Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mid-Winter’s Giveaway Hop Winner


Congratulations to the Mid-Winter Giveaway Hop Winner


Thank you to everyone who entered the Giveaway.   I am pleased to have a few new followers as well.  Welcome!  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Fiction: The Candy Cane

As a child, I remember loving candy canes.  I have this random childhood memory of driving home in the snow after a family holiday gathering while thoroughly enjoying a candy cane.   I used to love to steal them off the Christmas tree!   These books teach the story and meaning behind this unique candy.  The stories vary in approach and details, but the meaning is the same.  The candy cane can be used as an object lesson to teach about the meaning of Christmas and God’s love for us. 

J Is for Jesus: The Sweetest Story Ever ToldJ is for Jesus (ages 2-6) by Crystal Bowman  
On a snowy day, families gather in a candy store to sample a new treat.  The candy maker is eager to share this holiday confection with everyone.  It is a red and white peppermint stick shaped like a J to remind people the reason for Christmas:  Jesus’, God’s son, birth.  It is also shaped like a staff to represent the shepherds who were the first to hear the Good News.  The red color is for the blood Jesus shed for sinners while the white is for how believers are made holy and clean from His sacrifice.  This board book is written in rhyming couplets.  J is for Jesus is illustrated with bright, amiable pictures ideal for toddlers to early elementary school children.

The Legend of the Candy CaneThe Legend of the Candy Cane (ages 5-9) by Lori Walburg 
When a stranger rides into town, he spots a lonely storefront he decides to use.  Quietly, he works long hours getting the building ready.  The townspeople hope for different things.  The mayor hopes the stranger is a doctor who can heal illness.  The young wives hope he is a tailor who can make them fine-looking dresses while the farmers hope he is a trader who they can exchange their grain for goods with.  The children have their own wishes for this new store.  One day, Lucy, a young girl, offers to help the man unpack.  She is thrilled to find that he has a multitude of confections to organize and display.  When she comes across the candy canes, the man shares their unique story.  Together, Lucy and the candy store owner travel to all the houses in town.  At each one, they leave a small gift and an invitation to the grand opening of the store.  All the townspeople come.  The mayor feels better than he has in days.  The women come dressed in gorgeous smiles.  The farmers are eager to trade their grain for candy.  Every ones hears the story of the candy cane:  “the miracle of Christ’s birth. The misery of His death. And the mercy of His love.”   The Legend of the Candy Cane is an inspirational holiday story. 

The Candymaker's GiftThe Candymaker’s Gift (ages 6-11) by David and Helen Haidle  
A generous and gregarious candy maker wants to help the children he loves see God’s gift of Christmas.  He prayfully and thoughtfully chooses ingredients—peppermint like the wise men’s spice gifts to Jesus, white to represent the holiness of God, hard as a rock because He is the Solid Rock in times of trouble, and shaped as a “J” for the name of the savior.  When candymaker’s beloved granddaughter comes into the shop, she tells him it reminds her of “Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  A good shepherd doesn’t run away from danger, and he will do anything to save his sheep.”  Together they decide to add red stripes to remind them of Jesus’ suffering and death.  They are thankful for their inspiration as they formed a new candy that would point people to Jesus. 

Note:  At the back of The Candymaker’s Gift, there are ideas for a candy cane party, decorating with a candy cane theme, and Bible verses to accompany each part of the candy’s design. 

Mid-Winter’s Giveaway Hop: Free Books!

As a participant in the Mid-Winter’s Giveaway Hop, I am giving away 3 picture books of your choice from this list:
·         Charlie Needs a Cloak (Tomie de Paola)
·         Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Won’t Pick Up Toys Cure (Betty MacDonald)
·         Mmm, Cookies!  (Robert Munsch)
·         The Three Sillies (Steven Kellogg)
·         The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (Sam McBratney)
This giveaway is limited to readers in the U.S.  To enter, please follow this link and fill out the entry.  I also plan to have another giveaway later in the week, so please check back! 
For a full list of blogs participating in this hop, go to I Am A Reader, Not A Writer blog.   Each blog on the list has its own giveaway, so check some of them out!  This blog hop ends December 22.

