Friday, December 26, 2014

Goodbye 2014 - Welcome 2015 Sale at Birdhouse Books

Hi vintage friends!  Just a short note to let you know that I am running a huge sale at my eBay store through midnight on Sunday, January 4.  This is a real "clear the shelves" sale with everything marked 25% - 50% off.  You'll find vintage children's books, vintage Christmas cards and ornaments, vintage Valentines, Roadside Americana postcards, cookbooks, and more.  I hope you'll stop by and shop!   Just click here to visit:  Birdhouse Books.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!  Looking forward to chatting life, books, all things vintage, and Downton Abbey here in the New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: Reindeer Dust - Kate Dwyer and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Reindeer Dust is a picture book for children written by Kate Dwyer and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.  This Christmas story is about Santa's reindeer, who are tired from work one year.   A smart little boy named William comes up with a recipe for reindeer dust to attract and feed the reindeer.

The book includes a poem for children to read on Christmas Eve, and a recipe for reindeer dust.  (It contains brown sugar, oats, and bran.)

The story is told in rhyme, and it would make a fun read aloud for preschool age children.   The illustrations are charming with a retro inspired flare and an appealing color palette of seafoam green with pastels and red.

I think this book (and the reindeer dust activity!) would make a fun annual tradition.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: Fiddler on the Roof (50th Anniversary Reissue)

Fiddler on the Roof was reissued in book format (Crown Publishers) in 2014 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Broadway play.  The play, based on Sholem Aleichem's stories, has a book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of Tevye and his family, living in Anatevka, Russia, in 1905.  Tevye delivers milk in the village.  He has a sharp-tongued wife, Golde, and five daughters.  The three oldest daughters are young women who are interested in romance and matrimony, although they have ambivalent feelings about matchmaking.  This is seen in the song "Matchmaker, Matchmaker."  The town matchmaker suggests that Tevye's oldest daughter, Tzeitel, should marry the village butcher, Lazar.  Tzeitel has other ideas about this match, since she is in love with a tailor that she has known since childhood, Motel.  

After Tzeitel finds her match, her sister Hodel falls in love with a young man who is political named Perchik, a tutor to the girls in the family.  Then sister Chava falls in love with Fyedka, a young man who is not Jewish.  Each romance takes the family further from the tradition they grew up with.

As the play moves on, there is more political unrest, and Jews are being forced to leave their homes and villages.  As Tevye's family prepares to move, a fiddler plays a song.  Life with family and love and traditions will go on, but it will be different.

I grew up in a family that loved musicals - both movies and plays.  I have heard the soundtrack to this play many times and enjoyed the 1971 movie starring Chaim Topol, but I had never read the play.  I really enjoyed reading the lyrics to the songs I grew up listening to and reading the story with its humor, warmth, and gravity.

I heartily recommend this play to anyone who loves theater.  I am sure that I will enjoy rereading it again in the future.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Aoléon The Martian Girl by Brent LeVasseur

Aoléon The Martian Girl: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Saga - Part 1: First Contact is a middle grade level children's book written and illustrated by Brent LeVasseur.  It is science fiction - fantasy genre.  From the cover of the book readers know they are in for a fun adventure.  The bold and colorful design hints at the fun that awaits readers!

The book is 94 pages with chapters entitled:  Dreams, First Contact, Flying Cows, Situation Room, Martian Megalopolis. 

The novel opens with a young boy named Gilbert Sullivan waking up from a bad dream.  He lives on a farm in Nebraska, and always dreams vividly before crop circles are found in his area.  When he wishes to travel far away, past the moon, he gets his wish in an unexpected way.

Gilbert is watching from a telescope in his bedroom with his cat Xena when he sees an unusual light.  He goes outside to explore and the adventure begins as he meets a Martian girl named Aoléon.  They are chased by Gilbert's neighbor, Farmer Johnson, and his basset hound, Tripod.  However, Gilbert and Aoléon escape and take off in a flying saucer above a field of levitating cows.  

