The Children's Book Quote of the Day

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Why do I love the Little House books? January 24, 2012

On the smooth, cream-colored page, in Ma’s fine handwriting, Laura read:

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,

Five things observe with care,

To whom you speak,

Of whom you speak,

And how, and when, and where

Your loving mother

C L Ingalls

(from Little Town On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

I received a comment a week or so ago asking why I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books so much? I assume this question is mostly in response to the volume of quotes I have used from the Little House series in the last year. Typically, on this blog, you will see groups of quotes from whatever I’m reading at the time. So, in re-reading the series last year, I found many notable quotes and used them during that time. But the question is still an interesting one. Why do any of us love the books we end up loving? I thought about it for a while and I have some answers for this particular series.

First, I love them because my Mumsie gave me the boxed set for my eighth birthday. That was my favorite-ever birthday party: my mom and aunts set up little stations all through our house for my friends and me. We had a make-up station, hair station, and dress up station. She had my great-grandmothers beautiful old dresses (from the days when ladies had many occasions to dress to the nines) shortened for us to play in. We had the dresses, the gloves, the hair-spray smell, the ridiculousness of make-up on eight-year-old faces. Then we had petite fores and punch and other fancy things on my mother’s good china. There was a lace table-cloth on the table. I remember I had asked for a basketball for that birthday because my PE Teacher scolded that I needed lots of practice at home (I couldn’t dare tell her that in our two-sister home there were no basketballs to practice with and DON’T get me started on the PE methods in public education). I did get a basketball–just what I asked for and didn’t want. But I also got the boxed set of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I didn’t ask for them. I didn’t even know they existed. I had never heard of the television show based on them, we had not yet read one of them in school, but Mumsie told me she loved them when she was growing up. “Growing up.” That’s how she said it. Not, “I loved them when I was a little girl,” but “I loved them when I was growing up.” It made me feel like she thought I was growing up.

I read them straight through. In class later that year we read The Long Winter and I felt great that I had my own copy at home, so much better than the textbook version. By The Shores of Silver Lake was the first book that ever made me cry, when Laura became Mary’s eyes in a world that had gone dark, when she learned to sacrifice her own selfish desires to work toward sending Mary to college. For years after that, if I needed a good cry and couldn’t get the tears to come, I would pull Silver Lake down from the shelf and read a few chapters about Mary’s blindness. Silly, I know, but true. So I love the books for the memories first. Like my grandmother, I loved them when I was growing up.

And, I love them as a grown-up for a new set of reasons. I love them because they offer a gentle wisdom and a simple lifestyle in a crazy, commercial, speedy world. They take me back to the basics. They chastise me for always taking the easy way or the convenient way. They remind me to live well within my means, to not chase after everything my friends and neighbors have but to live with contentment. The Ingalls and Wilder families show beautiful examples of courage under pressure, grace in the face of tragedy, acceptance of hardships, determination, pluck, relationships, and humor. Sometimes I can hardly believe what they went through. I love the history of this country told through the eyes of a girl growing up in it. I love the romance between Charles and Caroline Ingalls and the romance between Laura and Almonzo Wilder.

In re-reading the series as an adult, I have been challenged to do things for myself that I might not have a few years ago. I am sewing my baby girl’s bedding and some other things for her nursery. I am venturing in to the world of cloth diapers (something I seriously thought was insane a couple of years ago when I had my son). I am making my own household products if I can’t find them at the rock bottom price I want to pay: laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, etc. I make gifts for people I love instead of shopping around to buy them something. I feel like I’m living more abundantly and counting my blessings more readily. When something is hard for me, I think how easy my modern life is compared to the pioneer life and I am grateful.

I’m grateful that I don’t have to depend on the weather for the very food to feed my family. I’m grateful to be having babies in the twenty-first century when my 8lb 4oz breech baby could be delivered by c-section safely, when I can get a glimpse of my daughter in an ultrasound video to know she’s growing well. I’m grateful for electricity and technology, for community and all the books I want.

I love the Little House books because they remind me of growing up, because they challenge me as a grown-up to live more simply, to do without what I don’t need and to appreciate the luxuries of living when i do, and because they’re just flat good books that have stood the test of time.



Free (repost) September 12, 2011

Filed under: Picture Books — Kristi @ 9:12 pm
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(I did not have a chance to post this yesterday. Sorry.)