Two other blog giveaways are posted here

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

1.      Karma Wilson Books.  I recently discovered this author.  I would love any of her books---Bear Stays Up, Mortimer’s First Manger, Bear Feels Scared, Princess Me…I could go on and on. 
2.    The Nativity (Ruth Sanderson).  I plan to read this picture book every Christmas with my kids.  It is a stunning illustrated companion of the Christmas story.
3.    Medio Pollito: A Spanish Tale (Eric A. Kimmel).  It is a beautiful story of overcoming obstacles.  Despite Medio Pollito’s physical limitations, he does not put a limit on his aspirations.
4.    The Thanksgiving Door (Debby Atwell).  I was nearly brought to tears by this beautiful picture book about the essential aspect of the holidays and our daily lives:  opening our lives and homes to others.
5.    Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed (J. C. Phillipps ).  This book captures the essence of being an individual.  Wink has two influences and two passions in his life that at first appear incongruent.  He finds a way to incorporate both in a way that brings him fulfillment and makes his mentors proud. 
6.    Mother Daughter Book Club series (Heather Vogel Fredrick).  I read the first book in this series.  I would love the rest of them.  There is good character development and strong family/friendship ties with the characters. 
7.    The Book Shop Dog (Cynthia Rylant).   I shared a special reading moment with my son with this book.  It is a beautiful story of love, community, and man’s best friend. 
8.    Calico series (Karma Wilson).  There are no libraries in my area that carry these books.  I would love to get my hands on them.  They are the only books by Karma Wilson I have not read yet. 
9.    The Dinosaurs Night Before Christmas (Anne Meucke).  My kids and I loved reading this version of the popular poem.  The story is creative and entertaining while the illustrations are vibrant and energetic. 
10.  Tomie dePaola's Big Book of Favorite Legends (Tomie dePaola).  I recently saw it in a local book store.  It has some of my favorite legends and others I am interested in reading.

To view other Top Ten Tuesday Lists or to participate, click here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Fiction: Pirates! (Picture Books)

My family was delighted with these unique Christmas stories.  I hope your family enjoys them too!

The Gingerbread PiratesThe Gingerbread Pirates (ages 5-9) by Kristin Kladstrup  
Jim and his mother bake gingerbread men together on Christmas Eve.  They decorate them to look like pirates, including Jim’s favorite Captain Cookie who has a cutlass and a peg leg.  Jim falls asleep with Captain Cookie by his bed while wishing the pirate leader had a ship of his own.  Captain Cookie ventures out to find his crew.  He does battle with a mouse, escaping with his cutlass half missing.   The Captain finds a couple of his crew members sitting out for Santa Claus.  They escape together to rescue the rest of the men from the Santa-shaped cookie jar.  An encounter with Santa and some Christmas magic occurs to give Captiain Cookie and Jim their Christmas wishes.   The narrative and illustrations are energetic, animated, and entertaining. 

A Pirate's Night Before ChristmasA Pirate’s Night Before Christmas (ages 5-11) by Philip Yates  
On Christmas Eve, the pirates are “snorin’ like pigs in thar beds while vision of treasure chests danced in thar heads.”  The stillness of the night is interrupted with the arrival of Sir Peg with his eight giant sea horses pulling his sleigh from the depths of the sea.  He gives out pirate gifts—like cackle-fruit eggs, pieces of shank, and a new shiney plank--to the pirate crew, but he saves the best present for last, a treasure map!   Readers will shout for glee as they see Sir Peg and his sea horses splash back to the sea with a “Merry Christmas, me buckos, an’ a Happy New Yaargghhhhhhh!”  The lively and creative illustrations compliment the poetic narrative.  This imaginative retelling of a beloved Christmas poem is a thrilling pirate fantasy. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Fiction: Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

The Kringle family lives in a luxurious hotel in New York City.  Everyone in their family loves Christmas, even their family businesses have holiday names.   Their children Sophie and Chris have everything!   Regularly “schooled” in Christmas decorum, the holiday is central to their lives.  The most mysterious member of the family is Auntie Claus who disappears every year around the holidays for an extended business trip.  These stories (ideal for ages 5-10) reveal how Sophie and Chris eventually learn their family secret. 

Sophie is in awe of her mysterious Auntie Claus.  Whenever she asks her Auntie a question about one of those mysteries, the answers are always simple but vague.  This year when Auntie Claus goes on her annual business trip, Sophie stows away.   They travel by magical elevator to the North Pole.  When they arrive, Sophie disguises herself as an elf where she works diligently with no sign of Auntie Claus anywhere.  While on a special task, Sophie sees her brother’s name is on the B-B-and-G (Bad-Boys-and-Girls) list.  Dreading his disappointment on Christmas morning, she erases his name and writes hers in its place.   Immediately, she is transported to the stage of the Grand Ballroom with Santa and Auntie Claus.   Santa praises Auntie Claus for her indispensible assistance getting everything ready for Christmas Eve each year.   Auntie Claus and Sophie are reunited, now sharing the family secret.  Santa carries Sophie in his sleigh back to her home.  Seeing her brother’s joy at all his gifts, she realizes an important lesson her aunt had been trying to teach her:  “It is far better to give than it is to receive.”  Under the tree is a special gift for Sophie, a diamond Christmas key hanging from a red ribbon—just like her Auntie Claus’. 

When Chris Kringle, Sophie’s younger brother and heir to the vital Santa post, begins to doubt Santa Claus’ existence, Auntie Claus determines to step it.   Chris is summoned to Auntie Claus’ suite where she warns him about becoming a member of PRUNES, Parade Rainers United National Elite Society.  Sophie tells him that if he doesn’t change his attitude, he will be on the B-B-and-G list.  Of course, he doesn’t believe either one of them.  To prove they are wrong, he does everything he can to ensure he will be on the B-B-and-G list this year.  Concerned, Sophie uses her magic key to send him to the North Pole.  Initially, he is shut out of the Santa’s kingdom, but Chris gets some first-hand experience with the PRUNES.  Using some of her Christmas magic, Auntie Claus brings him to the place where Santa, the elves, and his other family members are gathered.   Chris now knows the family secret and receives his special key…and never again does he have difficulty believing. 

