Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Very Christmas-y Post

Well the weather outside sure is frightful...the temperatures have gone back up again and I'm back to shorts and sandals. It's officially 75 degrees right now in New Orleans and that's a cool down from earlier. But we're supposed to get some cool weather coming on Sunday night and it's supposed to be down right cold again for Christmas Eve and Christmas! Yay! But the heat has not spoiled my Christmas mood! No indeed!

I awoke this, or noonish, to a package waiting on my doorstep from Santa in the form of Robin from A Fondness of Reading, one of my absolute favorite bloggers who is my Secret Santa :) I was overwhelmed by the package she put together for me! She had a great little card to accompany this set of gifts wishing me and my family a Merry Christmas. All of the gifts come from her region of the US, up in the Northwest in Washington and they're just perfect! I love candles and all things Eastern, so the little glass Lotus flower votive candle holder is just perfect. It's beautiful and made by a local artisan. She included some delicious goodies like dark chocolate covered cherries, a set of 3 delicious sounding jams and preserves, and these great sounding coffee tins! All stuff I love. There's a book that sounds great called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by a local author named Sherman Alexie with some really cool illustrations! You know I love that ;) And then there's a wonderful Christmas CD that I've been enjoying all day and the best thing about the CD is that the proceeds from it go to the Children's Hospital which is near and dear to my heart as I've always worked with kids with disabilities and mental illness. Thank you so much Robin for this amazing gift and for the thought put into it and thank you Nymeth for creating such a wonderful experience!!

I also fit in two Christmas books today! The first was The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon with illustrations by Jill Weber. It's a short read at just 118 pages, but filled with love and joy! Perfect Christmas read. The story's focus is on a nun by the name of Sister Anthony and her dear friend who happens to be a Norway Spruce named "Tree". The head gardener of Rockefeller Center is given the job every year of finding the perfect tree to be the Christmas Tree that we all know so well. While flying in a helicopter searching for it, he spots "Tree" at the convent that Sister Anthony lives at and goes to visit her to ask if he can have the tree for Rockefeller Center. The two form an unlikely friendship as Sister Anthony recounts her past from her troubled childhood through her times as a horticulturist up until now. This was a beautiful story and the story telling actually reminded me quite a bit of The Thirteenth Tale as strange as that may sound. Squeeze this one in if you can before Christmas! I've seen it on bargain shelves at Barnes and Noble.

The other book I read today was Kate DiCamillo's new picture book with Bagram Ibatoulline, the artist who did the paintings for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. The book is called Great Joy. It's short and sweet and packs a powerful punch in it's few pages. Leave it to DiCamillo to deliver a touching story like few can. And the paintings are just gorgeous. An organ grinder and his monkey stand on a street corner playing sad music every day for change while young Frances looks down from her lush apartment window wondering where he goes at night. Her mother tells her not to worry about such things, but rather to worry about her line in the Christmas play the next night. But with a child's innocence Frances can't help but worry and wonder about the man and his monkey. Quite a nice little story here.

And of course after Debi and Nymeth's reviews, I had to go out and buy Cornelia Funke's When Santa Fell to Earth! Haven't read that one yet, but I'll get to it before Christmas!


Becky said...


Your secret santa brought some great stuff. That Sherman Alexie is the National Book Award winner in the category of literature for young people. It is good, I read it a few months ago. :) I have yet to read a blog review of a person who didn't enjoy it...which is saying something in my opinion.

I'm so glad you enjoyed The Christmas Tree, I didn't know if I thought it was good just because I'm sentimental about a certain cedar tree in my front yard or not. (My parents planted a tree each for me and my sister. My sister's tree didn't make it for some reason, but mine has been alive and thriving for about twenty-one or twenty-two years.)

Chris, I do have a question for you...and if other of your loyal readers want to join in too...then the more the merrier...I recently signed up for Melissa's Expanding Horizons challenge. And my focus is on Asian/Asian-American literature. I was wondering if you'd have some recommendations--some must reads for me in that category. I'd love to read some Asian authors that have been translated into English as I think that would be slightly more enlightening. But Asian-American would work too. Anyway, I'm excited about the challenge, but consider myself a complete newbie in this subject area. Anyway, I thought that you'd be the person to ask :)

Debi said...

