Book of the Week: A Bear Called Paddington

Seven years ago, while on vacation in Door County, our daughter made the acquaintance of  Paddington Bear in the children’s section of the Made in Britain shop. Upon returning home, she pulled our copy of Michael Bond’s A Bear Called Paddington from the bookshelf and voraciously began to read. Upon completion of the first book, she moved onto More About Paddington, and Paddington Marches On. This was followed by a trip to the library to acquire more books in the Paddington Bear series: Paddington Helps Out, Paddington Abroad, Paddington at Large, Paddington at Work, Paddington Goes to Town and Paddington Takes the Air. By the end of the summer, she had read through the entire Paddington Bear series twice.


The origins of Paddington Bear, begin on Christmas Eve 1956. Michael Bond, then a cameraman for the BBC decided to purchase a lonely toy bear on the shelf at a London department store for his wife. The whimsical bear inspired Bond to begin writing a story beginning with these words: “Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station.” (1) Within little over a week, Bond has penned eight stories about the beloved “bear from Darkest Peru” which would come to be published as the children’s classic A Bear Called Paddington.


In A Bear Called Paddington, the delightful ursine begins his journey by being discovered on the railway platform at Paddington Station by the Brown family. Upon reading the message on the tag attached to the bear, the Browns decide to adopt him and dub him “Paddington Bear.” Our protagonist goes from one adventure to another: the taste of cream buns, his first hot bath in a bath tub, traveling on the London underground, shopping in a department store, aspiring to become a master painter, visiting the theatre, a trip to the sea side, and celebrating his first birthday with the Browns.


As a parent, I mused over why this particular bear holds a special place in my daughter’s heart. After much contemplation, I came to to this conclusion: A Bear Called Paddington introduced her to an extraordinary character who opened the magic gateway into a “wider world of wonder, beauty, delight and adventure” as Gladys Hunt so eloquently expresses in her best-selling book,  Honey for a Child’s Heart. (2)

Kathy Alphs


(1) Bond, Michael. A Bear Called Paddington.  New York, New York:  HarperCollins; Reprint edition (January 5, 2016).

(2) Hunt, Gladys. Honey for a Child’s Heart. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. 2002.


Courage through Stories


We want our kids to understand how best to treat their neighbor, follow God, and trust Him no matter what. We could explain the facts of why they should, have them memorize the verses, or lecture them on what will happen if they don’t.

Or we could tell them a story.

More often than not, the story will do more to help that child understand and respond to the truth than all the explanation you give. As author Steven James writes, “Humans are rarely interested in truth unless it’s wrapped up in a story.”

Dan Scott Teach Courage through Stories

 (Photo credit: Book sculpture by Wetcanvas Deviant Art.)

Book of the Week: The Making of Gone with the Wind


As I was reading the section titled, A Conversation with Susan Meissner in her novel Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, the author mentioned using Steve Wilson’s The Making of Gone with the Wind as a primary resource during her writing of the novel.
One of the aspects I love about Susan Meissner’s historical novels is the way she brings history to life. As the historical time period unfolds before my eyes, I am driven to learn all I can. Hence, I placed a hold on  The Making of Gone with the Wind at our local public library.


From the inside of the jacket cover of The Making of Gone with the Wind by Steve Wilson published by the Henry Ransom Center and University of Texas Press:

“Gone With The Wind is one of the most popular movies of all time. To commemorate its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2014, The Making of Gone With The Wind presents more than 600 items from the archives of David O. Selznick, the film’s producer, and his business partner John Hay “Jock” Whitney, which are housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. These rarely seen materials, which are also being featured in a major 2014 exhibition at the Ransom Center, offer fans and film historians alike a must-have behind-the-camera view of the production of this classic.

Before a single frame of film was shot, Gone With The Wind was embroiled in controversy. There were serious concerns about how the film would depict race and violence in the Old South during the Civil War and Reconstruction. While Clark Gable was almost everyone’s choice to play Rhett Butler, there was no clear favorite for Scarlett O’Hara. And then there was the huge challenge of turning Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize–winning epic into a manageable screenplay and producing it at a reasonable cost. The Making of Gone With The Wind tells these and other surprising stories with fascinating items from the Selznick archive, including on-set photographs, storyboards, correspondence and fan mail, production records, audition footage, gowns worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, and Selznick’s own notoriously detailed memos.

This inside view of the decisions and creative choices that shaped the production reaffirm that Gone With The Wind is perhaps the quintessential film of Hollywood’s Golden Age and illustrate why it remains influential and controversial decades after it was released.”

Kathy Alphs

Book of the Week: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard


Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is penned by Susan Meissner, the critically acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds and The Shape of Mercy.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard tells the story of two women, Violet Mayfield and Audry Duvall and their friendship which spans over seven decades. Set in Hollywood Land, the plot unfolds on David O. Selznick’s set of the legendary movie, Gone with the Wind. Although Violet and Audrey are opposites, their frienship blossoms when they become housemates. Violet longs to be a wife and mother, while Audrey yearns for her return to the Hollywood spotlight.

Through the eyes of Violet and Audrey we experience waht Marie Dubsky once wrote, “One true friend adds more to our happinesss than a thousand enemies add to our unhappiness.”

Kathy Alphs

Book of the Week: Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea


While perusing the Chinaberry catalog, I came across this delightful picture book which tells the story of scientist Marie Tharp and how she mapped the ocean floor.
From the publisher Simon & Schuster:
Marie Tharp was always fascinated by the ocean. Taught to think big by her father who was a mapmaker, Marie wanted to do something no one had ever done before: map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Was it even possible? Not sure if she would succeed, Marie decided to give it a try.

Throughout history, others had tried and failed to measure the depths of the oceans. Sailors lowered weighted ropes to take measurements. Even today, scientists are trying to measure the depth by using echo sounder machines to track how long it would take a sound wave sent from a ship to the sea floor to come back. But for Marie, it was like piecing together an immense jigsaw puzzle.

Despite past failures and challenges—sometimes Marie would be turned away from a ship because having a woman on board was “bad luck”—Marie was determined to succeed. And she did, becoming the first person to chart the ocean floor, helping us better understand the planet we call home.

To enhance the story telling experience, the text is paired with incandescent paintings by artist Raul Colon. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea is a joy for children of all ages!

Kathy Alphs

Book of the Week: Elizabeth the Queen

On Mother’s Day, I was gifted with the DVD set of the television series, The Crown, along with Sally Bedell Smith’s biography, Elizabeth the Queen. After watching the first episode of The Crown, I began to read from Elizabeth the Queen. 

Elizabeth the Queen is authored in a narrative style, with the author giving you a personal glimpse into the life of the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch.
The author covers the life of Elizabeth II from her birth in 1926 to the present day.
The biography contains quotes pertaining to Elizabeth II, along with a photographic  spread of Elizabeth II and her family throughout the biography.

It is interesting to note, author Sally Bedell Smith was given the opportunity to obtain an up close and personal study of her subject. To read more about the author’s experience, please click on this link,

Elizabeth the Queen and The Crown are a duo which complement one another to tell the story of the girl named Lilibet who would one day become queen.

Kathy Alphs

Book of the Week: No Man’s Land

bowsimontolkeinOne of my favorite ways to study history is through the medium of historical fiction. Upon completing Helen Simonson’s novel, The Summer Before the War, I began to peruse historical fiction accounts of The Great War. During my search I came across Simon Tolkein’s novel, No Man’s Land.

From the publisher Penguin Random House:

Inspired by the real-life experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I, Simon Tolkien delivers a perfectly rendered novel rife with class tension, period detail, and stirring action, ranging from the sharply divided society of northern England to the trenches of the Somme.