Four by Johannah Bluedorn

Bluedorn, Johannah. My Mommy, My Teacher. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2002.
The Lord Builds the House: The 127th Psalm. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2004.
The Story of Mr. Pippen. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2004.
Bless the Lord: The 103rd Psalm. Muscatine: Trivium Pursuit, 2005.

Johannah Bluedorn writes and illustrates based on her experience. My Mommy, My Teacher is a fictionalized account of an idyllic young family engaged in many traditional activities throughout the day. Literature is obviously a high priority; at least six books are mentioned being read through the day, in addition to the Bible. Animals are named in MM, MT, reflecting the role they play in Bluedorn family life as well.

The Story of Mr. Pippen is an affectionate memoir of raising a raccoon from infancy to his return to nature, complete with photographs at the end. Hints of red and green appear on every page spread, pointing to Mr. Pippin’s love for cherries. There are plenty of amusing details: Mr. Pippin peeping around the quilt on the title page, Mr. Pippin gorged with cherries and sneaking jelly beans, meeting the future Mrs. Pippin who is holding a bouquet of cherry blossoms. I like how Johannah captures the unique postures of a raccoon, so that he looks almost real.

The Lord Builds the House and Bless the Lord illustrate how these verses may apply in life, both in nature and in the home. The reader will be rewarded by paying attention to the details (is that Mr. Pippin and his family?).

In all four books, Johannah’s illustrations are undoubtedly lovely. Her eye for detail is highlighted in frames and borders that compass the text or subject on nearly every page. Her settings have a consistently old-fashioned feel, paying homage to the work of Tasha Tudor.
Her affections are obvious as she includes recognizable family members, pets, weaves flowers and vines in many scenes, and scatters neatly-ordered bookshelves throughout the pages.

Johannah’s artistic skill matures with each book, though I must briefly comment on a few weaknesses. From a literary standpoint, MM, MT and Mr. Pippin lack conflict and tension, so that beyond quiet narratives, the stories have limited depth. I am also uncertain about the intended audience of MM, MT, because I expect that most young ladies who are reading Men of Iron would say “Mother” or “Mama” instead of “Mommy.” In Bless the Lord, some of the twilight/wooded pictures are too richly detailed at the cost of clarity in the illustration.

Overall, however, the influence of Tasha Tudor is evident, the artwork charming. The primary question should always be, would children enjoy these books? My toddler son enjoyed looking at the pictures, and I am always glad to read scripture to him. I look forward to seeing more of Johannah’s work.

Published in: on March 4, 2008 at 8:47 pm  Comments (1)  

Recent sanctifying favorites

Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee by Sharon James (see review)
First We Have Coffee by Margaret Jensen (Highly recommended by Grandma–she was right!)
Heaven at Home by Ginger Plowman
Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me by Andree Seu

Published in: on April 25, 2007 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jefferson Cup Award Winner, honors and personal favorites

What a delightful opportunity to serve on the Jefferson Cup Award Committee! We chose our favorite (Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone, a well-told story of the Jamestown settlement 400 years ago. We chose honor books (Dark Water Rising by Marion Hale and one of my personal favorites, 5000 Miles to Freedom by Judith and Dennis Fradin–see review).

But there were so many wonderful candidates! I especially appreciated the respectful treatment of God in the two bold titles in the list below. 5000 Miles to Freedom also deserves this recognition. The following list is in alphabetical order by author.

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent by Thomas B. Allen
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing… by M. T. Anderson (wonderful read, but better for older young people. Highly recommended!)
Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages (interested in science and the atomic bomb? Realistic and well-drawn characters)
The Deep Cut by Susan Spain
Porch Lies by Patricia McKissack (pour yourself a glass of lemonade, sit in a rocker and relish these wonderful original tall tales)
Now and Ben by Gene Barretta (picture book comparing several inventions by Benjamin Franklin to the products we use today. You will be surprised! Nice pictures, cleverly done.)
A Dangerous Engine by Joan Dash (Another Benjamin Franklin notable. Also look for her previous biography of John Harrison, The Longitude Prize.)
The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish by Cheryl Harness (Marvelous historical, international timeline!)
Blue by Joyce Moyer Hostetter (Excellent story and characters)

Your Eyes in Stars by M.E. Kerr (I wasn’t persuaded by this one until I neared the end. Finishing, I put the book down and could say nothing while tears fell from my eyes. Also better for older young people.)
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Young girl goes to Montana to finish making her uncle’s land claim. Good, clean pioneering story.)
The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen (Fact and fiction beautifully blended.)
Finding Day’s Bottom by Candice Ransom
A Pickpocket’s Tale by Karen Schwabach (Original and delightful!)
Tour America by Diane Siebert (Famous and less-known sights to see in America, described in various forms of poetry with impressive accompanying artwork. You will want to take a road trip!)
John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith (Hilarious picture book about four of our founding fathers. I can never resist smiling over the poor “big underwear” lady.)

Let me know if you find and read any of these and what you think!

Published in: on April 25, 2007 at 7:09 pm  Comments (1)  

Books that Champion Motherhood

I am on a diligent quest to find comparable writing and stories about fatherhood. Thus far, my results are extremely limited. If anyone finds worthy titles to recommend, please let me know!

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy
Hazel’s Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells
Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood (one of my favorites!)
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 8:33 pm  Comments (4)  

Trickster Tales

Dr. DeSoto by William Steig
Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel
Hog-Eye by Susan Meddaugh
How to Catch an Elephant by Amy Schwartz
Kissing Coyotes by Marcia K. Vaughan
My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza
The Tale of Tricky Fox by Jim Aylesworth
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Books with vehicles and big machines that thrill little boys

Busy Busy City Street by Cari Meister
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
I Stink! by Kate McMullan (must be read with appropriate gusto)
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 8:23 pm  Comments (3)  

Magical Realism

These would be stories that could almost be true, except for believable, somewhat magical events requiring slight suspension of disbelief that make it all happen.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (rarely truly appreciated for brilliance in concise, descriptive, original writing that appeals to multiple ages)
Half Magic by Edward Eager
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (if you’ve been waiting for Hitty to meet the Velveteen Rabbit, this is it!)
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

A few examples of Truth and Story

Archives of Anthropos by John White (especially The Tower of Geburah and The Iron Sceptre)
The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers (first in the Wilderking Trilogy)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (of course)
Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan (the oldest and best…try Dangerous Journey for younger readers, work your way into the unabridged version and read it together often)
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (for slightly older readers, but one of the best)

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 7:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Orphans with nasty guardians who are rehearsing for future roles with Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of my favorite British novels. But there are other orphans, British or otherwise, whose future may be as dim as their present circumstances…

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (okay, the guardians aren’t so nasty, but the moor setting and brooding master are appropriate)
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 7:17 pm  Comments (3)  

Reading on their own

Early readers deserve far better than dippy storylines. Hence, we are grateful to Dr. Seuss for simple words conveying lively plots…but there are others, too.

Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish (the originals are best–not the new ones written by family after her death)
Bedtime/Bargain/Baby Sister/Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban (I love Frances!)
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss and many, many others
Cork and Fuzz: Short and tall by Dori Chaconas
Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel
Little Bear books by Else Minarik

(Slightly more advanced–for early chapter readers)
The End of the Beginning by Avi

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 6:48 pm  Comments (1)