Newbery Challenge Update and Favorite Children’s Books

Maybe you are wondering how we are rolling with our Newbery Book Reading Challenge. We are going strong! We all read Holes, and now can’t stop repeating phrases and referring to it in everyday life. I also enjoyed The View from Saturday, The Midwife’s Apprentice, and Adam of the Road. (I seem to have a thing for literature in a medieval setting. I could read the Crispin series over and over again, too.) Other recent family favorites on the Newbery list include: When You Reach Me, Miracles on Maple Hill, Rifles for Watie, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. (My daughter gave me an enthusiastic summary of that last one as we drove into town, and I felt like I had just watched the movie! She loved it.)

Some Favorite Children’s Books

I have been negligent about blog writing and also for the Storyworth stories I am supposed to be creating. This week’s Storyworth question was: “What is one of your favorite children’s books?” Alas, I cannot choose just one, so here’s a full list of them. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Be sure to comment with your favorites, too!

Pickle Chiffon Pie

by Jolly Roger Bradfield. It’s the story of three very different princes seeking to win the favor of the king and the hand of the princess. They go off into the forest to see who can bring back the most wonderful thing and marry the princess. The book made pickle chiffon pie look like the most delicious thing in the world. My sister Sara gave me a fresh copy of it when I was forty-something!

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

by William Steig. I discovered this when I was taking a Children’s Literature class in college. I loved the author’s humor, the delightful illustrations and the engaging story.

The Sheep of the Lal Bagh

by David Mark / illustrated by Lionel Kalish. Sara gave me a copy of this one too – and I had almost forgotten about this dear book! I think the original was given to me by my childhood friend, Beth McCarty. This story, based in India, is about a beloved sheep that used to mow the grass in beautiful patterns, until the town decided to get a new lawn mower.

The Beatrix Potter Treasury

I never especially liked Beatrix Potter books when I was young. Fast forward to the year after we got married, had no children of our own yet, and we were housesitting & babysitting the children of some friends. One of the little boys had just received the Beatrix Potter Treasury and wanted it read to him over and over. So, I did – and I found myself enamored with the perfect illustrations, quirky animal personalities and superbly funny stories.

Stone Soup

Retold by Marcia Brown. This timeless tale is about three hungry soldiers who approach a town and are turned away at every door. They teach the stingy townspeople how to make stone soup, so they will never be hungry again, and they leave as heroes.

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Retold by Arlene Mosel. I can still remember: “Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.” It’s the made-up legend of why Chinese people have short names.

Caps for Sale

By Esphyr Slobodkina. A true classic that’s as memorable as the monkeys are mischievous.

The Story of Ferdinand

By Munro Leaf. All sweet Ferdinand wanted to do was sit in the shade of the trees and smell the flowers. But a bee sting changed his life.

The Five Chinese Brothers

By Claire Bishop. This is kind of a horrific story for children, involving death, torture, and suffocation, but it does have a happy ending after all. Clever and suspenseful.

Curious George Takes a Job

By H.A. Rey. I especially like the part where George paints the lady’s room to look like a jungle.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

By Sally Lloyd-Jones. We discovered this a few years ago in audio and print versions. It includes excerpts of Bible accounts, revised for children. Keep a box of tissues handy while reading; these stories of faith are poignant and beautifully told.

Now…what are some of your favorites?

2022 Newbery Book Reading Challenge

As a homeschooling mom, I threw out a reading challenge this week – to celebrate the 100th year of the Newbery Book Award:

Let’s read 50 Newbery Award Winners this year!

This is mostly because I want a reason to read children’s books – new ones and old favorites. (See below for a printable reading record.)

While I was working up a lather of enthusiasm about the books I am already reading and how everyone should too and how fun it will all be, Johnny interrupted by asking: “How does a book get to be a Newbery Award Winner?” 

Good Question. 

There are guidelines for Newbery Award winners, but his question led into another question for all of us:

“What – in your opinion – makes a good book?”

(Jumpstarting my rusty math brain to help students with their algebra is generally not a fun part of a good homeschool day but discussing books we’ve read and what makes a good book is the fun stuff.)

