Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 in Review

winter path

Favorite books read in 2007 and reviewed here:

January - Thunder Rose "Rose is a hero that transforms her world through kindness, boldness, determined attention, thoughtfulness and song. She receives love, treasures it, opens her heart and releases her power. We need more heroes like Thunder Rose. "

February - Gung Hey Fat Choy "I have some books to suggest that go a bit beyond celebrating Chinese New Year if you are interested in exploring a little…"

March - The Higher Power of Lucky "Who knew that an honest conversation on a list serv with a specialized membership would be taken so far? "

April - A Drowned Maiden's Hair "She measures each interaction, testing the thickness of the ice and calculating just how far it is safe to risk involvement of her heart."

May - Uncle Remus "I believe a whole new window has opened for me on the folklore of America. I am so delighted to have the summer ahead of me that includes a front porch, lazy afternoons when the baby will be sleeping while the preschooler is in the mood to hear stories, and a bookstore gift certificate that will start me on my plan to acquire a stack of Lester’s Uncle Remus books. All we need is some lemonade and a porch swing…"

June - Honeysuckle House "In school the teacher introduces a new girl named Tina, who has just arrived from China. Tina has studied English but has little experience communicating with native speakers. Sarah is Chinese-American but can't speak Chinese. She feels completely American and can't understand why the teacher wants to pair her up with Tina. Both girls hate how teachers frequently call them by the other's name, as if they can't tell them apart."

July - Gregor and the Marks of Secret "I think you could have some very stimulating discussions with kids about how they deal with aggression, rivalry and vengeance in their own lives and what they think Gregor and Luxa should do."

August - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows "What would we conclude about Rowling's ideas of motherhood, orphans and mother love?"

September - Awakening the Heart "Heard tells a story of when she was teaching a poetry class to a group of third graders one day. "

October - The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County "This book is a wonder. Ms. Jackson is a poet, a librarian and a storyteller, and she shines in crafting the music of this story. The word choice is exquisite and the timing is perfect."

November - Haiku Books for Children - a list of some of my favorites.

December - Three Cups of Tea "I had the opportunity to hear Greg Mortenson speak recently and he was phenomenal. His story is so inspiring I almost don't know where to begin. "

My Favorite Haiku of the Year:






July ( this one just brought tears to my eyes on the cold December morning)








2007 was the year my oldest son finished his freshman year of college, my middle son started kindergarten and my youngest son turned 2.

It's the year I learned to knit in cables, bake good gluten free bread and write better book reviews.

It's the year I got a porch swing.

It's the year I took photos every day and published them on my 365 Photo blog.

What did you do, learn and experience this year? Do you have a review of the year post up? Leave me a comment so I can come and see what you've selected as your favorite posts in 2007.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pay It Forward January 2008

First let me apologize for not announcing the winner of my December drawing. It is one of the things that got lost in the holiday madness over here. I was offering my copy of Isabel Allende's The Stories of Eve Luna. This morning I pulled a name from my Kikombe cha umoja and guess what? Karen won!! Congratulations Karen! Send me your snail mail and I'll drop the book in the mail to you.

I am going to get a jump on January by offering my new Pay It Forward contest right now. I have a three book paperback set of L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island up for grabs. It's still in shrink wrap and never been read. I was going to give it to my niece for Christmas but then I remembered my sisters loves these books and already has several copies.

I got the idea for this from Overwhelmed with Joy. I plan to give away a book to one of my readers in the first week of every month until I run out of books. Here's how it is played:

1) Once a month I'll pick a book to give away to one lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). It may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used, or it may be a book that someone has shared with me that I really like. It’ll probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.

2) All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave me a comment on this post. I'll draw names out of a hat on Saturday, January 5!!

3) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway and you have your own blog I ask that you, in turn, host a drawing to give a book away for free to one of your readers. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating a book to your local library or shelter after you're done with it.

4) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay It Forward” giveaway at any time, feel free to grab the button below to use on your own blog. Just let Overwhelmed know so she can publish a post plugging your giveaway and directing readers your way!The Pay It Forward Book Exchange is designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!

So just leave me a comment if you'd like to be part of this month's drawing. Remember, you have until next Saturday, January 5!! And stop by Overwhelmed to see what other books are being given away this month.

