During the soirée weekend, one of the guests remarked on how lovely it is to sit in an actual dining room to share a meal with friends. (Modern open floor plans often eliminate dining rooms.) It reminded me that ten years ago this month, I had the lifetime delight of renting a flat in Paris (with a dining room!) and enjoying a special time with a revolving cast of friends who came through and spent time with me in this amazing city! This post I had started a decade ago, but never finished, so I’m posting it today for a few reasons. The first is that, for a long time, we haven’t been able to gather around a table with friends, but now we can! So, I’m encouraging you to plan that dinner party you’ve been procrastinating on and give the beautiful gift of a meal around a table. You won’t regret it.
Secondly, with Easter celebrations approaching, both of the following dishes–Beef Bourguignon or Moules Crême FraÎche would make a wonderful Easter celebration. Both of these recipes are available in Around the World with Picturebooks Part IIin the French section. Or if that’s unavailable, you can follow Julia Child’s recipe for the Beef Bourguignon or any Moules à la marinière recipe for the mussels (but do thicken with crême fraÎche)! Bon appetite!
From April 2012: Well, as many of my readers know, I’ve been in Paris now for two full weeks, and this is the first morning we are taking a break from tourist sites. It is a dreary Paris day, with intermittent hail, consistent rain, and bracing wind that makes pounding the streets, cobblestone or not, not an inviting option today. We have stood in a number of long lines to see some fabulous sights, despite rain, and biting cold winds off the Seine. A highlight was the Robert Doisneau exhibit–a remarkable French photographer of last century who captured iconic images of French life–particularly the common man. Remarkably, despite having to wait a long time in the rain and cold for this exhibit, the girls have not complained and my traveling companions have been hearty and unflinching! There have been some truly remarkable highlights, but as cooking in Paris has been a long held dream, I’m stopping here.
My dream has been to have a flat where I could cook some traditional French dishes after shopping at the local farmer’s markets. I’ve been able to realize that now in the joy of cooking some fresh Coquilles St. Jacques, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Moules crème fraîche Normandie (my name for mussels cooked in crème fraîche from Normandy). My inspiration for the latter dish came from having had this marvelous dish after visiting Monet’s home in Giverny on a crisp October day last year, and then being given two special gifts. One was a dvd from my daughter, titled “Monet’s Table” after the book of the same name given me by a dear friend (see above). So now, with the aid of the local poissonnier (who sold me both gorgeous coquilles and moules), I have had the distinct pleasure of making them with authentic Normandy butter and crème fraîche. But don’t despair–you can now buy Normandy butter at Whole Foods. While I would not recommend making a habit of it, (it is so delicious it’s impossible to stop sampling it!) but for a special occasion it is truly wonderful! Served with crusty hot French bread with either of these two dishes will make for a worthy feast for a beautiful Easter. Joyeuses Pâques!
Rea & Julie’s Soirée Saturday, April 2, 2022 9 am–4:30 pm Location: The Monday Club–1815 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 Early Bird price $125.00 (tickets purchased by March 26). Tickets purchased after March 26–$150.00
With over a half century of educational experience between them, Rea Berg and Julie Bogart bring together a passion for beauty, authenticity, and cultivating meaningful relationships with our families and communities through a journey of lifelong learning. They look forward to sharing a beautiful day with you at the historic Monday Club in San Luis Obispo.
• Growing Wise Kids: Beyond Tests, Teachers, and Textbooks by Julie Bogart • Teaching American History in a Time of Cultural and Historical Reckoning by Rea Berg
• How to Become Really Smart Reading Children’s Books by Rea Berg
• Read, Experience, Encounter: A Real Education by Julie Bogart
Rea Berg is the founder of Beautiful Feet Books which has been providing quality literature to parents and teachers for nearly four decades. She is responsible for bringing back into print the classic works of Genevieve Foster, the D’Aulaires, Mitsumaso Anno, Brinton Turkle, James Daugherty and many more. Her award-winning guides–Around the World with Picture Books, Around California with Children’s Books, Early American History Through Literature, Geography Through Literature, and many others have brought joy to the study of the humanities to countless teachers and students. Rea holds a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College in Boston. She resides in San Luis Obispo, California.
Julie Bogart is known for her commonsense parenting and education advice. She’s the author of the beloved book, The Brave Learner, which has brought joy and freedom to countless home educators. Her new book, Raising Critical Thinkers, offers parents a lifeline in navigating the complex digital world our kids are confronting. Julie’s also the creator of the award-winning, innovative online writing program called Brave Writer, now 22 years old, serving 191 countries. She home educated her five children who are globe-trotting adults. Today, Julie lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and can be found sipping a cup of tea while planning her next visit to one of her lifelong-learning kids.