Here is a list we made about what makes a good book. We realized that there is no wrong answer and different people may have different opinions. Please share your own ideas in the comments!

A good book:

  1. Transports me to a place or situation. I feel like I am there.
  2. Creates believable characters who I can understand in some way.
  3. Even if it’s a fantasy book, there is something that I can relate to.
  4. Teaches timeless truths about people and life.
  5. Contains some type of realness – like historical facts or events. (That one was from my historical-fiction-loving child.)

Faith Over Fear

My first baby’s birth did not go as planned. In fact, it went as opposite as we ever could have imagined.

We had planned for a full-term, natural birth with a midwife attending. We hoped it would be the first of a number of children that God would give us.

Instead, I landed an emergency classical c-section attended by a gaggle of doctors, and gave birth to a 2-pound preterm baby who was struggling to breathe.  Just before the birth, someone came in to prepare me for the fact that he could be blind and have many other health issues. 

Dead Dreams

 After the c-section several doctors sternly told me:

  • “You can never have a natural birth. Your scar would most likely rupture, endangering your life and the baby’s.”
  • “And by the way…you should only have three c-sections at most. Any more could compromise your health and endanger the baby’s life.”

Tears. Dead dreams. Fears and sorrows. 

A cleaning lady entered my hospital room while I was recovering from the c-section and subsequent infection. She stopped sweeping, looked at me and said:

“I would never let them cut me open.”

More tears, coupled with doses of indignation plus hormones.

Strong Scars?

The doctors sent me home with a thick pack of official papers that described my scar and the classical c-section. These papers earnestly affirmed that I could never-ever-no-never have anything but a c-section. Home birth was definitely out of the question.

After three months of daily visits to the hospital, my preemie baby boy finally arrived home. While enjoying my new baby, I still was preoccupied with my perceived “damaged and scarred” state. I remember actually looking at and envying other pregnant moms while thinking, “SHE will probably have a natural birth, but I never will.” Then, a good friend suddenly encouraged me with the fact that:

“Scar tissue is actually stronger than the original tissue.”

Was that true? I wondered if other moms had safe, natural births after a c-section. I started reading and researching about the heresy possibility that the doctors might have been wrong?

Digging for Answers

There was no internet available to me in 1992, so I just went to the library and looked up birth stories. I also talked and wrote to people that had healthy VBACs. I found a lot of evidence that it would be possible for me to have a natural birth after all. But a doctor wouldn’t be able to help; it would have to be a home birth and it would have to be a midwife willing to take me on, BIG UGLY SCAR and all. 

In February of 1993, I became pregnant and after calling a long list of midwives, I finally found midwives Jan and Jeanne. They didn’t seem to mind about my scar, my history and all the doctor warnings. So I threw away all of those official papers and knew I had only one more thing to acquire before I was ready. 

One Missing Thing

I had godly cheerleader-type friends in my life who encouraged me. They reminded me that God can take care of me and my baby whether I am at home or at the hospital. My husband (who has limited respect for doctors) told me I’d be way better off having a home birth, with no doctors interfering with the natural birth process, trying to give me things I don’t need! :0

I assembled my home birth supplies and the only other thing I needed for my first home birth was… FAITH. I needed to trust my loving, sovereign, omnipotent, Heavenly Father. The passage I found most encouraging was this, which became my life verses:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Hebrews 12:1-2

The only other thing I needed for my first home birth was… FAITH.

I needed to trust my loving, sovereign, omnipotent, Heavenly Father.

The Rest of the Story

God’s will for each of us is played out differently, but this is my story. It’s the story of a scar, dead dreams, and a harvest of faith bigger than I could have imagined. I don’t give myself credit for the faith, though. Any faith I have comes from Him, because even faith is a gift. 

After that first home birth, I had nine more home births. Most of these involved an attending midwife or two, and none involved pain meds (but if they were available I probably would have said yes!) The last home birth brought complications, but God was sovereign in that one too, and it had nothing to do with the scar as predicted.

Speaking of scars, if you too have a scar (physical or emotional or both), please consider my story. Our loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God can make a “scar story” build our faith and even work out better than the original plan. He can take dead dreams and breathe life into them. 

