A Gift of Nothing

It’s almost Christmas!!! What will you be finding under your Christmas tree? Exactly what you always wanted? A surprise? Christmas is full of Wonder and Mystery. It’s all a little beyond my small canine brain, but I know that it’s a time of year full of excitement and activity. There is tension in the air all around. Some good and some not so good. The Mom Person always seems to be scurrying around here and there. The house fills with boxes and paper and gifts and cards and all kinds of Christmassy stuff all over the house. We see a lot more of the mail lady, bringing packages and more packages. It all makes my head spin. I want to tell everyone to slow down and chill!! Settle. Like my Mom Person is always saying to Electra. Just settle. Quiet.

I shared a couple of little quiet books with some 2nd graders recently. It was a nice quiet morning listening to happy voices. Both books are by Mr Patrick McDonnell. He, and the characters in these books are quite famous in the funny papers. You might have seen his comic strip – MUTTS. It’s a favorite around here. And Mr McDonnell has created several fabulous picture books as well. I have mentioned a couple of them HERE and HERE.

IMG_1953First book up is
MUTTS
A Shtinky Little Christmas
by Patrick McDonnell

Published by Andrews McMeel in 2012

This is a very small book – as you might can tell from the pictures. My Mom Person has a big thing for little books. This one is written much like a comic strip. It’s a story about the stars of the MUTTS comic strip, Earl – a dog, and his best friend, Mooch – a cat. In this tale, Mooch finds a new friend in the garbage can. A little lost kitty. They decide to call the kitty Shtinky Puddin and they go in search of the owner. When it starts to snow, they all three head back to Mooch’s house. Much mayhem ensues after this. They all get lost in a blizzard and found by SANTA!! Then the owner is found and rewards are rewarded and everyone lives happily ever after!

IMG_1954It’s a heart-pounding tale! With tension and mystery and OH My! what is going to happen?! All in this tiny little book! It’s all about being a good friend and taking care of each other. It’s a lovely tale with a big heart. A Christmas tale of giving and loving.

IMG_1950The 2nd book is
The Gift of Nothing
by Patrick McDonnell
published by Little, Brown and Company in 2005

It’s a special day. It might be Christmas, or a birthday, or Wednesday. We just are told that it’s a special day. And Mooch wants to give his best friend Earl a gift. But Earl already has everything that he needs. What do you get someone who has everything?! That can be a big problem.

IMG_1951Mooch decides that if Earl has everything – Mooch will get him Nothing! And he goes in search of Nothing, which is actually very hard to find! His pursuit is quite hilarious and profound. But eventually he gets a big box and fills it with Nothing and presents the present to Earl. Earl is quite surprised by all his Nothing!! So now they both have Nothing except their friendship. And that is Everything! I don’t think my little readers quite “got” this story, but they thought it was kind of funny and cute. I thought it was brilliant!!

So, you should go check out both of these little books and spend some of your holiday time doing Nothing with your family and friends. Taking some time to be still and quiet.

And here’s a little treat for you – It seems that The Gift of Nothing has been made into a play!! How cool is that! And if you happen to be in New York you can go see it at the Kennedy Center! Right now!!

Here’s a little preview for you –

 

 I hope that you find a bit of Nothing under your tree this Christmas!
Your wishful friend
Rhythm
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The Perfect Christmas

Well, The Great Thanksgiving Feast of 2014 has come and gone. I hope that yours was PERFECT. Lots of PERFECT turkey and carrots and sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Lots of PERFECT fun with your family and friends. Maybe a PERFECT game of tennis? or football? Full tummies and smiles on faces. PERFECT?

Well, as I said – that’s all come and gone. It’s history. It’s now time for —-

IMG_1850The Perfect Christmas
by Eileen Spinelli
illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi
published by Christy Ottaviano Books with Henry Holt and Co. in 2011

suitable for ALL ages!

Themes – Christmas, family, traditions

It begins –
Abigail Archer’s family
is perfect as can be.
They drive into the countryside
To chop down their Christmas tree.

Back around that PERFECT Thanksgiving time, I reviewed another book by Ms Spinelli titled The PERFECT Thanksgiving! You can check out that post by clicking on that title – right there! And guess what?! Ms Spinelli herself actually read my review! Wag my tail!!!! And she thought that I might ought to read the companion book – The Perfect Christmas! Of course I needed to do that very thing!! So she had her publisher send me my very own copy of The Perfect Christmas! Now isn’t that PERFECT?! What a nice lady, right?! I think that she deserves a standing ovation! I’m standing! How bout you?!

