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We’ve shared our ‘books as holiday art’ in years past (do check out that earlier post, as it has even more cool/funny/beautiful picture books) and wanted to share a handful of photos from this year’s holiday book-o-rating; some stay the same from year to year, but we have a few new ones, including this year’s addition to our holiday collection, Here Come Santa Cat (hilarious; check it out), which looks as if it was made for our funky Christmas cat, a favorite gift from my sister-in-law years ago.

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My childhood favorite, Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree + our off-balance felt Christmas trees seems about right.

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Our snowy wooden trees always go with Eric Carle’s Dream Snow.

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Olivia Helps with Christmas, Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas and Babar and Father Christmas are making the mantel colorful this year (along with the 50 roses my friends surprised me with for a certain milestone birthday).

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Our red-themed, tree-topped cake platter of books has a few variations this year:

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We hope you enjoy our take on making beautiful picture books part of our holiday celebration: Merry holidays, happy new year and jolly reading to you from LitKid and AKid@Heart!

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!

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.

Albert the Bear

By Nick Butterworth

When sad-and-sullen-looking Albert the Bear lands in Mr. Jolly’s ToyShop, the other toys know something is up. Albert wears a frown that needs to be turned upside down. So the other toys spring into action with a jolly good idea to cheer their chum up. By the end … well,  you’ll just have to read the book to learn the tale of the young (once) sad, now cheery bear. Nick Butterworth does a cheery job in telling the tale of young Albert.

~LitKid

p.s. You’re going to see a LOT of familiar faces in Mr. Jolly’s Toy Shop!

LitKid and I never imagined it would be so hard to entice people to enter a giveaway for one of the stellar books of 2011 (Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu)! … Guess we need to raise the profile of our little blog?

Until we manage to do that, if you read this post, please visit our original giveaway post and consider entering: All you have to do is leave a comment honoring your favorite kids’ books published in 2011 with one of our special awards. (And tell your friends to drop by, too!)

In addition to possibly winning a critically acclaimed book, you’ll make a mom and a kid very happy! (I hate for 10-year-old LitKid to be disappointed, especially since she’s designed a very cool medal for the awards that we will unveil soon.)

Thank you ~

AKid@Heart

So the suspense is over (until next year), and we know which books were awarded the Newbery and Caldecott medals and the many other coveted American Library Association 2012 youth media awards.

And we know it’s inevitable that some of your favorites didn’t win.

We had a thought about that — why not bestow your own awards on the 2011 books you loved (or, as we like to say here, the books you got lost in) but missed out on honors yesterday? So we’re inviting you to come up with your own awards for your favorite books released in 2011 and submit them here via a comment.

If you feel inspired, be specific/creative in honoring your favorites … ‘Book So Enthralling I Pulled an All-Nighter to Finish’? ‘Book with a Character I’ll Carry with Me Forever?’ ‘Best Blending of History and Fiction?’

Or maybe ‘Best Read-Aloud Book for Using Funny Accents/Voices’ (back in the day, when LitKid was picture-book-age, I would have awarded this to the Skippy Jon Jones books). Or, to get specific, ‘Favorite Portrayal of Trolls and Troll Enthusiasts’ (The Emerald Atlas came to mind for this one).

Here’s a younger LitKid with her grandma and grandma’s special birthday present: a beautiful copy of ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ a classic that predated kid-literature prizes

LitKid will choose the best award based on its creativity and imagination, and the winner will receive a copy of Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, one of LitKid’s favorite books of 2011. (LitKid received not one but TWO copies of Breadcrumbs for Christmas, and she had the idea to give it away via our blog.)

LitKid is designing a virtual “medal” ~ LitKid’s “Lost in a Book” Medal of Honor ~ and you can send a picture of it to the authors of your honored book(s) or at least post it on Twitter. It won’t be a fancy gold one they can put on their books, but we bet they’ll appreciate it just the same.

