Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book review written for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now moving in a different direction, though the columns that I write are still book-centric. Instead of writing reviews, I'm offering you columns on topics that have been inspired by wonderful books that I have read. I tell you about the books in question, and describe how they have have impacted me. This may sound peculiar to some of you, but the books that I tend to choose are ones that resonate with me on some level. Therefore, when I read the last page and close the covers, I am not quite the same person that I was when first I started reading the book. The shift in my perspective might be miniscule, but it is still there. The books I am looking are both about adult and children's titles. Some of the children's titles will appeal to adults, while others will not. Some of the adult titles will appeal to younger readers, particularly those who are eager to expand their horizons.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Please look after this bear.

In the late 1930s-1940s, Michael Bond, author of Paddington Bear, saw Jewish refugee children (Kindertransport children) walking through London's Reading Station, arriving in Britain escaping from the Nazi horrors of Europe. 

Mr. Bond, touched by what he saw,  recalled those memories 20 years later when he began his story of Paddington Bear.  One morning in 1958, he was searching for writing inspiration and simply wrote the words: “Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform…” 

“They all had a label round their neck with their name and address on and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions,” Bond said in an interview with The Telegraph before his death in 2017. “So Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees.”

Paddington Bear - known for his blue overcoat, bright red hat, and wearing a simple hand-written tag that says “Please look after this bear. Thank you,” Paddington embodies the appearance of many refugee children. His suitcase is an emblem of his own refugee status. 

“We took in some Jewish children who often sat in front of the fire every evening, quietly crying because they had no idea what had happened to their parents, and neither did we at the time. It’s the reason why Paddington arrived with the label around his neck”. 

Michael Bond died in 2017 aged 91. The epitaph on his gravestone reads "Please look after this bear. Thank you."

Please look after all the young Bears from all around the world who are having to flee conflict and war. 

Shared from @DavidLundin

Friday, March 25, 2022

Books for Refugee Children

Art by Sophie Blackall

Long ago, but what sometimes feels like yesterday, my family and I fled a war-torn country as refugees. We were lucky in that we were able to take a few trunks full of our possessions with us. Most refugees can only take what they can carry. My mother packed a few of my books, but most of them were left behind and this broke my six-year-old heart. I loved my books. They were my friends, and on their pages I could forget about my problems for at least a little while. 

When your world has been turned upside down, books can offer a child a great deal of comfort. I know this from personal experience.

Here is an article from Publisher's Weekly 

Polish Literacy Foundation Leads Relief Efforts for Ukrainian Kids
By Joanne O’Sullivan 

A child alone, afraid, far from home. With a mother, maybe. Maybe without a father. In a time like this, research shows, a book can offer “a moment of peace, a way to forget,” said Maria Deskur, CEO of Poland’s Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania (Universal Reading Foundation). The Foundation—a collective of more than 20 Polish publishers and distributors—is leading an effort to supply books to Ukrainian refugee children in Poland and funds to Ukrainian publishers.

In the days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s estimated that more than half a million refugees have poured into Poland. About 100,000 are believed to be children. In addition to families, Ukrainian orphanages have been evacuated, and children have been newly orphaned by the war. Deskur—also managing director of children’s publisher Wydawnictwo Słowne—says that virtually everyone in Poland has sprung into action to help—taking refugees into their homes, volunteering at the border or in shelters, supplying material and financial support. Within the publishing industry, the response was almost immediate.

Initial efforts centered on collecting donations of picture books and coloring books from Polish publishers—“books you don’t have to read,” Deskur said. The Foundation is uniquely positioned to help. Formed in 2018 to promote early childhood literacy in Poland, its members are at the heart of the Polish publishing industry, and include Dwie Siostry, publisher of the international bestseller Maps by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski. With its established distributor connections and warehouse and transportation resources, member organizations were able to quickly deliver books to relief groups.

Within days, though, the effort had expanded. Foundation members collected contact information for close to 40 Ukrainian publishers of children’s and adult books. Ukrainian publishers began to email book files to Polish printers who volunteered to print them for free. Eight books—with print runs of 1,000 each—are expected to be delivered on March 8. The books are “warm stories,” Deskur said, a mix of picture books and story books for the youngest children. Foundation member Nowa Era—Poland’s largest educational publisher—offered its network of representatives (connected to virtually every Polish preschool) as well as its distribution channels to get books to schools where Ukrainian refugee students are expected to enroll. To reach kids who won’t yet be in schools, Deskur has relied on her contacts with Poland’s union of municipalities, whose member organizations are in charge of local shelters. The Foundation is also responding to direct requests for books from individuals. Deskur said she heard from a man who had taken in 12 refugee children and wanted a book for each. ”We will try to answer all requests,” she added.

Deskur expects the Foundation’s efforts to be ongoing, emphasizing that in addition to supplying books to kids, financial support for Ukrainian publishers is critical. During World War II, the destruction of Polish books and libraries was widespread and the country’s publishing industry was decimated, she said. After the war, publishing had to begin again from scratch. That rebuilding had effects on the country’s literacy rates that are still felt today. According to the Foundation’s research, Poland lags behind its European neighbors in childhood literacy. Financial support for Ukrainian publishers now can help reduce harm to the sector so that kind of intergenerational impact can be avoided. But there’s an even bigger picture issue at play, Deskur said, since books are essential to democracy.