Friday, December 28, 2007


by Audre Lorde

Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.

"Audre Lorde (1934 - 1992) The impassioned poetry of the African-American AUDRE LORDE (1934-1992) grew out of her keen sense of injustice—racial as well as gender—and a strong desire to break through silence and politeness to unafraid illumination. Born in New York City to West Indian parents, she turned in her later work to African sources, emphasizing its oral roots and finding a model in the matriarchies of that continent for her emergent lesbian and communal consciousness. "

The Friday Poetry round up is over at Check It Out today.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kwanzaa stories


I've brought a stack of books home from the library for our Kwanzza reading. I'm putting together a suggested reading list for young children; mostly folktales from various African countries and American titles. These aren't stories about Kwanzaa. I haven't found any really good fable or folk tales that center on the particular holiday the way Hannukkah has a rich folklore and Christmas has a canon of literature. These are stories, folktales and fables that I feel reflect or illustrate the seven principles.

Kwanzaa is a non-religious African American holiday celebrating family, culture and character. Many of the terms we use come from Swahili, a common language used across the continent of Africa. The seven days between Christmas and New Year's each focus on one of the Nguza Saba (seven principles): Umoja (unity), Kujichaguliaa (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). Here's what we will be enjoying this week:

Starting with a few folktale collections to spread out over the week:

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales
Herstories by told Virginia Hamilton
The People Could Fly told by Virgina Hamilton

Then, for each day of the week:

Umoja (unity):
Head, Body, Legs by Won-Ldy Paye
Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan
The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming

Kujichagulia (self-determination):
Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye
The Six Fools by Zora Neal Hurston, adapted by Joyce Carol Thomas
The Black Snowman by Phil Mendez

Ujima (collective work and responsibility):
Working Cotton by Sherley Anne Williams
Sugar Cane by Patricia Storace
The Magic Gourd by Bab Wague Diakite
Bringing the Rain to Kapipi Plain by Verna Aardema

Ujamaa (cooperative economics):
Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B. Williams
Wings by Christopher Myers
John Lewis in the Lead by Jim Haskins (for older elementary students)

Nia (purpose):
Just the Two of Us by Will Smith
Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen
Harriet and the Promised Land by Jacob Lawrence

Kuumba (creativity):
Hey You! C'mere: a poetry slam by Elizabeth Swados
Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea by Joyce Carol Thomas
Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Tom Feelings

Imani (faith):
The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring by Lucile Clifton
A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Home Place by Crescent Dragonwagon, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This is a working list; not a hard and fast syllabus. I hope you will join in with your suggestions and experiences. Do you have a book or story to add? If you celebrate Kwanzaa please leave me a comment or link to your writing about it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Haiku

punkin climbing bridge

In a brown landscape -
(cold trickles over grey rocks)
a child in red mittens.

december 022

Today's Bible reading:

In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.
-John 1.1-18 (GNT)

God Bless you today and every day. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Solstice haiku

sunset with trees

Turning toward the light;
the red tailed hawk leaves the oak
in a flurry of wings.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sock Knitting Woman

puddle ice

Although there is no snow
our rutted puddles are twice frozen.

Walking into the face of wind,
I am longing for evening.

I imagine the quiet woods
cuddled up along the lake.

Far out from the village,
in the silence of a solitary farmhouse

one woman knits socks furiously
for six pairs of familiar feet.

....................-Andromeda Jazmon

Miss Rumphius inspired this poem from me today, with her Monday Poetry Stretch. She suggested the end words for the lines above, which were taken from a well-loved Robert Frost poem. I've tried to echo the feelings I get in reading Frost's poem as a knitting woman.

The Friday Poetry round up today is being hosted by Gina at AmoXicalli.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 19 Haiku

shed with window

this shed stands
among bare-limbed trees;
windows open

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Software Review: Jumpstart World 1st Grade

I've been meaning to write this review for a couple of weeks, but every time I open the software to study it I get engrossed in playing the game and before I know it the time is up. I guess that says a lot! It is an enchanting and stimulating world where it's easy to lose track of time.

We have a couple of other Jump Start titles at home so I was eager to try this one out. This version is far more involved and complicated than the other ones we have so it took a bit more to get it installed. I gave Buddy, my five year old, the Jump Start Kindergarten game for his last birthday and he likes it a lot.

