Irish Lace and a good yarn

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! 

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Childhood Belief

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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! 

A Donkey and his Family

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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! 

 

The Magic of Gift Giving

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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!

Christmas Pageants and Traditions

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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! 

 

 

A Magical Train Ride

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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. 

The Grinch and Me

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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!” 

 

 

The Nutcracker

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When I was a little girl, my parents took me and my sister to the Nutcracker ballet every year. It was one of the highlights of the Christmas season. I have loved the story of the Nutcracker since before I can remember. When I was about five or six, all I wanted was a Nutcracker for Christmas and to be just like Clara. To my delight, I opened the most beautiful nutcracker on Christmas morning and I spent the next several days listening to the music and dancing the part of Clara all over our basement. Naturally, reading The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffman has become a Christmas tradition for me and my enjoyment of story has not abated, though I am no longer a little girl. I hope this story fills your holidays with as much magic as it has mine! 

 

 

 

 

 

A Ghostly Christmas Tale

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Perhaps one of the most iconic Christmas books ever written is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Its timeless characters and themes have become almost synonymous with the holidays. With its classic story and multiple adaptations, this book has something for everyone. I absolutely love reading this tale every Christmas (and debating with my family which movie version is the best)! The themes of forgiveness and redemption are especially poignant this time of year. It is an excellent reminder to be kind and compassionate to everyone, even the least among us. And on a lighter note, I absolutely love the scenes of victorian London! One of my favorite adaptations is Mickey’s Christmas Carol. My siblings and I watched the 1983 cartoon every year when we were little. I hope you and your family enjoy this tradition as much as we have! 

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Christmas Correspondence

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With less than a week before Christmas, I am sure that there is a deluge of letters to the North Pole bearing last-minute requests from children all over the world. As a girl, I would spend hours perfecting my own missives to the jolly elf. There is something thrilling about sending or receiving something in the post, which is why I have always loved The Jolly Christmas Postman. It is the sequel to The Jolly Postman, which recounts the adventures of a postman as he delivers letters to various fairy tale characters. In this yuletide companion, the postman rides again, this time delivering holiday wishes to his customers. I hope you enjoy this charming tale as much as I do and that the postman brings you something special this holiday season!

 

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