“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ― Jorge Luis Borges

I read The Three Brothers with a pile of books at my feet and my back against wall decorated with a wizard mural.  Not much has changed since I was a child sitting in the very same library. I still can’t resist folk tales.

I have until October 1st to finish the school library. The job is more work than I anticipated, and I’m going to have to ask for help from volunteer parents to get the library presentable by the deadline. In less than two weeks, I’ll be done with the library and jumping into a month of intentional homemaking. If you are tired of me writing, tweeting, facebooking, and instagraming about children’s books, know this annoying phase is quickly reaching an end. In less than two weeks I’ll drop the books and focus on more important and interesting matters, like what on earth the cabinet above the refrigerator is supposed to store.

I’ve also read at least three books from Dr. Zaerr’s list of Medieval Literature for children. They’ve all been excellent. The list may feature older, difficult to find books with an academic bent, but they’re awesome. I’ve learned something about Medieval culture in every book. Royalty ate four and twenty blackbirds in a pie–and looked forward to it. A trencher was a dinner plate made of flat, unleavened bread. The poor ate their trenchers; the wealthy tossed theirs out or gave them to the poor. A cocky rooster will fall for anything.

If I took a picture for every book with a memory attached to it, I’d lose my meager following on instagram. Since I already show an obscene propensity for losing “really good listeners” on Facebook, I try to control myself. On most days, I fail gleefully. I might have to read The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle. I remember eyeballing around 6th grade, but since the story didn’t actually involve unicorns I dropped it like a hot rock in favor of what was, most likely, crap in a paperback.

I sure did! I started it Tuesday, and I’m already hooked. I carry it everywhere I go and read even when I shouldn’t. I finally know why everyone was saying, “Carrots! Carrots!” in the comments! I’m pretty enamored, and I can’t wait to fly through the books so I can watch the movies (TV series?).

These are the books that make me stop. These sweet little vintage illustrations make me smile. I can’t resist taking a little break to read them, so The Clever Coot wasn’t a special exception. What was special was what I found when I opened the front cover.

Jan 23 ’83 | Michael V. 2

That’s my middle brother, Michael. I guess on January 23, 1983, he was a second grader in a small library who couldn’t resist sweet little vintage illustrations, either.


I’ve been talking to family and friends, and everyone agrees that I should take the next two Thursdays off from William Morris projects. I’m doing enough organizing at school, and we all know October will give me plenty of opportunity to make up for time I’ve lost. October’s almost here! I’m nervous, but really excited, too.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. gabbie says

    im really impressed! if someone gave me free reign of a library i doubt i would do anything but sit on the floor and read an nary a book would be shelved LOL

    • says

      I stayed up waaaaay too late last night finishing book one. Off to the library I go…and you better believe I’ll pick up book two while I’m there!

  2. Theresa says

    Anne of Green Gables – love them all. The TV series/movie – the first one is fine and follows the story line well. The second one is a meandering pointless vain attempt to stuff the next 2 books into one movie. Epic fail, as my son would say. Megan Fellows is an excellent ‘Anne’ – just enjoy the first movie and avoid the second.

    • says

      Bah. I just described the Little House series in a similar fashion. With Little House, the show became so popular that they just flat out made up story lines to keep going. Boo.

  3. Susan G says

    LOVE that cover on The Clever Coot (and the title) and your brother’s name on the card – amazing!

    Sigh…that cabinet above the refrigerator. Our current house doesn’t have one, and with such little storage elsewhere I’ve thought about installing one. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m thinking I better not as it probably will just be a place to throw things so I don’t have to think about them.

    • says

      That cabinet is one of my projects for October. I need to think the month through this year, and not do it so “seat of my pants” like I did last year.

  4. says

    That card, with your brother’s name, is awesome! It’s like going back in time!

    Also, if you love folk tales, I recommend Swedish Folk Tales: illustrated by John Bauer.
    While I have yet to read the stories (I’ve been saving them for fall), I have perused the illustrations. John Bauer is a favorite; the illustrations, alone, make the book worth it!

    • says

      I love folk tales, so I will definitely check this out. I wonder if it’s in the library? There are a lot of Scandinavian books in there. I think the school’s librarian from the 70s/80s must have had an affinity or familial connection for the culture.

  5. says

    I for one have enjoyed all your Instragram shares of your library days. And as someone who moved around a lot as a child, I envy the continuity — your boys attending the same school as you & your brother — something I can’t imagine.

    As for my little cabinet above the fridge — I store Christmas kitchen things in there! A cookie jar, holiday plates & mugs, napkins, etc. etc.

    • says

      The continuity is intentional. I don’t live in a “cool” part of southern CA. (Quite the opposite.) Growing up as a child of immigrants with no family in this country, everything was new, and we had no real traditions–at least not American ones. I was so envious of the kids with history. And cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. I vowed growing up that I would give that to my kids. And, just like the kids in my class I was so envious of, the boys are completely clueless and don’t realize what they have! :)

      • Floss says

        You are doing such a great thing for your boys. I was part of the fourth generation of my family to go to the same tiny village school – eleven kids in my year (grade). The headmaster when I started was the headmaster when my mum was there. My sister and two cousins went too, and my best friend’s grandmother was my Granny’s best friend. Our great grandmothers were friends. If/when I have kids I’d want them to go to the same school, even though it’s changed almost beyond recognition since then. Those connections mean so much to me, and I’m so grateful my parents made decisions that made them possible. My mum is from the area and I grew up knowing great aunts and uncles and second cousins. My generation has spread out and not all of us are still here by any stretch, but we all have those roots.