Jump Start World is a bit different. It requires more oomph from your computer, for one thing. I started out eager to get the box open but I was quickly frustrated and ground to a halt. I couldn't successfully install it on our old home PC because our graphics card is too old and weak. I also had trouble installing because Jump Start World is a subscription game and you must have an active Internet connection to install. My kid's computer at home is not hooked up. My Internet capable machine at home is a Mac, and this software is only for Windows machines. I sent off a few email to support with questions about this, and was pleased that I got prompt and helpful replies. It didn't solve my problems, however, so I had to wait till I could install it on my work machine.

That means no child actually played the game for this review. The implications of that are that I may have had a lot of fun and been rewarded for successful play as an adult in games that might in fact frustrate a six year old. If you are a grown up it is easy to move quickly ahead in these games, since they are based on first grade math and language arts skills. If you are an actual first grader the experience is completely different. Just something to keep in mind.

Most older kid's games are somewhat two dimensional. You play a game of matching or counting or decoding and get rewarded with points or printable prizes. This game is more of an interactive environment. You have a avatar character that walks around Jump Start World and enters arcades to play the games. You use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move around the sidewalks, so that is a skill you have to master at first. The games themselves are fun; matching coins, selecting bugs by their shape attributes, finding letters and sounds to match pictures and counting. With successful play you collect gems which go into your bank.

There are several sections of the game that are "locked" to you when you first start to play. I found this frustrating. You have to earn a certain amount of gems in math games before the arts and crafts area is open, for example. You have to follow the prompts and play the games as they are laid out for you. There is no free explore. I hate that. I want to learn new software by mucking around and experimenting. I don't want to have to check tasks off a "to do" list in order to earn my way into the coloring section. It's quite a bit too restrictive for my way of learning, but maybe that's just me.

The other thing I was disappointed by is that you have to complete all the sections in the first two "Adventure Packs" and then your parents have to purchase the next "Adventure Packs" through download subscriptions in order to keep playing. I don't want to have to keep paying every month for new games. I want a really fun, challenging, creative, stimulating game that has room for alternative solutions and is open-ended but doesn't require my email address or Online registration. There are games like that out there and I am always looking for more. If you have any suggestions for this please let me know!

But bottom line: if your kid wants to play computer games and you want them learning math and language arts skills this is a pretty good game for that. It's engaging, fun, challenging and well put together. You need:
  • Pentium III 1 GHz or faster PC
  • 3D video card with 32 MB dedicated memory w/DirectX 9.0c-compatible driver
  • 256 MC dedicated RAM (512 recommended) 1 GB RAM for Windows Vista
  • 24x CD=ROM drive, 1.4 GD available on hard drive, 16-bit color
  • DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
  • Broadband Internet connection

Monday, December 17, 2007

Looking for Kwanzaa stories

I am looking ahead to celebrating Kwanzaa the week after Christmas with my boys. We have several books about the holiday which explain the symbols and terminology. I enjoy reading them. But it is striking me this year that I don't have any story books. There is no mythology, no poetry for children, no anecdotes, no central cast of characters. Where are the images that hold our hearts; the fantasy, the magic, the folklore, the tales of struggle, kindness, grace, strength and compassion that give depth to the ritual? Do any of you know of a Kwanzaa book that tells a story?

Review: Three Cups of Tea

One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Penguin, 2006. This is a true story. I had the opportunity to hear Greg Mortenson speak recently and he was phenomenal. His story is so inspiring I almost don't know where to begin. He is a mountain climber and in the early nineties he was attempting to climb the Pakistan area Karakorum Mountain's highest peak known as K2. He failed miserably with his team and stumbled down the mountain in desperate condition. He wandered away from his tour guide and ended up lost, alone, hungry and cold on the glacier. He somehow survived the night and continued to flounder down the mountain until he landed in a little village. He was taken in by the kind and generous people there and nursed back to health. He stayed with them for a few weeks and was surprised one day to find a group of children gathered for school in a small group out in the open air. They were writing their lessons in the dirt with no teacher. Their teacher came to visit once a week from a neighboring village. Their parents didn't have the resources to pay a teacher's salary, build them a school or buy supplies. Greg was so moved by their eagerness to learn and their desperate situation he promised to go home and find a way to help them build a school.

