Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Favorite Christmas Books

My kids love Dec. 1, when they finally get to haul out the Christmas decorations. Every year, I plan to put up a little at a time, taking a week or more and savoring the process. And every year, their energy for Christmas decorating just keeps going until it's ALL up on Dec. 1.

One of our favorite boxes is the Christmas books. We have several less-known favorites:

Letters from Father Christmas, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien imagined up a funny North Pole world that includes the North Polar Bear, an elf named Ilbereth, and ferocious goblins. Each Christmas, Father Christmas would write the Tolkien children a letter describing the year's adventures. As the years in the book go on, the North Polar Bear gets his own language and alphabet, a huge goblin war is fought and won, and the bear and the elf start inserting their own marginal notes in the letters. Father Christmas frequently includes a watercolor painting, as well. Each night (more or less) in December, my husband reads the kids one letter—and they can often be found reading the book themselves the rest of the day. (Note: there seem to be several editions of this book, some longer and more complete than others.)

The Story of Holly and IvyThe Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden
This is a sweet Christmas story of a Christmas doll and an orphan girl who are meant for each other. Which makes it sound sicky-sweet and unbearable, but it's not.

Christmas Trolls and Trouble with Trolls, by Jan Brett
Saying that Jan Brett writes and illustrates picture books is like calling Tolkien a fantasy author—true, yes, but completely inadequate. My kids love her fractious trolls and the hedgehog with his own agenda in these lush, lavish books.

Huh. Turns out this list could be called "Books that we usually can't bear to put away after Christmas is over." What are your favorite Christmas books?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sound and Sense

Went to the BYU forum assembly today to hear Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. She freely acknowledges herself to be both a "stickler" and a "grouch," and she recognizes the merits of the "get a life" approach to punctuation...but she maintains that it is the responsibility of a writer to respect the "sound and sense" of language, rather than writing any old thing and expecting the audience to catch the gist.

Ms. Truss has a real gift for hilariously illustrating the importance of proper punctuation. Take, for example, these two sentences:
The defendant said his barrister has a history of drug use.
The defendant, said his barrister, has a history of drug use.

She also mused on whether the "slow children" on road signs eventually grow up to become "slow men working."

And you can draw your own illustrations for these two sentences:
Look! It's behind.
Look: its behind.

My husband and I are already firmly in the stickler camp, but I sure hoped at least one eager freshman got excited to go and sin no more against the rules of English punctuation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Look Under Things

Everyone who knows my mom knows her sure-fire, one-step method for finding what you're looking for: look under things. Her mom always says it to her, she always said it to me, and if my kids have lost something, I just ask, "What would Grandma do?"

"Look under things," they sigh.

The thing is, she's usually right (as she is quick to remind me—that's the other thing she always says). You scan the room, look around a little, find nothing. But you start picking things up, and there are your keys or your markers or your marbles. Marbles, especially—I lose those on a regular basis.

So, we have here the Look Under Things blog, dedicated to looking at, around, and under whatever's on my mind at the moment. Statistically speaking, this is likely to include:

You must especially remember the misc. Welcome! Come have a look with me.
Lee Ann Setzer's blog about books, writing, and life in general.