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Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas book giveaway [CLOSED]! And a favorite Christmas book tradition.

Yes, I hung the dough ornament of Yoda
that Levi made at preschool.
It seems like people turn to books more often at Christmastime than at any other time of the year. Am I right? I know my own holiday book collection features more Christmas and Winter titles than all the other holidays combined.

I'll tell you what I like to do with our Christmas books (and I'll shamelessly admit that I stole this tradition from my Everead co-blogger Ashley -- learn from the best!): Every year we wrap the Christmas books up like presents (even though they're mostly the same ones). Then we get to unwrap one each day and read! It's so super fun. Also it has the added advantage of staving off the children's pleas to open "just one present."

I confess, I haven't wrapped them up yet this year, but "yet" is the right word there. I fully intend to wrap up some of our favorites --The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Jan Brett, Barbara McClintock's The Gingerbread Man, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. And I'm definitely going to wrap up The Night Before The Night Before Christmas by Jay Dee and Darren Geers -- since it's our newest. I've successfully kept it hidden from the kids, and I look forward to their surprise.

When the author of The Night Before The Night Before Christmas, Jay Dee, asked if I'd like to do a review and giveaway, my first thought was, "Too busy!" But my second thought came after I saw the cover image by Darren Geers.


When saw the cover, I thought, "This book has potential!" I was right. The interior illustrations are every bit as lovely as the cover -- my fave was probably the exterior of Santa's cabin, which you can peek at in the Amazon preview. I'm reasonably certain that the art was rendered digitally, and it does a great job of capturing texture and detail without feeling busy. The pages are laid out very well -- I didn't even notice how effortless reading this book was until I was looking consciously, for this review. There's great depth in the art, you'll notice. Even just on the cover you see the train in the foreground, Our protagonist Elfie is the star of the show, and behind him, who is that? Ah, St. Nick himself.

Anyway, let me tell you about the story. Elfie is a detail-oriented little guy and has spent quite a long time working on the little train you see before you. Too long, if you ask his elf supervisor. Tension builds as we fear a reprimand from Santa himself, but it turns out that Elfie's insistence on perfection was exactly what Santa was after. This is a special train, to be given to a special baby, Jesus.

I was initially put off by this anachronism -- toy trains were not a big thing when Baby Jesus was born. I'm pretty sure they came later. Very sure. But then I considered the overall message of the book, the respectful way Christ was brought into a secular story, the positive way I expect my children to receive the plot (despite it's incongruity to me, as an adult) and the fact that Christ has said "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto . . . my brethren, ye have done it unto me."   After these deliberations, I decided I could go with it.

The pacing of the book is on point, and the characters are endearing (with the exception of the two-dimensional demanding supervisor elf), and the text and picture pairing is seamless.

Overall I'd say this will make a charming addition to our collection of Christmas books.

I would love to know what book-related traditions you have around this holiday season, and what your favorite Christmas books are. I've got my eye on The Christmas Quiet Book, yes I do.

Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway! For an extra entry, tweet about the giveaway and tag me, @everead. Contest closes December 22, 2014. (Give Everead's Giveaway Policy the once-over if you haven't seen it yet.)

p.s. The links in this post are affiliate links, and here is one for Barnes and Noble, too, just in case! The Night Before The Night Before Christmas Merry Christmas!

Congratulations to our winner, Amy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Start talking about your roots with The Tiny Portrait

Tiny Portrait Heidi Carla
Review by Ashley

I was sent this lovely children's book in the mail recently. I haven't accepted a lot of review copies lately---life is busy, and I'm not always interested in the book. This one caught my attention though. It's a children's book about family history! This is a subject that's near and dear to me, and I thought, what a brilliant idea, to write a children's book that might inspire young readers to learn a little bit about their own past.

The Tiny Portrait, by Heidi Carla, tells about two modern siblings, Tess and Toby, who find a small portrait of an unknown woman in a box of family heirlooms, dated 1890. Tess thinks she might see a resemblance between herself and the picture. The next day, Tess and Toby think they see the woman, real and alive, in their garden. They run outside to find her, and instead they find a rhyming clue written on a rolled-up piece of paper. They follow the instructions and are soon racing through their town on a treasure hunt, led by the distant image of the woman in the portrait, who is always just out of reach. She leads them to historic places, like the town library, an antique shop, and the railroad station---each a place that teaches them a little more about history and genealogy.

I liked the black-and-white photo art in this book, done by Karla Cinquanta. It was a clever way to illustrate a story about family history. Overall, a sweet little book, and a great way to start a dialogue with your own children about the interesting stories your own ancestors have to tell.
_____________
Notes from Alysa

It's so lovely when a publisher offers you a review copy of a book that really interests you! (Happened to me recently, too!) The Tiny Portrait sparked my interest, as well, but I had too much on my plate. I'm glad Ashley "took one for the team" hehe.  I do have a review like this coming up -- look for my review *and* giveaway of The Night Before the Night Before Christmas later this week!

Just for fun, here is a picture of my great-grandparents. My aunt shared it recently and I had never seen it before:
Maud and George Burton
In the meantime, if you want to buy The Tiny Portrait, here are the Everead affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking through these, I earn a small commission. 'Tis the season to be jolly!

buy at Amazon
buy at B&N





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