Friday, 26 September 2014

Guest Post; Martha Mans and Gordon

Hello March House Books readers. Let me introduce myself. My name is Martha Mans and I am a fine artist. I have been painting in watercolour and oil all my life.  And what does this have to do with children’s books you might ask.

Well, as a child I loved to read and I especially was fond of looking at the illustrations. Being a very visual child I loved the magic that the illustrator created with their drawings and paintings.

As a mother I loved to read to my children and watch them light up as I read the stories and point to the illustrations and talk to me about them. One of their greatest joys was to go to bookstores with me and choose books that I could read to them and eventually they could read for themselves.

As an artist I have been lucky to go to some wonderful places to paint.

Such is the case of the beautiful Medano/Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, where I have the privilege of being invited to paint each year. It is home of a herd of over 2500 American bison. Most of the time you can't get close to these magnificent American icons so when a little bison was found alone out on the range and needed to be rescued everyone on the ranch couldn't stay away and talked of nothing else. One of the ranch hands gave him the name Gordon. 

Pictures from Zapata Ranch

I was immediately intrigued. As I've said before, I'm an artist and I suppose that is why the book started taking shape with paintings of Gordon. Sometime later when I began thinking about a story for a little bison it came to me that this little bison didn't know what he was because he was not with a herd and there was no other bison around to teach him. He couldn't go back into the herd, it would be impossible to get them to accept him. So he had to go on a journey of self discovery and find a place where he fit in and could be happy. This is how “Gordon”, my first attempt at a children’s book, was born.

The Medano/Zapata Ranch is protected by the Nature Conservancy and dedicated to preserving the animals and their habitat. So, in developing the story it was great fun to discover animals that were indigenous to the land and have them meet Gordon. Through them he would learn about the ranch and find out eventually who he is.

I loved drawing and painting Gordon but I had to learn something about baby bison first. I soon discovered that baby bison are born sometime between April and June. A very young bison is reddish in color and is called a calf. They are also known as “red dogs”. It is easy to pick them out from the adult bison, who have dark brown coats. The baby bison stays close to its mother for about one year and she protects and teaches it many things to help it survive. Around September it’s coat begins to turn darker brown, it’s shoulder hump begins to appear and it’s horns begin to grow. It begins to eat grass and plants. The young bison continues to grow for three or four more years, until it becomes an adult. 

It’s scary to think how close we came to no longer having this awesome animal around today. The herds that once numbered in the millions were reduced to fewer than one thousand by the late 1800s. Due to many people who worked hard the herds have grown back to where the bison are no longer in danger of becoming extinct.

So if you do travel west during the summer months take the time to look for the red colored babies in a bison herd. Have fun watching them run, jump and play as all baby animals do and give thanks that this magnificent animal is still here and once again roams parts of the west.

Also remember you can visit the real Gordon at the Zapata Ranch like I did this earlier this year.

PS: I’d like to thank Barbara for letting me share this story on her blog. Hope you enjoyed it!

You can find out more about "Gordon" at: Gordon the bison

or buy the book at

Thank you so much Martha your illustrations are beautiful.   I would love to visit Gordon and the other animals at the Zapata Ranch one day. Barbara

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Lovesome Book For Little Folk

Nid-Nod said the daisies

Nid-Nod said the daisies,
Nid-Nod the whispering breeze, Nid-Nod crooned the birdies - Nid-Nod the rustling trees. Nid - Nod winked the little stars in the soft evening light.The whole big world's a Nodding - Nid-Nod Nid-Nod goodnight.

This is a glorious collection of stories, poems, songs and prayers. There are games to play and things to do. Published by The Epworth Press, London, undated but c1953.

The stories include Betty and the dream man by Chris G Temple, The lost thimble by Elizabeth Gould Binks's tail by P. B. Longson, Seeing the world by Dorothy MacNulty, and Two grey kittens by Ruth Ainsworth.

Please come and play with me

Come on in...
Please come on in there is lots to see

there is lots to see.

Heather and Geoffrey obviously loved The Lovesome Book

they spent a great deal of time colouring in the pictures and completing the dot-to-dots. I think mummy might have helped with the spots on the giraffe. 

Smiling comes easily when looking at this gorgeous book. 

