In Praise of a Solid Foundation

This holiday season we had two trees.  One was the traditional fir, harvested on a cold, rainy, November morning from the tree farm after much debate and struggle to saw it down and drag it to the car.  The other was assembled on my desk, thanks to the inspiration of many creative librarians and several pinterest searches.  Our “book tree” was a collaborative effort and included favorites from each of my girls so that it represented all of our reading interests.  It was adorned with twinkly lights, draped with a garland made of strips from an old book dipped in glitter, and topped with a star created by my crafty middle child from book pages.

Deconstructing the tree had its own challenges.  Glitter.  Everywhere.  SO MUCH GLITTER.  Putting up the tree required organizing books by size, thickness, shape, and aesthetics.  Taking down the tree required a carefully vacuuming of each and every book to remove the festive remnants that fell from the garland.  Did I mention there was A LOT of glitter?   This process gave me a chance to carefully examine each and every title that made its way into our holiday book tree.  What became clear was that the foundation of our tree was built upon classic titles.  This makes sense as the base consisted of the largest books in our collection; the oversized read-aloud versions of Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web, and Johnny Tremain, among others.  It had me thinking about the importance of classic literature for young readers.  There is a reason these beloved classics speak to adult memories of youth and discovery.  Sharing them with a child creates a bond between reader and listener -connecting over recollections of favorite characters and plot points.   The read-aloud copies are the original stories, but include illustrations to keep little ones engaged.  They are the kind of books that create the foundation of a lifelong reader.  Below are several of my favorite classics that I’ve enjoyed reading aloud in “big book” format.  Perhaps one will inspire you to grow your own book tree.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren & Lauren Child – I adore this version of  Pippi.  Not only do children think she is absolutely hilarious and absurd while at the same time wishing they could be Pippi, or at least Annika and Tommy.  Child’s illustrations are done in her unique style, familiar to those who watched Charlie and Lola, and bring a modern vibe to the tale.  The large book version is bright and vibrant, just like Pippi herself.

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne & Ernest H. Shepard – This old favorite introduces readers to the world of Hundred Acre Wood.   Many young readers have a familiarity with Pooh from tv and movies, but sharing the original stories and charming illustrations creates a whole new way to enjoy these well known characters.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum –  Years ago our library had a very large illustrated version of the unabridged story that first introduced us to Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and all the fascinating characters of Oz.   It was true to the original text but so gloriously illustrated, with big pages for little eyes, that it inspired several viewings of the film and a themed birthday party.

There are several series of classics that have been issued that provide beautiful copies of these classics perfect to read aloud.  Keep in mind some are abridged or even re-writes of the original so make sure to check that you are getting the right version for your little reader.  Check out these editions that have excellent titles.

Puffin in Bloom Collection: Heidi, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess

Puffin Hardcover Classics: Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Wind in the Willows

Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Children’s Classics: Large variety of titles in a gift-worthy keepsake format.

Ladybird Classics: Tales of daring and adventure that have been “sensitively abridged” for younger readers.

Leave a Comment

Filed under classics, Early Readers

Alice’s Curious Adventure

“Every adventure requires a first step”

–  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Today is Lewis Carroll’s 185th birthday.  It is a great time to revisit a classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, first published in 1865.  A journey like no other, Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole and encounters a variety of engaging characters.  Equal parts discovery and non-sense, it is a must read for those who have yet to experience the original Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and Queen of Hearts.  And worthy of a re-read for those who haven’t picked up their copy in a while.  Although nothing about Alice’s adventures can be considered traditional travel, imagination often provides the best kind of adventure, and books are the perfect way to get there.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Adventure, classics

Discovering Fred Harvey

The time has long since passed for me to expect surprises beneath the Christmas tree.  Not only do I select most of my presents, I wrap them too.  Which, in all honesty, is absolutely fine with me.  But this year there were two unexpected gifts bearing tags addressed to me.  What wonders would they behold?  The first, an insert for my Nalgene bottle, was the practical gift.   Apparently I missed the lesson in preschool about not dribbling down the front of yourself when drinking.  It’s an embarrassing habit and one which has long inhibited my quest for hydration.  This insert makes it more likely I’ll ingest the water, rather than wear it.  The second gift was, of course, a book.

