Have a Happy New Year!

It always awes me how fast time seems to go when a new year rolls around. I mean, in my head, I still feel like it's 2009. I don't feel even remotely grown up but then I look at my younger siblings and I realize just how fast our time goes when we're not looking. And yet, New Year's Day just feels like another day. Tomorrow is just another Wednesday.

Whatever it is that you do to celebrate the New Year, whether that be writing your New Year's Resolutions or even a bucket list, make sure you do celebrate it. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day aren't solely celebrations of man's ability to keep time but they celebrate something a little deeper than that. They celebrate life. They celebrate the fact that you have survived the problems, the mistakes, and the diversions. They celebrate that you are still growing. And maybe that's why we associate resolutions with this holiday. What are we going to do better this year? Are we going to stop doing something this year? Could be that we want to try something new. There are so many reflections on life and the way we live it that surface with this holiday and since reading and growing come hand in hand, I have created a short list of possible resolutions that have a whole lot to do with sticking your nose in a book.

Reading Resolutions:

  • One short read a week. Think about it. Short novels, although sometimes fleeting, are so much fun to read. Maybe pick up a novella, or a collection of short stories or poetry. Read them when you have a few minutes between classes. Or when in bed, right before you fall asleep (supposedly that is better for you than playing on your phone). On Sunday afternoons, when you're procrastinating doing work because, I mean, it's Sunday. Read the short stuff and before you know it you have read 52 short novels in a year. That's pretty good.
  • You could play on the same trend as the last resolution and read one long book every month. University classes do give us a lot to read but it's nice to balance that out with something that we chose to read.
  • Read the favorite book of one of your loved ones. If it's someone's favorite, then it's bound to be at least an alright read. Simply ask them what it is and then spend your time reading it and you'd be surprised how much you can learn about someone by reading their favorite book. Plus you get a decent book to add to your repertoire.
  • Read one of the trending books that people obsess over or read a book that neither you nor any of your acquaintances have even heard of. 
  • Pick an author and read only their books during the year. If it's your favorite author or an author you really dislike. Spend this year taking your time to really get to know their writing inside out.
  • Pick a new genre and read the best in that genre. If you're the kind of reader that only reads fantasy or young adult fiction maybe spend this next year only reading biographies or creative non-fiction or only flash fiction. There are so many interesting genres out there and it could be an interesting to step out of your reading bubble this year and try something new. You never know where you'll find your next favorite book.
  • Educate yourself with all the classics or focus entirely on contemporary work.
  • Pick a book with really good reviews but one that you normally would just pass over on the shelf.

There are lots of possible reading resolutions and these are only some of them but when writing your resolutions this year make sure you set aside time to make at least one reading resolution. And don't be afraid to be creative. Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!!

We live in a society that is slowly driving Christ out of Christmas and to justify this transition we are often taught that Christmas is a time for charity, a time for love, but most importantly a time for family. Which is still an honorable approach to the holiday. However, even with this attitude Christmas is becoming more commercial and less purposeful.

Christmas morning is always exciting because of this but the afternoons tend to slow down. It is during this time that I think we can start bringing Christ back into our Christmas. Around this time, during the afternoon, I have the habit of picking up a book. It's the perfect way to get some downtime in without sleeping the entirety of Christmas Day away.

So, I would like to suggest a series of novels that help balance this dilemma. And that series is The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Some of you may have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Voyage of the Dawn Treader before but a fact that isn't as well known as it should be is that there are seven of them in total. Starting with The Horse and His Boy. Reading them again now that I'm older, it's interesting to see how Christ centered those novels are. C.S. Lewis is known for his religious writings but The Chronicles of Narnia have always been set aside as children's fiction. If you're looking for a novel to read on your lazy Christmas afternoon that doesn't distract from the meaning of Christmas, I suggest these books. Read only one or read them all, they are all short and quick but definitely worth the read.

In regards to Christmas I think both perspectives are important. Spend time with your family but also spend time with Christ. Read books that bring Christ back into your home.

Last Day of the Semester!

There's something about this weather that just makes me want to stay inside all of the time. When this time of year comes around I am always tempted to just become a hermit who only faces the cold winds when the pantry has run dry. Fortunately enough, exams are almost over and Christmas break is sneaking up on us and the hermit life is now a viable option. And think, all that free time.

