A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The New Year...

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An excerpt:

The New Year, like an Infant Heir to the whole world, was waited for, with welcomes, presents, and rejoicings.

~ From The Chimes:
 A Goblin Story of Some Bells 
That Rang an Old Year Out
 and a New Year In
written by Charles Dickens

Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year's Eve! Goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dimmest and Brightest Month Am I

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Dimmest and brightest month am I;
  My short days end, my lengthening days
What matters more or less sun in the sky,
  When all is sun within?

~ Christina Rossetti

It's the winter solstice, with the shortest day and the longest night in the year. Around here the days have been gray and gloomy and dim lately, but inside our house, everything is twinkly and bright for Christmas -- it fills my heart with joy! 

As Rossetti says in this poem, now the days (the hours of sunlight) will start getting longer again. The important thing, however, is how you feel inside. Hope the sun inside you is shining brightly this week!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The first gift of Christmas...

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An excerpt:

     I knew that I could have any gift I could imagine. But the thing I wanted most for Christmas was not inside Santa's giant bag. What I wanted more than anything was one silver bell from Santa's sleigh. When I asked, Santa smiled. Then he gave me a hug and told an elf to cut a bell from a reindeer's harness. The elf tossed it up to Santa. He stood, holding the bell high above him, and called out, "The first gift of Christmas!"

~ from The Polar Express,
written by Chris Van Allsburg

The Polar Express is one of my favorite Christmas books. (I like the movie, too, but not as much as the book.) I love this scene and the meaning of the silver bell from Santa's sleigh. What would you ask Santa for?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pine Tree Song

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Pine Tree Song

Little pines upon the hill,
Sleeping in the moonlight still,
Are you dreaming now of me
Who bloomed into a Christmas tree?
Baby moons of gold and red
Cuddle close beside my head;
In my tangled leaves a string
Of fairy stars are glimmering;
While my arms, for girls and boys,
Blossom with a hundred toys.
O little pines, it’s fun to live
To be a Christmas tree — and give.

~ Marjorie Barrows

I like how Barrows writes this rhyming poem from the perspective of a Christmas tree, and the image of fairy stars glimmering.  Which words or lines do you like best?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

All Aboard for Christmas Tales!

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I love Christmas stories -- all kinds -- and have a large collection of them. I've shared most of my collection in previous posts. (See the links at the bottom of this post.) This year I went looking for Christmas books at our local library. Here are a few of the tales that I really enjoyed and wanted to share with you:

Picture books:

It's Christmas,
written and illustrated by Tina Burke, 2006

It's that time of year again. Burke describes (and illustrates) some of the joys of the holiday season in this sweet little book.


A Star So Bright:
A Christmas Tale,
written by M. Christina Butler
and illustrated by Caroline Pedler, 2007

On each page of this book, different animals see a bright star in the sky. The star (shown through a cut-out in the paper) grows larger with every page turn, and we, the readers, get closer to the manger highlighted by the star. Butler's rhyming text is enhanced by Pedlar's charming illustrations.


Christmas Wombat,
written by Jackie French
and illustrated by Bruce Whatley, 2011

A very silly carrot-loving wombat hitches a ride on Santa's sleigh and discovers that there are many, many carrots in the world. This story kept me laughing out loud with each turn of a page. When I finished reading it, I immediately handed it off to my boys (almost 17 and 10), who were equally amused! I just might need to buy this one to add to my collection. :)


Christmas is Coming,
written by Anne Bowen
and illustrated by Tomek Bogacki, 2007

Throughout the holiday season, Anna tells her baby brother about the various signs that Christmas is coming -- the first snow, the lights, the tree, and more.  On Christmas Day she is very excited by the gifts that Santa has brought, but looking at her baby brother she suddenly realizes that he is the very best Christmas present of all.


One Snowy Night
written by M. Christina Butler
and illustrated by Tina Macnaughton, 2004

Father Christmas gives Little Hedgehog a red wooly hat to keep him warm. The hat ends up warming the hearts of all of Little Hedgehog's friends -- and turns out to be the perfect gift. This cute "Touch-and-Feel Book" allows readers to feel the soft red hat.


Snowed Under
and Other Christmas Confusions,
written and illustrated by Serge Bloch, 2011

This book is filled with idioms, Christmas-related and otherwise, along with humorous illustrations that interpret those idioms literally. Bloch uses phrases like "deck the halls", "tied up in knots", and "red-handed" to tell his tale of a family getting ready for Christmas.


