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I have several siblings (several- more than three, less than a dozen). For years, I gave every sibling a Christmas present. Then, I gave every sibling and his or her significant other a Christmas present. THEN, I gave every sibling, their S-O and their CHILDREN individual Christmas presents. THEN, I gave each family a box of Christmas presents. Finally, I sent some of my siblings a “family” Christmas present. Now, they are lucky to get a greeting card from me. This is the evolution of my family gift-giving.
( I did not expect nor did I often receive presents in return. Sometimes I was happily surprised. I just like giving gifts.)
A lot of these gifts were homemade. Because homemade gifts are super, right? Well, they are, if they come from my sisters, who all take great pride in crafting the most delightfully sewn, knitted, quilted items. I go for the Big Effect, and that sometimes means that my gifts fall apart 24 hours after they are unpacked. Still, it’s the thought.... Or, is it? (My food gifts are usually awesome!)
A gift can be as small as a button, as mysterious as an empty box, as ephemeral as a kiss. Books about gift-giving and generosity that I love.The Best Christmas Ever by Chih-Yuan Chen
. I will mention this book every Christmas season in some form or other, because I love it so much. I love the brown paper feel of the illustrations. I love the feeling of winter, darkness, and struggling hope. I love its simplicity. And I love the joyous resolution. The Bear family is so poor that they don’t even hope for presents this year. On Christmas morning, they find that “Toddler Christmas” visited in the night and brought them small, precious gifts.Birthday Surprises edited by Johanna Hurwitz.
Hurwitz asked 10 children’s authors to write a story about a birthday in which a child received an empty box. Sometimes, the box was the actual present. Sometimes, the box represented something else. In one case, the box was sent by mistake and the present was delivered in person. Imagine getting a box filled with air. Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant
. First published in Rylant’s collection, Children of Christmas
, this story tells of a train that rolled through the mountains and gifts that were thrown from the back to the impoverished children. Every year, a boy wishes for one particular gift. Every year, he gets something he needs. He returns as an adult and we find out whether his wish ever came true.
The following website offers a list of books about gift-giving and generosity to share with your young ones. The Best Childrens Books about Generosity.
Snow White by Matt Phelan
is a breathtaking version of the Grimm tale of treachery and vanity.
Set in New York City during the Great Depression, Phelan removes almost all of the magic and keeps the evil and the charm.
Samantha (Snow) White's new stepmother is the Queen of the Follies - Ziegfeld's Follies. As soon as she enters Snow's family, she banishes Snow to boarding school. Then the new wife engineers the death of Snow's father, the King of Wall Street, to seize hold of his vast fortune, one of the few that remain after the Crash of 1929.
Phelan's gray scale drawings (with a breath of color and splashes of red) are full of emotion and action. (Cue swirling ominous music....)December
is a month of darkness, hearth sides, magic. It's a time to tell tales and imagine what else might exist in the cold. Gnomes, trolls, fairies made of snow flakes - imps that write on our attic windows while we sleep - as the lights come on, all those things might be true - out there - in the dark.
My favorite fairy tale - East of the Sun, West of the Moon
- takes place in the winter and stars a polar bear, a peasant girl and trolls. Just about perfect. The link will lead you to 44 retellings of this story.
Another winter story that haunts me is the Cinderella-like folktale The Twelve Months
or Strawberries in the Snow.
Marushka - and her name varies in the retellings - lives with her aunt and cousins (or sisters and stepmother) - and is treated cruelly. She is sent out in the dead of winter to find fresh strawberries. (One link will lead you to Rafe Martin's retelling; the other, to a whole Pinterest page of illustrations.)
Winter tales belong to the D'Aulaires
. Their books are full of creatures and mythology of the North. Scratchy colorful paintings offer stories of strange beings like ...trolls. Look for their books at your public library. Whenever I think of winter fairytales, Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire spring to mind.
Today in my inbox, Candlewick sent me a little post on Bob Graham's books that promote kindness. Kindness is in short demand these days, even now, during the holiday season.
Candlewick Press concentrates on books for young readers.
Here's a little more about Bob Graham
.MORE BOOKS ABOUT KINDNESS:One Winter's Day
by M. Christina Butler. Hedgehog must find a new home. Along the way, he discovers friends who are even colder than he is. Adorable pictures, simple words tell the story of kindness repaid. The Most Perfect Snowman by Chris Britt
. Drift, one of the first snowmen of the winter has been thrown together and forgotten. Then, he gets everything he dreams of, scarf, hat, gloves. When a terrible storm blows in, Drift has to decide... does he keep his wonderful gifts or share them with others?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. Cold, frosty winter stretches through Narnia, as the White Queen reigns. But when the Pevensie children step through the wardrobe into the frozen land, they bring hope and call forth the lion, Aslan, to fight for Good. Pauline Baynes' illustration of the lamp post in the snowy forest would make a GREAT holiday card.A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby. Solveig, her brother who is crown prince, and her older sister are trapped in a fortress at the end of a frozen fjord. They wait news of their father's victory in battle. As the winter stretches on, and on, tensions and suspicions grow. Solveig watches her father's storyteller control the moods of the entrapped warriors and royal family, and stir them up. And she learns from him. Treachery is afoot. Can Solveig's new found voice stem the mutiny? Storytelling and winter- two of my favorite things.
