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<<December 2023>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Christmas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. 2016 and Beyond

So how was your Christmas?   Ours was quieter than last yearbut very enjoyable. We spent Christmas day with our two grandsons and Terry’s parents. We laughed a lot, played games, ate too much and had a great time

The following two photos are a little blurry, which might be a good thing considering we are all wearing silly hats!

Terry with his mum and dad

Me with our grandsons Tris (on the left as you look at the photo) and Kip 

During the rest of the holidays we walked, read and caught up on films missed earlier in the year. The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin was the perfect holiday read. Wouldn’t you work in a bookshop in Paris if you had the chance? I certainly would. Days spent surrounded by books while snow falls on the Champs-Élysées – what’s not to like?  

A little more serious reading is in order for the New Year starting with two books received as gifts this Christmas. East West Street weaves together historical, legal and familial narratives to reveal the origins of international law, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg trial. I’m excited to read this recent winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. I think I’m in for a treat.  

I’m also excited to read the complete edition of the Wipers Times, the famed trench newspaper of the First World War. It contains a unique record of life on the wartime frontline, together with an extraordinary mix of black humour, fake entertainment programmes and pastiche articles.

My favourite film of the year, watched just a few days before Christmas is:  Sully. 
On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. 

Before saying goodbye to 2016, I thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular posts on my blog last year. I also want to take a moment to thank you.  It is your visits, comments and shares that keep this blog alive. I am so very grateful to you all. Thank you!  

Now for the top five: 

Coming in at Number One is the wonderful Finnigan The Circus Cat: A Guest Post by Mary T. Wagner.

Mary shared her post with us in August and in October Finnigan was awarded a first-place finish at the Royal Palm Literary Awards in Florida. Congratulations Mary I can’t think of a more worthy winner.

Mary T Wagner at the Royal Palm Literary Awards

In Second Place is a book which occupies a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. When found it was in a very dilapidated state but an excellent book restorer sprinkled a little magic book dust, and saved it from the clutches of the evil book pulping machine! This is just one of the beautiful images from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales - see others here

In Third Place is our visit to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. The museum kindly shared the post on their social media streams, which certainly increased the number of visitors to my blog. 

In Fourth Place: British Eccentricity on Show at: The Chelsea Flower Show.

Diarmuid Gavin creator of the above flower show garden has indicated he will be taking a break from Chelsea in 2017.  Such a shame as I really love his designs as do a lot of people. 

In July, we visited Krakow and Auschwitz, and that post comes fifth and last on the list.  

It’s almost time to wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope 2017 brings you all your heart desires. 

Next week I will be sharing five of my favourite blogs from around the web. I would love to hear about the ones you enjoy so thinking caps on please.  

22 Comments on 2016 and Beyond, last added: 12/30/2016
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2. Stinky Santa Christmas eBook Success! Stinky Santa does Number 2! Incredible eBook Bestseller!!

Incredible News! Amazing Christmas eBook Bestseller!
Stinky Santa has only gone and got to Number 2 in Children's Christmas eBooks on Amazon.co.uk!
screenshot of stinky santa on bestseller list

Buy, share or preview below:

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3. Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes. Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve. And Babymouse was putting out cookies for Santa. Babymouse! Mmf. I couldn't wait! They looked so tasty! (Sigh.) I certainly hope Santa likes Christmas crumbs.

Premise/plot: This picture book takes readers BACK to a time to when Babymouse (the star of a very popular graphic novel series) was LITTLE. After Babymouse "accidentally" eats Santa's cookies, she decides to do something different...and instead of baking more cookies...she decides to bake him cupcakes. But will all go according to plan?

My thoughts: I love Babymouse. I do. I think this is a fun introduction to Babymouse for younger readers. As you might have guessed, Babymouse's imagination was ACTIVE even way back when.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Holiday Gifts - Books, Of Course!

Happy Holidays, Hungry Readers!

