Move Over Yellow Pages…this Book Has Everything from A-Z!

I recall spending the majority of my childhood summers in primarily two places.  Visiting my Grandma’s house in Edinburg, TX, and in the upstairs (children’s section) of the Bryan Public Library.  The two had one thing in common: both housed a copy of the greatest picture book of all time.  (Incidentally, it just happens to have had it’s 20th anniversary this year, and I maintain that it still holds this title…at least as far as I am concerned)

sweetI first discovered Animalia in the summer of 1989.  It was an uncharacteristically (for mid-summer in south Texas) rainy  afternoon.  My Grandmother had company over, and my siblings were sleeping off the adventures we’d had earlier that day, which left me tasked with entertaining myself.  My Grandparents’ home was NEVER lacking for literature, but for whatever reason,the shelves of classic novels and worn volumes of World Book Encyclopedia didn’t excite me on this particular day.  Instead, what piqued my interest was the glimmer of the ONE “modern” children’s picture book in the house!  I couldn’t believe I had never seen it before. (Maybe Gramps had purchased it for just such an emergency?)  The children’s library was my second home, and though I was an avid reader of chapter books, I still had a deep love for children’s books–especially those with really good illustrations…but this one was completely foreign to me.  At the time, I was OBSESSED with Chris Van Allsburg (I loved searching for his trademark hidden dog tucked within the pages of all of his books!), but this book blew all of his out of the water!


At first glance, I was immediately taken in by the intricate detail of of the cover.  Every square inch was covered.  And the illustrator had an uncanny ability to draw realistic animals, that had a fun, expressive, caricature-like quality, without making them feel kiddish or tacky.poem

Nestled into the title page I discovered an intriguing poem, which promised the pages to come would be spellbinding. There was also a dare of sorts, to discover what only the “keenest eyes” would find.  And, a challenge to find a boy in a striped shirt hidden amongst the pages! (Note: Although the boy’s attire bears a striking resemblance to another hidden book character’s, Animalia was actually published at least a year before the first “Where’s Waldo”, so it’s merely coincidental) I was hooked already.


I turned to the first page, eager to get started.  I was instantly captivated. I had never seen anything like it.  EVER.  Each and every page was completely saturated with vibrant color and whimsical scenes.  There was little text, but the depth of the illustrations more than made up for it.  I almost overlooked the text completely because I was staring so intently at the pictures…the detail was phenomenal, but the picture made no sense, so I looked to the words on the page to explain the scene before me, and that was when I discovered the best surprise of all.  It appeared to be an alliterative tongue twister, each word beginning with the letter “A”, at which point I realized that hidden throughout the illustrations on the page were GOBS of hidden depictions of animals and objects beginning with the letter A.  Some of these objects/animals even contained additional hidden pictures within THEIR details (like a picture within a picture, within a picture!  It was like standing in an elevator with glass walls where the reflection seems to just go on forever!)  I was mesmerized!  (If you don’t believe me, enlarge the picture and be amazed…see how many things you can find…atoms, antenna, autograph , accordion, and abacus only scratch the surface! Each page held a letter-specific tongue twister and corresponding illustrations, and they were so cleverly hidden and disguised (it also helped that he was English/Australian, so some of the pictures were of things that didn’t appear to begin with the letter until I considered alternate terms for words–such as the baby carriage on the “P” page, which I finally remembered was also known as a “pram”!).  I lost myself in first two pages for what had to have been close to half an hour.  And then I closed the book.  I felt as though a sugary-sweet, delicious, chocolate cake had been laid before me, but instead of gorging myself, I wanted to cut it into tiny slivers and savor every morsel, which meant rationing myself to only a page or two per sitting–so I could make it last.

readingI was so excited to share it with my siblings when they woke up from their naps.  And now, nearly 20 years later, I am equally (if not more) thrilled to share it with my kids.  (Honestly, Animalia was my go-to, favorite birthday gift for friends’ kids long before Norah and Eli were born!)

In addition to being an awesome gift idea, I’ve also used it to trick my kids into writing exercises.  First, I give each of us a piece of paper (yes, I play too because it is still so fun for me, PLUS, the prospect of the kids “taking down mom” together is always a good motivator in our house!). Next, I set a timer on my phone for 2 minutes, and we each list as many hidden objects beginning with the letters on a selected page.  (My son who hates to write LOVES this activity, and I’ve been surprised to see how many words with tricky spellings he is aware of–such as gnome and pheasant!)  At the end of 2 minutes, we go through our lists, Scattergories-style, crossing off duplicated answers, and see which of us came up with the most.  We have so much fun pointing out our finds to one another, and then usually spend another 5-10 minutes per page searching together for others we’ve missed (there are always tons more than we can get in 2 min) and, of course marveling aloud at what an incredible genius Graeme Base is.

Why have I dedicated an entire blog post to this one picture book?

  1. I think that EVERYONE should own a copy.  (Especially “grown-ups”…you never know when you’ll have a desperately bored child in your home on a rainy day, not to mention, you’d be surprised at how intriguing/what a great conversation piece this “children’s book” is for adults!)
  2. As amazing as this book is, I have heard VERY little buzz about it and have always been amazed that so few people are familiar with it, so I felt the need to spread some love.
  3. Christmas is coming, and Animalia would make a unique gift (read: unlikely to be duplicated by someone else)
  4. This blog is a space where I share some of my favorite things, and this book most certainly falls into that category. In addition my having some great childhood memories attached to it, I am now quite confident my children will have similar fond memories of the hours we’ve crowded around and poured over this book together.