. A young boy in Appalachia has never spoken, even though the local doctor can find nothing wrong with him. When he gets to play a shepherd in the school's Christmas pageant, the boy is heartbroken that snow cancels the performance. Then strangers arrive at his family's poor home. OK. I cannot tell you how very, very, very much I love this book. Period.
Also, I love William Pene Du Bois. There, my secret crush is revealed.
And I forgot to put out my wooden shoes last night!!! So, this morning, I got my Hub to pay for breakfast. Hmmm, I have never seen St. Nick and my Hub together at the same time. Is it possible?... Nah!
In honor of good old St. Nick, let's feature the Guardians of Childhood series, originated by William Joyce who is assisted by Laura Gehringer. The series contains picture books AND chapter books.
The chapter book series begins with a book about St. Nicholas, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce and Laura Gehringer.
He looks so serious and full of purpose.
Who was the REAL St. Nicholas? He was a Greek Bishop in what is now modern day Turkey. He was born in March of 270 C.E. and died on December 6th, 343 C.E. He is the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, brewers, pawnbrokers, students and repentant thieves. Miracles attributed to him include bringing murdered children back to life, saving a ship in a horrible storm and bringing one of the sailors back to life, taking wheat from a shipment destined for the Emperor without depleting the shipment at all.
The most famous story about Nicholas is the one about the poor man who had three daughters. In the 4th century, C. E., young women who had no dowry were forced to take the most menial of jobs or go into prostitution. Nicholas wanted to help the young women so he secretly tossed bags of gold in through the man's open window. One version of the story has the Saint tossing the bags down the chimney so he wouldn't be caught by the father.
Although Wikipedia is full of information about the good saint and his feast day, the St. Nicholas Center
has the same stories in shorter and more accessible forms. Enjoy the day.
Joyce Sidman is one of my all-time favorite poets. Her books concentrate on the natural world and evoke beautiful images. Coupled with excellent illustrations, these poems are great for sharing with young readers, or for paging through with a cup of tea.
Sidman's latest effort, Before Morning, is illustrated by Beth Krommes!!! (Caldecott award winner, Beth Krommes, that is.)
I have this book on hold at my public library.
Check out Sidman's earlier book, Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold.
In it, Sidman, examines how various animals and insects survive through the cold months.Doug Florian
is an American poet/painter whose poetry books delight kids everywhere. Winter Eyes
is one of my favorite Florian titles. The words and pictures remind me of brisk cold skies and the coziness of winter sunsets. His palette is perfect.
It's dark by 5 pm. The longest night of the year is only two weeks away. Here are some great books about nightime.The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen won the Caldecott award for the illustrations by John Schoenherr. This is a quiet look at a winter night and the beauties of nature. A father shares the night with his daughter as they hope to see an owl.
Bear Snores On Karma Wilson. Animals find their way into Bear's cave making more and more noise. When Bear finally wakes up and wants t join the ensuing party, his friends are fast asleep.
When a boy invites his snowman into his home, the snowman takes the boy on a night flight over the countryside. This wordless book has been turned into a popular animated short. View the full 1982 version of the film with an intro by David Bowie by clicking above.
I wanted to feature books on gingerbread. The multitude of gingerbread man, baby, girl, woman, twins, doll, bear, dog, computer mouse (joke) books out there have raised my blood sugar to dangerous levels.
Cookies are less sweet but there are some winners available - and most of them are holiday free! Read them now. Read them months from now. Still tasty.The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems.
The cheek of that little duckling! He asked for a cookie - politely - and he got one. The Pigeon wants a cookie. Does anyone ever give HIM a cookie? Another delightful meltdown by the world's favorite pigeon! And cookies. And a very cute Duckling. (And too many sentence fragments.)Cookies : Bite-size Life Lessons
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jane Dyer. Oooooh, Jane Dyer artwork. Now that IS sweet! Rosenthal uses the process of baking and eating cookies to introduce concepts such as the difference between "fair" and "unfair" or what it means to cooperate. And the pictures? Well, they are by Jane Dyer.
Read Christmas Cookies : Bite-size Holiday Lessons
by the same team to feel all warm and yule-tide cozy.
Gingerbread bunnies, gingerbread husbands, gingerbread hearts, wives, foxes, ponies, dreams, AAAHHH!!!
