Monday, December 19, 2016

Happy holidays!


May your holidays be filled with "sprinkles and twinkles," the joy of family and friends, and the peace of cozy times to snuggle and read with your little elves!

*********************************


The Gingerbread Pirate by Kristin Kladstrup

After Jim and his mother bake pirate gingerbread men for Santa's snack, toothpick-legged Captain Cookie undertakes a daring rescue of his crew from the hungry-but understanding-Santa Claus, who works a magical transformation. When Jim awakes Christmas morning, he finds under the Christmas tree not only a magnificent toy pirate ship, but also a peg-legged captain and crew onboard. An exciting story and full-page, dramatically composed paintings depicting harrowing adventures with a mouse, a cat, and the crew imprisoned in a cookie jar make this a good holiday read-aloud.



How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

If you think Santa Claus came into the world sporting a red suit and a white beard, think again. Santa wasn't always the jolly, overweight, gift-giving fellow that we now know and love. He tried his hand at all sorts of different jobs, including postal worker, zookeeper, circus performer, and even chimney sweep, but each of these presented a problem that got in his way. It wasn't until he was lucky enough to meet a friendly bunch of elves that Santa found his true calling...and the job of his dreams. 



How Santa Lost His Job by Stephen Krensky

Santa has the best job he can think of -- bringing presents each Christmas to children all around the world. Every year he prepares for his trip: He trims his beard, takes a bath, gets dressed, and packs up his sleigh for the long night ahead. But there are always a few unexpected delays that make things a little hectic. Muckle, one of the elves who helps Santa, thinks he can come up with a more efficient way for delivering the toys -- a method that won't involve Santa at all. 



Tree of Cranes by Allen Say

Heedless of Mama's warnings, a Japanese boy cannot resist playing at an ice-cold pond ``filled with carp of bright colors.'' When he comes home, he is immediately treated for a cold, with a hot bath and rice gruel. His mother's attitude chills him more than the weather, though; he cannot understand why she seems to be ignoring him. Hearing a noise in the garden, the boy spies Mama digging up the pine tree that was planted when he was born. She brings it inside and decorates it with paper cranes and candles. It is a Christmas tree, the first for the boy, and the first in many years for his mother, who tells her son she comes from ``a warm place called Ca-li-for-ni-a.'' The story is a poignant one, illuminated with finely drawn illustrations reflecting the serenity of a Japanese home and the quiet love between mother and son.



Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard and Tanya Simon

On the seventh day of Hanukkah in 1938, which also happens to be Christmas Eve, a young refugee boy named Oskar arrives in New York City from the horrors of Nazi Europe with only a photograph and an address to find an aunt he has never meet. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his aunt's home in the north end of the city, he passes and encounters the city's many holiday sights and residents. Each person he meets offers Oskar a small act of kindness, such as the newsstand man who gives Oskar a Superman comic book. Each encounter is a reference to an event which took place in the city in 1938. A constant for Oskar is remembering his father's last words, "Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings." 



Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

When Sophie stows away on her mysterious great-aunt's "annual business trip," she not only discovers that Auntie Claus is Santa Claus's sister, but she also learns a much-needed lesson about giving. With their imaginative details and interesting perspectives, the vibrant illustrations lend pizzazz to this holiday story, which offers a whimsical view of what goes on at the North Pole!



Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosentstein by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer

Christmas is coming, and no one is more excited than Rachel Rosenstein. All the houses on her block are putting up lights and decorations, but her house is bare, and she can't get the rest of her family excited. They are Jewish, and they have plenty of holidays of their own to celebrate. But as much as Rachel likes hunting for the afikomen on Passover and blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, she can't help but be jealous of her neighbors when Christmastime rolls around. She writes a letter to Santa and goes to see him in the mall, but will it be enough to convince him to come to her house on Christmas morning? And if he doesn't, how can she treat Christmas as just an ordinary day? 



Little Santa by Jon Agee

When the cold, harsh environment of the North Pole becomes too much for the Clauses, they decide to move to Florida, though Little Santa will miss playing in the snow. The move is put on hold, however, when a sudden blizzard renders the family snowbound. Shimmying up the chimney to find help, Little Santa meets a friendly flying reindeer and a house full of elves, who merrily assist in the rescue. Having such handy, cheerful friends makes life a lot easier, but the family still heads for Florida the following winter. Little Santa stays behind and the rest is history!