Sessions: Teaching American History in a Time of Cultural and Historical Reckoning by Rea Berg In the grand arc of history, we have widely accepted narratives–those stories that give meaning and purpose to who we are as a people–our beliefs, customs, and traditions. In times of historical shift, those meta-arcs can be held up to a new light, new questioning, and reordering. If the grand arc has moral and ethical substance and weight, it will likely stand the test of time. Teaching America’s history during these times of reckoning is challenging. It can also be fascinating, providing the basis for helping ourselves and our students become better judges of human nature while avoiding judgmentalism. It can help us to better understand ourselves and others which ultimately leads to compassion and empathy.
Growing Wise Kids: Beyond Tests, Teachers, and Textbooks by Julie Bogart How can parents create a culture of thinking well at home? Should they teach their children their own beliefs? Should they protect their kids from the “wrong” ideas? How can parent help their kids sift through the firehose of information coming at them wherever they spend time—with friends, at school, at home, and streaming from their televisions and computers? In this session, Julie overturns the belief that traditional education is adequate for learning to think well. She will offer practical activities and helpful insights to support your kids in becoming discerning thinkers no matter where they are or who they meet.
Read, Experience, Encounter: A Real Education by Julie Bogart We’ve been told for years that as long as a child is an excellent reader, that child has everything they need for a robust education. But is that, in fact, true? Julie explores the limits of learning by book and opens the door to two more vital ways to grow a child’s intimacy with any subject they study or any hobby they undertake. Learn how to bring experiences to life and what to do when a child suddenly encounters a challenging viewpoint that upends what they thought they understood before.
How to Become Really Smart Reading Children’s Books by Rea Berg The wealth of beautiful children’s literature available to the modern parent is mind-boggling. Honestly, nearly everything you need to know can be found in a beautifully illustrated and lyrically written children’s book. There are so many children’s books that will make you laugh, cry, and inspire you to be a better person! Let’s look at some of these amazing books and the talented authors and illustrators that have given us the best books!
Important Details: This event is for women only. Only nursing babies six months and under will be allowed in the venue. Tickets are non-refundable, but transferable. We cannot issue refunds, but you are welcome to resell your ticket through social media or other avenues.
. . . the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.~Pearl S. Buck
One of the topics of discussion during our soirée the Saturday before last was the way in which the dystopias of today–The Hunger Games, the Divergent trilogy etc., present disturbing scenes of violence between children. While violence against children has always been a component of fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction etc., what the astute Samantha Riddering pointed out was the way in which that violence has traditionally been perpetrated by the evil adult antagonist. Obviously, sometimes that antagonist was a monster, a dragon, an ogre, a wicked stepmother, or an evil Sméagol. From fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, to sophisticated Pulitzer-prize winning fictions like To Kill a Mockingbird, violence against children is presented as the work of evil personified–the Big Bad Wolf to Bob Ewell respectively. The difference in some of today’s young adult dystopias is how often the ogres perpetrating evil against children are the children themselves. While these dystopias are the literary grandchildren of William Golding’s–The Lord of the Flies–the groundbreaking novel that first featured this disturbing literary trope, the nature of Golding’s brutal images did not popularize it to a youthful audience. In the US it only sold a few thousand copies before going out of print. Today it is mandatory reading in high school. Unlike The Lord of the Flies, the trilogies of Divergent and Hunger Games, replete with graphic violence between children are wildly popular with young readers who seem inured to a level of violence that seems extreme.
Additionally layering the complexity of child-to-child violence is that the teen protagonists become hardened and highly skilled warriors perpetrating acts of war at a young age. Sometimes these actions involve gut-wrenching cruelty like the Divergent character Peter plunging a knife into Edward’s eye while he’s asleep. Though youth becoming skilled warriors isn’t new in children’s lit–Frodo and Sam Gamgee are young hobbits when they fight the evil forces of Mordor, and Peter and Edmund become warriors in Narnia–again, what is new is war between rival youth. Perhaps the real-life counterpart is gang warfare, which would beg the question of how books like the trilogies mentioned may contribute to an already violent gang culture. Oh, but gang members don’t read, so not to worry. I think it’s interesting to note that the film scene of Peter’s nocturnal knifing of Edward was cut from the movie. Director Neil Burger denied that the scene was cut because it was too graphic, but rather because it “disrupted the flow of the story.” Hmmm. Gratuitous perhaps?
As I was finishing writing this my daughter Rebecca posted a wonderful blog entry on the “Loveliness of Reading Aloud” which I think you’ll enjoy. She links in her article to another by Meghan Cox Gurdon which may further inspire the effort it takes to develop this practice in your home. Gurdon is the children’s literature critic for the Wall Street Journal and as a mother of 5 has her finger firmly on the pulse of the kinds of books most parents want their children to enjoy. For parents reading this that have YA readers, I think you’ll find her article on this genre enlightening.
