Thursday 28 July 2016

Winter, Wonder, Walk & Wild

It's winter in our part of the world. We hadn't walked our favourite trail for a few months and I was interested to see what wildflowers were out compared to the last walk we took that way. Well, there weren't that many in flower but it was a lovely walk regardless.

A piece of termite's nest that had fallen from one of the eucalypts

This book has proven to be very useful...

I was able to identify a couple of wildflowers I found - the Woollsia pungens, which was flowering, and the spiny-head mat-rush which wasn't...

 The Charm of Nature Study

Nature study as a subject is one which should be approached with great reverence, for in dealing with birds, animals, flower and all other forms of natural life, we are perhaps, nearer to the Creator than in any other branch of science; for the natural world is the expression of God's personality in a form that is within the reach of all of us to comprehend in some measure. And is not the natural world one of the greatest proofs that there is a God?

Years hence when children are old enough to understand that science itself is in a sense sacred, and demands some sacrifice, all the common information they have been gathering until then, and the habits of observation they have acquired, will form an excellent ground work for a scientific education. In the meantime let them consider the lilies of the field and fowls of the air.

 Wonder - Benj when he was 3 years of age delighting in the rainbow lorikeets

Wonder 13 years later - Benj came home late one night with his brother and they both called out to me to come downstairs. When I got there they took me outside to see this creature climbing along the wall of the carport.

It was bitterly cold outside and we stood shivering while Benj climbed on the back of his brother's ute to get some closer kept moving so the photo is a bit blurred, unfortunately. Then we all argued about what we thought it was - a baby brush-tailed possum or sugar glider?? Whatever it was, everyone thought it was really cute.

Update: it looks like this litte creature is a Feather Tail Glider  Acrobates aculeatus. They are related to the Pygmy Possum and I think this one would have been an adult.


To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wildflower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

William Blake
Moozle's nature notebook

Another great find. It's out of print but I've seen it on ebay for under $10...

Linking up with Celeste at Keeping Company

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Back to the Classics - The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers (1931)

Lord Peter Wimsey, although an Englishman, was well-received in the close-knit fishing and artistic community of Galloway and had passed many a season in the area. One night when he was having a drink at the local pub, a dispute broke out between Campbell and Waters, two of the resident artists, and they came to blows.
Campbell was universally disliked, 'a devil when he's drunk and a lout when he's sober,' and since his arrival in the community there had been nothing but rows and bickering. After the men were forcibly separated, Campbell stormed off in high dudgeon into the night.
The next day he was found dead at the bottom of an outcrop of granite; his body lying face down in the burn and an unfinished painting on a sketching easel on the rock ledge above. There seemed little doubt that Campbell had accidentally fallen as he stepped back to observe his painting. But then Wimsey noticed something everyone else had missed. He declared that it was a case of murder and that it had been committed by an artist.

'...I don't mind betting this is the most popular thing Campbell ever did. Nothing in life became him like the leaving it, eh, what?'

There were six suspects, all of whom detested Campbell and had grievances against him. Five of the suspects were red herrings; one was the killer, and it took all the ingenuity of Wimsey and the local 'pollis' to piece events together and decide who was responsible.

It was a marvellous day in late August, and Wimsey's soul purred within him as he pushed the car along. The road from Kirkcudbright to Newton Stewart is of a varied loveliness hard to surpass, and with a sky full of bright sun and rolling cloud-banks, hedges filled with flowers, a well-made road, a lively engine and the prospect of a good corpse at the end of it, Lord Peter's cup of happiness was full. He was a man who loved simple pleasures.

I relished the setting of The Five Red Herrings - a part of Scotland about 180 km south of my birthplace, and there is quite a bit of Scottish brogue in the dialogue, which I know sometimes causes problems if you're not familiar with the tongue. The BBC audio version is good and is narrated by Patrick Malahide who does a pretty decent Scottish accent, for a sassenach, although two of the police detectives sound almost identical.

Elizabeth George, a mystery writer herself, had this to say about Sayers:

While many detective novelists from the Golden Age of mystery kept their plots pared down to the requisite crime, suspects, clues, and red herrings, Sayers did not limit herself to so limited a canvas in her work. She saw the crime and its ensuing investigation as merely the framework for a much larger story, the skeleton - if you will - upon which she could hang the muscles, organs, blood vessels and physical features of a much larger tale.

