Friday, December 27, 2013

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

The very beginning of the book lets us know that "A Child's Christmas in Wales" was first performed as a BBC radio broadcast in 1945. In 1947, Thomas wrote "Conversations about Christmas". Finally, in 1950, he joined them together into one essay titled "A Child's Memories of Christmas in Wales". After Thomas died in 1953, the version used in this book was published as "A Child's Christmas in Wales". Though truly it is a collection of his memories of how Christmas was celebrated when he was a young boy in Wales in the 1920s. 

Raschka's illustrations are an excellent companion to Thomas' prose. The cover of the book is the color of a winter sky with silver glitter reminiscent of the ever-present snow that "grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss..." The language is beautiful; the story somewhat disjointed since it is a collection of memories. The size of the book is perfect - a 6" x 8.5" oblong. Nine years old and up, maybe? They will completely understand the snow wanderings and the discussion of Useful vs. more desired Useless Presents. Certainly enough for them to say, "Oh yes - we have that at our Christmas, too!"   My advice is -- if you are familiar with Dylan Thomas and this particular story, then buy this copy.  It's beautifully done and I don't think you will be disappointed.  If, on the other hand, you have never read it before, check out a copy from your local library first.  There are many versions - but giving it a read through will let you know if it's something you want to purchase for your own collection.  

I should also add that I won my copy! Many thanks to Candlewick Press and Elizabeth O. Dulemba for promoting the contest.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


It is indeed that time of year -- when it seems like everyone on the planet puts out "The Best Books of ..." lists.  So my "To Read" list is growing by leaps and bounds!  Here is what I have added in the last few days. 

Bone by Bone:  Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine; Illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth.  Seriously - who could resist a book illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth?  Comparative anatomy for the K - 2nd grade crowd.  

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown; Illustrated by Don Brown.  A thorough investigation of the Dust Bowl - in graphic novel format!  For ages 11 and up. It has been described as beautiful and compelling; sadly my library does not own it yet so I will have to look for it elsewhere.

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.  I had never heard of George E. Ohr.  Which is one of the things I truly love about kid lit -- you meet so many interesting people!  Both alive and dead.  :-) This man wore his mustache curled around his ears!  And he made beautiful pottery, too.  Ages 10 and up though accessible to younger kids also.

The Tapir Scientist:  Saving South America's Largest Mammal by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop.  I have never read anything by Sy Montgomery that was not completely fascinating.  Therefore I assume this story will be also.  Quick!  Where in South America does a tapir live?  Brazil's Pantanale.  What does it look like? It has a snorkel snout!  How lovable is that?  Ages 10 and up.  Lots of pictures; lots of text, too!

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang Though technically this is probably closer to historical fiction, I am putting it here because it provides a LOT of history about the Boxer Rebellion from both sides of the story.  It is a two-volume graphic novel.  The first volume is Boxers and presents the more traditioanl Chinese side.  The second volume is Saints and presents the Chinese Christan side.  From what I have read, it's a bit gruesome in spots.  But it has received rave reviews.  And I really can't wait to read it.  7th grade and up

Bluffton:  My Summers with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan  Another graphic novel; another sort of historical/biographical fiction.  Told from the viewpoint of a young boy who grew up close to Buster Keaton whose family spent summers in Bluffton.  A bit of a coming of age tale set in 1908.  6th grade, maybe?  

And last but not least -One that I have read.

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible... On Schindler's List by Leon Leyson. This is a memoir written by Leyson who was the youngest survivor "adopted" by Schindler.  Read it. It is short and compelling.  
I have read four or five Holocaust stories this year so I will write more about them in a different post.  Happy reading!  Or happy placing holds at your local library!