Category Archives: Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas starts today!

The 12 Days of Christmas starts today!

The 12 days of Christmas starts today. I know the song by the same name first played on the radio the day after Halloween. For some cultures, primarily in Europe and Latin America, the first day of Christmas started on December 25 and will end January 5. Here in the US, at least in creole Louisiana, the first day starts today, December 26 and will end January 6.

So what’s up with that song? We know it’s about someone getting lots of gifts, especially birds, from their true love. A wee research led me to a number of guesses about its origin. The earliest written version is from 1780 published as a children’s “memory and forfeits” game much like the game ‘I went to the market and bought’ where players are tasked with remembering and repeating what was said before them. Others hypothesize it’s an English Christmas carol, a French folk song from 1770, and even a ‘code’ persecuted English Catholics used to practice their faith back in the 16th-17th centuries. A century later it was described as a game played at a Twelfth night celebration.

Fast forward to the 19th-20th centuries and the parodies ensued. If “The 12 Days of Christmas” Happened in Real Life and a very funny video 12 Days of Christmas parody of the Johnston family.


Although no one can say with certainty what the meaning is behind the song or the origin, today it’s rooted in both secular and Christian Christmas traditions. And it’s so much fun to sing! Whether there is a connection or not, there are 12 days from today till January 6th, also known Twelfth Night, Le Petit Noël, Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day.

Whether the song is enjoyed for a secular or religious reason, we can extend the spirit of the season 12 more days. My plan is continue gift giving, but through acts of kindness. I hope you will join me!

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Christmas & Hanukkah

Christmas & Hanukkah

This Perfect Picture Book Pair celebrates the most wonderful time of the year to read… Christmas and Hanukkah stories!

Title: Jackie’s Gift

Author: Sharon Robinson

Illustrator: E. B. Lewis

Publisher: Viking (2010)

Age Range: 3-7 years

The famous baseball player Jackie Robinson gives a gift to a boy he befriends in his new neighborhood. The gesture allows the two families to learn about their different holiday traditions.

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Title: Dear Santa, Love Rachel Rosenstein

Authors: Amanda Peet & Andrea Troyer

Illustrator: Christine Davenier

Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers  (2015)

Age Range: 3-7 years

When Rachel Rosenstein feels she’s missing out because her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, she learns others celebrate differently at this time of year too.

Perfect Picture Book Pair showcases two books with universal themes, but one must include a diverse setting, or life experience,  or main character. My goal is to support books in the market that contribute to diversity in children’s literature.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” I believe reading is too!

Kids love to see their reflections in books. Join me and #ReadYourWorld!

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Picture Books for the Holiday & Ever After

Picture Books for the Holiday & Ever After

There are many lists out there for all your holiday reading needs. Many from well known sources. Most books never make those lists. As a new author, I know the importance of getting the word out about your work. We certainly can’t buy every book published, but we can support authors, illustrators, and bookstores by sharing those we read and enjoy. Blogging or writing reviews on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads also helps spread the word. So I created my own list.

Gingerbread books

It’s not just books, but people who blog frequently about books. People who are passionate about picture books and what they mean to kids and parents and teachers and librarians.

Anyone looking for a gift or simply love to read and or collect picture books, below are links to some fabulous titles.

Goodreads with Ronna has two posts about Christmas books Roundup Part 1 and Part 2

Just Us Books put together a list of holiday books with diverse themes and or character or by authors least represented in the world of publishing.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) launched a Book Party event to help support their membership in an effort to market 2015 releases.

What about after the holiday? Below are my go to blogs for learning about books by reading reviews. It’s a very diverse list because I am a huge supporter of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ReadYourWorld campaigns.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day  is January 27, 2016. This site showcases new and old releases with diverse content.

Mia Wenjen aka Pragmatic Mom , Co-Founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day blogs about parenting, books, and education.

