Category Archives: pen and ink

Trio of 2014 Children’s Books

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When parents get book order forms from school, sometimes it can be overwhelming

and also, stressful when they have a limited budget. I remember my three kids bringing

home their school picture order forms, their sports group picture forms and then, on

top of all this, Scholastic book order forms. Of course, all school book fees, new clothes

and shoes, sporting equipment also came during the same time of year.

Occasionally, my Mom and Dad may have dropped a check off in the mail, which would

cover some of the items mentioned. I had child support for two of three children, along

with a carefully budgeted babysitting fees from my clients’ list. All of the five children

I watched stayed with me for the seven years I watched them, who were from parents

whose careers were either as professionals or a combination of positions. I could count

on them paying me regularly on Fridays. I had typed up a babysitting contract which

included paying me for sick days or times their children stayed home. Also, for vacations

they chose to take. If I ever needed to call them to ask them to use one of my  ‘back up’

babysitters then I would not get paid, same if I chose to take a rare vacation. I think I

‘called in sick’ on only three occasions in the  7 years, 9 summers  watched their kids.

When we were closely tied like we were, they would tell me when their vacations were

planned. We also would try to have seasonal family gatherings where we would get

our schedules in ‘synch,’ planning sports, extra curricular activities like gymnastics

and jazz dance classes, karate for the kids who chose this outlet. All 8 children, mine

included, took swimming lessons the same 6 weeks, usually in August, hoping the

water would be nice and warm in the morning.

I am rambling a bit, to tell you that my own children fit a lot into their budget.  I did

not expect to receive 5 x 7″ school pictures nor have the joy of seeing the choices of their

Book Fair. My oldest daughter pointed out that the Book Fair is during Parent-Teacher

conference time so you have extra time on your hands. Also, a little bit of pressure to go

wandering around with the kids to check out the books. I reminded her that the boys

have library cards like the three of ‘them’ (my own children) had from early years on.

I also would tell their teachers this, including what I thought was a valuable lesson,

which was to choose books and return them regularly allowed my kids to have many

more books, choosing far more than what we would need to have in our home. She

listened and told me they each were told they could choose one nice book to keep.

The boys, Skyler and Micah, already have a nice collection of hardback books in

their bedroom.

My daughter in law has the children’s book shelves in the play room, which means

they can sometimes need to be reorganized and cleaned up. She allowed the four

children to choose a book, with the two oldest, Lara and Landen, picking chapter

books.

The two little girls, M & M, each chose a book. I felt the ones I was most interested

in viewing would also be the ones you would be curious to hear about. I will include

Micah’s to round this out with a boy’s choice. This ‘trio’ of enjoyable selections is

a collection of picture books that were so endearing and entrancing. Along with one

that is quite dramatic!

 

1. “Flora and the Penguin” is a 2014 book with 40 pages, written and illustrated  by

Molly Idle. Last year, she won the Caldecott Honor for a wordless picture book called,

“Flora and the Flamingo.” The flamingo and little girl dancing in the different scenes

was quite beautiful and artistic.  Makyah chose the newer book since she loves the

movies, “Happy Feet,” and “Happy Feet Two.” It is one which will appeal to both boys

and girls, ages 3-5 years old. The author, Molly Idle,  mentioned the quote, “Actions

speak louder than words.” Since Makyah is the ‘baby’ in her household at age 3, I felt

this was a wise choice. She can tell adults or her siblings, what the pictures mean to her,

using descriptions and  her vivid imagination, to tell her own story about Flora. At her

preschool, Kyah is learning how to find her own voice, letting others know what she

thinks.

 

 

2. “The Iridescence of Birds,” a Newberry Medal winner, written by Patricia Mac Lachlan,

was chosen by 5 1/2 year old kindergartner, Marley. This is a 40 paged hardback book

which has a wonderfully illustrated story about Henri Matisse. The book has the small town

in Northern France, where the little boy and young artist grew up. It is winter and Henri

feels it is cold and dreary. The pictures show shades of grays in the gloomy scenery.  In the

true story of his life, Henri’s mother paints plates. Henri’s mother has him help her to set

out plates which radiate colors. His life brightens up when he puts fruits and flowers out to

inspire her painting. Rainbows shown in the book are like a prism (to his life) has been

added to every scene. Glorious!  This story of Henri Matisse’s young childhood is like an

‘ode’ or warm ‘homage’ to his mother. It is like we should give credit to her for inspiring

Matisse to create his impressionistic masterpieces of color. Of course, I love the birds.

Hadley Hooper is the artist who has brilliantly illustrated this book to match the tone

of the story told in simple prose.