He returned to the United States and spent the next couple years struggling to raise funds. He lived out of his car for a while to save money. He worked as an emergency room nurse, the career he was trained for, and saved all his money for the school. He wrote hundreds of letters to well known, influential people hoping for donations. He had managed to raise only a few hundred dollars when a group of school children heard about his mission and decided to collect pennies for him. They raised $600 in pennies. Once word of that got out more money started to come in and eventually the school was built.

From there things continued to grow and expand. In a few years Greg had a non-profit that was building schools all over Pakistan's northeast region. Several years later they expanded into Afghanistan. To date they have built 55 schools in that area. Greg's driving belief that the way to promote peace is through education, especially the education of girls and women, is what fuels his passion and makes his mission so powerful.

I was stunned to hear him speak about his failure and his compassion for the people who saved his life in the midst of their own poverty. Again and again he joked about his own failures and short comings, but continued to push forward to make a difference in other's lives. He is not a superstar with amazing abilities, wealth, and fabulous talents. He is just a man who is determined to make a difference in the world. His humility and passion are a remarkable combination. I can think of no more exciting project to get involved with these days than to work for peace by building schools.

The book Three Cups of Tea was co-written with David Oliver Relin, a journalist that heard Greg's story while reporting on his school building projects. He was so amazed by Greg's work he dedicated two years of his life to collaborating on the book. He says in the introduction:
"Rather than simply reporting on his progress, I want to see Greg Mortenson succeed. I wish him success because he is fighting the war on terror the way I think it should be conducted. Slamming over the so-called Karakorum "Highway" in his old Land Cruiser, taking great personal risks to see the region that gave birth to the Taliban with schools, Mortenson goes to war with the root causes of terror every time he offers a student a chance to receive a balanced education, rather than attend an extremist madrassas."

The book is quick reading. The opening chapters are about mountain climbing, which is a bit confusing to those of us that don't know that sport or the region of the world. Maps are included in the beginning of the book and I found it helpful to look the whole thing up in Online encyclopedias for background. The story tends to jump around a bit and in some sections I was confused about the chronological sequence of events. The clear descriptions of the personalities, the cultural differences and the struggles involved make it exciting reading. The middle section of the book is about Greg's early fund-raising efforts as he works to fulfill his first promise to the village he connected with in Pakistan. It is fascinating to me to see how he flounders and muddles his way through new territory, often uncertain of what to do but determined to learn and make it happen. Once the school starts to get built the story picks up with heartfelt and touching stories of the people he befriends and their lives in Pakistan.

If you have traveled or lived overseas or imagine yourself enjoying this type of adventure this book will be right up your ally. If you are passionate about education, literacy and working for peace this book will inspire and encourage you. If you have a teacher on your gift list get them this book. I am encouraging my son to read it too because it is so inspiring to see how a person's individual defeat and failure can be turned around to change the world through service and commitment to others.You can read a boatload of other book reviews at the web site for Three Cups of Tea.

I am giving donations to the Central Asia Institute to contribute to building more schools in the name of family members as part of their Christmas gifts this year. I encourage you to find a way to support this work as well. Again from the introduction by David Oliver Relin:

"I found in Pakistan, Mortenson's Central Asia Institute does, irrefutably, have the results. In a part of the world where Americans are, at best, misunderstood, and more often feared and loathed, this soft-spoken, six-foot-four former mountaineer from Montana has put together a string of improbable successes. Though he would never say so himself, he has single-handedly changed the lives of tens of thousands of children, and independently won more hearts and minds than all the official American propaganda flooding the region."

If you ever have a chance to hear Greg speak - GO! He signed the front of my copy of the book "Cloudscome - Listen to the wind!" That refers to an anecdote he relates in the book about his good friend Haji Ali, the leader of Korphe, the village where Greg first found friendship and promised to help build a school. They are standing at the grave site of Haji's wife who recently passed away. He puts his arm around Mortenson's shoulder and through his tears Haji Ali says,
"One day soon, you're going to come here looking for me and find me planted in the ground, too." He wrapped the tutor who'd already taught him so much in an embrace and asked for one lesson more.
"What should I do, a long time from now, when that day comes?" he asked.
Haji Ali looked up toward the summit of Korphe K2, weighing his words. "Listen to the wind," he said."