Oh my, such lovely reviews, Chris! Thanks! I don't think The Christmas Tree would have caught my eye without your review, but I'm definitely going to keep my eyes out for it now. And after just finishing Despereaux, I'm definitely a new fan of DiCamillo, so I'm sure I'll be picking that one up, too. But first I really want to get Edward Tulane, especially after what both you and Carl had to say about it.

What a wonderful gift package from your Secret Santa! So thoughtful!

I'm getting worried about my "Santee"...I mailed their package almost 2 weeks ago, but as far as I know they haven't got it yet :(

DesLily said...

wow, you made a haul from your secret santa! I'm glad it helped keep you "christmasy" even in, ummm warmer temperatures.

your books sound like they are helping too!! One day I know I will add the Cornelia Funke book, I just can't imagine it being "bad" after reading others by her.

Stephanie said...

Even though The Christmas Tree is a work of fiction, the person who wrote it was inspired by the Sisters of Christian Charity in Mendham, New Jersey who actually did donate their tree to Rockefeller Center. My husband and I are close friends with one of the nuns who live in the convent and remember how all the nuns got to go into NYC when the tree was up!

Bellezza said...

I always enjoy Kate DeCamilla. I have Great Joy, also, but do you know what? It kind of makes me sad. The mother was such a crab, it's a good thing the daughter was able to look around her. I only hope that the organ grinder is so strengthened by the warmth in church that his life experiences some healing.

Of course, that's only my take on an innocent children's book.

I read it to my third graders, and reminded them that they are not too young to have an impact on someone else's life. They seemed to get the idea.

Chris said...

Becky, I had no idea that the Sherman Alexie book was that well known! I thought the title sounded familiar but I didn't know it was the National Book Award winner. Very cool! I'm very excited now :) The Christmas Tree was excellent. Such a sweet little book and I can see it becoming a tradition for me. I love your story with your own tree! That's so wonderful! I don't know if I'm going to be all that much help for you with the Asian authors, but let's see. My girlfriend's absolute favorite Asian books (one of her favorite books period) is Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima. I'm reading it for the Japanese Reading Challenge very soon. I read The Sound of Waves a couple of weeks back by Mishima and it was an absolutely beautiful book. I can't recommend that one enough. Please add that one to your list! Does it have to be recent authors? One of my favorite pieces of Asian literature is Monkey by Wu Ch'eng-en. It was written in the sixteenth century and it's really a wonderful story. I love the Haiku of Basho if you wanted to read one of his collections. I'm reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami right now and it's wonderful and I've heard great things about all of his work. Kafka on the Shore by him sounds great as well. As far as Indian literature the Bhagavad Gita is their classic text and it is beautiful. There's a great translation out by Stephen Mitchell. I hope some of these help. Let me know if you need more!

Debi, The only reason I picked up The Christmas Tree is because I found it on for $1.98! What's the harm in that! I'm so happy I got it, it was the perfect little book :) I hope you enjoy Edward Tulane! What am I saying, I know you'll enjoy's a heartbreaking, but uplifting little story...much like Despereaux was. I'm sure your santee will get their gift in time! Just in case, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you ;)

Deslily, I sure did make a haul! Robin's so sweet :) This weather is awful! Who ever heard of pushing 80 degrees on December 20th! I'm really looking forward to the Funke book. I'm so excited about reading a book of hers after knowing how much you loved Inkheart. I'm reading that one too finally in 08!!!

Chris said...

Stephanie, That's so cool! Thanks for that bit of info :) That makes the story even that bit more special. That must have been quite a magical Christmas for them to see their tree up bringing smiles to so many faces :)

Bellezza, I understand your feelings about Great Joy. I wanted more of the story! I can imagine reading it to a child and having hundreds of questions thrown at you. That mother really was a crab wasn't she? I hope the organ grinder had a bit of happiness too. I hope he did feel some "great joy". It's amazing how perceptive children can be, isn't it? It's ashame that so many people lose that child's view of the world as they get older. The story got me thinking to how many times I've passed up "the organ grinder" without a second thought. I know that I can't fix everyone's life, but just a smile can make a difference. Ok, now I'm just depressing myself...I'll shut up now! But DiCamillo does write a powerful story and makes a great point in such a few words!

