The best of the Polar Express

When the classic Christmas book came out in 1985, it was a present under my Christmas tree for me and my son. The Polar Express was the tale of a boy’s dreamlike train ride with other children to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. The young boy asks for a bell from Santa.When the children return to the train, the boy realizes the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. The train drops him at his door and he goes to bed but in the morning, his sister finds one small box with the boy’s name on it among the presents. Inside is the silver bell! They hear it ring and ring but their parents cannot hear the sound at all.

Beautifully wrapped from Grandma, the hard cover was presented in a special gold, gilded box. The book sat comfortably next to the inspired sleigh bell. As my family grew, we read the Polar Express every year. Every year it was a new story. The book was a beautiful meditation on Christmas magic.

In 2004, Tom Hanks played the mystical conductor in the Polar Express, now a timeless holiday movie. Many classrooms watch the Polar Express at school as a parting gift to start the winter break every year. But the Polar Express movie has always scared me a little.The roller coaster train drama was a bit frightening and the elf workshops on the North Pole were cold factories; losing their graceful appeal that other North Pole stories usually offer.

For me, I just wanted to read the book, eat chocolate and pretend. Ultimately, believe.

This week, the last week of school in which I assist, elementary classes received tickets to ride the Polar Express in the IMC, better known as the library. Please wear pajamas and hot chocolate will be served.  Ms. Hendron, the library specialist, is a wonderful creator of magic herself. She has quickly transformed herself into the conductor on the Polar Express. Oh Boy, I can’t wait. Especially a time to wear my pj’s.

The library lights have been dimmed with sheeting overhead. White lights and silver snowflakes hang from the ceiling giving us the feeling of a cold snowy night as we take a seat on the benches that face a huge screen.  A fire roars in the background. We even get hats and our servers, her assistant, Ms. Wisdom, Ms. Kerfin, along with parent and grandparent helpers, pass out cups of hot chocolate. Each page of the book is highlighted on the big screen while being read by a screen reader. As the story proceeds, each student receives a string with Santa’s sleigh bell to take home. I got one too and we jiggled to make sure we could all hear them ring. One kindergarten boy told the staff that this was the best day of his life. Mine too.

If you want to take a ride on a public Polar Express, Rail Events Productions announces service on board THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride at Chicago Union Station this holiday season. Groups of 20 or more are eligible for a 10% discount which must be booked over the phone at (312) 471-2501.  The fun doesn’t end on Christmas. Use promo code 12DAYS for $12 off tickets on any train Dec. 26-Jan 1!

However,though many schools and neighborhoods are offering the Polar Express experience, not much can top the magnificent event of listening and watching the Polar Express book at Elizabeth Ide School.  Even better than with my own children.

And when I got home, I could still hear my library Polar Express sleigh bell ring!!!

 

The little engine that could

I think I can….I can…I can. The values of today as well as yesteryear have not changed. Because the boys and girls are still reading the little engine that could. Some are still reading the original that was published in 1930 stressing optimism and hard work.

This was also a book that encouraged me to become a better reader. Reading was a struggle in first and second grades but it was the little engine that could that told me I could do this too. And I did…I did.

I began to think about the little engine while watching a student in my class follow the words being read out loud on his starfall iPad reading app. But this was a tale of two little engines that together, they could do it. The book talks about the  little red engine who trys and trys while a similar blue little engine helps push the cars of toys over the mountain. Other engines also pass them by.  This version focuses on true teamwork.

The student was excited about the story adding the types of childhood inflection repeating words as I did decades ago. He read it over and over in class. The same week that I noticed him become entranced in little engines, another student selected a book from the wide variety in the classroom. The original Little Engine that could.

And she did the same with the small, hard copy book. She decided to read it outloud while others listened. Later that day we had an assembly with a few members from the Kane county cougar team supporting are reading program.  Once again, one baseball player said that his favorite book was …guess what? Three times. … a charm.

So, of course, after school that same day, I went to the community library. I had saved many of my childhood favorites in a bookcase at home but not this one. There were many editions of the book as I discovered through the digital card catalog  including , a DVD, and a movie. But copies were checked out and the librarian said that it was always like that with The Little Engine That Could. Would I like The Little Engine That Could Gets a Check Up?

No, that is fine. I will just have the students read to me the copies at the school I assist,  whenever I need to be reminded of my childhood..my beginnings of academic success. Whenever I need to know,today, that I still can!

 

 

 

 

 

What are your children doing this summer?

