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My New Obsession, Pt. 1

Leave it to me to find a new obsession that isn't altogether decadent, chemically-induced, hugely expensive, or downright obscene/insane. I first learned how to knit last February, and I've loved it since.  This, however, is something else entirely .  .  . Children's Books.  Namely, books by the author Chris Van Allsburg. So far, I've read four of his books, and they're pretty stunning actually. This new obsession started out as a curiosity really.  A few weeks ago, I was watching tv with my niece and nephew and put on the show Reading Rainbow--a show I've always loved watching since I was a kid.  At the end of each episode, they briefly showcase various books that they recommend to their viewers. Imagine the sight of my Asian ears perking up when they started talking about a book called "The Garden of Abdul Gasazi".  The illustrations really caught my attention as well as the title of the book itself.  It was all quite enchanting.  The cover of the book, with animals carved out of various shrubs and bushes was enough to seer this book into my memory .   .  .  .  . Not long thereafter, I looked on amazon(DOT)com to see if it was available and affordable.  (It sure is, thank goodness!)  A few days ago, I checked the library down the road from my house, and they had it as well.  I am currently enjoying this borrowed copy until I eventually order one of my own at some point. Here are some photos of the artwork.  I truly LOVE this .  .  . These illustrations complement the story perfectly, and oh what a story it is!!!!   This book exemplifies everything about what a great children's book should be.  It tells a wonderful story with gorgeous illustration and, by the end of the book, infuses a sense of imaginative wonder in its young reader. I have come to find out that this was Chris Van Allsburg's first children's book and only the first of MANY to come.  He writes the stories AND does the illustrations for them.  This debut book won him numerous awards and recognition, paving the way for a long career in this magical craft of children's books. Thus far, I've also read these other books of his:Just A DreamThe Wretched Stone and finally, The Stranger These three others are also quite excellent, but I would venture to guess that The Stranger is probably among his BEST works.  I can't explain it, but together with Allsburg's illustrations, this is a truly special book.  When I finished reading it, I was absolutely quite in awe of the imagination one must have to write this story.  The Stranger stands along with The Garden of Abdul Gasazi as my favorites so far. What boggles my mind is that he's written and illustrated even MORE than the 4 books I've just read. OMG!!!  I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of them!!! Needless to say, as long as there are copies available, I will be starting a collection of Chris Van Allsburg's books as soon as humanly possible. I'll be featuring more of his work soon. -gordon

Exploring History Through Children’s Literature

On Author's Den

It is difficult to say just how much the children of today either care or do not care about history. Naturally there are some out there that have a real appreciation for the past. I know I was once one of those children, and for me it was a deep affinity for the medieval and renaissance periods.

From time to time, myself included, authors make an attempt in children’s literature to tell a moral of the story, or to draw interest in a subject, in some cases history. As to the latter, our connection to the past matters in so far as where we are now can be understood by where we have been. Otherwise, an interest in the past can be a longing for, and enjoyment in delving into, a mythic age. I remember reading King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, written by Roger Lancelyn Green, when I was around eleven years old. And it was this and other books from the genre at the time that kept me interested in the times following the fall of Rome.

Later in life, with more serious study, I came to learn more about the realities of the medieval period, and the time period lost some of its “mythic feel.” But I still had and still do have a love for the period from both an educational and entertainment standpoint. Moreover, this love has provided much inspiration to me to expand my creativity and effort to write Netherworld Dreams.

The moral of a story is nevertheless important. However, instilling in the reader a desire to learn about history is something this author believes is a worthy endeavor. The book I read as a child mentioned above is just one other out there.

Exploring history through children’s literature is sometimes more effective than the formal teaching of the subject, whereas children may find it more interesting to read fiction that is based in some past setting. Rather than reading a book about dates and facts, children tend to enjoy stories more than textbook prose – this is an understatement. Stories inspire and inspiration in a time period can lead to an interest in and study of history. The stories surrounding the dark ages or medieval period I read as a child inspired me, and when it was time to learn of theses epochs in history in my youth I was excited to listen to the lectures. And I began to study said past on my own.

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