Valarie Budayr Jump Into A Book, Co-Founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Valarie says, “Jump into a Book is a site about the love of children’s books and how they can incorporate them into our everyday lives through play, crafting, cooking, movies, games, traveling and author visits. At JIAB, we strive to pull books off shelves and stories off pages to create reading experiences for families.”

Susanna Hill hosts Perfect Picture Book Friday. Authors and writers share weekly book reviews. She has an extensive list of books by category.

Patricia Tilton, Children’s Books Heal. Looking for a book that addresses a tough topic? Search this blog. Patricia says, “I want my blog to be a resource for parents, grandparents and teachers who are searching for a special gem that will help a child through a tough time.” And it is indeed.

Juliana Lee’s Crafting Stories. From her Books Alive! page or Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book page, or easy reader and early chapter book reviews from her 2015 Cybils page, Juliana has something current for everyone.

Tiffa blogs about picture books she reads with her two sons at her site, The Picture Book Review. Note: They read a lot of books!

Goodreads with Ronna by Ronna Mandel who is a former Associate Editor at L.A. Parent, and a team of reviewers keep us up to date on current releases. She reviews inclusive books with characters and or topics specific to a population with special needs.

Danielle Davis blogs at This Picture Book Life, She says, “This blog brings picture books to life through crafts, book pairings, interviews, recipes, and other fun stuff.” Her reviews are thought provoking and honest.

See my picture book reviews here and my perfect picture book pairs here or on Facebook.

These are a few of my favorites, there are so many, many more.

Happy Holiday reading! Happy reading in 2016!

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The King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle

The King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle

What do the King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle have in common? They are both New Orleans icons. And about the same age too.

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Every baby boomer who grew up in New Orleans visited Mr. Bingle in the Maison Blanche window then went inside the store to take a photo with Santa himself. Credit for the creation of this Christmas icon goes to Mr. Emile Alline who was the window-display manager at the store. Back in 1948, a French Quarter puppeteer named Edwin H.Isentrout was hired to promote the little snowman named Mr. Bingle and advertise the MB franchise. Between the storefront window display, TV commercials, and visits to other store locations, the image became a New Orleans icon.

We can thank Daniel Entringer, Sr. for popularizing the icon of the small plastic baby known as the king cake baby hidden inside king cakes.. He was a cheesemaker from Wisconsin who bought McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes from Henry McKenzie in 1932. At one time, McKenzie’s bakery was the most popular bakery in New Orleans offering sweets such as buttermilk drops, blackout cakes, petit fours, eclairs, and chocolate turtles to name a few, in addition to their famous king cakes. When a Carnival Krewe named the Twelfth Night Revelers asked Entringer to make king cakes for them, they supplied their own trinkets to hide inside the cake as custom dictated.  However, according to the history told, a friend of Entringer found a plastic baby in a French Quarter shop back in the 1940’s and suggested he use it. The baker started using the plastic baby then and created the tradition that continues to this very day. A king cake without a baby hidden inside is simply a cinnamon roll!

King Cakes are so popular in New Orleans, they have their very own Festival! Check out the King Cake Festival website here. Check out their facebook page for updates.

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Arturo and the Navidad Birds

Arturo and the Navidad Birds

Title: Arturo and the Navidad Birds

Written by:  Anne Broyles

Illustrated by: KE Lewis

Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. 2013, Fiction

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: honesty, accepting responsibility, courage, compassion, forgiveness, cultural awareness

Brief Synopsis: Arturo helps his grandmother Abue Rosa decorate her Navidad tree. She explains the origin of each ornament from her childhood, and those she received as gifts from friends. Arturo breaks one of her treasured ornaments when Abue Rosa is not in the room. And after she returns and asks if he’s seen the ornament, he hides it from her. Arturo then tries but fails to repair the ornament. But then he is remorseful and tells his grandmother what happened. Abue Rosa is forgiving and takes what Arturo made from the broken ornament and adds it to her Navidad tree and comforts him by saying to Arturo, “People are more important than things. mi’jo.”

Opening pages:  “Arturo bounced up and down in front of the pine tree. “Hurry, Abue!”

