Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Gif': An Anthology of Christmas Poems, Songs, and Stories

I try not to link to Amazon too often just because I like to support small business owners and local bookstores. But I like to read the reviews and every time I Google a book you know who comes right up. Now they have list mania where folks can keep lists of their interests. Today I found a page called “So you like to… Dream of a Black Christmas!” It is a list of music and books about African American celebrations of Christmas and has some wonderful selections. The book I am reading today is on the list – Christmas Gif’; An Anthology of Christmas Poems, Songs, and Stroies Written by and About African Americans compiled by Charlemae Hill Rollins and illustrated by Ashley Bryan. We have this book in our library and I love dipping into it for a short story or poem. Ms Rollins was a librarian in Chicago for many years and she was disappointed that there were so few written resources to pass on the African American Christmas traditions she knew as a child. She wanted to share literature of the black experience with children and so she compiled this anthology. Read more about her legacy here.

My favorite short story here is How Come Christmas by Roark Bradford. It tells the story of the baby Jesus’ birth in a southern black dialect. I haven’t tried reading it aloud to children but I wish I could. It’s not that I can’t imagine how it would sound but that I just feel kinda silly putting on that dialect when I don’t look the part. Do any other white teachers or librarians read in dialect? How does that work for you?

The story is really funny. Sandy Claus and Miz Sandy Claus are sitting around talking about Miss Mary’s Poor Little Jesus baby and wishing they could go visit. They don’t have a good enough present to bring so Miz Claus thinks they shouldn’t go. Sandy insists on going out and brings the Poor Little Jesus a big red apple. “And de Poor Little Jesus reached up and grabbed dat apple in bofe hands, and laughed jest as brash as you please!” Sandy Claus tickles him under the chin and gets him laughing some more. The Lawd is so impressed with Sandy’s way with children that he gives him the job of bringing them joy and keeping them happy. It makes a nice bridge from the Santa story to the Jesus birth story. I am going to work on my reader’s theater voice and get up my courage and read it out loud one of these days. Maybe I can get a coach to work with me.

Not all the stories are in dialect. Some are in very old fashioned proper English. I also like several of the spirituals included, especially What You Gonna Name That Pretty Little Baby? and Rise Up Shepherd and Follow. In addition, there is a section of recipes in the back that look really good. This book is on my Christmas wish list.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

No comments: