The Golden Dreydl is an interesting Chanukah themed fantasy novel for children. There is an album that goes along with it. The book and album put a JeThe Golden Dreydl is an interesting Chanukah themed fantasy novel for children. There is an album that goes along with it. The book and album put a Jewish twist on the Nutcracker story.
Sara, the heroine, of The Golden Dreydl has quite the bad attitude about "having" to celebrate Chanukah and "not getting to" celebrate Christmas like all her friends. But to the family gathering she will go--no matter the fuss. (Sara has an older brother, Seth).
Readers briefly meet Sara, Seth, and their many, many cousins. The "kids" of the family are playing dreydl. Sara is still in a mood. A mood that isn't exactly improved when Tante Miriam shows up with presents for one and all. It's not her fault, mind you, Sara even seems a little inclined to like her present: a golden dreydl. But Seth and her get into a bit of a fight. The dreydl ends up flying through the air and hitting the TV and breaking it. That puts most everyone in a mood.
Readers next join Sara later that evening, for a fantasy adventure. She follows a young girl--a girl claiming to be the Golden Dreydl--through the hole in the TV, I believe. They arrive in a fantasy land, of sorts, with demons, peacocks, a fool, and King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. There is also much talk of a Tree of Life.
Sara is given a quest, of sorts, to save the girl from the demons/demon king. She has the Fool to help her. A few riddle games are played. First, between Sara and the Fool, and, then later between the Demon King and Sara and the Fool.
For those readers who enjoy fantasy novels, going to different worlds, doing quests, this one is enjoyable enough. If you get a chance to listen to the music, it will probably help you 'enjoy' it even more. ...more
I love it. Of course I love it. How could I not? Now, I will admit that I didn't read the actual book until I was an adult. It wasn't one of the SeussI love it. Of course I love it. How could I not? Now, I will admit that I didn't read the actual book until I was an adult. It wasn't one of the Seuss books that I owned growing up. But the christmas special--the cartoon--is one I've seen dozens and dozens of times. The book itself is lovely. If you love one, you'll love the other.
So in case you're unfamiliar with the book or special, The Grinch hates Christmas. His neighbors, the Whos in Who-ville, love Christmas. He is super-cranky this year, and, he decides to steal it. He thinks Christmas is all about the stuff. Take the stuff, do away with it altogether, right? Wrong. The Whos in Who-ville teach the Grinch a lesson about joy.
One of my favorite things about it is it's just SO quotable. Here are a few of my favorite lines:
Every who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot...But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT!
And THEN they'd do something he liked least of all! Every who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing. They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing. They'd sing! And they'd sing! AND they'd SING! SING! SING!
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch. But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
Then the last thing he took was the log for their fire! Then he went up the chimney, himself, the old liar.
It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!"
Do you know what it is to be real? One little Christmas bunny will learn this and plenty of other life lessons in Margery Williams' classic tale The VDo you know what it is to be real? One little Christmas bunny will learn this and plenty of other life lessons in Margery Williams' classic tale The Velveteen Rabbit.
The Velveteen Rabbit opens with a young boy receiving a rabbit for a Christmas present. All is lovely for the rabbit that first day. But the toy is quickly forgotten. He becomes one toy of many, many, many toys. He's not exactly special to the boy or the other toys. In fact, I'd say the other toys bully him a bit. All except for the Skin Horse, the oldest toy in the nursery. It is this horse that tells the Rabbit all about being real, what it takes to be real, what it feels like, how it changes you, etc.
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." "I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled. "The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always." (5-8)
The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favorite Christmas books. I love the nursery magic. I love the ending. It was originally published in 1922. The story and illustrations in this edition are original.
The Velveteen Rabbit was published several years before A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner. Chances are if you enjoy one, you'll enjoy the other.
Do you have a favorite toy-come-to-life fantasy?...more
I am not as familiar with the original story (1816) as I am the story of the ballet. (The two are different.) It's an odd book. I'll be honest. It isI am not as familiar with the original story (1816) as I am the story of the ballet. (The two are different.) It's an odd book. I'll be honest. It is just as strange as Alice in Wonderland. (Though, of course, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King came decades before Alice.)
Marie Stahlbaum is the heroine of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The book opens with Marie and her brother, Fritz, playing together and waiting, waiting, waiting for all the delights of Christmas. They are waiting to enter the large drawing room where the tree is, and where there presents are. Their mother and father are there as well. As is Godfather Drosselmeier. There is a new doll, Clara, for Marie. There are new toy soldiers for Fritz. And there is a lovely toy castle, Marzipan Castle, for them both. The Nutcracker is a gift for the whole family. Marie does take special interest in it, this interest remains despite the fact that Fritz breaks the Nutcracker when he's showing off.