As a child, with the exception of weekend trips, summer vacation was not always fun for me. Reading alone was difficult and I did receive help when in school but I envied those that enjoyed sitting down on a rainy afternoon with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I also missed my best friend who went to summer day camp. It wasn’t fair and to this day, I am not sure why I couldn’t go with her. Sadly, I would wait on the sidewalk for the bus to drop her off. Some days were long….very long for me, my dolls and my swing set.

When my own children were growing up, many summers I worked, but I always tried to make every vacation or field trip a true learning opportunity. We always visited museums and trips would focus on their interests. For example, my son loved trains so there was always visits, to unique train shops, museums, and of course, rides on the Chicago Metra. My daughter loved photography and she spent a few days with a photographer to learn more about the working world of that profession; exposing her to possible career choices in the future.

Dr. Pam Roggeman is a proven academic leader familiar with and passionate about technology in progressive education and has extensive experience designing curriculum; preparing teachers in a university setting. She currently serves as the Academic Dean for the College of Education at University of Phoenix. Below, she provides wonderful suggestions for a summer filled with fun, learning, self-improvement skills and essential family time.

Create a “matching agreement.” For every hour spent in front of a screen entertaining themselves, have your child match that time in with a learning activity. Most book stores or a quick online search will have workbooks for math, reading and writing to practice skills. Have your kids do work like this to “earn and accumulate” time they can bank for screen time.

Set “learning self-improvement goals” such as a number of books read, minutes of math tutorials a day, or pages written and then agree on a fun reward for goals attained. Make it more meaningful to your kids by allowing them to decide what they’d like to learn and study. Make it even more meaningful by creating rewards for attaining the goals. These rewards don’t have to cost you anything – maybe they can earn sleepovers with friends, breakfast in bed or “owning” the TV remote for a night.

Summer reading can be essential for students to maintain and continue building their reading skills. This summer, help your children find books that will make the child think on a much larger level. Together, explore your child’s interests and find books that feed those interests.

Encourage your children to keep a journal to regularly document their activities throughout the summer. This is key because kids will start to see their accomplishments on paper. This can be a conversation starter at the dinner table, “what did you do today that will make it into your journal?” When they go back to school and the teacher asks, “What did you do all summer?” they will have the best answer in class!

Look for educational camps and structured social activitiesthat parents can in participate with their children. Make every vacation an opportunity to have the whole family grow and learn together. Maybe visit a different museum in a town nearby that would make a great day trip, or when you take that drive to the local national or state park, take the time to read the information about its origin and why it was established. Be the parent who researches and does the leg work to find the fun, educational activities at your local community center and invite your child’s best friend to attend.

Use the summer to do the kind of learning you don’t have time to do during the school year.

Thoughts on Father’s Day

When I looked up the definition of father, I was amazed at how many categorized fathers we have today. From the weekend/holiday father, surprised father, stepfather, second father to just mothers partner or husband; all of which define “the Dad”.  And, believe it or not, there is the DI Dad who is the social/legal father of children produced via donor insemination.

Father is also considered a founder of a body of knowledge or institution like George Washington; the Father of Our Country. And now I can understand why fathers are seen as authority figures and are suppose to possess experience and knowledge in life to pass onto others. That is what being a father is about; the active father who speaks of wisdom and guidance.

My father passed away when I was twelve and Fathers Day was not a Hallmark occasion that was at the top of my list. My mother never re-married and someone said that a father is a girl’s first love.

With time, I realized my father, John, was gone and could not be replaced though I would always be grateful for the strong memories of his love for me. Some didn’t have any example in their lives. And as the years passed, I figured out that I could have as many fathers as I wanted; a trusted male friend who nurtures and helps you live a more fulfilling life.

They can be a neighbor that offers support when you struggle, comfort when you are down and their snow blower when there is a foot of snow in your driveway. They can be a manager who reminds you that you are truly worth it regardless of your awkward stumbles at work. They can be a co-worker that offers you a smile, something to laugh at, thumbs up and a cup of coffee when you are having a bad day.

They can be a brother who offers unconditional love and commitment regardless of how you frustrate him. They can be any relative who is protective, concerned and sees your success rather than incompetence. They can be your best friend’s father who spent hours tutoring you in math and building your self-esteem in a subject you never thought possible.

They can be the salesman or contractor that is really looking out for your safety and best interests. They can be your postman who always makes sure your mail is delivered on time and doesn’t rush off without saying hello. They can be teachers and role models to all children of any age and family.

Most of all, they can be the one above…you may not be able to see, but truly loves you.

