Category Archives: Holidays and other fun times

Great Thanksgiving books for kids

Christmas books for kids are easy to find. But Thanksgiving books?  Not so much.  In the area of children’s literature — as in so many things — Thanksgiving gets the short end of the stick.

But in our family library, we have two Thanksgiving books that help get all of us – myself included — into a proper holiday frame of mind.

-1

Thanksgiving is Here! by Diane Goode is a pretty simple, almost plotless picture book. Grandma and Grandpa host Thanksgiving for a huge, sprawling family, whose members arrive with frequent ringing of the doorbell and throw themselves right into the joyous celebration.  They help with the cooking, move the furniture, push tables and mismatched chairs together, clean up afterward, take a post-meal walk, and just generally enjoy each other’s company.

But even though the story is basic, the book is wonderfully compelling.  There’s a nice rhythm to the words, and Goode’s drawings are fabulous.  Each family member has so much personality, and the pictures of the family activities manage to capture the cheerful chaos of a huge family gathering.   My kids love this book, and I do too, because it reminds me of why I adore Thanksgiving: it’s a holiday that is all about loved ones gathering together around a table and enjoying each other’s company.  You don’t need more than that in life, really, and this gem of a book is a colorful reminder.

81k6cZbsAYL

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin is a classic from my era (written in 1971).   It’s about Maggie and her grandmother, who live in a house on the edge of a cranberry bog in New England.  Grandmother has a top-secret famous recipe for cranberry bread hidden behind the fireplace, and the plot starts to spin when they have two guests come over for Thanksgiving and one of them just might be trying to find and steal it (the cad!).

I won’t give away spoilers, but let’s just say that it’s a sweet story about not jumping to conclusions, and about not judging a book by its cover.  There’s a little theme of forgiveness at the end, too, which is nice.  And the illustrations are so colorful and charming, with that unique early ’70s picture book aesthetic. They are evocative, too; the drawings of the house by the bog always make me feel Thanksgiving-y and oddly nostalgic, even though this California girl would not know a cranberry bog if she fell headfirst into one.   It’s a darling book, and it even has a recipe for cranberry bread on the back cover … a nice touch.

Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving titles to share?  Please do!

Modern women and Mary: Win a copy of “Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God”

Once upon a time, I wanted to know what young adult women thought about Mary.  (Mary as in Mother-of-God Mary.)  So I wrote an article about it.

Then, with the encouragement of an editor (who is herself named Mary!), I wrote a whole book about it.

2968116

 

The process of writing it was eye-opening.  I talked to women from their twenties to their nineties, and heard their stories about who Mary is to them.  Those stories were poignant, affirming, at times raw, but always moving.  I came away with a deeper understanding of how much this young girl of Galilee keeps on inspiring women, even two thousand years later.   The whole experience proved that there’s so much power when women share their experiences of faith.

And since today is the day when Catholics have traditionally celebrated Mary’s birthday, it seemed like a terrific time to keep the sharing going.  So in honor of the day, I’m giving away a copy of Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God to a lucky recipient!  

How do you enter?  All you need to do is leave a comment in the comment section below.  You don’t even have to say anything deep or clever (seriously, who can pull off deep or clever on a Monday?).   A simple “I’d love to enter!”  is all it takes.  Entries will remain open until Friday, September 12th, then I’ll randomly choose a winner.

So please add a comment, tell a friend, and –while you’re at it — spend a minute or two reflecting on your own experiences of Mary.  Maybe you could send her a little “Happy Birthday” while you’re at it.   (It would probably make her son very happy, don’t you think?)

Labor Day and one big soul that everyone’s a part of

439686

At Mass yesterday, the closing hymn was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored

That, in turn, got me thinking of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, which I’ll be teaching again this year. (Interesting bit of trivia: It was Steinbeck’s wife Carol who suggested that he use the song lyric as the title.)

And The Grapes of Wrath got me thinking about labor, and Labor Day.

Have you read the book?  If not, I highly recommend it. It’s a book about the dignity of labor and the laborer, as well as a call to justice in the face of worker exploitation.  Italo Calvino once said that “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”  In a post-Citizens United world,  The Grapes of Wrath speaks as powerfully now as it did during the Depression.  (It also has one of the two best endings of any book I’ve ever read.  It weirded me out as a high school student, but now, I’m in awe of what Steinbeck managed to do in one perfect scene.)

And as I sang along with the rest of the congregation and thought about the book,  I found my mind wandering to labor in general.  As much as we (or at least I) like to think of free time as being the real stuff of life, it’s work that makes this world run.  That’s true whether it’s crews building the roads or  migrants picking the crops or moms bathing the kids or  teachers setting up their classrooms for the start of the school year.

Still,  I think it’s fair to say that society as a whole seems to value some work more than others.  I know women who are disparaged for being stay-at-home moms, and we’ve probably all heard people make dismissive comments about the people who work in fast-food restaurants or work as sanitation engineers.  (And then there’s that saying about how those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.  That one makes me nuts.)

Looking at the two young boys on either side of me, I realized how much I care about counteracting those attitudes. I want my kids to grow up to respect all kinds of workers  and all kinds of work  (save, of course, something  like dealing drugs).  Whoever we are and however we earn a living, we can only do our jobs because other people do theirs.  No one is an island;  we’re all part of a complex web of interdependence, one that works best when we all recognize and respect its existence.

As the ex-preacher Jim Casy famously says in The Grapes of Wrath, “Maybe all men got one big soul and everybody’s a part of it.”  (If you read the book in high school, I hope your teacher did the instructional equivalent of putting that line in neon lights.)  And if the book teaches nothing else, it teaches that there is a life-giving power when people remember that.  We all share a common humanity, no matter what kind of work we do, and that’s worth remembering all year long.

Twelve years since “I do”

The number twelve has many associations.  Twelve months in a year; twelve apostles of Jesus; twelve donuts in a dozen.

But as of today, it has a new significance for me.  Twelve years ago today, Scott and I said “I do.”

skf94C8

So happy anniversary to my life partner, my in-home tech support, my coffee roaster extraordinaire, my first proofreader, my seatmate on the wild and wacky rollercoaster of parenting, my rock,  my sweetheart.  I love you forever.

Happy Father’s Day


To all the dads who help us stand tall and walk proud …

Dad

 …Happy Father’s Day.