boarding school books for kids


April 18, 2017

Hi! REALLY sorry to be so scarce. Been working on the redesign, and we're so close to being done! Just a few issues to work through. So - before we dive into the books, let's just get this off the table. The Harry Potter set of books and 'A Little Princess'. If you or your kiddos haven't yet tackled these most fabulous examples of boarding school books, why are we even chatting today? Go get on it!

Alright so let's chat about this topic, which is near and dear to my heart, as some of you might recall me mentioning just a few THOUSAND TIMES. For some reason, I've always been obsessed, since the time I was pretty wee, with the British Isles, and with boarding schools. OH HOW I LOVED THE IDEA OF BOARDING SCHOOL. Don't even get me started about my extra special love for East Coast New England-type boarding school. Why? No idea. I have a theory that being stuck on an island in the middle of the Pacific during my childhood years just made the idea So Very Exotic to me, and it seemed so mysterious and out of reach - that it just cemented the notion as utterly interesting and fabulous to a girl growing up across the street from a pineapple field.

A British boarding school, or any type really, just seemed MAGICAL. Then I read 'Jane Eyre' as a teen. Boarding school seemed slightly less magical. But I still loved the idea. And judging by the amount of books, for kids, for teens, for grownups - I think a lot of others have the mystique of boarding school, and especially, BRITISH boarding school, firmly etched into their imaginations.

Let's start with 'And Both Were Young' by grand master Madeleine L'Engle. I can't tell you how many times I read, and re-read this book. I love it with every fiber of my being. Now here's a funny thing - this one is about a SWISS boarding school which seems even more enchanting than a British boarding school. Oh this story. It will make you feel every feel that ever there was. Flip, the heroine of the book, is sent to boarding school while her father is traveling (her mother has died), and hates the whole experience. She doesn't fit in, she doesn't have friends, and she's awkward and not athletic and just miserable. But then she makes friends with a local French boy, and and their friendship, which turns into the sweetest romance you ever did see, gives her the confidence to assert herself at school and OH THIS BOOK. It's so darling and makes you understand the thrill of just holding someone's hand for the first time. For ages 12 and up.

I took a leap of faith and ordered the entire SET of Enid Blyton's St. Clare's School series. These, and her Malory Towers books, are supposed to be THE quintessential British boarding school books. I'll be reading them as soon as they get here, along with Julia. When you think of boarding schools, do you think of midnight feasts, sassy girls jockeying for position in the school hierarchy, field hockey and eccentric teachers? Those are all in these books. Some people have said they like the St. Clare's books better than Malory Towers. I'll report back in a bit on these. Supposed to be perfect for ages 8-12.

'Charlotte Sometimes' by Penelope Farmer is one I've had my eye on for awhile. I'm going to see if my library has it, but honestly, it looks totally like a book that should be in my permanent collection. This one's about time travel! Charlotte, at a new boarding school, suddenly finds herself 40 years in the past in 1918, also at boarding school, only everyone is referring to her as 'Clare'. It turns out that Charlotte has gone into the past and Clare has gone into the future, and the girls communicate via diary. As she spends more and more time in the past, Charlotte finds it harder to remember who she really is. I MUST HAVE THIS ONE.

Alrighty. Moving on to the 'Chalet School' series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. And by series, I mean that there are SIXTY BOOKS. Um, I'm not going to be collecting this set. But I will get a few more. I have the first one, just read it recently after stumbling across these online, and realizing that I absolutely positively had to read at least the first one and see what this was all about. It was a ton of fun, and such old timey British language you can't believe. A lot of "I say" and "We'll have a ripping good time!" and "Don't you worry, my chicken!" I'm not making any of this up.

The gist is that a young woman in her twenties decides to open up a school in the Tyrolean Mountains in Austria as a way of earning a living. Her little sister comes along and is one of the students. (their parents have died) The school instantly is a success and attracts an international group of students.

The rest of the book is basically about the friendships and fights among the girls, the day to day running of the school, who gets to be a prefect, who gets scolded by the headmistress, who puts Vaseline all over the blackboards, and the big drama is when one girl runs away and climbs part of the mountain, and another girl comes to find her and then that second girl nearly dies, and oh another drama is when a new student is basically abandoned at the school by her parents. She's dumped off and then the parents write a letter saying 'She's all yours!' and then the parents are killed so the girl really is part and parcel of the school.

As the series goes along, I believe that the school changes location a few times - from Austria (World War II breaks out and hello Nazis) to Wales, to another part of England, and then finally to Switzerland.

The first book was breezy fun to read and I loved it, but the language is so period and something you'd see from 'Downton Abbey' -- I'm curious as to what my daughter would think. Or if it would just be too old fashioned for her. I think a 12-14 year old crowd would be the best audience.

QUESTION - if someone can find a copy of the books that have the amazing covers shown here, please let me know the source! I have the first book, 'The School at the Chalet' and my cover looks nothing like any of the ones shown above. If I could get the first 10 books and they looked like these fabulous art deco style, I totally would. I can't even find now where I saw the covers I've shown here, they seem to have disappeared from Amazon!