  6. says

    First, how can talking about children’s books EVER, in what universe, be boring?? :) You’re preaching to the already converted here! I have to chime in with Amy up above — ‘Swedish Fairy Tales’ is one of my all time great favorites from childhood and one of prized possessions — I have a small stockpile of half finished posts (I’m so weird) and my post on this book was one of them — I was waiting for the weather to turn colder —

    But I feel SO STRONGLY about this book, I went and finished it just for you! So you can see the amazingness of it all! I’m gonna run it tomorrow :)

    • says

      Now I’m checking the book our for sure!

      Oh, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure random posts about books from the 60s and 70s would be a snooze to a few people. 😉 Maybe not you or I, but I’d wager I few are sawing logs as we type. :)

  7. Missie says

    “My Side of the Mountain” was a favorite of mine as was “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”. Seems I had a thing for books where kids ran away. Interesting. You mentioned Madeleine L’Engle, & it reminded me of when I was maybe 10, checking out “A Ring of Endless Light”. I remember it was much thicker than any other book I’d ever checked out and I felt so grown up. I’m pretty sure I only checked it out because the cover was cool and didn’t really understand all of it. I should re-read that one. I marvel at how much time you have to read. I’m burning through Harry Potter, just on started the 3rd one. (I know, late bloomer) I love old books but for me, the Kindle is the best invention. Keep up the book posts and enjoy your library time!

    • says

      Well, I probably shouldn’t confess this…but I don’t have that much time. I just spend a lot of time reading in the evenings…staying up way too late and then trying to survive the next day on caffeine. I usually start reading at 9-10pm and stop (on a good night) around midnight. Last night it was almost 2am. It’s not exactly a good thing, but I love reading at night! It’s so quiet and peaceful, no one bothers me. Mikey is the same way. (Ooops! Bad modeling.)

    • says

      That was one of her books that I somehow missed as a child and discovered as an adult (also Many Waters…. but I think that one would have been too racy for me as a child… i was such a prude!).

  8. Toi says

    While I’m very excited for your William Morris projects, I’m going to be sad to see the library posts end. I’ve really enjoyed them. I have a special place in my heart for old books. I feel like the books you are going through were kind of forgotten and I like the idea of someone paying attention them.

  9. Beverly says

    I read Anne of Green Gables at least once a year. I have only read the entire series a handful of times, but when I do, I wonder why I stayed away so long. I have to disagree with a previous comment about not watching all the movies. Megan Follows is absolutely wonderful as Anne …no matter what the storyline! I remember they used to air the movies on PBS and I watched each and every time. Now I own them all and even my husband knows not to bother me when I drag them out to re-watch them time and time again.

  10. says

    I have an insane urge to go find The Clever Coot now, because I remember that fox and the illustration is filling me with nostalgia! And then – then! – you find your brother in the library card . . . goosebumps. Also, so glad you are taking a break from William Morris until October. (1) I’ve got nothing to link up for tomorrow and (2) you are setting a good example of keeping your life sane. Thank you :)

  11. Laura says

    Thank you so much for the quotation at the beginning of this post. I just came across this article not five minutes ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19547365

    These two things are planting the seeds of an idea in my brain for forming a classroom lending library made up of books the kids bring from home, books they are tired of or have outgrown.

    Enjoy your time in the library. That is my dream job!

  12. ijoemonkey says

    cannot wait for william morris project october! ^_^

    BTW, if you haven’t seen it already on the morning news or elsewhere, please youtube “PSY – gangnam style”. It puts a pep in your step! (not that you need it, I just know I can’t watch it without cracking a huge smile).

  13. ijoemonkey says

    PS. Becoming a children’s book author was one of my dreams because of all the wonderful books I read growing up. I may or may not have written an essay about how that books I read formed who I was, and allowed me to better understand other americans (geographically and in time) via books like “Sing Down the Moon” and “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” and “Little House (of course!), etc. I am soooo envying the fact that you have the best volunteer gig ever right now!

  14. Adeline says

    Ooh if you like Anne of Green Gables (who doesn’t?!) you should try the Emily trilogy, also by LM Montgomery. They’re probably for a slightly older audience as the storyline is a tad darker, but the books are very similar. I think I like those even more than the Anne series! (Emily even shares my birthday, is that not a sign or what :) )

  15. Fairfax Avenue says

    I’m very touched by your sighting of a book your own brother checked out. It can happen in small schools: There’s a twenty year span between son #2 and fifth daughter. She has enjoyed receiving texts with his name several times in elementary school. I’m glad the children take good care of their books!

    As I w0rk in a private high school and college, every new term I greet the children of former (warmly remembered) students. One familiar-looking college student came in this year from out of state. I may have embarrassed him when I said, ” I used to babysit your mother.”

  16. samsmom says

    Hi Jules,I caught a glance of your wedding band in this post. It looks very similar to mine. Did you get it at Zales and have you ever lost a diamond. I’ve lost two! At the present, my band has a huge empty gap in it. Seems I lost the most recent stone doing chest compressions on Annie the CPR mannequin(!).

  17. Brandi says

    Anne… Oh, how I love those books. I have a set, torn, with the covers taped on that I absolutely refuse to let go off. They are comforting, like a ‘bosom friend’ and the dimples I now have near my elbows. :)

    The only thing is, I do not get joy out of washing dishes. You must read the whole series though, trust me. She gets better as she ages.

    Sigh. I am now thinking I must, at the very least, read a bit of them tonight and dream of PEI.

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