A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
I'm so glad you stopped by! Welcome.

Saturday, December 31, 2011


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First things first.
Last things last.
Years pass fast.

~Douglas Florian, in Bing, Bang, Boing

Wishing you all a safe, fun New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 30, 2011


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I take my dreams
And make of them a bronze vase
And a wide round fountain
With a beautiful statue in its center,
And a song with a broken heart,
And I ask you:
Do you understand my dreams?
Sometimes you say you do
and sometimes you say you don't.
Either way
It doesn't matter.
I continue to dream.

~Langston Hughes

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Road Begins...

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"In hard times, libraries are more important than ever. Human beings need what books give them better than any other medium. Since ancient nights around prehistoric campfires, we have needed myth. And heroes. And moral tales. And information about the world beyond the nearest mountains or oceans.

"Today, with books and movies more expensive than ever, and television entertainment in free fall to the lowest level of stupidity, free circulating books are an absolute necessity. They are quite simply another kind of food.

"For those without money, the road to the treasure house of the imagination begins at the public library."

~ Columnist Pete Hamill, New York Daily News

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


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Have you ever seen tree branches that looked like the ones above?  If so, you've seen hoarfrost [hohr-frawst], a deposit of needle-like ice crystals formed when the air is damp, and then freezes.  Our family witnessed a similar view earlier this month, while driving to church early one Sunday morning.  We'd had fog overnight, and then freezing temperatures.  Every single tree we passed was white.  

The kids asked what the phenomenon was called.  My husband and I hemmed and hawed, not really sure, but then I said, "Um... maybe that's what hoarfrost is?  I don't know."   When we returned home later that day, I looked the word up in the dictionary and discovered I'd been right.  Next time I'll be able to say with confidence, "Oh, that's  hoarfrost!"

The forest looked like a magical wonderland,
every branch covered with hoarfrost
and sparkling in the sun.

What other interesting wintery words can you think of?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The More It Snows

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The More It Snows

The more it
The more it
The more it

And nobody
How cold my
How cold my

~ A. A. Milne

Monday, December 26, 2011


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“Reading takes us away from home,
but more important,
it finds homes for us everywhere.”

~ Hazel Rochman

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Merry Literary Christmas

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A Merry Literary Christmas

When Christmas shopping time draws nigh,
And I am faced with gifts to buy,
I think about one relative
Who always had one gift to give.
Year after year her present came,
And year after year it was the same.
While other gifts were round and fat,
(Their secrets hidden) hers was flat,
Rectangular, the corners square,
I knew exactly what was there.
I'd pass it by without a look--
My aunt had sent another book!
I'd only open it to write
A "thank-you" that was too polite,
But every year when Christmas went
I'd read the book my aunt had sent,
And looking back, I realize
Each gift was treasure in disguise.
So now it's time to write her here
A thank-you note that is sincere.

So--thanks for Alice and Sara Crewe,
For Christopher Robin and Piglet and Pooh,
For Little Nell and William Tell
And Peter and Wendy and Tinker Bell.

Thanks for Tom and Jim and Huck,
For Robinson Crusoe, and Dab-Dab the duck,
For Meg and Jo and Johnny Crow
And Papa Geppetto's Pinocchio.

For Mary Poppins and Rat and Toad,
King Arthur and Dorothy's Yellow Brick Road,
For Kipling's Kim and tales from Grimm,
And Ferdinand, Babar, and Tiny Tim.

I loved them all, I'm glad I met them.
They're with me still, I won't forget them.
So I'll give books on Christmas Day
Though I know what all my nieces say--
I know it from the way they write
A "thank-you" that is too polite.

by Alice Low

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas,
 filled with fun, love, and good books! :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It was always said...

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An excerpt:

"... And it was always said of [Scrooge],
that he knew how
to keep Christmas well,
if any man alive
possessed the knowledge. 
May that be truly said of us,
and all of us! 
And so, as Tiny Tim observed,
God bless Us, Every One!"

From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Night Before

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I realize that tonight is really the night BEFORE the night before (unless you're like us, and Santa comes to your house early), but I thought I'd share a few more of our family's favorite holiday books, just in time for Christmas Eve.

I've always loved the poem by Clement C. Moore, sometimes called "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and sometimes called "The Night Before Christmas".  When I was in college, taking a sign language class, we had to memorize a story or poem or song and then tell it to the class using sign language.  I chose Moore's poem and, in addition to signing it for my class-mates and teacher, I also recited and signed it for all of my relatives gathered at Grandma's house on Christmas Day that year.  I still know all the words by heart.  (Remem-bering all the signs is a different story!)

It's probably not a surprise that with my large collection of Christmas stories, I own several books that feature Moore's poem.  I really enjoy seeing how different illustrators interpret the words.  Here are a few of our favorites:

The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Tomie de Paola, 1980...  I've owned this book since I was a teenager, and have always loved the colorful illustrations.  They remind me of elaborate quilts.