 

3. “Draw!” by Raul Colon was chosen by Micah, my 5 year old kindergartner. I am sure

his eyes were attracted by the bold and vibrant illustrations done by Raul Colon. This

book is 40 pages long, which begins with a boy in his room with a sketchbook. He had

read a large book about Africa. He becomes immersed in the world of being on a safari.

He uses paints and an easel to create drawings from his imaginations. They are of very

lifelike animals- elephants, zebras, lions and a very angry rhino. The scenes seem to come

alive and seem inter-active. He ends the book by showing his drawings to his classmates

in school. This book is appropriate for young adventurous children of  ages 4-8. I also

was excited to find out that “Draw!” is not about guns being “drawn” since over the

phone, I had heard its title, mistakenly picturing it to be a Western.

 

What are some of your favorite children’s books that are more recently published?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art and Utilitarian Wagons

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An interesting story I found in a ‘thrown out’ book is worth

listening to. Every year in May, on the second weekend, we have

the Delaware Arts Festival. Along with this activity, since car

loads of people visit our small town, the Delaware County District

Library holds its Annual Book Sale and fundraiser.

Last year, May, 2013, I found in the book discards’ bin, a lovely

small book titled, “Victorian Horses and Carriages, A Personal

Sketch Book” by William Francis Freelove.

It is serendipity to have found this book amongst ones that were

no longer serving a purpose on the library book shelves. I feel

a kinship with this man from the 1800’s who enjoyed the pastime

of drawing with his pencil, then detailing with his pen and ink,

and adding watercolors to his drawings. The artist, William F.

Freelove, was a solicitor’s clerk who lived from 1846 until 1920.

He was a Quaker and had six children. One way he liked to relax

and entertain his family, was producing pleasant drawings of a

variety of horses, carts and carriages.

William would observe passers-by in their utility carts and wagons

in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey.

By 1873, he had captured over 70 drawings in his fine collection.

They apparently were tucked away, for ‘safe keeping.’

The best part of the story is that one hundred years passed, when

finally the horse drawn carriages, carts and wagons’ illustrations

were discovered; neglected in a dusty old attic. There was a box

found holding his precious collection of drawings. I agree with the

preface of the published book of his drawings that calls this a

“charming collection.”

The book, filled with the ‘found’ illustrations, was finally

published in 1979, by the Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Crown Publishers.

This was printed by the Lutterworth Press in London, England. There

is no mention of where the book sale proceeds go to. I wonder if

there are descendants of William F. Freelove who benefit from this

publication of his art?

There is a picture of a pocket watch drawing, with William’s photo,

along with the initials, “W.F.F.” and the year of “1868.” Although

the watch’s enclosed date would make him only 22, he has a long,

but neatly trimmed, white beard and his face seems like quite a bit

older man. His face doesn’t seem to reflect his artistic nature,

because it appears quite stern. I have read that intaglios and old

photographs were serious, a tradition of capturing faces not smiling,

during this period of time.

William lived 74 years, with no remarks of his family having health

issues or reason for his not publishing his drawings. They were solely

created to amuse and entertain his family and friends. They never were

framed and put on the walls of his family home.

Thank goodness for attics, dry basements and cubby holes! For art

is found within these places. Sometimes people knocking down walls

will find newspapers and other hidden treasures, too.

I delight in looking at these intricately detailed drawings with

such unique names and uses of each utilitarian vehicle. William

also drew different kinds of carriages, like a “Brougham Carriage.”

(Several include the word, “waggon” with two ‘g’s’ included in

their old-fashioned spellings.)

Each vehicle is being pulled by horses. Here are some of my

favorite ones, which are so intriguing in their specific uses.

1. Miller’s wagon. (This looks like a hay wagon, to me!)

2. Plate glass wagon. (This is a long, narrow wagon.)

3. Tallow chandler’s cart. (I assume the candle maker’s cart?)

4. Brewer’s Dray. (This has barrels of alcohol with “X’s” on them.)

5. Fish Monger’s Cart. (This is smaller.)

6. Piano Cart. (This is larger!)

7. Three horse omnibus. (This is a double decker vehicle with

passengers, including gentlemen wearing tall hats on it.)

His collection has 66 other drawings and would be quite fun to have

copies or prints to put up in a child’s room. They are very detailed

and colorful, too. I am so glad that I found a twice-discarded art

compilation for my own private collection of books!

On the final page of the book, there is a simple verse, addressing

the owners of horses:

“Uphill, urge me not.

Downhill, hurry me not.”

William Francis Freelove gave us a valuable contribution to the

art world, along with depicting the history of utilitarian forms

of transportation. I enjoy the period of time when horse drawn

vehicles, especially carriages, were prevalent. My grandchildren

like the 4 inches by 6 inches’ size of the little book, carrying

it around and studying the drawings. Interesting how it was put

away, first by the artist and his family. Then, the library chose

to throw it in the ‘discards bin.’

Some may say, “Their loss, my gain.”

