Easter Gnomes













It’s a bit late, but these are so sweet, I had to share them. These vintage and German Easter cards with gnomes are too cute.

Top 10 Winter Books for Children

The Story of the Snow Children

Here are our Top 10 Winter Books for Children. These are our tried-and-true, beloved “read-it-again” books. Many are inexpensive paperbacks, and you might even find some at your local library or used bookstore. I needn’t rank them, I think. If you do delve into any of these with your children, please comment here and tell me what you think. Also, please tell me if you have other favorite winter books to share!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic. You probably read it when you were a child. Have you seen this book lately? The simple text beautifully describes a sweet day of snow play and all of the experiences of snowy weather that would appeal to young children. The boy, Peter, pays attention to his footprints, finds a just-right stick, makes snow angels, pretends, and tries to keep a snowball in his pocket. When he comes inside, his mama helps him take off his wet socks. Sound familiar?

Snow by Cynthia Rylant gently reminds us that playing outside among the drifts and snowflakes and then being snug and warm at home are the great gifts of snow. Others are angels, new friends, and the reminder that only memories last forever. “It will say that it is all right to be happy.” I like books that say that we can be happy in simple things, such as tumbling down a hill or taking a walk to see how beautiful the world is. Underneath all this lovely snow, the flowers are sleeping and the soft green gardens wait.


When Winter Comes by Nancy Van Laan answers some very good questions about how birds and animals adapt to winter’s cold temperatures. Chances are good that your children have asked these exact questions of you at some time. The language is lyrical and rhyming. A mommy, daddy, and child explore nature together to find out what happens “when winter comes and the cold winds blow.” I feel this book models how you can enjoy nature outdoors even when it’s cold and dark in winter.

This one we don’t own, but we are greatly enjoying our library copy. Animals in Winter, by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder, explains in simple language what the birds, butterflies, bats, woodchuck, pikas, squirrels, mice, deer, rabbits, and foxes do to survive the cold season of winter. The authors deftly explain the concepts of migration, hibernation, food storage, foraging, and hunting as survival techniques. The book also tells you how you can help birds find enough food in winter by building bird feeders and keeping them supplied with seeds, nuts, and fruits.

Another science-oriented library book that nevertheless is filled with wonder at the beauty inherent in snow crystals is The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson, Ph.D. There are several amazing snow crystal photography books on the market, but this one does the best job of explaining to children how snow crystals form. The macro photography is beautiful and your child may gasp with delight upon seeing the intricate shapes that snow crystals form in nature. These photos make my heart soar.

The Story of Snow

The Tomten is a perennial favorite. We have a beat-up old paperback copy that we read again and again. This book was adapted by Astrid Lindgren from a poem by Viktor Rydberg and has a delightfully slow pace. Not much happens, and what does happens in a repetitious and comforting way, just the kind of simple rhythm that young children respond to so well. A Tomten takes care of the animals of the farm during the dead of night, when everyone is sleeping and no one can see him. No one has ever seen him, but they know he is there. He whispers to the cows in tomten language, “Winters come and winters go, Summers come and summers go, Soon you can graze in the fields.” He has a similarly reassuring message for the horses, the sheep, and the chickens. He is a special friend of the dog. He wishes the children were awake so he could talk to them, too, in tomten language that they can understand, but of course children sleep through the night.

The Tomten

Sybille von Olfers is a favorite among Waldorf-oriented families for good reasons. The Snow Children is the story of Poppy, who goes to play outside when her mother is running an errand away from home. She meets the snow children, who happily take her to visit the Snow Queen. She travels through the snowy woods to the Queen’s ice castle on a sledge pulled by Swirly-Wind. She meets the Snow Queen and the Princess, and gets to join in her birthday celebration featuring white chocolate and sweet ice-cold tea. After a fine time, Poppy is ready to return home to her mother, and eagerly tells her all about her adventures.