Depending on the success of fundraising efforts, the Foundation hopes to be able to pay Ukrainian publishers between one and three euros per book for each printed. All printing, distribution, and coordination efforts by Polish companies have been donated, meaning there’s no overhead and 100% of donated funds can go to Ukrainian publishers, Deskur said. While the Foundation aims to prioritize children’s books, its efforts include all publishers.

For the people of Poland, Deskur said, the war is “very near.” While urgent needs for food, shelter, and medical attention are being addressed by aid organizations, Deskur said the Foundation can offer children emotional support through books. As Foundation member publishers have reached out to their international partners, support is beginning to come in from outside Poland. Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall has donated an illustration to help the effort. “I heard about the Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania from Christopher Franceschelli, a pillar of the children’s book community,” Blackall said. “I think there were many of us who wanted to help but didn’t know how. Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania are doing all the hard work on the ground, and those of us who make books and work with children, who know how comforting a book can be, are eager to help them reach their goals.”

Publishing has always been about making connections and reaching out beyond the bounds of language and nationality. “Action is the antidote to despair,” Joan Baez once famously said, and it’s a philosophy that Deskur and her colleagues endorse. In these distressing times, “We have to take care of each other,” Deskur said.

To donate to help supply books to Ukrainian refugee children and funds to Ukrainian publishers, click here. For more information or to partner with the Foundation, email ukraine-funds@fpc.org.pl.

Winter is melting into spring - With a beautiful picture book by Kazuo Iwamura

While I was on vacation in Hawaii, spring arrived in my valley in southern Oregon. During my absence we had some much needed rain, and so the countryside is finally turning a beautiful soft green. Though fall and winter are my favorite seasons, I always love watching and feeling the changes that take place as we transition from one season to another. 
 Today I bring you a picture book that I found quite charming. The main characters in the narrative are sweet, the artwork is a delight, and the text is touched with beautiful imagery, as you can see from the quote below.

"Tap, tip, tap, trrr . . .
Came the snow-melted water
It sang as it joined into one stream
A nightingale's voice trembled like a dream."

Kazuo Iwamura
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
NorthSouth, 2019, 9780735843455
One morning the squirrel children wake up to discover that the snow of winter has gone. Their father explains that every year “The snow returns to the sky.” Sure enough, in the sky, the children see white puffy clouds. They also notice something else; they hear water dripping and little streams running. As they watch, the little snow that is left on the ground is turning into “a babbling brook.”
   Eager to find out where the water goes, the squirrel children follow its path until they come to stream. A log is floating in the stream and the children climb onto it. The snow melt “sang as it joined into one stream,” and a nightingale added its voice to the music of the wakening forest.    
   The log, with its three little passengers, floated down the stream, which then emptied into a large lake. There the children were, tiny little creatures sitting on their log in the middle of a lake, seemingly all alone.
   In this special picture book Kazuo Iwamura pairs his wonderful illustrations with a rhyming text that captures the magic of the changing seasons. The little squirrel children discover that they are witnessing something that, though it happens every year, is still awe inspiring and beautiful. Some of the lines in the narrative truly lift the spirit with their imagery. 


Kazuo Iwamura was born in Tokyo in 1939. He studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, and started his career as an illustrator for children’s television programs. He is the author and/or illustrator of dozens of popular books. Mr. Iwamura is one of the most famous picture book artists in Japan and his work has won many awards. He lives in Tochigi, where he founded the Museum for Picture Book Illustrations. It stands on a hill named Ehon-no-Oka, which means Picture Book Hill.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Women's History Month - Emma Lazarus, an activist and author of poetry and prose.

In 1883 and American poet called Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet called The New Colossus. She wrote the poem to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). In 1903, the poem was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level.

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Below is a a review of a marvelous award wining book that tells the story of Emma Lazarus and her famous poem.

Emma’s Poem: The voice of the Statue of Liberty 
Linda Glaser
Illustrated by Clair A. Nivola 
Nonfiction Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 978-0544105089
When Emma was little she had a very comfortable life living in a lovely, large home with her mother, father, and siblings. She lacked for nothing, and was able to indulge in her love of books. She had the time to read, and spent many hours writing stories and poems. The people she spent time with came from similarly comfortable backgrounds, and the world of New York’s well-to- do people was the only one she knew.
   Then one day Emma visited Ward’s Island in New York Harbor and there she met immigrants who had travelled across the Atlantic as steerage passengers. They were poor and hungry, and many of them were sick. They had so little and had suffered so much. Like Emma, they were Jews, but unlike her they had been persecuted and driven from their homes. Friends and family members had died, and now here they were in a strange land with no one to assist them.
   Emma was so moved by the plight of the immigrants that she did her best to help them. She taught them English, helped them to get training so that they could get jobs, and she wrote about the problems that such immigrants faced. Women from her background were not supposed to spend time with the poor, and they certainly did not write about them in newspapers, but Emma did.
   Then Emma was invited to write a poem that would be part of a poetry collection. The hope was that the sale of the collection would pay for the pedestal that would one day serve as the base for a new statue that France was giving to America as a gift. The statue was going to be placed in New York Harbor and Emma knew that immigrants, thousands of them, would see the statue of the lady when their ships sailed into the harbor. What would the statue say to the immigrants if she was a real woman? What would she feel if she could see them “arriving hungry and in rags?” In her poem, Emma gave the statue a voice, a voice that welcomed all immigrants to America’s shores.
   In this wonderfully written nonfiction picture book the author uses free verse to tell the story of Emma Lazarus and the poem that she wrote. The poem was inscribed on a bronze plaque that is on the wall in the entryway to the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. It has been memorized by thousands of people over the years, and has come to represent something that many Americans hold dear.
   At the back of the book readers will find further information about Emma Lazarus and her work. A copy of her famous poem can also be found there.

