NCRegister Blog:10 Classic Children’s Authors and Illustrators and their Works

From The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.

With Christmas coming, many parents tremble at the idea of adding more toys to the overflowing playrooms and bedrooms. A good book to give a child can solve the problem of too much clutter and benefit the child in many ways. It gives them hours of something worthwhile to do, adds to family community when read together, and teaches them to love beautiful things.

As a bibliophile, I have two criteria for what makes a book a “good” book for children. The first is that it must be good literature. This means that it has either stood the test of time and is still seen as a valuable book, or I have read it and found it to have great beauty and depth. The second criterion is that, if it is illustrated, the illustrations be beautiful. I do not like unrealistic, overly cartoony images, but simple line drawings with watercolor, painting, colored pencil, or woodcut prints do nicely.

My reason for being so picky is that the things that my children see and read at a young age will form and shape their minds for their whole lives…

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Princesses In Fairy Tales

By H J Ford, L Speed – The Red Fairy Book, 1890., 10th impression 1907 Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912; Ford, H. J. (Henry Justice), 1860-1941; Speed, Lancelot, 1860-1931, ill. London : Longmans, Green, and Co. Copy held by Uni Toronto. Lib., scan made available at (online viewer). Convert to PNG, from JPG, and greyscale, with black and white point correction., Public Domain,

We do formal storytime twice a day: fairy tales at lunch time and the older two listen to a chapter book read by the professor at bedtime while the younger ones get a shorter story individually read by me.

Our lunchtime story has been from Andrew Lang’s Fairy books.* Since September we have made our way through the Blue and Yellow fairy books and now we are in the Red fairy book.

As it happens most of the “fairy” stories involve princesses in addition to fairies, and the princesses that are heroines of fairy stories always are endowed with great beauty and the very best of virtues. They are all very good, despite their various upbringings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the nobility are evil. They are princes, princesses, kings, or queens and are very bad. It is always clear in the stories that these people are bad. Often a story will have it that the eldest two in a family of three brothers or three sisters will be more selfish or more foolish, and the third will be the most beautiful and most virtuous. And sometimes the oldest two in a family will be just bad.

One thing we have learned about princesses in fairy tales is that if she is married to a prince who is an unhuman creature by day, such as a pig, and a man at night, if she does anything to see him at night, which she most certainly will, then she will be separated from him forever, that is unless she embarks on an impossible quest which requires the aid of the sun and the moon and the west wind and the east wind and the north wind and the south wind to fulfill.

It should also be known that if a princess in a fairy story is told that she can do anything but one specific thing, then she will most certainly do the one thing which is forbidden, and then a consequence will ensue which will involve an impossible quest which requires the aid of the sun and the moon and the west wind and the east wind and the north wind and the south wind or perhaps the aid of a fairy.

Sometimes in the quest of a prince, he will help three animals out of various difficulties and they will come back to help him when he needs help to do whatever task he has to do to gain his freedom or his love. Often these tasks involve bringing a horse out to graze that runs away everyday, and if the prince cannot bring him home the witch or giant will eat him.

And while most princesses have happy endings, it does happen sometimes that the prince and princess will run out of magical resources at the end of the tale and the evil yellow dwarf who wants to marry her will slay both her and the prince with the prince’s magic sword which he drops instead of listening to the advice of the dolphin who brought him to the island on which his princess was being help hostage.

*Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books:  
The Blue Fairy Book
The Red Fairy Book
The Green Fairy Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Grey Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Brown Fairy Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Olive Fairy Book
The Lilac Fairy Book

listening, eating, reading, making-vol. 1

I am joining in Anna’s linkup, because she is awesome.


Bach’s unaccompanied Cello suites have been my favorite music for de-stressing these days. And if I want to help the kids be calm, we listen to Audrey Assad’s new album Inheritance.


I think I have finally found a good dinner planning rhythm in which I get to make nice new recipes, but also have easy ones throughout the week as well. I plan longer, harder recipes for less busy days, and especially weekend dinners that I know the professor will be able to help. And do simple, but good most other nights. Like today we are having oven baked cheese “quesadillas: cheese and tortillas baked at 375 for 8 minutes on cookie sheets and served with salsa, sour cream, salad, and a frozen veggie.

This past Sunday I made steak tips with mushroom and onion gravy from our Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. The fun thing about having 1/4 beef in the deep freeze is that I get to work with cuts of beef that I don’t normally use.


The Master of Hestvikin by Sigrid Undset. I am in volume two. What is it about Undset that makes her make all of her main characters make so many bad decisions? Her novels really are a study of sin, how it builds upon itself, how it affects marriages. I have to read this one in small doses because there is so much packed in there. She totally understood human failure and weakness, but also redemption and grace.


