The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

December 7, 2014

The Herdmans are children who make you color your hair. Their social skills are lacking and their voices are loud. Barbara Robinson transferred her beloved chapter book story into a picture book titled the same, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Although their personalities are rowdy, intimidating, and restless, they bring to life the Christmas spirit. I am thankful that the Savior of Christmas does not look at us through tinted glasses, but rather loves us unconditionally.

The book invites conversation around classroom community. Laura Cornell‘s illustrations bring out tension and social awkwardness that even young children can talk about their feelings.

In the end, the Herdman wisemen bring their Christmas ham, a gift from their sacrifice. We have much to be thankful for. Enjoy the season.


Charlie and the Christmas Kitty

December 1, 2014

For everyone who’s ever loved a dog. – Ree Drummond”

I love the dog, Charlie. He reminds me of our dog, Harley.

Harley loves our family, especially my father-in-law. When he entered our home a year ago, rescued, he has given us continual thanks. Harley snuggles when you are sick, endlessly wags his tail smiling at you, and watches over my father-in-law all day. Although he often lays around, his eyes are watching and his ears perk at all noises.

Harley loves to snuggle.

Harley loves to snuggle.

In comes Moo, our kitten.

Moo loves to sit on my books when I am blogging.

Moo loves to sit on my books when I am blogging.

Harley tolerates Moo’s playfulness, the sneaky attacks, swats of his tail, and nips on his floppy ears. If I could read his mind, I am sure he would talk like Charlie in Charlie and the Christmas Kitty.

Charlie is trying to do his own thing and the kitten keeps on snuggling up to him. The personalities of the animals are brought to life. Diane deGroat’s illustrations enhance the personalities of the loveable pets. Don’t you every what your pet is thinking? I especially find the “King of the Ranch” endearing. I’m sure Harley believes he is King of the Gensch household. Charlie’s perspective brings life to the playful pets. His perspective is true to so many of our furry friends.

On the back, Ree Drummond is holding her Bassett Hound. Kids will be inspired to write their own pet-perspective story. Our furry creatures have such personalities and talk to us. At least we talk to them and stories from the heart warm our lives and make us laugh. Read this book. Share with your kids. You will bring joy to the classroom.

(A 47 second sneak peek into the book.)

Savorings for reading and in writing for Charlie and the Christmas Kitty:

  • Personification – character personality
  • Dog perspective – notice how Charlie changes, becomes more accepting
  • First Person Narrative – speaking to the reader
  • Reporter Voice – Can’t you just hear Charlie’s disgust? “WHAT’S A CAT DOING ON MY RANCH?”
  • Repeating line

For more Charlie fun, read the prequal: Charlie the Ranch Dog. The below YouTube video allows you to preview the book (5 min.). Enjoy.

Grandma Kessler {Slice of Life}

December 17, 2013

The conversation began through a picture memory my cousin posted on Facebook of her mom, who passed away a year ago. Cousins across the country began commenting, missing her smile, love, and joy she shared.


Thoughts turned to our yearly gathering at Grandma Kessler’s house for Christmas. This holiday was about Love, belonging, and sharing stories.Grandma had ten children and with grandpa passing early in life, she held the family together. We lived the farthest away and being an only child, I was thrilled belonging to a large, lively family. I was home there at Grandma’s, spending a month in the summer with her, visiting the uncles and aunts at the farms.


The comments began and my cousin Brett brought in the laughter to our comments. You see by the time I married, we had close to 100 people in Grandma’s house. We laughed. We were loud. We shared. Then, we opened presents. The secret name we drew back in September, known only by Grandma. We started with the youngest and circled around the room finding the next person. We would open the present, announce the gift, thank the gifter and then the gift from Grandma.

I am thankful for family and memories and connections today. We have a legacy passed on to us that we pass on to our family and others around us.


Christmas in the Trenches

December 17, 2011

John M wrote a song called A Christmas in the Trenches after hearing the historical story. Christmas Eve 1914 during World War I, opposing sides had a truce to celebrate Christmas. They sang together and  played a soccer game, sharing pictures and chocolate. For one night, the Great War was put on hold. To hear the song and see historical photographed, view the below video clip (7 min.) 

