Are You Ready? The Holidays Are upon Us!

(One of these days, I’ll figure out all the tricks to this program, but in the meantime, here’s my blog.)
I’ve bought a few presents, but haven’t a clue what to buy for the rest. Dale bought presents for two of the women (our daughter and her partner) in our lives, but our daughter-in-law is “a puzzlement”; dear as she is. Dale and I usually buy something for the two of us, like another piece of art. This year we just finished having the master bath re-papered, which of course meant raising cabinet height and having a new counter top installed. So I figure that does it for us.
Apologies to my non-Christian readers, but I’m concentrating on Christmas for this blog. Though having written that, I do have to tell you about good friends of ours who used to trim our tree on Christmas Eve when we lived in Maryland. They did that because they are ethnic Jews who, though not observant, they never put up a tree. Helene, being a whimsical, artistic woman, made a tree ornament for us out of “baking”clay. The ornament is the head of an Hassidic Jew complete with the braided sideburns, an enormous schnoz and a hat. She named him Rabbi Rabinowitz. Another friend was so jealous, she had to have one for her tree.
Whatever your beliefs, I hope you have a lovely holiday season, with lots of good cheer and love amongst family and friends.
Lousy as my voice is, even my children let me sing Christmas Carols. They just sing louder than I do.

A Joyful Christmas: A Treasury of New and Classic Songs, Poems, and Stories for the Holiday
Collected by James Ransome
Illustrated by James Ransome
This is a lovely collection of Christmas celebration pieces with beautiful illustrations. Mr. Ransome divided the anthology into two sections: Soul—which he understands to be the spiritual essence of life—and Heart—which he considers to be the core of our being. In the soul section he includes “A Time of Angels,” “Silent Night,” “The Friendly Beasts,” “Maybe in Bethlehem,” A Carol for the Shepherds,” “The Blind Ox,” “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” “What You Gonna Name that Pretty Little Baby?,” “What Can I Give Him?,” “Long, Long Ago,” “There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve,” “On a Christmas Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “The History of Christmas.” The Heart section has “December,” “How I Know,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” “Dear Santa,” “Jingle Bells,” “Christmas Eve at Indian Lake,” “Once There Was a Snowman,” “Day Before Christmas,” Christmas Gift,” A Christmas Gift,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “Ms. MacAdoo’s Christmas Guests,” “Deck the Halls,” “Christmas-in-a-Shoebox,” and “Miracle at Midnight.”
BIBLIO: 2010, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company, All Ages, $19.99
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-8050-6621-0

Christmas is a time for people to remember Jesus’ message of love, compassion and giving. The next story is about just that.

The Christmas Eve Ghost
Shirley Hughes
Illustrated by Shirley Hughes
In the 1930s, Bronwen and Dylan move to Liverpool, England, from their native village in Wales because their da died in a mining accident and their mam must be a washer woman and seamstress to support the family. Being of a different denomination, Mam will have nothing to do with her neighbors, the O’Rileys. She rushes about before Bronwen and Dylan wake up in the morning to deliver the clean clothes to each house and take away the dirty ones. She worries about her children while she’s gone, but can’t afford a babysitter. Bronwen and Dylan help as much as they can, but they still have time to play. The children know they won’t get much in the way of presents for Christmas, but they don’t mind. Mam works extra hard to afford at least a little present and on Christmas Eve day she takes them with her to deliver the clothes. They are very tired after all that walking, so Mam takes them home to rest while she goes out to finish her shopping. While they wait for Mam to return, the children hear a plonk sound coming from the washer room at the back of their house. Dylan is sure it’s a “horrid ghostie” out to get them and runs screaming into the street. Bronwen is hot on his heels and they both run into Mrs. O’Riley, who shows them it’s naught but her sons and husband playing a game of darts. Mam comes to fetch them home and discovers Mrs. O’Riley to be a nice person willing to look after Bronwen and Dylan when need be. The illustrations are delightful and the story is a sweet message of trust and tolerance.
BIBLIO: 2010, Candlewick Press, Ages 4 to 8, $15.99
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4472-7


And the third book, repeats the message of love.

The Perfect Christmas
Eileen Spinelli
Illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi
Christmas is joyful no matter how you celebrate it. You can have an artificial tree with wispy branches or go with your parents to pick out and cut a live tree. You can decorate your house with fancy wreaths or stuff you buy in bargain bins. Your homemade baked goods can be yummy or hard as stones. Fancy gifts or simple gifts, either is fine. And playing the kazoo instead of the cello can be just as much fun. What matters is what’s in your heart. Christmas is especially wonderful if it snows, because then everybody shares the feeling whether rich or poor. Ms. Spinelli’s rhymes are wonderful and Ms. Adinolfi’s drawings are charming. This book will give the reader the “warm and fuzzies” every time it is read, which is sure to be often.
BIBLIO: 2011, Christy Ottaviano Books/ Henry Holt and Company, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8702-4

One thought on “Are You Ready? The Holidays Are upon Us!

  1. Sarah,
    I would love to see the James Ransome anthology. I have a book he illustrated and autographed. I met him at an SCBWI Conference. What a treat.

    I was surprised to learn that the ghost story is a picture book. It seems a bit “dark and heavy” for that. It is refreshing to me that serious picture book content does get published.

    The Spenilli household must be a busy one, especially this time of year. Lots of talent there.

    Thanks for the reviews, Sarah! Merry Christmas!

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