An Advent Calendar for Book-Loving Procrastinators

So I've been a little sick lately . . . . I won't bore you with the details, except to say:

1. It is problematic to lose your voice at the end of the semester, when you teach four classes of students who have paid good money for some actual learning to be stuffed into their heads.

2. Pneumonia! It's not just for the elderly! Unless this means I'm now elderly . . . . Hmm. Let me think about that. Anyway -- let's hear it for antibiotics and Robitussin with codeine!

OK, so -- let's get caught up on some excellent Advent reading! I do apologize for not keeping up. These past couple of weeks, breathing has sucked up most of my energy (I think that's a funny play on words, but I'm not sure . . . Bring more Robitussin!). Onward!

Way back on DAY 15 of Advent, when we opened the calendar door, we found a book that I was first introduced to as a song. The Marvelous Toy was originally sung by folk singer Tom Paxton; I vividly remember singing along with my dad as we listened to this fabulous song on the radio on our bi-annual trips to Oklahoma, for Christmas with our cousins. There are several print editions of the poem, all beautifully illustrated. I saw this one in the gift shop at the Kenndey Center, and just loved the bright colors and swirling motion captured by illustrator Steve Cox.

The calendar showed an old favorite on DAY 16: The ladies in my book group reminded me that Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory is a great story to share with your family as you prepare for Christmas. I had forgotten that Capote could write so sweetly and lovingly -- this story is a great reminder.

On DAY 17, the Advent Calendar reminded me that my Latin American friends are in the midst of their traditional Las Posadas celebrations right now. The urchins read Carlos, Light the Farolito a long time ago in school as they learned about Christmas customs around the world. The girl in charge suggested that you might like it as well. We learned a lot about the Mexican traditions around this special time of preparation for la Navidad.

On DAY 18, the Advent Calendar showed us The Gift of the Magi, that fabulous story by O. Henry. I have always, always loved this story. How awesome is this lovely illustrated version of the text?! Just for those who were wondering, P.J. Lynch is the illustrator of the phenomenal The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey -- voted by the urchins as the best Christmas story ever -- and featured in last year's Advent Calendar. Love me some P.J. Lynch! And I dare you not to cry when you read this story:
But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
DAY 19 brings us another book by Berkeley Breathed, of Bloom County fame. This time he gives us a story about his own father's childhood -- Red Ranger Came Calling. This is another one I wish my urchins had known about when they were littler.

On DAY 20, the calendar told me that Hanukkah had begun. Thank you so much to Common Household Mom, who recommended Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. Hershel must confront hobgoblins who will not let the villagers light the menorah for Hanukkah -- just as the ancient Syrians would not let the Hebrew people celebrate their religion. A great spooky winter tale!

DAY 21 brought another Hanukkah story, but this one tells of the friendship and caring that can bring people of different faiths together in the face of adversity. In The Trees of the Dancing Goats, we read about a little girl and her grandfather, who while celebrating Hanukkah, bring Christmas cheer to brighten the holiday for their sick and bed-ridden Christian neighbors. So beautifully illustrated!

On DAY 22, the Advent calendar made me remember the gorgeous book I received from my friend Susan last year -- Why the Chimes Rang. Last year as Susan read about the 2010 Advent Calendar for Book Lovers, she kept wondering why this story wasn't on my list. When I told her I had never heard of it, she burst into tears. Well, not really. What she really did was smack me on the arm and call me a loser. Same thing. Two days later, my own copy of this lovely, lovely story arrived in the mail. There are many, many beautifully illustrated versions of this tale, but you can listen to it right now and read along, at this cool link.

Tonight, Coleen had the whole family over for dinner, and of course we had a swell time -- even though I'm still feeling a little winded, and the tall boy has continued his winter tradition of bronchial nonsense. Coleen nearly cut her hand off shucking oysters, so that's a tradition she's managed to keep alive as well. It was worth it though -- look how pretty they were!

So in honor of Coleen, on DAY 23 of our Advent Calendar, I offer you the Christmas section of Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Coleen says this is her favorite "Little House" Christmas story, because of the fabulous and mouth-watering descriptions of food! I was always amazed at the thought of that long table, heaped to groaning with pork chops and chicken and ham, and mashed potatoes and all those vegetables they had grown -- and that Little House delicacy -- "apples 'n' onions!" Yum!

Well -- I'm sorry this post is so long -- but it does feel good to be caught up -- just in time!

Happy reading, everyone!