Thank You Notes

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Just in case my mother forgot to write her thank you notes

for Christmas, 2013’s gifts, I sat down this morning to get

this task finished. It had been on the ‘back burner’ of my

brain, since New Year’s Day. My Mom had always stressed the

importance of writing thank you’s. Even as a child, we would

get our lined paper out of our notebooks, write out our thank

you’s to aunts, uncles and our grandparents. There were years

that we were old enough to use those pretty cards that did not

have any lines and we were then using pen, not pencil, to impart

our personal hand written messages of gratitude. I have several

saved of my Grandpa Mattson’s, some from friends, pen pals,

children and grandchildren’s, along with my parents’ notes all

sent to me, in a little chest purchased from Pier One Imports.

It has a nice little brass latch connecting the hinged lit to

its darkly stained, woven basket chest. I have preserved years

of memories in postcards, letters, cards and little notes that

were ‘dashed off’ on church bulletins or restaurant paper placemats.

Some are loving, others apologetic, and most were saved becoming

special; due to the “who” that sent them. Looking at them, easily

recognizing each family member’s characteristic scrawl or neatly

penned handwriting, brings back memories of the times they were

written. Two of my aunts sent me postcards at camp each year,

summers which also challenged my Dad to take the time, missing

me to write, too. Mom has always been the most faithful, twice

a week correspondent, through college, my moving away and living

in Bowling Green (as a young newlywed), to Lancaster (as a young

mother) and then, finally, during the long years of being single,

here in Delaware. She chose cards sometimes but mainly used floral
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print stationery. My Mom, after all was “Rosie,” so that was often

the theme of gifts. It was very difficult to weed and sort, trying

to choose ones that meant the most, to save!

I started each of the five thank you’s this morning with a bold

and calligraphy written message of “Happy New Year, 2014!” Then,

I followed with the personal words, “Dear ——.”

Here are three of the gifts that were shared with my mother

this past Christmas for which I am so grateful for, too.

The first notes I wrote were showing Thankfulness for

Friendships:

To the couple out in Colorado, who have been friends with my

Mom since she was teaching in Westlake, Ohio in 1970. This

44 year friendship included a man who was the drama coach and

theatre director at Westlake. David Lanning, his wife, their son

and daughter mean a lot to my Mom, for their continued caring

and informative communication. Her old co-worker, David, is the

one who writes about his family’s current happenings.

I like to point this out, have been married to two men who

kept up writing and have two brothers who continue to write

personal letters. I have enjoyed re-reading about my brother,

Randy’s travels and receiving notes on Mother’s Day, Valentine’s

Day and birthday cards from my brother, Rich. I never realized

how rare this was until I entered that match.com six months’

period. Most men were not even interested in emailing and at

our lunch table, when Melvin is around, he says that he is the

only one in his family who still writes ‘snail mail.’

The other friendship was a neighbor, Jeannie J., who lived

across the street from my parents when they retired in 1980.

The couple who lived there had met, (very encouraging to

me), at a Burger King, both divorced and wishing for a new

companion. Jeannie shared with me, wedding photographs last

summer, along with their love story. When they were in line

for fast food, they chatted, as they parted and he shook

her hand, a shock and a shiver went up her arm. Their life

style changed dramatically over the years, motorcycling and

travel was their passion. Unfortunately, Jeannie has lost

her Dennis, her parents and his parents and her son, she is

only five years older than I am, such a kind and sweet,

attractive woman. I thought her special Christmas card to

Mom, with a personal message, merited a thank you from me

to her.

Her message to me had been: “Don’t judge a book by its cover!”

(Since she would never have dreamed of being a ‘biker chick’

in her forties! But that is what she had become once married

to her Dennis.)

The next gift was from my Mom’s cousin, Elaine. My note to her

was thanking her for the Gift of Life. Mom loved her gift of

the gorgeous pot with the bulbs of paperwhites tucked under the

peat moss dirt. I told Elaine about our holidays. I also told

her how Mom had been excited after Christmas to take down her

decorations. She could not wait to put the new planter on a

doily on her shelf outside her apartment door. Many of the

residents like to decorate these as small examples or showcases

for their style and creativity. Her simple, bright green shoots

of the paperwhites were popping out by New Year’s Eve.

Mom had mentioned to me, in one of her recent notes, that she

has been getting compliments on her simple decoration. Some

have felt the message was for a ‘Hope for Spring.’ Elaine is in

her late eighties and I thought her gift such a great idea!

For love, family and remembrance, I thanked my younger cousin,

Holly and her family for the delicious gift of Fannie Mae

chocolates. When Mom opened it, she wanted to share it with us,

but my youngest daughter and I declined, telling her to savor

them, hide them and eat them later, after the holidays. The

beautifully wrapped circular box, ribboned festively with its

golden bow was a perfect gift ‘match’ for my chocolate-loving Mom!

