Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Holiday Cliche

We have been read ing a chapter or two of this each night this week. Everyone loves it. It's a classic, it has ghosts, and there is an illustration on every other page. What's not to love? Merry Christmas and happy reading to all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

It was inevitable. My holiday stress and hormone levels reached the tipping point this week. After a few ridiculously busy weeks of work and motherhood and Christmas shopping, I was in the car with a dangerously full bladder and racing to meet my six year old's school bus when John Denver and the Muppets began singing "Silent Night." I immediately began weeping loudly. So I've reached that point in the pre-Christmas frenzy where just about anything can make me cry, throw up my hands, or bang my head against a wall. Luckily, I got the good kind of tear in my eye from our annual reading of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. It is such a beautiful book. I won't go into great detail about it now, as I believe I posted about it last December. It is just too wonderful for words anyhow. I will say this, however, the copy we own is pictured below, but the second photo here has a different cover. That cover includes my favorite illustration from the book.

That picture comes about midway through the book, the exact point when a lump forms in my throat and I have to pause in my read aloud to find tissues. My children love this book too, and reading it is a favorite holiday tradition. Speaking of holiday traditions, perhaps we instituted a new one. As soon as we set up and decorated our Christmas tree and decorated it last weekend, we sat in its glow and my husband and I taught the kids how to play poker, because nothing says Christmas memory like a good game of Texas Hold 'Em.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The True Gift: A Christmas Story

One of my favorite holiday traditions is reading Christmas stories with my children in the evenings leading up to Christmas Eve. We have some old favorites, but every year I like to find at least one new holiday picture or chapter book. I struck gold with this year's new selection, Patricia MacLachlan's The True Gift A Christmas Story. Perhaps you know Patricia Mac Lachlan from her lovely and now classic Sarah, Plain and Tall. The True Gift is a short (which is a bit of a gift to me during this busy time of year) and gentle chapter book that highlights the beauty of thoughtfulness, generosity, and community. Liam and Lily work to find a friend for White Cow, the lone cow on their grandparents' farm. In trying to help the cow, they help a young boy whose family is struggling financially, and they in turn are helped by the members of their grandparents' farming community. It could inspire some good conversations about whether or not animals have feelings and what it means to give. Brian Floca's pencil drawing are quietly gorgeous. I recommend this one for readers from first through fifth grade looking for a good holiday book that is not too Christmasy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In Which The Full Extent of My Geekiness Is Revealed

Anyone who reads this blog has probably long suspected that I am a geek. Here's your proof positive. My latest favorite book is Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. You know Elements of Style. It is the wonderfully brief and informative guide to writing every writer and English teacher has on her desk. In 1959, E.B. White updated a style guide written by his own Cornell professor William Strunk Jr. It has sold well ever since. My own grandmother used to give it to young people she loved as an eighth grade graduation gift. I have consulted my own copy countless times, and it has never steered me wrong.

Stylized is the back story of the creation and popularity of that popular little style manual. For people like me, to whom E.B. White is a rock star, it is sure to be a hit. Much of his correspondence about the book is included, along with a surprising number of anecdotes about it. The author, Mark Garvey, admits that it is a slightly obsessive history, but it is a highly entertaining read. I especially enjoyed Frank McCourt's thoughts on Strunk and White's little jewel of a book. I also enjoy his confession that he was terrified of semicolons and maybe colons as well.

If you are looking to stuff an English teacher's stocking this Chritmas, no doubt he or she already owns a well used copy of Elements of Style, so fill that stocking with Stylized instead. And maybe a gift card to a local bookstore too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do My Cold Cuts Qualify as Reading Material?

I recently read about the Wisconsin Travel Federation ( its tourism board, I suppose) needing to change its name due to the pervasiveness of texting abbreviations. The federation could no longer go by its initials. I loved that story and thought of it this morning while making the school lunches. The plastic baggy from my delicatessen containing a third of a pound of Land O'Lakes cheese read "LOL Cheese." As it was 5:30 in the morning, I didn't lol myself, but it is kind of funny when I think about it now.

I promise, I will go back to writing about books again soon. I will say that I just finished David Benioff's The Twenty Fifth Hour for my book club and enjoyed it. I didn't love it, but it was short and never lost my attention.