I was determined to have this holiday season be slower than years past. To be more intentional in our time and not crazy stressed trying to get last minute gifts all purchased as wrapped. For the most part, my wish has come true and Elliott and I have spent a lot of time reading by the light of our Christmas tree, wrapped up in warm blankets and sharing stories.
This year, I wrapped 25 Christmas books for E to open throughout December and that's been a blast. He has a mini-tree in his room and each morning wakes up to a new book under the tree. My environmentalist side felt guilty using all that wrapping paper, but the look on his face each morning is worth it!
These two have been read over and over:
Little Blue Truck's Christmas by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
A short counting story complete with twinkle lights at the end! We've had fun counting all the Christmas trees Blue loads into his truck and describing the shapes of the ones he unloads to each of his friends.
It's the perfect size for little hands and if your child isn't quite ready to listen to the longer Little Blue Truck books, this is a great intro. A bit shorter and, of course, the twinkle lights!
Star Bright by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Peter Reynolds is a rockstar in my children's book world. I love everything he illustrates AND writes, but my favorite books are those he does with Alison McGhee. Now there's a Christmas one and my life is complete!
The story of a small angel who doesn't know what gift to send for the Savior child. He goes through a list before finally landing on what could quite possibly be the perfect gift - becoming the Star of Bethlehem and leading others to Christ.
The illustrations are, of course, AMAZING and the story is sweet. I love books that can be entertaining and cute, yet might spark a conversation about Jesus. This one will definitely be added into our yearly Christmas book pile!
For me, I've been in the middle of two fantastic books by women I truly admire: Liz Curtis Higgs and Ann Voskamp. I've been doing Bible studies and reading books by each of these women for years, but had yet to pick up their Advent books. This was the year and I'm so glad I dove in.
The Women of Christmas gives a play-by-play of 3 women vital to the story of Christ's birth: Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna. The way Higgs displays their stories opened up whole new meanings to seemingly simple lines of Scripture and I truly found myself looking at them in a completely different light. Especially Mary. What an amazing young woman.
Higgs style of writing is perfect for reading with a cup of tea in the evening, as it reads just like a conversation with a friend. She makes even complicated thoughts easy to understand and leaves me feeling like I really do know more than I thought. I'll definitely be gifting this book next year.
The Greatest Gift is a true Advent book, taking each day from December 1st - December 25th and pairing a Scripture reading with a devotional. The writing is incredibly poetic and also includes space for reflection and an activity to complete for each day. The book pairs wonderfully with her Jesse Tree ornaments, which you can download from her website.
I will always be an Ann Voskamp fan, as she makes me think deeper than any other Christian author I've come across, but I always walk away from her work wondering how a busy farm wife and mother to 6 homeschooled children can possibly write that poetically. And why did I not get an ounce of talent like that? Ha!
Other than Christmas titles, I've been flying through some other books that I've had on my shelves for awhile. These are just a few thoughts on what I've read the last few weeks.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is one I picked up back in January and really loved. In the middle of my never-ending stomach bug this week, I reread it and loved it just as much. The setting and time period are so well-described and the story just draws you in. If you're at all a fan of historical fiction, I cannot recommend this one enough.
The Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore is a book one of my book clubs read earlier this year, but I missed that particular meeting. From what I heard, all of them loved it, so I'm kinda glad I didn't have a chance to talk about it - I really didn't care for it at all.
The actual plot was interesting, but the characters did not feel authentic. I found myself rolling my eyes more than once and feeling frustrated that the powerful white man was portrayed as such a better Christian than anyone else. Not cool.
The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather was also read in the middle of being sick and it was the perfect read for only being able to focus for small periods of time. I love memoirs of people moving from a busy life to smaller homes and slower schedules and Mather's story fed right into my own desires.
Though much of the book focused on food and eating locally, I loved the portions about moving into a tiny cabin, living on a tight budget, and starting a smaller, more all-around locally focused life. It was a great read!
I would love to just sell our house and move to a tiny cabin on a lake somewhere like Heather did, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. For now, I'll keep reading books like this and being inspired to buy local.
This is my last review post of 2014, but I'll be back in a few days with my best of 2014 list. I'm looking forward to getting back into regular blogging next month!