(oh and how's this for hilarity - there's one called 'Redheads at the Chalet School'. What??)

OK I HAVE TO STOP NOW. I don't think anybody cares about boarding schools this much! But I had to show you these, in case you have An Obsession like I do. What do you think? Are you way into boarding school books? Will you seek any of these out? Did I totally waste my time here? Or are you intrigued?

the whispering rabbit


April 11, 2017

Howdy hey! A million apologies for not getting this book before your eyes a little earlier in the month, but let me tell you - although it features a bunny, this is a not an Easter book, and it deserves to be read all spring long, and in fact, it's not even a spring book per se, and it's SO CHARMING, you'll want this for your permanent bookshelf collection, like I did, and you will LOVE LOVE LOVE it all year long, because It. Is. Amazing.

Annnnnnnd let's pause a moment and take a look back at that paragraph and marvel. I swear with each passing blog post, I set the bar just a wee bit higher for myself to see how many run-on sentences I can string together.

'Margaret Wise Brown's The Whispering Rabbit' is such a treasure, and I'm stupefied that I've never seen it before, never read it before, never knew it existed. I saw it in a bookstore recently, and picked it up, flipped the pages and then went directly to pay for it at the checkout counter. Annie Won's illustrations have put this newly reissued vintage delight into a new realm of enchanting. This, and other classic tales, are part of Little Golden Books 75th anniversary set. (Um, so if you're looking for a really special gift for someone......go, go, go!) I found this as a standalone, but I would have gone for the set if I had seen it in the bookstore.

This sweet, darling, ADORABLE little fable tells of a tiny bunny who forgets to cover his mouth when he yawns and oh no! He swallows a little bumblebee by accident. He tries and tries to get it out, but oh no again! The bumblebee has fallen asleep.

The bunny is advised that he needs to wake up the bee with a little noise, not a big noise, because bumblebees don't pay attention to big noises. So the rabbit starts making all kinds of 'little noises'. Even a whisper is too loud.

He makes sounds like a bug breathing. Too loud. A sound like snow melting. Nope. A fly sneezing noise. Still too much. He finally thinks to make the sound of a bee swallowing some honey from an APPLE BLOSSOM, and that does the trick. SWALLOWING HONEY FROM AN APPLE BLOSSOM.

And loooooooook at that picturrrrrrrrrre up above!

Then the bee wakes up and flies away. And the little bunny can finally take his own nap.

So, Margaret Wise Brown. I'm so wanting to read this biography about her - it just came out this past winter and it sounds so interesting - did you know that she wasn't all that fond of children?? Not sure if you worship at her shrine, like I do. I love and appreciate 'The Runaway Bunny' and  'Goodnight Moon' as much as the next person, but the book that really cements her status in my mind as a true legend is 'The Little Fur Family', which I think is one of the few absolutely perfect picture books in existence. Her works paired with Garth William's art is the stuff dreams are made of.

Anyway....this book is utterly, crazy fantastic, and if I had had this one when Julia was 3 or 4 years old, it would have been on auto-repeat every day.

I've just realized that I need to go get all my Margaret Wise Brown's together on the same shelf. One of my #bookgoals is to have all of her books. Or most of them. Do you have a favorite? I think after 'The Little Fur Family', my other great favorite is 'The Color Kittens'. I also really need to get 'Wait Till The Moon Is Full'. (Another one she did with my knight in shining armor, Garth Williams)

In other news, I'm totally running out of bookshelf space. #bookproblems

diy easter tree


April 5, 2017

Hey hey hey - I made a stick tree! This is noteworthy because some of you might recall that I used to make little stick trees all the time when I was a baby blogger. I made them to celebrate the holidays in a way that was easy and not too hard to accomplish - you just hang things on sticks. Little paper lanterns, Halloween ghosts, fall leaves. You'll notice I'm not linking to those old posts because the photos are so horrendous, I just can't.

But then I got bored with my stick trees. I felt like I had nothing more to SAY with my stick trees.

But then I came across a Tasha Tudor illustration in this cookbook, and there was a picture of an Easter tree, and I fondly remembered my Swedish Easter tree (I am linking to this one, but prepare for some retina searing - I was a little over the top with my color back then. white balance? what white balance??) - anyway, long story short, I felt the need to make a little Easter tree.

Actually, I wanted to BUY one, but I couldn't find any I liked. I saw one that was a maybe, but I thought, you know, I'm just going to make one. So I collected some sticks from outside that were left there by the stick fairies and off I went.

I realized that plain brown sticks was not the look I was going for. So I decided I would wrap my sticks in spring colored yarn. Except I didn't have yarn - I had extra thick thread. So I used that.

I very quickly realized that this was a mistake and was taking a VERY LONG TIME, and that if I continued wrapping thread on sticks, I might still be wrapping as you're reading this. So I had to abandon the stick wrapping. If I had had actual yarn, that would have been a different story. If you look at the pictures, you can see that I wrapped a couple in the thread, but then I switched over to one of the greatest inventions ever to hit mankind....WASHI TAPE.