During our cross-country adventure I discovered a fascinating piece of history – Harvey Houses.   Fred Harvey revolutionized the hospitality industry during the late 1800’s by developing restaurants and lodging along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.  Fred Harvey was a person, but also a company and a brand.   He brought refinement and quality to the West – changing the face of travel and setting standards that are still emulated to this day in customer service.  One particular aspect of his methodology really captured my attention.  Fred Harvey needed a work force that would uphold his strict requirements for quality service, consistency, and respectability.  His answer was to hire responsible, unmarried women.  Harvey found himself a reliable staff, and the Harvey Girls had respectable jobs and financial independence.  This mutually beneficial arrangement was quite progressive – and successful.  How had this morsel of American Women’s History eluded me for so long?

To remedy the gap in my knowledge I purchased several books on our trip and read with enthusiasm.  But it is my Christmas present, The Harvey House Cookbook, that is the crowning jewel.  The Cookbook provides an overview history of Fred Harvey, Harvey Girls, and Harvey Houses.  It also provides recipes from restaurants along the Santa Fe line.  Although my children aren’t clamoring for me to make “Jellied Chicken” anytime soon, I delighted in reading about the delicacies offered more than a century ago to weary West-bound travelers.

Several Harvey Houses, under different management, are still in operation.  Stay on the edge of the Grand Canyon at El Tovar Hotel and enjoy a meal at Bright Angel Restaurant (we did) where you’ll find several authentic historic Harvey House items still on the menu.  In Santa Fe, New Mexico you can stay at La Fonda and in Winslow, Arizona spend a night at La Posada.  Take an hour while traveling historic Route 66 to see the Painted Desert Inn for a glimpse into the glory days of Harvey Houses.  Barstow, California is home to the Casa Del Desierto, a former Harvey House converted into multi-use space including museums, offices, and event rooms.  If you can’t get away, but want to know more about this delightful piece of history check out some great books about Fred Harvey.  You may even want to try your hand at making “Albondigas Soup” or “Lobster Americaine”!

Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl by Carolyn Meyer – The fictionalized diary of young Kitty Evans an aspiring journalist who, due to unfair and unfortunate circumstances, has to find a job instead of going to college.  Follow Kitty as she journeys West finding adventure as a Harvey Girl during the 1920’s.  MR/YA -6/8

Appetite For America by Stephen Fried  – This comprehensive history of Fred Harvey the man, the company, and the brand is engaging and entertaining.  Reading like a novel, with clear benchmarks of well-researched historical documentation, it is a must for anyone interested in Harvey, the American West, and rail travel. Author Fried gives a presentation on the history of Fred Harvey at La Fonda which you can check out HERE.  Learn more about the later years of the Fred Harvey company in a Q&A session with Fried and Daggett Harvey Jr.  HERE.

The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened The West by Lesley Poling-Kempes –  A history of the Harvey Girls combining oral history and well researched details.   This book acknowledges the long overlooked contributions of the women who, in search of respectable employment and independence, were influential in altering the fabric of life throughout the American Southwest.   For more about women who, against convention, braved the West read Poling-Kempes Ladies of the Canyon.

The Harvey House Cookbook by George H. Foster & Peter C. Weiglin – As stated above, a delightful overview of Fred Harvey the man and the company, as well as Harvey Girls, the changing landscape of the American West, and the rise and decline of rail travel in the U.S.   Plus many delicious and entertaining recipes sure to whet your appetite or possibly cause revulsion to your modern dining sensibilities (anything with the word aspic is nausea inducing for me).  A great complement to the Harvey history and a wonderful addition for any food historian!

Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest by Richard Melzer – Harvey House history told through remarkable photographs of the people and places that made up this groundbreaking brand.  A wonderful visual documentation of the history and diversity of the Harvey Houses across the Southwest. (Images of America series)

PBP note: Fred Harvey, at the turn of the 20th century, made another extremely progressive move hiring Mary Colter, a schoolteacher and untrained architect, to design and develop many of the Harvey House locations.  For nearly 50 years. she worked in a male dominated field as the chief architect and decorator for Fred Harvey.  Read more about her remarkable spirit, her building and design philosophy, and her legacy in Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth  by Virginia L. Grattan


1 Comment

Filed under cooking, cross country, History, hotel, North America, United States

Philadelphia Freedom

We are taking a road-trip to Philadelphia!  The agenda includes the standard sights: Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Rocky Steps, and Reading Terminal Market.  While that’s all fantastic, the best part of this trip isn’t the sightseeing or even the food (gasp!) – it’s the people.  We are meeting up with a group of my dearest friends from college and their families.  There will be 34 of us – nearly half of whom are children ranging in age from 6 months to 14 years old – reuniting with the main goal of just hanging out together.   I’m not sure what to expect, except it will be amazing.  Ahead of us are two days filled with friends, food, history, laughter, beer, and ax throwing.   There may be a slight possibility of disaster, but I am choosing to only see the potential for greatness in this trip.

As a planner, organizer, and schedule keeper it is often a challenge to travel with others.   It’s a delicate balance juggling a large group, with different priorities and agendas.  In the past I’ve been so focused on my travel goals, while simultaneously trying to accommodate everyone,  that I’ve found group experiences often result in frustration and disappointment.   Whose disappointment? Usually just mine, since I’m the one with rigid expectations.  So thankfully, over time, I have learned to ease up a bit and embrace the journey rather than just the destination.   An important key to happy travel is determining the real purpose of your trip, and keeping it in mind as events transpire.   The purpose of this weekend is about the company we keep, and less about the sights.   For the first time, maybe ever, I have only a loose idea of what this weekend will involve – and all of that comes courtesy of the amazing Philly locals who are hosting this “jawn”.    Embracing the true purpose of this trip, and trusting others to guide the planning, was actually quite liberating.  Overall this weekend feels like exactly what it is supposed to be -an opportunity for my own version of Philadelphia freedom.

Check out the Philadelphia page in locations – if you simply must plan ahead!

Leave a Comment

Filed under American Revolution, History, North America, United States

Olympic Spirit

For several decades I’ve been a dedicated, if not obsessed, Olympics watcher.  I do not discriminate on sport – sure I like swimming and gymnastics, but I also enthusiastically spend hours riveted to the coverage of table tennis, team dressage, rhythmic gymnastics, and water polo.  I love a good human interest story, and cheer for the underdog alongside the favorite.  When my girls were little my husband joked that perhaps we needed a babysitter to watch the girls for the two weeks – since I was clearly distracted by rowing, fencing, and judo.  In 2008 we held our own “Olympics” with a ceremony each night held in the playroom on a multi-tiered podium made of step stools.   My girls, ages 2, 4, and 6, gave their best effort each day in modified versions of sports and diplomatically had a Bronze, Silver, or Gold “medal” for their efforts.  Yes, my devotion to the Olympics can get a bit out of hand.

Rio-2016-LogoI love the Olympics moments that define the effort, dedication, and commitment to the love of sport.  I admit, I prefer the humble, respectful, and gracious winners -and losers.  My interpretation of the Olympics is skewed by the network coverage (heavy on track & field, light on weightlifting) – as this is the only way to see the games.  However, last night, for the first time in decades of Olympic obsession I turned off the TV.  I refuse to give a moment of precious time, or a breath of thought to ridiculous immature non-sport behaviors from athletes destined to fade into obscurity.   Remember when Bob Costas had an eye-infection, and he stepped down from coverage because it was taking attention away from the real issue at hand – the athletes and the games?   Last night NBC should have remembered, too.  Last night, the second to last night of the games, should have been about the athletes – those still competing.  Not enough of that going on?  Show me a recap of the incredible, the astounding, the beautiful moments – from every country’s athletes and in sports that wait four long years for recognition.