Young readers will enjoy Gilbert and Aoléon's adventurous travels traveling above earth, chased by an officer from the U.S. Air Force.

They end up traveling to Aoléon's home planet of Mars.  The descriptions and pictures of Mars are fascinating.  Gilbert's experiences on the distant planet are sure to intrigue young readers and encourage them to read on.  There are five exciting books in this series!

The illustrations throughout this book are exceptional.  They are plentiful, and the design is bold and fresh, sure to draw a young reader into the story.

The storytelling is fast paced, with engaging characters that children will enjoy.  The book has a great blend of description and dialogue, ideal for a reluctant reader or any child who likes fast-paced science fiction.
Buy the Book:

Buy The Martian Girl Song!

Another World - Single
Featuring Élan Noelle
Download on iTunes
About​ the Author:

Mr. LeVasseur enjoys crafting good stories based on lovable characters designed to translate well to multiple media formats such as books, games, movies, and toys. He lives in New York when he is not commuting between Southern California and Olympus Mons, Mars. His hobbies include writing, 3D animation, musical composition, and intergalactic space travel. He also enjoys various sports such as skiing, running, and exospheric skydiving.

Connect with Brent: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Aoléon: The Martian Girl 

I received this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Liesl's Ocean Rescue

Liesl's Ocean Rescue is a picture book by Barbara Krasner, illustrated by Avi Katz.  This moving story for children is based on a real life person, Liesl Joseph Loeb.  Liesl was 10 years old when she left Germany with her parents in 1939. They traveled with 900 other Jewish refugees on the MS St. Louis to Havana, Cuba.

Incredibly, the boat was turned away in Cuba and also could not find harbor in the United States.  Liesl's father negotiated with the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's Paris Office and found refuge for the boat's passengers.

This book has a powerful message for elementary school level children about Jewish history and the power of heroic people to overcome.  There is a historical note by the author at the end of the book, as well as a list of books and DVDs for further study.  

Liesl's Ocean Rescue is movingly told, with a narrative that begins in Germany in 1938 and ends with safety for the MS St. Louis passengers in 1939.  Liesl is a brave and inspiring girl, and she will capture the hearts of young readers.  The illustrations by Avi Katz are beautifully done.

I highly recommend this book for young readers, for classroom study, and for home libraries.   

About the Author and Illustrator:

Barbara Krasner is a historian and professor of creative writing. She publishes the popular blog, The Whole Megillah: The Writer’s Resource for Jewish-Themed Story. She runs workshops and conferences for Jewish writers at the Highlights Foundation and in conjunction with the Association of Jewish Libraries. Barbara has a B.A. in German from Douglass College, an M.B.A. in Marketing from the Rutgers Business School and an M.F.A. in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a candidate for the M.A. in Applied Historical Studies at William Paterson University.
Connect with Barbara Krasner online:

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Blog

Illustrator Avi Katz was born in Philadelphia where he studied in the Schechter and Akiba schools as well as the Fleischer Art Memorial. After three years at U.C. Berkeley he moved to Israel at age 20, where he graduated in Fine Arts from the Bezalel Art Academy. He was the staff artist of the Jerusalem Report Magazine from its first issue in 1990 until 2012, and is active in the international Cartooning for Peace program. He has illustrated over 160 books in Israel and the U.S. including the National Jewish Book Award winning JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible. His books have also won the IBBY Hans Christian Andersen Honors four times and Israel’s Ze’ev Prize six times. His art has been exhibited in Israel, America and Europe.

Connect with Avi  Katz online:


Book Trailer:

Where To Buy The Book:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review: Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb is a nostalgic short novel set in 1964 Connecticut.  The book tells the story of Felix Funicello (distant cousin of Annette) and his adventures in fifth grade from early in the school year through the Christmas pageant.