George said that Sayer's writing was like a tapestry and this is so true. I've read a number of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels and there is a  richness and attention to detail that you don't usually find in detective fiction. I enjoy her literary allusions, Latin quotations, the intellectual stimulation and the humour woven into her novels.
Speaking of humour, in The Five Red Herrings Wimsey decides to re-enact the crime, having guessed the murderer's identity but having insufficient evidence to make an arrest. The Chief Constable, Sir Maxwell, is chosen to be the corpse and Wimsey plays the murderer.

'Now, corpse, it's time I packed you into the car. I probably did it earlier, but you'd have been so uncomfortable. Come and take up your pose again, and remember you're supposed to be perfectly rigid by now.'

'This may be fun to you,' grumbled Sir Maxwell, 'but it's death to me.'

'So it is,' said Wimsey. 'Never mind. Ready? Up you go!'

'Eh!' said Macpherson as Wimsey seized the Chief Constable's cramped and reluctant body and swung it on to the back seat of the Morris, 'but your lordship's wonderful strong for your size.'

'It's just a knack,' said Wimsey, ruthlessly ramming his victim down between the seat and the floor. 'I hope you aren't permanently damaged sir. Can you stick it?' he added, as he pulled on his gloves.
'Carry on,' said the corpse in a muffled voice.

A nice little extra included in the Hodder and Stroughton editions of Sayer's Wimsey novels, (pictured above) but not in the HarperTrophy or Dover copies, is a short and entertaining 'biography of Lord Peter Wimsey, brought up to date...and communicated by his uncle Paul Austin Delagardie.'

Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey's mystery classics are scheduled as free reads in the Ambleside Online Year 12 curriculum, although we've used them at a younger age after Agatha Christie's novels and the Father Brown series by Chesterton had been read to death.

This is my entry in the Back to the Classics 2016 - Classic by a Woman category

Monday 25 July 2016

Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them

Books are an unending springboard for philosophical and practical rabbit trails. These are some of the things I've wanted to do or learn about after reading books:

1) These books had me wondering how I'd cope without community, electricity, running water, a dependable food supply, fuel and everything else I take for granted on a daily basis. How knowledgeable am I about even basic survival skills?? I enjoy dystopian-type books mostly because of the philosophical questions they raise about human behaviour and the development of character. 

On the Beach by Nevil Shute - an apocalyptic/dystopian look at a community of people in Australia preparing for the arrival of airborne radiation which has already wiped out the population of the Northern Hemisphere. It was interesting to read about aspects of radiation and its effects on humans that Shute wove into the story. Not my favourite book because it was quite depressing and I stupidly kept waiting for everything to come good, but of course, it couldn't and didn't. Apart from my shattered hopes, it was a compelling and well-written story. Nancy @ipsofactodotme wrote an excellent and detailed review of the book.

 Alas, Babylon by Pat Franklin - survivors of a nuclear holocaust try to rebuild their lives. I read books like this and realise I probably wouldn't last five minutes in the same scenario with my limited survival skills.

Thus the lights went out, and in that moment civilization in Fort Repose retreated a hundred years.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndam - this is one of my favourite dystopian reads. It has a more  literary flavour than some of the others I've read and explores the 'What if?' and social structures. I loved it.

2) Books that inspired me to be a better mother, to watch my words, and to work on my lack of the virtue known as  patience:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I first read this book when I used it as a read aloud for my older children when they were quite young. When I came to the chapter 'Jo Meets Apollyon,' it was as if it was written just for me:

"Jo, dear, we all have our temptations, some far greater than yours, and it often takes us all our lives to conquer them. You think your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like it.”

" must keep watch over your ‘bosom enemy’, as father calls it, or it may sadden, if not spoil your life. You have had a warning. Remember it, and try with heart and soul to master this quick temper, before it brings you greater sorrow and regret than you have known today."

3) A book that made me want to go and hug my girls and tell them how much I appreciated them.

Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter - Elnora's mother has kept a dark secret for many years and as a result has never been able to show her daughter any real love. Elnora goes off to highschool and is ridiculed because of her clothes and obvious poverty. Her mother refuses to provide her with money for books and tuition because she considers her desire for an education 'foolishness.' This is a beautiful story that poignantly shows the effect of the withholding of love but also the release that forgiveness can bring. Lovely!

4) A Book That Made Me Want to Homeschool my Children

For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

"Educating extends to all of life. In fact, an educational system that says, one bright summer's day in the dawn of my youth, 'There. Now you are educated. This piece of paper says so,' is doing me a gross disfavor. The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened. He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything through fully."