Another title in this series is:

Christmas Fiction: It's Christmas, David by David Shannon (Picture Book)

It's Christmas, David!Story Summary:
Temptations abound for David, a beloved preschool character, during the Christmas season.  David is full of mischief!  He climbs into the closet trying to get a peek at his gifts and attempts to snitch some freshly made holiday cookies.   His humorous outside adventures are sure to delight young readers. 

It is a challenge for David to follow all the adult expectations, but he genuinely tries.  On Christmas Eve, he dreams of receiving a letter under a bare tree that says, “Sorry, you were naughty. Love, Santa Claus.”  Fortunately, he wakes up to find it was a bad dream.  Instead, he enjoys his new bike, books, and holiday goodies on Christmas morn. 

Evaluation:
Many young children will relate to David’s mischievous ways.  The illustrations and limited text convey well the mind and experiences of many preschoolers.  David’s character captures the wonder and awe of all things Christmas.  Children are sure to get a hearty laugh when reading It’s Christmas David (ages 3-7).  My kids looked at the book several times and laughed out loud, even my 13 year old. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Fiction: Inspiring Realistic Stories (Picture Books)

As I have read dozens and dozens of Christmas stories this season, these are some of my favorites.  Each one teaches valuable lessons about family, others, love, sacrifice, generosity, and much more! 

Josie's GiftJosie’s Gift (ages 5-10) by Kathleen Long Bostrom 
It is Josie’s first Christmas without her father.   Each year he carved a figure in their family nativity scene.  Initially, Josie is focused on her loss and her longing.  Her mother reminds her to concentrate on what they have, rather than what she wants.   All she can think of, though, is the beautiful blue sweater in the store window.   On Christmas Eve, she discovers a box with the sweater in it.  She is thrilled to receive her wish, but she still feels an emptiness in her soul.  During a visit to the barn, she finds a family, who has lost everything, taking shelter there.  Josie willingly gives her sweater as a blanket to the desolate family's baby.  She tells them, “Christmas is not about what we want.  It’s about what we have.”  Josie finally understands the meaning of the holiday.  

Christmas Day in the MorningChristmas Day in the Morning (ages 6-10) by Pearl S. Buck 
When Rob overhears a conversation between his parents, he realizes how much his father loves him.   With very little money and Christmas coming up quickly, Rob longs to give his father something special.  He decides to get up extra early on Christmas morning to go out to the barn to complete both his and his father’s chores.  He finds that each task goes more easily than it ever had in the past.  Rob manages to get it all done and sneak back into bed.  When his father goes out to get started, he is so touched by his son’s gift that he comes back in to hug his son and tell him, “Nobody ever did a nicer thing.”   In retrospect, Rob realizes that Christmas morning was his first gift of true love. 

Christmas TapestryChristmas Tapestry (ages 6 and up) by Patricia Polacco  
Jonathan is upset about his family moving from their beloved church in Tennessee to pastor at a dilapidated one in Detroit, Michigan.  He asks himself, “What possible good reason could there be for leaving home and coming here?” The whole family works hard each day to bring the church back to life, eventually others in the community help out.  As Christmas draws near, the church building is ready for a special mural to be painted.  Jonathan is encouraged by the progress and excited about the mural.  Bad weather and a leak ruins a focal point of the wall where the mural is to be painted.  Through a series of events, some of which at first appear discouraging and others that are providential cause two people to be reunited after many decades.   Jonathan realizes that all the events—seemingly unfortunate and the blessed—are part of a Christmas Tapestry. 

The Christmas CandleThe Christmas Candle (ages 6 and up) by Richard Paul Evans
On a snowy Christmas Eve, a self-centered man seeks out a chandler for a candle to light his way home for the holiday.  He pushes aside a beggar impatiently as he makes his way to the shop and scoffs at the chandler for his artistic works that will “devour themselves.”  As a challenge, he purchases one of the frivolous candles and journeys back out.  First, he comes across a beggar woman, who appears to be his mother.  Troubled by her appearance and desiring to help her, he offers his cloak.  The woman snatches it and runs off.  He realizes it is not his mother though.  Next, he sees a man lying on the side of the road who looks like his brother.  He gets him into an inn and gives everything he has to take care of him, only to find out it is not his brother.  The man finally comes across a young, hungry girl in the cold who reminds him of his sister.  As this point, he has nothing left to give.  He flees.   At home, he sees all his blessings—food, family, warmth—so he runs back into the night to find the girl.  The man learns, “If we will see things as they truly are, we will find that all, from great to small, belong to one family.”