30 years later, here’s my husband and I with our “harvest of faith.” (The former preemie is in the Air Force now and is in the back row, far right!)

————-

Colors and Scarves and Ponchos – Oh My!

Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.

~ Coco Chanel

Black & Gray

I wonder if your closet looks like mine did one year ago, bursting with blacks, charcoals and grays. When spring and summer rolled around, I would swap out the gray and black sweaters for short sleeved gray and black shirts. I felt safe in those slimming colors, and there is something comforting about a closet of versatile neutrals, even if they are unimaginative.

Color Consultation

Then, for my 2021 birthday my children gave me a House of Colour consultation with Katie Tenney. Katie placed various colored scarves around my face to discern what swatches looked best, and then narrowed it down even further to discover my best color season. Would it be Fall, Winter, Spring or Summer?

Spring’s Here

Turns out, I’m a “Spring”, with my complexion favoring bright, peppy colors. (Springs don’t tend to look great in black — interesting.)

So, with a humble budget I tiptoed into the wacky world of color. Starting at Goodwill, I bought teal, turquoise and even bright orange garments. 

I found that the quickest and cheapest way to infuse color into my closet was with wardrobe accents. I found a few luxurious secondhand cashmere ponchos and fell in love with soft, non-scratchy, lightweight wool scarves. 

Now my closet looks dangerously clownlike — but also happily fresh and flattering.

Superb Savannah

Last summer, my adult daughter read Gone With the Wind. One thousand pages / 50 listening hours later, she wanted to see Georgia for herself.  She settled on Savannah and asked me if I wanted to go. 

No Minnesotan would decline a December trip into the sunshine, and I love traveling with my people.  

Here are five trip highlights:

Savannah Sights

Oh, the well-preserved, colorful Savannah homes! The history-rich stone mansions and ancient cemeteries! The beautifully gnarled oaks, dripping with decorative Spanish moss! Walking around in 70 degree weather in December is a treat for any northern person. The natural and urban beauty was a bonus.

Eating Out & Shopping

  • Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop with its unique and compassionate business model was a highlight and a truly special place. Besides the coffee, we bought souvenirs.
  • We knew we wanted to visit the 100+ year old Savannah favorite: Leopold’s Ice Cream. After standing in a long line, I chose their famous tutti-frutti, made with Georgia pecans, and topped it with hot fudge. 
  • NaaN On Broughton and Jalapeños Mexican Grill were great dinner choices.
  • My favorite shop was Folklorico, a fair-trade boutique stuffed with lovely things.

A Farmer’s Market in December?

Up north, farmers markets start hibernating in October, but the Forsyth Park Farmers Market is active all year long. It was fun to stroll along and see what people in Savannah are buying outdoors in December, like mushrooms, honey, bread, soap and more. 

City Squares

Someone said that the best way to see Savannah is to walk square by square. It’s an ideal way to explore the historical part of the city. Each square has a size, personality, and landmarks all its own. Seeing the statues of confederate war heroes reminded us with every step that we were definitely in southern territory!

Tybee Beach

Dodging waves in bare feet while it was snowing back in Minnesota was tremendously satisfying. The drive from inner Savannah out to Tybee Beach took us through low-lying watery flats, peppered by one-lane bridges. I’m not used to driving in unknown places – my husband typically takes that task when we travel. But heading out to Tybee, there I was: the grownup with the rental car, soaring out into the sunshine with my daughter when we could have just been home baking Christmas cookies. Woohoo!

“There are vaster and wealthier cities, but for architectural simplicity, for an indescribable charm about its streets and buildings, its parks and squares, there is but one Savannah. Without a rival, without an equal, it stands unique.”

–Timothy Harley

Rx For A Bad Day

Discovering (or remembering) that you were purposefully designed by a loving, sovereign Creator can change your day / your life.

Heavenly Creator,

Your name is majestic, global and glorious!

Your sovereignty stretches over the universe.

Even little ones display your strong design — and this shames and infuriates your vengeful enemies.

Looking into a starry, moonlit sky, or gazing at the clouds, I see your creative, careful and compelling handiwork.

With all of the micro-details of the universe, how is it that you value me?

Why do you care for stumbling, bumbling, stubborn creatures like us?