The Little Fir Tree,
written by Margaret Wise Brown
and illustrated by Jim Lamarche, 1954 (text),
2005 (illustrations)

Although this has the same title as Hans Christian Andersen's famous tale, Brown's The Little Fir Tree is a completely different story -- one that is heartwarming, not depressing like Andersen's. A little fir tree grows alone in a field, wishing he could be part of the forest... or at least part of something. One winter day a man finds the tree. He digs the tree up and brings him to share with a special boy and to be part of a great Celebration.


Lighthouse Christmas,
written by Toni Buzzeo
and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, 2011

Frances, Peter, and Papa recently moved to a lighthouse island off the coast of Maine and Frances is feeling lonely. Now a big storm is keeping even the supply boats away. Will it keep Santa away as well?

This engaging story is inspired by a true Christmas tradition, the Flying Santa Service.


written by Eve Bunting
and illustrated by David Diaz, 1997

Simon and his mother are celebrating Christmas Eve in their cardboard house. They have a tiny tree and not much else, but when they meet an elderly woman with even less, they invite her in and offer to share what they have.

I love this book's vibrant illustrations and inspiring message.


Young adult fiction:

Let It Snow:
Three Holiday Romances,
written by John Green, Maureen Johnson,
and Lauren Myracle, 2008

This book is made up of three interconnected (and often hilarious) tales of teenage love and romance. A Christmas Eve snowstorm stops a train and transforms Gracetown into a winter wonderland. Strangers meet, old friends look at each other in a new way, and, in the midst of it all is a tiny teacup pig named Gabriel.


For more Christmas books, please check out my posts from previous years:

Have you read any of the books shown above? If so, what did you think of them? 

What are your favorite Christmas stories?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Write a lot.

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"You have to write a lot. 
And you have to rewrite 
what you wrote a lot more." 

~ Holly Black 

Good advice for writers! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2015


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First snow! The flakes
  So few, so light, 
Remake the world
  In solid white.

All bundled up,
  We feel as if
We were fat penguins,
  Warm and stiff.

Downtown, the stores
  Half split their sides,
And Mother brings home
  Things she hides.

Old carols peal.
  The dusk is dense.
There is a mood
  Of sweet suspense.

The shepherds wait,
  The kings, the tree--
All wait for something
  Yet to be,

Some miracle.
  And then it's here,
Wrapped up in hope--
  Another year!

~ John Updike

There are so many things I love about the month of December -- and Updike includes many of them in this poem. What are your favorite things about December?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


This week's word is logophile [law-guh-fahyl], a noun which means "a lover of words". I only recently learned this word, but it is most definitely one I will be using from now on!

I admit this proudly: I am a logophile!

Are you?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


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"I cannot live without books."

 ~ Thomas Jefferson

Nope, I can't do it. Wouldn't want to try. Would you?

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Heard a Bird Sing

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I Heard a Bird Sing

I heard a bird sing
  In the dark of December
A magical thing
  And sweet to remember.
“We are nearer to Spring
  Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
  In the dark of December.

~ Oliver Herford

This is a hopeful little poem, especially when it's been cold and snowy for weeks -- which is not the case here this year. Here it already feels like spring, LOL. Do you dream of spring in December?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A pretty little fir tree

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An excerpt:

     Out in the forest there stood a pretty little fir tree. It had a good place, for there was sun, plenty of air, and all around grew many larger trees. But the little tree thought of nothing but growing.

     "Oh, were I but a large tree like the others!" the little thing said. "For then I could stretch out my branches far around, and look out into the world. The birds would build nests in my branches, and when the wind blew I could nod as proudly as the others."

~ from The Little Fir Tree,
written by Hans Christian Andersen

This story of a fir that grows up to become a Christmas tree is a sad one, for the fir never learns to enjoy its life at the moment and is always wishing for greater things. It's easy to look at the past and wish things were like "the old days" or to look towards the future, hoping for something better than what we have now. I believe, however, that it's best to try appreciating the present and all the blessings surrounding us right now. What do you think?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

From the ether...

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"As soon as I could write, 
I wrote poetry, 
and I guess I must have 
got stuck then 
because I'm still doing it.  
Why?  Because it is so satisfying.  
A thought springs 
to one's mind from the ether, 
then turns to words that fall 
into lines and shapes and sounds, 
get rearranged, form a picture, 
shout a feeling, weep, laugh. [...] 
And all in time to see 
the whole thing come to fruition, 
hold the finished work in one's hand, 
sometimes without even missing dinner."

~ Felice Hoffman, 
in The Place My Words are Looking For

I really like how Hoffman describes writing poetry here and I agree -- it is so satisfying! I really need to do more of it. What do you think about what she said?

Friday, December 11, 2015


You may have heard the old Christmas carol, The Gloucestershire Wassail, with the chorus that goes like this:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl we'll drink to thee.

