~ by Amanda Smith and special guest Tara Lazar
Even though my kids have outgrown picture books (to the extent that one can outgrow picture books), we have a box of Christmas picture books we unpack early every December. We rejoice in their arrival, greet them like the dear friends they are, and snuggle with them on the couch. Reading these books together is the quiet in the midst of a busy season. It is often the time I connect with my children's hearts, and it helps us reflect on why we celebrate this season. Allow me to introduce you to our favorite Christmas friends.
Dewey’s Christmas at the Library by Vicky Myron and Bret Witter (2010, Little, Brown and Company) is a sequel to Dewey, There’s a Cat in the Library. The gorgeous illustrations by Steve James bring Dewey to life as he discovers all the dew-licious trimmings of his first Christmas as a library cat.
Keeping with the cat theme, Here comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudia Rueda (2014, Dial Books for Young Readers) is a definite favorite among my kids. Cat is a little concerned, as his current year to date naughty/nice pie chart is not in his favor. What if he becomes his own Santa? Or could he possibly uncover some holiday spirit and do something nice? When we first met Cat in Here comes the Easter Cat, we fell in love with his can-do attitude, his poster-board signs, and the sweet heart that hides under his curmudgeony exterior. Here comes Santa Cat humorously delivers on all of the above.
The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald (2013, Dial Books for Young Readers) is inspired by La Madonna del Gatto, a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. The book tells of the kitten who comforted baby Jesus that first night in the stable, and became a beloved and loyal family pet. Kids will melt at the lovely illustrations by Amy June Bates, and the sweet friendship between boy and kitten. Parents will identify with the pure exasperation of Mary and Joseph at their crying baby, and recognize the special bond between pets and children. This is a heart-warming book for all ages.
Star Bright, A Christmas Story, by Allison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds (2014, Atheneum) tells the story of the newest angel who wanted to bring a gift to the new baby. She contemplates all the gifts to her disposal, but longs to bring what is truly hers to give. The heaven imagined by McGhee and Reynolds is light, airy and modern, the precious angel has a steam-punky edge, complete with aviator goggles, and the book leaves us filled with hope and light.
Room for a Little One, A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell (2004, Margaret K. McElderry Books) is my favorite Christmas read-aloud. Kind Ox opens his stable to a myriad of animals on a cold wintry night. Among the animals he welcomes is Tired Donkey, who carries travel weary Mary and Joseph. The fabulously detailed artwork by Jason Cockcroft fills the pages of this book with inviting warmth that beckons the reader, “Come inside. There’s always room for a little one here.”
Although we have only a few days left in this year’s Hanukkah celebration, there’s still plenty of time to curl up with great stories. I’m delighted to welcome picture book author Tara Lazar to share her family’s favorite Hanukkah pictures books with all of you. Books by Tara include The Monstore, 7 Ate 9, Little Red Gliding Hood, and Way Past Bedtime. Take it away…
From the time my daughters were born, we read to them every night before bed. When each Jewish holiday rolls around we seek out books to explain the holiday, share our traditions and just have some cuddly fun together. There is a saying in Hebrew--L'Dor V'Dor--which means "from generation to generation". We pass down our traditions to each generation, and to us, reading is just as important as eating latkes with applesauce during Hanukkah. (OK, maybe the latkes come first...)
When Mindy Saved Hanukkah by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Barbara McClintock (1998, Scholastic)
Like the Borrowers, the Kleins are little people who make their home with the belongings of regular-sized humans. A thimble is a flower pot; a postage stamp serves as artwork above the matchbox couch.
The Kleins live within the walls of the Eldridge Street Synagogue. When they realize they need wax for Hanukkah candles, they remember seeing a stray candle by the Torah in the synagogue. Papa ventures out, but discovers a fierce Antiochus of a cat in the sanctuary. After he is injured, the only family member deemed fit enough for retrieving the candle is Mindy.
The illustrations by Barbara McClintock show gorgeous scenes of the synagogue from perspectives grand and small. The love, joy and feisty spirit of the Klein clan echoes the story of the Maccabees and makes this a meaningful, heartwarming tale.
The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Giora Carmi (1988, Scholastic)
This is a classic! Kids will crack up at how the elderly Bubba Brayna mistakes her early Chanukkah guest for the Rabbi—who happens to be very hungry for her famous latkes. I still laugh aloud every time I read it. No matter how rude her guest, Bubba Brayna makes it a Happy Chanukkah for him.
Hanukkah Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig; illustrated by Vicki Wehrman (2009, Kar-Ben Publishing)
This exploration of Hankkah traditions is told by short stories representing each country, from Israel to Tunisia. It includes recipes for the traditional Hanukkah foods of each region, like Burmelos from Turkey and Precipizi from Italy. This book demonstrates to Jewish children that no matter where you go in the world, a shared Hebrew language, the Torah and tradition unite us.