The plaque inside the statue of liberty

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Happy Spring! With a review of Crinkle, Crackle, Crack It's Spring.

"In the spring all the little flowers came out obediently in the meads, and the dew sparkled, and the birds sang; in the summer it was beautifully hot for no less than four months, and, if it did rain just enough for agricultural purposes, they managed to arrange it so that it rained while you were in bed."
-T.H. White from The Sword in the Stone.

Here is a springish book that perfectly captures the magic that the season brings. Even though I reviewed this book some years ago, I remember it very fondly and think that you will enjoy it. 

Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrated by John Shelley 
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Holiday House, 2015, 978-0823429523
If you are lucky, one cold winter’s night you will be woken up by some strange sounds. You will hear a “rap, bap, tap” followed by a “crunch, scrunch,” and a “crinkle, crackle, crack.”  You will get out of bed to investigate and look out the front door, where you will see mud, melting snow, and a bear. The bear will tell you that “It is time,” and will ask you to “Come with me.”
   As everyone knows, it is not possible to say no to a bear when it invites you to join him, so you will take his paw and go with him.  You will hear the noises again and again as you journey through the woods with the bear, and the words “It is time” will drift around you on the air. You will be joined by a rabbit who also knows that “It is time,” and then by other woodland creatures. Something is happening, something marvelous, but you will have no idea what awaits you in the woods ahead.
   In this magical picture book children will get to take a journey with a bear, and some other animals, to witness a special moment. With beautifully expressive art and a lyrical text, the author and illustrator give their readers a singular story experience. It is one that they will enjoy again and again as they read and reread the book. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Getting to know Freya Blackwood, author and illustrator


Freya Blackwood has been illustrating children’s book for some years now, and I have always been charmed by the characters that she creates, and by the way in which she lays out the pages. The panel above, for example , tells the story in such a creative and unique way. I have studied her work myself to learn more about picture book art direction.
   Here is an interview that Freya recently gave in which she describes her creative process. Below is a review of one of her books. 

The Bike Ride
Jan Ormerod
Illustrated by Freya Blackwood 
Board Book
For ages 3 to 5
Little Hare Books, 2017, 978-1760128982
One day Maudie decides that she needs some exercise and Bear agrees that some fresh air “would be nice.” Maudie then suggests that they go for a bike ride and Bear readily agrees.
   Before they can leave the house Maudie is going to need to find her sunglasses. Then she needs their hats, which takes time to sort out because there are lots of hats to choose from. Next, Maudie gets a scarf.
Each time Maudie goes off to get something Bear patiently waits for her. He understands how it is when a little girl needs to prepare for an outing. Bear is clearly a very good friend.
   Children and their grownups alike will be charmed by this delightful little book. With its whimsical illustrations, its charming characters, its clever story, and its funny ending, this book shows to great effect how a simple story can be a rich one.

Artwork from Freya’s book Harry and Hopper, which won
the Kate Greenaway award in 2010. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Happy Birthday, Kate Greenaway

Art from the Pied Piper of Hamelin

For many years I saw Kate Greenaway's artwork without knowing who the artist was. Her style is very distinctive and so charming to the eye. Then I was given a copy of her nook The Language of Flowers and I looked her up. I confess that I felt rather embarrassed that I, a person working in the children's literature field, did not know about this woman, a woman who had such a big impact on the world of children's literature. As you will read below, she was a real trailblazer who refused to be dictated to with regards to her art. 