Who Would Like a Christmas Tree? by Ellen Bryan Obed

Plenty of folks want Christmas trees in December, but in January or February? Cycling through the months of the year, this picture book looks at the wildlife on a Maine Christmas-tree farm. In January, black-capped chickadees perch on the trees looking for meals of spiderlings or seeds, then roost together in the branches at night. In February, field mice tunnel through the snow toward the trees, where they feed on the bark, safe under a roof of snow. Through the months, animals (deer, aphids, wild turkeys) and wildflowers emerge to tell their stories, and in December, a family comes to choose their Christmas tree. 

***************************************************

(I did not include books for you mature readers because I know how busy you'll be!
I promise a couple of suggestions in January, and I'll include some titles for 4-5-6 graders, too.)


Happy Holidays!


















Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Ah, Fall!

It's been about 10 months since I wrote a blog post about my father-in-law, who passed away in August 2015. It was a happily therapeutic reminiscence of all things Pop-Pop as we made our way into the holidays without him. And then, for some reason, I just didn't feel like blogging for awhile - a long while as it turned out. My guess is I was doing some grieving during those 10 months....for him and for all the things he was to our family. I'm going to ask my friend Madeleine about that - I'm pretty sure she'll know the answer!

But, in the meantime, I'm ready and excited to blog again! I have so many children's books to share.  And recently a friend asked if I would consider including favorite adult books, and so you will find some of those, too.

I cannot think of a better season - one my favorites - to begin again.

****************************************************************



Outdoors is one of my favorite places to be. Walking is one of my favorite things to do. Last weekend my husband, Jim (my most favorite person) and I took a walk.

As I begin each of my walks,  I remind myself how lucky I am to be walking, how grateful I am for whatever the weather du jour, and how humbled I am as I enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the season. It seems so many of my memories are triggered - and vividly! - by a scent or smell.

Oh, and fall never disappoints!

You can't beat the wonderful mingled scent of pinecones, brown leaves, acorns, mums and marigolds!  We even came upon a lawn covered in cedar chips, and as odd as it seemed, it did remind me of the small caged pets we had - a couple of hamsters, and a very loquacious Guinea Pig named Buck! Jim swore Buck started his "talking" as soon as he heard my voice! Well, you know I was the one who fed him and kept his cage clean, so no surprise there.

I also love the shade and shadows of autumn. To me, the shadows seem darker and the shade they create seems cooler, carrying with it the nip we come to expect (and love!) in the fall.

Some of these children's books are stories of fall and some are just fun ones I've come across over these last months of my hiatus. You'll also find, as promised, a couple that are just for you, should you be looking for book to cozy up with as our clocks "fall back" on Sunday, November 6.





WONDERFALL by Michael Hall

WONDERFALL follows a single tree through the changing of the seasons. People, animals, and vehicles pass in front of the tree, celebrating holidays, playing in its leaves, and getting ready for winter. Fifteen combined words (thankful + fall = thankFALL, plentiful + fall = plentiFALL) underscore the themes and concepts of the season, while the main attraction—the beautiful tree—drops acorns, loses leaves, and provides food and a home for a pair of scurrying squirrels.




A PIPKIN OF PEPPER by Helen Cooper

Duck, Cat, and Squirrel, the three animal friends from PUMPKIN SOUP, are out of salt, a key ingredient of their special recipe. Duck insists upon coming along with Cat and Squirrel on the shopping trip to the city. It's his first visit, and he's a little scared, but he forgets everything when he spots a pepper store. What if they bought a pipkin of pepper to add to the soup? When he turns around to tell Cat and Squirrel about his great idea, he realizes they're gone!




EVEN MONSTERS NEED HAIRCUTS by Matthew McElligott

Just before midnight, on the night of a full moon, a young barber stays out past his bedtime to go to work. Although his customers are mostly regulars, they are anything but normal - after all, even monsters need haircuts. Business is steady all night, and this barber is prepared for anything with his scissors, rotting tonic, horn polish, and stink wax. It's a tough job, but someone's got to help these creatures maintain their ghoulish good looks. This is a hilarious story about a boy who follows in his father's footsteps . . . in his own monstrously unique way.




AW, NUTS! by Rob McClurken

Squirrel sets off on a chase after the perfect acorn in debut author-illustrator Rob McClurkan's picture book Aw, Nuts! With bold, graphic art, Squirrel will have young readers laughing out loud on every page, eager to find out what will happen next. Squirrel loves acorns, so when he spots the perfect one, he must have it! But it bounces away. . . . So he jumps into a taxi, but the taxi runs out of gas. Aw, nuts! He bounces on a pogo stick, but it lands in a hole. Aw, nuts! He hops on a boat, gets shipped away, hitches a ride on a little girl's bike, and more! Will Squirrel be able to catch up to the most delicious acorn ever?




DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE by Kelly DiPucchio

We all know dragons are terrible, but this one is especially terrible. He scribbles in books. He steals candy from baby unicorns. He even burps in church. Seriously, who does that? Dragon, that's who. The king, the knights, and the villagers are desperate to take down this beast once and for all. But sometimes it's up to the unlikeliest of heroes to tame a dragon this terrible.




 A STORY FOR BEAR by Jim LaMarche

When a young bear finds a scrap of an old letter, he is so curious about the mysterious marks that he searches out their source--a cabin in the woods. There he meets a young woman and is mesmerized by the sound of her voice. Though he cannot understand her words, he returns every day to hear the woman's stories of sailors, goddesses, and far-off lands.





A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT OF SKUNK by Deborah Ruddell

In a watery mirror the rugged raccoon admires his face by the light of the moon: the mysterious mask, the whiskers beneath, the sliver of cricket still stuck in his teeth. Take a lighthearted romp through four seasons in the forest with these whimsical poems. Marvel at the overachieving beaver, applaud the race-winning snail and its perfect trail of slime, or head off to be pampered at a squirrel spa. Warning: Deborah Ruddell's quirky cast of animal characters and Joan Rankin's deliciously daffy pictures will cause giggles. The woods have never been so much fun!



FALL MIXED-UP by Bob Raczka

Rhyming verse enumerates some of the characteristics and pleasures of fall, except that things are a bit topsy-turvy: "Bears gather nuts / Geese hibernate. / Squirrels fly south in / big figure eights." Illustrations rendered in warm colors capture the silliness of the brief text. Kids will have fun following the final instructions to "Go back and find all the / things that aren't right." 



WAITING FOR WINTER by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Informed that snow is coming, "White and wet and cold and soft," young Squirrel vows not to miss this new experience. Fearful that he may fall asleep while waiting, he and his friends try exercise and singing; finally, they set off in search of the elusive white stuff, mistakenly imagining the forest covered with discarded toothbrushes, old tin cans, and abandoned socks. At long last the predicted precipitation arrives, blanketing the forest in a luscious whiteness that enables Squirrel and his friends to construct a snowman. Meschenmoser's sketch-pad colored-pencil artwork features mostly browns and grays until a wash of blue is added along with the arrival of snow. Squirrel's impatient and exuberant personality is naturally well suited to young listeners, who will giggle appreciatively as he rushes frenetically from branch to branch.


TURKEY TROUBLE by Wendi Silvano

Hold onto your drumsticks, Turkey's in trouble! As Thanksgiving approaches, Turkey fears that he will be the centerpiece of the holiday meal. Thus begins his quest for the perfect disguise so he won't be found when the time arrives. He ties a brush on the back of his head and wears a tiny saddle because surely no one would eat a horse for dinner. But the animals still recognize him. He tries to become a cow, a pig, a sheep, and a rooster. He does not look like any of them. When he hears Farmer Jake tell his wife that if they can't find the turkey, maybe they should eat the rooster for dinner, the protagonist comes up with the perfect ruse.



THE GREAT THANKSGIVING ESCAPE by Mark Fearing

A hilarious, kid-friendly take on Thanksgiving -- full of family, food, and lots of fun! It's another Thanksgiving at Grandma's. Gavin expects a long day of boredom and being pestered by distantly related toddlers, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea: make a break for it -- out of the kids' room to the swing set in the backyard! Gavin isn't so sure, especially when they encounter vicious guard dogs (in homemade sweaters), a hallway full of overly affectionate aunts, and worse yet, the great wall of butts! Will they manage to avoid the obstacles and find some fun before turkey time? Or will they be captured before they've had a taste of freedom?





NOW, some recommendations just for you!



A FALL OF MARIGOLDS by Susan Meissner

*Starred Review* Taryn Michaels specializes in hard-to-find patterns at an Upper West Side fabric shop. She is haunted by her failure to find a match for a scarf covered in bright marigolds, the same scarf she was holding when the Twin Towers fell in 2001, killing her husband. Unbeknownst to Taryn, the scarf began its life in New York on Ellis Island in 1911, when a very recently widowed Welshman carried it into the scarlet-fever ward of nurse Clara Wood. Clara, like Taryn, is hiding out in her work, having witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, watching the man she loved jump from an upper floor. When Clara discovers the terrible secret of the scarf's original owner, Lily, she must decide if she can accept the help of a handsome doctor and brave the ferry to Manhattan to find answers. Susan Meissner seamlessly weaves a connection between two women whose broken hearts have left them in an "in-between" place.



Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he'd planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger-and amuse himself-he decides to show the monk some "American fun" along the way. From a chocolate factory in Hershey to a bowling alley in South Bend, from a Cubs game at Wrigley field to his family farm near Bismarck, Otto is given the remarkable opportunity to see his world-and more important, his life-through someone else's eyes. Gradually, skepticism yields to amazement as he realizes that his companion might just be the real thing. In Roland Merullo's masterful hands, Otto tells his story with all the wonder, bemusement, and wry humor of a man who unwittingly finds what he's missing in the most unexpected place.



A MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES by Alice Hoffmann

In this lovely and imaginative fictionalized biography, Hoffman re-envisions the mother of Camille Pissarro, the "father of impressionism." Rachel's Danish Jewish family fled Europe for the safety of St. Thomas shortly before her birth in 1795. At 17, she is forced into an arranged marriage to a widower with small children in order to save her father's fortune. Several years and a few more children later, she is widowed, and despite her keen business sense, the law dictates that only a blood relative of her husband can take control of the estate. When her late husband's nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France and sees -Rachel, his heart is immediately hers. Their lifelong passion defies Jewish law, which forbids their marriage for many years. Camille, one of Rachel's four children, struggles well into adulthood against his mother's cold dismissal of his artistic brilliance, which was evident from an early age. Hoffman brings into focus the birth of impressionism and the forces that shaped Pissarro's artistic drive through the complicated, rich, adventure-filled life story of his fiery mother, fueled by her love for her family, her stubborn flaunting of society's rules, and her deep loyalty to her friends.



*NEXT MONTH, LOOK FOR SOME STORIES FOR YOUR 
2ND, 3RD AND 4TH GRADERS!



























Ah, Fall!

It's been about 10 months since I wrote a blog post about my father-in-law, who passed in August 2015. It was a happily therapeutic reminiscence of all things Pop-Pop as we made our way into the holidays without him. And then, for some reason, I just didn't feel like blogging for awhile - a long while as it turned out. My guess is I was doing some grieving during those 10 months....for him and for all the things he was to our family. I'm going to ask my friend Madeleine about that - I'm pretty sure she'll know the answer!

But, in the meantime, I'm ready and excited to blog again! I have so many children's books to share.  And recently a friend asked if I would consider including favorite adult books, and so you will find some of those, too.

I cannot think of a better season - one my favorites - to begin again.

****************************************************************



Outdoors is one of my favorite places to be. Walking is one of my favorite things to do. Last weekend my husband Jim (my most favorite person) and I took a walk.

As I begin each of my walks,  I remind myself how lucky I am to be walking, how grateful I am for whatever the weather du jour, and how humbled I am as I enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the season. It seems so many of my memories are triggered - and vividly! - by a scent or smell.

Oh, and fall never disappoints!

You can't beat the wonderful mingled scent of pinecones, brown leaves, acorns, mums and marigolds!  We even came upon a lawn covered in cedar chips, and as odd as it seemed, it did remind me of the small caged pets we had - a couple of hamsters, and a very loquacious Guinea Pig named Buck! Jim swore Buck started his "talking" as soon as he heard my voice! Well, you know I was the one who fed him and kept his cage clean, so no surprise there.

I also love the shade and shadows of autumn. To me, the shadows seem darker and the shade they create seems cooler, carrying with it the nip we come to expect (and love!) in the fall.

Some of these children's books are stories of fall and some are just fun ones I've come across over these last months of my hiatus. You'll also find, as promised, a couple that are just for you, should you be looking for book to cozy up with as our clocks "fall back" on Sunday, November 6.





WONDERFALL by Michael Hall

WONDERFALL follows a single tree through the changing of the seasons. People, animals, and vehicles pass in front of the tree, celebrating holidays, playing in its leaves, and getting ready for winter. Fifteen combined words (thankful + fall = thankFALL, plentiful + fall = plentiFALL) underscore the themes and concepts of the season, while the main attraction—the beautiful tree—drops acorns, loses leaves, and provides food and a home for a pair of scurrying squirrels.




A PIPKIN OF PEPPER by Helen Cooper

Duck, Cat, and Squirrel, the three animal friends from PUMPKIN SOUP, are out of salt, a key ingredient of their special recipe. Duck insists upon coming along with Cat and Squirrel on the shopping trip to the city. It's his first visit, and he's a little scared, but he forgets everything when he spots a pepper store. What if they bought a pipkin of pepper to add to the soup? When he turns around to tell Cat and Squirrel about his great idea, he realizes they're gone!