"How do we shortchange the child of today? We coop him up like a battery hen in a gaudy plastic cage. We 'timetable' his day with 'improving' activities so that he is a foreigner to himself and to the great outdoors."

"Many schools excel in wasting time. Time is like a fortune; it is wrong to allow it to be buried. Child are tired out with busy work. They are talked at until their attention habitually wanders, and maybe nine-tents of their time is wasted."

5) A Book That Made Me Want to Keep Homeschooling Them

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Homeschooling by John Taylor Gatto - Gatto was a public school teacher for about 30 years and a recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award.

 "School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know."

"It is time that we squarely face the fact that institutional schoolteaching is destructive to children." 

"Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience."

6) A book whose author referrenced a whole lot of books he read growing up and inspired me to search them out

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks - apart from being a wonderful autobiography and introduction to the world of chemistry, Sacks talked about the books he'd read and how they motivated him and inspired his love for science. What impressed me was the wide range and genres he absorbed and gleaned from: Our Mutual Friend by Dickens, Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger books; War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells; T.E. Lawrence and John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, to name a few.

7) A book that had me finding out all about post WWII Vienna - the city was divided into four allied zones which were administered by Britain, USA, Russia & France. A fifth zone in the inner city was administered by all four powers. A dangerous and fascinating city.

The Third Man by Graham Greene

8) Books that made me long for the land of my birth

The Three Hostages & The Island of Sheep by John Buchan - Buchan's books are often set at least partly in Scotland, and whenever I read them, I want to pack up and head off back to my homeland. He describes the Scottish landscape so perfectly; I feel the cold air, imbibe the damp atmosphere and lose myself for a time.

9) A book that introduced me to Croatia, a new artist, and gave me insights into The Odyssey

Island of the World by Michael O'Brien - actually, this book did much more than introduce me to Croatia, Marc Chagall and aspects of The Odyssey. It's a very moving and painful epic about loss, hatred, justice and forgiveness that still lingers in my thoughts after two and a half years.

 10) An author whose books explore aspects of human behaviour and provides interesting details for rabbit trails about topics as diverse as art, bell-ringing, publishing companies, poison, university life, relationships...

Clouds of Witness  by Dorothy L. Sayers

One of the true pleasures inherent to picking up a Sayers novel now is to see how the times in which we live alter our perceptions of the world around us, while doing nothing at all 
to alter the core of our humanity.
Elizabeth George

My two favourites 

Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them is the topic for this week's:

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books Set Outside the USA

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link up hosted by The Broke & the Bookish. It's Wednesday here in Australia so I'm late. This week the topic is: Ten Books Set Outside the U.S.A. Here are some that I've enjoyed and I've linked to any previous reviews I've written:


The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (1925)

This is an unusual and almost bizarre story that grabs you from the very first page. It is set partly in England but mostly in China and Hong Kong when the latter was under British rule in the 1920's.
Shallow but likeable in many ways; beautiful, outgoing and frivolous, twenty-five year old Kitty, afraid of being left on the shelf after spending her youth partying and flirting, and declining a number of marriage proposals, marries Walter Fane, an intense, introverted, young doctor. They go to live in Hong Kong where he has been working in bacteriology and while there Kitty becomes involved with a married man.
Walter discovers her unfaithfulness and forces Kitty to face the truth that her 'lover' had no intention of leaving his own wife and was just using her. Walter gives his wife an ultimatum whereby her only available option is to travel with him to a cholera ravaged outpost in China.
The story doesn't sound very appealing!! but I loved the author's writing and his exploration of Kitty's gradual awakening of conscience and development of character.
It is a little sad; Walter is a tragic sort of character. The ending wasn't perfect, but as good as it probably could be considering the circumstances. Overall, I think it's a very interesting and absorbing read.


The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy

In June 1941 Hitler's armies invaded Russia in what was known as Operation Barbarossa, and quickly advanced to the city of Novogrudek in Western Belarus where they began to impose regulations to control the Jewish population and set up the Novogrudek ghetto. This is the story of three Jewish  brothers who waged a guerilla warfare against the Nazis and created a 'Jerusalem in the woods.'


Death of a Guru by Rabindranath R Maharaj

A fascinating and wonderfully engaging book first published in the 1970's at the height of Eastern Mysticism's introduction into the western world.