Kate Greenaway was the most popular children’s book illustrator of her generation. During the last two decades of the 19th century, her idyllic illustrations presented an aspirational view of childhood that charmed readers in her native Britain, Europe, and as far away as America. Like her peers Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott, she collaborated with London’s best color-printer to produce a new, innovative product—high-quality books for the juvenile market. What set Greenaway apart in this triumvirate of excellence was her unique vision. While Crane and Caldecott illustrated stories written for children, Greenaway’s work featured the children themselves—quaintly dressed in ruffles and bonnets and set against picturesque, bucolic landscapes. 
Kate Greenaway in her studio in 1895
   Greenaway’s illustrations were appealing and relevant. Victorians celebrated childhood innocence despite the fact that child labor played an essential role in Britain’s economic prosperity. The contrast between popular sentiment and painful reality eventually inspired change, and the start of Greenaway’s career coincided with measures aimed at stopping the worst exploitation of children. The 1867 Factory and Workshop Acts were among the first directives to put meaningful limitations on child labor. Foster’s Education Act, which followed in 1870, advocated compulsory elementary education for English and Welsh children and paved the way for additional improvements throughout the decade. In this climate of social change, Greenaway’s illustrations resonated. Much to her chagrin, her fame spawned a host of imitators who copied her work on everything from handkerchiefs to caskets.
The enchanted quality of Greenaway’s illustrations reflected her own memorable childhood. She was born in London into a lively, creative family. Her father was a skilled engraver and her mother an inventive milliner. Kate was an imaginative child who absorbed the beauty of the countryside and the intrigue of city life with equal admiration. “Living in that childish wonder is a most beautiful feeling,” she once confided to a friend. “I can so well remember it. There was always something more—behind and above everything—to me; the golden spectacles were very, very big.” Through those golden lenses, Greenaway observed her father’s engaging business. John Greenaway kept a scrapbook of engraving examples, and Kate remembered how a Cruikshank illustration of an execution fascinated and horrified her. Providing an antidote were the half penny fairytales in the family library. Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast were among her favorites—mysterious, terrifying tales that nonetheless, ended well.
   Both parents encouraged Greenaway’s interest in art, and by the time she was twelve, she was winning prizes at a local academy. As her skill increased, she attended London’s South Kensington School and then Heatherley’s, the first British art school to admit women to life-drawing classes. By the age of 21 she was enrolled in London’s newly formed Slade School, an institution dedicated to equal education for women. While still attending classes, Greenaway developed her distinctive style, creating watercolors of children dressed in clothing she designed, assembled and fitted on models or lay figures. Although her costumes resembled the styles of the Regency era, a half-century earlier, they owed as much to invention as to authenticity. When Greenaway finished her education, her drawings found a modest market in the lesser-known periodicals.
   A turning point in Kate Greenaway’s career came when a Valentine she designed sold more than 25,000 copies. Her share of the profits was less than three pounds, but the card’s popularity yielded years of work designing birthday and holiday greetings. Although the enterprise provided a modest income, Greenaway’s cards were either unsigned or initialed. Her biographer, M. H. Spielmann, noted that at the age of 33 she was still “the hidden mainspring of a clock with the maker’s name upon the dial.” Greenaway’s fortunes changed in 1878 when she presented a portfolio of 50 drawings with accompanying verses to printer, Edmund Evans. Years later, Evans recalled that first meeting, “I was fascinated with the originality of the drawings and the ideas of the verse, so I at once purchased them and determined to reproduce them in a little volume.” 
 Edmund Evans engraved and printed Greenaway’s “little volume” in 1879. Although the publisher questioned the wisdom of investing in an unknown artist, Evans was in the position to take a risk. By this time, he was operating three thriving establishments built on a decade-long dominance of the juvenile market and an eye for extraordinary talent. Evans issued 20,000 copies of Under the Window, and the initial run sold out before he could release the next 50,000. This triumph began their long, profitable association. Between 1879 and 1898, Evans printed 932,100 works illustrated by Greenaway.
Despite the acclaim accompanying the release of each new Kate Greenaway book, her friends were free with advice on how she could improve her work—mistaking the simplicity of her carefully crafted world for a failure to grasp the principles of academic art. When artist Henry Stacy Marks told her to remove the dark shadows under the heels of her characters, she obeyed. When poet Frederick Locker-Lampson suggested she vary their stoic expressions, she responded politely but changed nothing. When Britain’s leading art critic, John Ruskin, advised her to strip her “girlies” entirely, she did not. “Will you—” Ruskin cajoled. “(It’s all for your own good!)… draw her for me without her hat—and, without her shoes,—(because of the heels) and without her mittens, and without her—frock and its frill?”
Greenaway’s style was the result of a sophisticated, intentional effort to capture the illusive magic of childhood. She was neither naïve nor uninformed. Literature, and contemporary art provided continuing inspiration, and Greenaway was a frequent visitor to London’s museums and galleries. She regularly participated in the city’s cultural life exhibiting her work at the Dudley Gallery, the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolor, and the 1889 International Exhibition in Paris. Her first solo exhibition yielded sales of more than £1,000 and some distinguished patrons—among them painter Sir Frederic Leighton who purchased two of her watercolors.
   Refined manners and a cautious reserve disguised Greenaway’s thorough understanding of the worth
Art from Kate's last book

 of her work. Long before it was common practice, she demanded the return of all her original illustrations. Although her contract with Edmund Evans for Under the Window gave her one-third of the returns from sales, she requested 50 percent of the profits from all subsequent work and refused to sell the copyright on any of her designs. Greenaway’s competitor, Walter Crane, acknowledged that her earnings exceeded his own, noting that behind her unobtrusive personality he detected “a certain shrewdness.” Indeed, throughout her career, Greenaway’s business insight yielded a handsome income for both herself and her family.   Greenaway’s last book, The April Baby’s Book of Tunes, was published in 1900. She died of cancer on November 6, 1901, at the age of 55. Her sensitive work, purposefully created to honor childhood’s innocence and charm, was her gift to posterity. Greenaway never married and had no children of her own. What little we know about her personal life is gleaned from letters saved by friends and colleagues. Greenaway was resolute about her priorities, and she valued peace and seclusion over celebrity. “You must wait till I am dead,” she once wrote in response to an interview request. “Till then I wish to live my life privately—like an English gentlewoman.”
   The Kate Greenaway Medal was established by The Library Association of the United Kingdom in 1955 for distinguished illustration in a book for children. The award is given annually in the United Kingdom by CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. You can look at a list of the winners of this prestigious award here. Titles that I have loved that won the award include The Lost Words by Jack Morris, This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, Ella's Big Chance by Shirley Hughes, and Mrs. Cockle’s Cat by Antony Maitland. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Aloha from Hawai’i with a book about sea turtles.