Here is what I choose to remember about these Olympics.

The tears of the Brazilian Men’s Gymnastics duo of Diego Hypolito & Arthur Mariano, winning Silver and Bronze respectively, on the floor exercise.  On the world stage, to stun yourself and the established front-runners, on home turf – their reaction is what winning a medal at the Olympics should feel like.  Watch it.  I dare you not to smile or cry, or both.

Abbey D’Agostino of the US and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand getting clipped and careening to the track in the Women’s 5000m qualifier.  And D’Agostino urging Hamblin up, pushing a stranger, but fellow runner, to persevere, making sure her competition didn’t let her Olympic dream slip away.  And Hamblin encouraging D’Agostino, even after it was clear D’Agostino was severely injured, then waiting for her at the finish line, being the one to call for medical help.  Winning is great, and having medals is a physical reminder of achievement.   But if I think about the kind of athlete I want my girls to be – I want them to be a D’Agostino.  I’d rather they be in the stands missing the final Olympic race, but on TV nonetheless, because of the person they are inside.  Watch it.

Simone Manuel and Ibtihaj Muhammad – two very different American women in very different sports – breaking barriers and changing the landscape of sports right before our eyes.

I want to dance with Kiribati’s David Katoatau!

The point in the Men’s 10,000m when USA’s Galen Rupp clipped Great Britain’s Mo Farah – his training partner.  Farah fell to the track, but rolled and bounced back up.  Rupp visibly slowed, turned, and used precious energy to check in with Farah and make sure he was alright.  Farah went on to take the Gold.  Rupp finished 5th.   Perhaps it cost Rupp a spot on the podium, and he shouldn’t have squandered those seconds, it is after all the nature of the sport and a hazard of running long distance track.  At the end of the day I like to think that friendship was just more important.  Oh, and as for Rupp – he took home the Bronze medal in the Men’s Marathon 8 days later.

Winning the first Gold medal EVER for your country- welcome to the top of the podium Fiji and Puerto Rico!

The stories of the elite, the names we know so well, acting like actual, good, human beings.  Michael Phelps, embracing Joseph Schooling and speaking highly of him to the press,  after Phelps tied for 2nd (gasp!) in the 100 Fly.  The viral photo of a tiny Schooling meeting his idol – Phelps – years earlier, shows how much Phelps means to the sport, and the inspiration Olympians provide to kids around the world coming up in their sports.  And, thanks to Schooling, – Welcome to the top of the podium Singapore!

Kerri Walsh-Jennings thanking every official, ball kid, and attendant at the match. Taking time to appreciate their contributions is a small act, but makes an impact.  She may have walked away with Bronze instead of Gold-  which is still quite an achievement, and if you don’t think so watch the Arthur Mariano clip again – but she looked like she was having one heck of a good time doing it!

This is just a smattering of small moments.  There were so many, good and bad, over the 17 days.  No athlete is perfect, either in competition or in life.  But for these few weeks I choose to focus on the competition, the field, the pool, the course, or the mat – and take inspiration from what is happening there.  Because this is more than enough to talk about and focus on – and when we get distracted we might miss out on a great moment of athletic achievement, camaraderie, perseverance, heartbreak or success.  That’s what the Olympic Spirit is all about.