Farmer Kobi's Hanukkah Match by Karen Rostoker-Gruber; illustrated by Ronald H. Isaacs (2015, Apples & Honey Press)
The Jewish values of having compassion for animals and welcoming guests are on full display in this funny tale about Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah date. (The title is the matchmaker kind of “match”.) Personally, I love the puns, farm animals and food—and it doesn’t have to be Hanukkah to laugh along with this book.
We wish you the messages of these books.
By Francine Puckly
As I reflect on the year as it comes to a close, I am reminded by how important it is to be encircled in a loving, supportive writing community. I am grateful for the daily and weekly buoying by my 24 Carrot Writing peeps, my New England SCBWI team, my accountability genie, and many other writing friends and partners. These wonderful people are my sherpas—leading me up, up, up as I scale the mountain. They encourage me to keep going when I want to turn around and ride a toboggan back down to the bottom and forget the whole thing.
But I have other guides on this journey. Voices from the past. Voices in the present. A stack of books by other writers that I read, reread, and then read again. These mentors offer practical, detailed advice about perplexing aspects of drafting and revising, precious guidance in making plots and characters spring to life, and words of wisdom and encouragement when the journey feels long. I would be lost without these “friends” who accompany me on this pilgrimage as well.
So just in case your loved ones are still asking you what you’d like for Hanukkah or Christmas, here are 30 of my favorite books to add to your Writer’s Book Shelf:
Finding Your Way and/or Thoughts on the Journey:
Drafting and Revising:
Did I say 30 books? I think we all deserve a holiday bonus this year, and here it is!
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
Invite a few of these writing masters to guide your journey in the new year!
“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.”
by Annie Cronin Romano
The holiday season is here, and so is 24 Carrot Writing’s holiday gift idea list for 2017! If you’re looking for some unique gifts for the writers and book lovers in your life (or “carrots” for meeting your writing goals!), here are this year’s suggestions.
Know a writer or book lover who is expecting a new bundle of joy? Here’s a storybook baby blanket and baby hat that will carry their love of all things literary into the nursery. Available at www.storiarts.com, they both come in several storybook prints, including Alice in Wonderland and The Velveteen Rabbit. They're the perfect items to wrap up baby in the wonders of the literary world!
Usgearlaunch.com has a unique array of book-themed tote bags from classic to contemporary to just plain whimsical. You’re sure to find one perfect for any library haul.
Know a writer who loves shoes? At groovebags.com, you'll find bookish footwear to put your best literary foot forward. Be it sneakers or slides, they have something to fit your style.
Here's one for the ultra-unique column. For the writer who has practically everything, give the gift of interior design! Visit usgearlaunch.com to find stairway stickers to give your staircase a true
library feel. Just make sure the recipient doesn't
live in a ranch!
Do you like to unwind with a drink after an evening of writing? At uncommongoods.com, you’ll find glasses inscribed with some literary classics, including Hamlet, Sherlock Holmes, and Les Miserables.
If you know a Harry Potter fan (and who doesn’t?), here’s a fun timepiece available at pbteen.com to make sure he or she is not late for the next quidditch match! Or, if your
wallet is a bit fatter, they also have a Hedwig lamp to shed some light on bedtime reading.
We’ve all heard about the importance of reading those iconic pieces of literature. Know someone who needs a visual reminder? This clever scratch-off poster lists 100 iconic books rom classic to contemporary that someone (I don’t know who, exactly) decided everyone should read. After you finish each book, scratch the title space to reveal related artwork. Find it at uncommongoods.com.
Do you know any writers who don’t have a desk or can’t find the surface of their dining room table because their child’s science project had taken up residence? Problem solved! This lapdesk available at www.bedbathandbeyond.com lets them take their writing space anywhere. It even has a slot to stand up your tablet if that’s your technology of choice. Prefer to choose the fabric and size yourself? Visit the Lap Desk Lady on www.etsy.com to see a variety of sizes and styles.
My final suggestion…drum roll please? Books. (Duh, right?) Books about writing—the craft
itself and the industry of publishing—are welcome additions to any writer’s bookshelf.
A few suggestions include On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus, and The Chicago Manual of Style, which is on its 17th edition. From craft to industry to mechanics, these books are just a sampling of the staples every writer’s collection should have.
Even better? Buy them from an indie bookstore and support your local small business!
As always, be sure to give yourself a gift too:
the priceless gift of time to work on your writing in 2018.
All of us at 24 Carrot Writing wish you a happy, healthy,
and goal-accomplishing holiday season!
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