Thursday, December 18, 2014


 It's been a while since we've featured a book inspired craft.

Here's the story… My husband was on bedtime story detail.  I'm putting laundry away and trying to figure out what Christmas story he's reading.  It sounds more like a tutorial than a story.  The cogs were turning in my brain when (like a light switch) 'Richard Scarry of course!!!'

One page toward the middle/back of Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever!  The page is titled "What Shall We Give Grandma for Christmas?"  My kids were hooked then and there.

After that we wanted to know MORE about pomanders.  Fruit (apple, orange, tangerine etc) completely covered in whole cloves (the cloves preserve the fruit and the pomander ball will last for several years, so they say) to make the world smell sweet and spicy- they've been around since the dark ages when people really reeked and needed something to carry with them to lighten the stench.  So interesting!  As you can see, we've gone a little pomander crazy...
We've made pomanders out of small tangerines, they are adorable!  The tangerines were the easiest to make because of their small size and the thin skin is not hard to push the whole cloves into (these were easiest for the kids).  We also tried apples.  This took time (because of the size), but was not difficult.  The lemon… it smells DIVINE but my fingers are still sore from that one.

So, there you have pomanders!  And you know what?  I think my kids will make these for their grandmother this Christmas.  Thank you Richard Scarry.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Parodies!

Oh me oh my! I'm a touch excited about this one people!  In fact, I'm so excited I made a little song for you! I think you'll know the tune when you read the words...

On the last list this Christmas the pen pals gave to me.
A whole lot of fun parodies!

Okay, so that was really just a snippet of a song-- how awesome would it be if I had written the whole post to the tune of a Christmas carol!! Next year….I better start working on the rhyming now though. ANYWAY, PARODIES!! (Surely by this point you know of my pure and never ending love of parodies??)  This post is chock-full of some holiday takes that I'm sure you'll enjoy!

The Twelve Bots of Christmas by Nathan Hale is the robot lover's Christmas anthem! It stays close to the original, but all the stuff if made from robots! So clever!! I particularly like the 3 wrench hens!

Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Mudugno is a holiday spin on Goldilocks (of course). It has art by the fabulous Jane Dyer, really just plain sweet and charming!

You may have heard of The Little Red Elf by Barbara Barbieri McGrath. (I've mentioned it a few times, not always around Christmas.) We love the elf and her spunk! Oh, and the unhelpful cohorts are very funny too!

You can't tell me you don't love the Old Lady who swallowed stuff parodies! (Everyone in this house does.)  I've got one where she swallowed some snow and I know there's another where she swallows a bell. I don't know why she swallowed the bell, perhaps I'll run to the library so I can find out.

Being on team dog, it almost pains me to say this, but The Twelve Cats of Christmas by Kandy Radzinski is cute. I even picked this for the list over a dog version of the 12 days. I must be coming down with something. (PS- there must be a lot of crazy cat lady authors out there because there are a lot of version of this! We got 2 from the library and preferred this one.)

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Phillip Yates is good old fashioned parody fun! The pirate version of Santa comes from the deep and has a sleigh pulled by seahorses! Plus there is lots of pirate talk thrown in! You arrrren't gonna want to miss it!

And that's it, well unless you know about a good parody that I might have missed!  Do tell, I can never get enough of these!

Happy reading! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Leif the Lucky

Nothing brings joy to a children's picture book junky like an exquisite reprint of a classic book.  Before I even really start I have to say every reprint I've held in my hands by University of Minnesota Press is gorgeous.  The quality is beyond comparison.  The feel of the paper, the richness of the colors, the weight of the book… all of it.

Now that that's out of my system.

Today I'm featuring Leif the Lucky by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, originally published in 1941.  It's a picture book biography of the famous viking explorer Leif the Lucky or Leif Erikson (Erik's son).  The book details key points of his life including his early exploration and encounters with America (the land he named Vinland).  It's quite extensive for a picture book biography.

I first read it with my 9 year old son.  He was TOTALLY ehchanted by it.  It was like I could see the cogs in his brain turning as he learned new information about this incredible world we inhabit.  It was absolutely wonderful sharing this book with him.

I haven't even mentioned the illustrations yet… oh, THE ILLUSTRATIONS!  Look for yourself.

 gorgeous.  beautiful.  flawless.

If you have yet to experience a book by the D'Aulaire's, there's no time like the present.  You must.

                                           Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

Hi everyone, Whitalics here.  Today's a real treat! We've got a bunch of different versions of  The Night before Christmas for you. Finding these was so fun (if you're the kind of person who likes to comb the library for lots of unique versions of the same book-- which WE totally are!!) ALSO- after spending time looking on amazon it made me want SO MANY versions I've never seen before.  These are all different artists renditions set to the original poem. (Don't you worry we'll have parodies another time.)