The Story of the Snow Children

Winter Waits by Lynn Plourde is part of her series of seasonal books, all of which are illustrated by Greg Couch. In this story, Winter is personified as a rambunctious little boy who tries to get his dad, Father Time, to play with him. Unfortunately, Dad is working. While he waits, Winter paints the grass with frost and makes the world sparkle with white. Dad asks him to be patient a bit more. In the meantime, Winter carves ice sculptures out of mountain waterfalls. He wants to show Father Time his creation, but the father’s work still isn’t done. So the boy cuts intricate snowflakes and sprinkles them about. Finally, when presented with the miracle gift of a snowflake, Father says, “Thank you, my son, you fill me with pride.” And then they play, play, play together in that special way that fathers and sons do. This story captures that excruciating waiting that so often accompanies childhood, the exuberance that comes when the wait is finally over, and the special bond between fathers and sons.

Winter Waits

Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root is a magical tale about an old woman who keeps a flock of geese. All through the spring and summer, Grandmother Winter carefully gathers the goose feathers that the birds drop. In the autumn, she begins to sew a quilt and fills it with feathers. Grandmother shakes out her finished quilt and causes the snowflakes to begin to fall. Children catch the flakes on their tongues and grown-ups stack the firewood high, and the animals get ready to slumber under the mud of the pond or in their cozy dens. She climbs into bed under her new quilt—fine as a blanket of snow—to stay warm through the winter, and her geese tuck their heads under their wings to wait for spring. I adore the artwork by Beth Krommes.

Grandmother Winter

Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr are three Swedish boys in a series of books by Maj Lindman. Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the The Yellow Sled is a gentle story that my sons love. The brothers see a fancy yellow sled in a shop window and ask their mother if they can earn the money to buy the sled, which they can all ride at the same time. Mother agrees and gives them special chores to do to earn the money. The boys go about their tasks cheerfully—washing dishes, helping with the cooking, doing laundry and the shopping, and scrubbing and dusting the house—just as you want your own children to do. They even bring Mother tea, flowers, and cake on her birthday. After two weeks, Mother agrees to take them to the shop to buy the sled. When they arrive there, they see a little boy who also dearly desires to have the yellow sled, but whose family cannot afford it. The boys agree to give the yellow sled they have earned to the less fortunate boy, and they make him and his siblings so happy in doing so. Mother is pleased with their generosity and agrees to let Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr earn another yellow sled for themselves. I love the example these brothers set with their helpfulness and generosity.

Treasure: Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

I don’t own this little treasure, Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, by Julia Rawlinson, but I will someday. This sweet book is one I discovered because I enjoy the illustrations of Tiphanie Beeke, who illustrated The Stars Will Still Shine, by Cynthia Rylant, a book I wrote about a while ago here.

The Soft, Swishing Sound of Summer Was Fading to a Crinkly Whisper

Rawlinson has created a touching story of a little fox named Fletcher (Ferdie in the UK) who has a favorite tree. When the autumn weather comes and the tree begins to lose leaves, Fletcher becomes worried and tries to help his friend keep its leaves.

Fletcher and His Mama in Their Den

Fletcher Caught It in His Paw

Each day, more and more leaves turn brown and flutter down to the ground.

The Leaves Began to Wriggle Free

Little Lost Leaves Spun Everywhere

This painting is marvelous, full of movement and emotion. This is rather what winter looks like to me, as we get no snow where we live. The autumn leaves hang onto the trees well into December until eventually the winds and the rains knock them off. Then everything becomes muted browns and soft greens and foggy grays.

Friendly Birds Try to Put the Leaves Back On

Fletcher even tries to get the friendly birds to put the leaves back on the tree.

Sadly He Carries the Last Leaf

When all the leaves have fallen off, Fletcher feels that he has failed his friend.

"You are more beautiful than ever"

The next morning he discovers his tree covered with silver icicles.  Winter has arrived and it’s breathtaking. “’You are more beautiful than ever,’ whispered Fletcher. ‘But are you all right?’
‘A tiny breeze shivered the branches, making a sound like laughter, and in the light of the rising sun, the sparkling branches nodded.’

Fletcher’s naive experience of the turning of the seasons is moving. He makes discoveries in nature with a childlike wonder that is ever so appealing. Paired with Beeke’s evocative illustrations, Rawlinson’s book is pure delight. I see that Rawlinson has written two other Fletcher stories as well: Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas and Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms. Both are also illustrated by Beeke.

My Winter Book Recommendations

Treasure: The Animal Fair

Birds in the Fall

In the Fall

I walk on yellow leaves in fall,
And see the earth from summer turning.

I hear the brown birds’ distant call,
And smell the autumn fires burning.

