children’s books

The Illustrated Story of How a Little Boy Who Grew Up to Be a Trailblazing Astronaut Fought Segregation at the Public Library – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Knowledge sets us free… A great library is freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the sacredness of public libraries. “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be,” her contemporary James Baldwin — who had read his way from the Harlem public library to the literary pantheon — insisted in his courageous and countercultural perspective on freedom. Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950–January 28,…

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Edward Gorey’s Tender and Surprising Vintage Illustrated Allegory About the Meaning of True Love – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

Great loves, like great works of art, live at the crossing point of the improbable and the inevitable. That, at least, has been my experience, both as a scholar of history and as a private participant in the lives of the heart. Such loves come unbidden, without warning or presentiment, and that is their supreme insurance against the projectionist fantasy that so frequently disguises not-love — infatuation, obsession, jealousy, longing — as love. But when they do come, with all…

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Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Gorgeous Letter to Children About Reading, Amazement, and the Exhilaration of Discovering the Undiscovered – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

I remember the feeling of first seeing the Moon through the small handheld telescope my father had smuggled from East Germany — how ancient yet proximate it felt, how alive, as though I could glide my six-year-old finger over its rugged radiance — the feeling of electric astonishment at something so surprising yet so inevitable, something that seemed to have always been waiting there just for me to discover it. I remember next having that feeling nearly a decade later,…

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What I Read This Month: April 2020 – Personal Development Article

For three years now, every Monday morning, I’ve posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads. I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read. As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this…

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The Best of Brain Pickings 2019 – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Love, poetry, friendship, solitude, and lots of trees. By Maria Popova In this annual review, following the annual selections of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, “best” is as usual a composite measure of what I most enjoyed thinking and writing about over the course of the year, and what you most ardently read and shared. It has been curious to observe, in this most difficult year of my life, the patterns that emerge — strong women’s…

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Favorite Children’s Books of 2019 – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Great children’s books are really miniature cartographies of meaning, emissaries of the deepest existential wisdom that cut across all lines of division, scuttle past the many walls adulthood has sold us on erecting, and slip in through the backdoor of our consciousness to speak — in the language of children, which is the language of unselfconscious sincerity — the most timeless truths to the truest parts of us. Here are the loveliest such truthful, timeless treasures I savored this year.…

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What Color Is Night? Grant Snider’s Illustrated Invitation to Discover the Subtle Beauty of Darkness – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

A spare serenade to the spectrum of wonder between black and white. By Maria Popova “Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty,” the Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki wrote in his gorgeous 1933 love letter to darkness. More than a century before him, Goethe observed in his theory of color and emotion that “color itself is a degree of darkness.” Darkness, we could say, is the sum total of all the colors and all the emotions — a…

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A Poetic Illustrated Meditation on the Meaning of Happiness and Its Quiet Everyday Sources – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“What is your idea of perfect happiness?” asks the famous Proust Questionnaire. Posed to David Bowie, he answered simply: “Reading.” Jane Goodall answered: “Sitting by myself in the forest in Gombe National Park watching one of the chimpanzee mothers with her family.” Proust himself answered: “To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater.” The touching specificity of these answers…

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The Male Pregnancy of the Seahorse and the Fearless Trans Fish of the Coral Seas – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals,” the great nature writer Henry Beston insisted nearly a century ago. “In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.” Over the long sweep of evolution, our fellow creatures have developed wondrous forms and faculties far superior to our own — from…

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Beloved Children’s Book Author and Poet Ruth Krauss’s Lost Alphabet of Joy, Illustrated – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Her lovely and original poetry has a flexibility that allowed me the maximum of space to execute my fantasy variations on a Kraussian theme,” Maurice Sendak wrote of the great children’s book author and poet Ruth Krauss (July 25, 1901–July 10, 1993), with whom he collaborated on two of the loveliest, tenderest picture-books of all time. A quarter century after the end of Krauss’s long life, lost fragments of her daring poetic imagination coalesced into a manuscript that alighted to…

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What Miss Mitchell Saw: An Illustrated Celebration of How 19th-Century Astronomer Maria Mitchell Blazed the Way for Women in Science – Self Improvement Article