Still...The Gingerbread Boy
by Paul Galdone. This is the version I grew up with. The text is straight forward and the illustrations are bright and snappy.The following book is for teenagers. Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn
. Cyd Charisse - no, not the long-legged actor from the '50s - is a young teen with a lot of attitude. She's been thrown out of school - again. Her mother and stepfather are fed up. So across the country to NYC, Cyd goes, to meet her biological dad and her half-siblings and, hopefully, get straightened out. There are not many cookies in this book. There is a lot of smart-a** dialogue and convoluted thinking. Cyd makes some blunders but the reader cheers her on. There might be some dated phrases here (c2004).
BTW, Gingerbread is her rag doll, her talisman and best friend. I relate. I still have my kid-hood best friend. (In the attic.)
Kwame Alexander has penned a book with two other poets, Chris Colderley and Marjorie Wentworth, titled Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. The three write poems in the style of - and to honor - their favorite poets. The book is so pretty, with illustrations by Ekua Holmes.
|Soooooooo PRETTY!|| |
I learned about it on Shelf Awareness, one of those book industry websites that keep my mouth watering with notices like this one right here.Iceling by Sasha Stephenson
sounds like the beginning of a beautiful YA sci-fi series. Lorna's father, a scientist, has rescued several children from the Arctic Ocean. Lorna calls them "icelings". None of them talk. But Callie, an iceling who has fits, is Lorna's favorite. Callie appears to love Lorna, too. Then Callie's fits get worse and she draws a place she has never been. Lorna and Callie set out on a road trip. Oooh!Five Days of Famous by Alyson Noel
. Nick Dashaway should really be famous - he is THAT cool and smart. So he enters a talent show, hosted by a teen heartthrob, which he hopes is his ticket to stardom. Things don't go the way Nick is sure they should and his loyal, though less-than-cool friend, Plum, bakes him a consolation cupcake. Poof! It's ma-a-a-gi-i-i-c! And Nick gets EVERYTHING he's always wanted. Read the title. Right. I suspect that Nick's behavior while lucky is less than stellar. I also suspect his friends don't really care. Set during the holidays, this looks like a fun middle school read.
Here's one for the little ones - and for people who love to sing "Five Gold Rings" with gusto.The Twelve Days of Christmas: a Peek-Through Christmas Books by Britta Teckentrup
. The gifts mount up and each page has a cut-out peeking into what will happen next. And, look, sweet little gnome like children!!!
BTW, as the holidays approach, I won't be posting every single day. I have stuff - wrapping, making, baking, etc. Don't give up. I will return. I have a whole bunch of newly read books to tell you about.
No snow in our forecast! The six snowflakes that fell on the last day of October do not count.
Up here in the Northern hemisphere, we expect snow for the holidays. I remember some very, very, white and deep Christmases. But that was then, long ago, when (insert your nostalgic holiday memory here).
Number 1 book on snow - ever:The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
This was the very first mainstream book to ever feature a child of color as the main character. Although that is notable in itself, Keats' artwork and the simplicity of Peter's play raise this book to Book Idol level. A gazillion stars of loving this book!!
While we are talking about The Snowy Day,
Amazon Prime Video has tapped the talents of Angela Bassett and Boys II Men in its new animated version of Keats prize winning book. Here's the story, on The Mary Sue, with a video clip and everything.
The video should be available now. Red Sled by Lita Judge
. The book has no words - well, almost no words. The illustrations of woodland animals "borrowing" a child's sled during the night are so precious.The Snow Day by Komako Sakai.
A small rabbit is so happy when school is cancelled because of snow. The falling snow mesmerizes him. He has so much time to play. But his father is grounded in another city because of the snow. Sakai's muted paintings evoke that muffled quiet of a snowy day. Her palette matches the grey sky and city streets in the snow.
What is your favorite snowy day book?
Okay, okay. Penguins are not very holiday-ish. They don't even live on the right tip of the world. Most penguins live in a wintery climate. So, penguins, it is.Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant
. Full disclosure; I am such a BIG fan of Cynthia Rylant that I liked this book before I saw it. Then I saw it. The text is so simple and the penguins are so delightfully cute. They hurry to get dressed for the snow. They play in the cold. They hurry to throw their snowy clothes around. They rush into the warm kitchen. That's the whole story. You still have to SEE the book. It is a wonder to me that an author can take a handful of words and arrange them to create a winning book.Penguin's Christmas Wish by Salina Yoon
. Penguin knows that he can't find a Christmas tree where he lives. He packs up his friends and family and they go in search of a forest. Hints of earlier Penguin books show up in that forest and so do lovely pine trees, just right for decorating. Then winter weather strikes! There is no time for disappointment. Penguin and his crew find joy in the simplest gifts.Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
. Here's an oldie but goody! When a penguin arrives on Mr. Popper's doorstep, he gets another penguin from the zoo to keep the first one company. Nature takes it course and soon - penguin MANIA!! A Newbery honor book, Mr. Popper and his penguins have delighted young readers for years. This chapter book is for good third grade readers and up. Younger children will enjoy listening to the book.