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, A Single Shard 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 copy of the book 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 mild-mannered 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?

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.

{ What I am Learning From the Birds }

This spring, some berserk birds are inhabiting our rural property. Their quirky obsessions are both driving me nuts and teaching me things about life, business and family.

Birds rise early.

The sky is still gray and dusky when the wild birds start chattering. I cannot imagine what is going on in their minds, but kudos for their predictably cheerful morning attitude.  Although scientists don’t have a complete understanding of why birds make so much noise (how could they?) there are occasional clues. We know that Mama Robin’s chastising screech means that she is livid when we get too close to her nest, which she built in a highly trafficked position next to the front door. 

Birds get to work.

One spring morning, I clipped the jeans, shirts and hoodies to the clothesline. Later that day, I noticed the beginnings of a nest being built in the hood of the hoodie. Birds do not mess around. They do not procrastinate and they let nothing stand in their way. They do not always choose the wisest places to work, but when they act, it is swift and confident.

Birds are relentless. 

That irritating redwing blackbird swoops down and scolds us when we circle the pond on our regular walks around the property. Feverishly protecting his nesting territory, he continues his officious circuit until we are completely out of sight.

Then, there are the barn swallows. We left our garage door open last week, and now they consider it fair game for new construction. Every time we open the garage door, we are in danger of a swooping bird, although their timing seems to be impeccable — they have never made impact with the slamming door. 

Birds sing often.

Our resident Baltimore Oriole is a lovely vocalist, and he sings a memorable tune. While weeding the garden, I  repeated his singsong pattern several times to myself. Why not sing? Reports confirm that there are scientific reasons to start singing:

  • Singing releases endorphins, a hormone that is associated with feelings of pleasure.
  • The hormone oxytocin is also released while singing; this body chemical enhances feelings of bonding and trust.
  • While singing, individuals sustain lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Studies repeatedly find that singing relieves anxiety.
  • Heart rates sync up during group singing.

Birds rest.

Since most diurnal birds cannot see in the dark, birds sleep when the daylight fades.  I can tell when things are winding down, because the singing and chatter becomes sporadic, slow and calming. Once to bed, birds don’t wake up until morning. 

Birds do take naps, so I will take that as a confirmation of what I was hoping:

short power naps increase the chances that we may rise early to sing cheerfully, work confidently, and protect our loved ones vigorously. 

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Matthew 6:27

He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 136:25


© Lisa M. Luciano 2021 ~  Eleven Star Content

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