 

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play

As a recess first grade monitor, children’s first choice is outside on the playground or playing soccer though some that may be shy will sit on a bench with me until someone offers them a swing or slide. Indoor recess when the weather is poor is always in the classrooms playing in groups without technology. Those choices usually includes building Lego,Jenga mountains or cooking with silly putty in small groups.

They love traditional play times and will work hard not to lose any recess minutes. All the children have an I pad and our given breaks to play educational digital games. Both types of play are generally exciting to the boys and girls. But is one better than the other?

The Genius of Play  is a national movement to raise awareness of play’s vital role in child development, spearheaded by the Toy Association. Deeply rooted in research and facts, The Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives.

They released a new panel report that included child development and digital media experts convened by The Genius of Play during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of this year.

“Kids learn and develop crucial skills through all types of play – structured and unstructured, as well as traditional and digital play,” said Ken Seiter, The Toy Association’s executive vice president of marketing communications and the panel’s moderator. “It’s important that parents understand that screen-based or online playdoes not have to be an all or nothing experience. Our panel of experts was extremely knowledgeable and shared best practices for appropriately fostering kids’ development through digital play.”

The panel, which included Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS Kids Digital, Dr. Jodi Sherman LeVos, director of child development & learning at Mattel, and emotional dynamics expert Dr. Erik Fisher, explored the evolving nature of play in today’s world and sought to provide parents with guidance on how to incorporate all types ofplay into a child’s daily routine. The experts’ consensus: when it comes to digital play, experiences that have a clear learning intent combined with parental engagement are paramount.

INSIGHTS FROM THE PANEL:

Play exists in a variety of arenas and forms. Opportunities for play are everywhere: at home, in school, in stores, at amusement parks, etc. Kids get the most benefit when traditional and digital play exist simultaneously, in a balanced environment.

The best kind of digital play is high-quality content that’s designed with clear learning objectives. These objectives should include: improving cognitive thinking; building language skills; encouraging social skills; and/or promoting creativity.

Technology gives kids a variety of perspectives on the world. Technology supports traditional play by reinforcing key values and adding another dimension to the play experience. For instance, apps and game play can bring unique worlds to life and allow children to explore these worlds in a new way.

Technology can also help drive the benefits of play by emphasizing personalized and adaptive learning. The best kind of high-tech play involves quality engagement in short bursts that engages kids while extending their knowledge in other areas. For instance, if a system can detect a child struggling with a particular concept, offering tutorials or prompts is an area where technology can really help kids learn.

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play and ask questions. Implementing this type of interaction at an early age builds on communication skills between parent and child, develops trust, and prepares children for more serious talks about internet safety as they grow.

“Why Play is the Secret Sauce for Raising the Next Generation of Digital Innovators, A Special Report by The Genius of Play”​ can be downloaded at TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

Without the Weekly Reader

Decades of children, all ages, couldn’t wait until Fridays when the weekly newspaper was passed out in school.  Ninety years ago, the first edition of the Weekly Reader was distributed on September 21, 1928 and was an immediate success. The first edition catered to older children and a second edition to younger ones; introduced in 1929. By 1931, there were four editions complementing a variety of grades with a circulation of over a million. After a series of several owners in the last fifteen years, Scholastic no longer publishes the reader as we knew it since 2012.

A few years ago, I shared my surprise and sadness over the news of discontinuing the Weekly Reader with my cousin a few years ago who was almost as old the Readers life. We shared our fascinating stories of invention and themes of the week which included anything from safety to volunteering for others even though my experiences were younger than his.

He asked if we had to pay for the Weekly Reader and in 1934 it was approximately 20 cents a semester. In the early 1960’s, my mother always wrote a check every year for the Weekly Reader for me to read about mice going to the moon, a memorial to John F Kennedy and finally men taking that  one historical step for mankind on the moon with the Apollo landing in 1969.  Great progress and history was made as I traveled through the years with my Weekly Reader.

After researching the Weekly Reader, I found one for sale from 1935; a perfect gift for his 84th birthday that he would be celebrating along with the reader.  In January of 1935, it was time to celebrate the birthday of Ben Franklin and his ideas on thrift while articles today in 2012 focus on the similar including protecting the environment and recycling.