For those that attended the soirée who might have thoughts they didn’t share that day or any others who would just like to comment on this topic, please feel free to do so below. What are the thoughts ruminating around in your mind when you confront the issues of violence in children’s lit today? Let’s continue this discussion! In the meantime I’ll close with this beautiful quote from Tolkien on the function of fairy-tale as it reminds us of the limitless power of the well-crafted tale to cultivate the best in the human heart.
The eucatastrophic tale [one with a happy ending] is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function. The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale: this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist”, nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale–or otherworld–setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, or sorrow or: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. –Tolkien, Tree and Leaf (68-69).
August 9, 2014 will be my Summer Literature Soirée, which many of you have attended in the past. Normally I like to do a summer reading event at the beginning of the summer and then a Back-to-School event at the end of August, early September. But due to speaking engagements and other life commitments (2 new grandchildren born this spring!), I am only able to provide one this season. Regardless, I am very much looking forward to spending this special time discussing literature, nurturing friendships, and making new acquaintances too!
So, I am mixing it up a bit this time, as I’d like to spend a bit more concentrated time digging into literary analysis with all of you! Don’t panic if you’ve never analyzed literature before as this format will empower you to feel confident and equipped to discuss literature with your children/students on a deeper level.
Here’s the literature we will discuss on August 9th:
Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson
Water Buffalo Days by Quang Nhuong Huynh
Lost Names by Richard Kim
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown
For convenience sake, Beautiful Feet Books will offer anyone who signs up for the soirée, an opportunity to purchase the above books discounted and have them shipped to your home, in the next week or so, to give you enough time to read them before August 9th (yeah for summer lazy days to read and rest!). If you are interested in this, please visit the this link to order as soon as possible. The book pack is featured at the bottom of the page. We will offer the above set of books at a 25% discount, but this offer will only be available until Friday, July 11. And of course, bring the books with you on August 9th, so you can work directly with the text!
So here are the details:
Date: Saturday, August 9, 2014
Place: my home: 1306 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Since the beginning of recorded history, war has defined the story of mankind in profound ways. Man’s propensity for war reflects not only his fallen nature but also the sublime heights to which he can rise in selfless acts of courage and heroism. No wonder then, that entire periods of history are often characterized by the wars that were fought and by the literature created by those seeking to ascribe meaning to these times of tremendous upheaval.
One of the earliest epics known to mankind, the Iliad is the poet Homer’s account of the final year of the decade-long Trojan War. The Iliad is a study in human nature, the capricious nature of the Greek gods, and the immutable quest for immortality through military glory. From this enduring epic many of our western notions about war derive their essence. For instance, the Trojan hero, Hector wrestles with whether or not the war he wages against the Greeks is a just war, since it was instigated by his brother Paris’s ill-fated dalliance with Helen, the wife of the Greek hero, Menelaus. In reality, Hector has little choice, as he either fights or watches the destruction of his city. When his beloved wife Andromache begs Hector to leave the battle and return to her and their young son, the scene is one of the most heart wrenching in literature; echoing the sublime tragedy repeated every time a soldier dies defending his homeland. The profound beauty and enduring relevance of the Iliad rests upon the ways this epic presents the various faces of war through the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as the impact upon their wives, their families, and their societies.
The battles and military engagements of the Old Testament patriarchs also reflect universal themes of war, but with a key difference. While the heroes of the ancient Greek and Roman works battled for immortality through military glory, the military engagements of the Israelites are purposed by God in his plan to establish a chosen people to reflect his glory and prepare a people for the coming of his Son–the one who would hail as the Prince of Peace. God rejected the warrior King David in building the Temple because he had “shed blood abundantly and had made great wars”; the King of Glory comes as the peacemaker–he comes to a war torn world to bring “peace on earth, good will to men” (1 Chr. 22:8, Luke 2:14).
Wars of the Old World
Wars that are depicted in great works of literature for mature readers (high school) include War and Peace by the Russian author and patriot, Leo Tolstoy. One of the world’s finest works, this tome treats the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in 1812 and though fictional, presents over 150 historical characters. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo depicts the uprisings of the French Republicans in 1832 as students sought to overthrow the French monarchy. The splendor of Hugo’s work is that within this beautifully crafted novel is a powerful tale of redemption. Sentenced to nineteen years in prison for stealing a piece of bread for his sister’s starving child, when finally released, the embittered Jean Valjean is redeemed through the kindness and mercy of a humble parish priest. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens opens in 1775, and in classic Dickensian style throws light upon issues of class, injustice, and redemption against the drama, intrigue and bloodshed of the French Revolution.