The House I Left Behind by Dr. Daniel Shayesteh

This book is a unique insight into the life of a practicing Muslim through the lens of a man raised in an Iranian (Persian) culture dominated by fundamentalist Islam (historically Iran has not always been Muslim and defended its Persian heritage for many years despite Arabic invasions).
It's the story of a man who desired democracy and economic justice for his country and believed the Iranian Revolution which deposed the Shah of Iran and opened the door for the rule of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 would be the means of accomplishing this.
I wrote a little about it here.


Cover Her Face by P.D James - written in 1962, this was P.D James's first novel. Her books give very picturesque descriptions of the English landscape.


Pied Piper by Nevil Shute - Shute is an author who never fails to please. His characters are just normal everyday sorts of people with their flaws and weaknesses, but he places them in exceptional circumstances that call upon all their resources. A very satisfying book with an unusual plot and twist at the end.


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque - the best book on World War I that I've ever read. Written by a German who fought on the front and a book not to be missed!


The Tragedy of the Korosko by Arthur Conan Doyle

In 1895 the steamer, S.W. Korosko, set out from Shellal, a small village in Upper Egypt, with an assorted group of English, Irish and American tourists on board. Their intention was to travel up the two hundred miles of Nubian Nile, visiting the various points of interest along the way, but during one of their excursions they were kidnapped by a group of Arab dervishes and plunged into a world steeped in seventh century ideas and practice.


Nothing Else Matters by Patricia St. John - a young adult book set during the civil war in Lebanon during the 1970's.


Decision at Delphi by Helen McInnes - one of my favourite authors whose espionage books are set all through Europe.

Monday 18 July 2016

Ambleside Online Year 5 - some written narration samples

Moozle is just finishing up Ambleside Online Year 5. The bulk of it is done but we got behind on a few of the readings so we'll be finishing those off and then doing an exam before heading into Year 6. The Aussie school year starts at the end of January but we've never followed the official school terms except for sometimes taking advantage of the quieter roads during the school holidays and having some days off during that time.
I often give her a choice of the books she uses for written narrations and it's interesting to see what she picks. Here are some selections from this year's work. She's read all these on her own except for the first half of Doctor Hunger & Captain Thirst, which I read aloud to her.

From Kim by Rudyard Kipling - I added some additional resources to help fill in the backgound and context of this story which I posted these here.

An Australian substitute for we used for History/Biography was Doctor Hunger & Captain Thirst and Moozle did a few picture narrations for this book:

 John McDouall Stuart

The Singing Wire was a Term 3 Aussie substitute and again, picture narrations were mostly done:

Age of Fable - this has been quite a popular choice for both wriiten and picture narrations over the past two years (it continues into Year 6)

Aurora & Tithonus Ch 26

The Story of the World Volume 4, The Modern Age, by Susan Wise Bauer is a book that Moozle has really liked and enjoyed writing about:

  When we've finished the year's work, I'll write a post about what worked and what didn't and get Moozle's opinion on the books she used.

Friday 15 July 2016

Nothing Else Matters by Patricia St John (1919-1993)

Patricia St John has been called 'a poet of forgiveness,' and you don't have to  look any further than the wonderful stories she wrote for young children to understand why. Tanglewood's Secret (1948), Treasures of the Snow (1950), Star of Light (1953) and Rainbow Garden (1960), are just a few of the powerful, engrossing and redemptive books she wrote for children.
I came across them a couple of years after we were married and were visiting my husband's grandparents in New Zealand. I found a few of the author's books in the home library they kept for children's ministry and sat up until the wee hours of quite a few mornings, often in tears, in order to finish them. Patricia St John's books were often based on her own experiences; she knew what redemption was and had the gift to be able to express God's love and forgiveness creatively.
In 1982, the author moved into a more mature readership with the publication of Nothing Else Matters (also published under the title, If You Love Me: A Story of Forgiveness).

