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This old-fashioned rhyming picture book, first published in 1966, was LitKid’s second pick from our collection for reading this holiday season.

Santa Mouse (written by Michael Brown and illustrated by Elfrieda DeWitt) is particularly special in our house because it is responsible for one of our favorite Christmas Eve traditions (pay close attention, and you’ll figure out what it is).

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(Hermione, one of the ‘Lost in a Book’ kittens, has once again photo-bombed.)

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I love this opening illustration, which always reminds me a little of another favorite from my childhood — Gus the Friendly Ghost (see our earlier post), in which a mouse inhabits a big old house.

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This little mouse living all alone in a house doesn’t even have a name … but he does have a big imagination ~ and CHEESE.

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Then he makes a new friend who gives the little mouse an important new job … and the trip of a lifetime.

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And when Christmas Eve rolls around, we like to imagine Santa Mouse catching a ride down our chimney with the Big Guy … and we’re always prepared, just in case.

~AKid@Heart

We hope you can find a copy of Santa Mouse and enjoy it this Christmas!

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LitKid and I love reading the holiday picture books we’ve collected every bit as much now as we did when she was a little thing; taking them out of their off-season spot high in her closet is one of the first things we do to kick off the holidays.

We try to read one every night, and tonight she picked this one:

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All of the books in the “If You…” series are fun; we love the holiday twist of this one, not to mention the movie theme, as watching schmaltzy movies is also one of our holiday traditions.

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(Until we opened the book tonight, I had forgotten that Laura Numeroff signed the book back when LitKid was just 4 years old.)

Here is a favorite spread from the book (complete with kitten photobomb) … Happy holiday reading!

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~AKid@Heart

The Christmas Quiet Book

Written by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Renata Liwska

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Every year, we go to our favorite book place, Quail Ridge Books and Music, in search of one new picture book to add to our holiday collection.

This year – especially the past few months, with LitKid thrown into the much more demanding world of middle school – has felt nonstop, so when I spotted the title of this book, it had instant appeal.

Both of us loved what we found when we looked at each page of this simple but lovely book, which doesn’t tell a story in the traditional sense. Instead, it celebrates the many kinds of quiet you can enjoy in the midst of the holidays … the kinds of joys full-speed-ahead human beings often don’t take time to experience.

“Searching for presents quiet.”

“Getting caught quiet.”

“Hoping for a snow day quiet.”

And many more.

This was a shoe-in for our 2012 holiday picture book and will be kept in a prominent spot between now and New Year’s so we’ll be reminded to slow down and have those quiet moments.

We wish you and yours many quiet joys (including reading, of course) over the holidays and in the year to come!

~AKid@Heart

 

Zen Shorts

(a Caldecott Honor book)

By Jon J. Muth

With LitKid in middle school and reading novels nonstop, we don’t revisit our picture books as often as we should. They’ve never been put away –  in fact, we display them as the works of art that they are – but sitting down to read them together is a rare thing these days.

Retreating into our old favorites is probably a perfect antidote to the frenetic feeling that comes with the juggling of homework, swimming, etc. So in honor of Picture Book Month, we’re setting out to revisit as many favorites as possible (ideally, one for every day of November, but we’ll see how that goes). We may not have time for full-fledged reviews, but we’ll at least post what we’re reading; with any luck, we’ll introduce you to something new or remind you to go back and read an old favorite.

Tonight, after a long night of  homework, we took turns reading aloud the first two stories in Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, a gentle, wise book that was the perfect quiet bookend to our day. (LitKid was drooping too much to make it any farther than the first two tonight.)

Stillwater the Panda enlightens his young friends through telling them stories, and I’m betting that most of the grownups who read Zen Shorts with their kids come away more affected by Stillwater’s wisdom than the little ones.

Lately, I’ve kept this one out so I walk by and see it every day;  just seeing the beautiful cover illustration of Stillwater – balancing (of course) on a rooftop, parasol in hand, beneath that beautiful cherry tree in full bloom – tends to conjure up a sense of calm.

And of course, ‘calm’ is the gift you expect from a bear named Stillwater.

~AKid@Heart

Postscript: My fuzzy photograph of Zen Shorts doesn’t do it justice; if you can’t get your hands on a copy right away, be sure to look up professional shots of the book so you can fully appreciate Muth’s illustrations.

LitKid’s librarian has instigated two book club events for fifth-grade girls to pair up with an adult partner to read a book and then come together after school to discuss it. The first selection was Cynthia Lord’s Rules, and I enjoyed that book and discussion very much.

When time came a few weeks ago for us to read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, I had deadline after deadline and time got away from me. Suddenly it was the day of the discussion, and I had barely read one chapter. Not one of my stellar parenting moments.

Then I had a crafty thought – my 83-year-old mother was visiting and recovering from a whirlwind few days (including representing the Class of 1951 in cap and gown at her alma mater’s inauguration of a new president). Could I convince her to spend her rest day reading Walk Two Moons?  Being a saintly sort of mom, she said she would give it her best shot.

By 4:30, she had read all but a few chapters, and accompanied my girl to the discussion. I sat in on it, too, so we had three generations of readers

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there; even though I could offer very little of substance to the discussion, I loved listening.

In the end, I believe my poor planning in the reading-ahead department led to a wonderful gift for my LitKid and her grandmother. What a cool thing for them to sit there together that day and talk about this wonderful story in which grandparents play such an endearing and important role for a young girl, just as my mother has for my daughter through some difficult Big Life events, including early-life medical challenges and divorce.

I will let my LitKid write the true review, telling you about the plot and characters, and I’ll just share the sort of perfect way I came to finish the book.

This past weekend, LitKid and I headed to Asheville for a visit with close friends;  I also attended an excellent SCBWI Master Class on Plot with editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic Press/Arthur A. Levine. I was happy to find that the audiobook version of Walk Two Moons was in the car, as a road trip is the perfect setting for this story. It is among other things, a road trip tale, and beyond that, what could be better than listening to such an engagingly plotted book on the way to and from my class?

I loved the plot setup, the characters, the voices and the sense I had of going back in time to the feeling I had reading my favorite books as a child; I don’t always get that feeling reading contemporary kids’ literature, so when I do, it is special.

I can use that joking phrase “I laughed, I cried …” with complete sincerity when it comes to Walk Two Moons. Driving through the rain, I laughed out loud with my girl, who was sucked back into the story even though she had just read it a few weeks back, and at the end, the tears (of joy and sorrow) came. Without giving away any plot points, I will just say that I walked two moons in Salamanca’s shoes as a young girl, and the book had deep personal meaning for me in addition to being a memorable story well-deserving of its Newbery Medal.

If you have not read it, please put it on your list (no matter how old a kid you happen to be).

~AKid@Heart

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