I made (washed and changed the sheets) all the beds on Monday. I should be making lunch. The kids have been making messes. Not much creatively, except for writing these days.

(The book links are through my Amazon affiliate. I will receive a small percentage of what is purchased through the links.)

Laura Ingalls Wilder on Freedom: God is America’s King

The South Dakota Prairie. Photo by J. Stephen Conn. In the Creative Commons.

Last summer on the way home from our long summer road trip, we heard in Little Town on the Prairieby Laura Ingalls Wilder about an Independence Day celebration out on the prairie in Dakota Territory. The whole town gathered together for horse racing, but first a citizen gave a speech and then recited the Declaration of Independence. Laura, of course, already knew the Declaration, but listened with great attention taking to heart the founding of her country. After the Declaration, this is how she understood its meaning:

“Then Pa began to sing. All at once everyone was singing:

‘My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing. …

‘Long may our land be bright
With Freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!’

The crowd was scattering away then, but Laura stood stock still. Suddenly she had a completely new thought. The Declaration and the song came together in her mind, and she thought: God is America’s king.

She thought: Americans won’t obey any king on earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do, and there isn’t anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good.

Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This is what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. “Our father’s God, to Thee, author of liberty…” The laws of Nature and of Nature’s God endow you with a right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God’s law is the only thing that gives you a right to be free.”

The book was published in 1941, but gave an account of the mind of a 15 year old girl in 1881. And the ideas are true. This is the kind of literature we all need to read, to remind us of the founding of our country, but also that our freedom is God-given. When we do not keep God’s laws, we are no longer free. We must remind our country that freedom is contained within God’s law, and when we do not live within His law, we are no longer free.

P.D. Eastman on Feeding Your Baby

I want to share this article from the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter about newborn feeding. It is really good, especially for new and nervous moms. But if you want a summary of it, I have a few lines from the children book author P.D. Eastman for you. (If you prefer a less practical work of his see the existential piece, Go, Dog! Go.)

The basic premise of the book Flap Your Wings is that a boy accidentally put an alligator egg in Mr. and Mrs. Bird’s empty nest. They decide to hatch it because it is in their nest. When it hatches, they decide to raise it.

Then after the baby alligator’s hunger seems insatiable:

“What kind of bird eats so much?” said Mrs. Bird.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Bird. 
“He’s still hungry and we have to feed him.”
Weeks went by. 
Junior never stopped eating. 
And he never stopped growing.

And that is what it is like to feed a newborn. It never stops, and you just do it.

Our Favorite Books of Nursery Rhymes, Myths, and Fairy Tales {SQT}

In case you missed it, I recently published an essay at Crisis Magazine on The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Christian Children.

To compliment the essay, I am sharing seven of our favorite books/authors for pre-school and kindergarten aged children.

1. Nursery Rhymes, Illustrated by Douglas Gorsline. There are some beautiful collections of nursery rhymes, even at big book stores (if you can find one). We found this edition at our local library when we lived in Buffalo, NY. It is out of print, but the copies are really cheap, and if you are unsure about the conservative nature of this book just read the one review on Amazon by an Amy S.:

“This book on nursery rhymes contains some obscure ones (e.g.Elsie Marley, Little Miss Tucket, Cock Robin) along with the perennial favorites to wow fellow students at preschool. Alcoholism, bashing in of craniums, thievery, corporal punishment, birdicide, and giant, nosy insects are all here, just as they were in the last century, if not centuries ago. (I mean the rhymes, not the cited incidents.) Old-fashioned illustrations of all British classes at their best and worst adds charm and spirit to these rhymes. Not for the faint of heart.

This is the kind of book to prep your nursery aged children for the Greek myths.

2. Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books:  
The Blue Fairy Book
The Red Fairy Book
The Green Fairy Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Grey Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Brown Fairy Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Olive Fairy Book
The Lilac Fairy Book

These are collected tales from around the world. J.R.R. Tolkien criticizes them in being called “fairy” tales, since many of them do not in fact have magic or fairies. But they are a great exposure to folk tales around the world, and you know they are good because they were published from 1889-1910.

3. D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths: This volume of the myths is edited just right for small children. It begins with the origins of the Greek gods, tells the myths about each one, and then goes into the myths about mortals. D’aulaire also did a book of Norse Myths (and many other interesting looking books) which we have yet to check out.

4. Bullfinch’s Mythology: This collection of Greek, Roman, Arthurian Mythology and the Legends of Charlemagne and  we have not yet read to our children, but my husband spent hours reading it as a child. Bullfinch tells the story and then tells the allusions in British literature to each of the myths. The books are more appropriate for ages 10 and up. We have yet to find an version of the Roman myths that we really like for younger children.

5. Children’s Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennett is a collection of fully illustrated classic tales teaching children about virtue. He also has longer works with fewer illustrations but more great tales, The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass.

