Art, Authors, Book Reviews, Writing

Book Review: Flora and the Flamingo

Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo is such an enchanting book – and absolutely wordless.  Now, as a writer – I am a huge fan of words, but this book is an absolute FEAST for the eyes.  My preschooler (who is getting tired of all of the ABC’s and “sound this out” that I’ve been feeding her lately) was thrilled with a book that she could lyricise.

See for yourself –

But I will give a quick warning, however, it is not for the younger babies.  There are wonderful tabs that you pull down to reveal more pictures that young ones will thrill at pulling off the book, thus destroying the masterpiece.

I’ve also become a fan of Molly Idle who was an artist at DreamWorks and has now jumped into children’s book illustrations – you can find her website here.

Blue Boy GainsboroughI am amazed at illustrators and the stories that pictures can make.  Sometimes I will go to a writer’s conference and I’ll hang out in the illustrator panels or spend time in the art galleries.  There is so much that a picture can say, and with each person, it can be a different story. I remember that my 4th grade teacher had us write the story behind Thomas Gainsborough’s Little Blue Boy (see the picture on the left).  I can’t remember the story that I wrote, but I remember looking at the picture and thinking, Who is this? What is his story? Today I think I’ll write the story of why his stomach is poking out and where the missing button went!

(My husband just said, “He ate too many mince pies, and when he was at high tea, his button popped off and hit Aunt Adelaide in the eye!” I’m crying laughing!!!)

I think I’ve thought of some fantastic creative ideas for the long summer that we have looming before us.  I only say looming, because I do NOT want the summer to be a TV festival for my girls!  Any ideas for the pictures I should use?

Arts and Crafts, Authors, Creativity

Waiting and Travel Games for Kids

Road-trip from Colorado to Utah
A quiet moment on a long car trip

MSN had an article on waiting games for children – restaurant, plane, long lines and cars.   The full article can be found here.  The author is Barbara Rowley and her bio from the site is “[her] most recent book is Baby Days: Activities, Ideas and Games for Enjoying Daily Life With a Child Under Three.”  Sounds like a wonderful book.

The article was full of fun ideas, but one really caught my attention.  This is from a Nancy Kay of Nashville:

[P]uppets or stuffed animals to go along with a story on tape. The kids can act out the plot while listening to the story — and keep the baby entertained at the same time. 

I adore books on tape (or rather CD or Digital books).  My daughters (ages 6 & 3) are loving listening to Mary Pope Osborn’s Magic Tree House Series on tape, read by the author.  She has a sweet voice and my kids really get into the stories.  I will periodically stop the CD and ask questions to see if I need to clarify anything, or to check their understanding of the story line.

I also think that it is a good way to teach and practice the reading skill of foreshadowing.  (What just happened?  What do you think is going to happen? etc.)

A friend of mine said that she just buys a bag of pipe cleaners and lets the kids go wild.  She said that the things that they create are amazing.  I think that it’s a great idea for stretching the imagination!

I also give each of my daughters a cookie sheet and I have a bag packed full of activities – coloring books, toys, books, car-friendly crafts, etc.

The cookie sheet is a perfect table for anything car-activity imaginable and also doubles for a snack-tray when needed.

If all else fails, then I bring out the movies.  I try to work out all other possible options first though – including music appreciation, scenery watching, and car games.

Our favorite car game is a modified “I spy”.  Modified, because my girls are on the younger side, so instead of saying “something that begins with the letter…,” we say “something that is …” and list a color.

What kinds of things do you do?


Charlotte Brontë

I just finished the novel, Jane Eyre.  I’m actually quite at a loss as to why I haven’t read it before.  I have always enjoyed the story (countless films and two musicals) and decided that I should read it.  So, in honor of such a fantastic read, and to start out my section on literature, I will begin with Ms. Brontë.

Charlotte Brontë (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and poet.  She was the oldest of the three Brontë sisters, of which all were published authors (Emily – Wuthering Heights, and Anne – Agnes Gray). They also published a book of poems together, and wrote under pen-names.

Their father Patrick Brontë was a Vicar and mother, Maria Branwell was a teacher from a prosperous family.  They had six children together, two died of tuberculosis, presumably contracted at a boarding school and so the four remaining children were brought home for their education and well being.

Their father maintained a good library and that plus a healthy dose of imagination led the three girls to careers in literature.