I wish there was a class at BYU that allowed you to just sit and read. More accurately, I wish there was one that gave you credit for reading books of your choice, but unfortunately that concept isn't exactly one we can petition for. So, to say that I'm excited for Christmas break because of all the free time I will have to read is an understatement.

At the moment all sorts of companies, websites and book-lists are releasing their list of best books of 2013. Which is great if you're craving something new to read or need a last-minute gift for one of your siblings but I personally think that Christmas break is the perfect time to pull out that old favorite and read through it again.

Since I'm the one excited about all the free time let me also admit that Christmas is busy but in a fun way. And the evenings tend to be a little more laid back since we don't have papers to write or midterms to study for. So, why not pick up that well worn paperback sitting prominently on your bookshelf during the downtime? Give it another go.

If you're having a hard time deciding on what to read, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books are great ones to reread or introduce yourselves to. J.R.R Tolkien provides the perfect balance between good literature and just down-right adventure. There's something in them for everyone and I have yet to meet someone who hasn't enjoyed reading them.

If you've read these ones already and don't feel particularly inclined to read them again Tolkien's other lesser known novels, The Children of Hurin and The Silmarillion, are just as good and will be equally entertaining for the Christmas break.

Booktalk Week 5

Day 21: December 16th

When you identify the origins of this blog you might assume that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and that is correct. One of the things I love about this church is the consistent encouragement to learn and be educated. Church leaders down through the years have valued and actively counseled members to read. In fact scripture counsels in the church’s Doctrine & Covenants 88:118

“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
Many times I consider this and ask myself, “Am I reading “the best books?” I have concluded that what is best for me is not always best for someone else. Indeed what is best at one time in my life may not be best at another. A small epiphany from my teen years guides me still. My friends were going to see the movie, West Side Story. I had permission to go but my mother said to me, “Are you sure you want to go? I know you. You will carry this around for weeks.” She did not ask me not to. She was not opposed to the movie. The music played often in our home. But she also knew me. I chose not to see the movie at that point in my life and when I saw it as an adult her wisdom was confirmed. That tiny moment has guided me through so many decisions. She knew me and I need to know myself. I pass this on to you as something to consider as you choose books for yourself and others.
Years ago in a Relief Society Teachers Guide this advice was given:
“. . . good books will elevate our thinking and lift our souls. This does not necessarily mean that our reading will always be positive and leave us with a smile. Some literature may leave us sad or troubled, but if it has motivated us in a positive direction, it has been worthwhile. Anything that degrades us in any way, however, should be avoided; it is not the best.”

I offer here some books that have motivated me in a positive direction. I admit to choosing some that may surprise you.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  -  If you only know the movie you are missing out.
The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle
The Fortune Tellers by Lloyd Alexander

What books have influenced your life?

Day 22: December 17th

Book Series dominate Children’s Literature to a fault. I love a good series and have many favorites but I hate books that read like a promotion digging for one more sale. I always feel like I can read the difference between authors that write for the love of a good story and those who write for a living. Do not misunderstand me, I understand that everyone needs a living and there is no fault in that but when an author is motivated by their writing rather than the writing motivated by a need for cash I think the writing is better. When you have a publisher pushing for one more book, I can see how it would be hard to keep the motivation clear. The proliferation of the series has some push back. I hear customers’ telling me that they won’t start a series until it is complete because they hate being left hanging. I just jump in and read and then add to the pressure on an author by telling them, when the opportunity arises that I am eagerly awaiting another book. Things are even worse because I am reading books a season ahead many times to prepare to buy and when a series takes off the publisher no longer needs to print Advance Reading Copies so I often am waiting well over a year for the next book.
Some series that are popular right now are:

- The Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs comes home from nursing at the front in WWI with skills born in suffering.  She establishes a business as a private investigator in London.  The mysteries are captivating, the characters endearing.

- The Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley

A precocious young protagonist annoys her sisters, studies poisons and solves mysteries, charms readers and sparks a terrific laugh.

- The Crosswicks Journals, a memoir series by author, Madeleine L’Engle

I love them all but my favorites are Circle of Quiet and Two Part Invention

To be continued . . .

Day 23: December 18th

- The Matched series by Allie Condie

Not only is Utah author, Ally Condie, a really nice person she was also on the front wave of the dystopian series trend. The series is great fun to read and leads the reader to consider the importance of making your own choices.