This story is set in Lebanon in the mid 1970's during the civil war. After the State of Israel was established, refugee camps were set up by the United Nations as the conflict with the Palestinians spilled over the border into Lebanon. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation grew out of these camps and this resulted in the establishment of military training centres.
There was a brief civil war in 1958, and then in 1975, war broke out again between the Maronite Christians (a strong 'right wing' political party) and the Muslim militia and Palestinians, or 'left wing.'
Nothing Else Matters is the story of a Lebanese Maronite family; Elias, Rosa and their children: 16 year old twins Amin and Lamia; eleven-year old Sami and eight year old Huda. Rosa has a simple and sincere faith but the rest of the family are only nominal Christians. As the life they know disintegrates around them, and hatred rises up in its place, Lamia's struggles with the horrors of the war bring her to a place where she begins to grasp that forgiveness and love are the most important things. Nothing else matters, ultimately.
The story is written in the author's usual simple but powerful style so the reading level isn't difficult,  but the themes are. I know every family feels differently about age appropriateness so here are a few samples from the book that may help you judge whether it's suitable for your situation:

Lamia finds a dead Palestinian woman with her infant lying unhurt beside her underneath her cloak. Taking the child, Moomi, home, Rosa immediately accepts him, but when Elias comes home he is enraged:

'The child of our enemies, and your brother not three weeks dead. I tell you, I will not have this brat in our house.'
'Father, we have lost one brother; let us keep this one.'
His taut nerves gave way and his anger blazed out.
'So! this little bastard can take he place of our brother, can it? You have forgotten him silent, you fool of a girl, or I'll throw him out now, thus minute!'

The church stood like a grey rock jutting from the mountainside, but she did not go in. She had never been in since Amin died, because the pale Christ on the cross, and his mournful faced mother with her eyes uplifted had not answered her prayer any more than any of her bits of wood and plaster. 'I think I'm an atheist now,' she thought rather vaguely, and her deep sense of loneliness increased because it was so terrible to believe that there was no one there at all.

So many of the children had run out of their homes to play and had never come home again.

After an all night bombardment, Elias realised there was no hope for their survival if they stayed in their home. He said to Rosa,

'If there's a lull, we might still get away, unless the car has been stolen or smashed. It was well hidden.'
'Yes, if there is a lull I think we should try and get away in the dark. It's Lamia I worry about the most. She is so beautiful, and they do terrible things to girls.'
'It's not only the girls; you, too, are beautiful. But don't worry. If they come to rape you or Lamia, I shall shoot you both with my own gun, before they shoot me.'
And Lamia, woken by the strangeness of a five minute silence, heard what her father said, and lay marvelling. He would shoot her himself, rather than see her raped or mutilated, and die content, with her. Her silent father had always cared for her and provided for her, but now she knew, for the first time, how deeply he loved her. For love is a strange plant. It may grow unnoticed and unrecognised on the sunny slopes and only break into flower in the valley of the shadow of death.

Writing about an attack by the Palestinians which became known as the 'Battle of the Hotels,' the author wrote:

When it was over, the victors posed for photographs round the headless body of one of their victims, while other bodies were hitched to jeeps and dragged through the streets to celebrate the victory.

In 1978, Patricia St John travelled to Beirut to visit her sister, Hazel, a missionary and teacher who had survived the first three years of the civil war. Hazel had broken her femur in a fall and Patricia spent five weeks with her during her convalescence. Once back home in England, Patricia wrote Nothing Else Matters which was based on the true experiences of a Lebanese family who lived with Hazel after losing their home and belongings in the war.
(See 'Patricia St. John Tells Her Own Story,' 1995).

Wednesday 6 July 2016

The Worship of Success

I've almost finished the 2010 biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. According to the author, Bonhoeffer was fascinated by the way people worship success. He experienced firsthand the fickleness of the crowds at bullfights when he was in Spain; one minute roaring for the toreador, the next, for the bull. In 1938, just after the infamous Kristallnacht, Bonhoeffer, disheartened by the inability of the Church to be bold and firm in the face of oppostion and suffering, wrote in an Advent letter:

 '...God's cause is not always the successful one...we really could be "unsuccessful"and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm." Pg. 318.

Metaxas writes:

After the fall of France, many understood that Hitler was destroying Germany through success.

Hitler himself saw his success as 'Providential.' Bonhoeffer had a different view:

Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization.   

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1939.

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done...
With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means...
The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.
Bonhoeffer, pg 363

Calvary by Jan Bruegel, c.1610

It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

Sunday 3 July 2016

Art Appreciation & Picture Study

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a series of art appreciation books written by Richard Muhlberger that we've used for upper primary and the highschool years. Sometimes I've read portions aloud to everyone or they've read them individually. Each book is about 50 pages in length and explores how a particular artist differs from another and gives clues to identifying an artist's work. I appreciate that the author doesn't over-analyze the artist's work but gives enough insight and information to help the observer develop their 'seeing' skills. About 12 paintings are studied in each book and one of our favourites in the series is, What Makes a Raphael A Raphael?
Other artists presented in the series are Monet, Bruegel, Degas, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Mary Cassatt & Goya. They are mostly out of print but there are loads of secondhand copies at Amazon and Abebooks.