The following is taken from biographies about the Brontës;

The children’s creativity soared after their father presented Branwell [their brother] with a set of toy soldiers in June 1826. They named the soldiers and developed their characters, which they called the “Twelves”. This led to the creation of an imaginary world: the African kingdom of “Angria”. That was illustrated with maps and watercolour renderings. The children kept themselves busy devising plots about the people of Angria, and its capital city, “Glass Town”, later called Verreopolis, and finally, Verdopolis.

These fantasy worlds and kingdoms gradually acquired all the characteristics of the real world—sovereigns, armies, heroes, outlaws, fugitives, inns, schools and publishers. For these peoples and lands the children created newspapers, magazines and chronicles, all of which were written out in extremely tiny books, with writing that was so small it was difficult to read without the aid of a magnifying glass. These juvenile creations and writings served as the apprenticeship of their later, literary talents.

(Fraser, Rebeca, The Brontës: Charlotte Brontë and her family, Crown Publishers,1988, ISBN 0-517-56438-6)

Charlotte was a teacher and a governess. She married and died soon after in childbirth.


I absolutely adore her work, Jane Eyre. It is the story of a young girl, poor and plain who possesses an indomitable spirit, sharp wit, and great courage.  After battling through a difficult childhood, she becomes educated and goes to live as a governess for the ward of the mysterious, brooding, Mr. Edward Rochester for whom she harbors a deep love and attachment.

I love the way that the author packs ideas into her writing that made me read it conscientiously.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book –

Jane Eyre on childhood –

  • Children can feel but they cannot analyse [sic] their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in words. (Chapter 3)
  • I…sought shelter from cold and darkness in my crib.  To this crib I always took my doll; human beings must love something, and in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I contrived to find pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven image…I doated on this little toy, half fancying it alive and capable of sensation.  I could not sleep unless it was folded in mt nightgown; and when it lay there safe and warm, I was …happy. (Chapter 4)

Jane’s thoughts on Edward Rochester –

  • “He is not to them what he is to me,” I thought: “he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine; – I am sure he is, – I feel akin to him, – I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. […] I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever sundered: – and yet, while I breathe and think I must love him.” (Chapter 18)

Jane’s thoughts on the need for intellectual stimulation –

  • Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; (Chapter 12)

Cousin Eliza Reed’s thoughts to her sister Georgiana on her lack of pursuits  –

  • Instead of living for, in and with yourself, as a reasonable being ought, you seek only to fasten your feebleness on someone else’s strength: if no one can be found to burden her or himself with such a fat, weak, puffy, useless thing, you cry out that you are ill-treated, neglected, miserable.  Then too, existence for you must be a scene of continual change and excitement, or else the world is a dungeon: … Have you no sense to devise a system which will make you independent of all efforts, and all wills but your own? [Plan out a day and fill it with things to keep your mind and body busy] and you are indebted to no one for helping you get rid of one vacant moment … you have lived … as an independent being ought to do.  [Take my advice, or] … suffer the results of your idiocy. (Chapter 21)

Edward’s thoughts on Jane – just read chapter 23 in its entirety –

  • I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you–especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you–you’d forget me.

Jane and Edward are unable to marry and so he suggests that they run away together and she become his mistress (Chapter 27, again the whole chapter is  worth a read) –

  • I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad–as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour, stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.  If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth – so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane – quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot!
  • Mentally, I still possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety.

Thoughts on her friends the Rivers that she later finds are her cousins –

  • I devoured the books they lent me; then it was full satisfaction to discuss with them in the evening what I had perused in the day.  Thought fitted thought, opinion met opinion: we coincided, in short, perfectly.

Jane’s thoughts on on her new pupils (she becomes a school mistress) –

  • I must not forget that these coarsely-clad little peasants are of flesh and blood as good as the scions of gentlest genealogy; and that the  germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind feeling, are as likely to exist in their hearts as those of best-born. (Chapter 31)

Jane’s thoughts on Miss Oliver, a lady of society –

  • The heiress; favored, it seems, in the gifts of fortune, as well as in those of nature!  What happy combination of the planets presided over her birth, I wonder? (Chapter 31, I love this quote – I laugh over it, because I have met people like this.)

Jane on finding herself an heiress and new family (Chapter 31) –

  • I could not forgo the delicious pleasure of which I have caught a glimpse – that of repaying, in part, a mighty obligation, and winning to myself  life-long friends.
  • You … cannot at all imagine the craving  I have for fraternal and sisterly love.  I never had a home, I never had brothers or sisters; I must and will have them now.
  • I want to enjoy my own faculties as well as to cultivate those of other people (Chapter 34, Jane’s desires now that she is independent).

Jane at the end of the book on how things worked out –

  • God had tempered judgement with mercy.