When Haji Ali did indeed die, Mortenson stood at his grave with the headman's son Twaha. He remembers that advice and listens to the wind

"whistling down the Braldu Gorge, carrying rumors of snow and the season's death. But in the breeze whipping across this fragile shelf where humans survived, somehow, in the high Himalaya, he also heard the musical trill of children's voices, at play in the courtyard of Korphe's school. Here was his last lesson, Mortenson realized, stabbing at the hot tears with his fingertips. "Think of them," he thought, "Think always of them."

When we heard him speak we also picked up a magazine put out by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle filled with articles written about the progress made after the book was published. You can read the articles online linked through Mortenson's blog here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December 16 Haiku

bus in fog

lights in the fog;
the school bus comes round the bend
slow and steady

Friday, December 14, 2007

little tree

icy branches

by: e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,

We have a picture book with this poem in our library. It's illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray and it is just lovely. I think this is one of the sweetest of cumming's poems.

The poetry roundup is over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent Fib

Trisha's poetry stretch this week is on the theme of seasonal poetry. She has a Fib up so I thought I would follow suit. I don't know about you but it seems to me this is the dreariest December I can ever remember. Day after day of cold gray rain falling on brown fields with no relief. The color is washed out of the world except for the holiday decorations gracing the night.

In our house we have an Advent wreath in the middle of the table that we put together at Sunday School at our church at the end of November. It is a wreath of greens with four candles stuck in the florist's foam. Each Sunday in the four weeks leading up to Christmas we light one more candle as we wait for the coming Savior. The anticipation builds as we add one more light week by week and read from the Bible words of promise. So many holidays in December celebrate in this way; gradually building light one flame at a time.... is it any wonder when we are so starved for a blaze of hope?

advent candles


A gray world
rises up in brown.
Light another candle sister;
gather round the table and hold hands singing Glory!

Go over to Miss Rumphius to read what poems others have written for the season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Favorite Christmas Books

After yesterday's post on gift books I am remembering some of my other favorite Christmas books. I plan to read these to kindergarten through second graders in the library in the coming week:

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say. Houghton Mifflin Co.,1991. I think this is my favorite Say book. He tells us of a time when he was living in Japan as a boy. He disobeyed his mother by playing in the neighbor's goldfish pond and fell into the water. Since it was winter he caught cold and was sick in bed eating only rice gruel for a few days. He woke from a fevered sleep to find his mother decorating a small pine tree that she dug up from the garden. He knows nothing of Christmas but learns of the tree decorating tradition from his mother, who was born in California.
"Today is a very special day in that warm place. If you happened to be there now, you would see trees like this everywhere, all decorated with winking lights and small globes of silver and gold... And under each tree there are boxes of presents people give to friends and loved ones."
"I want a samurai kite!" I said.
"You give and receive, child. It is a day of love and peace. Strangers smile at one another. Enemies stop fighting. We need more days like it."
She covers the little tree with candles and they sit admiring the flickering lights. The gifts they exchange are tender and sweet. The mood of this book is just delightful. The illustrations are lovely with Allen Say's perfect use of light and color. This is a treasure of a book.

How Many Miles to Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Peter Malone.Arthur A Levine Books, 2004. Here is the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem told poetically in the voices of each of the participants. The Innkeeper complains of space and food concerns but share a light to take to the stable. The ox and donkey offer their warmth and a share of hay. The shepherds and the star speak of angels and hope in the darkness. The wise men seek the king-child. Herod plans destruction. Mary plans to wrap her little lamb in swaddling bands. Jesus says,
"I am the Child and King. Lord of locusts and wild honey, and the lemon groves. I am the Shepherd and the Lamb. I am the Light of Light. The baby who will cradle the world. In your heart, hold me. I will never leave you."
Malone's art glows with joy and vibrant life. The characters come in all skin tones, representing a wide variety of ethnicities. Mary is brown-skinned, with crimped hair and lovely wide eyes. The paintings are done in a Renaissance style. My librarian co-worker remarked that the artwork reminds her a lot of Tomie DePaola's Strega Nona. There are similar layouts and style features when you compare the two. My favorite picture is at the end of the book where the angels are flying in a circular swirl of bright colors. If you are looking for the true story of Christmas here is your book.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gift Books

