12 Days of Christmas Books, #3

Christmas 2014

Tomie diPaolo’s Mary, Mother of Jesus mainly uses scripture to tell the Mary’s life story. The book’s strength is diPaolo’s illustrations with their simple lines and soft colors. Like some of the other children’s books I’ve reviewed here, there are a couple words like Messiah that younger children will need explained. Still it’s a gentle telling of this illusive religious figure.

The cover promised influence from folk tales, but I didn’t notice any in the story. The story is a very traditional, orthodox tale.

12 Books of Christmas #2

off to bethlehem The children’s book Off to Bethlehem! by Dandi Daley Mackall is a breezy, poetic telling of the story of the nativity has endearing illustrations by R.W. Alley, though I was surprised how much older Joseph looks than Mary. (I guess he looks like he’s 40 while she’s a teen. There’s nothing I know of in the Bible about their age difference. I’d be happier with a younger Joseph. How about 20?)

Off to Bethlehem! is a great introduction or reminder of the reason for the season.

 

12 Days of Christmas Stories, #1

child manger

By Liesbet Sleger, A Child in the Manger is a wonderful book to introduce young children (2 – 4 years old) to the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a simple telling with few words that’ll need explanation.

The illustrations look almost like a child’s drawing with their bold outlines. The colors are cheerful as is the tone.

The Nutcracker

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The Nutcracker, retold by Jean Richardson and illustrated by Francesca Crespi, is a beautiful retelling of of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale. They simplify the story and it’s not as scary as the original.

It’s a good nighttime read to prepare a child for the ballet.  The pictures are charming and the story can be read by a child.

Digging a Hole to Heaven

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S. D. Nelson’s children’s book Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys will teach readers about the hardships of the children who had to work deep in the mines during the 19th century. The illustrations are well done and show a sharp contrast between the dark mines and the sunny lives lived above ground. Throughout the story of 12 year old Conall, his brother and miners, Nelson has inserted sidebars with facts about child labor, and mining in particular.

I enjoyed the book, but wish the characters had more depth and personality. Each one was standard cookie cutter. Yet I still recommend the book as an introduction to this aspect of history, that’s usually forgotten.

Secrets to Getting Published

My public library had a great talk about getting published. They got a good crowd of aspiring writers who want to write fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and poetry. The talk was led by an editor and a writer, who does both self-publishing and publishing through an established publisher.

I don’t think I should share all the secrets as their handout was copyrighted, but I’ll share some facts and tips:

  1. Know why you want to get published. Have a clear vision of what you consider success to be. (Getting published, wining an award, getting good reviews or what?)
  2. More non-fiction books are written by first time writers.
  3. Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies, and most of those copies are bought by the author. Ugh. ;-(
  4. Learn to “eat rejection for breakfast.” So develop a thick skin and remember that major writers often got dozens or hundreds of rejection letters.
  5. Adequately test your idea by seeing how people, not just loved ones, think about your idea.
  6. If you do self-publish get your books into different sorts of shops. In a book shop your books is one of many, but in a florist or hospital shop there’s only a handful of other books.
  7. The average new writer spends $3000-$5000 of their own money on preparing their books. Both speakers stressed that you should hire a professional editor. Someone who’s an English teacher or reads and edits professionally is required not just a pal.The cheapskate in me balks at spending so much money, but I’m mulling this over. I do have people whom I trust as good writers and grammarians read my work as a favor, but should I be paying someone? What do you think, readers?

Mary Poppins

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This month’s book club selection was the children’s classic Mary Poppins. Saving Mr. Banks prepared me for some differences between the film starring Julie Andrews and the actual book, but it led me to think the father was a prominent character, who needed redemption. Well, not in the book, he doesn’t. He’s not a big part of the story.

In fact the book is more of a collection of delightful, imaginative experiences that happen while Mary is with the Banks family. More happens in the novel. Michael and Jane have baby fraternal twin siblings who can understand the communication of animals, stars and all of nature. When they go Christmas shopping with Mary, they meet and help Maia one of the stars in the Pleiades constellation who appears like an almost naked child wearing a simple blue cloth.

Mary is a mystery, a strict mystery. She comes to a family that lost their nanny, but the children weren’t bad so there was no dire need for discipline. Sure they’re not keen on chores, but they get along with each other and seem to obey.

I rewatched the film on my flight to Beijing and Mary’s not all that nice in it either. She’s a stick in the mud and very strict. For some reason though she’s magical and loves imagination, she constantly hides the fact. I was startled that a classic children’s book would end with an adult who pretty much abandons children. Yes, she told everyone she’d leave when the wind blew and she never was one for explanations, but really? Abandonment is terrible for kids and just leaving a job without giving notice is not something we want to encourage. What would Freud say?