Instead of giving you the same-old best-seller list of gift suggestions, I thought I'd make this year's post a little more personal and share which books my family will be giving/receiving. Maybe you'll find one of them to be a good gift for someone you know as well. :)

The Guinness World Records 2017 edition is for the boy child, but it always turns into a full-family gift as he reads aloud every. single. record. Mostly interesting for all, but beware this is not for the faint of heart; many of the bug and FOOD records can be quite disgusting!

The American Girl Guide is for the girl child because, like any fictional character, even the dolls have extensive back-stories. More history = deeper understanding = more imaginative and intelligent play!

Harry Potter #4 is for my husband, the most-behindest reader of all time. ;) We have a family rule that we can't watch a film until we've read the book and he REALLY wants to catch up to the rest of us with the movies, so now he can use the vacation week to crack this spine!

As for me, I have asked for - and hopefully not delusionally expect to recieve - The Bible as read by James Earl Jones. This tome of all tomes has been on my TBR list since really the beginning of days but its sheer size has kept it anchoring the bottom of the pile. But then, Totes Magotes!, I find a version that will be read to me by the greatest narrator* of all time?! It's the only item on my Santa list and I have been VERY good this year...

Be sure and let me know the best reads you give and receive this holiday season; 

Happy Holidays to All and to All a Good Read!

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5. The Lost Gift

The Lost Gift. Kallie George. Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One windy Christmas Eve, four little animals huddled on top of Merry Woods Hill. They were so excited, they barely felt the cold. They were waiting for Santa to fly by on his sleigh.

Premise/plot: Four animals (Rabbit, Deer, Squirrel, and Bird) are super-excited to see Santa fly past on his sleigh. But when Santa drops a present in the woods--by mistake--the animals have a decision to make. Will they find the present and help the present get delivered? Or will they let it be since it doesn't concern them?

My thoughts: I really loved this story! I loved how the animals worked together to get the present delivered to the new baby at the farm. I loved how glad the animals were to see the baby receive the present and open it! I loved how their thoughtfulness was rewarded by Santa, who always knows.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Walk This World At Christmastime

Walk This World At Christmastime. Illustrated by Debbie Powell. 2016. Candlewick. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Walk this world at Christmastime. Let's take a stroll around the world, to all four corners of the globe. Peek through windows, open doors, watch as Christmastime unfolds.

Premise/plot: Readers "visit" many different countries at Christmastime. Each two-page spread takes readers to a new destination. The stops include Canada and the United States; Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil; Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia; Spain, France, Italy, and Greece; Holland, Austria, and Germany; U.K., Sweden, Norway, and Finland; Poland, Ukraine, and Russia; Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and India; China, Japan, and the Philippines; Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa. Each two-page spread features a riddle, of sorts, asking readers to guess where they are. Each two spread also features a LOT of flaps to open. Behind each flap is a fact.

Some of the things we learn on this journey:
  • During Las Posadas, children dress as Mary and Joseph and go from house to house asking to be let in.
  • Leave out your shoes to get presents from the Three Wise Men.
  • Calabar Carnival, in Nigeria, is Africa's biggest street party. Get ready for parades, masquerades, and dancing.
  • An old Greek custom, recently revived, is to decorate real and model ships with lights at Christmastime.
  • In Holland, leave out your clogs for Saint Nicholas. Don't forget a carrot for his horse!
  • A Nutcracker doll is a traditional German gift.
  • The first Christmas card was sent in the U.K. in 1843.
  • In Russia, Father Frost brings children presents, accompanied by the Snow Maiden.
  • In Iraq, Christian families light a bonfire and recite passages from the Bible.
  • In India, banana trees are decorated for Christmas.
  • The Chinese give gifts of apples on Christmas Eve.
  • In Samoa, people feast on December 24, then go to church, dressed in white, on Christmas Day.
My thoughts: This one is packed with information. I definitely found it interesting. I'm not the biggest fan of lift-the-flap books. But I think this one works.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. CHRISTMAS 2016 - final round-up

This is a my final post on Christmas designs for 2016. (Although I do have something different to share tomorrow for P&Ps final post.) But for now we round off this current holiday season with a last look at some fab festive designs. We begin with The Art File where this colourful Christmas Tree pattern on cards and wrap was one of my absolute faves this year. Below : Two gorgeous

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8. Christmas Visitor

A Christmas Visitor. Anne Perry. 2004. 199 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "There, Mr. Rathbone, sir, are yer right?" the old man asked solicitously.