Wars of the New World
A Caldecott Honor book of 1950, America’s Ethan Allen by Holbrook and Ward tells the life story of the “Green Mountain Boy” Ethan Allen, who fought in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. For middle-grade readers, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes depicts a prideful silversmith’s apprentice and his coming-of-age amidst the turbulent days leading to the war for Independence. For younger readers, America’s Paul Revere by Esther Forbes presents the life of the gifted silversmith and patriot and the pivotal role he played in America’s struggle. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire present primary readers with the stories of two of America’s most important founders and the service they rendered their young country. Those who have enjoyed the work of David McCullough in his Pulitzer Prize-winner, John Adams, will enjoy Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie Bober, as the author explores the amazing role Abigail played as wife, counsel, and encourager to her patriot husband.
The Civil War has been immortalized in far too many works to cover here, but a few noteworthy ones include: Killer Angels by Michael Sharra, another Pulitzer prize-winner. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is the first novel to wrestle with the shame of the soldier who turns coward upon the battlefield, a common occurrence, yet one not previously addressed in literature. Crane’s depiction of the agonized mental state of the young soldier, was a sea change in literature, and led the way for other novels to follow. Two other Civil War novels for middle and junior high level are Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith and Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. Both Newbery award-winning novels present true-to-life depictions of teen protagonists facing the conflicted reality of Northern versus Southern sentiments and the ways in which these affect their families. In Bull Run by Paul Fleischman, Northerners, Southerners, generals, couriers, dreaming boys, and worried sisters describe the glory, the horror, the thrill, and the disillusionment of the first battle of the Civil War. Undying Glory: The Story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment by Clinton Cox tells the inspiring story of the first black Union regiment under the heroic and noble Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.
Wars of the Modern World: The Bloodiest Century
The twentieth-century was mankind’s bloodiest in history. The scale of human tragedy and horror was ushered in by the rise of communism, socialism and Nazism and compounded by the dawn of atomic weapons, the horrors of Stalin’s Russian gulag, Hitler’s Nazi death camps, and Mao Zedong’s wholesale slaughter of untold millions of Chinese. While none of these topics are approached with relish, these are tales that must be told and knowing the best works is essential.
Works addressing World War I include: Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front; like The Red Badge of Courage before it, deals with the horror and ignominy of war from the perspective of young German soldiers. Two other works dealing with this period are: The Yanks are Coming: America in World War I and Stalin: Russia’s Man of Steel by the award-winning Albert Marrin. Marrin’s willingness to approach these topics specifically for the young adult reader, is commendable in itself; parents who are committed to their children knowing these stories will profit from his works.
Albert Marrin has also written about World War II and both Hitler and Victory in the Pacific are engagingly written and will educate students far better than the best text book. A tender and sweet story to read to the intermediate aged child is The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert Dejong. Set in China during the Japanese occupation, young Tien Pao becomes separated from his family behind Japanese lines. His desperate search for his family and his fortune in being taken in by American soldiers makes for a satisfying and uplifting story. The affect of the American bombing of Hiroshima is told in a moving and provocative work entitled Hiroshima by John Hersey. Told through the first-person accounts of six survivors of the bombing, Pulitzer prize-winning author Hersey puts a human face upon one of history’s most cataclysmic events. His follow-up on his six survivors 40 years after Hiroshima makes a moving epilogue to this book.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom will inspire readers with the Ten Boom’s selfless devotion to helping their hunted Jewish neighbors during the German occupation of Holland. Secreting their neighbors in specially designed hiding places earns the Ten Booms betrayal, arrest, and imprisonment at a notorious Nazi concentration camp. Despite the horror and deprivation of their experience, Corrie triumphs through forgiveness of her enemies.
The Korean War has been covered by three notable authors whose work I highly recommend. For high-school level, Richard Kim has written a moving memoir of his childhood in Korea while his country is under Japanese occupation. Lost Names presents a devoted Christian family, the terror and deprivations of daily life under a ruthless regime, and the power of integrity, courage, and honor in Korea’s darkest hour. So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins is the story of a young Japanese girl who grows up in Korea where her family is stationed as part of the Japanese occupation. After the surrender of Japan, Yoko, her mother and sister must escape through hostile territory. The Year of Impossible Good Byes by Sook Nyul Choi is the true story of a young Korean girl who lives through separation from her family, endless treks through dangerous territory, deprivation and narrow escapes. Her tenacity, courage and faith are an inspiration.
This brief article can hardly do justice to the multitude of classic and historical works delving into the countless wars that have made up such a significant part of the record of mankind. Hopefully, the list above will acquaint you with treasures new and old, and enrich and enhance your studies of these important eras of history.
Rea Berg is passionate about children's books and has been republishing classic and historical children's literature for the last 30 years through her company Beautiful Feet Books. She also designs guides for teaching elementary and secondary students history using award-winning classic and historic literature. She holds both an undergraduate degree in English from Simmons College, Boston as well as a graduate degree in children's literature.