Bella’s Picks

Bella’s Picks


The Island-below-the-Star written and illustrated by
James Rumford.

Bella loved this delightful Polynesian tale of five brothers who journey across the Pacific in search of adventure and an island they are sure must be out there. Navigating by the stars, the clouds, the currents, the wind, and the birds they find their way from the Marquesas Islands to Hawaii.

The pictures are lovely watercolors, very engaging.


Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem.

I meant to get this collection for Bella for Christmas but my order was cancelled too late to get it in time. So Sophie got it for her birthday and Bella since appropriated it. It’s not that Sophie doesn’t appreciate it, just that Bella adores it. Well, fortunately Sophie is a generous little soul and doesn’t seem to mind in the least. I haven’t read all the stories yet, but I do find them charming. One very minor quibble: just as with Redwall there are little snippets of pseudo-religion that kind of drive me nuts: a wedding and a baptism with language that loosely evokes the Christian sacraments but with no God, just some nature worship kind of language. Definitely not enough to discard the books, but I did mention to Dom in Bella’s hearing that I don’t know why they made that choice. It just bothers me.


The Complete Little House

I don’t think there are words to express the depth to which Bella adores the Little House books. She really dives into them, spending hours poring over the illustrations. She also loves, loves, loves the three albums of music from the books. I’m constantly amazed at the extent of her recall. Although I’ve only read each book once, she will unerringly remember in which scene of which book each song appeared. She can recount scenes from every book in great detail and often greets Dom at the door with a long narration about some incident or other in a Little House book, it may or may not be from the most recent chapter we’ve read. It might not even be from the current book.

When we got to Farmer Boy she wasn’t at all interested. She just wanted to read about Mary and Laura. But then when we came to the first of the Almanzo chapters in The Long Winter, I pointed out that she’d appreciate them more if she’d read his story. So we began to read Farmer Boy concurrently with The Long Winter. It was sometimes a bit disconcerting to jump back and forth between Almanzo as a boy and as a young man, and Dom asked if she wouldn’t get confused. But she never did. Bella and I regularly read chapters from half a dozen or more different books that we’ve got going concurrently and she never gets them confused. (Right now we are reading Little Town on the Prairie, Audrey of the Outback, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Acts of the Apostles for Children, The Gospel according to St Mark, Five Little Peppers, The Little Prince, The Story of the World Volume 1, and a biography of St Pio of Pietrelcina.) Sophie and Ben loved Farmer Boy too and often plopped down to listen in on chapters.

Bella’s plan is that when we finish the Mary and Laura books we will move on to the other Little House spin offs. I’m thinking the Charlotte books will fit nicely with beginning American history in the coming school year.


In the comments Enbrethiliel reminded me that I meant to include the links to the albums of Little House music. These are the three we have. I think Pa’s Fiddle Band may have more, though I’m not sure if their other albums are merely in the spirit of or are limited to the songs that are actually in the books. Clearly more research is necessary. Maddeningly, the songs on these albums are not arranged according to how the songs appear in the books. It offends my OCD, but I’m trying to deal with it. I posted the links in the comments, but I’ll put them here too:

Yes these are Amazon Affiliate links and yes we get a little bit of credit when you click through and buy. I promise we use the pennies we glean to defray the costs of the children’s education and our own book habits.

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  • Audrey of the Outback is available in the US? That’s great news for us since we are only now getting acquainted with Audrey. We met the illustrator, Ann James, at the Bookworm in March. They are doing a series of Audrey picture books for younger readers, too.

  • Jen,  I’m so glad you commented because I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d seen the title mentioned. I’d forgotten it was on your blog. Now I remember your post about meeting the illustrator at the Bookworm.

    I got it at the library, from one of the libraries in our network, but I don’t know how widely available it is. They only had the one title, none of the sequels, alas.

    I’m looking forward to the picture books. Audrey was a great addition to our Australia exploration, though I had a terrible time reading it aloud with all the words I didn’t know. And I don’t do accents and I felt silly every time I said “fair dinkum.”

    Thanks Dorian. I wish you could come over and have some scones with us. And we could chat books. It was a fun read. Especially the bit where Audrey’s brother blows up the outhouse.

  • And I just have to add that I’m really annoyed because I can’t for the life of me figure out why the heck my blog isn’t showing any of the paragraph breaks in this entry. Grrr. Really, there are supposed to be spaces in there. Or does it look fine on everyone else’s browser but mine?