Aloha dear friends,
I am vacationing on the island of Kaua’i with my family, and I wish I could send you the sound of the ocean and the beautiful views.
   This morning I went for a walk along the coast, and on the way back I stopped at our favorite beach to see if any animals visitors were on the sands. Yesterday a young female Hawaiian Monk seal spent the day on the beach, resting. This morning a young female green turtle was there, fast asleep. If you are a relatively small air-breathing animal, staying at sea for days, weeks, or months is tiring, and every so often a snooze on a beach is very appealing. 
   The minute sea turtles hatch, they face a multitude of dangers. Below you will find a review of a book that tells the story of a young sea turtle.

Turtle, Turtle, Watch out!  
April Pulley Sayre
Illustrated by Annie Patterson 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2010, 978-1580891493
One night, on a beach in Florida, Mother Turtle lays her eggs, carefully covering the clutch with sand before she goes back into the water. Thankfully for one of the baby turtles, there are people who protect her and her siblings. The people watch over the eggs so that they have a chance to hatch, and one moonlit night in August Turtle and her brothers and sisters dig their way out of the sand and head for the ocean.
   The world is a dangerous place when you are a tiny baby turtle. Turtle has to avoid the snapping jaws of hungry fish. She almost eats a plastic bag, which so much resembles the jellyfish that she likes to eat.
When she is grown and out in the deep ocean, she needs to avoid hungry sharks, and she almost gets caught in a net. Luckily, the net has an escape hatch built into it that was put there just so that turtles like her would not drown in the nets.
   In this beautiful picture book Annie Patterson tells a gripping story about the life of a female turtle, following her over the years from the moment she is laid in an egg, to the moment when she lays her own clutch of eggs on a beach. Patterson focuses on the many dangers the turtle faces, 
and shows her reads how people can help turtles by guarding their nests, cleaning the beaches, and installing Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in their fishing nets.
   A section at the back of the book provides more information about sea turtle conservation, and the author shows children how they can help turtles even if they don’t live on or near a beach.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Happy Birthday Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“It’s an unconscious bias. It’s the expectation. You have a lowered expectation when you hear a woman speaking; I think that still goes on. That instinctively when a man speaks, he will be listened to, where people will not expect the woman to say anything of value. But all of the women in my generation have had, time and again, that experience where you say something at a meeting, and nobody makes anything of it. And maybe half an hour later, a man makes the identical point, and people react to it and say, ‘Good idea.’ That, I think, is a problem that persists.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were talking about this very thing, about the way in which women have to work so much harder to be  'heard and seen in this world.  I honestly believe that Ruth did a great deal to fight against this bias, and it is important that we all learn about her and the work that she did. 

Debbie Levy
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley 
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1481465595
It is 1940 and Ruth Bader lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. Ruth’s neighbors are mostly immigrants, and though they speak different languages, celebrate different holidays, and eat different foods, there is one important thing that they all have in common: In these families the boys get to “go out into the world, and do big things,” and the girls stay a home and get married.
   Thankfully for Ruth, her mother Celia thinks that girls should be allowed to “make their mark on the world” too, and so she takes Ruth to the library. Through books Ruth finds out about many women who have done interesting and meaningful things with their lives. Ruth discovers that contrary to what society seems to believe, girls and women can do anything. They can even take charge if they want to.
   As she grew up, Ruth saw for herself how women, people of color, and Jews like her, were discriminated against. As a child there wasn’t much Ruth could do about these injustices, but she did not forget them.
   Nor surprisingly, clever, hardworking, and hard headed Ruth went to college. There she met Martin Ginsburg, a young man who made her laugh and with whom she fell in love. The couple decided that they would both go to law school because as lawyers they could “fight unfairness and prejudice in courts.” People approved of Martin’s choice of career, but they did not think that Ruth should try to be a lawyer.
   Ruth did not listen to those who disapproved of her career choice. She went to law school and did brilliantly. Surely now Ruth would get the opportunity to bring about the changes that she had dreamed of. Unfortunately, the fact that Ruth was a woman, that she was a mother, and that she was Jewish meant that no one wanted to hire her.
   This wonderful picture book biography tells the story of one of America’s greatest woman, a woman who has fought for justice and equal rights, and who showed the world that a woman can be a lawyer, a judge, and a justice on the Supreme Court.
   At the back of the book readers will find further information about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and her work.


Sunday, March 13, 2022

Women's History Month - A reading of Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream


Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream is an award winning story based on the childhood of Marcenia “Toni Stone” Lyle Alberga (1921–1995), an African American girl who grew up to become the first woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team. Despite her parents’ misgivings, young Marcenia cared only about playing baseball and was a regular on a team of local boys. Then Gabby Street, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, came to town looking for recruits for a summer baseball camp. Undeterred by the fact that the camp was only for boys, and that her family could not afford proper baseball shoes (cleats), Marcenia made up her mind to attend. She did everything in her power to change Street’s mind. Finally her determination and pluck won him over. Marcenia was accepted into the camp and on her way to making her dream of a baseball career come true.

Storyline Online has created a wonderful reading of this story for you to enjoy.

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Bookish Calendar for April - Books and information for April birthdays, holidays, and special days

Dear Bookish Friends,

Here is the Bookish Calendar for April. I'm bringing it to you today, several weeks early, so that you have plenty of time to plan for days that interest you and the children in your lives. I know that this is particularly useful for those of you who are teachers, librarians, and homeschoolers. Many of the birthdays and special days on the calendar link to review pages for books that are associated with those birthdays and special days. For example, the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage on April 15th 1912. If you click on this entry in the April Bookish Calendar you will be taken to the page where reviews about this event can be found. 

