I had to include my vintage yarn Santa with my “vintage” copy of The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear. This was one of my favorite books to read as a kid, and it’s one of my kids’ favorites now. When I pulled it out, my almost-9-year-old said, “Oh! We haven’t read that yet this year, and we need to!” (I don’t think anyone can ever be too old for the Berenstain Bears.) There’s just something about this book that makes our holiday book stack feel complete, and I have a feeling I’ll be forcing my kids to listen to me read it when they’re adults.
Brother and Sister Bear are getting ready for their annual visit to Santa, and they, as all of us do, are hypnotized and excited by all of the decorations, toys, and advertisements. When it comes time to make their Christmas wish lists for Santa, they realize that they might be asking for too much, and that the true meaning of Christmas isn’t the presents you receive, but what you choose to give to others.
The Berenstain Bears are a long-time favorite of mine and my kids, and the Christmas books are done so well. This book is sentimental and sweet and teaches a good lesson without getting preachy. The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear would make a great addition to any holiday book collection, if you don’t already own it!
I have been dying to get my hands on this book for what seems like forever. It’s been much hyped in the bookstagram community, so when my library hold finally came in I rushed right over to get it. I enjoy reading holiday books, but I don’t generally go for the plucky, romantic books. (But you can bet I’ll be watching Netflix’s A Christmas Prince real soon.) Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is not that kind of book (although it is a wonderfully sweet story), and I absolutely loved it. If you’re looking for a well-told, historically-based holiday story, this is it!
. . . for the truth at the bottom of every illusion, every fiction, every lie: our own great desire to believe.
Mr. Dickens and His Carol, part fact part Silva’s imagination, begins with Charles Dickens himself in a holiday slump. He is sick of Christmas excess, sick of his family and friends always needing money from him, and sick of his publishers hounding him to write a Christmas book he doesn’t want to write. (And giving him only two weeks in which to write that book.) He isolates himself in a hotel room to write the book, for which he has little inspiration, and spends his nights taking long walks around London to try and clear his mind. On one of his walks, he meets a mysterious woman named Eleanor Lovejoy who challenges Dickens to re-think what he believes about Christmas, family, friendship, and love. Their friendship sparks a Christmas story that changes everything.
This is a feel-good story that isn’t cheesy. Dickens wants to believe in the spirit of Christmas again but is unable to because of all the pressure placed on him by everyone around him. That’s something we can all relate to on different levels. In her Author’s Note, Silva includes which parts are completely true, including the situation (A Christmas Carol was written out of financial necessity, and Dickens was under immense pressure) and some of the characters’ lines. She fills in the gaps to create a magical, sentimental story of how Dickens may have been inspired to write this story in her imagination.
This a beautiful story of love and family, of the Christmas spirit, and of a man who needed to find himself to break a serious case of writer’s block. I want to know more about Dickens and the history of A Christmas Carol now, and I’m already looking up more books about the subject! (There’s also a great twist that completely surprised me because I was so caught up in the story and how good the writing was. I didn’t see it coming at all!) Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a perfect holiday read, and I would recommend it to anyone.
“The murderer is with us—on the train now. . . .”
I haven’t read Agatha Christie in years, and with the re-make of Murder on the Orient Express, I decided to read the book before seeing the movie. (I still haven’t seen the movie, and I’m skeptical, because David Suchet will always be the best Hercule Poirot.) Murder on the Orient Express is the ninth book in the Poirot series (you do not have to read them in order). If you’re not familiar with them, Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective with an excellent mustache and even better deductive skills. This book reminded me why I love Christie, and my 2018 book goals will definitely include reading more.
As you can probably guess, the entire story takes place on a train, the Orient Express. Just after midnight, the train runs into a snowdrift and stops, stuck on the tracks. Within a few hours, one of the passengers is dead, stabbed multiple times inside his locked room. Poirot is called on to figure out who among the remaining passengers is the killer, and what their connection to the victim is.
Agatha Christie isn’t know as the Queen of Crime for nothing. The format of this book is so simple-it is set up in sections: the setting, the crime, the evidence, the resolution-but so effective. The reader gets to go through the entire crime-solving process right alongside Poirot, watching “the little grey cells of the mind” at work. It’s an incredibly satisfying way to read a mystery. It’s straightforward, with little twists and turns throughout, but not enough to become frustrating. (I also love seeing how Poirot’s counterparts, in this case M. Bouc, become exasperated by how fast Poirot’s mind works, and how he de-bunks every theory they have.) The story itself is so well written, and while some of the language is a little outdated, I think it still stands up to any modern day mystery.