“And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are free                                  As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.”  (from Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss)

In 1776, fifty-six men did a brave thing when they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to say, “Don’t tread on me!” Because of them, generations of their descendents and the descendents of the weary travelers that came after them have known nothing but liberty all their lives. We have sometimes given away rights that they gave everything to secure. May we find the courage, when needed, to resurrect the old banner “Give me liberty or give me death.” And more than anything, may we stand firm and breathe freely in the liberty secured for us more than two thousand years ago by a man who died for us all.

Our hearts go out to the families whose remembrance today is not national, but personal. And although I did not quote from it today, I recommend The Man Who Walked Between The Towers by Mordicai Gerstein.



As turtles should be November 1, 2010

Filed under: Picture Books — Kristi @ 8:27 pm
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And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are free

As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be. (from Yertle The Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss)

Exactly ten years ago I boarded a Lufthansa airplane and flew from Dallas, TX to Frankfurt, Germany. Then to Budapest, Hungary, from which I took a double decker bus into Romania. I was seventeen years old on a Shoes For Orphan Souls shoe delivery trip with about forty Americans, only one of whom I personally knew. So many things about that trip have impacted my life–the lonely suffering of the orphans chief among them. I think about some aspect of it at least once a week. You would expect the suffering and poverty and even the romance of an old European city to impact a seventeen-year-old American girl. But there was one aspect of the trip I doubt anyone could have predicted would hit me the way it did.

The American presidential election.

I was only a few weeks shy of my eighteenth birthday, so I wasn’t able to vote that year. I wasn’t an ignorant teenager. I knew how important elections were in my country. But as we drove through the Romanian countryside, I was surprised to see Romanian citizens listening raptly to the radio report of the results of an election so many miles away. They were so invested in it. I didn’t understand why they cheered until they started to translate the report for me, “George Bush is your President!” said a young Romanian man as he pumped my hand in a congratulatory shake. I wondered why they would care. I certainly didn’t care who was the leader of their country. Why did they seem so invested in the outcome of the elections in mine?

It was my first inkling that what happens in countries that have been free so long the citizens start to take it for granted, matters to people in countries where freedom is still a new taste. I don’t know what you believe or how you vote, but I hope you believe something and vote accordingly. I believe that free is how all people should be. I was taught this all my life, but it didn’t sink in until I visited a beautiful country still scarred by communist wounds, where people were wholly invested in the free elections of a country that was almost bored by liberty. I have never been bored by liberty since.


What Margaret Mead said August 2, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 10:34 pm
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It’s important! It explains human beings. We’re all different and we’re all the same–that’s what Margaret Mead said. And I’m going to be just like her and travel all over the world and study people. (from Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles)


You can play it July 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:34 pm
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The best thing about history, as everyone knows, is that you can play it at recess. (from Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look)

Another great thing about history is that you can play it on YouTube. I started to think the other day about the day my second grade teacher, Mrs. Salmon rolled a TV into our classroom and we watched footage of the Berlin Wall coming down. It was weeks before my eighth birthday. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I remember that the teachers had tears in their eyes as they explained it to us in the simplest of terms. Later, our school got a piece of the wall and Mrs. Salmon passed it around the room so we could all hold it. Anyway, tonight I started to wonder if there were videos of those Dan Rather reports on YouTube and I was not disappointed. I found them and so many more Berlin Wall demise videos, but this one captivated me. I have watched it with a lump in my throat three times now. Enjoy.


The best thing about history February 3, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 3:46 pm
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“The best thing about history, as everyone knows, is that you can play it at recess.” (from Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look)


14 Cows January 27, 2010

Filed under: Picture Books — Kristi @ 3:20 am
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Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort. (from 14 Cows For America by Carmen Agra Deedy in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah)

Benjamin and I went to the library today and came home with a bag full of Bluebonnet books, some of the 2009 selections that we had been unable to check out earlier and a few of the new 2010 selections. One of the 2009 books was so bad I couldn’t read it without laughing at the author’s thinly-veiled agenda and boring prose. There are very few children’s books I dislike this much.

But then I picked up 14 Cows for America and…wow! Benjamin was already in bed so I read it to Jon. At the end of the story we were both in tears. It is the story of an incredible act of generosity from a Kenyan tribe to the American people after the devastation of September 11, 2001. I should have saved this quote for the next anniversary of that day, but I just couldn’t wait. This book is too good not to pass on right away.

First of all, the true story is one to “burn a hole in your heart” as the book says. Secondly, Carmen Agra Deedy tells it with such simplicity and grace as to take nothing away from the power of it. And finally, the illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez are absolutely gorgeous. It’s not even going on the amazon wishlist; it’s going straight into the shopping cart!