Well, ok, now, back to the book!

The Perfect Christmas brings us the same families that we met in The Perfect Thanksgiving. The Archer family is still Martha Stewart PERFECT. Candles on the mantel and bowls full of silver balls! The narrator’s family is still eclectically PERFECT with macaroni reindeer and dented fruitcake tins! Abigail’s family enjoys PERFECT Christmas treats and sweets – they even have a poodle that eats on a PERFECT Christmas mat! While the narrator’s Christmas cookies would “bounce to Mexico”

IMG_1852Each family has their own unique style and traditions. And each family has their own version of a PERFECT Christmas! This little book shows, in a big way, that what makes Christmas PERFECT is the love that is shared with family and friends. That’s what it’s all about! A PERFECT Christmas book to share!!

My family is very much like the narrator’s family. A bit crazy. But PERFECT in all the ways that matter to them – and me! It’s a BIG family and they like to party and have a good time. They always have a theme for their get-togethers. They dress up and have appropriate food and gifts. I just wag my tail and laugh. My favorite part is the cookie bake. I get to help with clean-up! I love being a janitor!

IMG_1833What kind of traditions does your family have? Do you have a “real” tree that smells like the woods? Or do you have one that comes out of a box? Do you have fancy decorations that all match like Martha Stewart? Or do you have homemade macaroni reindeer? Do you sing Christmas songs? Do you go to church? Maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas at all!

If you are inclined to make your own PERFECT Christmas Cookies, HERE is Martha Stewart’s recipe!

And HERE is a link to some fantastic ornaments that you can make with the kids!

Whatever and However you celebrate – I hope it’s PERFECT in every way!

Whatever you might be doing this time of year
I wish you GREAT JOY!

JOYYour JOYful friend
Rhythm
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Filled With Christmas Joy!

The Christmas Season is filled with joyful hustle and bustle. Trees come into the house. Empty spaces are filled with boxes and paper and ribbon. Intriguing aromas spread from the kitchen. Christmas music is everywhere. Decking the Halls and Jingling the Bells. A Holly, Jolly Christmas over and over again. Parties and parties and visits from family and friends. And then there are the presents!! Toys and boxes of treats and brand new tennis balls!!! Life couldn’t be better!

I don’t know about what goes on at your house. Maybe the same sorts of sensations, maybe you celebrate in different ways. But I’m guessing that a lot of you receive new books under your tree. Our Christmas tree seems to sprout them like roots. And not only  that, but our Best Girl Brenna was here to read them to us! Life couldn’t be better!

BGB presented us with a new William Wegman picture book. She knows how much I love Mr Wegman and his weimaraners.

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Flo & Wendell was published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2013.

It stars brother and sister, Flo and Wendell and begins ” This is Flo. What’s your name? Is it Flo, too?” We learn that Flo is a very sophisticated young pup. She can read and write and tie her shoes. She paints like her artist father. (and very much like Walker!). Then we meet her little brother, Wendell, who likes to play hide and seek.

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He hides from Flo. She seeks. Sometimes. The two of them have lots of fun together. Sometimes, like most brothers and sisters, they have different ideas about fun. But at the end of the day, Flo likes to read and Wendell likes to listen. My kind of friends!!

Mr Wegman is a funny, talented gentleman. He loves his dogs. I love his artwork. You will love this book!

Another book that appeared under that Christmas tree is Baa Baa Black Sheep written and illustrated by Iza Trapani.

IMG_4695This book was published by Charlesbridge Publishing in 2001.

This is one cute tale stretching out the rhyme about the sheep with 3 bags full of wool. We don’t have sheep here, but we have goats and lots of bags of mohair. I would gladly give 3 bags full. And the sheep in this book gladly gives away her wool. But then she is faced with all the other farm animals who want other things from her. The kittens ask for milk, the mouse wants some cheese, the pig wants some slop, the horse wants some hay, and the dog wants a bone. But the poor sheep has none of these things. All she has is wool and all she does is knit. Throughout the whole story. The animals get angry with her and call her selfish, until they see that all along the sheep has been knitting things for each of the animals! This is a story about giving of yourself and sharing your talents. And you will receive much joy in return.

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I love the illustrations in this book. They are soft and fluffy and wooly looking. The sheep reminds me of our goat, Henry. She seems to be so content with what she has in her life. She has a great smile. Like Ms Trapani.

You can visit Ms Trapani at her website HERE

You can visit Mr Wegman and Flo and Wendell on Mr Wegman’s website HERE.

And now Christmas is over and the tree is gone, the boxes and paper and ribbons are all put away. The new books are on the shelves. BGB leaves tomorrow to go back to her other home and her other dogs. Time to greet a new year and return to the daily routine of school and library visits and a quiet house.

IMG_4697I hope you had a house full of JOY during this Christmas time.

Happy New Year
Rhythm

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Every Day is Christmas

I mentioned before that this was a week filled with Celebratory Joy. I talked about my birthday, but we had Christmas parties as well! All the classes at school had parties with silly games and lots of sugary stuff that I wasn’t allowed to share. I did get some french fries from the cafeteria though!

There was a Christmas party with the Guide Dog Puppy raiser group in Dallas. We get to celebrate with them because we (me and Walker) are Career Changed dogs. That means that we were once upon a time guide dog pups in training, but didn’t become working guide dogs. We had other jobs in store for us. This party was much more fun because lots of doggy friends were there and the whole place was filled with doggyness!! As in treats for us!

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My book choice today is Dogs Think That Every Day is Christmas by Ray Bradbury. Illustrated by Louise Reinoehl Max. Published by Gibbs Smith in 1997.

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This book is a lovely poem about dogs and the Joy that we find in each and every day! It is a top notch little book of dog philosophy. The pictures by Ms Max are spot on – full of joyful exuberance. Check it out!

And a little gift from me to you — A Merry Texas Christmas wish!

Joyful wishes –
Rhythm

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The Land of Snow and Ice

We are iced in this weekend. No school on Friday. All the roads are ice. The 7 Acre Wood is a regular ice rink. It’s white and beautiful and when I run across it the Mom Person says I sound like a horse clopping along. Buddy the pony left us some yummy popsicles! We don’t get this white stuff very often. It’s fun when it comes – for me and Walker anyway, the Mom Person does not like it at all!

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It all brings to mind a lovely book we have called Hannah’s Bookmobile Christmas. We got this book some time ago because the Mom Person has a thing for bookmobiles. She would like to have her own bookmobile and I could help her with it! But the thing that I love most about this book is that it is illustrated by one of my very favoritest illustrators – Ms Gabi Swiatkowska. Incredible artwork! The book is written by Sally Derby. It was published in 2001 by Henry Holt and Co.

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This is a story of a young girl Hannah and her Aunt Mary who drives a bookmobile named Blue Bird. It’s Christmas Eve. “Snowflakes like dandelion fluff floated in the air. Christmas carols rang through the streets, and the sleigh bells on Blue Bird’s door chimed merrily as people went in and out.” All day they made stops for people to come in and visit and check out books. Lots of people gave them Christmas goodies and warm cheer. And all the time, Mary worried about the snow. At the end of the day she would have to return Hannah to her home on the top of a very steep hill. The tension mounts as the day slips away and the snow gets heavier. But Mary and Hannah visit everyone on their route. Then comes the trek up Hannah’s hill. It’s nail biting time as Blue Bird slips and slides. Finally they reach Hannah’s lane but it is too treacherous to go any further, so the two librarians decide to stay the night right there in Blue Bird. They were safe and cozy and snuggled up with their hot cocoa and Christmas stories to read.

There is a brief history of bookmobiles at the end of the book. This is a great read for a snowy, icy day!

historic-bookmobile-No-2I hope you’re warm and snuggled wherever you are
Rhythm

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Carl’s Christmas

It’s Friday. That means the Mom Person is gone. The Big Guy With the Treats is gone. All gone. Gone to California.

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Romeo’s Dad Person will be here with us. And he’s a pretty good guy. He’ll do for awhile I guess. Aahhummm.

Well — it’s also Perfect Picture Book Friday over at Susanna Hill’s!

I’ve picked out a quiet Christmas book. Quiet as in no words. It’s a no words kind of Friday. I like picture books with no words. That way when we read them with kids, I get a new story every time!! The book I’ve decided to share is Carl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day.

IMG_5828It was published in 1990 by Farrar Straus Giroux. It’s a fiction book suitable for all ages. I’ve read this book with 2 yr olds and adults. And everybody has there own personal take on the story.

Carl is a rottweiler with some big responsibilities that he takes very seriously. His Big People are always leaving him in charge of the baby! And they sure have fun together while those adults are away! In this Christmas book, Carl and the baby do some Christmas wrapping and decorating then go out to see the town. They enjoy the Christmas windows, win a Christmas basket from a store, give to the needy, go carolling, then realize that they might be missing Santa!! They rush back home and sit and wait for the Jolly Guy. I won’t tell you the end tho!! Whew!!