“Mingle the starlight with your lives and you won’t be fretted by trifles,” Maria Mitchell (August 1, 1818–June 28, 1889) often told her Vassar students — the world’s first university class of professionally trained women astronomers — having herself become America’s first professional woman astronomer, thanks to her historic discovery of a new telescopic comet on October 1, 1847, after sixteen tenacious years of sweeping the sky night after night. Mitchell (whose extraordinary life was the seed for what became…

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An Illustrated Ode to Attentiveness and the Art of Listening as a Wellspring of Self-Understanding, Empathy for Others, and Reverence for the Loveliness of Life – Personal Development Article

“To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time,” Georgia O’Keeffe wrote as she contemplated the art of seeing. To listen takes time, too — to learn to hear and befriend the world within and the world without, to attend to the quiet voice of life and heart alike. “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing,” Pablo Neruda wrote in his gorgeous ode to quietude, “perhaps a huge…

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An Illustrated Dictionary of Poetic Spells Reclaiming the Language of Nature – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“Words belong to each other,” Virginia Woolf’s melodious voice unspools in the only surviving recording of her speech — a 1937 love letter to language. “In each word, all words,” the French philosopher Maurice Blanchot writes a generation later as he considers the dual power of language to conceal and to reveal. But because language is our primary sieve of perception, our mightiest means of describing what we apprehend and thus comprehending it, words also belong to that which they…

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Alexander Chee’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Books Save Us – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us,” Franz Kafka wrote to his childhood best friend. For Alexander Chee, another writer of titanic talent, Kafka’s metaphor came alive in his own childhood when his family moved from Guam to America, relinquishing the warm seas of the South Pacific for the frozen seas of Maine in search of a better life. Reading became a portal to places in the outside world he missed, places in his inner…

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A Peek-Through Picture-Book About the Most Beloved Fixture of the Night Sky – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Night after night at my telescope, I marvel with undiminished awe at what Margaret Fuller reverenced as “that best fact, the Moon.” How is it that our abiding nocturnal companion, which has stood sentinel and silent witness to the rise and fall of civilizations, to innumerable heartbreaks and triumphs, never loses its luminous mesmerism? It has inspired sonnets and love songs and religious reveries — an enchanted loom onto which humanity has woven entire mythologies and cosmogonies. Nothing else quite…

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The Remarkable Illustrated Story of Wangari Maathai, the First African Woman to Win the Nobel Peace Prize – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Walt Whitman saw in trees the wisest of teachers and Hermann Hesse found in them a joyous antidote to the sorrow of our own ephemerality. “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way,” William Blake wrote in his most beautiful letter. “As a man is, so he sees.” Many tree-rings after Blake and Whitman and Hesse, another visionary turned to trees as an instrument…

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An Emotional Intelligence Primer in the Form of an Uncommonly Tender Illustrated Poem About Our Capacity for Love – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“How is your heart?” I recently asked a friend going through a trying period of overwork and romantic tumult, circling the event horizon of burnout while trying to bring a colossal labor of love to life. His answer, beautiful and heartbreaking, came swiftly, unreservedly, the way words leave children’s lips simple, sincere, and poetic, before adulthood has learned to complicate them out of the poetry and the sincerity with considerations of reason and self-consciousness: “My heart is too busy to…

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An Empowered Retelling of Cinderella – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” Bertrand Russell wrote in his 1925 treatise on the nature of happiness shortly after Freud asserted that love and work are the bedrock of our mental health and our very humanity. In the century since, this notion has been taken to a warped extreme — love has been industrialized into the one-note Hollywood model of romance and work has metastasized into aching workaholism. Russell, one of the deepest…

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Jane Goodall’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Reading Shaped Her Life – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Books feed and cure and chortle and collide,” Gwendolyn Brooks wrote in her 1969 ode to why we read. For Kafka, a book was “the axe for the frozen sea inside us”; for Galileo, nothing less than a source of superhuman powers. “Without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity,” Hermann Hesse wrote in his visionary 1930 meditation on “the magic of the book” and why we will always remain under its generous…

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