6. Howard Pyle’s works and illustrations: We especially like The Wonder Clock, a collection of silly and clever moral tales. And we are currently reading his King Arthur stories (in which are toned down very well for young ears): Story of King Arthur and His Knights, Story of the Champions of the Round table, Story of Sir Lancelot and his Champions, Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur. Pyle compiled and wrote many other volumes of stories that we have yet to read. 

7. Complete Beatrix Potter: I linked the box set of the individual little white books because for little kids and little hands I really like having the little books. We did not buy the box set all at once, but have been giving them individually for every birthday and Christmas since our eldest’s first Christmas. We will have the complete set by this Christmas (which will be our eldest’s seventh). You may wonder why I am ranking these newer books with the older, more traditional tales of Western culture. First of all, they are absolutely brilliant. Second of all, Potter draws from the English speaking tradition in her stories, referencing nursery rhymes and riddles that English speaking children should know, and if they do not yet, will learn through her tales. She is a great example of how nursery rhymes are an essential foundation for a complete literary education.

P.S. I would love to hear of any other great books of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and myths, especially ones with beautiful illustrations!

I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum with these seven quick takes!

Getting Ready for Winter with Ma Ingalls

25 pounds or 1/2 bushel of ripening Georgia peaches.

Have you ever read through all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? After reading listening to The Long Winter in the car, I will not complain too much about winter ever again. The poor Ingalls family (and the whole town) nearly starve to death and their only source of fuel is straw twisted into sticks, because there is so much snow that the trains cannot get through.

After blanching, these freestone peaches were easily peeled and pitted.

Plus, it is as bitterly cold as last winter was. M’s Uncle T, who has lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, thinks that long winter in South Dakota was exaggerated having never experienced blizzards like the ones described in the book. However, the Native American that warned Pa about the winter said that every 7 years is a bad winter and every 21 years is a 7 month awful winter.

The philosopher starts to lose his mind if he does too much manual labor.

So, my guess is that we are due for that awful winter with blizzards that blind you entirely and cold so bitter that last winter will seem warm. Or maybe, like Uncle T says, we won’t even notice it is winter, and then it will be April.

Melt in your mouth peaches. Yum, yum!

At any rate, after all those polar vortexes, I am feeling a lot of camaraderie with Ma Ingalls as I store away summer fruits for the winter. I don’t expect that there will be a lack of food in the cities, but I like the idea of having warm summer fruits canned or frozen and ready for eating this winter.

G says, “This is the most beautiful pie you have ever made Mom! It is like a pie from story books! It looks like a flower!”

After our 30 lbs of strawberries, I learned from a friend how to obtain 25 lbs of Georgia peaches and Michigan blueberries just across the border in Wisconsin. This company ships fruit in bulk in for us poor, sad Northerners that cannot grow our own peaches. The peaches were delicious and we canned 14 quarts, plus had enough to make a pie.

I can’t wait… well, I can really.

This summer is so nice as it is slowly wiping away the memories of the cold. The children run around in sandals or barefoot, and we do not even think of sweaters or winter coats. It is absolutely lovely out and everything is green. We have fresh peaches to eat now, home canned peaches to look forward to, and better yet, a livelihood that cannot be eaten by a massive flock of blackbirds.

Review and GIVEAWAY: I’m Bernadette!

  When I was a girl, the library bookmobile used to park about a block away from my house on Saturday mornings. I would walk over with an old stack of books, return them, and spend an hour or so combing through the stacks to find a new set of reading fun. I tried very hard to pick good books, with worthwhile content, but it was often very difficult. If I had found I’m Bernadette! by Emily Grace Ortega, I am sure that I would have brought it home and read it quickly. I was always interested in stories about girls my age, and Bernadette is about a girl in the first grade. She goes to a Catholic school, and has two younger brothers, a four year old and one year old. Her mom stays at home with the kids and her dad goes to work, and it is clear that her parents are raising their family to be devoutly Catholic.

