Christmas Favorites


I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

One of my favorite things to do is snuggle up with the family and a stack of treasured holiday books.

This is my list of 25 TOP HOLIDAY STORIES (in no particular order):

  1. The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
  2. Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer
  3. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  4. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  5. The Hat by Jan Brett
  6. An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
  7. The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
  8. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
  9. Snowmen at Night by Caralyn & Mark Buehner
  10. The Christmas Wreath by James Hoffman
  11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  12. Strega Nona’s Gift by Tomie dePaola
  13. Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans
  14. Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco
  15. An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola
  16. The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard
  17. Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
  18. It’s Christmas, David! by David Shannon
  19. Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
  20. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  21. Book of Christmas Carols by Tomie dePaola
  22. Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett (I learned from this book that traditionally the 12 days of Christmas are celebrated AFTER December 25, until Jan 6, Three Kings Day)
  23. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  24. The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett
  25. The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola


Merry Christmas!

How We Almost Lost Thanksgiving (and the Superwoman Who Saved It)


visit bookandbliss.comI found a new book yesterday—it has been in my classroom for years, unnoticed!  (To be VERY honest, I thought it was a book about Betsy Ross and the American flag; apparently, I didn’t even read the title).  But on the last school day before Thanksgiving I wanted to read a Thanksgiving story to my students. I flipped through my holiday books, and there it was: Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson.

It is a great feeling, reading a book for the first time, not to mention reading it out loud to a gaggle of 8 year olds. I never know how they are going to react to a story—with interest, disinterest, giggles, or insight, or a mix of it all.

They loved this book. And I was shocked that I owned it all this time and was only just discovering it.

I loved sharing with my group of bright-eyed chatterboxes the story of Sarah Hale, a “dainty little lady” born in 1788. The list of things she accomplished in her lifetime is phenomenal. Makes me tired just thinking about it!  Here are a few:

  • Wrote and published novels and children’s books
  • Edited the Ladies’ Magazine (which published works by some of the most famous authors of her time, such as Poe, Hawthorne, Stowe, Longfellow, and Dickens)
  • Raised five children
  • Wrote Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • Advocated for schools for girls and opposed slavery
  • By night, she made hats and wrote thousands of letters

I’ve been trying to teach my class this year how to take action and not wait for someone else to solve their problems. It’s been an ongoing struggle—as I read this book to them, I could tell they were digesting the idea of a “bold, brave, stubborn, and smart” person who had an idea and worked hard to bring it about.

Because this dainty little lady loved Thanksgiving. And  it was being forgotten by a lot of Americans, especially in the new states forming in the West. What did she do? Sarah Hale picked up her pen. She wrote letters by the thousands, urging support to make Thanksgiving a nationally recognized holiday. Imagine, the ENTIRE country celebrating and giving thanks on the same day. For a country embroiled in a civil war, we needed a little more coming together and a little less falling apart. Sarah appealed to FIVE consecutive presidents of the United States (that is some stubborn waiting!) before Abraham Lincoln made our Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, thirty-eight years after Sarah began her quest. I want the girls and guys in my class to have heroes like this lady.

This book was a great find, just at the right moment too. The illustrations are witty and fun, and the story is inspiring.

In the spirit of giving thanks, here are the things that have been on my mind:

  • I am grateful that my husband doesn’t get annoyed when I read the Kindle over his shoulder (currently “we” are reading Catching Fire). You know how food tastes better when it is snitched from someone else’s meal? It just might be the same with books.
  • I give thanks for a break from the children, so I can go back with renewed energy and patience.
  • I give thanks for cinnamon & hibiscus herbal tea with cream.
  • I give thanks for family.
  • I give thanks for the beautiful DIY wreath made of ribbons that one of my students made for me. It is the first decoration to go up! Many more to follow.
  • I am grateful that I am not sick with a cold or fever! Bring on the holidays.

What are YOU thankful for?

Comment below



Monsterous Picture Books:

they’re a scream 🙂

  • The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone (my first and favorite)
  • How to Mash Monsters by Catherine Leblanc (also useful when dealing with coworkers/relatives . . . )
  • I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll
  • Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
  • A Monster Followed Me Home by Mercer Mayer
  • PLUS a bonus Chapter Book: The Witches by Roald Dahl

Happy Reading!

Best Picks for Halloween: The Widow’s Broom & The Stranger



This is a throwback to the 1990’s—I remember pouring over all of Chris Van Allsburg’s books, reading them one more time just to make sure I had the story right, totally wrapped up in the mystery of it all. There is something nicely strange about ambiguous endings, which Mr. Van Allsburg has in abundance. Most stories end up happily ever after, or even miserably ever after, but the author at least TELLS you outright how things end up. It was altogether new to encounter a story whose ending was up to my own interpretation & insight. I used to ask my dad to just tell me what it meant and he was wise enough to resist.

The Stranger, first published in 1986, is as full of compassion and warmth as it is with mystery. Farmer Bailey and his family take in a man who has lost his memory. As the season should be shifting from summer to autumn, the stranger stays with them, and the leaves aren’t changing. The clues are there on every page—what name would you give to the stranger?

Another Van Allsburg classic, The Widow’s Broom, published in 1992, has plenty of Halloween elements: witches, pumpkins, ghosts at night, and tough kids trolling the neighborhood. The black-and-white illustrations are rich with detail, and even the plain broom stick shows emotion. This story, like The Stranger, has undertones of compassion (the widow and the abandoned broom form an unlikely friendship) as well as a clever twist to save the day.

In this spooky season, curl up with some stories that will leave you with a healthy dose of mystery.