Dandy the circus dog demonstrating one of his tricks. 
The Lovesome Book for little folk

More pretty pictures

Songs and prayers

Excellent colouring in

A bedtime story...
Nid-Nod said the daisies, Nid-Nod the whispering breeze, Nid-Nod crooned the birdies - Nid-Nod the rustling trees. Nid - Nod winked the little stars in the soft evening light.The whole big world's a Nodding - Nid-Nod Nid-Nod goodnight.

The Lovesome Book For Little Folk is now sold, thank you for your interest.

Thank you for your visit...

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Sun and stars Align to Improve Child Literacy & A Visit from a Hummingbird hawk-moth

The Sun newspaper has teamed up with some of the most popular children’s authors and entertainers to introduce a new weekly feature encouraging parents to read with their children.

Specially written ten-minute stories from authors including David Walliams (Mr. Stink), former children's laureate Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) and Derek Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant) will be published in Saturday editions of The Sun.

The Get Kids Reading campaign is part of a wider Read On, Get On campaign with Save the Children that calls on the government, local organisations and parents to tackle illiteracy and get children reading. 

David Walliams

David Dinsmore, Editor of The Sun, said: Illiteracy in Britain should be something our schoolchildren know only from the pages of their history books. Getting kids to read about things they're interested in is half the battle. With exclusive stories by top children¹s authors and free e-book offers, we will be helping parents find ways to make reading an easy everyday part of life.

Justin Forsyth from Save The Children said: We want every child to be given a fair and equal chance to learn to read well. We applaud The Sun for getting behind this campaign, and look forward to working with its readers to restore literacy to its rightful levels in the UK.

Other contributors who have supplied ten-minute reads are Susanna Reid, Rizzle Kicks and David Baddiel. The newspaper is also running a national competition to find the next budding children’s author with the winning story published as the final instalment of the series.

The Sun bus is visiting schools giving away books throughout October and free children’s e-books will be available to download for Sun members.

Disclaimer; I received no financial compensation for writing this post and have no material connection to the brands or products mentioned. 


Autumn has definitely arrived in Somerset. The dahlias are at their best, and the apple trees are laden with fruit. Yesterday, we received a visit from a hummingbird hawk moth and could hardly believe our eyes! What on earth is it, we asked? A baby hummingbird? A bug? Terry rushed for his camera, and I rushed for the Internet! The moth was too quick for the camera, but the Internet revealed all.

According to the BBC Nature Website Hummingbird hawk-moths are found in Britain all summer long, especially in Southern parts and in Ireland (odd that this is the first one we’ve seen?) They beat their wings at such speed they emit an audible hum. Their name is further derived from their similar feeding patterns to hummingbirds. Hummingbird hawk-moths are strongly attracted to flowers with a plentiful supply of nectar such as honeysuckle and buddleia. The one we saw was flitting between our honeysuckle and a neighbour's buddleia…

The photographs that follow were all taken in our garden…

In the Other gardens
 And all up the vale,

From the autumn bonfires
  See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
  And all the summer flowers,

The red fire blazes,
 The gray smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
  Something bright in all!

Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Autumn Fires by
Robert Louis Stevenson (from A Child’s Garden of Verses, 1885)

 Thanks for your visit...

Friday, 5 September 2014

Are we there yet?

Who doesn't remember packing a picnic hamper into the boot of the family car only to have the car break down?   It happened all the time when I was a little girl. Dad would attack the engine with a spanner and a greasy rag, and sometimes that would be enough to get us on our way.  If not, it was a call to the AA (Automobile Association) and a wait for the patrolman to turn up on his motorbike, just as he does in one of these sweet little books.

The books featured in this post are all sold, thank you for your interest.

By Coach to the Seaside Published by Birn Brothers, England c1950s 
Birn Brothers, England. Vintage children's books

A policeman diverts the coach

They stop at the beach cafe for tea 1950s

A Journey by Car Published by Birn Brothers
Birn Bros

A holiday by air Published by Birn Brothers
Published by Birn Brothers

A Wonderful holiday Published by Birn Brothers
Birn brothers

Thank you for accompanying me on my travels!  If you would like to know more about any of the books, please click on the links above each one. 
Are we there yet? Vintage travel

When I started this post, I assumed the four books above made up a complete set but by a strange coincidence, I was offered another set of five books. There can’t be very many of these around so it seems like the best kind of luck to have two sets plus an extra! Now two lucky customers can own a little piece of travel history.

The Travelling Twins Published by Birn Brothers

A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles... Tim Cahill

Thanks for breaking your journey here...
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