*April is National Poetry Month (USA)
Please check out the TTLG Poetry Library to discover wonderful poetry titles. 

*April is National Garden Month (USA)
I have reviewed numerous books about gardens and gardens on my In The Garden feature

*April 3rd to 9th is National Library Week (USA)

*April 5th to 9th is National Wildlife Week (USA)

*April 6th is National Bookmobile Day  (USA)

*April 14th is National Gardening Day (USA)
The In The Garden feature has many wonderful books about gardening.

*April 15th is World Art Day
The Art and Artists Feature is full of inspirational books that celebrate art.

*April 16th is National Librarian Day (USA)

There are several books about Haiku poems in the TTLG Poetry Library 

The Saving the Environment Feature contains many titles that will suit Earth Day

*April 23rd is World Book Night 

*April 27 is Tell a Story Day (USA, UK, and Scotland)

*April 28th is National Great Poetry Reading Day (USA)

*April 29th is National Arbor Day (USA) 
I have reviewed many books about trees. Please visit my Books about Trees feature.

The World of Dance feature is full of books about dance and dancers.

Women's History Month - The Story of Marianne North

Oil painting of Mount Fujiyama framed by wisteria by Marianne North

Marianne North was an extraordinary woman of means who taught herself how to paint, funded her own expeditions to the far corners of the world to find her subjects, and wrote a biography or two recounting her adventures.
   The eldest child of Frederick North, Member of Parliament for Hastings, Marianne had shown an interest in painting and writing, proper 'accomplishments' for a young Victorian lady, suitable hobbies for the daughter of an established family, but never a thought to making a career of such things.
For the sake of both business and recreation Frederick North travelled throughout Europe and the Middle East, and Marianne would often accompany him. During these happy years she learned to improve her skills as an artist, being taught first by a Dutch artist, Miss van Fowinkel, and later by Valentine Bartholomew, one of Queen Victoria's flower painters. She met Sir William Hooker who presented her with specimens to sketch while visiting Kew and refining her skills as an artist.
With the death of her father in 1870, Marianne found herself adrift and wanting focus. Having never married she had retained much of her father's modest fortune, and now sought to use it in her pursuit - painting flowers in their natural settings.
   Her first journey alone was in 1871, she travelled via Jamaica to the United States and Canada. She carried with her suitable letters of introduction, so initially it would seem that her travels were properly accommodated, and this was indeed the case for the most part. Later, however, she found herself trudging through wilderness, scaling cliffs and enduring swarms of insects in the pursuit of her subjects. In the situation necessitated 'roughing it' in tents or sleeping on the ground, she did.
   Her second solo journey took her to the jungles of Brazil, where she stayed for 8 months and completed over 100 paintings. Then in 1875 she travelled across America on her way to Japan, Sarawak, Java, and Ceylon and then back to England briefly. With barely enough time to unpack she was on her way again, this time to India. She remained in India for 15 months and produced a remarkable 200 paintings of mostly plants, but also of the local buildings she liked. Upon her return to London she exhibited her work at Conduit Street, where the positive reception and popularity of her work
encouraged her to display her collection at Kew Gardens, in London.
   In the summer of 1879 she wrote to Sir Joseph Hooker offering to donate her collected works, along with a building suitable to house them, to the garden, with the stipulation that the gallery serve as place for garden visitors rest. Her donation was graciously accepted and Kew gained one of it most enduring features - The Marianne North Gallery. Her friend, architectural historian James Fergusson, designed the building after the colonial structures she had admired in India, and when it was completed, she carefully arranged all her paintings in a dense mosaic on the walls, sorted according to geographical location of subject. She even embellished the gallery with a few of her own designs.
   But long before it was done, she was looking for another journey to undertake. It was at his suggestion of Charles Darwin , who had been a friend of her father's, that she chose her next great destination, Australia and New Zealand. While on an expedition through Australia she met with Marian Ellis Rowan, a talented young woman who would prove to be an accomplished natural history artist in her own right, and taught her how to paint with oils.
   She developed a rapid, vaguely impressionistic, style that allowed her to complete most of her paintings in a day or less. While some critics have seen this as a weakness in her work, others have found in it a vitality, an obvious joy in creation that is almost palpable when viewing her works. Her paintings are not typical of most botanical artists in that her colors are almost more vibrant than in life, and her images, although accurate and true to the subject, do not full illustrate all the plant's distinguishing features. However, she was no stranger to plant identification and taxonomy, being something of an amateur naturalist herself. She even found and painted a previously unknown genus of tree that would later be named in her honor - Northea seychellana. For other species would be named after her, including Nepenthes northiana - one of the giant pitcher plants from Borneo, Crinum northianum - an obscure Amarylis relative she discovered in Borneo, Areca northiana - a feather palm, and Kniphofia northiae - an aloe relative from South Africa, sometimes known as Red Hot Poker.
Butterflies' Road through Gongo Forest, Brazil by Marianne North
   The one continent missing from her travels, and therefore her gallery, was Africa, so in August 1882 she packed her bags and continued her mission. She travelled down to the Cape, and then up to the Seychelles, before returning home in 1883. Her health had been failing for some time, and by the time she made her expedition to Chile in 1884, despite rheumatism and increasing deafness, it had become evident to her that this would be her last great journey. She retired to Alderley, Gloucestershire, where she died on August 30th 1890.
   Her extensive journals were edited by her sister, Catherine North Symonds, and published in two volumes in 1892 as Recollections of a Happy Life: Being the Autobiography of Marianne North. London and New York; Macmillan, 1892) and proved so popular that a further volume was released the next year - Some Further Recollections of a Happy Life, Selected from the Journals of Marianne North, Chiefly Between the Years 1859 and 1869. (Edited by Catherine North Symonds. London and New York: Macmillan, 1893).