Premise/plot: Henry Rathbone (Oliver's father) is visiting his goddaughter for the Christmas holidays. Her husband has literally just died. And Henry ends up being the one who meets each returning child (all adults) about the death. As the story gets told and retold, questions arise. Was Judah Dreghorn murdered? Who murdered him? Why? Can anyone prove it was murder and not an accident?

My thoughts: For such a short book, it was a surprisingly slow read. Its two hundred pages felt like four hundred. I think it would have been very helpful to break this one into chapters. The book is divided into "parts" and not chapters. One of the key reasons a book feels quick and enjoyable are short-to-medium length chapters. When you come to the end of the chapter, you flip the pages. And let's say the next chapter is four to ten pages in length, it's I HAVE TIME FOR ONE MORE CHAPTER. You can read just "one more chapter" for a good hundred pages or so. But when there are no natural stopping places for seventy-to-eighty pages, then you don't want to read it. You make excuses, I don't have the time now. Authors, pay attention, have chapters work to your benefit.

That being said, I adore the character Henry Rathbone. I got super-attached to him reading the William Monk series. And so I wanted to LOVE this one like crazy. I still think he's a good character. And the characters were more interesting than the ones in A Christmas Journey. There is no comparison between the books. This one is a lot better!!! But it just doesn't compare to her other novels.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. CHRISTMAS 2016 - polkka jam

Kristiina Haapalaisen and Sami Vähä-Aho of Polkka Jam have produced another beautiful Christmas collection for 2016. This Finnish based studio work on their own ranges and take on all kinds of freelance projects and collaborations. This year Polkka Jam's Christmas designs on cards and wrap feature colourful little houses, trees and cities set against starry skies, mountains, and islands. Also

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10. CHRISTMAS 2016 - superdrug

My next Christmas post features packaging design. The "Sweet Snuggles" collection is a gift range created for UK high street retailer Superdrug. It features a selection of sweetly illustrated creatures such as bears, reindeer and penguins. The packaging is a mix of boxes or wrap around cards and products include ear muffs, gloves and hats, mugs, and beauty gifts.

2 Comments on CHRISTMAS 2016 - superdrug, last added: 12/29/2016
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11. CHRISTMAS 2016 - wh smith

And we end today with a look at a small selection of Christmas cards from stationery store WH Smith. They generally specialise in the more traditional card designs but I was able to pick out some interesting design work.... Read the rest of this post

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12. Merry Christmas From Betsy

Merry Christmas From Betsy. Carolyn Haywood. 1970/89. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Thanksgiving was hardly over when Betsy and the rest of the children in the first grade began talking about Christmas.

Premise/plot: Merry Christmas From Betsy is a collection of the Christmas chapters from previous books in the Betsy series by Carolyn Haywood. The stories are sweet and charming and cute. The stories aren't all focused on Betsy either. Her younger sister, Star, who makes her arrival on Christmas Day as the "present that Betsy always wanted" is also a huge part of the book. Some stories focus on the anticipation of Christmas coming, others on Christmas Day itself. All are worth your time.

My thoughts: Really, really enjoyed this one! I haven't read all the Betsy books, but, the few I've read I've really enjoyed. I like spending time with Betsy, Star, their family, their friends.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. CHRISTMAS 2016 - cinqmai

Cinqmai is a French Paperie brand created by designer Caroline Briel. For 2016 you will find simple but ultra stylish Christmas postcards and gift tags. As spotted online here at Cinqmai where the festive "Noel" designs are available along with many more postcards, prints, etc.