However, the main story of 1935 was Old and New Ways to Travel which compared the old steam engine to a new train engine that pulls cars that are streamlined and cuts through the wind. America by rail today is still available with luxury suites and trains that can exceed 300 miles per hour.  Another form of travel mentioned was the celebration of the Wright plane built in 1903 being able to stay in the air 59 seconds. And, of course, new planes had taken part in the event and some of them went three miles in a minute. What a change there has been in airplanes in 31 years.”      “What a change there has been in airplanes in 109 years,” those same individuals would say about the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the new airplane of the 21st Century. Who would have thought you could view a presentation on your computer introducing this dream in the sky.

Wig Wags, the dog, shares experiences in a designated column and children still respond enthusiastically to the little canine friends who can really talk. While another column talks about safety and the game stop and go. A boy plays a policeman with a stop-go- sign and whistle which he blows while turning the sign to stop. A girl is riding her bicycle and must stop when the police boy blows his whistle. She gets a ticket if she does not follow the rules and after three, must forfeit something she likes.

Ultimately, the lessons of the Weekly Reader have never lost their relevance, a treasured memory added to the scrapbook once again. However, Scholastic does publish a weekly nonfiction print and digital magazine for elementary classrooms. They use the most-taught science, social studies, and safety topics to create a multimedia curriculum

For us, the Weekly Reader exemplified more than a just a recap of current events but a cherished time for so many every Friday afternoon during rain, sleet, snow and sun when the Reader was placed in our hands to begin our weekend.

Courtesy of Ebay who offers many vintage copies of the Weekly reader.

Bargain town/South Chicago/Toys R Us

We would go to Steel City Bank in South Chicago and then Gassman’s clothing store for my mother to try on numerous outfits that took forever. However, if I waited patiently outside of the dressing room, our next stop would be Bargain Town. A slinky was only 68 cents! And walkie talkies were under 10 dollars, a lot cheaper than cell phones today.

It was Bargain Town where I remember the aisle crowded with my favorite colorforms; the Jetsons, Dress designers, Barbie, Crazy shapes and the Addams Family. If not in the mood, I would take my time picking out a paint by number. Generally, it was an autumn landscape with oil paints. The paint by number assumed a usual routine at home.

It was set up on a card table in the family den in front of the TV.  It was right before dinner that my Mother and Dad would have their 5:30 cocktail and I would be watching Garfield Goose along with spilling my creativity in front of me. I was allowed to have a small glass of 50 /50 soda.  Oil paint landscapes that would take me alot of time were always my first choice. They still are today. I have a winter and summer print I hang over my fireplace during the appropriate seasons.

After Bargain Town, we would head to the new Jewel in South Chicago before we went home, now CVS pharmacy.

According to That’s It, back in 1948, Charles Lazarus – the founder of Toys”R”Us, opened his very first store in Washington, D.C. called Children’s Bargain Town. It wasn’t until he opened his second store almost 10 years later that he adopted the name we’ve all come to know and love. And that is how the legacy of Toys”R”Us began. Bargain Town also offered nursery items, cribs and baby furniture as well as bicycles. Bicycles cost about 30 dollars. And crown pools that you could set up in the backyard were under 100 dollars.

In the 1990’s, my children could walk to the nearest Toys R Us and for my son, anything Power Rangers would work. My daughter loved board games and art sets; her eyes wide as she studied the massive collection.

The company has been in the toy business for 70 years and operates around 800 stores in the United States and around 800 outside the US, although these numbers are steadily decreasing with time. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on 18 September 2017, and has also filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

Charles Lazarus, 94, no longer held a stake in the chain and founded the company 70 years ago, just passed away last week. His passing was one week after the company announced it will be forced to shut down its U.S. operations. Many believed that he was the king of toys.

Check out A Tribute to Children’s Bargain Town USA Toy Store in Chicago on Facebook

Now, back to my painting. I even have an easel now!

State street that great street

Once again, back in my day, we parked in the Grant Park Underground if with Mom or someone that knew how to drive. If not, it was the Illinois Central, IC, that friends and I would hop on the from the South side. I think we were about 12 when we were able to travel into the city for a day of shopping and lunch at Wimpys. During Christmas, it was the Walnut Room at Fields and we had to dress in our best dresses, shoes and sometimes white gloves and hats.

Shopping on State Street during the 1950s/60’s  included some of the best such as Chandlers for shoes, the Woolworths seemed bigger for some reason than those in other neighborhoods as well as Walgreens. However, probably our favorites was just experiencing the massive Marshall Fields Store ( 8 stories ) and Carson Pirie Scott which was 12 stories.

Marshall Fields was one of the three largest retailers in the country. Before Marshall Field’s death in 1906, his company became the biggest wholesale and retail dry goods enterprise in the world and also one of the first buildings with escalators.

