Today marks one week until Independence Day. As a Daughter of the American Revolution, this day holds much significance for me and my family. It is one of one of my favorite holidays and I look forward to it every summer. For the next week, I will highlight books guaranteed to put you in a patriotic mood.
I will start this countdown with one of my favorite series of books as a girl, Felicity: An American Girl. I have such fond memories of my parents reading me those stories when I was little. I wanted to be just like Felicity. I relished taking horseback riding, guitar and etiquette lessons. I also completed a sewing sampler (with help from my grandmother who taught me to sew) and dressed up as Felicity for Halloween. The sweet tales with their themes of friendship, loyalty and standing for principles would captivate me for hours. They also made want to learn as much as possible about the Revolutionary War. Not only are the stories fun to read, but they also include a section at the end with historical background. This feature gives readers the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the Revolution – an absolute must for a history nut like me! I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do!
St. Patrick has always been one of my favorite saints (and not just because I am Irish). Most people don’t realize that he lead a life worthy of the most dramatic reality TV series. Patrick was captured at the age of 16, taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. He remained enslaved for six years, then became a priest and returned to Ireland to convert the people to Christianity. In Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland, Tomie dePaola brings his usual warmth and wit to this saint’s fascinating story. It is an instant St. Patrick’s Day classic. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh (Happy St. Patrick’s Day)!
At this time of year, it seems that everyone believes in leprechauns. Who wouldn’t want to find a pot of gold?! Along with this belief comes a sudden desire to reenact Riverdance. Even those who don’t have a drop of Irish blood in them want to partake in this celebration of the Emerald Isle. As the old adage jokes, “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” I admit, St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays and I couldn’t believe that I found a book that incorporated some of my favorite reasons to celebrate this day. Shannon and the World’s Tallest Leprechaun tells the adventures of Shannon, and Irish stepdancer who learns the value of hard work and determination in achieving success. As an added bonus, the book also features some Irish number words! I hope you enjoy this tale as much as I do.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother taught me how to crochet. I was fascinated by the fact that a few simple movements of a hook could create stylish clothes, beautiful lace and a variety of other things. Due to my Irish heritage, my favorite thing to make was Irish lace. This particular craft has a rich history in Ireland and is an important part of Irish culture. Recently, when I was browsing amazon, I was thrilled to discover that that Irish lace-making provided the basis for a wonderful children’s book by award-winning author Patricia Polacco. Fiona’s Lace recounts the story of an Irish family who leaves their homeland in search of the American dream. One of the daughters, Fiona, has a gift for making lace, which she uses to keep her family together throughout the book. If you are looking to get in an Irish mood, this is the perfect book to read!
As a teacher, I am often faced with questions regarding Santa’s existence from my students. Of course I reassure them that he does exist, and I am grateful for the opportunity to preserve their innocence a little while longer. For the students who are more skeptical, I always turn to Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus by Francis P. Church. This beautiful story expounds upon the idea of Santa Claus and presents a more adult interpretation while still maintaining the veracity of the “jolly old elf.” This book has brought such magic to my family’s holiday season and I hope it does the same for yours!
The Small One is based off of a short movie by the same name produced by Disney in 1978. I have to confess, every time I watch the movie and read the book, I become extremely misty-eyed. It is the tale of a boy who must sell his donkey who is too old to work for the family. After several adventures in the market place and failing to find someone willing to take him in, the donkey leads the boy back to the butcher, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for his family. At the moment when the two are saying good-bye and all hope seems lost, a humble carpenter asks to purchase the donkey to carry his very pregnant wife to Bethlehem. The boy accepts, knowing he has found the right family to care for his beloved friend. In a twist reminiscent of O. Henry, the end of this story is the beginning of the Nativity. I hope you and your family enjoy this touching narrative as much as I do!
Since before I can remember, The Gift of the Magi has been one of my favorite stories. I absolutely love the themes of sacrifice, selfless giving and putting others before yourself that the book explores. O. Henry’s elegant and suspenseful prose grabs the audience’s attention from the very beginning. And the master of the surprise ending provides an emotional tour de force at the conclusion that readers won’t soon forget. In this season of giving, this classic reminds us that it is truly better to give than receive. As the Prayer of St. Francis states, “it is in giving that we receive.” I hope that you and your family enjoy this holiday classic as much as I have!
I remember the first time I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I didn’t know what to expect, but it has since become one of my favorite Christmas books. It is an excellent example of character growth as the narrator’s (and subsequently the reader’s) opinion of the Herdmans evolves over the course of the narrative. The story’s twist ending takes the audience by surprise and demonstrates the importance of looking beyond the surface to a person’s inner character. It also demonstrates the importance of getting to know people and giving them a second chance, even when it’s difficult. I hope you enjoy this heartwarming tale as much as I do!
When I was a little girl, my Mom took me and my sister to a Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz every year at Christmas. After everyone had eaten, it was tradition for the Polar Express to be read out loud. This story has always captivated my imagination. What would it be like to travel to the North Pole and visit Santa? This book, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg ,won the 1986 Caldecott Medal, and it it is easy to see why. The whimsical writing and stunning illustrations take readers on a fantastical adventure, proving that holiday magic is everywhere, if we know where to look. This Christmas, perhaps we, too, will hear the soft jingle of a reindeer’s silver bell.
So, I have a confession. I absolutely love the Grinch! Though the term has a derogatory connotation, I believe that this seemingly simple children’s story has a deceptively complex and profound message. Though the Grinch is mean throughout the story, he atones for his actions and earns the forgiveness of Whoville at the end. As a girl, I would often wonder why the Grinch was so mean. I was convinced that there was more to the story! I my favorite part of the book is that, despite everything, the Grinch still gets his happy ending. I find that so hopeful and especially appropriate at this time of year. As Seuss reminds us, “Welcome Christmas, come this way!”