‘Tis the Season…to be reading

Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving in a lovely but simple way. A feast around the table with joyful fellowship and thankful hearts. With only dishes to wash, I am sure there will be hours devoted to games and the great outdoors. In our family, there will also be reading going on.

Is it not the perfect time for an evening of reading? Everyone is well fed, leftovers are saved for another day, energy has been spent, and all is quiet. You grab a good read, find a comfy spot and a cozy blanket. Sounds perfect, right? Why, yes, it does. What could be better but a little holiday reading? I have the just the book for you!

Chautona Havig has long been a favorite author in our home. The Annals of Wynnewood and the Not-So-Fairy Tales are well loved by my children. My older girls and I have enjoyed many of her books written for adults. When I had the opportunity to read Chautona’s newest book while she was in the process of writing it, I was thrilled. Carol and the Belles is being released Thanksgiving evening and is a perfect way to end the day.

Carol and Michal have been lifelong pen pals. Through the years, letters have crossed the ocean and formed an amazing friendship. After all these years, Carol finally has the opportunity to come and visit Michal. From the moment Carol steps off the plane, plans take an unexpected turn for Carol and for Michal. With help from the “belles”, Michal tries to make Carol’s visit fun and memorable. There are just some things that can’t be planned.

Intrigued? I hope. There is a delicate balance in sharing about a book without giving it away! Carol and the Belles can perhaps be categorized as a romantic comedy. You will likely find yourself laughing, hoping the right person gets the girl, and maybe even shed a tear or two. A perfect light-hearted read but not fluff! There is depth gently woven into this story. How we see people, how they present themselves…what is real and true? Do we trust in the comfortable or are we willing to take a step of faith? Are we willing to sacrifice our happiness for what is true and right? We also find out the perfect traveling attire. Ha!

Guess what? There is a bonus! If you grab the book this weekend (November 26 – 30), you get a FREE short story that contains letters from over the years between Michal and Carol.  So fun to take a peak into how their friendship developed over time.

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! Eat, drink, and be reading!


Nooks & Crannies

In my reading this past year, it seems a lot of my focus has been on middle grade fiction. This was not planned but it has worked out to be delightful.  I just happen to have a daughter, 12, who loves to read. Lydia and I have enjoyed sharing books and discussing them. One book that we read a few months ago is Nooks & Crannies (Jessica Lawson). We were chatting about it again this morning while washing breakfast dishes and I realized I had failed to share about it here.

Tabitha Crum’s life is lonely and dreary.  Her parents treat her as a servant and not a beloved one.  Her bedroom is the attic and meager fair serves as her meals.She is poorly dressed and her hair is a frumpy mess. Time at school is not much better.  Her only friend is a mouse named Pemberley. Despite these circumstances, Tabitha finds enjoyment through the love of a good mystery and a healthy imagination.

“Family, it seemed, was not always a matter of who one was born to or even who one’s parents were. A person’s *family*, Tabitha realized, was the thing that held them up, so that life could still be illuminated in the darkest of times. A family member could be a mouse. A family member could be an Inspector that nobody would ever meet outside that pages of a novel. Depending on the circumstance, a family member might even be discovered in a person you just met.”

One afternoon Tabitha arrives home to find that her parents are leaving the country. Without her. They are leaving her at an orphanage to work since she has turned out to be such a disappointment to them. Circumstances take a twist. On this same day Tabitha receives an envelope containing a mysterious request to visit the Countess of Windermere. a wealthy recluse.

Tabitha’s parents allow her to visit the Countess of Windermere in hopes of their own financial improvement. Tabitha, and five other children, are guests of the Countess. Why are they there? Is the Countess who she appears to be? Is the house haunted? What will happen to Tabitha?

“In fact, if there was one thing Tabitha had learned from the weekend thus far, it was that people had all sorts of facades about them, covering tucked-away bits of badness and goodness. Fear and courage. Helplessness and hope.”

Nooks & Crannies is an excellent read for those who love a bit of mystery and suspense. The cast of characters is diverse.  I loved how clearly the personalities came through in various interactions. The plot has a twist that I was not expecting.  As I was reading, I thought I had the mystery solved. I was mistaken! Ah, the twist.

Lydia and I had excellent conversations from reading this. There is much to be discussed about character, truth, family and friends. What guides the decisions we make? What do our actions reveal about us? Does everyone hide behind a facade?

Nooks & Crannies is like A Little Princess, Annie, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory mashed together and sprinkled with a bit of Clue. That is as much as I can give away. I can’t ruin the ending for you! This is a great independent read for perhaps ages 9/10 and up. However, it would certainly make a fabulous read aloud. If I had to do it again, I would definitely read it aloud. Highly recommend this read.


Celebrating Imagination – Picture Books

Imaginations are beautiful. While we see a cluster of trees, a couch full of laundry, or a muddy drive way, our children see jungles with wild beast lurking, ships sailing on the high seas and a swamp teaming with alligators. There is nothing more delightful that sharing a book  with your children that embraces that gift of seeing the unseen.

We have enjoyed two picture books recently that showcase the wonders of imagination. Much conversation was had after reading these selections. It was fun to see everyone’s observations and different spins on how they heard the stories.

Beyond the Pond (Joseph Kuefler) We meet a young boy, Ernest D, in his backyard. It is just an ordinary day with no excitement in sight. Ernest decides to see how deep the pond is in his backyard and discovers that it could be bottomless.  Suited up in diving gear, Ernest dives into the depths of his pond to discovery the expected pond life. But as he goes deeper more is to be found in the shadows.

This tale of imagination and adventure is illustrated perfectly. The story begins with an ordinary house and backyard. Once Ernest returns from the depths of his pond, his world is no longer ordinary and gray and boring. There is now color and life. Imaginations are powerful. What is in your backyard?

The Whisperer (Pamela Zagarenski) was a lovely surprise for me. It happened to catch my eye from the library shelf and I tossed it in the book bag. What an enchanting treasure!

A young girl is given a magical book. As she journeys home, the letters and words fall off the pages and out of the book. When the girl arrives home and opens the book to read she is startled and troubled to see no words, no story. Then, inspired by the illustrations she sees, the girl weaves her own stories for the book. And here she finds a hidden treasure: her own imagination and her own stories.

The Whisperer celebrates the gift of reading, storytelling and imagination. I love hearing the stories and adventures that my children create. What a gift to encourage in our children. Whimsical, enchanting illustrations will inspire even the youngest reader to spin a tale. We enjoyed The Whisperer again and again. I think you might as well!

What books have you enjoyed that has celebrated childhood and imagination?