folktales.
  7. She spent time in Bangladesh illustrating documents for UNICEF.
  8. She wrote a book called, Picture This: How Pictures Work, which explains the structural principles that all artists use to make their pictures emotionally powerful. It is used as a text-book in some art programs.
  9. Her concern about American children’s lack of understanding of science, prompted her to team up with Peny Chisholm, Professor of Ecology at MIT, to write a series on how sunlight affects the earth.
  10. She thinks it is very important to read to children. (I do too!!!)

For more information on Molly Bang, you can visit these websites.

Lucy Daniels Center Interviews Series with Molly Bang

2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016

Little Bear’s Visit

littlebearvisitMinarik, Else Homelund. Little Bear’s Visit. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1964.

I thought this would be a good book to share in this season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when many of us visit with friends and family. As the title suggests, it is a book about a small bear’s visit to his grandparents.  This is a thing Little Bear liked to do.  He liked Grandfather’s goblin toy in a jar and he really liked Grandmother’s cooking.  He has such a good time.  It is a charming story about his visit. He laughs, he skips and best of all he gets a story about Mother Bear from Grandmother.  When Grandfather wakes up from his nap, Little Bear prevails upon him to tell story.  They hold paws as Grandfather might be frightened by the “Goblin Story”.  After a busy day and a terrific visit, Little Bear lies on the sofa to wait for Mother and Father Bear to take him home.  He is not tired.  He has had a fun day.  As Little Bear and his parents are leaving, Grandfather ask, “Little Bear are you tired?”  Little Bear wasn’t just tired, he was asleep.  A visit with Grandmother and Grandfather was a very exciting and exhausting day.  I think he will be ready to do it all again in the morning!

This would be a wonderful book for a beginning reader to carry on a visit.  That youngster could read it with a friend, with a Grandmother, or with a Grandfather.  What fun that would be.  It might inspire someone to tell the young reader a story about his/her Mother or Father.

Else Homelund Minarik

I wanted to give you a little bit of information about the author Else Homelund Minarik, but she must have been a very private person so not much is available. She was born in Denmark in 1920 and came to the United States when she was four.  She had a happy childhood.  “Little Bear is me in Denmark,” she told the Star News. “I was cuddled and loved.”¹ She earned a degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education.  After completing her education, she became a teacher.

As a teacher, she did not like the “Dick and Jane” reading books.  Perhaps they were good for phonics, but their stories were boring and did little to inspire the love of literature in students. She wrote the Little Bear stories for her students and daughter.  Her publisher connected her with Maurice Sendak and the Little Bear series began¹. Little Bear began the “I Can Read” series from Harper & Row.

It was suggested to her that she change her characters from bears to humans.  I am so glad she did not!  Little Bear and his family are enchanting.  Here’s what she had to say about this matter.

“I thought to myself, all children of all colors would be reading the stories,” Ms. Minarik told The Star News of Wilmington, N.C., in 2006. “All children love animals. The bear is fine. I love them because Mother took me to the Bronx Zoo every day, and I fell in love with the cubs. My bears were a family.”²




madelineBemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. New York: Viking Press.

Do you have a feisty little girl in your life?  Then you both might like reading this book.  I had two little girls and we loved to read about Madeline. She was the smallest and the bravest of twelve little girls living in a large house in Paris. She caused her teacher, Miss Clavel some distress from time to time.  Here’s how Madeline is described.

She was not afraid of mice—
she loved winter, snow, and ice.
To the tiger in the zoo
Madeline just said, “Pooh-pooh,”
and nobody knew so well
how to frighten Miss Clavel.

Miss Clavel, who must have radar ears, wakes in the middle of the night and knows that something is not right. Madeline is ill and is rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Spoiler Alert!  Madeline gets well.  Her friends come to visit poor Madeline.  She is not so sad as they imagined as they looked at all the gifts she’d been given and here’s what was the most impressive:

But the biggest surprise by far—
on her stomach
was a scar!

Imagine what happens that night in the house covered in vines!  Miss Clavel awakes again to something not quite right.  Can you imagine a room full of little girls who want to be in the hospital just like Madeline?  What a ruckus! Poor Miss Clavel!

This book is a delightful rhyming book.  It is fun to ready by yourself, with a friend, or to someone else.  Pick up a copy and enjoy it with someone.

Here’s another reason to spend some time with this book. Did you ever want to visit Paris?  Here’s your opportunity. Ludwig Bemelmans illustrates many of the sites of Paris for us. Here are the sites in this book: the Eiffel Tower, the Place de Concorde, the Paris Opera House, the Place Vendome, the Hotel Des Invalides, Notre Dame, the Gardens at the Luxembourg, the Church of Sacre Coeur, and the Tuileries Gardens facing the Louvre. You can take a nice side trip by examining the illustrations in this book.