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Women's History Month - The story of Libba Cotten

More than twenty years after the death of folk guitar legend Elizabeth Cotten, her music is still heard everywhere. Cotten, who began her public career at the age of 68, became a key figure in the folk revival of the 60's and a National Heritage Fellow. In 1985, at the age of 93, Cotten won a Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for her album Elizabeth Cotten — Live! 

Laura Veirs
Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle Books, 2018, 978-1452148571
Libba Cotton has music running all the way through her. Everywhere she goes she hears music. Even the sound of the freight trains clattering down the tracks near her house is musical to her ears.
   Libba’s brother has a guitar, which she is not allowed to play. However, when he goes to work Libba sneaks into his room and plays the guitar, even though she has to play it “upside down” and “backwards” because she is left-handed. This is certainly a strange way to play a guitar, but Libba does not care. Somehow this unusual way of playing works for her and she is able to create music.
   After Libba’s brother leaves home, taking his guitar with him, Libba starts to save up to buy a guitar of her own. Earning seventy-five cents a month Libba saves and saves until she has enough to buy a Stella guitar. How Libba plays that guitar! It becomes an extension of her arm and she still plays it backwards and upside down because she is left-handed and the guitar was built for a right handed player. When she is only thirteen Libba writes her first song. It is called Freight Train.
   Then life gets busy and Libba stops playing the guitar because there are too many other things that need to be done. Libba never guesses that one day, when she is a grandmother, music will come back into her life and it will change her future in the most wonderful ways.
   In this beautifully written and very moving book, Laura Veirs, who is herself an accomplished guitar player, performer, and songwriter, tells the story of an extraordinary woman who was a self-taught and very gifted musician. Libba’s song Freight Train is known by musicians and music lovers all over the world, and it was a firm favorite in Laura’s childhood home.
   In addition to the main story, Laura provides her readers with further information about Libba at the back of the book in an author’s note. She also tells us how she became get interested in Libba’s remarkable story.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Happy International Women's Day

“Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” 

International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women, took place for the first time on March 8, 1911. Many countries around the world celebrate the holiday with demonstrations, educational initiatives and customs such as presenting women with gifts and flowers. 
   The United Nations has sponsored International Women’s Day since 1975. When adopting its resolution on the observance of International Women’s Day, the United Nations General Assembly cited the following reasons: “To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.”
   The National Women’s History Alliance designates a yearly theme for Women's History Month. The 2022 theme is "Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope." This theme is "both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history."
You can find wonderful books that celebrate girls and women on the TTLG Strong Girls, Strong Women feature. 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Shirley Hughes, beloved children's book author and illustrator, has left the stage

Shirley Hughes at work

   When I was a little girl I had a set of chapter books that I adored. My aunt and father read them to me, and then I read them on my own. The first book was called My Naughty Little Sister and it was written by Dorothy Edwards and illustrated by Shirley Hughes. The main character, the little sister, is a little 
minx of the first order. She gets into scrape after scrape and is always in trouble. I adored her. When I heard the book mentioned I always saw the little girl as illustrated by Shirley Hughes. The little girl with the red hair who had a naughty gleam in her eye. Above you see her with her best friend, Bad Harry. When those two got together you knew you were in trouble.
   I then went on to read Dogger, a story about a little boy who loses his beloved stuffed animal, and the Alfie stories. Later, as an adult, I discovered many other books that Shirley Hughes both authored and illustrated. Every single one of her illustrated stories offer up a feeling of warmth and gentleness that is unique. 
   When I heard that she had died I had a little cry, and I thanked her for all the stories that she had given me and so many other people. I then got out two of her books that I had handy and began reading. Below is an article about this remarkable woman who hugely influenced my love of the written word. 

Pages from Dogger, one of Hughes' most beloved stories

Shirley Hughes, a British children’s author and illustrator who captivated generations of young readers with warm, tender books about everyday dramas and heartbreaks — digging for worms, stamping in puddles, discovering that a favorite toy has gone missing — died Feb. 25 at her home in London. She was 94.
   While other beloved children’s authors wrote about talking animals, magical spells or dreamlike adventures in distant lands, Ms. Hughes focused on all the real things children experienced, including pint-size dramas that adults sometimes seemed to miss. “They are learning more at this stage than at any other, grappling with these big things: Are my boots on the right feet? Can I safely put my security blanket down? You have to tap into the way they feel about these things,” she told the Times of London.
   Honored by Queen Elizabeth II as well as the British reading charity BookTrust, which gave her its inaugural lifetime achievement award in 2015, Ms. Hughes wrote more than 50 books that collectively sold over 11 million copies. She started out illustrating other people’s books before writing and drawing her own stories in the 1960s, while raising three children in the Notting Hill section of West London.
   Traveling across the city with a sketch pad, she recorded scenes that provided inspiration for her work. “I lurk about in parks and play areas with a sketchbook and observe what I see: the way small children move when they are playing, how they stand when they are rather unsure of themselves, or crouch down to examine something minutely, then take off like a flock of birds,” she told the Guardian in 2017. “Then I go home and make it all up.”
   While her themes were universal, her settings — Victorian terrace houses, birthday teas — were inescapably English. “Oh Shirley,” she recalled publishers telling her, “you are so middle class, so English, you will never sell abroad.”
Alfie gets locked in
   Yet Ms. Hughes acquired a wide readership with “Dogger” (1977), which she called “the most quintessentially English book you could imagine.” Set during a school sports day, the picture book told the story of a boy who loses his beloved toy dog: “One of his ears pointed upwards and the other flopped over. His fur was worn in places because he was quite old. He belonged to Dave.”
   Translated into more than a dozen languages, “Dogger” won the Kate Greenaway Medal, a top British honor for illustrated children’s books, and was voted the public’s favorite Greenaway winner of all time in 2007, for the 50th anniversary of the award. “Hughes has a kindly, inexhaustible eye — she misses nothing,” the Observer literary critic Kate Kellaway wrote in 2010, including “Dogger” on a list of the 10 best illustrated children’s books.
Alfie and his little sister