In the December Carnival of Children's Literature, Kelly (Big A little a) is asking for our suggestions for favorite gift books. Here are mine:

One Winter's Night by John Herman, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Philomel books, 2003. Martha is a cow about to give birth to her first calf. She is out alone at night in the deep cold snow, searching for a safe warm place. The full color illustrations on the right side of the page show her as she wanders through an abandoned farmstead, while on the left side of the page above the text we see a monotone drawing of a man and woman traveling on donkey, looking for shelter as well. By following a star they all met in a shed and find comfort and assistance together. This is a refreshing and astonishing retelling of the nativity story. The Holy Family is brown-skinned and Mary is described as a young woman with dark hair, large dark eyes and simple dress. "But even in the hay she was radiant," Martha observes. Joseph's kindness and confidence guides both mothers and their newborn infants. This book makes a wonderful gift for the whole family.

For older readers from teens through adult I suggest giving collections of short stories such as Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present edited by Gloria Naylor. Publishers Weekly says, "the 37 stories unabashedly depict the great diversity of black life. Compiled by Naylor (The Women of Brewster Place), the anthology includes such familiar names as Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Charles Johnson, Ralph Ellison, Jamaica Kincaid and Ntozake Shange, and such relative newcomers as Edwige Danticat." Another good classic one is Black American Short Stories (American Century Series) edited by John Hendrik Clarke. Thirty one stories by authors such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Frank Yerby, James Baldwin, Paule Marshall, and LeRoi Jones (Imamu Amiri Baraka), Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Eugenia Collier, Jennifer Jordan, James Allan McPherson, Rosemarie Robotham, and Alice Walker. There is something delightful about an anthology of really good stories that invites you to dip in for the quiet moments you are curled in warm lamplight. The implications of the story may stay with you when you rise and go on about your business. At the same time the weight isn't too much to make you avoid the call back for more the next minute you get the chance. Perfect winter reading!

For the girls and boys in my family I am giving copies of the Dangerous Book for Boys and the Daring Book for Girls. I am not limiting it to one gender or the other; I suggest getting both in any household of children. Here's a chance to build a tree swing, learn to tie knots and study history or carve a whistle. I see no reason we all can't enjoy learning and doing the activities in both books. If you have a child who questions why you got the other one, you can just say you were curious and wanted to see what was in it. Who can argue with that? These books are fun for everyone.

If you have a favorite gift book leave me a comment or post your own list and join the carnival!

Here is Part II Gift Books.

December 11 Haiku

oak leaves

cold rain
pulls the afternoon to dusk;
brown oak leaves wave

Monday, December 10, 2007

Basket of Books

I just saw via Jen Robinson that Anne-Marie over at a Readable Feast is having a contest too. She is giving away a basketful of books from Little, Brown, and Co. All you have to do is spread the word about her contest and she'll enter you in the drawing. Titles include: We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr (ages 3-6), Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell (ages 3-6) and seven others. What a wonderful gift this basket would make for the little ones in your life!

December Pay It Forward: Isabel Allende

I have had this paperback copy of The Stories of Eva Luna for years. I really love everything Allende has written and this is a really good collection. She has given us twenty three short stories whispered in the ear of Eva Luna's lover Rolf Carle. In the long night he asked her for a story "you have never told anyone before" and these haunting, captivating tales rolled out. If you have never read Allende before you could start here and never be finished with her. I'll give you a taste of her extravagant writing from the first paragraphs of "Interminable Life":
"There are all kinds of stories. Some are born with the telling; their substance is language, and before someone puts them into words they are but a hint of an emotion, a caprice of mind, an image, or an intangible recollection. Others are manifest whole, like an apple, and can be repeated infinitely without risk of altering their meaning. Some are taken from reality and processed through inspiration, while others rise up from an instant of inspiration and become real after being told. And then there are secret stories that remain hidden in the shadows of the mind; they are like living organisms, they grow roots and tentacles, they become covered with excrescences and parasites, and with time are transformed into the matter of nightmares. To exorcise the demons of memory, ti is sometimes necessary to tell them as a story."

I am offering my copy of this book in my December Pay It Forward book exchange.