Little Critter's The Night Before Christmas, retold and illustrated by Mercer Mayer, 1992...  Mayer made a few small changes to Moore's text, like writing "critter" instead of "creature" and replacing "St. Nicholas" with "Santa Claus", but the poem remains mostly the same.  My kids especially like this version of the story because they get a kick out of Mayer's amusing illustrations.  They also love to look for Little Critter's mouse friend on every page.

The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Jan Brett, 1998.  Through her illustrations, Brett adds additional information to this poem.  While the main pictures focus on Moore's words, the side pictures on each page spread show other characters who are never mentioned, such as Santa's elves and the family's pets.  All of Brett's illustrations are rich in detail.

The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Mary Engelbreit, 2002.  This is my favorite version of Moore's story, probably because I am a huge fan of Engelbreit's artwork.  I just love the bright colors and the fanciful drawings!  To me, this book exudes the child-like wonder and joy that I associate with Christmas.

Do you have a favorite version of this poem?  If so, please share it.  I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beautiful Art

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"Every human is an artist.
The dream of your life
is to make beautiful art."

~ Miguel Angel Ruiz


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Jubilation [joo-buh-ley-shuhn] is a noun that means either "a joyful, festive occasion" or "a feeling of/the expression of joy".  I think it is an apt word to use around the holidays!

The little boy jumped with jubilation
on Christmas morning, a huge grin on his face.

The party guests felt jubilation as they
counted down to midnight on New Year's Eve.

What ways can you think of to use the word "jubilation"?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Woolen Sweater Itches Me

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My Woolen Sweater Itches Me

My woolen sweater itches me,
I scratch until I squeal.
Of course, I'm free to take it off...
just think how sheep must feel!

~Jack Prelutsky

Monday, December 19, 2011

Everything is a story.

Treasury of Christmas Tales
by Publications International, LTD., 1999

An excerpt:

     "Oh, Sara.  It is like a story."
     "It is a story... everything is a story.  You are a story -- I am a story.  Miss Minchin is a story."

~ from The Little Princess
by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reach high, dream deep...

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"Reach high,
for the stars lie hidden in your soul.
Dream deep,
for every dream precedes the goal."

~ Pamela Vaull Starr

Saturday, December 17, 2011

little tree

Emmalie, Nick, and Ben, Dec. 2011

little tree

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see          i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look          the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"
by e. e. cummings

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Stories of Christmas

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First, a note to any of my readers who do not observe Christmas: I hope that you will indulge me as I write about books that celebrate this Christian holiday.  Christmas is a big part of my religion, my traditions, my memories -- it's a big part of my life.  I understand, however, that it is not a part of everyone's life.  I wish to be inclusive on this blog, and would love to hear about books that celebrate other holidays and traditions.  Please feel free to recommend any of your favorites to me!

I love Christmas!  I love the music, the decorations, the family time, the traditions, and, yes, the presents.  I also love the stories.  I have been collecting Christmas books all of my adult life.  One tradition I cherish each December is reading a book or two aloud to my kids by the light of our Christmas tree every night before bedtime.  I wanted to share some of our family's favorites with you today.  (I plan to share a couple of others next week.)  I have divided them into a few different categories.

Books about the Nativity:

The Story of Christmas, written by Patricia A. Pingry and illustrated by Lorraine Wells, 1998...  This board book tells the story of Jesus' birth simply, and is appropriate for very young children.

Who is Coming to Our House?, written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, 1988... I love this sweet little lyrical story about the animals in the stable, getting ready for special visitors.

The Christmas Story, illustrated by Stefan Lemke and Marie-Luise Lemke-Pricken (originally printed in Germany, the book does not list an author), 1977...  This book about the Nativity, which I've had since I was a young girl, is geared more toward beginning readers. 

The Christmas Story, retold and illustrated by Carol Heyer, 1991...  This book is for more advanced readers, or for parents to read aloud to older children.

Books about Santa:

The Santa Claus Book, written by Eileen Daly and illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship, 1972...  I've had this book since I was little, and I remember my parents reading it to me.  While delivering presents, Santa discovers a lost puppy and must figure out where it belongs.

Auntie Claus, written and illustrated by Elise Primavera, 1999...  Sophie, a rather spoiled and unpleasant young girl, has often wondered about her unusual great-aunt, Auntie Claus.  When Auntie Claus leaves on her mysterious annual trip, Sophie stows away in her luggage.  She finds herself at the North Pole, where an elf, Mr. Pudding, assumes that Sophie's a new elf employee.  Sophie learns a lot during her adventure, including her aunt's true identity, and comes home a changed and happier girl.

Merry Christmas, Curious George, written by Cathy Hapka and illustrated in the style of H.A. Rey by Mary O'Keefe Young, 2006...  This time, George's curiosity leads him to climb a large tree which is then cut down and taken to a children's hospital for Christmas.  George decides to decorate it with things he finds lying around -- his silly ornaments make all of the young patients laugh!  Later, when Santa arrives, he gives George a special job.