EVEN MONSTERS NEED HAIRCUTS by Matthew McElligott

Just before midnight, on the night of a full moon, a young barber stays out past his bedtime to go to work. Although his customers are mostly regulars, they are anything but normal - after all, even monsters need haircuts. Business is steady all night, and this barber is prepared for anything with his scissors, rotting tonic, horn polish, and stink wax. It's a tough job, but someone's got to help these creatures maintain their ghoulish good looks. This is a hilarious story about a boy who follows in his father's footsteps . . . in his own monstrously unique way.




AW, NUTS! by Rob McClurken

Squirrel sets off on a chase after the perfect acorn in debut author-illustrator Rob McClurkan's picture book Aw, Nuts! With bold, graphic art, Squirrel will have young readers laughing out loud on every page, eager to find out what will happen next. Squirrel loves acorns, so when he spots the perfect one, he must have it! But it bounces away. . . . So he jumps into a taxi, but the taxi runs out of gas. Aw, nuts! He bounces on a pogo stick, but it lands in a hole. Aw, nuts! He hops on a boat, gets shipped away, hitches a ride on a little girl's bike, and more! Will Squirrel be able to catch up to the most delicious acorn ever?




DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE by Kelly DiPucchio

We all know dragons are terrible, but this one is especially terrible. He scribbles in books. He steals candy from baby unicorns. He even burps in church. Seriously, who does that? Dragon, that's who. The king, the knights, and the villagers are desperate to take down this beast once and for all. But sometimes it's up to the unlikeliest of heroes to tame a dragon this terrible.




 A STORY FOR BEAR by Jim LaMarche

When a young bear finds a scrap of an old letter, he is so curious about the mysterious marks that he searches out their source--a cabin in the woods. There he meets a young woman and is mesmerized by the sound of her voice. Though he cannot understand her words, he returns every day to hear the woman's stories of sailors, goddesses, and far-off lands.





A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT OF SKUNK by Deborah Ruddell

In a watery mirror the rugged raccoon admires his face by the light of the moon: the mysterious mask, the whiskers beneath, the sliver of cricket still stuck in his teeth. Take a lighthearted romp through four seasons in the forest with these whimsical poems. Marvel at the overachieving beaver, applaud the race-winning snail and its perfect trail of slime, or head off to be pampered at a squirrel spa. Warning: Deborah Ruddell's quirky cast of animal characters and Joan Rankin's deliciously daffy pictures will cause giggles. The woods have never been so much fun!



FALL MIXED-UP by Bob Raczka

Rhyming verse enumerates some of the characteristics and pleasures of fall, except that things are a bit topsy-turvy: "Bears gather nuts / Geese hibernate. / Squirrels fly south in / big figure eights." Illustrations rendered in warm colors capture the silliness of the brief text. Kids will have fun following the final instructions to "Go back and find all the / things that aren't right." 



WAITING FOR WINTER by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Informed that snow is coming—“White and wet and cold and soft”—young Squirrel vows not to miss this new experience. Fearful that he may fall asleep while waiting, he and his friends try exercise and singing; finally, they set off in search of the elusive white stuff, mistakenly imagining the forest covered with discarded toothbrushes, old tin cans, and abandoned socks. At long last the predicted precipitation arrives, blanketing the forest in a luscious whiteness that enables Squirrel and his friends to construct a snowman.



TURKEY TROUBLE by Wendi Silvano

Hold onto your drumsticks, Turkey's in trouble! As Thanksgiving approaches, Turkey fears that he will be the centerpiece of the holiday meal. Thus begins his quest for the perfect disguise so he won't be found when the time arrives. He ties a brush on the back of his head and wears a tiny saddle because surely no one would eat a horse for dinner. But the animals still recognize him. He tries to become a cow, a pig, a sheep, and a rooster. He does not look like any of them. When he hears Farmer Jake tell his wife that if they can't find the turkey, maybe they should eat the rooster for dinner, the protagonist comes up with the perfect ruse.



THE GREAT THANKSGIVING ESCAPE by Mark Fearing

A hilarious, kid-friendly take on Thanksgiving -- full of family, food, and lots of fun! It's another Thanksgiving at Grandma's. Gavin expects a long day of boredom and being pestered by distantly related toddlers, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea: make a break for it -- out of the kids' room to the swing set in the backyard! Gavin isn't so sure, especially when they encounter vicious guard dogs (in homemade sweaters), a hallway full of overly affectionate aunts, and worse yet, the great wall of butts! Will they manage to avoid the obstacles and find some fun before turkey time? Or will they be captured before they've had a taste of freedom?





NOW, some recommendations just for you!



