Thursday, December 15, 2011

Column No. 8 December 15, 2011

 More Christmas Book Ideas

This is my last chance of the year to tell you about Christmas stories, so I am going to take advantage of that. “Klaus,” by a multi-award-winning local author, Michelle Erickson, is a fun, romantic story about Santa Claus and his wife.
            What a joy it was to read a fun, clean, romantic story that gives answers to all of the questions we may have about Santa, from why his reindeer fly to why his suit is red. It explains why he lives in the North Pole and what made him decide to make toys.
            There are many creatures in this story, including elves, sprites, and abominable snow monsters, and I was enchanted by all of them. Eralee, who is part Dryad and part water nymph, is Klaus’s one true love, but she is immortal and Klaus is mortal. Immortals are forbidden to even associate with humans, let alone marry them. Bring in the Snow Witch, who also is vying for Klaus’s affections, and you have a great conflict.
            Erickson will be doing a book signing at the BYU-Idaho Bookstore today from 12-2 p.m. She will have 3 of her books featured. She is an independent author who has released 12 books in 12 months. Support her writing efforts and check out her books! They are available on in paperback form as well as e-book form for the Kindle.
            Another Christmas story is “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. This classic piece of short fiction tells of a young couple in turn–of-the-century New York with few material possessions, and how they give up their own precious items to get gifts for one another. It is a cherished tale that shows the true meaning of giving at this time of year.
            The basis of this story is the foundation and inspiration for countless stories based on the idea that the desire to give the gift of love outweighs our desires for material things. If you have not read it, I suggest you find a version that will please your family. Whether it be the Muppets, Mickey Mouse, or the original version by O. Henry, this story should not go unread this Christmas season.
            The picture book we read every Christmas Eve is “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Jan Brett. This famous Christmas poem is a staple in our home every year. This version is full of beautiful illustrations and is just the kind of classic Christmas book that makes our children bounce off the walls even more than do the gobs of sugar they have consumed.
            Another book that we don’t read every year, but that we enjoy with regularity at Christmas time is “Santa’s Twin” by Dean Koontz. A fun spin on “The Night Before Christmas,” “Santa’s Twin” is about Bob Claus, Santa’s brother who wants to ruin Christmas. Instead of toys and candy canes, Bob delivers spiders, spinach, and Brussels sprouts candy. This is a great holiday book for children ages 8-12. And also for husbands who are 8 years old at heart!
            Now I have given you some books for the season,
                        don’t you forget that there’s an important reason…
            To celebrate at this time of year,
                        and start new traditions that you will hold dear.
            Now off to the library I expect you to go,
                        to find some great books, some books you now know.
            Stories for families that bring joy and great cheer,
                        and I’ll get more books ready to ring in the new year!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Column No. 7 December 1, 2011

            “I too find that far too great a percent of my taxes go toward supporting the indolent. Free housing! Free food! No wonder they don’t go out and work. With the comforts, they are inclined to just live upon our generosity rather than their own industry.”
            This sounds like a quote from the immortal mouth of Ebenezer Scrooge. They could very easily be his words. But they are the words of his mentor and partner Jacob T. Marley, uttered when he first meets Scrooge, before Scrooge has lost most of his humanity.
            “Jacob T. Marley,” a recently published book by R. William Bennett, is meant to be read as a companion to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Written in a voice similar to the Dickens classic, “Jacob T. Marley” explores the life of Marley and how he has influenced Scrooge to become such an unsavory person.   
            Beginning before Scrooge and Marley become partners, this short novel shows us the character of Jacob Marley and how he is the negative influence that causes Scrooge to dislike everyone around him. On his deathbed, Marley is repentant. The book speculates about whether or not Marley is given the same opportunity that Scrooge was given to change his life.
            At his death, Marley looks for sympathy from Scrooge and finds none. “‘What a wretched man,’ Marley thought. ‘Whatever in the world made him? . . . I did’ were his own words that came to him. ‘I did. I made Ebenezer Scrooge.’”
            When Marley recognizes his life’s mistake, he wants to change what he has done. But he cannot alter the past. The only thing he can do is to try to change the future. It is when his mortal life is over that his atonement begins. It is time for Marley to help the only person he could have called “friend” to turn his life around—the way Marley never had a chance to do.
            Every year, my husband reads a story to the family during the Christmas season. I think this one will definitely be on the list for this year! It is only 200 pages, so that makes it the perfect length for the 24 days of December leading up to Christmas.
            This tale of remorse, repentance, and redemption is a sure bet to become a Christmas classic. 
            Just some ideas for other Christmas books we have read in the past as a family:
            —“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” by Barbara Robinson. We read this about three years ago when the oldest was 9 and the youngest was 1. All three of the kids were riveted every night. I think they were most fascinated by the silly toilet humor.
            —“A Little House Christmas: Holiday Stories From the Little House Books,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This was a great book of stories from the Little House on the Prairie series. We are big fans of the Little House books in our family, so this was the perfect book for our family tradition.
            If you haven’t started yet, today is December 1st—the perfect time to start your family reading tradition. Find a book of stories about Christmas, or a chapter book about the holiday season. Get your family involved in a book this year!