If you’re looking for a suspenseful cozy mystery or a quick winter read, I highly recommend Murder on the Orient Express. And if you haven’t watched any Hercule Poirot movies, look for the ones with David Suchet. He’s the only person I picture when I read the books!
Well, it’s definitely winter in Texas-we’ve had REAL snow, cold weather (in addition to 80-degree days), and we’ve started reading Christmas books at night! This week my kids have been reading some new-to-them chapter books, and we read one of my favorite Christmas books ever together. Tell me what you and your kids have been reading this week!
A New Class: Star Wars: Jedi Academy 4
Our elementary school had their book fair this week, and even though we own the entire Jedi Academy series, my 6-year-old wanted “his OWN copy” of this one. He’s finally starting to read chapter books on his own, so I’m just happy he found a series he loves. My kids love this series. They are part chapter books, part graphic novel, and full of adventure and plenty of elementary/middle school drama. This book is about a younger brother joining his embarrassed sister at Jedi school and the hijinks they get into while there. Yoda is in this one, so if you have Star Wars fans they’ll love this!
This series is new to me, and I don’t let my kids play Minecraft very much, but they still love it. There are a ton of books in the unofficial Minecraft book world, and The Creeper Diaries are about a Creeper (please don’t ask me to explain what that is, because I can’t) named Gerald who is a pacifist in a war-happy Minecraft school. It’s definitely in the graphic novel category, and full of adventure, magic, and good versus evil. Any kid who is a fan of Minecraft or wild adventure books will probably love this series.
What We’re Reading Together
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
I mentioned this in last week’s post, so I won’t go on and on about it, but we finished reading this book this week, and my kids loved it! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is the story of the 6 Herdman kids and how they come to understand the Christmas story, and manage to touch the hearts of an entire congregation of people who previously despised them. There are funny moments, touching scenes, and plenty of Biblical history thrown in. This isn’t a religious book, but it does focus on a Christmas pageant, but even if you aren’t religious, I think there’s plenty to enjoy. My kids loved hearing the shocking things the Herdmans got up to, and I loved re-reading one of my childhood favorites to them. (And I even teared up at the end at Gladys’s last, “Hey! Unto you a child is born!”[Top]
I was born here but I’ve never gotten used to it; Helsingborg and I will never find peace. Maybe everyone feels that way about their hometown: the place we’re from never apologizes, never admits that it was wrong about us.
Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite writers, and a true wordsmith. I fell in love with A Man Called Ove (My review of that book is HERE.), and I’ve fallen head over heels for his new Christmas novella The Deal of a Lifetime.
The story begins with a father writing a letter to his son on Christmas Eve. Instead of a typical feel-good letter, the father is writing to tell his son that he has taken a life. Throughout the course of the novella, we meet a 5-year-old girl with cancer, a mysterious woman who drifts in and out of the picture, and find out why the narrator feels he failed as a parent. When he is given the opportunity to commit a selfless act and save the little girl, he has to see what his life was really worth before he can make the deal. Thus, he writes a letter to his son, examining his entire life.
This book yanked at my heartstrings right from the introduction. I was hooked before the book had even begun. Backman gets the feelings of a man trying to do right, and the strange feelings that accompany returning to a hometown that you might never have felt at home in, exactly right. This novella is only 65 pages long, but I smiled, I laughed, and I definitely cried.
The book is so short, and I don’t want to give the entire plot away, so just know that it is the story of a man desperate to fix things in the past, and the deal a parent is willing to make to achieve those changes. The Deal of a Lifetime is a beautiful, warm, and emotional story, and if you really want to feel something, with a little holiday thrown in, I beg you to pick up this book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Maybe all people have that feeling deep down, that your hometown is something you can never really escape, but can never really go home to, either. Because it’s not home anymore. We’re not trying to make peace with it. Not with the streets and bricks of it. Just with the person we were back then. And maybe forgive ourselves for everything we thought we would become and didn’t.[Top]