Marie stays up past her bedtime in the drawing room. This is when things get strange: seeing Godfather Drosselmeier on top of the clock, seeing all the mice attack, seeing the Mouse King, etc. She witnesses a battle. Towards the close of that battle, she throws a slipper at the wicked Mouse King.
Marie awakens in bed the next day. Her mother had found her bleeding on the floor near the tree and toy cupboard. She spends the next few days at least in bed. Spending so much time in bed might seem horrible, and, perhaps Marie found it to be so part of the time at least. But her Godfather tells her strange stories which she believes of course.
Plenty of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is the Godfather's strange, strange story. This story is about "a king, a queen, some mice, and a young princess named Pirlipat." The story is rich in detail:
Princess Pirlipat was very lovely. She had flawless white skin, with bright blue eyes and flowing locks of golden hair. The generals, noblemen, and ministers of the state all told the king and queen that they had never seen a baby like the princess. Not only was the princess beautiful, but she was also born with two perfect rows of teeth!
The queen insisted that Princess Pirlipat's cradle always be guarded. The royal guards were placed at Pirlipat's door, and directly beside her cradle sat six nurses...and with these six nurses sat six big cats. The nurses had strict orders from the queen to keep one cat in each of their laps and pet them all day and all night so that they would never stop purring. This was indeed strange. No one knew why the queen went to such lengths to protect her princess, but still, every night, the sound of purring cats echoed throughout the castle. But the queen had a very good reason to be on guard, for a curse had been placed on her family.
Readers learn of the family curse, of course. And it's something. The story becomes more and more bizarre as it unfolds. But to Marie, it is completely captivating.
Meanwhile, we have not seen the last of the mice or their dreadful King. Marie knows that sooner or later the final battle will come....
There does come a time when the Nutcracker takes Marie to his magical, fantastic home in Toyland
So readers see Marie awaken again from yet another dream. Will Marie's ultimate dream come true?
This story is so strange and bizarre and rich in detail--pure fantasy. ...more
I've read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas plenty of times before. But this is the first time I've read the edition of the poem published as a pictureI've read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas plenty of times before. But this is the first time I've read the edition of the poem published as a picture book in 1912 with illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith.
The poem itself is as delightful as it ever is. I think this is a poem that feels familiar no matter what. You don't have to seek it out year after year. It just finds you and sticks. It's just part of the Christmas culture. (I love the Sesame Street play starring Bert and Ernie as featured in Muppet Family Christmas.)
It was interesting to see the illustrations from this time period. (You may see the illustrations at project gutenberg.) Did I love the illustrations? Not particularly. ...more
Since her dad left, Treasure has struggled with the changes in her life. And she's not the only one struggling. Her younger sister, Tiffany, and her MSince her dad left, Treasure has struggled with the changes in her life. And she's not the only one struggling. Her younger sister, Tiffany, and her Mom are all struggling a bit. In fact, the novel opens dramatically: "Dad has been gone exactly two months, one week, and four days when Mom stands up and says, "I can't do this anymore." Soon, all three will be on their way to Great Aunt Grace's house. The mom will be leaving her daughters behind while she searches several states for her missing husband. That's the goal, the mission. But will it be successful? Will she find him? be able to talk to him? convince him to come back? agree to live together as a family again? Or is that just an unrealistic wish that Tiffany and Treasure are clinging dearly to?
Great Aunt Grace is a character. She is. She's not used to living with kids. And she's not used to being a nurturer. She will struggle. The kids will struggle. But together the three of them may just be surprised at how they come to feel like a genuine family.
I loved the great aunt. I did. I loved Treasure and Tiffany too. I thought Treasure was a great big sister. I loved how she tried to comfort and support her sister. I thought she was an honest character as well. It was just easy to love her and cheer for her. I loved seeing Treasure develop as a character throughout the book. I loved seeing her open up a bit and allow herself to feel. I loved that she got the chance to start making friends.
Life in Virginia with her great-aunt is not perfect. She has not found a "perfect place." But she's coming to terms with life as it is, and she's learning to appreciate the good things of her imperfect life. Overall, I really thought The Perfect Place was a great coming-of-age novel. (That being said, I wish they'd not taken the Lord's name in vain so many times! There were a few language instances that kept me from loving this one absolutely.)