This week's word is wassail [wo-seyl], a noun meaning "a salutation wishing health to a person" or the name of a drink at festivities, especially spiced ale. In addition, wassailing is another word for caroling house to house.

Our local high school choir performs a Madrigal Celebration every December. At one point during the show, all of the guests are given a cup of warm wassail (not ale, but rather a mixture of apple cider and orange juice) to toast to the king and queen while the choir students sing The Gloucestershire Wassail. It's always a fun part of the holiday season for me! :)

Here are some examples I came up with, using this week's word:

When I was younger, 
I loved wassailing with my friends 
at Christmastime! (True story.)

Please pass the wassail.

Wassail to you!

Have you ever tasted wassail or gone wassailing? How would you use the word in a sentence?

Thursday, December 10, 2015


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Snow has magic
in its touch.
It makes the world
change very much;
it bends the hands
of spruces low
with fluffy mittens
full of snow;
it turns the road
and house and yard
into a great big
Christmas card.

~ Aileen Fisher

It has been unseasonably warm here lately and we don't have any snow at the moment. I hope we will get some soon because I love how it magically changes the world around us, as Fisher says in her poem. I'm ready for my house and yard to look like a Christmas card! How about you? Do you like the way snow looks?

Monday, December 7, 2015

How long will we feed them?

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An excerpt:

     The snowman stood alone... but only for a short time.

     "They have eaten everything... even the carrot nose," whispered the little sister peeking out from behind the evergreens.

     "Let's put out more seeds and corn before they come back," encouraged the brother. "The animals will never know we were here."

     "How long will we feed them?" she asked.

     "For a long, long time," he replied. "After the snow has gone and the snowman has melted away, until the frogs start to sing and the trees grow new leaves."

~ from Stranger in the Woods
written by Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick

We don't have any snow on the ground at the moment, but I am wishing for a winter wonderland. I love snow and making snowmen... and would love it even more if a snowman of mine attracted the attention of some wildlife like the one in this story! How about you?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Writing all the time...

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“I assume that what I’m doing 
is writing all the time — 
even though I’m actually 
doing something else. 
When you are stuck and you go out 
into the garden to pull weeds, 
you are still writing. 
Part of you is. 
That’s why it’s vitally important 
to have a notebook beside your bed. 
Often the resolution of a difficult bit 
that I wrote the day before, 
and that I was stuck on, 
will trot along in front of my eyes 
when I’m lying in bed just waking up. 
So writing isn’t just 
sitting in front of the keyboard,
 although that’s a fairly vital part of the process. You’re still being a writer 
when you are reading or making notes, 
or just enjoying yourself.”

 ~ Terry Pratchett, 
in The Wand in the Word: 
Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

I like what Pratchett says here about writing and writers. Even when I'm busy doing something, fun or not, my mind is still working on my stories and poems! Have you ever noticed that happening to you?

Saturday, December 5, 2015


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Out of the bosom of the Air,
  Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare
  Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
    Silent, and soft, and slow
    Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
  Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
  In the white countenance confession,
    The troubled sky reveals
    The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
  Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
  Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
    Now whispered and revealed
    To wood and field.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For me, snow usually brings happy thoughts to mind, but in this poem snow takes on a sad, melancholy feeling.  I love the imagery in Longfellow's words and also the sounds, especially the last two lines of each stanza. My favorite line, though, is "This is the poem of the air,/Slowly in silent syllables recorded" -- to me, that is simply beautiful. What do you like (or dislike) about this poem?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

An entire world...

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"To read a book 
is to hold 
an entire world 
in the palm of your hand." 

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

I love this idea of a book as a world. How many worlds have you held in your hands this year?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


The word I want to share with you this week is convivial [kuh n-viv-ee-uh l], an adjective that means "friendly", "agreeable" and also  "merry company" or "festive". I think it is an appropriate word for the holiday season. :) 

Here are a few examples I came up with using the word:

She is so convivial, it's contagious!

Lights, decorations, gifts, fun movies, delicious food... 
the holidays always make me feel convivial.

With his twinkling eyes, big smile, distinctive laugh, 
and heart of gold, Santa Claus is the 
epitome of a convivial soul.

What ways can you think of to use the word convivial?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Winter Moon

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Winter Moon

How thin and sharp is the moon tonight!
How thin and sharp and ghostly white
Is the slim curved crook of the moon tonight!

~ Langston Hughes

I don't know about you, but I can't believe that it's December already! Where did the year go?? 

I know that winter doesn't officially start for a few more weeks, but I always consider the 1st of December to be the beginning of the winter season. (Especially when we've already had snow, like this year!) I love to step outside at night during the winter, enjoying the soft white ground all around, glowing in the moonlight. Do you? I also like the different ways that Hughes describes the moon in this short poem.