Nymeth said...

What a wonderful package from Robin! I've been wanting to read that book ever since I read her review. And the other things sound yummy!

You're making me really want to read The Christmas Tree. Unfortunately I don't think I'd be able to find it around here. But there's always next Christmas. And a Christmas picture book by Kate DiCamillo! I want it!

I think you'll manage to fit in When Santa Fell to Earth before Christmas... it's a fast read.

Serena said...

What a great gift. The Holiday exchange has been a great thing to see what everyone got and get ideas for new reads for myself.

happy holidays.

Rhinoa said...

Cool christmas gifts from Robin :) I like the card withe the killer wales on it. I feel like I should read something christmassy if I have anything before christmas, you have inspired me.

Carl V. said...

Such perfect gifts from your Secret Santa! Way to go Robin!

Both of those books sound wonderful, I think I may have to find my way to yon bookstore!!!

Chris said...

Nymeth, Robin really put together a great package :) I'm so excited about the book now! I've already started to eat the chocolate covered cherries and they're so good! I'm going to have some of the coffee now :p The Kate DiCamillo book is a great little book, pick it up if you see it! The paintings are beatiful. still has over 100 copies of The Christmas Tree available for 99 cents! That's so cheap! You probably won't get it for christmas, but if you order from them some time, add it to your cart. And I can't wait for the Funke book :P

Serena, I totally agree! It's been so much fun seeing what everyone got for their Secret Santa gift :) Nymeth did a great job with this!

Rhinoa, I'm sure you can find something Christmas-Y with all those books :p You know honestly, I don't think I've ever really read holiday themed books around the holidays, but everyone else put me in the mood this year! They were great! Hope you find some good ones :) You have to have a copy of A Christmas Carol laying around there somewhere!

Carl, Robin really did do a perfect job. And she wrapped each individual thing! So I was beaming like a 5 year old! You should indeed find your way to "yon bookstore!" You had me cracking up with that phrase by the way for some reason :p Good luck, I was about to pull my hair out trying to find a parking spot at Barnes and Noble yesterday!!

Becky said...

Thank you, Chris. If you're curious, I just posted my updated list.

Bookfool said...

Wow, lovely Christmas package you got, there! Robin knows you well.

Yep, it didn't feel very Christmasy at all, today. Did it rain in your area? We had pouring rain and hubby said there was a tornado in MS. Yikes. At least it's cool at night. Right?

Chris said...

Bookfool, It poured! We had downpours all day, but from the looks of the radar, y'all got it even worse than we did. The night was nice and cool though :) I went and sat up at a coffee shop with some friends that I hadn't seen in a while, so it was a nice evening!

Carl V. said...

Well, I broke down Thursday night, Chris. I've been holding off on any more sci fi reading until I kick off The Sci Fi Experience in January (plug: info in a few days). But I've had the sci fi jones for weeks now and couldn't resist. I started Speaker for the Dead. I'm 50 or so pages in and am loving it. Thank you again. Without your generosity, God knows when I would have finished Ender's Game or read this.

By the way, we had our family Christmas with Mary and Tori and I today and she got me A War of Gifts. So, I'll be sitting Speaker aside to go ahead and read this quickly, it being the season and all, and will then be diving right back into Speaker.

Chris said...

Carl, Awesome! I've been waiting with anticipation for you to start that one ;) Some people hate it, some love it as it's very different from Ender's Game. I really love it! War of Gifts was great! I hope you enjoy it. It's presented really well too. I loved the format of that book.

Stephanie said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful, Christmas-y day!! Looks like Robin did very well for you. You made out like a bandit!!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Chris! Sorry it's been so long since my last post on your blog.

Looks like you recived some wonderful new books. I also look forward to picking up OSC's new War of Gift's book and hopefully I will get Speaker of the Dead read this next year as well.

Take care. It's Jeff by the way. I'm on the road and I can't remember my google password. Argh!