- The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

John Flanagan has written a series that has surprisingly wide appeal! I am constantly surprised by the customer asking for this series. I visit with Dad's who are reading aloud to children too young to read on their own. Girls like the books just as well as boys. Customers from third grade boys to 75 year old grandmothers ask for this series.

- The Frankly, Frannie series by A.J. Stern and illustrated by Doreen Mulryan Marts

I was charmed by Frannie from the start and her popularity is still growing. If you want a series for a new reader take a look at this one. It does have more appeal for girls.

- The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems

Mo Willems books are proliferating with no sign of slowing down and parents as well as children seem to like the most recent just as well as the first. Elephant and Piggie are perfect for new readers and just as their predecessors, Dick & Jane, entertain with situations that are day to day for children.

Day 24: December 19th


The Art of Flying by Judy Hoffman. A young girl who longs to fly meets a bird who has been transformed into a boy and she has to choose whether to help him return to his natural form when it goes counter to all her wishes.

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward – What happens when the only non-record setting person in a family of world record holders must save the family.

Romeo Blue by Phoebe Stone is the sequel to Romeo and Juliet Code, which gets the reader of to a good start but it is book two, Romeo Blue that tipped me from "this is a nice little book" to "I have to get others to read this!"

Middle Grade Favorites

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur is a sweet story of a little girl being guided and comforted by a father who passed away, not in any supernatural sense but because of his foresight in trying to anticipate her future needs while he was ill.

Icefall by Matthew J Kirby, also a Utah writer. I read this in three digit summer heat and shivered with imagined cold I was so drawn into this suspenseful and exciting tale.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. One of those great stories with quirky characters that create a community of care.

Pie by Sarah Weeks. The book jacket says it best, “It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of doing something for the right reason.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty C Birney left me appreciating the wonders of daily life.

Day 25: December 20th

Continued Favorites - Young Adult

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It sounds crazy but this Cyborg Cinderella works even for skeptics and is a fun read. The second book, SCARLET gets even better.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. Can you resist the idea of a lending library for magical objects?  – Seven league boots, a table that replenishes itself & the magic mirror from Snow White. I have to admit that I choose hardcover over paper on this one just for the appearance.

Wolves, Boys, & Other Things that Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler is realistic fiction, not werewolves, and Kristen Chandler, a Utah author, does such a good job of capturing teens working things out when adults can’t.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater has spent much time on the Bestseller lists. It is realistic fantasy with a strong family theme. Maggie will be a guest at the Books For Young Readers Symposium in July 2014.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, another Utah author, could be listed with middle grade readers. I keep it in the you adult section because we are a university store and the students here love this book and the sequel, Runaway King.

Young Adult Books that Adults ought to Read

Going Underground by Susan Vaught, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

Booktalk Week 4

Day 16: December 9th

There is nothing quite as wonderful as sharing a book with a child. My favorite customers are the families that select a stack of books and then cuddle in the reading nook and read aloud. I watch them arrange themselves with a familiarity that proves their experience in knowing just how to fit bodies together so everyone can see and share. My heart aches this Christmas season because one of my favorites, a friend, fellow book lover and a loving grandfather passed away and I won’t be seeing him with grandchildren gathered round. The parents still maintain the tradition though and I treasure the sight of them and find it an unspoken tribute to him.

When asked what parents can do to help their children become readers, Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, said the following:

“I think it's an easy physical thing: When my father read to me, I leaned into him so I became part of his chest or his forearm. And I think children who are hugged, and children who are held on laps – nice yummy laps – will always associate reading with the bodies of their parents. And that will always keep you a reader. Because that perfume, that sensuous connection is lifelong.

We're only animals. And you watch puppies needing to be licked to survive. Well, we need to be licked to survive. And reading becomes a licking, if you will. When you not only hear a treasured story, but also are pressed against the most important person in the world, a connection is made that cannot be severed. For instance, I'm reading straight through Shakespeare now, and when I get alarmed and frightened by him, and feel cowed and then go on, there is some tissue connection to my father as a reader that keeps me going.
If there's any advice I have to give, I would say it's that. If you're looking for a way to get closer to your kids, there ain't no better way than to grab 'em and read. And if you put them in front of a computer or a TV, you are abandoning them. You're abandoning them because they are sitting on a couch or the floor and they may be hugging the dog, but they ain't hugging you.”
       – Maurice Sendak, interview with Marion Long from HomeArts, the publisher of many magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Redbook, etc.