More specifically - FABRIC washi tape! It's washi tape but it looks and feels like fabric! I got it at my local craft store. You peel off the backing and you have fabric-y looking tape! So I wrapped my sticks in that and I had this really pretty floral that reminded me of Liberty fabric, and I totally delighted with myself. See below, in the glass jar, you can see my pretty sticks.

Then I just hung my egg collection on the sticks. I got most of them from Cost Plus World Market, which is the greatest store ever and I do most of my holiday shopping there. I really love the little mini eggs with the daisies on them. I have some other wooden Easter ornaments, but I've had them awhile and have no idea where they came from.

I'm pretty happy with the result! But I wanted the tree to be standing more upright and tall. My sticks, even wrapped in tape and reinforced with the thread stuff, they were still fairly flimsy, and began to bend sideways with the weight of the eggs. It's ok though. Sometimes you just have to bend sideways. 

So...yeah! Behold probably my one and only craft of the year. Sometimes I make two things. Or zero things. But every once in awhile I like taping stuff. Cutting and taping are the extent of my craft skills. OH - I did hot glue the ends of the thread and parts of the tape to make it more durable so stuff wouldn't start unraveling. I have a mini hot glue gun and it's FANTASTIC. I could seriously hot glue ALL DAY LONG.

cool stuff i like


April 3, 2017

Happy Friday on a Monday! Still trying to get the new blog design sorted out...I am so hoping by the end of this week. Just got a big new orchid bloom from the plant you see here - it bloomed about 6 months ago and I BROKE THE FLOWER STEM. I was so horrified! But it grew new flower stems and behold the result. There's one more bloom that's about to open - I'll have four of these beauties! And I think this variety, once bloomed, will be in flower for weeks. I've got another orchid in bloom that's been looking perfect for at least two months now. Ok so did any of you watch 'Big Little Lies'? Wow wow wow. I'm so sad that it's over. What did you think? Did you love it? I'm off to go read the book now.

Cool Stuff this week:

Zen coloring books for adults.

The 30 Best Children's Books for Girls of All Time.

Sushi Saturdays.

Amazing. The sounds of stars and planets. (thanks to my friend Jill for putting this on my radar)

A whole lot of cool Emily Bronte info.

Chocolate banana muffins.

Well this is fascinating, my dad sent it to me - where do early childhood memories go?

TOTORO TEA. Oh please let this be available soon outside of Japan! Thank you Danzel for the link!

This post clicked with me on many levels.

Springtime Oreos.

Cool Book of the Week: 'Please Bring Balloons' by Lindsay Ward is just a gorgeous thing. With beautiful paper cut illustrations. Utter enchantment about a girl and a bear that comes off the carousel she is riding upon - and the journey they take together to the far north, where they have a lovely party with other polar bear friends. Look at those colors. And the inside is just as pretty! Great for preschoolers through Grade 1.

Have a great week! Are you in Easter mode yet? I made a new stick tree to hang eggs on, can't wait to show it to you. I have a bag of jelly beans, and I've managed not to open it it. Yet.


books for spring


March 26, 2017

It finally finally finally is starting to seem like spring might actually decide to pop in an announce itself this year! For the Seattle area, it's been a long winter. We've moved from snow and hail and icy sleet to a more gentle, steady rain. It rained last week. It rained the week before that. Guess what, it's supposed to rain all this week too -  quel surprise. The rain made the front page of the paper last weekend - this past February was the rainiest since 1961. I'm listening to rain drops plinking as I'm typing right now.

But still, spring is coming. And I found some springy books that might want to fly into your hands or into an Easter basket, a May Day basket, ANY KIND OF BASKET REALLY, who am I to say what kind of spring basket you should have??

'Bluebird' by Lindsey Yankey is just gorgeous. The art is magnificent and I love the story - a little bird can't find its friend the wind - and thinks that she can't fly without her bestie. Off she goes in search, looking everywhere she can think of to find the wind - and realizes in the process that she's flying all on her own. (in the end she also finds her beloved wind!) Best for preschool through 1st grade.

I'm over the moon enchanted by 'You Belong Here' by M. H. Clark and one of my favorite artists, Isabelle Arsenault. It's a beautiful bedtime book, depicting objects and animals in the natural world and how/why belong where they do. It's so stunning! This one I'd like to add to my permanent picture book collection.

'The Egg' by Britta Teckentrup is about to be released in April, and details eggs of all kinds. Big, small, in all kinds of colors - from hummingbirds to eggs from extinct creatures like the elephant bird - Teckentrup's art shows the off the magical world of the egg in all of its mystery and variety.

And lastly, I leave you with 'A Nest is Noisy' by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long - do you know this series of books that explore nature in the most beautiful and in depth way? Seeds, insects, eggs, rocks - all are explored in gloriously lyrical words and watercolor renderings. Did you know that orangutans have nests?? Alligators? Each page contains pictures and a large, cursive descriptive statement, which is then fleshed out and detailed in smaller text. These books are so unique and great ones to seek out at this time of year.

Question - what's your most favorite thing to do with kids in the springtime? I think in our house, we get most excited about the appearance of cherry blossoms and hot cross buns. We've only done May Day baskets once before, but I think this year we'll make them again. Such a pretty tradition that I'd like my daughter to remember.

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