His grandmother called from the kitchen, “Momentito, mi’jo.”

Arturo saltaba una y otra ves frente al árbol de pino. “Date prisa, Abue!”

Su abuela lo llamaba desde la cocina, “Momentito, mi’jo.”

Arturo frowned at the sting of unlit lights. “Our Navidad tree looks empty.”

Abue Rosa wiped her hands on her apron as she bustled into the living room. “It will soon be full.”

Arturo fruncíó el ceño al mirar las luces de Navidad sin encender. “Nuestro árbol de Navidad se ve vacío.”

Abue Rosa secó sus manos en el delantal mientras caminaba dentro de la sala. “Pronto estará lleno.”

Why I like this book: This is a heartwarming story of the relationship between a boy and his grandmother. The themes are universal. The boy, Arturo makes a mistake, is not honest in the beginning, and tries a resolution that fails. His grandmother is forgiving and shows Arturo her love by explaining that people are more important than things.

This book is an example of what the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign running this May 1-3, 2014 is all about. The front cover and title tell us the book is representative of one of the underrepresented groups in the world of children’s literature because the illustrations include a child and adult who have toffee colored skin. All people can be described by color; but this book is written about people with skin of a particular color who are part of a particular culture. In addition, Arturo and the Navidad Birds is a story any child or adult, regardless of the color of their skin, will enjoy. And for an extra bonus, the reader may learn some Spanish words since the book is published in both English and Spanish. Kudos to the author and illustrator. Well done, Pelican Publishing.

Resources: Free teacher study guide on the author’s site.

Arturo

 

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It’s Still Christmas Y’all!

It’s Still Christmas Y’all!

While most of us celebrate January 1st as the New Year, according to the Catholic Church calendar it’s still Christmas! The Twelve Days of Christmas is the period between December 25th, Christmas Day and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 5th or 6th.

Just about everyone knows the song, the Twelve Days of Christmas. If not, the first stanza should spark your memory, ”On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.” Although Catholics link the song to a clever way to teach Catholicism when Puritans banned the English from celebrating Christmas and the Catholic faith back in the 16th century, such claims are speculative due to lack of evidence. However faith is typically used as an anchor to deduce that the possibility does indeed exist. Researchers have actually traced the genesis of the song regardless of one’s belief about the reason behind its origin.

The song first appeared in Mirth without Mischief, a book published in England in the year 1780. Daft Days where the King of Fools reigned was part of the Christmas and pagan winter solstice celebrations in medieval England. Pranks and causing mischief were common. The tune to the song believed to date back to France. Turns out the song, filled with verses that appear random, was a ”memory and forfeits” game for children in the 18th century. A very old version of ”I went to the market and bought…” played today to help children develop memory and concentration. This game became popular to play during parties on the 12th night of Christmas.

Today, the lack of celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas really does speak to the secularization of Christmas. Advent is better known and more celebrated as the build up to Christmas Day. It is the time of preparation to celebrate the coming birth of Jesus. But even Advent calendars are more about receiving than giving. Perhaps the reason for the complete Christmas season has been lost in the commercialization of Christmas. In accordance to the liturgical year, the Twelve Days of Christmas is the period after the birth of Jesus and a part of the Christmas celebration. At one time, over these 12 days people celebrated with merriment, spent time with family, gave charity to the poor and prepared to celebrate the life of Jesus here on earth. It just seems these days as Christmas is marketed earlier and earlier (before Halloween!), it’s easy to feel Christmas ends the morning presents are opened.

One tradition my son makes sure we don’t forget takes place on Christmas Eve. That’s the day we put up our Christmas tree, watch old Christmas movies, and tell stories about ornaments as they are hung with care. I guess in our own way, that’s how we celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas that begins on Christmas Eve. No one is able to run away from the commercialism of Christmas, and our family certainly participates in the shopping frenzy. But traditions are reminders of why we do the things we do. As long as these traditions continue we will remember.

Happy New Year to all! Wishing you joy, peace, and happiness in 2014!

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