Book Advent Calendar 2017–Day 10: The Little Drummer Boy

One theme ends and another continues. Here’s the second in a row of an illustrated Christmas song, although this one is not revised or reworked. We’re not a religious family but my kids love, love, love this song, and this book. I’m not sure about the song but I totally agree with them on the book. If you know Ezra Jack Keats, the Caldecott Medal award winning artist and writer of The Snowy Day, you’ll know that his illustrations are simple, imaginative, and vivid. All of these elements are evident in The Little Drummer Boy. Music for the song appears at the back of the book as well. And if for some reason you don’t know the story here’s a quick recap: The little drummer boy doesn’t know what to bring as a gift for the baby Jesus until he learns that a gift from the heart is the best gift of all.

Photo: J. Amy Amy

I’m both happy and sad to say that I bought this book from a bunch of discarded books at my local library. I’m happy because we have a lovely hardcover copy with a protective library cover, but sad because the library is now without another Christmas classic. If you’re unable to get a copy of The Little Drummer Boy and/or you don’t know E.J.K. take a moment to get to know him with The Snowy Day. While not a holiday book, it’s a really important piece of 20th Century children’s literature. That’s an entirely different post though. While I’m not going to write about it at the moment, I would encourage you to peruse the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation website. It’s a rabbit hole well worth delving into.

Overall Rating: EX, due solely to Keats’ extraordinary artwork. Suggested age range: anyone who enjoys hearing a Christmas song accompanied by vibrant images.

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Book Advent Calendar 2017–Day 9: Deck The Halls–A Canadian Christmas Carol

Photo: J. Amy Amy

I guess there might be a bit of a theme going on here that I didn’t pay attention to–this is the second book in a row that re-invents and re-works an older story or song. Deck the Halls: A Canadian Christmas Carol is written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Werner Zimmermann. The story and pictures about Beaver and other quintessential Canadian wildlife characters decorating for Christmas are both charming and funny.  At the end of the book, there is a musical arrangement of the traditional Christmas carol which is a nice added touch.

Overall Rating: VG, especially if you’re a Canadian. All ages.

Book Advent Calendar–Day 8: Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas

Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas is a mash up of Madeline and The Night Before Christmas. It’s quite clever and my guess is that any kid who likes monsters and zombies will love this book. My kids do. As for me, I think it’s all right but it’s not a favourite of mine. This book is a sequel to Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, but we’ve never read the first one  and I don’t think you need to in order to enjoy this book. The author, Ludworst Bemonster (an homage to Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the Madeline series) is the nom de plume for author Rick Walton and illustrator Nathan Hale. The illustrations, digital watercolors in red and green, are nicely reminiscent of the Madeline books.

Photo: J. Amy

Someday I’d like to get Madeline’s Christmas, so that we can have both books in our Holiday collection and also so that my children can learn concepts like parody and homage in literature (can you tell I used to be an English teacher?), but in the meantime we’ll enjoy Frankenstein and what his Christmas story has to offer.

Overall Rating: G+ (me) EX+ (my kids, 6, 6, 9)

Holiday Book Advent Calendar 2017–Book 3: Little Tree

The third book is one of my absolute favourites and it’s truly a shame that you can no longer pick it up at your local bookshop. It’s called Little Tree, adapted from a poem of the same name by E.E. Cummings. Chris Raschka has written a truly lovely story version of Cummings’ poem about a Christmas tree’s journey to finding a home. Cummings’ poem is at the beginning of the book, followed by Raschka’s story interpretation. The illustrations, also by Raschka, are stunning. Soft watercolours and geometric shapes resemble modern stained glass and along with the main pictures, there are smaller vignettes of Santa’s activities that are fun for the older child to peruse.

Photo Credit: H. Julian

Photo Credit: H. Julian

I like to read this book on the day when we decorate our Christmas tree–it’s a nice way to introduce the activity. Although this story is simply written the lyricism within the writing and the intricate illustrations make this a book for all ages in my opinion. Basically, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, so if you are lucky enough to come across a copy at a garage sale or a second hand bookstore or in the library, grab it. You won’t be sorry.

Overall Rating: EX, for all ages.