Santa Duck

December 14, 2011

Santa Duck by David Milgrim: Book CoverDavid Milgrim‘s writing style reminds me of Mo Willems. The animals are talking to each other in an everyday conversational tone with narration interwoven.

Duck heads out on Dec. 24 to share his wish list with Santa. A present has mysteriously appeared on his front step – a Santa red hat and coat. The animals Duck meets on his journey assume he is Santa’s helper and begin sharing the wish lists. Upon meeting Santa, Santa Duck is surprised and blessed with compliments. Santa is appreciative of duck, who sings himself asleep.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Santa Duck:

  • Speech bubbles vs. Think bubbles
  • Interjections – “Whoa baby!
  • Character feeling
  • Apostrophe with possessive nouns
  • Inference – you can sense Santa Duck’s increased frustration with each animal he encounters

Santa’s Stuck

December 7, 2011

Children welcome Santa with their plates full of cookies and other goodies. Santa is nearing the end of his Christmas Eve venture Santa's Stuck by Rhonda Greene: Book Coverand is lured to have one more tasty treat. As he relaxes in a comfy chair, Santa’s one dessert treat leads to another. Rhonda Gowler Greene use of vivid verbs and rhyme creates a fun read your children will be delighted with.

Henry Cole draws the reader’s attention to specifics in the scenes – Santa’s belly, a button popping off, the reindeer waiting above. In each wide angled scene, another view is shared with a zoomed-in-circle overlay.

With too many treats eaten, Santa’s attempt to leave is stopped – he’s stuck in the chimney. Each animal comes to the rescue – the reindeer, a dog, a mother cat and six kittens, and finally a mouse. With the use of teamwork, they push and pull Santa out.

Savorings for reading and writing for Santa’s Stuck:

  • Voice – a question to the reader the author answers with you: “One more cookie? Couldn’t hurt.
  • Vivid Verbs – nestled, gathers, shrugs, entices
  • Rhyming Text
  • Stair-step structure – one more thing is added to the prior scene
  • Sound effects – onomatopoeia but also the font adds to show effort “No -o -o -o luck

What Dogs Want for Christmas

December 2, 2011

The adorable faced dog on the cover What Dogs Want for Christmas by Kandy Radzinski: Book Coversnatched my attention immediately.  Kandy Radzinski draws the personality out of each dog.  You get a sense of what each playful pup is like in just two poetic lines.

I read the book to several classes, ranging from first grade to fourth.  All the children feel in love with the book What Dogs Want for Christmas. The boys were giving me double thumbs up. Each child seemed to make a connection with at least one puppy, and everyone had a story.  I resorted to having the children give a vote if they owned the dog on the page. Excitement grew with each page.  I had a lot of fun and laughter while reading this book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for What Dogs Want for Christmas:

  • Point of View – a characteristic of each breed is woven into his request
  • Note/Letter format – “Dear Santa; Love, General
  • Poetic Narrative
  • Apostrophe usage
  • Illustrations – intriguingly real; drawing conclusions with the use of added symbols such as cat-faced buttons

Cat and Bear

November 28, 2011

The illustrations by Anne Mortimer are exquisitely life-like in Cat and Bear by Carol Greene.

Cat is annoyed that his child has chosen to love a stuffed bear instead of himself. You can sense Cat’s feeling of distaste. Cat attempts to hide bear, but mother finds bear each time.  Until one day…

Cat took one look at him and felt sick. “The Child already has a furry friend,” he growled. “Me. Bear is unnecessary.”

On a windy day, Cat seeks his revenge, and Bear is lost outside in leaves.  The Child misses the bear.  Cat tries to ignore his thoughts and guilt,  but sees the pain his Child is feeling.  In the end, Cat begrudgingly searches, finds, and retrieves Bear.  Dragging him to the Child, Cat is rewarded with a kiss of love from the Child. In the end, Cat learns that love can be shared and is multiplied.