A Letter to Santa Claus, written by Rose Impey and illustrated by Sue Porter, 1988... This is a wonderful story for animal lovers, and has long been my son Nick's favorite Christmas book.  Charlotte can't read yet, but she loves to write, copying down any words she sees.  When it's time to send her letter to Santa, she accidentally sends along a shopping list instead of her Christmas list.  Santa isn't quite sure what to make of the unusual requests, but when he brings the items to Charlotte's house, she knows just what to do with them!

The Polar Express, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, 1985...  Our copy of this well-loved book lost its dust jacket long ago.  A young boy, struggling with his belief in Santa, wakes up on Christmas Eve to find the Polar Express running through his front yard.  He climbs aboard and is whisked away to the North Pole (with several other children) for a chance to see Santa.  This is a perfect book for all those, young and old, who still listen for the sound of sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, written by Barbara Shook Hazen (adapted from the story by Robert L. May), and illustrated by Richard Scarry, 1958...  Did you know that even the reindeer who don't pull Santa's sleigh are given important jobs to do, like testing the toy trains and cuddling the Christmas kittens?  Another book from my childhood, this one adds a few fun details to the story everyone already knows about Rudolph the outcast.

SantaKid, written by James Patterson and illustrated by Michael Garland, 2004... Chrissie, Santa's young daughter, must save the day when Warrie Ransom (Big Boss of the Exmas Express Company) decides to buy Christmas and take over the North Pole with his large corporation.

A Wish for Wings that Work, written and illustrated by Berkeley Breathed, 1991... This book makes me giggle every time I read it!  The only thing that Opus the penguin wants for Christmas is the chance to fly.  When he is awakened by a snow duck on Christmas Eve, Opus discovers that, though his wings only "sputter" in the air, they work very well in the water.  He saves Santa from impending disaster, and is thrilled by the special gift a grateful Santa leaves behind.

Books about other Christmas-y characters:

Frosty the Snow Man, retold by Annie North Bedford and illustrated by Corinne Malvern, 1951...  This is probably my all-time favorite book from childhood, and I proudly display this copy with my collection of snowmen every December and January.  (I also bought a brand new copy a couple of years ago, to prevent more wear and tear on this one.)  I especially love the classic, colorful pictures of this snowman come to life.

Snowmen at Christmas, written by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner, 2005...  So maybe it's not just Frosty who can come to life.  These snowmen come alive on Christmas Eve, celebrating the holiday in their own way, with a special Santa made of snow.  Hidden pictures in the illustrations turn this story into a fun little game, as well.

Snow What Fun!: When Snowmen Come to Life on Christmas Eve, written by Cheryl Hawkinson and illustrated by Mike Esberg, 2004...  Another story about snowmen celebrating on Christmas Eve, I especially love the adorable illustrations and clever verse.

Gingerbread Baby, written and illustrated by Jan Brett, 1999... In this book, Brett gives us her unique take on the traditional tale of the gingerbread man.  A young boy, Matti, creates a gingerbread baby who runs away, outsmarting all the people and animals of the village.  Matti has an idea, however, and just might be able to capture the escaped cookie.

Christmas crafts:

My First Christmas Activity Book, written by Angela Wilkes and photographed by Dave King, 1994...  For many years, this was my daughter Emmalie's favorite Christmas book.  She especially loved the large, detailed photos, but was also intrigued by all the craft and activity ideas inside.

Christmas treasuries:

The Golden Christmas Treasury, compiled by Rick Bunsen and illustrated by several different artists, 1986... This book contains 25 stories, poems, and carols, such as Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas", "The 12 Days of Christmas", and Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Fir Tree".

The Family Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury, selected by Alice Low and illustrated by Marc Brown, 1989...  This book offers over 50 poems, songs, and stories about Christmas, including A.A. Milne's "The More It Snows",  "The Friendly Beasts", and Russell Hoban's "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas".

For older readers:

A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens (and, in the edition shown below, illustrated by Walt Sturrock), 1843...  This classic tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come has been one of my all-time favorites ever since I first saw a movie version of it as a young girl.  When I finally read the actual book as a teen, I fell in love with Dickens' rich language and imagery.  Now I reread it every December, and I enjoy it every single time!

A New Christmas Treasury, edited by Jack Newcombe, 1982...  This book is filled with poems, short stories, and essays including my favorites, e.e. cumming's "little tree", O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi", and The New York Sun's "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus".

Christmas music:

Reader's Digest's Merry Christmas Songbook, edited by William J. Simon, 2003...  Christmas wouldn't be complete without music!  I've collected several Christmas songbooks over the years, but really  don't need any others besides this one, with its large selection of more than one hundred songs.  It includes all of the traditional carols, plus popular hits like "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "(All I Want for Christmas Is) My Two Front Teeth".

What books do you love to read, either to yourself or aloud, this time of year?  I'm always looking for new books to add to my collection and would love to hear about them!