Here's a summary of the exchange: I got the idea for this from Overwhelmed with Joy. I plan to give away a book to one of my readers in the first week of every month until I run out of books. Here's how it is played:

1) Once a month I'll pick a book to give away to one lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). It may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used, or it may be a book that someone has shared with me that I really like. It’ll probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.

2) All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave me a comment on this post. I'll draw names out of a hat on Monday, December 17.

3) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway and you have your own blog I ask that you,in turn, host a drawing to give that book away for free to one of your readers, after you’ve had a chance to read it (let’s say, within a month after you’ve received the book). If you mail the book out using the media/book rate that the post office offers it’s pretty inexpensive. If you're a non-blogger who has won the book, please consider donating the book to your local library or shelter after you're done with it.

4) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay It Forward” giveaway at any time, feel free to grab the button below to use on your own blog. Just let Overwhelmed know so she can publish a post plugging your giveaway and directing readers your way!

The Pay It Forward Book Exchange is designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!

So just leave me a comment if you'd like to be part of this month's drawing. Remember, you have until next Monday, December 17!! And stop by Overwhelmed to see what other books are being given away this month.

Note: Last month I offered a copy of The Splendor of Silence. My randomly drawn winner was Jill, but I don't have any contact information for her. Jill if you are reading this, send me your address! I am holding the book for you. cloudscomeATyahooDOTcom

Friday, December 07, 2007

Emily Dickinson

four oclock

Blazing in gold and quenching in purple,
Leaping like leopards to the sky,
Then at the feet of the old horizon
Laying her spotted face, to die;
Stooping as low as the kitchen window,
Touching the roof and tinting the barn,
Kissing her bonnet to the meadow, -
And the juggler of day is gone!
.....-Emily Dickinson

In December I am making my 45 minute commute toward work into the sunrise and home toward the sunset. Coming and going I marvel at the sky. Emily Dickinson has some beautiful poems that perfectly fit my mood and this is one of them.

The Friday Poetry round up is at Becky's Book Reviews this week. Go have a look!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Seven Things Crossed off my ToDo List

I've been tagged for the seven random things meme by Scope Notes. Here are the rules:
1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I'll give you seven random things I've done in the past five days while my computer was acting wonky:
  1. Took the car in for an oil change. Got that funny rattle noise checked out.
  2. Got the form from the dentist filled in and returned to Buddy's school. Why do they keep bugging me about these silly forms? I told them we went to the dentist!
  3. Played in the snow. One inch of snow is more than enough for two little kids and their mom to get silly over.
  4. Made gluten free chocolate chip cookies and applesauce.
  5. Knit two hats, a pair of socks and a pair of mittens in children's sizes.
  6. Cleaned up the attic and got rid of a bunch of empty boxes.
  7. Let my boys play in the huge iMac box from my four year old computer. What was I saving that box for anyway? Two little boys can completely hide in it and fill the house with giggles.

So there you have it. When I'm not working, sleeping, blogging or writing haiku that's what I'm doing. I'm tagging these seven blogs: Stories From the Red Tent, The Open Window, Two Straight Lines, Soule Mama, Sonja's Says, A Little Piece of Me, and Photos from the Mind's Eye.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Contentment Haiku


Children sleep, cat's curled,
cold wind howls outside the house;
my heater kicks on.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hanukkah Books

My Jewish friends tell me that Hanukkah is not one of the most important Jewish festivals. It's a minor holiday compared with Rosh Hashanna or Yom Kippor. According to Eric Kimmel, in his introduction to the anthology A Hanukkah Treasury:
"There is no special synagogue service for Hanukkah. The holiday is largely celebrated at home. And although Hanukkah certainly is a religious holiday, it is traditionally observed by playing children's games. Hanukkah is the only significant Jewish holiday not mentioned in the Bible. The original Hebrew texts related to Hanukkah have been lost. Nearly everything known about the Maccabees and their struggle against the Greek king Antiochus comes from a collection of writings called the Apocrypha and the works of a later Jewish historian named Flavius Josephus. The essence of Hanukkah is simple. It celebrates events that occurred more than two thousand years ago, when a tiny band of heroes, armed with little more than their faith in God, defeated a mighty empire and proved to the world that miracles truly happen to those with the courage to believe in them."