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14. CHRISTMAS 2016 - summer will be back

These beautiful Scandinavian style Christmas cards are by design company Summer will be back. The Copenhagen based business was founded in 2014 by Danish artist and designers Lisa Grue and Denis Sytmen. They found Christmas inspiration in their wintry Northern landscape with sleigh rides and the contrasts of colour between the sky and the snow. They regularly exhibit at trade shows in London

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15. CHRISTMAS 2016 - dotcomgiftshop

The dotcomgiftshop have produced some lovely retro style cards and wrap for Christmas this year. The nostalgic designs feature Snow scenes of people having fun and fifties style baubles. dotcomgiftshop are well known for having gifts for all the family and it can be very handy to pick up some cards and wrap at the same time.

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16. CHRISTMAS 2016 - oliver bonas

With just one week to go before Christmas I'll be taking the opportunity to show a few last minute cards,etc as well as some of the seasonal  creations designers have been making for their portfolios and instagram challenges. We begin today with a few contemporary cards, wrap and decorations spotted at the fantastic Oliver Bonas.

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17. CHRISTMAS 2016 - four corners art collective

Four Corners Art Collective is a group of seven illustrators and surface pattern designers based in the UK, the US, Australia and France. Since the group launched their collective a year ago they've exhibited at Surtex, Premier Vision and Blue Print. In 2017, the group will be flying to New York from all corners of the world to exhibit at Surtex for the second time. They are currently running

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Dear colleagues and creatives, readers and rebels, fans and fantasists. To all my readers and friends,

Warmest Wishes for a sparkling festive season!

Illustration adapted from
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
by L. Frank Baum (Hesperus Press, 1st Dec 2016).

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19. Letters From Father Christmas

Letters From Father Christmas. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1976/1999. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear John, I heard you ask daddy what I was like and where I lived. I have drawn me and my house forr you. Take care of the picture. I am just off now for Oxford with my bundle of toys--some for you. Hope I shall arrive in time: the snow is very thick at the North Pole tonight. Your loving Father Christmas.

Premise/plot: The earliest letter from 'Father Christmas' to the Tolkien children is 1920. The latest letter is dated 1943 to his daughter, Priscilla. The letters speak of Father Christmas' affairs--his adventures and misadventures. Little details about the Tolkiens slip through, of course. He refers to their letters in which they mention pets and toys, etc. He speaks of Polar Bear, his greatest assistant. He speaks of red elves--some. But Father Christmas has a war to fight of his own--against the goblins! (Christmas is almost sabotaged several times!)

My thoughts: I like this one. It is an interesting collection shared with readers. Original letters and pictures (illustrations) are shared. But each letter is also typed up making it easier to read. (Father Christmas has very, very shaky writing. And Polar Bear, well, English is NOT his first or even second language. And he writes with such big paws.) His longest letter is from 1932, and this features, I believe, the first mention of the GOBLINS.

My Dearest Priscilla,
I am so glad you did not forget to write to me again this year. The number of children who keep up with me seems to be getting smaller: I expect it is because of this horrible war, and that when it is over things will improve again, and I shall be as busy as ever. But at present so terribly many people have lost their homes: or have left them; half the world seems in the wrong place. And even up here we have been having troubles. I don't mean only with my stores: of course they are getting low. They were already last year, and I have not been able to fill them up, so that I have now to send what I can instead of what is asked for. But worse than that has happened.
I expect you remember that some years ago we had trouble with the Goblins; and we thought we had settled it. Well, it broke out again this autumn, worse than it has been for centuries. We have had several battles, and for a while my house was besieged. In November it began to look likely that it would be captured and all my goods, and that Christmas Stockings would all remain all over the world. Would not that have been a calamity? It has not happened--and that is largely due to the efforts of Polar Bear-- (142, December 22, 1941)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

3 Comments on Letters From Father Christmas, last added: 12/29/2016
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20. The Christmas Eve Tree

The Christmas Eve Tree. Delia Huddy. Illustrated by Emily Sutton. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A forest of Christmas trees stretching over the hills. That's where the story begins. There the little fir tree was planted, but planted carelessly, so that when the wind blew strong it fell sideways onto its neighbor and had no chance to grow.