I was really excited when Emily Grace Ortega contacted me to review her book, especially when she sent a letter along with the review copy explaining her view on children’s literature: “I think it’s important for kids to have positive thoughts, ideals, and characters introduced in their reading. The current push in education to have kids “read” without offering high quality, thoughtfully produced literature infuriates me.” While my eldest is almost five, and still learning to read, I have had a lot of difficulty finding even worthwhile picture books. There certainly are a lot of good books out there, but it takes a lot of effort to find them amidst a sea of not so good ones. I have spoken to other Catholic parents who struggle to find good books for their young readers. And if you are searching for a new chapter book series, this one is definitely a gem!
The premise of the first Bernadette story (there are more coming!) is the approaching celebration for All Saints Day. Bernadette has been thinking about her Halloween costume only to hear that her school will be having a Saint parade. She has to figure out which saint she wants to dress as, and let go of her disappointment of not celebrating Halloween.
My almost five year old and three year old daughters loved listening to the story. They remembered their own experience on All Saints Day dressing up like saints, and were very eager to hear about Bernadette. The story was written simply enough for them to follow, but also, I think in a way that a child could read on his or her own. Within the telling of the story, bigger words and concepts are explained through Bernadette’s narration, and we even learn a little bit of Church teaching: some angelology (they have no genders) and how boys and men may not cover their heads in church.
Besides the wholesome and Catholic content, I think that Ortega captured the different ages of childhood well, which makes a lot of sense since she has six children of her own. There were a few scenes from the book about the four year old brother that reminded my husband and I of our own four year old, and even helped us understand that maybe that is just what four year olds are like. For example, they seem to be very good at destroying things. The illustrations by Meg Ross Whalen are very sweet, but my particular favorite is the one of the family at dinner where the baby is throwing noodles on his sister, and the mom is clutching her glass of wine.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet book about childhood in a realistic, loving Catholic family. I think that children who are home schooled or those who go to school could relate to Bernadette and her family. Ortega did a wonderful job creating a world from a first grade point of view, that any Catholic family would delight in knowing.

Finally, I am happy to announce my first giveaway on my blog. You can enter twice:

1. Leave a comment.
2. Like my blog on Facebook. If you are already a Facebook fan, then that counts!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Brandi M! I will be contacting you by email shortly. 🙂

P.S. If you did not win and would like to own a copy, you can order it on Amazon

Kuplink! Kuplank! Kuplunk!

The two girls each had a little tin pail as they eagerly ran to the blueberry bushes. Kuplink! One found a blueberry and dropped it in her pail. Kuplank! Her sister found a berry. Kuplunk! That is how it went as the girls ran amongst the bushes picking a berry here and a berry there, asking to try them, and looking for the bears.

Their excitement at picking blueberries was inspired by the Robert McCloskey’s book, Blueberries for Sal. It is a sweet little book about a girl and her mother who go to Blueberry Hill to pick berries for canning and a bear and her cub who are also on the mountain. I love the simple story, and the depiction of a small child wandering about eating blueberries to her heart’s content. The illustrations are really nice as well; my favorite drawing is the canning scene at the end of the book. I admire the mother in the story for canning with a toddler in the midst of her canning supplies.

We checked the book out of the library mid-July and, as we are with library books, held onto it for about three weeks. The girls asked to go blueberry picking, so we made a family outing of it the last week of the blueberry season. The whole week leading up to it they talked about how they each needed a little tin pail (I found these in the $1 section at Target!) and how the blueberries were going to sound as they dropped them into their pails. It was a lot of fun, and next year we hope to go at the height of the season so that we to can get some blueberries for canning.

Another highlight of the trip is that I reached a new level of mom-skills: nursing a baby who was in the baby carrier that I was wearing. It is definitely not my preference, but when the baby is fussing and we are out in a field picking berries there is not really any other option. Further, I had to point out to M what I was doing for him to be able to notice. 🙂

A Queen in This World: Fairy Tales

Rumpelstiltskin in the Blue Fairy Book.

Once upon a time I wrote a post about nursery rhymes as one of the best forms of first literature for children. Another category of good literature for children is fairy tales. There is something about the strange twists and turns of the world of fairies, princesses, and giants that draws in a child and her imagination. They are drawn up into the story and then they act them out. Children know that the fairy tales are not actually part of real life, but they love to think about them and imagine with them. Further, like nursery rhymes they are apart of the English speaking tradition. The stories also often contain great moral value, teaching children a lesson about how to be virtuous, manners, or simply what makes a person good or bad. Fairy tales do this better then a modern tale, since they tend to not water down consequences, but exaggerate them to make the point more clear. Children love this.

Some of our favorite collections are: The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (and his other colors), Hans Christian Anderson (some of these are really wacky), various versions of the Grimm Brothers tales, The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle, and the Children’s Book of Virtue. I also look for picture fairy tales at the library, including the classic tales such as, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and so on. I will read my kids any version that looks good, except for the over-commercialized Disney princess tales. They know who the princesses are by site, but I do not want that to be there only encounter with princess fairy tales.

And now G (4) is aware that princesses and queens are not just in fairy tales. Tonight as we were getting the girls ready for bed, my husband and I were discussing the new baby prince over in Great Britain causing all the hype in the media. We also said some about the queen.

G looked up at us with bright eyes and asked excitedly, “There is a queen in this world!?!”

Yes, there is sweet child, and there is now way you will ever really get to be royalty in our so-called democratic republic we have here on this side of the lake, but now you know that queens have and do really exist…