A short overview of the defining features of each artist's work is included at the end of each book:


Artist of the Reformation, The Story of Albrecht Durer by Joyce McPherson. The book is written on a 5th to 6th grade level and is a good family read aloud - as with other books  by this author, they are well suited to a mix of ages. Durer (1471-1528) was one of the foremost intellectuals and artists of his day.

'For verily, art is embedded in nature; he who can extract it has it.' 
 Albrecht Durer

Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork; Illustrated by Lena Anderson. A lovely introduction to the artist that is suitable to read with multiple ages around 10 years old and under or for a confident reader to read on their own. I read it aloud a number of years ago and then Moozle read it for herself when she was eight. Linnae goes to Paris and visits Monet's garden and tells about his life. Very nicely illustrated. See inside the book  here.

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry is a lovely book about the young Quaker boy, Benjamin West, and the extraordinary gift he had. I wrote about it here. A wonderful read aloud and a great insight into the development of a God-given artistic ability. 

Books by James Mayhew - for a younger age group, these are picture books with a short story that help to get young children interested in an artist's works.

Katie and the Spanish Princess 

Katie visits the art gallery with her Grandma and steps into the paintings and meets the people portrayed by the artists Velazquez, Goya, and Murillo. Moozle liked them when she was about 4 or 5.

Katie and the Sunflowers (Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne) is another in the series.

Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia.

This is a series of books on various artists that were much loved in our home around the ages of 6 to 8 years. They include interesting information and pictures of some of the more famous paintings by the individual artists. The inclusion of some quirky humour and cartoons make it a very enjoyable read for younger children.

The Great Art Scandal by Anna Nilsen 
'A detection game, a mystery story and a reference book - all in one!'
This is a great book especially for children around the age of 10 years of age who like puzzles.The  reader gets an introduction to 30 modern artists and has to find a rogue painting by comparing the paintings in an exhibition with the masterpieces that inspired them. Very well done.

Art Fraud Detective is another similar book by the same author with paintings by the old masters such as Rembrandt and Raphael. Surreptitious art appreciation...

 I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino is a Newberry Medal novel set in the  seventeenth century. Juan de Pareja was the slave of the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. The only off-putting part of the book was towards the end (Chapter 12) when Juan had his fortune told, otherwise the book gives a feel for the time period and is a good introduction to spark interest in the artist's work.  There's also an audio version but my children didn't enjoy listening to the narrator although I know another family who did...

I've previously mentioned this series of art books published by Phaidon Press which I found earlier this year at the National Art Gallery. Bookdepository have a good selection at the same or slightly reduced prices so I ordered the one below from there. If you are using the Ambleside Online art rotation, these books have excellent, good-sized reproductions of many of the art works AO recommend.

I was very happy to find Harmony Fine Arts when Moozle was about the age of six because it gave me a structured way to include not just art appreciation but also some art instruction. Two of my girls have been more interested in drawing, painting etc than the others and Moozle's older sister had used some of the Artistic Pursuits material. It wasn't really a good fit for her younger sister so I decided to use this material instead and purchased Grade 1 in the print edition but it also comes as a download.  It includes 32 Weeks of Plans – 8 artists and 8 composers so I decided to follow the composers also. There's a sample lesson here.
We both really enjoyed the year we had with this. The Oxford First Book of Art and The Usborne Art Treasury were two of the options we used and they were both very good.

At the same time I used the Medieval and Renaissance Art & Music with her three older brothers as we were covering that historical period at the time. This was very enjoyable also but it didn't have the practical art component of the Grade 1 material, not that the boys minded. The author may have made some changes to her materials as it was about five years ago that I purchased my copies. If you have a younger child who enjoys art and you want a simple, non-overwhelming plan to help you be consistent in giving them some instruction, I'd recommend the Grade 1 programme.
Harmony Fine Arts also has some free downloads.

Some practical ideas for art appreciation and art in general:

How to make tempera paint

Basic Art Supplies for Kids

This is an interesting article on nudity in art from a Christian perspective.

How to Teach Pastels at Home - we haven't used any of these ideas yet but Moozle has done some work in pastels and is keen to do more so I'll be checking this out soon.