Premise/plot: This is the story of a 'crooked' and 'unwanted' Christmas tree. He is wanted. He is even needed by a young boy, a homeless boy, who plants the tree in a cardboard box, and prepares another box to be his bed for the night. Soon the tree and the boy are bringing hope and joy to a lot of people as both remind people of what the season is all about.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I do think it is probably for older children--as opposed to preschoolers. It is definitely on the text-heavy side. But. The story is lovely and hope-filled. This is exactly the kind of story that would be an animated short.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Stowaway in a Sleigh

Stowaway in a Sleigh. C. Roger Mader. 2016. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was the darkest hour of night when Slipper heard strange footsteps in the house.

Premise/plot: Slipper the cat is curious about her new acquaintance, Mr. Furry Boots. She sneaks unnoticed into his bag. After some adventures at the North Pole--she loves Ms. Furry Boots too--she begins to long for home.

My thoughts: Oh, how I loved this one. LOVE. The text is simple and sweet. But it was the illustrations that left me smitten. Cat-lovers need this one. NEED. It is perfectly perfect.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. More Vintage Christmas Greetings Sent With Love

With Christmas just around the corner I thought I would share a few more vintage Christmas cards with you. I have a particular liking for anything by Rene Cloke (left) or brightly-coloured examples like those that follow.

 Most of the cards I buy cost less than a pound (USD 1.25), but if you want to splash out you should look for hand-painted ones by famous artists, such as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane.  

This hearty greeting comes to wish you everything that's good, and though I cannot shake your hand today, yet may we meet in kindest thought and wishes for each other. 

A Merry Christmas may you see both joy and fortune call,
a Happy Year, and may it be the happiest one of all.

I send my love and wish that you a jolly time may see,
with girls and boys and games and toys and all in harmony.

I hope these toys will bring you pleasure in many a different way,
and be a glad beginning to a Happy Christmas Day.

Wishing you a bright and cherry Christmas!

'Tis Christmas once again, and greetings I am sending,
May you and yours this Christmastide, a joyous time be spending.

It's Christmas! I'm so excited - and to send you a card I'm delighted, so I'll put on my coat and I'll put on my hat, and I'll run to the pillar box jolly and fat, and post the card, which tells you true what a Happy Christmas I'm wishing for you. 

I will be taking a short break now, but I would like to thank everyone who takes the time to visit and comment on my blog. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. 

Christmas wishes and love from Barbara, Terry and all the family xxx 

* Previous vintage card posts here, here, here and here.

25 Comments on More Vintage Christmas Greetings Sent With Love, last added: 12/29/2016
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23. The Nutcracker (Golden Book)

The Nutcracker. Rita Balducci. Illustrated by Barbara Lanza. 1991. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Once there was a little girl named Clara whose family was having a wonderful party on Christmas Eve.

Premise/plot: Rita Balducci adapts the story of the Nutcracker for a Little Golden Book. The illustrations are by Barbara Lanza.

My thoughts: This one avoids being text heavy. The adaptation is just right. It isn't too simple. It isn't too complicated. There are enough illustrations to balance the text. And the pacing seems really well done perhaps because there are just a handful of sentences on each page. The illustrations really seem to sweep you away into a magical dreamland.

This is a great way to introduce younger children to the ballet, perhaps before they attend their first performance of it!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. CHRISTMAS 2016 - paperchase part 2

It's time now for part 2 of my Paperchase Christmas 2016 round-up. We have more lovely cards today - most of which are not own branded but selected by Paperchase from other publishers. I loved the bold tree above by Rifle Paper Co. and the painterly brushstroke cards below. Scroll down for more Christmas cards, wrap, and decorations which this year included a Mexican theme.

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25. CHRISTMAS 2016 - paperchase part 1

Today I am posting just some of the fabulous Christmas designs spotted at Paperchase. I especially loved the inventiveness in these graphic tree designs used on wrapping paper, cards, and tags. Other highlights include stylised watercolour trees in various shades of green and turquoise and a highly detailed decorative deer. I took these snaps at Paperchase's main flagship store in London's

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