James Marshall is just so funny!  I love seeing his comic illustrations in contrast with this classic text.  It's a fantastic pairing. (I love this one too!)

I am completely in love with the Holly Hobbie one!!  Just look, the illustrations are so sweet!! I asked Santa to it bring to our house for keeps!! And I've been a good girl so I really think he will.  (I want Santa to bring this one to me too!!!  Oh man!  MUST WRITE A LETTER TO SANTA!)

This Hallmark tribute to Coca-Cola is no longer in print but I've found several copies 2nd hand over the past few years.  I just adore the classic illustrations by Haddon Sundblom and Garin Baker.  Totally gorgeous pictures that you wish you had framed and hung all over your house for the holidays.

The Rachel Isadora version is so bright and refreshing! It's the classic poem with illustrations set in Africa, very unique! (Also, as a side note, so many of these have a pet cat…it that why the mouse isn't stirring?)

If you are looking for cute, look no further.  Mary Engelbreit's illustrations are the SWEETEST CUTEST illustrations!  You'll probably want a bowl full of Christmas candy after reading this version.

This version by Richard Jesse Watson is great! (We both got it from the library and picked it as a favorite for the list!) Santa's goggles are awesome, his sleigh is fantastic, and his suit is a real show stopper!!

If you're looking for a  more manly rendition pick up this one by Bruce Whatley.  The perspectives he illustrates from are so cool!  The reindeer seem to want to fly right off the page!  And there's a whole other story (besides the original) going on in the pictures.

I could have sworn I had the Tasha Tudor version from the library (must have been a dream.) However, this Gennady Spirin one has a nice ornate sort of old fashioned feel. It's very classic looking!

And that's a wrap, because I probably should go and wrap something...haven't wrapped anything at this point. Where are the elves when you need them? Anyway, As Robyn said, there are so many more versions of this book (that we want to own!) ((I did say that… and I meant it.  I would own 50 different renditions of the same book if I could… and I probably will some day.))  We could probably post on  versions of this classic poem all December long. What's the best Night Best Christmas rendition that you've seen?  


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Books about the True Meaning of Christmas

Do you ever find it difficult to get your kids (and yourself) away from all the WANT WANT WANTS and GIMMEE GIMMEE GIMMEES of Christmas?  There's no better way than cuddling up with a wonderful Christmas book that focuses you back to what Christmas is TRULY all about.  
Looking for a simple and beautiful nativity story appropriate for preschoolers?  Then you'll want to find Who is Coming to Our House? By Joseph Slate.  I love this book!

And speaking of books someone loves! The Nativity by Julie Vivas is one of my most favorites this time of year! The text echoes the biblical version and the art in this book-- it just makes me so happy!

Little Porcupine's Christmas also by Joseph Slate is another wonderful story surrounding the nativity.  All of the animals are joining together to put on Christmas pageant.  The story is so sweet and I just love the ending.

I just found the The Story of the Three Wise Kings by Tomie dePaola this year at the library. I love seeing the account of the wise men up close. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be around much anymore, you may have to check your library. If you can't find that, perhaps you'll be able to get ahold of The Birds of Bethlehem. This time dePaolo has the birds of the city telling the story and it's filled with this wonderful warm and earthy art.

The brand new book, Shooting at the Stars  by John Hendrix is one you do not want to miss!  More appropriate for older elementary age children it tells the true story of the Christmas of 1914 in the trenches during WWI.  It's truly inspiring and beautifully illustrated.

I Believe in Santa Claus by Diane G. Adamson has a simple yet effectual way of showing the similarities between Santa and Jesus. It's a perfect reminder that symbols of Christmas can remind us of Christ.

Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Jane Chapman & Karma Wilson is the story of a little mouse looking for a place to live.  It just so happens that the Christmas Manger is the perfect fit, after he's pushed all of the figurines out of the way.  Super cute!

In Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki, Santa reminds the forest animals that Christmas isn't about delivering (or getting) toys when he shares the story of the first Christmas with them.

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt is a beautiful religious folktale.  The story surrounds three trees with big dreams.  In the end things turn out differently than they had ever hoped or imagined.  The book centers around Christ.  Definitely worth a read.

If you're lucky, you'll be able to get ahold of the original version of Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown with art by Barbara Cooney. Talk about that classic picture books feeling, this book takes you back to childhood. (There has been a reprint which I haven't seen in person, this time the art is done by Diane Goode.)

Finally, if you're looking for a chapter book the whole family can enjoy this Christmas season you MUST pick up The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, and it will be a read aloud memory that lasts for your whole lifetime.

Do you have a favorite book that helps keep you grounded during the frantic pre-Christmas weeks?  Share your favorite with us!  We would love  to add it to our library list.

                                                     -Happy Reading!Whitney&Robyn