Photo Credit: H. Julian

Photo Credit: H. Julian

 [Little Tree] first appeared in The Dial, Vol. LXVIII, No. 1 (Jan. 1920). It is now in the public domain.

Holiday Book Advent Calendar 2017–Book 2: Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star

It will come as no surprise to anyone still reading this blog that I’ve already fallen behind on my promise to myself to this year (after 4 years of doing this Book Advent Calendar) that I would post timely (daily in fact) reviews of the books that we’ve opened and enjoyed this Holiday season. So far I’m only a day behind so I’m going to try and recap the last two today and hopefully be back on track with one book tomorrow.

Photo Credit: J. Amy Amy.

 

Day 2 was Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star written and illustrated by Petr Horácek. It’s a fun story with a surprise ending about Suzy Goose and her quest to get a star to put on the farm’s Christmas tree. Little ones will enjoy the repetitive “Splat!” which happens each time Suzy falls. The mixed media illustrations are quite lovely as well.

Overall Rating: VG, especially for younger children. (3-7)

 

 

Intro to Poetry, Day 7: Flavour Part 2 (Guest Poet)

Found Poem by H. Julian
Source: Chickadee and Canadian Living Magazines

Notes: Today while I was working on my Found Poem, my eldest son took an interest and decided he’d like to give it a try too. I gave him a few pointers and he got to work. I asked him if they ever read or wrote poetry in school. He said no, the only poetry he had heard was in our house when I read it to him. This made me kind of sad. I think it’s important for young children to learn poetry. I know that teachers are overloaded with things they are expected to teach, but I really hope that the Arts are not sacrificed as a response to this pressure. In the meantime, I plan to have more poetry writing (and reading) sessions with my son this summer since we both enjoyed the experience.

If you’d like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read,
please email me: judyamy74(at)gmail.com or tweet me @JudyAmy74.

Thoughtful Thank You Gifts for Teachers

First off, I don’t want to discourage you from giving gifts to your child’s teacher. It’s a lovely, thoughtful idea. But please make sure it’s thoughtful. People often seem to forget  that teachers are individuals. A one-size-fits-all gift is not the way to go. The homemade baking may be left on the staff room table at the end of the day due to allergies, food restrictions or preferences. The scented soaps and hand lotions might be left behind for similar reasons.  And almost every teacher I know has enough mugs.

Of course, one might argue that it’s the thought that counts, and this is definitely true, but if this is your argument, then please be thoughtful. If you know that your teacher loves fly fishing, then by all means get her some hooks. But if you don’t know, resist the impulse to lump all teachers together.  Teachers are individuals too. It doesn’t cost much to be thoughtful–the gifts I treasured the most during my time as a third grade teacher were thoughtful cards written by either parents or the students themselves.

For the past couple of years, our children have given their teachers something concrete for the classroom and we have given a donation to a local charity in their honour. Teachers spend an awful lot of their own money furnishing their classrooms. Even things as small as a few new Hot Wheels for the Kindergarten car centre or a couple of books for the classroom library are appreciated. I like this type of giving. I feel like it is a win-win-win-win. My kids have something tangible to give their teachers, I get a tax receipt, the charity benefits, and the teacher has a card to read about the impact they had on my children over the course of the school year.

If  a charitable donation is not something you are interested in, there are other thoughtful ways to thank your children’s teacher. Buying an item for the classroom without the charitable donation is thoughtful as well. I also like the idea of amazon gift cards because this gives teachers the option to buy some items for their classroom or to spend on themselves. And who isn’t able to find something at amazon these days? They don’t just sell books anymore.

And when in doubt, just say it. If your kids are old enough have them write a note to the teacher about what makes him so special. As a parent take a moment to jot a few things down on a thank you card about how your child’s teacher has made a difference. These words will be remembered on the tough days and the good days.

Remember: teachers will love anything a child gives them and will appreciate any and all thank you gestures. In this way, we are alike. But please keep in mind that we are also individuals. But as long as you’re okay with knowing that your #1 Teacher mug might wind up at the Sally Ann, just give’r.

Have a great summer break!

If you’d like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me: judyamy74(at)gmail.com or tweet me @JudyAmy74.