Disclaimer: This is a completely unsolicited review.  I was not asked, nor am I being paid to share my opinions.  I only write about products that chose, truly love, and whole-heartedly recommend because I think they make the world a better place.  I am, however, an affiliate partner with, so if you’re interested in purchasing a copy of this book, I’d love it if you would do so through any of the links on this page, which will give me credit for recommending it! (Not to mention, Amazon usually beats most everyone’s prices, so it may be the cheapest way to buy–especially if you have free shipping/Prime!)




The Best Laid Plans…

Farm Girl JournalsChristmas came early… I picked up a brand new planner for myself yesterday!  Those  who know me well can attest to the fact that I am a planner.  I like to have a plan, I like to know the plan, and if I have anything to say about it, I’d just as soon not deviate from the plan.  I obsessively carry a planner with me everywhere I go.  Sure, I know I can keep  track of appointments and important dates on my iPhone (and I do that too), but for me, there is something cathartic about physically writing my commitments down on paper and seeing them in my own handwriting as pending dates approach.

Who gets a new planner in the eighth month of the year?  This girl!  After a three-year love affair with the pricey, but visually stunning Erin Condren, I decided we needed a break.  For one thing, my entire calendar revolves around the school year, which means about this time every year, I start getting nervous because my standard January-December calendar is running out of pages and I’m already scheduling things into February.  I needed a new calendar, and I needed one pronto.  I was frustrated as I realized this happens to me every year.  I pay $75 for my flashy EC planner with all the bells and whistles, but by August, I’m already wanting a new one so I can keep planning into the next year.  Not to mention, this year, I was sorely disappointed to discover that Erin Condren had changed one of my FAVORITE  features… exchanging its smooth-turning, chrome binding for a wider, scratchy, dull-silver binding of sub-par quality.)

A close, local friend of mine has made quite a name for herself designing and manufacturing custom planners under the label Farm Girl Journals on etsy, so I gave her a shout and asked if I could place an order. I love the idea of supporting local small businesses (not to mention, I tend to run a little on the picky side, so having the opportunity to fully customize my planner was too lucrative for me to pass up!).

I chose from Farm Girl’s wide variety of cover options (Love me some Roy G. Biv!), requested specific scriptures for the inside and back covers, and of course, asked for extra pages for taking notes (Erin never did have paper enough to contain all of my thoughts) Just one week later, it was ready and I can’t adequately express how much I love it!

Inside Cover

The first thing I noticed was how closely the cover resembled my EC planner.  (Which is good, because the ultra-sturdy, gorgeous covers were what drew me to Erin in the first place) The crystal-clear lamination will insure my cover will still maintain it’s pristine appearance even after all the lunches and coffees (and accidental spills) I subject it to over the course of the next year.  Plus, the spiral binding allowed for delightfully smooth page turns, so I was already a very happy girl!

I was equally impressed by the quality of  its paper (in fact, I liked it better than EC!).  I am a self-proclaimed pen snob.  Translation: I carry a black Pilot G-2 with me EVERYWHERE I go, and use it exclusively.  (Especially in my planner, where I absolutely can not tolerate the sight of mismatched ink) The fatal flaw of the G-2 is that it doesn’t work well on all paper types.  It’s terrible on slick-finished greeting cards, for example.  So, when I noticed how silky-smooth my new planner’s paper was, I was a little nervous they they may not play together nicely.  However, to my elation, the paper’s smooth surface felt amazing to write on and was equally porous enough to allow my G-2 ink to soak in. (No smearing and no bleed-through!) It was a match made in heaven!

TabsThe sturdy but adorable, color-coordinated , patterned tabs were the icing on the cake!  They make me happy just looking at them!

Month at a Glance  I was happy to find that the monthly calendar was spacious (individual squares were slightly larger than EC, which I liked), simplistic,  and pleasing the eye. I immediately went to work transferring over the remaining dates from my previous planner.  (It may or may not have been the highlight of my day) And I loved that there was a place in the right margin for notes/reminders to myself.  Oh!! And I did I mention that I was able to customize my calendar, so that it starts and finishes in August?  LOVE it!!

GoalsbyrolesPerhaps the most unexpected feature I fell in love with was the weekly calendar.  My Erin Condren planner had a weekly calendar section, but I seldom used it. (That is until I had used up the scant number of notes pages provided in back, at which point I resorted to using the weekly calendar for scratch paper).

What I love about my Farm Girl Planner’s weekly calendar is that it allows me to organize my weekly goals by role.  This was a total game-changer for me.  This is exactly how my brain works!  I need to keep my responsibilities/commitments for all of my different roles organized separately.  On the left-hand margin, I was able to list out the different hats I wear/things I keep track of on a weekly basis.  I wrote out some of the chores I’d like to tackle around the house, the deadlines I have coming up for my CBS role, upcoming social engagements, and even my menu plan for this week.  This will allow me to keep track of all the “little things” that I might not want to write on my monthly calendar, but that still help me stay organized.  I love to keep To Do lists and this format provides a great way for me to do just that, while seeing it all in the context of the whole week’s big picture.

Closeup Goals

(Close-up of Goals by Roles)

NotesPer my request, I received a generous section of lined pages for note-taking (you can request un-lined pages if you’re more the free-spirited doodling type).  She even included additional blank tabs for me to label sections within the notes pages in case I want to keep my notes for PTO separate from my sermon notes!

RearViewBottom line: I have found my new planner, and I’m not looking back.  Not to mention, in addition to feeling great for supporting a local small business owner and friend, I paid a FRACTION of what I usually do for a planner!  I strongly suggest you check out the Farm Girl Journals Shop on etsy.  You can also find her on PinterestFacebook, and Instagram.

PS–If planners aren’t your “thing”, she also has a gorgeous line of Bible Tabs, Bible and prayer journals, and even customized journaling Bibles!  (I know where I’ll be doing a lot of my Christmas shopping this year!)