Reading through Anne Mortimer’s bio on her website, I learned she is famous for her cat paintings. I didn’t realize she illustrated another one of my favorite books for Christmas called A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown. For the cat lovers, below is a beautiful video of Anne’s gallery.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Cat and Bear:

  • Character description – the lovable Bear and the unaccepting Cat
  • Voice of the cat – I love the cat’s finicky personality is portrayed
  • Synthesizing
  • Story detail – a wonderful interweaving of character thought, action, and dialogue
  • Sensory description –  soggy, snuggled
  • Community building

Bear’s First Christmas

December 8, 2009

I love bear cubs.  They look so cute and cuddly.  I wish I could pick one up and just hold it for a while, with it’s mother away of course. the illustrator, Jim LaMarche, drew me to this book.  I love his colored pencil drawings.  One of my favorite books is The Raft.  Another favorite is A Story for Bear.

Robert Kinerk shares a poetic narrative about a young bear hibernating from the snow.  With our first sprinkling snow today, I was reminded of the introductory setting.

“It started to snow, and a bear, very young, Bear's First Christmas

caught two or three flakes on the tip of his tongue.

The coming snow could mean only one thing.

It meant that the bear had to sleep until spring.”

He’s enchanted with a mysterious sound in the book Bear’s First Christmas.  He starts to follow it through the deep snow.  On his journey, Bear helps some forest friends – a crow, a moose, and a pheasant family.   They all follow the sound to a home filled with singing, “a wonderful growing inside.”

I think the tale will leave the children wondering a bit.  You can bring in science discussion with hibernation, changing of seasons, and animal behaviors.  You can also discuss fact versus fiction.  The richness of  the language will be a delight for each child.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Bear’s First Christmas:

  • Vocabulary – trek, lair, ember
  • Contractions – who’d, she’d
  • Possessive – the bird’s home
  • Wonderings – what is the mysterious sound?  Why is the tree important?
  • Setting
  • Companionship – acts of kindness
  • Hyphen vs. Dash – well-hidden; stared — at the tree!

Cats and Holiday Decorations

December 23, 2008

We have a cat named Kip in our home, and he has enjoyed the holiday decorations.  Our cat enjoys batting at the tree ornaments, jumping into boxes, and tearing the tissue paper.  Kip’s eyes will light up and friskiness arises.  He’s fun to watch, yet annoying when wrapping presents.

Margaret Wise Brown must have a cat as she has created a delightful book called A Pussycat’s Christmas.  This book is not a new one; oh, but it’s delicious!  (Yes, reading a good book is like chocolate to me, delighting my mind’s taste buds.)

Each page leads you to the next page; the last line seems to begin the theme of the next.  The sensory detail in this book is exquisite.  I do not find many books alerting the reader’s senses to smell, to sounds, to sight like A Pussycat’s Christmas.

And could she hear the crackle and slip of white tissue paper?”

“Tissue paper rustled.  Nuts cracked.  Scissors cut.”

“…where she could smell the sharp tangy smell of Christmas tree and candles and nuts and raisins and apples and tangerines.”

Margret Wise Brown interweaves varied sentence lengths with specific word choice and the Magic of Three.  The page layout is unique – almost like a poem, yet a narrative essay.  The lines stair-step down, guiding the reader’s voice and reflection.

The illustrations by Anne Mortimer compliment the text so richly. (I found that Anne Mortimer has illustrated many cat books. )  The two-page layout is very creative.  The left page’s illustrations flank the text as columns.  The right page is a complete illustration of the cat and her view of the setting.  The only page that isn’t like that is the middle.  Only two lines are highlighted:  “She saw it!  She saw the sleigh go jingling by.”  Enjoy this delightful book!

Savorings for reading and in writing for A Pussycat’s Christmas:

  • Voice – talks to the reader; the use of questions and varied sentences invite the reader to respond
  • Question Lead – “It was Christmas.  How could you tell?
  • Font Manipulation – adds to the illustrations and brings the sound to life
  • Transitions – the text flows so smoothly
  • Sensory Description