This one reminded me of A Long Way to Chicago. ...more
There are plenty of children who write letters to Santa each year. But how many letters to Santa include the gospel message? In this picture book a yoThere are plenty of children who write letters to Santa each year. But how many letters to Santa include the gospel message? In this picture book a young boy does just that.
Dear Mr. Santa Claus, It's me again--a kid. I know I've written lots of letters to you before with long lists of gifts I wanted for Christmas. Well, not this year. This letter is different. I discovered the real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with you at all. It is about a very special gift. I want to tell you about this gift. By the way, how are you and Mrs. Santa Claus doing? Have you lost any weight? Did your helpers, the elves, grow any taller? Do you still like cookies and milk? Are you still wearing that red, furry outfit? I've always wondered, what do you wear in the summer time?
It's a simple book with a timeless message. Which timeless message? Well, I suppose I could pick one or two that stand out. First, that Christmas is not about Santa and presents and shopping. It is actually about celebrating Jesus. Second, that the gospel is too good to keep to yourself. The gospel is for sharing.
The real Christmas story began a long time ago, when a Roman emperor named Caesar Augustus ordered that a census be taken. A census is when all the people had to be counted. At that time, A man named Joseph and his wife, Mary had to take a long journey to the city of David, known as Bethlehem, for the census. It wasn't an easy journey as Mary was going to have a baby soon.
The focus of this book is on retelling the Christmas story and communicating the gospel message. Probably leanings toward more retelling.
I was pleasantly surprised by the illustrations. I thought they were very nicely done.
Will this book please every single reader? Probably not. It may not be a perfect fit for every family this holiday season. But I think for some it will be a great find. ...more
With some picture books, you almost have to read them a few times before you decide if you like them or not. Such is the case with Tom Brenner's And TWith some picture books, you almost have to read them a few times before you decide if you like them or not. Such is the case with Tom Brenner's And Then Comes Christmas.
And Then Comes Christmas is all about establishing atmosphere and celebrating traditions. Atmosphere is established by description and detail. Phrases like "bare branches rake across the sky" and "romp in snow as smooth as bedcovers." Traditions are celebrated: choosing a tree, decorating a tree, making cookies, wrapping presents, reading stories, attending programs, making crafts, seeing Santa at the mall, etc. Some traditions will likely be familiar. Some may not be. Not every child gets to play in the snow before Christmas--or after Christmas, for that matter! But all children could choose to make paper snowflakes to decorate their windows.
It is a book that slowly and gently counts down to Christmas. (Though not with actual numbers.) There is a certain pattern to it...multiple when/then passages.
I think my favorite when/then passage is:
When elves and reindeer appear in stores, and small trains race through toy villages, and piles of presents nestle in cotton drifts...Then hop from foot to foot, waiting to sit on Santa's knee."
I like this one well enough. But I would hate to have to diagram any of these sentences! ...more
Rose Howard loves her dog Rain. She probably loves Rain more than homonyms and prime numbers. Maybe. It would be hard to know for sure. These are justRose Howard loves her dog Rain. She probably loves Rain more than homonyms and prime numbers. Maybe. It would be hard to know for sure. These are just a few of the things readers should know about Rose. Oh, I almost forgot rules. Rose Howard loves rules, loves living by rules, loves holding other people to high standards of abiding by rules. Which doesn't make her many friends among her peers, or, even the adults in her life. For example, she's no longer allowed on the bus because the bus driver couldn't take it anymore--the constant criticism of her driving. To help facilitate her needs in the classroom, she has an aide assigned to her. This helps. It may even help a great deal. Rose has worked with an aide for a year or two, I believe, but even so Rose's behavior in and out of the classroom is far from perfect. I'll qualify that. Her behavior is still not good enough, not perfect enough, not "normal" enough to please her father. I think there are enough indicators in the text that show that others in Rose's life are more forgiving and accepting. (Rose is autistic.)
So what is Rain Reign about? It's a story about a girl, a dog, a hurricane, and a brave act on Rose's part. There are some things Rose will tell readers from the start. I don't consider these facts to be spoilers. 1) There is a storm, a hurricane. 2) Rose's Dad puts the dog out of the house in the midst of the storm. 3) Rose doesn't know why her Dad did this.