I am always grateful for my brothers’, son’s and daughters’

cooking, baking and sustenance. I had already written my thank

you cards to them. I texted back and forth to my sister in law,

with gratitude for her carefully chosen gifts from South Africa.

I had put off sending these grateful missives long enough! I just

needed to get this ‘chore’ completed. Once finished though, I was

so happy. It is strange how prolonging what you perceive as agony,

often once completed, feels like it was meaningful and you wonder

‘why?’ it took you so long to do it!

I had worried, with my Mom’s memory slipping away, that she would

not follow through on her end. I also think that it never hurts to

double up on thanking someone. It’s always a good idea, to make

sure that the ones who matter the most, know you are filled with

love and gratitude!

Dropping Penmanship

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“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Somehow, this makes me sad

that I didn’t write this in September, back to school time. But I did

know that penmanship was dropped out of the “Common Core.”

State standards, or school curriculum requirements, no longer require

students to be taught handwriting, cursive or what we called

“penmanship.” I liked to write in my nice blocked off letters in my early

primary school years. Making sure the circles that were made for the “d”

and the “b” didn’t “roll off the page!

I remember watching teachers letters forming on the board while

trying to copy their letters to the “T!” I was a little mimic, Mom said I

imitated the teacher’s moves in ballet class with some humorous

flourishes. I tended to want to add flourishes to my cursive once we

learned how to do that form of writing. I liked my “writing handbooks”

and our journals that we would write our thoughts or follow an

assignment. As a sixth grade Language Arts teacher, I liked taking those

precious journals filled with my students’ thoughts and reflections.

There was a lot of “angst” expressed in their writings. Somehow, if

they had been simply written on a computer and then, printed off, the

impact and power of their words, may not have been driven home.

Of course, schools have not immediately stopped these procedures. I

just can see the day happening, now that it is not “required.” There will

be no tests and no answering to anybody about this area of expertise!

Mom found a really nice article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about

a man who still makes lovely designed pens. HIs name is Brian Gray,

he has a “machine shop” where he makes custom pens. He is a “pen

maker.” There are still a wide variety of people who are interested

in purchasing the hand designed fountain pens with a variety of “nibs.”

There are still beautiful Pelikan pens that have a pelican engraved on

it. I think Cross pens are wonderful tools, this article mentioned by

Joe Crea, a reporter, that he considers them, “reliable tools for everyday

use and inexpensive enough” that he wouldn’t “flip out if they’re lost.”

Joe Crea mentions that he still has in his possession, a “vintage Schaeffer,”

a wedding gift to his parents in the late 1940’s. He has a Mont-blanc

Meisterstuck Classique, a gift from his wife on his 40th birthday.

As writers, how many of you jot your thoughts on note cards or paper

in a notebook, before proceeding to the computer to write your posts

as you blog? I still write notes, since I carry them in my purse, they are

on small slips of paper, either stapled together if I am at home, or

clipped together with a bobby pin or paper clip. I go to the library, spill

the words onto the computer, trying to “beat the clock” before the

next person needs to use the computer. I feel blessed that so far, my

“well has not dried.” (Reference to the days when I would use an ink

well. I no longer use in my pen and ink drawings that form of artistic

usage of ink. I used thin point or extra fine point “Sharpies.” They still

resist the watercolors I apply in some of my drawings and children’s

name drawings.

I do like Joe Crea’s line thtaz summed up the downfall of pen and ink

usage,

“Sure, there were issues that drove many users to abandon their

fountain pens: leaking, smudging, staining. Scratchy nibs. Uneven,

stop-start ink flow. The agony of losing a pricey pen.”

How often in your life have you treasured a special pen? Has one come

to you in a gift box, laid on a bed of black felt, maybe in a set? It was

common in my “old days” to receive them, once you graduated from a

level of school, if you had a boss who wanted to reward you or as a special

occasion gift.

The sadness for me is that I can see the days when we won’t appreciate

those scrolling letters. Nor the artistic and creative ways that people write.

There would not need to be writing analysis books and experts who could

tell your personality, simply through the way you wrote.

History of the words “the pen is mightier than the sword:”

George Whetstone (1582)

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (1602)

Robert Burton (1621)

Thomas Jefferson 1796) to Thomas Paine, “Go on doing with your pen

what in other times was done with the sword.”

The person attributed to “coining the actual phrase” was Edward Bulwer-

Lytton, (1839), in his play, “Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy.”

His words in the play were:

“True, This!-

Beneath the rules of men entirely great

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Behold the arch-enchanters wand! Itself a nothing.

But taking the master-hand

To paralyse the Caesars and to strike

the loud earth breathless-

Take away the sword- states can be saved.”