Ludwig Bemelmans

He was born in the Italian Tyrol in 1898. He moved to the United States in 1914.  He worked in restaurants and eventually opened his own.  He didn’t begin his career in literature until 1934.   He was a humorist, satirist and painter¹.

Surprisingly, he wrote only five Madeline books, but they were very popular. Madeline was a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1940.

You can listen to this interview with his grandson insights into his life: https://www.npr.org/player/embed/230949629/231950307#.  Here’s the transcript for that interview: At 75 She’s Doing Fine; Kids Still Love Their ‘Madeline’: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/11/230949629/at-75-shes-doing-fine-kids-still-love-their-madeline

Other places to learn more about this author.


Strega Nona in Honor of World Pasta Day

streganonade Paola, Tomie. Strega Nona.  New York: Scholastic, 1975.

Happy World Pasta Day, Strega Nona!  On this day, we recognize that pasta is consumed on all the continents of the earth.  It comes in all shapes and sizes and it is delicious!  In honor of this day,  I offer you a delicious story of pasta and magic, Strega Nona.  

Who is Strega Nona, you ask?  Her name means “Grandma Witch” and she was a wise woman who lives in a small villiage in Calabria.  In her small village, Strega Nona helped many people with her special touch. She realized she was getting old and needed help to keep her little house and tend her little garden. She decided to post a job offering in the town square. Big Anthony applied for the job.  She outlined his duties: to sweep the house, to wash the dishes, to weed the garden, etc.  For his work, he would get a little money, as much as he could eat, and a place to sleep.

Strega Nona had a very special pot.  It was a pasta pot.  She warned Big Anthony, who never paid good attention, never to touch the pasta pot! Do you think he was paying attention?

Big Anthony worked hard.  He had a good place to sleep and lots of good food and he was happy.  All was well, until the day he learned that Strega Nona’s pasta pot was magic!  He saw her sing to start the pot and sing to stop the pot, but in his excitement, he missed something important.

When Strega Nona leaves to visit Strega Amelia, Anthony seizes his chance.  He pulls out the pasta pot and makes pasta for the entire village.  What happens next is no surprise.  Can you guess?  Will Big Anthony get in trouble?  Can the pasta pot be stopped? Pick up a copy of this story to read with your World Pasta Day meal.

Oh and by the way, if you have a magic pasta pot, will you share it with me? Look below for the Strega Nona’s verse to start the pot. You can do like I do and sing the pasta pot song to your pot.   May be Strega Nona’s magic will work for you!

Bubble, bubble, pasta pot.
Boil me up some pasta, nice and hot.
I’m hungry and it’s time to sup.
Boil enough pasta to fill me up.

Tomie De Paola

Born September 15, 1934.  He learned to love books early as his mother loved books and read to him every day. At the age of four, he told anyone who would listen that he wanted to write books and illustrate them¹.

After high school, he attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and received a BFA.  He went on to earn MFA from the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland, California.  He taught, designed greeting cards and painted church murals until he had the opportunity to illustrate his first book².  The rest is history so they say.  He has written and/or illustrated over 200 books.

I love his work.  His books are funny and poignant.  Often they illustrate part of his story as in The Art Lesson and Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs.  I think he is masterful.  I love today’s story, Strega Nona!   You can visit Tomie’s website and read his spotlight on this book and how he developed his ideas for this particular book: http://www.tomie.com/books/spotlight_on_strega.html.

He has received many honors and awards for his books. Strega Nona received the Caldecott Honor medal in 1976.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators gives the Tomie de Paola Illustrator Award annually.  It is given to an illustrator of promise chosen my Tomie.  You can read more about the award at this website: http://www.scbwi.org/awards/tomie-depaola-award. Here is the quote and writing/illustrating prompt for the 2017 competition3. There is still time to enter, December 1, 2016 is the submission deadline!

“Among the most successful and most satisfying books I have done, over the years, are my autobiographical picture books, and the series of chapter books. It’s an interesting journey to tell the “true” story of my youth, and even more, to make pictures of my past. I found it not only drew upon remembering, but of revisiting emotions of all kinds, especially laughter and hilarity, seriousness and sadness. This work has been almost daunting, not easy but, when successful, the most satisfying work I’ve done.
Now about the assignment or prompt, if you will.”

This year’s assignment is to cast yourself, as a child, in a picture book. Show your autobiographical character in a scene and make sure to convey the emotion of your character. The viewer should be able to read the emotion of the character immediately and clearly.
No words or captions are allowed in the image.

Here are more websites with information on this author.