I think that those were the first that I rode too, one that followed a brief curve to another going up and down. But I really loved the elevator; wanting to be an elevator lady some day in their cute matching outfits and great shoes with nylons.

We would span the floors as we rode the escalator. We were fascinated by  the fourth floor toys with toy drums that encircled the hanging lights. I collected dolls so was in awe every time we would visit as we walked down the aisle where dolls topped glass cases as well as an incredible variety of porcelain dolls and dolls from around the world. Depending on who we were with, how much money and the time of year, we would also have lunch in the blue Narcissus room.

You can still visit the magnificent Tiffany Ceiling on the first floor when you go to what is now known as Macy’s, bought from Fields in 2006.  But visiting as a child and young girl, the granite pillars, the Walnut Room, ceiling, clocks and Christmas decorations was so special.  Today, jeans and sweatpants our just fine.

Carson Pirie Scott is 164 years old and still open today though the State and Madison store was closed in 2006. My aunt worked at the store in Evergreen Park and we shopped more at that store than any other.

State Street begins at North Avenue, the south end of Lincoln Park, runs south through the heart of Downtown Chicago, and ends at the southern city limits, intersecting 127th Street along the bank of the Little Calumet River. It resumes north of 137th Street in Riverdale. I never realized being a resident of Dolton, Il for awhile.  From there, it runs intermittently through Chicago’s south suburbs until terminating at New Monee Road in Crete, Illinois.

 

 

The Sucker Tree

My grandfather’s whitewashed farmhouse was located in small town, central Illinois framed by an ever-changing horizon and guarded by cornstalks.  Each had grown tall with gangling arms, restive and ready to capture their trespassers, twisting their leafy fingers round and round, threatening to arrest me. I was only six years old then.

I quickly made my way inside the chipped picket fence, protected from the grasp of the tawny soldiers.

The screen door creaked and cracked like the bones of an elder, opening and shutting again as Granddad reached for me with outstretched arms of endearment.

Behind the thick panes of his spectacles, his narrow eyes glistened with delight.  His face flushed with excitement, the color of the early autumn foliage that vividly shaded his home that day.

“I have another surprise for you, little one,” he spoke in a whisper.

Of course, I was expecting this and returned his words with a huge grin.  Once again, Granddad had not let me down for my visits were always greeted with something truly wonderful, a phenomena for the entire world to see but, unfortunately, allowed for Granddad and my eyes only!

He slowly took a seat in his polished, Hitchcock rocker and I piled into his lap, anxious to listen.

“Out back, only a few feet away from the house, my child, something very special is happening,” he said.

“What is it, Granddad?”  I responded, eyes wide with childhood curiosity.

He paused for a moment to gather his thought, clearing his aged vocal cords as well.

“A tree is just starting to bloom!”

……….Granddad had topped himself with amazing stories this time!  I wondered if his mind had taken a wrong turn somewhere, the grownups called it senility, I think.  Anyway, I was always considered bright for my years and knew better to believe that trees did not prosper during this particular season!  Leaves transformed from green to brown, then withered and fell to the ground to be either raked away or covered with blankets of snow at the onset of winter weather.  It didn’t take experience in years to attain that knowledge so what was this man fabricating now?

I was extremely disappointed, to say the least.

“Granddad, trees don’t bloom in autumn!”  I said in defiance.

“This one does,” he answered confidently.

Granddad had never lied to me in the past.  Did he really know something that the rest of Illinois and I had not encountered.  It was certainly possible.  In fact anything was possible.

“What kind of tree is it?”  I asked, attempting to pacify Granddad, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“A sucker tree!”  he proudly announced.  “When all the other trees and shrubs shed their leafy dress, this tiny tree begins to thrive with lollipops of rainbow colors.  One by one, they pop out like magic with stems and all, dangling from the branches.  When each sucker is ripe and just the right size, they can be picked and eaten.”

As Granddad continued to go on and on, I was mesmerized by his delightful description.  This was too good…..just too good to be true!  However, once again, Granddad had me right where he wanted me.

“Are the suckers ripe now?”  I asked, nearly jumping out of his lap.

“Well, let’s find out,” he suggested as we climbed out of the rocker and quickly headed to the backyard.

He gestured for me to go first and my impatience caused me to slide down the back steps, my bottom sore and surely splintered right through my pants!

I didn’t care because, only a few inches from me, a miracle really was occurring right before my startling eyes.