Yet, you’ve propped us up as precious image-bearers.

You’ve spoken worth over us, gifted us with redemption and tasked us with governing your created world.

This brings me to my knees.

It makes me say again and again:

O Lord, My Lord

How majestic, global and glorious is your matchless name!

(based on Psalm 8 — a meditation, a prayer, an announcement back to God, from me.)

————————————————–

The Real Psalm 8 — By David

From the Holy Bible (ESV version)

O LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

——————

Photo by Mindaugas Vitkus on Unsplash

Thank You, God – For No, Not Yet & Never

Thank you, God for no news that was good news,

For nightmares not coming true,

For no bad ending when that child got lost at the county fair.

Thank You for all the missed car crashes,

For letting foolish wishes and ignorant prayers go ungranted,

For the unfollowed life paths I never walked.

Thank You for Your patience and mercy

When I struggled and whined because You diverted me,

Never knowing it was Your protection.

Thank You for the thwarted sin traps

And for preventing me

From being the ME I once thought I wanted to be.

Thank you, God – for No, Not Yet and Never.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

Photos by Unsplash

Better Than A Lake Home

I like walking along the beautiful Lake Minnetonka, but the shoreline homes are so dazzling and covet-worthy that I find my mind wandering…”what would it be like to live here?”

Sigh…we could never afford a place like 35018 Sleepy Hollow Road — a storybook cottage nestled along a peaceful, lapping lakeshore. But the people who live here are not necessarily happy, I console myself. And, they probably feel the pressure to keep up with rich neighbors. And they must endure walkers like myself, who gawk and stare while moving along the rail trail.

One last random thought enters my head: this place doesn’t even have a clothesline.  

After looking up the home price (sold for 3 million in 2018) I thought I’d write one of those real estate descriptions for OUR home — you know — the kind of copy that makes even a major weakness sound like an intriguing possibility? 

Roomy Home on the Prairie

Relax in country paradise in this multi-level rambler on the prairie. A quiet hideaway on seven acres, this spacious property offers nearby access to biking trails, parks, schools and shopping. (Relatively new) updates include hardwood floors and windows. Additional updates pending. Indefinitely.

Large, finished basement offers a “lived-in” look, plus plenty of light from generous windows. 

Enjoy the master bedroom + bath and a large top floor bedroom that serves as a spacious office — both with original oak flooring. This home features three bedrooms on the lower level plus three full bathrooms and a half bath.

Very vintage floor-to-ceiling living room windows allow a broad view of the backyard garden, tall trees and natural prairie wildflowers that attract wildlife, bees and birds. Enjoy a private walk around the property or a cozy bonfire near the mature apple tree orchard. Toss a football around or play a game of ultimate frisbee on the lovingly tended ball field.

Harness natural wind power to dry your clothes in country fresh air on the updated clothesline (Make sure the manure spreader isn’t working on the adjoining land first.)

This property is convenient to local towns and services, but is nestled in its own private country space. 

Finally, it’s not for sale, because WE live in this roomy, happy home on the prairie — and it’s better than a million-dollar lake home.

____________________________________________________________________

“If I’m not content with what I have, I will never be content with what I want.” — unknown

I will praise You forever, because You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones. — Psalm 52:9

New School Year

This year we will

Dive into our DNA

Dodge Vesuvian ash

Watch the Roman Empire Fall

See castles rise

Design paper plate skeletons

Conquer their, they’re and there

Discover the troublesome value of “X”

Meet El Cid, Chaucer & Charlemagne

Type tiny treatises

Provide public orations (in our dining room)

Before a restless audience (our siblings)

Find free field trips

Create archaic crafts

Travel through time

Circle the world

Build brain cells

Solve problems

Inhale books —

All at home

and

in

our

slippers.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Crazy Conversation

I dial His number

Speedtalk my 

Thoughts

Concerns

Requests

Fears

Sometimes without

Even saying hello.

I forget to pause

Forget to listen

Then

In the middle of my rambles

I fall asleep

Cry

Laugh

Forget what I’m talking about

Like a crazy person’s

Conversation

But it’s

Just

Human

Prayer.


Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7


Photo by Sam Loyd on Unsplash