Soon all the leaves will fade and die,
The last wild birds will rise and roam.

The wind will blow and snow will fly.
But I’ll be warm and safe at home.


This poem and art is from The Animal Fair by Alice and Martin Povensen, which is one of the grooviest Golden Books ever published (originally 1952). Bergin Streetman posted about it on Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves, coincidentally on Asher’s birthday this year, so you can see more there. This book is chock-full of amazing artwork, poems, jokes, and stories. It’s very fun.


Isn’t this lovely?

Treasure: Giving Thanks

"Giving Thanks" by Jonathan London

We have owned this treasure of a book by Jonathan London for a number of years. It is more than a Thanksgiving book and I realize we should read it more often because it’s not just a seasonal story, although the setting is clearly autunn. The paintings are by Gregory Manchess, who is, according to the book jacket, a self-taught artist. (Wow!)

"Thank you, Mother Earth. Thank you, Father Sky," "Giving Thanks" by Jonathan London

A father and son take a walk in the woods. The father says “thank you” to all the wonders he encounters along the way, leading his son by example. There is no plot; just a nature walk.

“Thank you, Mother Earth. Thank you, Father Sky. Thank you for this day.”

He thanks the trees, "Giving Thanks" by Jonathan London

“Like his Indian friends—singers and storytellers—Dad believes that the things of nature are a gift. And that in return, we must give something back. We must give thanks.”

It makes you feel good, "Giving Thanks" by Jonathan London

Thank you, Hawk, "Giving Thanks," by Jonathan London

I like the message of this book, which dovetails so beautifully with Waldorf education’s attitude of reverence: That nature is valuable even in its smallest expression, such as the “tiny beings with six or eight legs, weaving their tiny stories close to the earth.” That we are privileged to witness and walk among the plants and creatures of our earth. That we should be grateful for all the beauty and opportunity nature provides. And that gratitude is a practice—something that we work at and nourish within us. It makes you feel good.

Treasure: Nicolo’s Unicorn

I found this gorgeous book, Nicolo’s Unicorn, online a few years ago and I have to say, I love it. It was written by Sylvaine Nahas and illustrated by Bimba Landmann. My copy is a first edition published by Watson-Guptill Publications and printed in Italy in 2001.

This is a inspiring story paired with beautiful artwork that reminds me of medieval paintings. The pages are gilded with gold metallic ink so the book shimmers in places on every page—the moon, the stars, the unicorn’s horn, and leaves.

Nicolo's Unicorn Nicolo's Unicorn Nicolo's Unicorn

Nicolo lives in Venice. He is always daydreaming about meeting a unicorn with a golden horn and a silver mane. Everyone tells Nicolo he is being silly, “You know there’s no such thing as a unicorn.”

Nicolo's Unicorn

Nicolo's Unicorn

He has trouble concentrating in school, and when his teacher asks him what he’s daydreaming about he tells her. “I bet it will be able to run very fast. Do you think it will let me ride on its back?” Nicolo’s answer doesn’t impress his teacher.

Nicolo's Unicorn

His wish is so earnest that he cannot eat. Nicolo’s mother asks him why he hasn’t eaten his dinner. “I’m dreaming about meeting a unicorn…. I bet it will eat tiny magic white flowers. Do you think it will let me taste one?”

Nicolo's Unicorn

As he gazes up to the moon, his aunt asks Nicolo the same question, “What are you daydreaming about?” He tells her he thinks his unicorn will be able to fly all the way to the moon!

“Dont be silly,” says his aunt. “You know there’s no such thing as a unicorn. Now stop daydreaming and let’s go home!”

But Nicolo doesn’t want to stop. The next day he runs to his grandfather’s house to ask if he knows where to find a unicorn. Indeed, grandfather does know.

Nicolo's Unicorn

“Look in colors and paintbrushes. You can make unicorns appear with your very own hands. Look in flutes and tambourines. You will hear them galloping in the music. Look in the books you read. You will find a unicorn lurking behind every page.

“Your unicorn does exist, Nicolo…. Don’t ever stop looking, even when you’re all grown up. Don’t ever stop dreaming about meeting a unicorn.”

Nicolo's Unicorn: Detail

Old Treasure: The Wicked Kings of Bloon

The Wicked Kings of Bloon is written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg and is copyrighted 1970. Kellogg is the author and/or illustrator of many books for kids, as you can see on his website, including Is Your Mama A Llama by Deborah Guarino, a favorite in our house. As you can see, I have had Bloon since I was young enough not to realize that I shouldn’t be writing “Scool Book” on my books. My hardback copy was purchased for $1.00 probably about 1975, but that’s really just a guess.

Scool Book The Wicked Kings of Bloon

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

Kellogg’s artwork is amazing—rich and colorful, textured and emotional. To my eye, it appears to be both watercolors and colored pencils.

The story contains several morals, the main one being that war is wrong and doesn’t make anyone happier.

“Bloon is a summer land of warm golden fields and tiny villages. The gentle folk who lived there spend their days walking through the flowers, telling silly stories, and snoozing in the sun.”

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

The citizens of East Bloon are happy, simple people living in a bucolic world near the Land of Monsters, but that isn’t a problem for them at all …

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

… until “the meanest hag of them all,” Hepzibah, raises her twin sons, Horridge and Heathfern, to despise one another. See how wicked she is? She’s about to mow down that flower!

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

“‘HORRRRRRRRIDGE! Horridge, you little wretch, why can’t you do anything right? Why can’t you be like Heathfern?'”

“‘HEATHFERN, you ugly beast, why are you so clumsy and awful? Why can’t you do anything right? Why can’t you be like Horridge?'”

That would do it, don’t you think?

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

By the time the boys were twenty, they had flattened their miserable shack with their fighting and Hepzibah kicked them out. “‘I hate you,’ hissed Horridge. ‘I’ll get you,’ spat Heathfern.”

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

Horridge left the Land of Monsters and came to the peaceful village of East Bloon, “where he found the happy villagers giggling, tickling each other, and dancing around the square.” Horridge decided he wanted to be king of East Bloon, so he threatened the villagers. “‘Unless you make me your king, I will topple the tower of your town hall at dawn tomorrow!'” And with the help of a powerful magnet, he did. The villagers, not knowing what else to do, made him their king and brought him all of their precious treasures.

The Wicked Kings of Bloon The Wicked Kings of Bloon The Wicked Kings of Bloon The Wicked Kings of Bloon

Horridge grew fat from eating all day and all night. “He insulted the ladies. He punched the village elders. He threw things at the members of his court. And still he was not happy.” One day, he spied through his spyglass the friendly neighboring village of West Bloon, only there was a fat, horrible king looking back at him. Heathfern! “‘EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-YOG!’ shrieked Horridge.” And the once-peaceful village of East Bloon began to prepare for war. “The last whisper of joy went out of life in East Bloon.”

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

Horridge went to the Land of Monsters and enslaved a giant, cuddly monster, wrenching him away from the arms of his beloved, to be a beast of war. “For days, the gentle creature lay in chains grieving for his mate in the mountain cave while the court blacksmiths scurried about measuring him for a suit of armor.”

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

In time, the fateful day of battle came. Soldiers from both East Bloon and West Bloon marched out of their fortified cities. “‘Smash them! Smash them! Bash them! Crush them!’ bellowed the kings.” The war beast of East Bloon lumbered forward, until he recognized his beloved, covered tip to toe in armor of her(?) own to fight on the side of West Bloon.

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

“Crying out for joy, the two happy animals toppled their riders, tore off their metal plates, and fell gurgling into each other’s arms.” This was the wake-up call that the villagers needed. They whispered and conferred among themselves, and then dethroned the kings Horridge and Heathfern, in favor of a peaceful United Kingdom of Bloon.

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

The trappings of war were thrown off and demolished. “The East Bloon band broke into a joyous tune and the armies flung themselves into a rousing polka.” Since the brothers could not put aside their differences and join the villagers in a peaceful life …

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

… the villagers sent them flying …

The Wicked Kings of Bloon

… right back to their hag mother.

This is the first book I can remember tackling the idea of war. That these gentle people could be convinced by bullies to abandon their happy pursuits and go to war really bothered me. I used to wonder why Hepzibah was so cruel, and how anyone could think parting those two gentle creatures was OK. I guess the story is a product of its time and it was very powerful to me.

I pulled this book out last week and read it to my boys for the first time. Lucas was appropriately aghast at the behavior displayed by Hepzibah, Horridge, and Heathfern. So, I’d say the book is still doing its job.

