Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Holiday Favorite:A Reminder About the True Spirit of Christmas

My dear friend Erin took a break from her busy teaching -- and holiday shopping! -- schedule to share one of her favorite holiday reads. It might just be the perfect, last-minute Christmas gift you're looking for:

Here's Erin:

Today I share just a bit about a book I'm in love with: Little Robin's Christmas, Little Tiger Press (Waukesha, WI), 1998, published in England as Little Robin Red Vest, Egmont Books (London, England), 1998.

There are so many fabulous Christmas tales available that I often wonder how one even begins to choose. I am forced, almost daily for two weeks, to make difficult choices about which holiday stories to share with my 3rd graders. Should I choose a classic like Twas the Night Before Christmas or pick a book featuring a favorite popular character like Frosty or Rudolph? I am always drawn to books with illustrations of cute woodland creatures so it is not surprising that one book is always on my "must read" list each holiday season: Little Robin's Christmas, written and illustrated by Jan Fearnley. Truth to tell, the British title is catchier: Little Robin Red Vest and I wonder why the American publisher chose to change it. But alas, it is a tale of incomparable Christmas spirit, so I should just accept "Little Robin's Christmas" as fitting.

The story starts with Little Robin in his house, washing and ironing seven vests to get him through the chilly days of the week before Christmas. Don't you love a man doing the laundry??? Yes, Little Robin is a boy and one with a very giving heart. Each day he ventures out in the cold with one of his snuggly vests on and happens across a friend who is invariably freezing. Without hesitation, Little Robin gives his vest to the creature in need that day: Frog, Otter, Rabbit (he's so big that the teeny vest is worn as a hat!), Mole, Mouse, Hedgehog, and Squirrel. When he's given his last vest away -- the warm orange one -- he finds himself huddled on a roof, far from his nest, too tired and cold to get himself home. Santa comes to his rescue and flies him to the North Pole in his sleigh to show Mrs. Claus this generous little fellow full of the Christmas spirit. Mrs. Claus decides he deserves a very special gift so, with Little Robin all snug and cozy in her lap, she pulls a thread from Santa's red coat and knits a magical vest. The vest will always keep Little Robin warm and when anyone sees him in it, they too will be warm. In the end, Little Robin perches on a tree branch and wishes everyone a Merry Christmas.

I must warn that my dear friend and fellow educator Elizabeth was not as moved by the story. She conceded that it was cute, but didn't get why I was ga-ga over it. I just can't explain it. There's something about Little Robin with his rosy red cheeks and sweater vests that fit like dresses that makes my heart melt! So, if you're a softie for cute fuzzy critters, generous hearts, and the good little guy getting the big reward, then you too will enjoy Little Robin's Christmas.

I'm sure we'd all love to hear about what everyone else reads to the kiddies at Christmas time!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I've been traveling

It's been weeks since I've updated you on my reading, but I promise I have actually been reading -- and traveling, both literally (to Siesta Key, Florida with the best friends in the world) and figuratively: My most recent escape has been Old Dominion University Professor Michael Pearson's Innocents Abroad Too. I'm lucky I got to read the book about his two journeys with Semester at Sea and even luckier I got paid to review it for Port Folio Weekly:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Simply Sick

I wish writer Alicia Erian would come out with a new book soon so I can stop thinking about her 2005 Towelhead, which was recently repackaged and made into a film.

I don't recall another book sticking with me like this one -- but I suspect Erian's future works will.

Please consider Towelhead for the adults in your family (and only the adults!) after you read my review at -- the site for the alternative magazine where I used to work. (I just figured out that I spent about a quarter of my life there. Is that good or bad?)

The long, direct link is below.

Yes, I know there's a way to make this smaller (something with tinyurl), but, at the moment, I'd rather read than figure that out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pedaling Politics

Riding our bikes around the block last week, Katie, 9, noticed all the red, white and blue yard signs with presidential candidates’ names.

“Oh, Mommy! It was so funny,” she said to me with a big smile. “Skylar and I talked politics at lunch today.”

“I think that’s awesome,” I said.

She then gave two reasons why one of the vice presidential candidates shouldn’t be elected.

“I totally agree!,” I said, pedaling faster to keep up.

“I know!,” she said with annoyance. “You’re the one who told me that.”

My chest puffed with pride, causing me to swivel on my mountain bike.

Oops…but who cares if I crash?, I thought.

I had my helmet on to protect me, and the comforting thought that my political teaching (read: brainwashing) efforts work!

However, I live in one of those up-for-grab states, and I feel the need to further “educate” Katie as she gets closer to voting age.

(All right, that day is nine years away, 12 for a presidential election, but this is important.)

I saw See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes and the Race to the White House by Susan E. Goodman and Elwood H. Smith at my kids’ book fair last week.

And I know John McCain has a book out there for kids…Character is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember.

Anyone heard of any other children books by or about national politicians?