We hope you’ll jump in and offer up your book awards; LitKid will be thrilled if you do…

~AKid@Heart

Rules: 

  • Enter via posting your awards in a comment on this post. Feel free to bestow awards on multiple books in your comment, but only one award will be singled out as the winner and only one prize will be bestowed.  
  • Contest runs through midnight EST on May 31. [We keep extending the deadline in hopes of getting more entries!]
  • LitKid, our 10-year-old judge, will choose the winning entry based on the creativity and imagination shown in thinking through/creating each award.
  • Open only to U.S. residents.
  • The grand prize – one copy of Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – will be sent to one winner via the US Postal Service within one month of the prize announcement. (We wish we could give away MANY prizes, but unfortunately, we’re broke as a result of our book shopping habits. We bet you know what that’s like.)
  • Winner must provide mailing information via email by June 8 (otherwise, we may forget to mail it!). If the mailing info is not received by end of day on June 8, the winner will  forfeit the prize and another winner will be chosen. 

I noticed that Sandra Boynton is now ‘Twittering,’ and seeing her (funny – of course) Tweets made me think about the staying power of certain books from my daughter’s long-ago toddlerhood.

‘LitKid,’ my blogging partner here, is now 10, and sadly, we don’t skip down memory lane and read our old standbys from those days nearly often enough. When we do pull a few off the shelf every once in a while, it always makes us silly and a little sad and nostalgic for those old read-aloud days.

Sandra Boynton’s Snoozers, a board book “anthology” (and why not use that lofty term for such quality stories, even if they just span two pages?) was my ‘LitKid’s’ very first book gift – an excellent baby shower gift from my friend Stephanie while LitKid was still a work in progress.

It also proved to be … well, if not prophetic then certainly appropriate. In her early weeks, LitKid was not fond of sleeping during the day – apparently that “all they do is sleep and eat in the early days” myth I heard from all quarters was another bit of propaganda designed to sugarcoat first-time motherhood for the uninitiated. (Thank God for Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions.)

I remember so well rocking my girl and reading Snoozers to her over and over, illogically hoping all the talk of sleep would seep subliminally into the alert little brain in that gargantuan head of hers. While I can’t say it worked, I can say that that little book and its humor kept me a little more sane than I would have been otherwise, and it will always be a sentimental favorite.

Our dog-eared, high-mileage Sandra Boynton collection

Then we moved on to Pajama Time, Moo Baa La, Hey! Wake Up, and The Going to Bed Book, among others, and this is when the poetry of Sandra Boynton and a few other ‘little kid lit’ geniuses took hold in my brain. At 47, I sometimes find myself foggy on what I walked downstairs to get in the 2 minutes it takes me to get downstairs, but I can still walk into my girl’s room in the morning and rouse her with the words of Hey! Wake Up!

Hey, big guys 

Open your eyes

What you do say?

It’s a brand-new day!

Yawn, stretch, touch your toes … shimmy, shimmy, shimmy (and of course, one must shimmy 3 times at this point) … wiggle your nose (yep, you have to wiggle your nose, too)

And it goes on from there … I could type out the rest from memory, too, but you should really go and buy your own copy.

All in all, it’s an excellent way to be greeted in the morning.

As for nighttime, I remember fondly the Pajama Time ‘lyrics’ and my choreography.

Pajammy to the left  (accompanied by square dance-ish side-stepping to the left)

Pajammy to the right (ditto, to the right)

Jama, jama, jama … P J! (free-form, wild-and-woolly throwing down at this cue)

Everybody’s wearing them for dancing tonight! 

Jamma, jamma, jamma … P! J! (and more throwing down before collapsing)

Oh, yes, Sandra Boynton, you brought much joy and silliness into our mornings and our evenings, and I will never forget that, either.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another rollicking favorite that I can also call up from that long-ago set of memories: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. I admit that I had to revisit this book for a minute or two to jog my memory, but once I had a glance, it all flooded back … the inflections I used at certain junctures, the goofy expressions and histrionics we tried to match to the words.

A told B, and B told C, “I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.”

“Whee!” said D to E F G, “I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut tree.”

Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room?

Here comes H up the coconut tree

and I and J and tag-along K, all on their way up the coconut tree

Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room?

Look who’s coming! L M N O P! (read VERY fast)

And Q R S! And T U V! Still more – W! And X Y Z!

The whole alphabet up the – Oh no! Chicka chicka … BOOM! BOOM!

Skit skat skoodle doot. Flip flop flee. Everybody running to the coconut tree.

That’s not all the fun, but again, you would do well to buy or check out a copy so you can revel in the rest of this unforgettable romp.

With any luck, the author/illustrators who etch themselves into the memories of both parents and kids this way realize the power and reach of their wit and whimsy.

With deep appreciation~

AKid@Heart (the mom half of the ‘Lost in a Book’ duo)

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