I liked Rose well enough as a narrator. I did. But I think for me, the big surprise perhaps, was how much I loved her uncle. I think Uncle Weldon was my favorite part of this novel. ...more
The heroine of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is a girl named Will Silver (full name Wilhelmina, don't dare call her Wilhelmina though!). Will loves liThe heroine of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is a girl named Will Silver (full name Wilhelmina, don't dare call her Wilhelmina though!). Will loves living on a farm in Zimbabwe. Her father doesn't own the farm--Captain Browne does--but he manages it. She can't remember her mother, but, life there with her father and her friends (mostly farm workers and local boys) and her animals is near perfect. Until her father dies from malaria. Just like her mother.
After his death, Captain Browne is her legal guardian. The problem? Well, this older gentlemen has fallen head over heels in love with a horrible woman with an evil plan. At least that's how Will sees it. Will soon finds herself heading off to England and boarding school. The situation seems bleak. And it is. And I think that's one reason why I didn't exactly love Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. It is a bleak middle grade read with little hope. I like hope. I need hope. Will finds herself in dozens of desperate situations, and, it doesn't get better, it just ends. True to life? Probably. Is it important to be true to life and authentic? Sure.
Will is displaced. She's out of her element in England and at school. She's never interacted with girls her own age. She's never formally attended school. She's never had to follow rules. So she struggles with EVERYTHING. For example, she struggles with the concept of staying inside, staying inside classrooms and buildings during school, of staying in her room at night and sleeping. She can't understand why no one will let her sleep outside wherever she wants whenever she wants. She can't understand why no one wants to be near her despite the fact that she hasn't changed clothes or taken a bath or washed her hair or even brushed her hair in three weeks or so. She gets angry when people tell her to use a fork and knife to eat. So it's an understatement to say she's out of her element.
The book is interesting enough, I suppose. But I didn't really enjoy it very much. ...more
Did I love the twenty-second Elephant & Piggie book? I did! You know I did! I adore Gerald and Piggie!!!
In this addition to the series, Piggie haDid I love the twenty-second Elephant & Piggie book? I did! You know I did! I adore Gerald and Piggie!!!
In this addition to the series, Piggie has a surprise for Gerald. But it is a surprise that can't be given or shared right away. Which means that both Gerald and Piggie have to wait...and wait...and wait. Piggie, at least, knows why. But Gerald, well, he doesn't. And the suspense is torture for this oh-so-emotional elephant!
What I love best about the series is the expressiveness of the illustrations. Spotlight on Gerald!!! I love watching his expressions on every page of Waiting Is Not Easy. I think my favorite is Gerald's groaning. (p. 20/21, 30/31, 38/39).
The story is fun and playful. It is oh-so-easy to relate to Gerald's impatience and frustration!
Note: This one will be Cybils eligible next year (2015)! Don't forget! ...more
I loved Operation Bunny. I loved it so much more than I thought I would. I loved it because it was just fun. Emily Vole, the heroine, was abandoned asI loved Operation Bunny. I loved it so much more than I thought I would. I loved it because it was just fun. Emily Vole, the heroine, was abandoned as an infant. She was left in a hatbox. She was adopted soon after she was found. (At first, authorities thought she was a bomb. That is they thought the hatbox contained a bomb.) But her adopted parents are truly awful which is somewhat typical in fantasy novels for children! As I was reading, I was reminded again and again of The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. I LOVED that book. So it was a good sign for me! They were bad parents before the mom found out she was having triplets. After the triplets were born, well, things get strange in a horrid way. (They move her to the laundry room. Her bed is the ironing board.) Emily doesn't go to school. She's too busy earning her keep as a housekeeper. Of course, her mom gets upset that Emily never finishes all the chores on her list. The dad, for once, points out wisely, well, she can't read, dear. But. Things begin to look brighter for "poor Emily" once she meets the neighbor-next-door, Miss String, and the cat-next-door, Fidget. I just want to say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Fidget (the talking cat). So this adventure-fantasy properly begins when Emily meets Fidget and Miss String and they learn that there's something very special about Emily! Of course, I could go on to tell of the villain and the evil plot...but I won't. I want you to discover this one yourself!
Operation Bunny is the first in a new series. I loved it and would definitely recommend it....more
Sleep in Peace Tonight was a great read. It is set, for the most part, in England in 1941. Harry Hopkins, FDR's adviser, is being sent to England to sSleep in Peace Tonight was a great read. It is set, for the most part, in England in 1941. Harry Hopkins, FDR's adviser, is being sent to England to speak with Churchill. He'll spend many months talking with Churchill and writing to Roosevelt. He's there because of the war, of course. Popular opinion in the U.S. at the time being that war should be avoided at all costs no matter what--no matter what Hitler was doing in Europe or England, no matter how desperate the situation was growing. Churchill and many others, of course, were advocating the U.S. to become involved, saying that it was the obviously right thing to do. Hitler is bad news. Hitler must be stopped. Political tension. This book is essentially all about political tension. Tension within the United States. There being isolationists and even Nazi supporters within the U.S. Tension between Britain and the U.S. Tension between two personalities, of course. There being a whole lot of he says this but means this. The setting and atmosphere is well-developed. One gets an idea of what it was like to live in a topsy-turvy world with nightly bombings, and the only certain thing being that life is short and death could come anywhere, anytime.