A FALL OF MARIGOLDS by Susan Meissner

*Starred Review* Taryn Michaels specializes in hard-to-find patterns at an Upper West Side fabric shop. She is haunted by her failure to find a match for a scarf covered in bright marigolds, the same scarf she was holding when the Twin Towers fell in 2001, killing her husband. Unbeknownst to Taryn, the scarf began its life in New York on Ellis Island in 1911, when a very recently widowed Welshman carried it into the scarlet-fever ward of nurse Clara Wood. Clara, like Taryn, is hiding out in her work, having witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, watching the man she loved jump from an upper floor. When Clara discovers the terrible secret of the scarf's original owner, Lily, she must decide if she can accept the help of a handsome doctor and brave the ferry to Manhattan to find answers. Susan Meissner seamlessly weaves a connection between two women whose broken hearts have left them in an "in-between" place.



Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he'd planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger-and amuse himself-he decides to show the monk some "American fun" along the way. From a chocolate factory in Hershey to a bowling alley in South Bend, from a Cubs game at Wrigley field to his family farm near Bismarck, Otto is given the remarkable opportunity to see his world-and more important, his life-through someone else's eyes. Gradually, skepticism yields to amazement as he realizes that his companion might just be the real thing. In Roland Merullo's masterful hands, Otto tells his story with all the wonder, bemusement, and wry humor of a man who unwittingly finds what he's missing in the most unexpected place.



A MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES by Alice Hoffmann

In this lovely and imaginative fictionalized biography, Hoffman re-envisions the mother of Camille Pissarro, the "father of impressionism." Rachel's Danish Jewish family fled Europe for the safety of St. Thomas shortly before her birth in 1795. At 17, she is forced into an arranged marriage to a widower with small children in order to save her father's fortune. Several years and a few more children later, she is widowed, and despite her keen business sense, the law dictates that only a blood relative of her husband can take control of the estate. When her late husband's nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France and sees -Rachel, his heart is immediately hers. Their lifelong passion defies Jewish law, which forbids their marriage for many years. Camille, one of Rachel's four children, struggles well into adulthood against his mother's cold dismissal of his artistic brilliance, which was evident from an early age. Hoffman brings into focus the birth of impressionism and the forces that shaped Pissarro's artistic drive through the complicated, rich, adventure-filled life story of his fiery mother, fueled by her love for her family, her stubborn flaunting of society's rules, and her deep loyalty to her friends.



*NEXT MONTH, LOOK FOR SOME STORIES FOR YOUR 
2ND, 3RD AND 4TH GRADERS!



























Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Tribute to Pop Pop

In August, our family said goodbye to Pop Pop, so named by his first grandchild. He was the patriarch of our family. He was a grandparent to our sons, and a great grandparent to our Riley, Jack and Campbell. He and Campbell never met but they knew each other from the pictures and stories sent back and forth over the last year. He was a beloved member of our family.

Our celebration of his life, when almost all of our family gathered in St. Louis, allowed us to share memories and stories of this big man who had a huge smile, an abundance of Irish wit, a lifelong love of singing, and a heart that had time and love for all of us. He loved to laugh, and truly his eyes twinkled when he did!

I actually met Jim's Dad in 1965, when Jim and I started dating. I must admit I was a little intimidated by him...he was a respected business man who loved to read and talk about interesting books and current affairs. He also loved cards and games and any activity that brought family and friends together. 

Well, he and I got to know each other pretty well over the next 50 years! To watch his joy and pride in our children and grandchildren was something else! He stood in the rain to watch high school football, sat in the cold at 11:00 at night to watch high school hockey,  these after many years of elementary school baseball and soccer games - always so happy to be there, wherever  "there" was. 

He was at both our sons' weddings - the last one just 2 years ago, when he was using a walker but still his determined self. He got to Dallas, led all the Kerley men in "The Ball and Chain Song" (a possibly politically incorrect Kerley family tradition!) It was his last time to fly anywhere so we were aware of just how precious that weekend was.

He was proud of each of us and gave 3 generations of Kerleys a lesson in how to be a gentleman, how to work hard but enjoy life away from work, how to carry joy in your heart and share it with those around you. 

I am sure we'll find ourselves sharing Pop-Pop stories and memories this holiday season. And we will miss him so during one of his favorite times of the year! 


Here are some wonderful "grandparent" stories along with some holiday stories, both tried-and-true and new. Enjoy, and happy holidays!




38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents by Dette Hunter

The essential home entertainment guide for kids and grandparents!

Sarah doesn't want her grandparents to get bored during their visit, so she and her brother and sister make sure they are always entertained with fun games, creative crafts, delicious food, and lots more!
More than a clever survival guide for grown-ups, this assortment of simple and fun activities, from card games and cooking projects to bedtime rituals, offers up the stuff of childhood memories.



Hanukkah Hop! by Erica Silverman

It's Hanukkah! It's a time to celebrate family and enjoy festive traditions. As Rachel and her parents prepare the house, grandparents, cousins, and friends travel from near and far to sing and tell stories. Together, they will light candles, play games, and eat scrumptuous holiday foods... and, of course, dance the Hanukkah Hop. The stamping, the hopping, and the bim-bim-bopping is sure to go on all night!



The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray

Everyone in class is busy practicing songs and making goodies for their trip to town to thank community helpers, and the Gingerbread Man has made a card for someone extra sweet. But before he can deliver his gift, whipping wind and swirling snow come to town, too. Slushy sidewalks are no place for a cookie, but this Gingerbread Man won’t let a little bad weather stop him!

“I’ll search on my own, as fast as I can!
I’ll dash through this snow. I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

With all the flavors of the season and generous dashes of kindness and gratitude, the Gingerbread Man’s newest adventure makes for a perfect read-aloud throughout the holidays.



Latke, the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer

A rescued dog chosen as a Hanukkah present at an animal shelter relates his good luck as he learns to adapt to his new family and home. Zoe and Zach welcome their new pet, a playful, medium-sized, golden-brown dog, and name him Latke (he's exactly the color of one). The newest member of the family assumes all the celebratory aspects of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday are just for him and innocently creates a mild disturbance on each night. Latke eats the sufganiyot and latkes, rips open presents, chews up the dreidels and candles, slobbers all over the chocolate gelt and knocks the bowl of applesauce over. With each mishap, Zoe and Zach find a way to forgive, letting the curious new dog know he is very fortunate indeed. Ever remorseful, Latke finally accepts his own gift of a chew toy and understands he is one lucky dog to be part of a great family.



How To Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan

Written in a how-to style, the narrator gives important tips for "babysitting" a grandpa, including what to eat for snack (anything dipped in ketchup, ice cream topped with cookies, cookies topped with ice cream) what to do on a walk (find lizards and dandelion puffs, be on the lookout for puddles and sprinklers), and how to play with a grandpa (build a pirate cave, put on a scary play).

Filled with humor, energy, and warmth, this is a perfect story for lap reading when Grandpa comes to visit!



Jackie's Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jackie Robinson
 by Sharon Robinson

Jackie Robinson's daughter tells a story that takes place during the family's first Christmas in Brooklyn. Not everyone was happy to see a black family move in to the neighborhood. Young Steve Satlow, an avid Dodger fan, and his parents are exceptions; they welcome the Robinsons and become friends. On Christmas Eve, Steve is helping the Robinsons decorate their tree when Jackie learns that the Satlows don't have one. He shows up at their home with a tree for Steve, and his wife comes later with extra ornaments. They then learn that the Satlows are Jewish. What could have been an awkward moment becomes a lesson in tolerance and friendship.



Sleepover at Gramma's House by Barbara Joosse

Going to Gramma's takes plenty of preparation. Granddaughter packs her overnighty trunk and says goodbye to Mom, Dad, little fish and baby in the bed. She can't wait to see her silly millie gramma! Together at last, the two spend a day full of dancing, painting each other and partying with a razzle and a dazzle before, finally, resting together in a ricky rocky swing. What a day!



Winter Candle by Jeron Ashford

A "lumpy stick of wax" lights the way in this story of diverse celebrations held at an apartment house on Juniper Court. While it is neither tall, twisted, or the right color, the unassuming candle manages to save the day for Nana's Thanksgiving meal, the Danzigers's Sabbath two weeks later, one family's St. Lucia observance, and another's Kwanzaa, before finally guiding a new tenant home during a raging snowstorm. The friendly neighbors help one another without hesitation and come together at the end for a combined celebration lit by the same gnarled but brightly shining candle.



Because Your Grandparents Love You by Andrew Clemens

Of the many things grandparents excel at, unfailing patience and kindness top the list as two children visit their elder relatives’ idyllic farm. Writing in second person, Clements poses theoretical scenarios about how the grandparents might react as the children’s enthusiasms get the best of them: “When you want to help feed the cow but can’t lift the hay, your grandmother could say, Hold on there—that’s way too much!” 
This story captures the joy of making memories with grandparents.



The Animal's Santa by Jan Brett

When Big Snowshoe tells Little Snow that the animals’ Santa is coming with presents for everyone, Little Snow wants to know who he is. The animals say they have never seen him.  Maybe he’s a badger, a moose, a polar bear, or a wolf, they tell him.  But this spunky little rabbit thinks they are just fooling him.