I love to see my grandchildren receiving this kind of attention from their parents. One of my daughters-in-law has gift-wrapped Christmas books to be opened and read each day as a countdown to Christmas. What could be a better tradition? A book each day begs for variety, some poignant Christmas messages, some traditional stories and a good dose of just plain silly.

Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modugno, illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brook Dyer is a fun bit of tradition with a twist.

Gifts of the Heart is new from Patricia Polacco filled with the usual Polacco life message and the wonder of Christmas miracles.

Dwarf in the Drawer by L. van King, illustrated by Chuck Gonzales is a fun bit of push-back for those people who are sick of a little guy keeping score from a shelf.

Day 17: December 10th

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert and illustrated with photos by Per Breiehagen is one of this year’s bestselling Christmas Books and the story of Anja’s search for Santa. The photographs are lovely. Snow Bunny's Christmas Wish by Rebecca Harry might be a good book to share with the very young. The only thing Snow Bunny wants for Christmas is a friend. The shiny foil embellished illustrations certainly seem to please children and when all is said and done we are left with a valuable lesson about finding friends. If you are a “scanimation” fan you will be pleased with Santa! By Rufus Butler Seder -of Gallop, Swing, & Waddle fame. Watch Santa back flip, cartwheel and even hoola-hoop.

Day 18: December 11th

Our family agrees that our best Christmas’s are home grown. We love gifts that are hand-made. Christmas is still far enough out that kids and adults can enjoy making things for the people they love. The “upcycling” trend hasn't skipped children’s books. From Paper Beads by Anne Akers Johnson and Stencil Art to Toolbox Jewelry by Kaitlyn Nichols, Klutz kits have everything you need and instructions so you can try a new craft to see if you like it. Or grab a favorite book and come up with your own creative ideas for supplies.

Day 19: December 12th

I enjoy fantasy. Willing suspension of disbelief comes easily and I appreciate the insight fantasy affords that cold hard facts can obscure. Having established that I love the genre I will admit that in the prolific fantasy feeding frenzy of today’s book world I find myself at times saturated with acute fantasy fatigue! The only cure is a good dose of reality. Realistic fiction, contemporary or historical works very well. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is just such a book. NOT to be confused with Fifty Shades of Gray, Between Shades of Gray is the story of fifteen year old Lina and her family being wrenched from their home in Lithuania by the soviet secret police. Targeted because they are educated the father is separated from the rest of the family and they all struggle to try to find ways to survive. This is well written and shouldn’t be missed but it has been because of the unfortunate similarity to a title I would never recommend. (teen-adult)

After Iris by Natasha Farrant is, as the back cover describes, “The story of a lovably imperfect family trying to hold it together without driving each other (too) crazy.” This is not an ‘everyone in their places at the dinner table every night’ kind of family. Their lives, like so many present day families, are chaotic, with prolific challenges. They will make you laugh, cry, and be very glad that there are lots of ways to make family life work. (middle grade)

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen is just the kind of book I love sharing. It has hard circumstances to be dealt with but it is full of hope and I haven’t given it to anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it. It isn’t just an overcoming trials book. It is a book that stays with you and changes your outlook.  (teens – adult)

Read the first paragraph of The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson and you are going to want to follow this spitfire of a girl into solutions. “My Name is Abbey Force, and my story starts about a year ago, on the last day of school when we were getting out for summer break. It was a time when I was feeling meaner than a stepped-on rattlesnake, because in the previous nine months I had lost everything that mattered to me: my pony, my home, my dad.” (middle grade – teen)

What genre do you prefer?

Day 20: December 13th

I have been buying Christmas books for more years than I care to admit. Just let me say that I started when I was still a teen. This means that I don’t read every Christmas book I have every year. I do have a select few that I look forward to every year and I do not miss. Some of them are no longer in print. I am going to list my favorites here. Next week, if you were to ask me, I would probably add a few more titles. This is the short illustrated book list:

The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L’Engle illustrated with frescos by Giotto from the Scrovegni Chapel. This book has been long out of print but you can pick up used copies. It is enough in demand that even used copies are not cheap. This is my Christmas Gift to myself, my personal advent activity.  Perfectly organized for Christmas, I read one essay each night Dec 1 – 25.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S Buck is wonderful with or without illustrations but my favorite is the version illustrated by Mark Buehner, a Salt Lake City artist.