Is there a new Eric Carle book called Folksy Sarah, Folksy Sarah, What Do you Know?

A new Jack Prelutsky book called The Awful Ogre named Mr. Biden Running Wild – in Washington, forever and ever?

A new Judith Viorst book, Barack and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Economy?

I’m kidding.

I’m kidding.

I’m kidding.

I don’t really think all of these things about the candidates – just some of them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What were too busy to announce the winner

Dear Blog Friends,

I apologize for leaving you hanging!

Colin picked the Time of My Life book winner tonight, and his little fingers grabbed "Gail Kent" from the bowl (well, it wasn't a bowl exactly; it was a box made out of popsicle sticks; I thought I should give you all the details to let you know the drawing was legitimate!)

Here's Gail's entry:

"What if" my mom and her friend hadn't been going to the movies one afternoon back in the '40s, and my dad and his friend hadn't been driving past the bus stop where they waited for a bus that had already passed, and "what if" my mom and her friend -- against their better judgment -- hadn't accepted a ride with them to the movies? Well, then, I wouldn't be here to write "what if"!

I love this story -- even if it makes me scared that my daughter will one day jump in a car with a bunch of boys she doesn't know...Because, of course, I was always perfect as a teenager and never, ever, ever did anything I wasn't supposed to. Ever. (Did I mention I think my mom and dad read this blog?)

I so appreciate Gail and EVERYONE stopping by to enter the contest.

I hope to run more of them in the future, and I really hope you'll buy the book I'm offering if you don't win.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

If only…

If only Jillian can bite her tongue, she can make her relationship with Jackson work this time around.

If only she can impress his family and earn a sort-of smile from his mother, she’ll finally see a diamond on her left hand.

If only she can leave it to Jackson to finish writing his book and leave the wedding planning to everyone else, she and he will finally walk down the aisle.

And so it goes in Time Of My Life, which is being released today.

In her second novel, Allison Winn Scotch writes in the first person as Jillian Westfield, a 34-year-old perfectionist facing an early midlife crisis.

She used to run, and now she power walks.

She used to create advertising campaigns for mega companies, and now she watches bird droppings ooze over her car’s windshield.

She used to meet friends for drinks, and now she ignores the drink her 18-month-old daughter dumped over her head because she’s too exhausted to clean it up.

Coping with suburbia-induced boredom and husband-always-traveling loneliness is hard for Jillian, but when she learns that her ex-boyfriend is getting married, friends and acquaintances alike see that Jillian is crumbling.

She retreats to her masseuse and gets more of an escape than she bargained for: A trip back to her life of seven years ago with Jackson.

Time of My Life isn’t just about one woman’s struggle with identity, though. Allison adds depth to her book and validity to the dilemmas mothers face -- Did I marry the right man? Move to the right town? Make the right decision to stay home/work? Agree to have children at the right time? – by also chronicling Jillian’s boss’ marriage-career-children imbalance and Jillian’s mother’s extreme decision to turn her back on her family years ago.

To a lesser degree, Jackson’s sister is seeking to find herself as well, and so is Jillian’s best friend, Meg, who believes that only a child will fulfill her.

The subject matter is heavy, but never Allison’s writing. Jillian’s voice, real and confident, even if she’s not always feeling so, makes the book a quick read – which you'll appreciate: You see Jillian learning about herself along the way, although you’re not sure what conclusions she'll reach, and the suspense keeps you zooming to the lacking-in-cliché ending.

I entered Allison’s blog contest a few weeks back – talk about your “what if” moment -- and won a copy of Time of My Life. You can now do the same (although yours won’t be signed – I’m too greedy and I’m keeping it for myself!): Tell me about your “what if,” and I’ll pick one reader to receive a free copy, compliments of me and my mini-road trip to Barnes & Noble. It is, after all, Buy a Friend a Book Week.

Go, go, go. You have until Sunday at 12 a.m.!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I’m a cheat

I’ve only juggled relationships a few times in my life, when I wasn't so sure about what I needed and what was being offered.

I’m doing so now – stringing along three like/love interests -- one that seems to offer perspective, another protection and another still, hope.

You know I’m not talking about men, right?

I’m reading three books at once. They’re scattered around the house, and when I spot one, I start reading:

My crushes are:

Time of My Life, by Allison Winn Scotch. Allison speaks to the me of seven years ago when my kids were little, little, little, and my mind was full of big, big, big questions.

Four Wives, by Wendy Walker. Wendy is predicting my future. I just haven’t decided if her tale of four wealthy suburban women is a cautionary one or a celebration of the good life (if you can just open your eyes to it!) Hmm, I can say the same about Time of My Life.

Redeemed, by Heather King. Heather shares her imperfect life and the comfort she finds through religion. I never thought anyone could top Anne Lamott, but as of right now, I say Heather does.

The full scoop on all of these books and more coming soon!
P.S. If anyone can tell me how to put the book cover pictures in a better layout, please let me know. I've tried all I can think of.