Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Miracle of Christmas Books

My son has 22 Christmas books.  We pulled them all out from his bookshelf the week before Thanksgiving and put them under his train table - we had Thanksgiving books to read first.

The day after Thanksgiving, my little 4yo. son pulled out all his books.  That night we read The Elf on the Shelf in the hopes that our little Elfie would pay a visit.  The presence of Elfie means that Christmas is really close and now Santa is sending her to check in and make sure that our boys are being nice.  After finishing reading this book, as we cuddled down into the big armchair, Peter spied someone way up high!  He silently pointed, scrunched back down next to me, and in a barely audible whisper said, "There's Elfie."  I think he was actually afraid or fear in a reverent sort of way.  The next morning, Peter hid behind me as we went out into the living room.  Sure enough, Elfie had moved indicating that she had flown to the North Pole and come back in a different spot.  She also brought with her a Santa wind-up toy.  Peter then screamed to Elfie, "Elfie, you know Christmas, when baby Jesus was this tiny."  He held up his fingers to show Elfie how tiny Jesus was.

Yesterday, I took my little man to a movie with my mom.  This is a tradition I had with my mom for so many years - the classic weekend of Thanksgiving movie.  We saw The Muppet Movie.  My mom and I laughed more than my 4yo. did.  Afterwards we went to get a present for daddy, who was at home diligently writing, and then to continue with another tradition started by me as a single girl waiting for my baby and now will be continued with my son.  We went to find a Christmas book.  I wanted Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco, which I couldn't find, but happily was able to order through the fabulous indie book store in Lake Forest (Lake Forest Book Store - the most knowledgeable staff and best books around, they know there stuff).  When we get the book, we will put the date of the Christmas in it.  Last night we read The Story of Christmas a little board book that explains why we give presents.

This morning, my little man got up, walked to the sun room and saw our little tree decorated with all Chicago Bears ornaments and then Elfie perched above.  "Good job, Elfie" he said and then he wanted to bring all of his books out to show Elfie.

We have lots of favorite Christmas stories including:
- The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
- Where Did They Hide My Presents? by Alan Katz and David Catrow
- Silent Night illustrated by Thomas Kincaid

What are your favorites?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Words, Wonderful Words

When I was a younger girl in my 20s, I read books that challenged my vocabulary and brain.  Jane Austen was tops for doing that - when reading Pride and Prejudice, I had a piece of note pad paper in the book with all the words I rarely had seen or used - officious, intrepidity, odoriferous, reticule, etc.  The Blind Assassin was another fabulous read that lead to great conversations replete with a plethora of marvelous words.  My mom and sister were big fans of Elizabeth George and I gladly delved in, but sadly I only made it pass solecism and insouciant until I decided to pursue other authors.

Two years ago, I became a mother and then six months after that a wife (I adopted a little boy from Haiti and while in the process met my future husband although because of adoption laws we were unable to get married until after the adoption was finalized).  Now I read many picture books and find I have less time for those vocabulary rich books.  As my job expanded from a K-2 librarian to a K-8 librarian, I find my time is also limited and now for work I will listen to many YA books.  I'm currently making my way through The Ranger's Apprentice series as the author recently visited the school.  I'm loving these books, but again the caliber of word choice is not that of a Jane Austen novel - don't tell Mr. Flanagan I said that as he is a very charming man who writes beautiful fun books and loves doing it.

So I find myself in a dilemma, all those great big juicy words I regularly used are slipping away.  Is it 'mommy brain'? stress? lack of sleep? or something my neurologist and I are exploring?  Who knows?  All I know is that I know there is a better word in my brain, but it eludes me when I need it most.

Are you the type of reader who loves finding those fabulous vocabulary rich books and then using those great words? Have you experienced the sensation of knowing there is a great big juicy word that you could use beautifully, but then find yourself grasping for it and not being able to retrieve it?

Here are my suggestions for possessing and keeping wonderful words:

1.  Word of the Day toilet paper - this works even better than a calendar as many more great thought occur in the loo than by ripping off a calendar page.

2.  Crossword puzzle - work your way up to the New York Times, you will see your word recall increase as you see the same clue day after day.

3.  Have conversations with smart people and when they say a word that is spectacular, make a mental note of it. My sister ( is one who will talk to anyone and always give you at least one great vocab word.

4.  Try to use a new word in different conversations throughout the week.  Don't overload yourself with more than one word per week, but keep a running list of some of your favorites.

What do you suggest?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Books That Demand Discussion

Have you ever read a book and as soon as you finish, you immediately start asking people if they have read it?  The reason you ask is simply that you can't believe the end and you need to talk it over with someone at once!

I just finished reading The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace and if you have read it, please let's discuss!  I'm so surprised and almost unfulfilled by the ending that I want someone else to 'talk' me through it.  Read my review on Goodreads if you would like some more information.

Here are some other books that I demanded discussion once I finished or even as I was reading them:

So which books have you read that DEMAND discussion?  I'm curious and maybe we can start discussing them, particularly if you've recently read The Blind Contessa's New Machine.