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We read a lot of books around here.  My big push lately has been to focus us on Advent during Advent as opposed to Christmas, so a lot of our reading together has been along that line.  As a family, we’ve been reading aloud The Jesse Tree.  This is a story about a boy and a wood carver.  The relationship between the two grows as the carver tells the stories behind the Jesse Tree images he is carving.  It seemed to be a perfect book for Advent.  The stories give background and reasons for a Jesse tree and the Bible stories are told in an engaging, accessible way.  There is the subplot of the change in relationship between the boy and the carver.  And my boys are familiar enough with the Bible stories to enjoy hearing them told another way.  And yet, there is something that has kept this book from being great.  I think it is that this book is hard to read aloud.  The phrasing is awkward, or the sentences are constructed in such a way that it does not flow well.  It has not been a disaster, but I think we’ll take what we can from the book and let it go.

On Mater Amibilis, I found an Advent reading program that I wanted to tackle before my boys got too old.  So I scrapped everything else in school for this season and focused on only these stories and some of the activities suggested.  It has been a hit.  None of us had read much of Tomie dePaola until now, and we have become huge fans.  So far, our favorite has been Clown of God.  These books are perfect for Cool Guy to practice his reading, and Encyclopedia has enjoyed seeing similarities between the books.  This has been a first: focusing on one author over an extended period of time.  Encyclopedia is also learning to juggle and doing well, thanks to Burt’s tutoring.  The books we have read so far:

26 Fairmount Avenue

Hark! A Christmas Sampler

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

The Legend of the Poinsettia

The Lady of Guadaloupe

The Clown of God

Jingle, the Christmas Clown

This reading and activity program has really helped Cool Guy especially keep in mind the reason we celebrate Christmas.  He needs daily, hourly, multi-sensory reminders.

Other books: Encyclopedia is reading Island of the Blue Dolphins.  While reading that, he breezed through The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and then The Best School Year Ever.  Burt (he chose this pseudonym)  is re-reading Run Silent, Run Deep.  Like me, he has read it before, yet couldn’t remember a thing about it.  I actually picked it up not too long ago and about a third of the way through it, remembered that I HAD read this before.  Hate it when that happens.  Yet, it is a good book, just not very memorable, I guess.

I am on a kids’ book reading spree.  I love kids’ books, and we have accumulated so many that I hadn’t read, that I thought I’d catch up.  After reading The Children of Noisy Village (which we LOVED) to Cool Guy and stumbling over the Chapter where Lisa announces to the reader that Santa Claus is for babies, I decided that EVERY book, no matter how innocent seeming, needs pre-reading.  Cool Guy is not ready to disbelieve yet, and I don’t want something as nice a reading together to shatter his illusions.  Therefore, I’m on a mission to read it all so there won’t be any more awkward surprises.  Cool Guy should be able to decide for himself when he’s too old for Santa.

My current title is The Pirate Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans.  This is a Landmark book, a series that Encyclopedia and I really like.  What I’m enjoying about this book is the depiction of colonial era New Orleans.  It seems so exotic – the French, the Spanish, the Creoles, the swamps.  I can see the Spanish moss hanging from the live oaks as I read, the cranes taking off suddenly as my bateau glides through the quiet bayous.

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