Patrick: from slave to saint

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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)!

Leprechauns and Irish Dancing

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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. 

 

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!