A young tree, only a foot or two taller than myself, caught my undivided attention.  Its’ trunk looked like any other and it was naked of leaves but, lo and behold, lollipops, approximately four inches round, hung delicately on their stems from each branch.  There were five or six already in bloom and pink, blue, yellow, and green colors swirled in their centers.  Each childhood delicacy gently swayed to the tunes of the afternoon breeze.

“Can I pick one?”  I uttered in a small voice.

This was a sight that would be locked in my memory for all time.

“Why, of course,” he smiled.  “Two, if you like”

My mouth watered as I let my tongue whirl around on the colors, blending the pinks into the blues, creating my own masterpiece and savoring its’ flavor while the sucker shrunk in size, eventually disappearing into my belly.

I hugged Granddad tightly, thanking him for letting me share this fascinating September event.

The following year in early autumn, Granddad had passed to another land and my heart ached for his return that could never be.  I would miss him for many years to come.

After his funeral, I removed myself from the crowd and took a seat on those familiar back steps to gaze on nature’s evolution.  Each tree had changed color and their leaves began to drop to their demise, almost like what had happened to my Granddad.

I then focused on the sucker tree.  Its’ barren branches seemed to stretch wearily toward the sky as if asking God to return my Granddad.  Not one lollipop adorned its’ arms.  The tree was lost without him for only Granddad knew the secret ingredients that could provide the tree with eternal like.  The sucker tree had become a fabric of memory along with my brilliant Granddad sitting beside it.

Fun with Dick and Jane: Still addicted to reading

I did not like Dick,Jane, Sally, Spot and whoever else was in the series. I had a difficult time reading in the beginning. I didn’t enjoy Think and Do work books  or a  kindergarten book called Work that is Play.  School work was not playtime for me until about 4th and 5th grade where I started to read…just a little….and write my first composition about a steer named Thunder who won a prize from a county fair.

It wasn’t until junior high where my writing and reading really took off with doing well in my sixth grade class on an essay for Keeping Chicago Clean that was turned in for a contest, a poem published in the Chicago Tribune about two wonderful boys I babysat for named Mark and Michael and I began to enjoy reading:

Laura ingalls Wilder: The Little House on the Prairie Series really began to intrigue me and at night before falling asleep I would day dream of the cottage that I wanted to live with a family like the Ingalls . Based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, there were nine books that were cherished by readers of all generations.  On the Banks of Plum Creek is the Newbery Honor-winning fourth book in the Little House series, this edition features the classic black-and-white artwork from Garth Williams and probably my favorite in the series.

The adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family continue as they leave their little house on the prairie and travel in their covered wagon to Minnesota. They settle into a house made of sod on the banks of beautiful Plum Creek. Soon Pa builds them a sturdier house, with real glass windows and a hinged door. Laura and Mary go to school, help with the chores around the house, and fish in the creek. Pa’s fiddle lulls them all to sleep at the end of the day. But then disaster strikes—on top of a terrible blizzard, a grasshopper infestation devours their wheat crop. Now the family must work harder than ever to overcome these challenges.

Trixie Belden: The title character in a series of “girl detective” mysteries written between 1948 and 1986. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham, who also wrote the Ginny Gordon series, then continued by various in-house writers from Western Publishing under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny. Today the rights to the series are owned by Random House. The series was out of print for a number of years, but Random House began releasing a new edition of the books in mid-2003. As of mid-2006, volumes 1 – 15 have been reissued.

Beatrix “Trixie” Belden is a young teen living just outside the fictional town of Sleepyside-on-Hudson, in the Hudson Valley area of New York. She lives at Crabapple Farm, which had been in her family for either three or six generations (this varies between books), with her parents and three brothers, Brian, Mart, and Bobby. The first book establishes her friendship with lonely, sheltered rich girl, Honey Wheeler, whose family has just moved into the Manor House next door and soon the girls are embroiled in their first case.

I loved Trixie and the book was not always easy to find. Many of my friends liked the Bobsey Twins or Nancy Drew and though I read those years later, it was Trixie that got me excited about reading and girl time adventures.

Anne of Green Gables: A 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a children’s novel since the mid-twentieth century. It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town. Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into at least 36 languages

I vaguely remember reading Anne as a school assignment and again fell in love with the detail and description. I struggled, but was willing to do my best with learning the delicate vocabulary.

From them on through the decades, not just years, I have never been without a book. I have given up smoking, adjusted to new people, new jobs, new things but can’t imagine life without a book. I will never forget someone telling me years ago that you are never bored if you love to read.

And reading opened the door for constant writing of new form and ideas; another love I try to do daily.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot