Vanita Oelschlager

The Pullman Porter [Vanita Oelschlager]

Children and adults under the age of 40 have forgotten about the Pullman Porter.

This book will teach children and adults, who the porters were and why they were so important in our history. Porters worked in early train cars and because they traveled the country and learned much, many Pullman porters became leaders back in their home communities. They would read newspapers, listen to conversations, talk among each other and see the transitions rapidly changing the country in the decades after the Civil War. He eventually landed at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

My thoughts on the book: The Pullman Porter – An American Journey is a very instructive children’s book about the unexpected role of Pullman Porters in the American history. Not only did they help millions of American explore the vast continent, but they also contributed to kickstart the Civil Rights Movements later led by Martin Luther King Jr.

This beautifully illustrated children’s book describes how ex-slaves managed to grow and offer a better future to their families thanks to this job that took them to many parts of the country and that also allowed them to be in contact with the upper class. They learned a lot from what they saw and heard, which led them to value education for their own children. That’s why the book teaches us that many former Pullman Porters have descendants who became doctors, lawyers or even actors!

It was a great idea to put together this children’s book and focus on these men who had a tough job despite their sleek appearance. It’s a great way to inform children and adults about this specific part of American history that deserves to be in the spotlight.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (=I loved it)

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Vanita Oelschlager

Ivy in Bloom [Vanita Oelschlager]

Ivy In Bloom captures the weariness of a young girl tired of a long winter. « I stare out the window, » she says on the first spread of brown and gray, « looking for birds or flowers/or even warm showers/but I don’t see any such thing. » But then Spring comes when « March is out of breath…snow melting to flowery waters and watery flowers…spring rose from its wintry rest. » And Ivy’s « heart dances with daffodils. » As these words also dance across each spread, Ivy’s world erupts into a riot of color.
Ivy In Bloom introduces the poetry of Dickinson, Longfellow, Browning, Wordsworth, Frost and others. Excerpts from their writings, as seen through Ivy’s eyes, will open up poetry as a way for children to express their own feelings about the changing of seasons. This book includes longer excerpts and brief bios of each author.

My thoughts on the book: This is the second illustrated book from Vanita Oelschlager that I have read so far, and I must admit that she is a great storyteller. You can read my previous review here (Postcards from a War).

Ivy in Bloom is emotional and original in the sense that it incorporates bits and pieces of poems written by world renowned authors.

First, you get a beautiful children’s book that you can read to your children. Then, you have a more adult section in the last pages. The author included the full poems that inspired her. You get to see the “borrowed words” in the original contexts. Witty and unique, right?

It’s refreshing to discover such pieces of work that can address both the very young and the adults! You can expose your child to great literature in a fun, child-friendly way, as well as talk about important topics like nature.

What a better way to expose your child to beautiful prose and poems? You never know, it might inspire some new great writers.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Vanita Oelschlager

Postcards from a War [Vanita Oelschlager]

Postcards is intended for 4-8 year olds, ones who are old enough to understand that a parent in the military may have to go to a dangerous place, but maybe not why. It shows the important intergenerational bonding that families often experience during times of war.
The postcards and letters in the book were received by the author from her father during World War II.

Wilfred Bauknight sent home many letters and postcards that included his illustrations while on active duty in the Philippines in 1945-6. Wilfred was an engineer, skilled in draftsmanship. The illustrations he included with his correspondence look like they were « engineered » – a lot of detail!

My thoughts on this children’s book: Postcards from a War is a beautifully crafted children’s book. It is filled with lovely, sober sepia-coloured illustrations, giving the book an overall old-fashioned, elegant look and feel.

It offers some very helpful material to use if you need to talk to children about their parents who’ve gone to war. How to deal with their anxiety, fear and sorrow? How to soothe them when they worry about their parents’ safety overseas? I thought the collection of letters, drawings and souvenirs was a fabulous way to try and maintain some level of family life despite the distance. It also makes for an incredible keepsake.

I am sure that children will benefit from reading this book as they won’t feel alone. They’ll know that generations after generations, lots of children like them have had to go through a similar experience, and still do.

This touching book also conveys a beautiful message about peace and the future.

My score:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