Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Chirstimas Stories for Family Read Aloud

Here are more Christmas stories including one of my all time favorites!

The Christmas Tree Tangle by Margaret Mahy
This title has been a smash hit in our house for three years ever since Muffin was four years old. Mahy writes wonderful novels especially The Pirates Mixed up Voyage which cites the Pirates Who's Who in hilarious footnotes. But I digress. The Christmas Tree Tangle like her newly released picture book Bubble Trouble is written with terrific rhyming verse, that is a delight to read:

"Goodness gracious, what do I see?
The Kitten has climbed the Christmas tree!
Climbed so high and climbed so far
To cling with her claws to the Christmas star."

The cat and other animals try to rescue the kitten from her perch on top of the tree. This one is great to read and doesn't include any of those painful rhymes that make you wince and swear never to read another children's story in verse.

Dragon's Merry Christmas by Dav Pilkey
This has been another smash hit in our house. You cannot go wrong with any of the Dragon books. This one is sweet and charming with as always great art.

Christmas in July by Arthur Yorinks
My all time favorite Christmas story ever. In this book Santa's Christmas pants are sent to the cleaners. The cleaner accidentally delivers them to Rich Rump (an obvious Donald Trump caricature). Rump won't give back the pants, causing poor Santa (wearing boxers with green polka dots) to take the streets saying: "Hi. I'm Santa, got any pants?" Naturally he is arrested and Christmas doesn't take place until July. This is one of the few Christmas stories that feels truly modern, and up to date, and urban. It is not the only story set in New York City, but it really feels very New York. I find this a nice change from the many stories that make it seem as if Christmas weren't complete without snow and cookie baking grandmas in the country.

Big Bob and the Winter Holiday Potato by Daniel Pinkwater
When I brought this one out Muffin wanted to hear the other stories: Letters from Father Christmas, second run through, Christmas in July and Dragon's Merry Christmas. I love Daniel Pinkwater, but this story is definitely weird and I thin kthe humor in it will seem more amusing to Muffin in another year...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Christmas Crocodile by Bonnie Becker

The Christmas Crocodile by Bonnie Becker, illustrated by David Small. A very funny picture book about a family who receive a crocodile as a gift. Mayhem ensues as the crocodile eats everything. "The Christmas Crocodile didn't mean to be bad, not really." Merry enjoyed this one.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Stories To Read Aloud

I am always looking for good Christmas stories to read during December so that the Christmas season fills the month. Of course we also watch The Rudolph Christmas special, and A year Without a Santa Claus, and the Peanuts Christmas special, along with the original Grinch. But books have to be part of the celebration.

What I look for in a Christmas story is that it be not overtly religious, and preferably not tied in to any licensed character. And of course I like a good story. Some of the Highlights of our past and future Christmas reading are listed below.

Father Christmas and the Donkey by Elizabeth Clark, illustrated by Jan Ormerod. This is my favorite Christmas story that we have read thus far. It is a sweet story, and has an animal in it which always goes over well with my audience.

Who Will Guide My Sleigh Tonight? by Jerry Palotta, illustrated by David Biedrzycki.
This is very simple, but has great illustrations showing Santa's sleigh being guided by dolphins, giraffes, tigers, etc. Merry loved this book and asked for it again and again!

The Peterkins' Christmas adapted by Elizabeth Spurr from Lucretia P. Hale's original 19th century story. Went over all right, but was not loved by my audience. This year she enjoyed the Thanksgiving one in which their dinner gets stuck in the dumbwaiter. So I have hopes that she will like the Christmas one, but only time will tell. Reading these books had given me hope that she was ready for the original stories, but since they are adapted, I suspect that a lot is cut out.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R.R. Tolkien illustrated by the author. This is a wonderful collection of letters that Tolkien wrote to his children each year around Christmas, sometimes exchanging several letters with them. The letters tell of Father Christmas's adventures getting ready to deliver Christmas presents every year. He is helped by his bumbling friend the North Polar Bear and by his elves. There are dangerous goblins, and Norse writing, and lovely pictures. This is really a not to be missed Christmas story!

Christmas Mice by Bethany Roberts, illustrated by Doug Cushman. A simple sweet picture book for the very young. I keep thinking that she is getting too old for this one, but we always do it, so we always have to do it again. It's a tradition. So we will probably do it again this year!

T'was the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. We read several edition, but the favorite one has mice in the illustrations. I will have to look for the book to find out who the illustrator is as I cannot recall and cannot find it on Amazon. It's not Christmas without this story. And usually we get several editions out of the library.

Tyranoclaus by Janet Lawler. Dinosaurs can do no wrong in our house. This was a hit when I read it aloud. I am not yet sure if it will be asked for again or not.

Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode. Cynthia Rylant is just wonderful. A lovely old fashioned Christmas in the Country

Books I plan to Read this year for the first time:

Fair's Fair by Leon Garfield, illustrated by S. D. Schindler. This is an exciting story of orphans, mansions, cold winters, and a happy ending set in London in perhaps the 19th century.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner. This is a sweet story about a boy who gets up very early in the morning to milk the cows a chore he usually dislikes, in order to let his father sleep in the morning and save him some work. It brings tears to my eyes when I read it.

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

I am wondering if she is ready for the E. Nesbit, Bastable story The Conscience Pudding, which I have published by itself. It starts with a bit about how their mother has died, and I am afraid it might be too upsetting. However, I am desperate to start reading E. Nesbit to Merry, so I am tempted. It will probably be best to wait. Also, I have always preferred the stories with the sarcastic magic creatures and all the funny things that happen because of the magic.

Perhaps I will begin reading Some non-Christmas E. Nesbit stories. Merry, is probably ready for The Book of Dragons. And I have two of the stories from it bound as picture books so that might be the best way to start. If I can find them! They may be packed in a box waiting for us to move a month from now. We are so ready to go it's insane! Also there is a lot of packing and we don't want to leave it for the last minute... Still we are packing and we haven't even had the closing. yet.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What I am reading to Muffin in November 2009

This has been a month of picture books. Last month and September we read most of the Henry Huggins/Ribsy books by Beverly Cleary, this month it has been almost all shorter things to the best of my recollection. But the Picture Books have been wonderful.

Guess Again by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
Hillarious picture book of rhyming clues in which you are lead to guess ordinary cute picture book answers like bunny and mouse, and instead the real answers are absurd things.

Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex. More unexpected craziness. Billy's parents buy him a blue whale to punish him for his bad behavior. He is forced to care for the whale and take it everywhere with him, absurd antics result.

We have just begun reading a novel, The Magical Monarch of Mo by L. Frank Baum. This is not an Oz book. It is a less well known work that shares the wild imaginings of the Oz universe. Mo is a country where the people are always happy and everything they want grows on trees: shoes, rings, food, etc. There is a lake made of sugar syrup that the inhabitants of Mo can skate on when the top forms a solid sugar crust. Whimsical things happen, in chapters which are called surprises rather than chapters.

Muffin is enjoying the book very much. Each chapter is a short story with so far no overarching plot, , but lots of charm and silliness. I think I will try the Oz books next. Unfortunately I feel compelled to read them in order, and the first one is my least favorite of the series. I wanted to read it aloud a year ago, but she said it looked too scary. I think that knowing that they are by the man who wrote The Magical Monarch will be a proper enticement.

What I am Reading in November 2009

The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories
by Joan Aiken

Mothstorm: The Horror from Beyond Uranus Georgium Sidus! by Phillip Reeve, illustrated by David Wyatt

I Coriander by Sally Gardner

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reading Aloud to Muffin

It has been a year of great read-alouds! And some less exiting, ones that Merry loved and I just enjoyed watching her reaction to the stories. The Geronimo Stilton and Magic Tree House books have been loved by her more than me, but she gives crows of delight at the witticisms aimed directly at her six year old's sense of humor. I love the way that she thrills at each plot development and loves the happy endings, always reacting with relief, as if she didn't quite trust that Mary Pope Osborn would be able to rescue her characters and tie up all the loose ends by the time the book finishes.

Of the books we have read this year that I have delighted in equally with her, the Beverly Cleary Henry Huggins books stand out. The stories come back to me from my own youth, as I read them aloud, or listen while my husband reads them. I am a little shocked at how often Henry thinks that someone is crying just like a girl, or that Beezus has "good ideas for a girl." However, the first Henry Huggins book was written in 1950, and considering how much life has changed since then the books have held up remarkably well. Beverly Cleary is wonderful at entering the minds of children, and giving life to their struggles.

Right now we are reading Owl's in The Family by Farley Mowat which she is enjoying. How could an animal lover like her dislike a true story of a boy and his animal pets, and the funny things that happened to him?

She enjoys fiction, but also is strongly pulled to nonfiction. She especially loves books about dinosaurs, animals, and nature. One smash hit that we read was called Evolving Planet: Four Billion Years of Life on Earth by Erica Kelly and Richard Kissel. This beautiful book provided an overview of life on earth from the very beginning, to the present age of mammals, a topic above all others that is dear to her heart. I find that the vast number of books on evolution that we have read together cover the same ground, again and again. This book provided the same basic information as many others, but was very beautiful, and had fascinating descriptions of various ancient extinct creatures.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It's All Advertising!

Update to the pumpkin muffin fiasco. A friend brought over some pumpkin muffins (unfrosted) which she called cupcakes. My daughter happily ate one!

Forget truth in advertising it doesn't pay...