Felix has a loving family who own a lunch counter by the town bus depot.  He is a bright child (with a quick wit) and he bears a resemblance to comic strip character Dondi.  I was not familiar with Dondi, so I looked up the character and found this picture:

Felix wants to best the other academic star in the class, an unctious little girl named Rosalie Twerski.  He wants to spend time with friends, including Lonny Flood and new girl Zhenya Kabakova.  He wants to get along with the nuns who are his teachers, including the moody Sister M. Dymphna and her replacement, Madame Marguerite Frechette.  He wants to survive the Christmas pageant, with all the drama it brings to his fifth grade classroom.

This is a short novel, told with great humor and vivid characterizations.  I loved the nostalgic description of a 1964 childhood.  This book reminded me a bit of the movie A Christmas Story, and even more so, the writing of Jean Shepherd (whose stories inspired that movie).  I would recommend it highly for a holiday read.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Great Pretenders Giveaway Event 12/5 - 12/19

Welcome to the Great Pretenders Imaginative Play Giveaway Event hosted by Life With Two Boys!

Do you know the major benefits of pretend play? No? Well, read on to learn more and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Children learn by imagining and doing. The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas. Dress-up play is vital to a child’s development. According to licensed child psychologist Dr. Laurie Zelinger, “It fosters the imaginative processes, and allows for play without rules or script. Dress up allows for experimentation, role play and fantasy.“

Major benefits include:

1. Social and Emotional Skills
Dress up allows for experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, children learn societal rules such as how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. Character play means that the child is "walking in someone else's shoes” and it encourages teamwork along with an interest in peers. The child also learns to negotiate  which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. Since children see the world form their own point of view, cooperative play helps them understand the feelings of others.

2. Language Skills
When children engage in pretend play, you will hear words and phrases you never thought they knew. Pretend play requires children to invent and tell stories and since almost all children narrate their pretend play experiences, they train their minds to transform ideas into words. Children usually mimic words and ideas from parents, teachers, daycare or what they hear on TV. This repetition builds vocabulary and helps kids visualize what they say, especially when adults offer feedback to help kids better understand the words they use. This also helps with grammar – they may not know the rules but they are training themselves  to speak like adults. This also helps make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help them to read.

3. Self-Control
Young kids typically have little self-control. During pretend play, children have to take a role and play within those boundaries, especially when other kids are involved. Studies show that children control their impulses significantly better during pretend play than at other times. Did you ever wonder why parents often make up a game to get their children to eat their vegetables or finish chores? Transforming an unappealing task into a make-believe game is a popular trick among clever parents and educators.

4. Problem Solving Skills
Pretend play also provides your child with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it’s the logistics of sharing toys or a pretend problem the children are escaping from, the child calls upon important cognitive thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever. Role playing games lead children to face situations that far exceed kids' real-life experiences. Children work out confusing, scary, or new life issues. Through these role plays, children become more comfortable and prepared for life events in a safe way. Children often use pretend play to work out more personal challenging life events too, whether it is coping with an illness in the family, the absence of a parent or divorce, or a house fire. Although kids may not always act logically during tough pretend dilemmas, the very process of problem solving becomes habitual. By practicing problem solving in an artificial environment, kids are better prepared to think of creative solutions to their own real-life problems.

5. Self-esteem: By giving your child complete control in their pretend world and accepting them as a silly character, you are enhancing their self-esteem. While they use their own initiative to develop story lines, their creative imagination to expand stories and their own personality to choose a character they enjoy, you are enhancing their self-esteem by allowing them complete power in the world & enjoying it with them. Take for example superheroes. Considering the thrill children get out of pretending to be a grown-up, it's no wonder that they're also crazy about mimicking the most powerful version of adults: superheroes. Pretending to be Batman or Wonder Woman allows a toddler to feel brave and invincible, which helps them develop self-confidence. Similarly, all that running and leaping keeps them active and builds strength, balance, and coordination.

At Great Pretenders they believe that “dress-up” is so much more than just putting on a costume, which is why they offer a large variety of creative, pretend-play toys that would light up any child's imagination.

“Confidence is brought about in children by the realization that they have the ability to be anybody they want in this life and accomplish anything they desire. Our goal at Great Pretenders is to help kids achieve that level of confidence and to start young” ~Kate Muddiman, Creative Director, Great Pretenders

Great Pretenders
Life With Two Boys

**Win It**
Thanks to Great Pretenders, three lucky readers are going to win a super fun product to inspire imaginative play in their kiddos. 

