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Connie Diamond
I was a passionate student of literature, and later became a passionate teacher of it. When I left the classroom, I took my love of the subject with me. I have a library in my home in lieu of a dining room, and my favorite social activity is meeting with my book club to discuss impressions and ideas from our latest book choice. I never tire of the beauty of great writing, and am often guilty of reading it aloud to innocent bystanders.

Recent Posts:

Books that Medaled: Lesser Known Caldecott Winners

By Connie Diamond. May 19, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Awarded Books

When my girls had library day at school or took home a book order form in their oversized backpacks, they were always excited to make their book choice. When you consider it, children actually have a fairly small number of things in their life on which they get to make the final decision. In their quest, I’m certain they carefully circled the library shelves at school as well as the pictures and descriptors in the fliers—usually with brightly colored hi-lighters if memory serves. I’m not sure when or how this happened, but nothing tipped the scales more or caused greater excitement than when a book had a medal on its cover. I can now point to this as an early sign of a lifetime of good decision-making. The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded yearly for the most distinguished American picture book for children. Among its recipients are titles with which many of us are familiar. However, since its inception in 1938, I’m certain there are a number of books that flew under or eventually fell off of our literary radar. Here are a few medalists worth rediscovering.

     
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The Travel Writing of Henry James

By Connie Diamond. Apr 29, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literary travel

On a recent trip to Italy, I had two tools at my disposal: a GPS and a guide book. Given the complexity of the network of roads and the simplicity of the road construction—often nothing more than ruts worn into gravel clinging precariously to hillsides—the GPS often failed me utterly. The guidebook, on the other hand, helped me navigate hill towns, wine cellars and even menus with amazing precision. It led me to all the destinations and experiences I had imagined before I left for Tuscany.

Navigating, however, is different from transporting. It is travel writing that allows us to venture vicariously from home sans GPS or guidebook. Henry James (1843-1916), the American-born British writer, brought his considerable talent to bear on the travel writing genre, capturing the geography, architecture and culture of the places he visited and, from the 21st Century perspective, allowing us to time-travel, as well.

     
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Kate Chopin's Personal and Literary Awakening

By Connie Diamond. Feb 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see our strengths and put us on the road we are destined to travel. And so it was for Kate Chopin in the late 1880s. She is now well-known for her short stories and one famous novel. In the late nineteenth century, however, she was not an author at all, but a widow and mother of five saddled with an enormous debt left by her late husband. Shortly after her husband’s death, her mother died as well, leaving Kate in a state of depression.

     
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Beyond Winnie-the-Pooh: A. A. Milne's Lesser Known Work

By Connie Diamond. Jan 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Children's Books

Those of us who grew up in the shade of the Hundred Acre Wood, or who raised our children there, owe a debt of gratitude to A. A. Milne. That name, or more accurately those initials, are as famous as the charming stories he penned. The four classic books that comprise the original Winnie-The-Pooh set are, of course Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) along with The House at Pooh Corner (1928), When We Were Very Young (1924), and Now We are Six (1927). The same voice that animated the stuffed toys in his son’s nursery room and brought them into most every nursery for generations to come also wrote other works for different audiences and spanning different genres. Here are some of the lesser known, yet wonderful books by A. A. Milne.

     
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Children's Books: A Gift Giving Guide

By Connie Diamond. Dec 6, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Rare Book Gift Ideas

I wonder if the art of gift giving, like that of conversation and letter writing, is becoming lost. Like the latter two, gift giving requires time and attention. Our spans of these seem to be becoming shorter in this fast-paced digital age. Maybe that’s why the allure of the gift card is so strong. For the giver, it’s easy, doesn’t have to be wrapped, and one size fits all. But what if you want to personalize a gift—have it made to order—bespoke?  A children’s book may be the perfect choice.

     
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Favorite Children's Books of Famous Authors

By Connie Diamond. Nov 1, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

E.L. Konigsburg once said that children’s books are “the key to the accumulated wisdom, wit, truth, myth, history, philosophy, and recipes for salting potatoes during the past 6,000 years of civilization.” In those earliest days of civilization stories were told around small fires and were illustrated on cave walls. But I imagine, even then, they dispelled shadows and illuminated ideas—the best stories always do. Authors who write children’s books contribute to this canon, but also draw upon it. Let’s take a look at the favorite children’s books of these famous authors.      
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The Ten Best Moments From Winnie-The-Pooh

By Connie Diamond. Oct 14, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

There is, written in the annals of fictional history, an account of a “bear with very little brain.” He resides in The Hundred Acre Wood. This wood can be difficult to find, but once you discover it, it is clearly mapped. One can mark the very spots where some of the sweetest moments between a honey of a bear and his rag-tag team of friends take place. This is one reader's list of the top ten moments from Winnie-the-Pooh.

     
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The Top Five Children's Books By Virginia Lee Burton

By Connie Diamond. Aug 30, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books

Virginia Lee Burton won critical acclaim and the heartfelt approval of generations of readers, young and old. How did she accomplish this? She did it by first securing the endorsement of her own two children. Her young sons, Ari and Michael, like all children in Burton’s estimation, were “very frank critics.” By gauging their responses, she would adjust her stories and her illustrations to make sure that she not only captured but also maintained their attention. 

     
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Holling C. Holling: Stories and Lessons

By Connie Diamond. Aug 2, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, History

Who, as a child, has not at least entertained the idea of tying a note to a balloon and sending it out into the great beyond, or scrolling a message in a bottle and tossing it into the sea? The thought of something we authored soaring over the landscape or riding the tides to eventually connect with someone far away is almost as thrilling as going on an adventure ourselves. It may be this innate desire for exploration and connection beyond our backyards—beyond our borders—that has led to the timeless popularity of the children’s books written by Holling C. Holling.

     
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Reading with Dad on Father's Day

By Connie Diamond. Jun 19, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

The cover art of Reading with Dad by Richard Jorgensen depicts a worn leather chair. On it sits an open book, and beneath it, two pairs of shoes—one large and one small. The chair is not unlike the ones found in our home library. The small shoes are not unlike the lace-up Keds that have littered our house over the years in a rainbow of colors and in various stages of disrepair.  The larger shoes are very much like those whose footprints my daughters try to follow. They are Dad shoes.

If one is to believe the predominant image presented in television commercials and sitcoms, then Dad is a hapless side-kick. While Mom deftly goes about the business of parenting, Dad forgets schedules, dishes out junk food for breakfast, and secures diapers with duct tape.  As humorous as the hapless dad image may be, in real life, the role of dad is a complex and important one. The wonderful dads I know strike the right balance between protecting and empowering, between providing necessities and promoting self-sufficiency, and between accepting and expecting. While managing all of this, good dads also work to build relationship and to pass on their wisdom and their passions to their children. This is a tall order and seems to call for a Swiss Army Knife worth of tools. One of the best tools in that arsenal is reading.

     
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