On Christmas Eve, Big Snowshoe finds a way to see the animals' Santa when a Snowy Owl in a red cap swoops down with a pack full of presents.  Never again will an excited Little Snow doubt that there is an animals' Santa.



Bea in the Nutcracker by Rachel Isadora

Young Bea loves ballet, and the only thing better than watching The Nutcracker is dancing in it! Bea's dance class will be performing The Nutcracker, and she has the starring role of Clara. The mood is festive as the young dancers dress in their colorful costumes. Soon, the performance has begun, and the chubby preschoolers transform into the cast of a magical fairy tale. When it ends, the dancers gather for a celebration, and Bea gives a special message to the smallest member of the cast.

By embedding the plot of The Nutcracker in the larger story, the book celebrates the world of performing arts while introducing young readers to the classic holiday story.



Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel

One winter night Old Bear wakes up from hibernation to a delicious smell. Bubba Brayna has been making "the best potato latkes in the village," despite her age and her poor eyesight and hearing. She has cooked twice as many as usual because she expects the rabbi this Hanukkah night. When Old Bear knocks on her door, she thinks it is the rabbi and welcomes him. As the bear makes various sounds, hard of hearing Bubba Brayna interprets them as best she can. After she lights the candles on the menorah and says the blessing, Old Bear gobbles down all the latkes. She sends him home with a muffler she has knitted. When her friends arrive, she tells them that the rabbi has eaten all the latkes. Of course he denies it. Seeing bear tracks, they decide that it was "...a very clever bear...or a very foolish Bubba Brayna." As Old Bear sleeps content in his den, the villagers all work together to make more latkes for the holiday. 



Me and My Dragon: Christmas Spirit By David Biedzrycki

A boy and his dragon discover the true meaning of Christmas. In droll, matter-of-fact text, an unnamed hero explains all the ways that his pet dragon doesn't understand the spirit of Christmas (belied by the hysterically funny illustrations, which show the dragon making donations, singing carols, and helping strangers, while his oblivious human dreams of holiday gifts). The boy comes up with the perfect gift for dragon, but when he strikes out on the parental front for financial assistance, he realizes that he'd better find a way to earn some money. Fortunately, his pet dragon is there to help. They try out a number of jobs and are surprisingly successful-so much so that they have time to do a little free babysitting for Mrs. Jones, who has a large family. In the end, it turns out both boy and dragon had a very good understanding of the true meaning of Christmas, right from the start. 



When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey

Santa's parents think their little one is absolutely wonderful, even though he has a booming voice instead of a baby's gurgle, loves to stand in front of the refrigerator, gives his birthday presents away, trains his hamsters to pull a matchbox sleigh ... and has an unusual interest in chimneys. The adorably funny portrait of an oddball kid who fulfills his destiny - and two very proud parents.



The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story by Audrey Penn

Sophie and her brother are excited by the arrival of Hanukkah, and they happily clean the cottage and shine the Menorah as their gift to the family. But when their mother shares her worry that they do not have enough cooking oil to last eight days, their father tells them the story behind the holiday celebration and the miracle of the oil. Inspired by the story, the family creates its own Miracle Jar and watches the oil disappear as they enjoy the special food that each day brings. The family's hope and faith is confirmed when a last wipe of the cloth produces enough oil to prepare the eight day's treat.



A Homemade Together Christmas by Maryann Cocoa-Leffler

A family of adorable pigs decides that this year they will make their gifts to each other for Christmas rather than buy gifts. Each family member is excited to try. Momma makes breakfast, Dad makes a blanket, and sister Rosie sings a song. But the littlest pig struggles to come up with an idea. What can he make?



Turkey Claus by Wendi Silvano

Turkey is in trouble. Again. He made it through Thanksgiving without becoming a turkey dinner, but now it’s almost Christmas, and guess what’s on the menu? Turkey decides the only thing to do is to ask Santa for help. He sets off for the North Pole, but getting in to see Santa at Christmastime isn’t as easy as Turkey expected. It’s going to take all his ideas—and his clever disguises—to find a way into Santa’s house. After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise, and Santa has the perfect solution! 



See Santa Nap by David Milgrim

See Santa deliver his last present.

See Santa yawn.

See Santa nap.

See Flop bang his new drum.

See Santa wake up!

Poor Santa is exhausted from delivering presents all night, but he can't find anywhere that's quiet enough to take a nap. Fortunately for him, Otto knows just the place....

Hope you find "just the place" for a nap sometime over the holidays!

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