Check out a book about inspiring Olympians!

wilma unlimitedWilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull – Wilma Rudolph was told she’d never walk, let alone run, after polio left her leg paralysed.  She refused to give up and chased her Olympic dream!  PB


dukeDuke’s Olympic Feet by Ellie Crowe – A Hawaiian legend goes for Olympic Gold! PB



nadiaNadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray – Nadia stunned the world with the very first Perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics – the first of seven in the 1976 games! ER-2


sixteen yearsSixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds by Paula Yoo – Korean-American Sammy Lee overcomes adversity to become a doctor – and Olympic diver! ER-2


touchtheskyTouch the Sky by Ann Malaspina – Alice Coachman was an unlikely field athlete, but with perseverance she became the first African-American Woman to win Olympic Gold! ER-2


twelve roundsTwelve Rounds to Glory by Charles R. Smith Jr. – Follow the journey of “the Greatest” Muhammad Ali from his Olympic boxing Gold in 1960 to lighting the torch at the Atlanta games in 1996 in a series of lyrical poems. MR-5


boysinboatThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – A team of unexpected rowers from the American West shock the world when they make it to the 1936 Olympics and challenge the German team.   This is the young readers adaptation, for the original adult version click here. MR-5/6

Leave a Comment

Filed under Olympics

Go West, Pigeon!

“What had seemed a wonderful idea –une grande aventure, as my friends put it- began to feel like an ill-conceived fantasy that should have provided fifteen minutes of amusement before being discarded.”

~Alice Steinbach, Without Reservations

The above quote, from my absolute favorite travel memoir, is the perfect description for how I feel right at this moment.  In less than two weeks my family is setting off on our very own une grande aventure -and I have reached the point where I am officially certain this was the worst possible idea ever.  The long winter days entertaining the fantasy of cross-country travel, exploring each region with enthusiasm and wonder, has given way to visions of disaster at every turn.  My nightmare version makes Clark Griswold’s trek to Walley World look like a dream vacation.

However, despite my nerves and last minute anxiety fueled regret, we are actually going to visit 24 states across the U.S.A.   I’m nothing if not a planner.  We have reservations, tickets, meal ideas.   We have packing lists, travel companions, and an endless supply of hard copy and audio books.  We’ve paid the bills, hired the lawn boy, and found loving dogsitters.  I’ve covered everything – I think.  And still I feel extremely unprepared for this leap into such a long vacation with so many unknowns.

In order to keep a handle on this trip and my insanity I’ve done two things – look to others who have tackled extended travel and read books.   I keep referring back to a post from January, 2015 – Of Phileas Fogg and other world travelers – which highlights the amazing travel adventures of several families.   When I feel a panic attack about to strike I grab my copy of 360 Degrees Longitude or log on to Taking On The World and find comfort in those that have gone before me – and on a much grander scale.  Through their stories I am reminded of the reasons we are taking this adventure – and comforted that, although challenges will find their way into our carefully planned itinerary, when they arise we will handle it.  That’s my story, and for now I’m sticking to it.  From the mountains to the prairie, to the oceans…..we are doing this.   Check out the next post for the books we are all reading, how each of my children intend to chronicle this adventure, and check back to follow us on the Pigeon’s Cross-Country Journal page.


Filed under cross country, RV travel, travel, United States

Paperback Pigeon’s New Flight Path

Big changes are afoot for the Paperback Pigeon!  It is no secret that I’ve been struggling to tame a restless spirit, searching for a career path that will be balanced – both financially lucrative and personally fulfilling.   This blog clearly satisfies one of those requirements….the other not so much.   I’ve brainstormed and discarded several options and then it happened – I was inspired!  My sister took a leap of faith and went back to school, pursing a completely new career path.  Well, why not?  I mulled over her choice, and admired her bravery, wondering if perhaps this would be a viable option for me.  Would it make sense financially?  Can I juggle coursework and kids?  In a very uncharacteristic move I decided I would never know unless I tried.   So, following in my little sister’s footsteps and urged on by her enthusiasm, this Fall I’ll be returning to school in pursuit of a second career.  In what, you might ask?  I am the Paperback Pigeon after all, so it simply made sense to integrate this passion into my new professional goals – as a librarian!

