Tuesday, January 07, 2014

November/December Book List

Favorite Picture Books

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long
This gorgeous book based on the popular Christmas folksong was new to me while browsing our library's system for Christmas books. It is probably one of the most beautifully illustrated books I ever seen. I plan on owning our own copy in time for Advent 2014.  Rich colorful details, classy and elegant designs, it is a keeper to treasure. High praise for this book.

A Star for Christmas by Trisha Romance
I was first introduced to Trisha Romance and her artwork by a friend in New Brunswick who was slowly building her own collection of Trisha Romance artwork.  I loved looking at the pieces she had displayed in her home and I became familiar with her signature style. It was in Christmas 2012 that I first saw this book listed on our library's site, so I immediately requested it and waited for it to come in. It is a beautiful book that makes you want to step right into the pages and be part of the scenes. The story is wonderful, although I admit, I usually have serious hang-ups with sappy Christmas books, but this time I told that part of my personality to be quiet and go away so I could enjoy this one to its fullest. It is full of outstanding artwork that makes you linger over each page, savoring the images and noticing the details.

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
I think this was another serendipitous library find. I have read other books by her, so I thought I would give this Christmas picture book a try. Shane actually read it aloud to the kids and I didn't get to hear all of it, so I finished reading it on my own before it had to go back to the library, wondering how predictable the story would be. I was pleasantly surprised by the ending and thought it was quite touching. The illustrations are wonderful and envelope the whole page. An excellent addition to the Christmas book stack.

Chapter Books

Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale by Gena K. Gorrell
This actually belongs on last month's list but I forgot to include it. I read this on my own before giving it to Seth to read the week we discussed The Crimean War. It is larger than a traditional chapter book and has maps, illustrations and black and white photographs on almost every page of text. This is not just the story of Florence Nightingale, this is also the story of her world and I enjoyed it so much.  Everything I would write about her story seems to make it sound cheapened somehow, her family's opposition to her nursing studies, her depression over their opposition, eventually gaining their approval and being sent to the Crimean War front upon completion of her studies, facing opposition from doctors and military personnel, drawing up blueprints for improved facilities and sterilization practices and on and on and on went her story. I imagined that she must have known of or been known by Charlotte Mason so I checked the Charlotte Mason digital archives and there was a letter from a colleague of Florence Nightingale(who was also an acquaintance of CM) to a public figure that ended up in Charlotte Mason's boxes of papers. Not the solid connection I was looking for, but a connection nonetheless. Anyways, this is a great read and I highly recommend it.

Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation by Douglas Bond
This is the second Mr. Pipes book we have finished together as part of our Morning Time and we enjoyed learning about the different Psalms and Hymns written in the Reformation era. This time, Mr. Pipes, Drew and Annie traveled to Germany and Switzerland as they visited areas made familiar by Martin Luther, John Calvin and others.  I did not know many of the songs presented in this book but since author Doug Bond always includes the sheet music, I can read the music and learn it.  We will likely start another Mr. Pipes book on American hymnwriters in the new year.

Swallowdale (Swallows and Amazons) by Arthur Ransome
Again, this is the second Swallows and Amazons book that we have finished and we love these stories! (Our first was Swallows and Amazons.) Yes, there is a lot of sailing jargon, but keep with it and you are rewarded with memorable lines and references and of course, a great story line. We have already picked out Winter Holiday as our next title to read starting in January, but I almost feel like starting it now!


Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life;by Douglas Wilson
Canon Press had a sale back in the fall(need I say more?) so I picked up this slim paperback along with several other titles and this is the only one I have finished to date. And that is certainly because it is a fast-paced read, but I'd have to say, too fast-paced for me to remember and practice everything he suggested.
I did write a short limerick soon after reading it, my first I think, at least in my adult years, (not counting my scavenger hunt clues I write for our son's birthday parties)so I must have put some of his ideas to use right away. It's called The Nightlight and it's based on mostly true events and it's mostly terrible after the second line, but it's terrible fun nonetheless.

The Nightlight

A shade went out,
The night turned dark
And after all the fumbling 'bout
So did the shin that I just bark'd.

I keep changing it, but it doesn't seem to get better. I'm only posting it, because the five of you reading this have a good sense of humor and can laugh along with me.
Please do not judge the book based on my poor attempts. I'm certain Douglas Wilson's tips can inspire much better material from its other readers. Anyways, that's what happens when you tell people to practice writing stuff. They listen.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, by Les Standiford
I can't seem to remember whose blog or website I saw this book listed on earlier in December, but I checked and our local library had a copy available. As someone who didn't know very much about Charles Dickens prior to this book, it gave a lot of interesting biographical information along with the background story of the writing of A Christmas Carol. And since I had just finished reading A Christmas Carol for the very first time, it was all fresh in my mind as I read this book.

Classics and Other Such Books

Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse
My friend, Kathleen loaned me this book after I loaned her a Wodehouse book and she found more of them at her parents' cottage. Earlier in December, I posted a funny quote from the book under my random Reasons to Love Wodehouse posts. It was a great read, and made for some good moments of quiet chuckling as the absurd becomes the expected.  This is my fourth or fifth Wodehouse novel over the years and they are always worth a good re-read.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Reading through this book for the first time was a real eye opener into the expressions and characters that have become part of our literary and holiday culture. I enjoyed the descriptive phrases and passing observations made by Scrooge while being escorted around by the various ghostly visits. I can see myself wanting to read this each year around Christmas time and enjoy it all over again.


I don't normally include movies, because I don't watch that many, but here are two that I watched in the last two months and quite enjoyed.

Mr. Holland's Opus with Richard Dreyfuss.
Richard Dreyfuss is an incredible actor and this movie really showcases him at his best. Moving through the decades of music as a high school music teacher, I thought about this movie a lot for several days after I watched it.  Yes, it's an older movie now, but one I had never seen, so I requested it from the library after seeing it mentioned in one of Mama Squirrel's posts.

A Child's Christmas in Wales based on the book by Dylan Thomas
We have a copy of this book and we read it for the first time last Christmas and found some favorite parts to laugh about and remember for this year. I knew there was a movie made but without knowing much about it, I was hesitant to buy it. A quick search on youtube and I found the whole movie posted which I immediately started to watch. Ten minutes in and I knew Seth would love it.  I ordered it right away from amazon.ca and it shipped quickly. We watched it together and laughed our heads off and Seth planned another showing for Christmas Eve which we did. A completely wholesome movie about a young boy's Christmas in Wales from yesteryear as recounted to his now grandson eagerly waiting his own Christmas morning complete with snow. A really wonderful and fun movie to enjoy together as a family.


  1. I always love these book posts of yours, Heather! And I'm excited to hunt down those first two Christmas books (I'd never heard of either one!) We have also enjoyed DiCamillo's Great Joy these past few Christmases.
    Love to you,

  2. My library request list always goes up when you post your books.
    I can't wait for the Florence Nightingale book.

    Keep the book posts coming. I love them.


  3. Glad you both find the lists helpful!


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