Santa Calls by William Joyce is a bit quirky as a Christmas book for some. There are evil elves, danger and adventure but you will love seeing a sister’s Christmas wish fulfilled as arranged by a wise Santa.

Voices of Christmas by poet Nikki Grimes illustrated by Eric Velasquez is a poetic narrative of the participants in the first Christmas. The voices are skillfully individual and they grab my heart and imagination no matter how many times I read them.

A book I am buying for myself this year is The Nativity with artwork by J Kirk Richards. When you look at the price keep in mind that you are purchasing art. I didn't plan to indulge but it puts all the other choices I had in mind for this year in the shadows. We see an abundance of religious art but how much of it is reverent? J Kirk Richards’ art turns my mind to worship. What more could I want for Christmas?

What are your favorite Christmas books?

Booktalk Week 3

Day 11: December 2nd

Bookseller lingo for books that are coming out in the upcoming season is frontlist. Titles that continue to sell from past seasons are backlist. Frontlist books are often what everyone wants to hear about. They are the latest and everyone hopes for a fabulous new find. Frontlist is exciting but don’t neglect the backlist! Books are in so many ways friends and while it is great to add new friends, you would never replace dear old friends for new just for the sake of novelty. I know the metaphor is weak but the message is strong. Sharing your favorite titles, no matter how long ago they were published is a great gift idea. I like the way I can know a person better by discussing favorite books even when our tastes are dissimilar. In sharing a book you love, you give a bit of yourself and deepen your relationship with the person who receives the gift. I want to share some of my favorites with you. Maybe you will be reminded of your favorites. Maybe you will see something that is new to you.

I do not like didactic books but I do enjoy books with subtle bits of wisdom. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas is a sweet reminder that friendship is ageless and priceless. Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens allows us to laugh when a clever rabbit gets the best of a lazy bear. In Yertle the Turtle we see that individuals make a difference, it doesn't pay to brag, laughter is best and more. Don’t you want every child to know the work ethic of The Little Red Hen and the satisfying repetition of “Not I …” and “she did!”

Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings, and Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary have left powerful emotional marks in my life as if I had associated with the author personally. And in a way I have; only the benefit was all mine.

I have read everything I could put my hands on by and about Madeleine L’Engle because I have felt like even though we did not share the same religion, we shared the same faith. When I got a chance to meet her in person I had to laugh at myself because I felt surprised that she didn’t know me when I knew her so well. What a gift it is to read and see into someone else’s heart or into your own more clearly. 

What books fill your heart?

Day 12: December 3rd

Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), "The Tempest", Act 1 scene 2

New Fiction for Young Readers

My parents always gave us a book or books for Christmas. It is one of my favorite traditions. When the excitement of Christmas cooled I had a book waiting to extend the pleasure of the day. I love the delicious anticipation of a good book waiting. Even built on this experience, in this day and time with all the bells and whistles of technology, it takes courage for me as a grandparent to give a book at Christmas. I don’t want it to be an after-thought, as in here is a glitzy toy and then by the way we’ll throw in a book, so I have committed to giving solely books. Sometimes I do add something that I think enhances the book but I want them to know that I value books. So I invest a lot of thought and, I admit, a lot of anxiety in choosing what book would please each person. A benefit of this decision is the opportunity to consider the person as I choose a book for them and I savor those moments spent in appreciation for the individuality of each loved one. Often I have to let go of what I want for them as I search for what they will enjoy. It’s a tricky business, this book selection and I am very aware of that as I offer suggestions to others.

"It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book...from the reading of 'good books' there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way."   -   Gordon B. Hinckley

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."   -   Sir Francis Bacon

Suzanne LaFleur is the author of Eight Keys published in 2011 a book that I really enjoyed and this year she has given us Listening for Lucca. This is a book that refuses to be put in a box. It is a book set in reality but it has elements of the fantastical. Thirteen year old Sienna enters the past but this isn't a time travel book. We have the unsettling feeling that she must repair the past but I wouldn't call it a ghost story. It certainly is not creepy. It is about family. Sienna’s little brother Lucca started talking and then quit and hasn't said a word in a year. About the time he quit talking Sienna became obsessed with collecting abandoned objects. These two seemingly unrelated pieces of the story lead to other pieces from other times. Family connections are the glue for this book. It is tender, original and received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal.