The prizes up for grabs are:
*Reversible Super Girl Set
*Sleeping Cutie Dress
*Adventure Cape 

There will be one winner for each of the prizes listed above. This giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada, ages 18+. This giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 19th. 

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Good Luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Life With Two Boys, View from the Birdhouse, and the rest of the participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Peter Pan - On TV and In Vintage Books

The musical Peter Pan is going to be broadcast live on television on November 4, 2014, with Allison Williams in the role of Peter.  This classic musical first appeared on Broadway in 1954 with Mary Martin as Peter Pan.  Later it was broadcast on television (always on NBC) in 1955, 1956, and 1960.  The 1960 broadcast was played annually and children who grew up in the 1960's will remember it fondly.

I always loved the story of Peter Pan as a girl.  I loved the annual Peter Pan musical that appeared on TV, and I also loved the story in picture book format - and later the original J.M. Barrie book as well.  I try to keep several editions of Peter Pan in my store.  You'll find them here:  Peter Pan visits Birdhouse Books.  All of the pictures below are from the bookshelves of my store.

Walt Disney's Story Book of Peter Pan is from 1953:

This edition of Peter Pan was from 1956, and illustrated by Ruth Woods.  (I had a copy of this as a child and loved it!)

This 1980 Wonder Book of Peter Pan was illustrated by Beatrice Derwinski.  It's really cute.

This newer edition is a Walt Disney Little Golden Book from 1991:

In case you'd like to see Mary Martin as Peter Pan, you'll find a video below from the 1956 production.  At the very end of the 4 minute video, you'll find a charming old commercial as well.  I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Littlest Angel

I first heard the story of The Littlest Angel in the 1969 Christmas Hallmark TV movie starring Johnny Whitaker ("Jody" from Family Affair) and Fred Gwynne ("Herman Munster" from The Munsters).   As a child I was moved by this story about a little boy who becomes an angel.  In the true spirit of sharing, he wants to give a box of his personal treasures to Baby Jesus.

The Littlest Angel was written by Charles Tazewell.  It started as a radio play in 1939 and was first published in book edition in 1946.  There are a number of picture book editions of this story, both old and new, and I always try to keep several copies on my bookshelves at Birdhouse Books It is a sweet, nostalgic Christmas book for children.   All the copies pictured here are from my store and can be found at my store link.

This 1960 Wonder Books edition has the classic illustrations by Katherine Evans:

This hardcover edition is from 1961, and also was illustrated by Katherine Evans:

This undated vintage edition is a board book with a die-cut window.  It's really charming and unusual!

 This newer edition (1991) was illustrated by Paul Michich:

This is a lovely religious Christmas story for young children.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Vintage Santa and Me Photo Folders

Do you remember taking photos with Santa as a child at Christmas time?  They always gave you a photo to commemorate the event.  The photos were in cute little folders like these.   I found some "Santa and Me" photo folders from the 1950's.  They are old store stock - unused - and would be so cute with a photo of your child or grandchild.  The designs are so charming that I wanted to share them with you.  (Of course, they are all at Birdhouse Books!)

My Visit With Santa - with Santa Claus waving from a helicopter:

Santa and Me - children watch a deer from a window at their home:

Santa and Me - children help Dad take a Christmas tree home.  Their Beagle is accompanying them:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Music Monday - "Walkin' Back to Happiness" by Helen Shaprio (1961)

Helen Shapiro was a 14 year old teenager when she recorded "Walkin' Back to Happiness" in 1961.  She had a pop career in the early 1960's in London, and The Beatles toured as her supporting act during 1963.  Helen Shapiro is famous for rejecting a Beatles composition.  Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote "Misery" for her, but she decided not to record it. 

I first heard "Walkin' Back to Happiness" this year on the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! series Breathless.  I liked it from first listen, and find it perfect for a Monday morning.