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Carl is my hero. He’s always taking care of that baby and having great adventures while he’s doing it! Ms Day’s artwork is fabulous. Carl’s world just pops out at you. Reading these mostly wordless books gets your imagination fired up. Kids have to study the pictures to see what all is going on. They have to stretch their vocabularies. No words on the printed page is sometimes a very good thing.

Melissa Taylor at Imagination Soup has a great post about wordless books with lots of things that you can do with them. You should check it out.

And Carl has a website that you might find fun.

Check out more PPBF at Susanna Hill’s blog.

And I’ll end with a little James Taylor for my Mom Person so far away — I’ll be watching for her Everyday!

Deck the Halls and Claude the Dog

What exactly does that mean anyway? Deck the Halls! I don’t really know. I do know that the Mom Person was crazy busy today with all things Christmassy. She and the Big Guy With the Treats are going on a big trip to California to visit the little Princesses. I don’t get to go on this trip but she promises to send me postcards. And maybe a little beach sand.

So there was lots of packing and wrapping of presents today. Paper and bows and cards and toys everywhere. We dogs got mainly lost in all the chaos. Eventually she decided to take a break and play a little tennis.

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This is my very favorite pink tennis ball. I love this ball with all my heart. It only comes out sometimes. And it brings me great joy!

I also got to play with my new Rabbit Buddy. I guess I’m really a pretty lucky dog. I have quite a few good toys to choose from. Balls and squeaky things and tug things. I have several nice beds to choose from and blankets to sleep with. Life here at the 7 Acre Wood is pretty good.

After we played for awhile the Mom Person read one of our Christmas books. Claude the Dog, A Christmas Story, by Dick Gackenbach.

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It’s a cute little book that we like to read to the little kids at school. It has nice big, simple pictures and nice, big simple words that are easy to read.  It’s a nice, simple story that the kids seem to like. Claude is a big, happy, Bassett Hound looking dog who gets some good Christmas presents from his boy. A nice blanket, a nice pillow and a little rubber mouse. Claude’s friend, Bummer – who doesn’t seem to have a real home –  comes to visit and when Claude hears that Bummer has no Christmas gifts — no blankets or pillows or little mice, Claude gives all his treasures to his friend. He says that Bummer needs them more than he does and anyway his best present is at home. And he runs home to his boy who loves Claude with all his heart!

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I mostly like this book a lot. It’s all about the real spirit of Christmas. Giving, sharing, loving. Being with family. What I don’t like is poor Bummer’s name! Surely Mr. Gackenbach could have come up with a better name for this little guy!

Giving, sharing, loving. It’s so simple!

I hope that you have a Christmas full of all these things! Joy to you and to the world!

For your musical pleasure I give you The Muppet Chickens and Joy to the World!

And The You Tube Animals doing Deck the Halls

The Night Before Christmas – with Mr. Wegman!

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William Wegman and his magical weimaraners are back for Christmas!
My PPBF pick for today is William Wegman’s version of The Night Before Christmas, starring Batty, Chip, Chundo, and Crooky.

This book was published in 2000 by Hyperion Books for Children. It is appropriate for ALL ages.

It is the classic Christmas tale written by Clement C. Moore for his family in 1822. Mr. Moore called his poem A Visit From St. Nicholas and it is probably now the most popular and well known Christmas story in history.

Mr. Wegman’s take on this story is quite unique. His dogs play the parts of reindeer, Santa, and all the other characters in the story. And they do a very fine job!!

IMG_5714Every year at Christmas, we read this book to the kindergarteners and pre-schoolers. Those kids LOVE it! You just can’t help but chuckle at that “right jolly old elf”!

I don’t really have any lesson plans for this book. It’s just a fun book to read. I suppose that you could talk about the history of The Night Before Christmas. And I’ll give you a link here. You might also act out the story with the kids as the reindeer and Santa. Or you might have a talk about how you train a dog to do these silly things!

Mr. Wegman and his dogs did quite a few bits for Sesame Street. Here is their take on Rub a Dub Dub.

If you would like to know more about Mr. Wegman here is a video interview with him talking about his work. It’s rather long, but worth the view.

Just remember — William WegmanThe Night Before Christmas. Check it out! You’ll be so glad you did!

And for more awesome Picture Book reviews visit Susanna Hill!