Sleep In Peace Tonight is more than a historical novel, however, it is also a romance. Did I love the romance? Not particularly. On the one hand, it introduces a character, Leonora Finch to the story. She is patriotic and smart and oh-so-capable. She's doing her part for the war. Her storyline reminded me very much of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Her role in this novel is a bit underdeveloped in a way. I wouldn't have minded if more had been her story. Or if she got a book of her own. (That being said, I found Hopkins' story to be compelling for the most part.) But do I love Harry Hopkins and Leonora Finch as a couple? Do I think this is a compelling, oh-so-romantic, moving love story? Not so much.
At first I was skeptical about Death Coming Up the Hill. A whole verse novel written in haiku?! I struggle with liking verse novels in general. When IAt first I was skeptical about Death Coming Up the Hill. A whole verse novel written in haiku?! I struggle with liking verse novels in general. When I do, it is more often an exception than the norm. Why haiku? Why a verse novel? But after reading the author's note, I was a bit more forgiving and appreciative. He shares why he chose to write in haiku. He says he tried writing the story in prose, he tried different things here and there. He liked the characters. He liked the story. But the words, they were stuck. When he tried writing in verse, in haiku, things became unstuck. Furthermore, the number of syllables in Death Coming Up the Hill matches precisely the number of American soldiers killed in Vietnam in 1968. So the author's note did explain the why. That being said, I haven't changed my mind about verse novels.
Death Coming Up the Hill is a coming-of-age love story set in 1968. Ashe is the protagonist. 1968 will bring him joy and sorrow. I'll start with the joy: the new girl in school, Angela Turner, will become his girl; they'll fall madly in love. She will support him. He will support her. Together they have something solid. A further joy, of sorts, is Ashe will get a baby sister, Rosa. Now for the sorrow, Rosa is not his father's child. His mom has had an affair. His parents will split up, and Ashe's family life will go from uncomfortable to unbearable. Plus, there's general angst. Angst about the war in Vietnam. Angst at home in the U.S. His father is at one extreme, his mother at the other. Ashe is growing up and deciding who he is, what he believes, what he wants and needs, what he's willing to do or not do.
As a coming of age novel, it works. As a love story, it works. So in many ways this one works. I personally don't think it's great in terms of poetry and language. But I will be the first to admit that I don't read much poetry, and, that poetry in general is subjective enough to begin with. Do I think that the novel resonates with emotion? Yes. But I don't think it resonates with emotion because of the poetry. ...more
Beside Bethesda is a 31 day devotional written by Joni Eareckson Tada. It is concerned with pain and suffering and "deeper healing." Within the devotiBeside Bethesda is a 31 day devotional written by Joni Eareckson Tada. It is concerned with pain and suffering and "deeper healing." Within the devotional, she shares personal stories and insights. Several times she's mentions within the text that she has been in her wheelchair for 47 years. She reflects a bit on what she's learned in those decades. It's honest reflecting. Her desire for physical healing, but, her ever-increasing joy in the spiritual healing that God has blessed her with instead. In addition to telling her personal story, which, some readers might already be familiar with, she shares more about her recent battle with cancer.
There were a few things that stood out to me as I was reading. One thing is her memorization of Scripture. She tells of how memory work has helped her tremendously through the years. How foundational it was to her clinging to hope and joy and peace. She shares several verses that have been a big help to her. Romans 15:4, in part, reads "whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." It's something to keep in mind always. The Bible is a Christian's treasure. God speaks to us through his Word. His promises to us are within the Word. And it is our privilege, our joy to find those promises, to cling to them, to treasure them. Scriptures should be influencing our prayers and our lives. The other thing that stood out to me was the struggle--the fight--against depression and for contentment. She writes about how discouraging thoughts, depression, and boredom can weigh you down, can strip you of joy and peace. Go to God with how you feel, but, don't hold onto those negative feelings, don't meditate on them, dwell on them. Feed instead on the word of God. Let his promises have a place in your heart and mind.
I would definitely recommend this little devotional to believers that enjoy reading devotions....more