Museums and libraries are my favorite places.  I spent the first few decades of my professional life in the former, and am enthusiastic about the potential to spend the back half in the latter.  There are still so many unknowns and a lot of work ahead, but I am excited to take on this challenge and forge a new path.  Join me on this adventure by picking up a library themed read!

isabellastarofthestoryIsabella: Star of the Story by Jennifer Fosberry.  Isabella discovers the wonders contained in the covers of a book when she visits the library.  Here she takes a turn at being the lead role in classic children’s tales while she tries to find just the right book.   Who will Isabella be next?  Peter Pan, Goldilocks and Black Beauty all make appearances, but it is the yellow brick road that leads Isabella to the checkout desk and the perfect book for her.  Don’t forget to check out more information on the stories Isabella enjoys at the back of the book – perhaps one is just right for you!  PB

bats at the libraryBats At The Library by Brian Lies.  When night falls and the bats come out there is no better place for wonder than the library.  Filled with wonder and discovery this charming rhyming text follows the bats as they investigate great literature and enjoy storytime together.  PB

biscuitBiscuit Loves the Library by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.  It is Pet Day at the library and Biscuit is ready to explore.  Join everyone’s favorite little puppy as he discovers the wonders of the library.  At the end of his visit Biscuit gets help from the librarian and chooses the perfect book to take home! ER-K


escapefromlemoncelloEscape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein.  Famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello has just funded a brand new library – and 12 lucky kids will be the first to visit in an overnight sleepover adventure that is filled with games and riddles.  However, the morning brings a shocking surprise and the stakes are high as the kids try to find the secret passage out of the library. MR -4/6

thiefThief of Lies (Library Jumpers) by Brenda Drake.   Gia’s interest in the mysterious Arik leads her to be pulled into a world of magic and intrigue – that’s after she is literally pulled into the pages of a book.  The book happens to be filled with photographs of the worlds most beautiful libraries and Arik turns out to be a Sentinel – a mysterious protector against evil.   The battle has just begun and Gia needs to find out where her heart lies and what is really worth fighting for.  YA

Leave a Comment

Filed under Library

Spring Break Lament


It is the back half of Spring Break.  The time when we are counting down the days rather than relishing the lazy mornings we have left.  And we didn’t travel.  Which is fine.  Actually lots of “to-do’s” around the house finally got taken care of, more than a year after we moved in.  So I ought to feel satisfied, accomplished.  Unfortunately, staring out the window (of my new improved “office”, one of those “to-do’s” no longer on the list), I am pretty depressed by the dank gloom of an extremely cloudy, rain filled day and yes, wishing I was somewhere else.  Anywhere.  It doesn’t help that Facebook is reminding me at every turn that friends and family are joyously embarked on adventures far and wide.  From sunny Florida, and a multitude of theme parks, to those pounding the pavement in NYC, I am envious of every one of them.  I’ve seen photos of the welcome signs of Spring that come early to the Mid-Atlantic region, caught glimpses of Mid-Western college visits, and felt my black heart shrivel with envy at the South-Western US road trip that included the Grand Canyon.  So what is a travel hungry, stuck at home in the rain, planner and reader to do?  My plan of attack is two-fold.  First, work on our next trip.  Luckily, it’s a big one – and requires lots of research to keep me occupied for a while.  Second, I’ll pick up a book about somewhere else.  As break winds down I intend to indulge in some pre-internet “virtual” travel and choose a book that will transport me to an exotic locale.   Perhaps I’ll be inspired to incorporate a themed music, art or a cooking project into these final days before returning to school.