Perhaps because so many of us are celebrating a loud, raucous, overpowering Christmas it seems right to make a big splash with Hanukkah as well. Or perhaps we just like the lights and the story of miracles... in any case most schools try to balance the Christmas stories and decorations with equal measure of Hanukkah gelt.

In our library I like to include several anthologies of Jewish celebrations covering the whole calendar year in a wide variety of traditions. Several of ours were donated by families and they have made pleasant additions to our collection. Here are a few of my favorites:

A Hanukkah Treasury Edited by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Emily Lisker. Henry Hold and Co., 1998. It includes songs, poems, the story of the Maccabees told by Kimmel and selections from 1 Maccabees, stories about a Minorah in nineteenth century Easter Europe told by Howard Schwartz, stories about the blessings of potatoes, the story of how a Menorah came to be in the White House, how to make a menorah and a dreidel, and recipes for applesauce, latkas, donuts, cookies and gelt. My favorite story in this book, which I will read to the kindergarten and first grades, is Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown. It starts out like this: "In Alaska, in the winter, you have to watch out for moose." It ends, of course with a miracle and latkas.

Here's a haiku that is also included in the book:

Hanukkah Haiku
by Erica Silverman

Gray days, long dark nights;
but from our Hanukkah lamp-
light light light light light

The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays by Malka Drucker, illustrated by Nancy Patz. Little, Brown and Co. 1994. This volume starts with "Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: Sweet Beginnings" and ends with "Shabbat: a Peaceful Island". Each section tells the historical story, the religious significance and the way the festival is kept. There are stories, poems, songs, crafts and recipes. The Hanukkah section includes the story Zlateh the Goat by Isaac Bashevis singer. Singer's story is set in a village of the old country and tells of a poor family selling their beloved goat to buy "Hanukkah candles, potatoes and oil for pancakes, gifts for the children, and other holiday necessities for the house." Aaron, the twelve year old son, is given the task of taking Zlateh to the butcher. When a terrible snowstorm strikes they are lost together in the blizzard for three days and Zlateh become a hero. Singer is a master storyteller and this one is not to miss. In the back of this anthology is a glossary, list of books for further reading and an index.

Jewish Holiday Crafts for Little Hands by Ruth Esrig Brinn, with Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn. Kar-Ben Copies, inc., 1993. The author's introduction states it is "designed to help young children relate to, and feel part of each Jewish holiday or festival. Materials used are mostly notions and scrap items found around the house. Crystal, china, and construction paper do indeed complement each other!"For Hanukkah, as well as the menorah and dreidel projects there are a couple of gifts to make such as puppets, coupons with promises on them, a bookmark, games, wrapping paper and thank you cards. The directions are simple and clear and the illustrations very helpful. I think children would have a lot of fun working with this book and not need a tremendous lot of help from grown ups.

Jewish Holidays All Year Round; A Family Treasury written by Ilene Cooper, illustrations by Elivia Savadier. In association with The Jewish Museum, New York. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002. From the Forward:
"Welcome. Open this book and you open a door to The Jewish Museum, where we have hundreds of objects that people have used throughout the ages to celebrate Jewish holidays. In this museum art and artifacts are kept safe so that people can learn about the past and how Jewish holidays began many, many years ago. Laugh. Sing. Create. Dance. Celebrate. Reflect. Enjoy a wonderful journey through the Jewish year with your family, friends, and community."
The book starts out explaining the Jewish calendar, and then works through festivals and celebrations beginning with the Sabbath. The illustrations are done in pen and ink and family groups include both light and dark skin tones from Caucasian-looking people through Asian and Black. It's nice to see an image of a multi-generational family grouped around the challah where the hair goes from black and straight to blond and wavy or dark and tightly curled. There are also photographs of art and artifacts from The Jewish Museum in New York. The Hanukkah chapter has a variety of menorahs ranging from a "Miss Liberty" lamp made in 1974 in New Jersey to one from North Africa made in 1900 and one made in Russia in 1885. The dreidels are from Poland, 1700s and New York, 1993. In the back of this volume are a bibliography, list of books for further reading and an index.

All of these books are several years old. Do you have any more current favorite books you pull out for the this season?

December 3 Haiku

snow on seed head

each thistle
just a cap of snow -
cold rain falls