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French Children’s Books!

Hello Readers!

Today’s post is dedicated to the wonderful world of French language children’s books!  Though most of us are familiar with the wonderful works of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Jean de Brunhoff, and Hergé, I have just recently learned of a wonderful treasury of Belgian children’s books by Gilbert Delahaye and illustrated by Marcel Marlier.  Originally published in French the Martine books number over 50 and have been translated into many languages.  I only recently learned of these through Eve Ratthe, who is a friend of my niece Faye Hanoian.  At a recent seminar in Orange County, the topic was the way in which children’s books can be inspirational to a child’s future destiny.  Eve was eager to share how the Martine books were formative to her life’s passion and how that has been realized in her life.  I think you’ll find her story and these books delightful!

Hello readers,Martine bathing baby

My name is Eve Blanchard Ratthe and I am a French Canadian living in Orange County with my soul mate/best friend and my 7 blessings from above.  There are many things in life I am absolutely passionate about, one of which is holding a good book in my hands, smelling it (the older the better) and looking at it with anticipation. I try to find ways to carve out some time from my busy schedule to discover it’s beauty and how it will affect and change my life!

I recently went to Rea’s literature seminar in Orange County and was thrilled to meet her. During the seminar, my love for books grew bigger and deeper. The idea of writing my own book some day became a little closer to reality! After the seminar, Rea asked me if I would be interested to share about the books I liked as a little girl and how they influenced me now as a mother, wife,  baker–I was delighted!

This is one of my favorite scenes, so tender and filled with love…oh how I longed to hold a baby…I was crying. That day I remember vividly my mom letting me go babysit with my older sister so I can hold one of these precious miracles until one day I could hold my own…

How excited I am to share these awesome books with you. This beautiful French collection is called “MARTINE” and there are 60+ books in the series. It’s been translated in many languages and for those of you who would like to learn French, some are accompanied by a CD which has a narrator telling the story.

As a little girl, I loved Martine’s sweet character, full of life and how she brought me into all her adventures. The incredible art work would transport me into my dreams. They allowed me to visualize them, they were a tangible way of seeing that my dreams can come true. Often times, right after reading these books, I would ask my mother if I could play out what I saw in those pictures and she would let me. I would gather all that I needed and would re-create exactly what I saw in those pictures.

I truly believe I had hidden those BEAUTIFUL images in my heart and that one day they would come true for me . . . and they have . . .

I am now rediscovering them through the eyes of my children! I couldn’t wait to have my own children and experience motherhood, I couldn’t wait for them to have their own library and mark those special books with Ex Libris. When I gave birth to my first child, I immediately thought of starting her library and book collection. I asked several people in our families to give our daughter a book that they liked as a child and that influenced their own childhood. I wanted her to have this “MARTINE” collection that was so dear to me . . . of course. Whenever we go to Quebec, we never miss a chance of expanding her collection and mark those trips with one or two new Martine books. When our families come visit us, they also bring some with them. All my children truly enjoy reading them. The other day, my daughter Armanie shared with me that it was her absolute favorite collection–how thrilled I was to hear that!

Last year, the illustrator “Marcel MARLIER” who is now in his 80s, came to Quebec to visit the town where my sisters live. My sisters had each bought a book for my daughter and had it signed by him, needless to say, my daughter and I were incredibly touched. He wrote her a little message in each book and gave her a card as well. This is priceless to both of us! These two books are now marked with a very special autograph. Just as I have dreamt, I truly hope my children dream as they open these books . . .

These pictures increased my love for cooking and I’m sure had something to do with me entering pastry school!!
In these theater scenes, I just wanted to jump in the book and play with them.


Martine Plays Theatre, Martine is a Ballerina, and Martine and the Birthday Present are some of our favorites! I believe that just like they were for me, the Martine books are candy for my children’s sweet little eyes . . .

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More from my friend . . .

Dear Readers,

In my last posting I mentioned the work of Anita Silvey and recommended her resources for those “stories behind the stories” of great children’s books.  You can read that posting here.  Just a few weeks ago, Anita began publishing a blog entitled “Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac.  In my humble opinion, Anita’s almanac will become the children’s literary counterpart to The Writer’s Almanac of Garrison Keillor.  This blog will introduce readers to countless classic as well as contemporary books that, as Anita notes, are on their way to becoming classics. And just like The Writer’s Almanac, the book postings will be connected to important historic milestones,  author’s birthdays, or other events related to the history of children’s literature.

On that note, today, November 19th, is the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of 1863.  To honor Lincoln, Anita kindly posted the story of our reissue of Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire.  You can read her lovely post here.  If you’ve been touched by this book, post a comment on Anita’s site and tell her how this book has enlarged, enhanced or impacted your view of America’s 16th President.

As Anita notes, Ingri D’Aulaire’s family was living under Nazi occupation in Norway at the time she and Edgar were working on their biography of Lincoln’s life.  As European immigrants in America, the character of Lincoln so captured their imagination, that they saw in him and his remarkable story an antidote to the madness and insanity of Hitler‘s rise in Europe.  That was a key reason they were so drawn to his story at this tumultuous and trying time in history.  An in an ironic twist, the very day the D’Aulaire’s received the Caldecott Medal for this book, the famous Dunkirk evacuation was taking place.  So today, the anniversary of one of the world’s greatest speeches, pick up your copy of this remarkable book and remember the man behind the legend.  Happy reading!

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Children’s books and the inspiration behind them . . .

Dear Readers,

Last Saturday I had the gratifying experience of meeting with 40 lovely ladies for a full day seminar discussing children’s books, education, literature, and history.  Despite the fact that we had over six hours together delving into these absorbing subjects, as usual there simply wasn’t enough time to cover it all!  So in response to some of the requests that emerged in our discussions, I’ll be posting over the next few days on some of these topics.

First of all, and a topic I come to with a great deal of enthusiasm, is the “story behind the story” of many of the best children’s books.  Honestly, the reason I come to this with such eagerness is that in this arena I happen to know one of the foremost authorities on children’s literature today!  Her name is Anita Silvey and I had the delightful opportunity to sit under her while doing my graduate work in children’s literature at Simmons College in Boston.  Since that time, Anita and I have maintained a warm friendship and I never miss a chance when visiting Boston to make a date with Anita.  She is one of those people who brings out the best in everyone she knows, and just sitting discussing children’s literature with her for an hour over lunch is always inspiring, informative, and invigorating!  I know if you were able to meet her you would feel exactly the same way!

So here’s one of my secrets:  Anita’s books on the history of children’s authors and illustrators!  I posted last year about her book Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book and you can access that here. A number of the stories I shared with you on Saturday–Robert Ballard, Jim Trelease, Andrew Wyeth, David McCullough, were adapted from this book. There are many, many, more on contemporary authors and the books that inspired them as children. I find these stories SO valuable because as mothers and educators we never really know which book or books may be the catalyst or inspiration to focus our child on their particular path in life. And of course, this points to the importance of Charlotte Mason’s notion of “abundant and orderly” serving of books.

Now, if what you’re really looking for is the stories of the authors themselves, then Anita offers a number of really important resources. But to start, I would recommend one of two: Children’s Books and Their Creators and The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and their Creators. Hardly a month goes by for me that I am not pulling one or the other of these off my shelf to reference. The first title is over 800 pages and contains about that many entries related to children’s authors, genres of children’s literature, historical and cultural forces as formative to various genres, and personal perspectives from the authors themselves. The Essential Guide offers many of the same components (and indeed carries over into this paperback edition much of the same material) but arranged alphabetically from Aesop to Zwerger (you may remember that name as Zwerger is the remarkable illustrator of the edition of The Selfish Giant that we looked at in the literary analysis component of our day). So for the really ambitious I would recommend the first title, and for those that want a slightly simpler more condensed (albeit still 500 some pages!) version I would select The Essential Guide. This is a great place to start. I have many more guides to children’s literature that I will feature later, but this is a wonderful place to start!

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OC Seminar

Hello dear Readers!

WOW!  What a wonderful time I had with all of those who attended the Orange County Literature Seminar on Saturday.  I’m not quite sure if I should enjoy myself as much as I do, since I am supposed to be working, but every time I have the opportunity to be with young, intelligent, and devoted mothers like yourselves, I come away feeling so encouraged, energized, and blessed to be able to do what I do.  Thank you to each one of you that made that group the special gathering it was and for carving time in your busy schedules to attend.  I always learn so much during the literature analysis lunch hour, as I appreciate your astute evaluations of the books as well as your unique and individual perspectives.

One thing I regret was that while I had asked you to bring a children’s book to share with the group,  it completely slipped my mind and the day was suddenly over!  So I’d like to do some postings on those “neglected” books if you’d like to share them with me.  That way, we can extend our discussion a little more and get to know each other a little better!

Also, I would really appreciate if you could post a comment here on your reactions to the seminar–what you found most helpful, inspiring etc.  Also ways in which you’d like to see the seminar improved, enhanced, etc.  Also, if there was a topic you’d like to explore a bit more, I would be happy to do so here in the blog.  Courtney posted a request for what a typical home school day (with a rich literature base) looks like for me, so I intend to post on that in the next few days.  So again, thank you so much for coming, for sharing your lives and for being such warm and gracious listeners!

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Orange County Literature Seminar deadline extended!

Hi Reading Friends,
The Orange County Literature Seminar is just around the corner!  I am extending the deadline for the discounted rate until tomorrow night at midnight!  So you can still register here.  Also, for those of you that are already registered, please be thinking of a favorite children’s book you’d like to share during our working lunch!  I’ll also be emailing you with specific details by Thursday so be looking for that to come through your regular email.  Can’t wait to spend this time with you!