Looking for a literary-fueled expedition?  Check out one of the books below, a random sampling for a variety of ages and reading levels, all of which are sure to provide at-home adventure.

tootandpuddletopworldTop Of The World: Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie –  Toot is missing!!! He went out for a walk and didn’t come back.  Now it is up to Puddle to break out of his comfort zone, leave Woodcock Pocket, and find Toot wherever he may be.  It is going to take a train, plane, bus and a lot of bravery but Puddle is determined to conquer his fears and find his friend because together they can do anything! PB

ab3Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book #3: Road Trip by Herman Parish – Amelia and her family are off on an adventure!  And with Amelia it is sure to be filled with hilarious misunderstanding and fantastic hijinks.  Entertaining, funny, and perfect for those young readers who are ready to go “off to roam” – or is it “off to Rome?”  ER-2

snapSnap by Ellie Rollins –  Danya’s family is struggling financially and the only solution is to sell her pet pony, Sancho.  Danya refuses to let that happen!  Her solution? Head off with her best friend Pia and an epic jouney to reach her grandmother in Florida – who she is sure can solve all their problems.  For another road-trip adventure check out Rollins other book, Zip.  MR-3/4

13littleblueenvelopes13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson – Ginny loved her free-spirited Aunt Peg.  She was exciting, exotic and everything Ginny’s stable “normal” boring life longs to be.  Her sudden death leaves Ginny wondering if the life Aunt Peg lived was really all it seemed, and if anyone really knew her Aunt at all.  It seems Aunt Peg wants Ginny to find the answer to those questions in a most unusual way.  Her final gift to her 17 year-old niece is an envelope with $1000 and 13 little blue envelopes that will take Ginny across Europe on a voyage of discovery – where the person she might learn the most about is herself. YA

toutsweetTout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France by Karen Wheeler – Karen’s seemingly perfect life – successful career, fashionable wardrobe, gorgeous boyfriend – takes a nose dive when said boyfriend breaks her heart.  Looking to reinvent herself and her life she moves from her high-end London flat to a run-down house in France.  Shockingly, not everything goes as planned and although she doesn’t exactly find her happy ending her comical and heartwrenching journey just might lead to happily every after.  MBS

Leave a Comment

Filed under travel

Podcast Passion

Recently my consumption of audiobooks has taken quite a hit in favor of a new listening option. I have become obsessed with the podcast – several specific ones actually. It started around the new year with the discovery of  NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, which introduced me to Overdue and my current obsession- The History Chicks.  I highly recommend you check out all of these podcasts – which are perfect for long drives, working out, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, or any time you find yourself able to plug in headphones.

The History Chicks give short – approximately 1 hour – synopses of the lives of notable women in history.  I enjoy the feminist take as well as the opportunity to fill in gaps in my knowledge.  I am particularly partial to the way they end their show, with suggestions for books, movies and television shows that complement the topic.   I’m slowly plodding my way through the back episodes and just yesterday I caught the one dedicated to Hatshepsut, the Egyptian “King” (Queen? he/she?)  who reigned more than a 1,000 years before Cleopatra.   Not only did the podcast give me a great insight into the life of Hatshepsut, about whom I knew absolutely nothing, but it got me thinking about one of my absolute favorite series of all time – the Amelia Peabody Mysteries.

The Amelia Peabody mysteries, written by Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz), follow intrepid, accidental explorer Amelia as she breaks free of her rigid British upbringing and traverses the Egyptian landscape in search of adventure and intrigue.

apcrocodileCrocodile on the Sandbank Meet Amelia Peabody, a proper British lady on the cusp of spinsterhood who’s newly awarded inheritance enables her to travel and indulge her interest in Egyptology.  It is 1884, and Amelia is drawn to the exotic world of historic Egypt- and the freedom she hopes to find from the stifling expectations of her upbringing.   She wasn’t expecting to encounter tomb raiders, kidnapping plots or Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson – perhaps the most frustrating man she’s ever met! MBS

Follow Amelia’s adventures at the forefront of the international archaeological excavations of Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th century and the ensuing quest for fame and fortune as factions battle it out it the search for antiquity.   Even encounters with murder, mummies and mayhem won’t interfere with the progress of the unflappable Amelia Peabody.  Pick up one of the 20 novels in the series and enjoy a well-written historical adventure.

For great children’s books on Egypt check out the PBP page on Egypt.