    Ms. Hughes had another hit with her Alfie series, which began with       “Alfie Gets in First” (1981), about a boy who accidentally locks himself   inside his house. Realizing that he can’t reach the latch to get out, Alfie    bursts into tears. With his mother and baby sister locked outside, the       rest of the neighborhood tries to help, including a milkman who offers to pick the lock and a window cleaner who brings his ladder to climb up to a bedroom window.
“ ‘Dogger’ and ‘Alfie’ are about the tiniest of incidents — down to the stress of putting your shoes on — but these things can be a source of real anxiety for a child,” children’s author Philip Pullman said in a 2009 interview with the Guardian. “And I think this is where she is actually better than [E.H.] Shepard,” who illustrated “The Wind in the Willows” and “Winnie-the-Pooh,” and who served as an inspiration for Ms. Hughes.
   While some of Shepard’s drawings could be “diabetes-inducingly sentimental,” Pullman continued, “you just don’t get that in Shirley. She is much clearer and sharper, and therefore provides a genuinely warmer version of childhood.”
   Ms. Hughes’s own upbringing was framed by World War II, a period that she described as one of
occasional fear but mainly intense boredom, in which she and her older sisters passed the time by drawing pictures and acting out plays, sometimes for their cats. She wrote about the war in several books for older children, including “The Lion and the Unicorn” (1998), about a boy who is evacuated to the English countryside during the Blitz, and “Hero on a Bicycle” (2012), her first novel, about a 13-year-old Italian boy during the Nazi occupation of Florence.
   But picture books remained her focus, even as she broadened her audience with books such as “Bye Bye Birdie” (2009), a wordless, expressionistic fable geared toward adult readers, about a dapper young man whose love interest transforms into a predatory bird.
   “It is a sad thing for adults and children alike if, once we have learned to read, the pictures in our books are sternly removed,” she wrote in a 2004 essay for the Guardian. “They not only add to the pleasure of turning a page, they are the connection through which readers acquire the amazing human attribute of being able to get pictures in the head. And these, of course, are the best illustrations we will ever see.”
   The youngest of three daughters, Shirley Hughes was born in the seaside town of West Kirby near Liverpool on July 16, 1927. Her father served in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I and founded the Liverpool department store T.J. Hughes. He died when Ms. Hughes was 5, in what newspaper reports at the time suggested was a suicide.
   Her mother “became very shy,” Ms. Hughes recalled, and often took her to the theater, helping to cultivate an interest in set design and costumes. At age 16, Ms. Hughes left school to study at the Liverpool School of Art, later attending the University of Oxford’s Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, where an instructor encouraged her switch from theater to illustration.
   The two art forms were not entirely different, said Ms. Hughes, who compared the page to a stage set: “But this is a very intimate theater, which the audience can return to again and again. The characters you draw are like actors on a stage carrying the narrative along with gestures and facial expressions.”
 Moving to London, she launched her career as a freelance artist, illustrating Dorothy Edwards’s “My Naughty Little Sister” series as well as children’s books by Noel Streatfield. In 1960, she published her first picture book, “Lucy and Tom’s Day.” Later came books including “Out and About” (1988), a poetry collection for young readers, and “Ella’s Big Chance” (2003), a Jazz Age retelling of Cinderella — in this case a red-haired young woman named Ella Cinders — that earned Ms. Hughes her second Greenaway Medal.
   She also collaborated with her daughter, Clara Vulliamy, on the Dixie O’Day series, about the adventures of a dog who drives around the British countryside in a bright red car. After the death of her husband, architect John Vulliamy, in 2007, she said she started writing children’s novels to help fill the time.
   In addition to her daughter, survivors include two sons — Ed, an author and journalist, and Tom, a molecular biology professor — and a number of grandchildren.
   Ms. Hughes received an OBE, or officer of the Order of the British Empire, for services to children’s literature in 1999, and was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2017. She was still writing in recent years, publishing a sequel to “Dogger” at age 93 in 2020, and often extolled the pleasures of reading in interviews, encouraging parents to give their children time and space to slow down and pick up a book.
   “If there’s anything wrong with childhood today,” she told the Guardian in 2015, “[it’s] that there’s too much on offer and everything moves at great speed. What I want children to do is linger, turn the page, see themselves as readers long before they can read.”

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