Bella’s Birthday Books

Bella’s Birthday Books

The morning of her seventh birthday Bella exclaimed: Oh I just love books! It’s a good thing since they were the bulk of her presents. Because I love to read and to share book lists, here’s what she got:

1. My First Sewing Book: Hand Sewing (My First Sewing Book Kit series) by Winky Cherry (a Melissa Wiley recommendation.)


2. The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen illustrated by Thomas Aquinas Maguire

No idea where I saw this one, but it’s more of a work of art than a children’s book. It comes in a nice box, necessary because the “book” is one long accordion pleated page. Yes. All one picture. It’s just gorgeous and we’re going to have fun exploring it. But it’s also something I’m going to want to keep safe from little hands.


3. Forest Has a Song: Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (another Melissa Wiley recommendation, actually a Rilla recommendation.)

Bella was rather skeptical at first when I grabbed this book and offered to read it this morning. As I started to read her posture was very distant, leaning away from me at the corner of the couch. As I read she crept closer and closer until she was leaning over the book and then finally she took off and began wandering about the room, orbiting the coffee table and returning to glance at the pictures every once in a while. Speculating aloud about who was speaking the poems. She loved the Fiddleheads poem both because we love to eat fiddleheads in season but also because she’s been observing the ferns sprouting at the back of the house. Oh I can tell this book is going to be a favorite. Tonight at bedtime she brought it to me, carrying it in her arms like a treasure. Oh I just love this book, she sighed. When I gently teased her about he initial unfavorable impression, she said she thought it was just going to be a story about a girl who goes for a walk. She conceded that she’d been wrong.


4. St. Jerome and the Lion“St Jerome and the Lion by Margaret Hodges

We love several Margaret Hodges books and I thought this would be a nice addition to our collection. I’m always looking for good picture books about the saints. This fanciful story of the lion was a big hit. Sophie kept wondering aloud: “Where did the donkey go?”


4. Hansel and Gretel by Lisbeth Zwerger

I love Lisbeth Zwerger’s soft, fanciful illustrations, but this story might have been a miscalculation. Perhaps it is a bit too scary for my sensitive girls. As I read it Bella got the shivers and Sophie retreated to listen from the other room. Oh she listened bu at a safe distance. I had always thought the witch was the scary part. And the girls certainly seemed to think so. But this time through it was the stepmother that really chilled me. Oh I do think it important to stress that the children overcome evil. My girls already do know that evil exists. To know that it can be conquered by the week and small of the world is a good lesson. But I suspect this book is not going to be requested very often. Not until it’s needed, which who knows maybe someday it will be.


5. The Story of Icons by Mary P. Hallick

We haven’t read this yet, but a glance through it showed beautiful color plates. The text looks elevated but still aimed at older children rather than adults. Bella has responded well to the other icon book we have. This looks a bit more advanced. I really want my children to appreciate icons as more than just a form of art, but as a means of knowing God. Bella is my artist, my sensitive one, who loves to draw pictures of the crucifixion and of the tomb. She already uses art to meditate on the Gospel. Perhaps one day she will learn to write icons.




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  • I love this book and have read it more than once. It was popular among jr. high and high school classmates in the 1970s, and although it was not assigned reading for any courses, it was often on those shelves in our (public school) English classrooms where we could choose a book to read as “enrichment”.

  • ooops. This blog post wasn’t supposed to have gone live. I thought I’d saved it as a draft. I’m still kind of tinkering and was going to add some more quotes.

  • I absolutely love this book.  I love how Bessie thanks God for the fleas and Corrie’s amazement, then the realisation that they can worship without hindrance because of the fleas.

    Also the moment when Corrie forgives the prison guard.

    So many lessons in this book.


  • i love this book!
    I have read this book several times, and it is always uplifting. I am always amazed at how some people rise above our basest instinct to survive, and instead give love and light to all around them, in spite of being in a terrible situation themselves

  • Yeah, maybe “The Diary of Anne Frank” would have been better if Anne waited and took 1944-1971 like Corrie did to really hone in the message she wanted to convey and work on her narrative, instead of relying on the unstable voice of her 14 year old self.

    Oh, wait…

    You see, I suspect the reason why Anne’s diary gets picked over “The Hiding Place” is that Corrie, for all her good works and intentions, still had a choice in whether she joined the resistance, knowing full well its consequences.  Anne really had no choice. It was either be hid or perish. She hid and she still perished.

    I don’t think the preference of one book over the other has to do with Christianity. I think it has to do with power. The Holocaust ended up being a question of power and how easily one’s autonomy could be taken away.

  • Wow, Colette, your comment comes across as needlessly harsh and sarcastic. When I read it, I immediately felt judged and defensive. Perhaps without the sarcasm, it would have been a better invitation to conversation and a more useful critique? I wrote this casual blog post right after I’d finished The Hiding Place when I was all aglow with love for a new found friend. Perhaps I can be forgiven for gushing about it a little and comparing it more favorably to a school assignment I didn’t appreciate at the time I read it?

    About Anne Frank… that was an off the cuff remark, and it isn’t really a thoughtful critique. So let me back up and give a thoughtful critique with some context for my remarks.

    I read The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school and haven’t touched it since. So what I have is a child’s memory of reading a school assignment, with a child’s knee-jerk reaction and a child’s inability to see nuances. I plead guilty to having an emotional reaction instead of a thoughtful critique.

    Maybe assigning Anne Frank’s diary to junior high kids might have unintended consequences in leaving us all with a rather flat impression of it and it’s importance? As I recall it was given to me as a stand alone in English class, not in context with a study of World War II and the Holocaust. It was presented as if it were a work of literature, not as a historic artifact. At that time I don’t think I’d been taught anything about how to read a diary as a primary source for understanding history. I was given no tools to help me understand it in context, no other narratives paired with it to flesh out the picture. I remember finding it rather boring and then being ashamed of finding it boring when I knew I was supposed to feel some kind of sympathy for her because she died. But as a child I wasn’t really ready to feel sympathy for a long dead girl whose diary bored me, you know? And I think teachers should recognize when students are ready to encounter an important voice and are too often ready to push things at students for “their own good” without really thinking about how the work is being received.

    There is nothing wrong with Anne Frank’s diary in itself, but I think the way schools tend to use it as a stand alone representative for the complexity of the Holocaust is quite problematic. Because The Hiding Place does have the benefit of providing some context and a frame narrative, I think it would have been much more appropriate for me to read at the age at which I encountered Anne Frank.

    Your remarks about power and autonomy are very interesting…. I’ll have to think about them some more because I don’t feel capable of addressing them quickly and the baby is done eating and I need to run to the store.