Filed under Uncategorized

Tell A Fairy Tale Day

For centuries fairy tales have captivated readers with their magic and mystery.   If pressed, nearly early everyone could share at least one traditional story from memory.  They are part of cultural heritage, tradition and identity.  However, what is so fascinating about fairy tales is their universality.  The number of tellings and re-tellings of traditional stories across the ages have transcended physical and cultural boundaries.  In honor of “Tell A Fairy Tale Day”, take time to discover new interpretations of old tales from cultures across the globe or read a new fairy tale from a culture that isn’t familiar to you.  This is a great opportunity to compare and contrast versions.   “Once upon a time…” is the gateway for travel to far away lands, without having to stray too far from what you already know.


The Princess and the Peaprincess and pea by Rachel Isadora.   The traditional story of a prince in search of a wife is brought to East Africa with vibrant illustrations that place the classic tale in a new location.  Isadora, a Caldecott award winner, also re-imagines the classic stories of The Twelve Dancing PrincessesRapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel in an African setting.  PB

cendrillionCendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci.  The enduring tale of Cinderella as told through the eyes of a West Indian washerwoman who discovers she possesses a magic wand that can grant her goddaughter happiness.  Other wonderful interpretations of the classic Cinderella story include Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from ChinaThe Egyptian CinderellaAdelitaThe Rough-Face GirlThe Irish Cinderlad The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella StoryThe Korean Cinderella , and The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece.   Enjoy them all!  PB

red riding hoodLittle Red Riding Hood Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales (Multicultural Fairy Tales) by Jessica Gunderson.   There isn’t just one story about a little girl and her sick grandmother – discover how the traditional tale of Little Red Riding Hood plays out in Germany, Italy and Taiwan.   Finding all three stories in one book is perfect for young readers to investigate the similarities and differences between re-tellings.  Recommended as a read-aloud with a grown-up for younger readers-  some versions are a little intense.   Available in the series is Snow White Stories Around the World: 4 Beloved Tales, also by Gunderson, and Cinderella Stories Around the World: 4 Beloved Tales and Rapunzel Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales, both by Cari Meister.  RA/ER-1/2

russianRussian Fairy Tales  compiled by Aleksandr Afanasev.  The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore library has a large collection of classic tales from around the world.  These editions contain traditional cultural stories known for generations, filled with witches, princes, and other unique characters.  Reading these stories, originally from the oral storytelling tradition, provides a window into the beautiful culture of Russia.  Also recommended are the other editions in the extensive Pantheon library, including Folktales from India Japanese Tales Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies African Folktales Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions Norwegian Folktales Yiddish Folktales African American Folktales: Stories from Black Traditions in the New World American Indian Myths and Legends  and their compilation book Favorite Folktales from Around the World , edited by renowned author Jane Yolen.  RA/MR- 5/ YA

blue fairy bookThe Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.  The first of Lang’s fairy books contains 37 enduring classic fairy tales.  A staple for generations, this is a good start for anyone looking to revisit the stories as they were originally compiled into an English language collection.  Lang pulled from a variety of sources including the Grimm brothers and Charles Perrault, as well as from the oral storytelling tradition.  The fairy tales continue in his many additional volumes.  MR-5   

hcandersenHans Christian Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales translated by Jean P. Hersholt.   Recommended reading for those older readers who are looking for the most recognized versions of classic fairly tales like “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Mermaid”.   The bulk of Andersen’s work is from the mid-1800’s and his stories can be more intense than the well-known, softer versions we are familiar with today.  MR/YA

brothers grimmThe Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.  Containing all 156 tales from the 1812 and 1815 original publications of the Grimm brothers stories, this is where you’ll find the dark and gritty fairy tales when magic isn’t always nice and happy endings aren’t guaranteed.  Without doubt it is a classic, but also not necessarily the best place to start with young children.   Another recommendation to broaden your knowledge of the where the modern day re-tellings got their start.  MR/YA 

Leave a Comment

Filed under classics, fairy tale, Multi-Cultural