After twelve years without a library in the small town where Kyle Keeley lives, billionaire game developer Luigi Lemoncello’s has built an impressive new facility. Kyle and eleven other kids win a chance to be the first to experience the library with all its technological wonders in a locked-in overnight stay. They use the library’s incredible resources to solve clues and riddles to learn how to leave the library. A good part of the fun is recognizing favorite book references as they figure into the story. The book is fast paced suspenseful and a puzzle you will want to untangle in Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.

Newbery Medal winner, Cynthia Voigt brings readers another book demonstrating the resourcefulness of young people apart from their parents. Mister Max: the Book of Lost Things is a mystery. The primary mystery, among others, is what happened to Max’s parents. They have gone missing. In this book, and the two to follow, Max lives on his wits taking care of himself and contributing to the well-being of many others. Dubbing himself “The Solutioneer” he reunites a mother with her lost child, saves a girl from the work house, solves a mystery of missing periodicals from the library and much more.

In Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Willow Chance is brilliant but socially challenged. She comforts herself by counting in sevens. When she loses the only family she has ever known in an accident, she overcomes the loss and finds her place with a new family who love her as she loves them. The message of this book is not tragedy but renewal and hope.

Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews may be about Dragons and their powerful hold on the world but it is even more a story of recognizing self-worth and not accepting negative assessments of others. Twelve year old Al has been permanently marked a zero. For their own protection his family has turn away from him. He survives against all odds and thrives.

Day 13: December 4th

Does Thanksgiving lead you in a historical direction? I don’t know if it is the historical roots of the holiday or gratitude for family or possibly the awareness of contemporary benefits and conveniences. I often am particularly mindful of historical events this time of year. Favorite books that can complement those thoughts are:

Brave Companions by David McCullough. This book is a long-time favorite of mine and I read once that it is a favorite of the author's. This is a book of essays about interesting people and events in history, all with McCullough's classic storytelling mastery. I have given this book to people of widely various interests and have never talked to someone who didn't like it. It is a great book for reading that must be done in bits and pieces.

Boy on the Wooden Box is a memoir by Leon Leyson. He describes his life in Poland before the Nazi invasion as "a world defined by the love and warmth of family." That was drastically changed as his family is torn apart, slowly to be gathered together again under the protection of Oskar Schindler. Leon was one of the youngest of Schindler's factory workers, small enough that he had to stand on a box to work. This would be a good companion book to Beyond Courage: Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappoport. As well as Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport by Deborah Hodge. All three of these books focus on resistance, survival and coming to the aid of others. I can't read them without a determination to be more aware and more kind.

Day 14: December 5th

I am thankful for the holiday season and families getting together. I love to watch the grandchildren in our family to perform! We are not necessarily a performance kind of family but while the children are without inhibitions I love for them to enjoy the limelight. Sandra Boynton has contributed to our fun with her books of original songs starting with Philadelphia Chickens. I can’t see the cover without remembering my grandchildren bouncing around like little jumping beans on first hearing the music. It has even been known to inspire a bit of lip-syncing among the aunts. All the books are favorites but if I had to narrow it to three I would choose Philadelphia Chickens, Blue Moo, with new lyrics to old tunes, and now Frog Trouble and Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs “for ages one to older than dirt” –  original lyrics to country music performed by country music stars. If you like these then try Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing Along.  One night my daughter called and I could hear her children in the background belting out Fried Ham as they did the dishes. They had memorized the entire book in two days. It is pure silly fun. Don’t knock it until you try it!

Day 15: December 6th
The day I have been waiting for has arrived and I can talk about Christmas Books with impunity. I have plenty of editions of The Night Before Christmas and yet this year I find myself buying one more. The Clement C. Moore poem illustrated by Holly Hobbie is a whole new experience. I can’t think of another version that expresses the same kind of wonder that you see in the eyes of the bright-eyed toddler in this tale. The story in the illustrations can stand alone.

Some of my old favorites are sadly unavailable this year so my advice to you is don’t procrastinate buying the books you really want to keep. One favorite that I read every year is Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner. Mark is a Utah artist. The story without the illustrations was originally published in 1955. It is the story of a gift of love from a son to his father.