Old Treasure: Cinderella

Front Cover Cinderella

This 6 1/2 inch by 8 1/4 inch copy of Cinderella has been mine for as long as I can remember. I think it belonged to my father before me. It’s a Wonder Books edition retold by Evelyn Andreas with illustrations by Ruth Ives, copyright 1954. The title page and inside front cover are decorated with “letters” drawn in blue ballpoint ink—probably they are my handiwork, but possibly my father’s.

She Did Her Best to Make Them Beautiful

I can remember poring over this book for hours as a girl. I was fascinated by the rich, velvety illustrations, which were different from the prevailing and still ubiquitous Disney Cinderella images. I used to wonder what exactly made the stepsisters look ugly.

"I am you fairy godmother."

Also, I used to try to decide who was more beautiful—Cinderella or her fairy godmother, with her green chiffon gown and tiny ankles. The fairy’s yellow hair and wings were captivating.

The Mice Became Six Prancing White Horses

Even the horses were beautiful, and I was a big fan of horses—especially magical white ones.

Magnificent Ballgown of Golden Silk

But the piece de resistance, to my young heart, was the golden gown of silk that Cinderella wore. She is so glamorous and dainty.

At the Ball

Of course, the Prince falls madly in love with her, forsaking all of his other guests at the ball. “Indeed, Cinderella and the Prince were the handsomest couple on the dance floor. And the Prince never left Cinderella’s side.”

The Clock Struck Midnight

Cinderella flees at the first note of twelve midnight, but it is too late. The coach, footmen, and horses vanish and she walks home alone. (The little rock was holding the book open for me.)

The Prince himself goes door to door looking for his beloved, and although they try, Cinderella’s stepsisters cannot fit the sole glass slipper Cinderella had left behind on the palace steps. Cinderella shyly asks to try the slipper on. I am glad she asks for herself.

Happily Ever After

I used to gaze at this illustration a lot, too. The page begins with “A great wedding was held.” Why don’t we get to see the wedding, I wondered. How genteel that they are dining in the woods, except—they have no food. They are completely absorbed in each other. This was what “happily ever after” meant to me.

The inside back cover advertises over 150 wonderful Wonder Books, with washable covers and “new, long-life binding.” The binding on my book holding up pretty well; the spine is broken, however, and I can see the stitching. The book’s price when new was 29¢. I think whoever bought this book would be pleased. We got our money’s worth, I think.

Old Treasure: Beauty and the Beast


We have had this lovely book for several years now. I found it at the used bookstore for just a few dollars and I’m so happy to own it! It’s Beauty and the Beast, by Marie LePrince de Beaumont and it is illustrated by Hilary Knight. I absolutely adore the illustrations! They are elegant, vivid, and clean, full of flowing lines and organic shapes. I’m no art historian, but I think they may be reminiscent of Art Deco graphics. I am mesmerized by all the bird and feather motifs throughout the book. Beauty looks rather like Audrey Hepburn.

MacMillan published this 10- by 13-inch book in 1963. I don’t know if this is a first printing or subsequent one. The book was printed in Italy and was previously owned by Gary Dorville, whoever he may be.

Beauty's Merchant Father Says Good-Bye

Beauty says good-bye to her merchant father. Her sisters want him to return with sumptuous gifts. Beauty reluctantly asks only for a rose.

"... a Beast so horrible that he nearly fainted."

“Therewith he heard a great noise and saw coming toward him a Beast so horrible that he nearly fainted.”

Beauty Meets Beast

“Beauty could not keep from trembling when she saw its horrible face; but she mustered her courage as best she could, and when the monster asked her if she had come of her own accord, she answered, trembling, that she had.”

"Do you not find me hideously ugly?"

“There are many men who are more monstrous than you,” Beauty said, “and I like you better, with the face you have, than those who beneath a human countenance conceal a false, corrupt, ungrateful heart.”

Beast Is Transformed

Beauty’s life with her husband “was a long and happy one, because it was established upon virtue.”

I’m going to look for other books from this MacMillan series, but those listed on the back cover of this book aren’t illustrated by Hilary Knight.

Glory Be to the Internet! It seems Mr. Knight is most famous for his illustration of the Eloise books. From what I have seen online, none of his other illustration work looks at all like this.

  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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