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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Louis Zamperini & Jane Austen (Now there's a match!)

Just like so many others, I have also read Unbroken and found it one of the most compelling, inspiring and fantastic stories I've ever read. If you've not yet read it, do. Yes, the movie is coming out in just a few short weeks (and I am SO looking forward to seeing it) but don't let that be an excuse to let the book slip away from you. It is a spell-binding read.

Dey Street Books sent me an e-mail a few weeks back asking if I'd like to read Don't Give Up, Don't Give In, written by Louis Zamperini (published posthumous). I couldn't say "YES!" fast enough. If you've got a Zamperini fan on your hands this Christmas, look for this book! It's delightful to read his take on his life in his own words.

The subtitle of this book is "Lessons Learned from an Extraodinary Life" and it is co-written and edited by David Rensin. Basically this book is encouragement to continuing pressing on in life, giving it your all, and keeping a positive attitude. Zamperini believed that all things in life work together for good and he clearly enjoyed sharing that message with others. He lived with no regrets about his own life, recognizing that each thing that appeared to be bad on the surface ultimately ended up making him the man that he was. He couldn't change anything about his circumstances and so he wasn't going to waste time worrying about them. He's a "pick yourself up by your bootstraps and march on" sort of fellow and I like that about him. He doesn't waste time with pity and encourages others to follow suit. In today's society, that's a message that we need to hear. (I suspect in any society and any age, preaching against self-pity is quite important.) This new title, as I say, is an inspiring read and I'm glad to have spent a little bit of time with Zamperini again.

If you haven't yet read Unbroken - (for shame!) - do that first. Then pick up Don't Give Up, Don't Give In. You won't find that hard to do, trust me.

Many thanks to Dey Street Books for sending a copy of this book my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.

Do you have a Jane Austen fan on your list this Christmas? You might want to look up At Home with Jane Austen. This book is filled with beautiful full-colored photographs, period illustrations and family photographs of the Austens. It explores the world of Jane Austen through the homes in which she lived which is a fairly unique take.

At Home with Jane Austen is a coffee table-style book except it is more heavy on words than you'll find in most books of that nature. Besides talking about the history and architecture of the buildings, you learn about what homes and rooms might have inspired certain locations in Austen's books. You learn about the landlords, her father's position as locate curate and various members of the household staff. Then, of course, there are the photographs which make Americans want to pack up and move to England. (Ok, it makes me want to pack up and move to England. And you only think I'm joking!) I would thoroughly enjoy a stroll around Steventon, let me tell you.

For people who dream of walking where Jane Austen walked and who wish to learn more about the practical side of her life, this is a fantastic title to consider.

Many thanks to Abbeville Press who sent a copy of this title my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reading to Know Classics Book Club 2015

Reading to Know - Book Club

It's really that time again, yes.

It's time to schedule out our book club readings for the coming year. I've asked a few new people to join the ranks and host a month. You'll also note that none of the books on the list below are epic novels,  thereby allowing everyone time enough to read the book during the month it is being discussed.  Another thing you'll recognizing is that the book club reads are being combined with the annual reading challenges which I host here at Reading to Know. The RtK Book Club will be combined with the Lucy Maud Montgomery Challenge in January and the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge in July. This will also help to simplify the reading year, allowing for greater ease in participation.

One additional note: it recently came to my attention that using the description of "book club" seems to insinuate that if you commit to being a part of it, you are signing up for all 12 reads. That's not true! (But I also can't think of a better name for this than a "club" because we read the books and then "come together" to discuss.) Having no better term or label for this, we call it a book club but we invite you to read as you are interested and able. If there are only 3 books on this list of interest to you, please feel free to join in just for those three books! Of course, we hope everyone will play along as much as possible and share their thoughts on the books which they end up reading. We hope you'll make new bookish friends and read authors that you might not have otherwise picked up all on your own. The point is always to have fun so use this "club" in a manner that best suits you and your family.

Now, without further ado, let's move on to the books selected for the upcoming year, shall we?

*****

January - Any Lucy Maud Montgomery title of your choosing, held in conjunction with the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge (discussion hosted by Carrie)

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

February - Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (Discussion hosted by Heather from Don't Let This Universe Forget You)

March - The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer (Discussion hosted by Shonya from Learning How Much I Don't Know)

April - 1984, by George Orwell (Discussion hosted by Annette from This Simple Home)

May - Christy, by Catherine Marshall (Discussion hosted by Stephanie from Simple Things)

June - The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Discussion hosted by Amy from Hope is the Word)

July - Any Narnia book (or book about Narnia or C.S. Lewis) of your choosing. Hosted in conjunction with the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge (Hosted by Carrie)


August - Laddie; a true blue story, by Gene Stratton Porter (Discussion hosted by Heather from Lines from the Page)

September - The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis (Discussion hosted by Barbara from Stray Thoughts)

October- The Hound of the Baskervilles (Discussion hosted by Sky from Circus Caravan of My Thoughts on Things)

November - Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales. Feel free to read one or all, as you please. (Discussion hosted by Rebekah from Bekahcubed)

December- The Sherwood Ring, by Elizabeth Marie Pope (Discussion hosted by Tammy from Bluerose's Heart)

Hope you found something on this list you like! We look forward to reading with you in 2015!

Spread the word!


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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Retro Children's Board Games (Giveaway)

Yes. Again. I'm not here with books but with a final giveaway before Christmas! :) (Hope you'll forgive me.)

I've talked about Winning Moves Games before. I like them because they have (new) vintage editions of well-known board games.

My husband and his family are strategy game players which is great but I can't say that I'm a big strategy game fan. I like playing "simple" games that you can converse over. I'm the one who is happy playing the children's games and my favorite is Clue.

However, I can't stand newer editions of Clue. Mrs. Scarlett isn't anyone that I would like my young boys meeting anytime soon. Must we make everyone look as realistically slinky as possible? I'm not going to play it with my eight-year-old, thanks! And so I was excited to see that Winning Moves released a classic edition of the game which is not modernized in objectionable in any way (unless, of course, you are referring to the concept of committing murder which I guess contains a bit of irony!).


I have thoroughly enjoyed playing Clue with Bookworm1 now that we have an edition that I can rest easy around. (For the record, we did play with a somewhat modern version that I located at Goodwill which was still in possession of a fairly tame Miss Scarlett.) As I generally see no need to introduce sultry women to my young sons I really appreciate the fact that Winning Moves released this edition and I'm very contented with it.

I'm not going to bother with sharing the rules of the game of Clue or Candy Lane because if you live in America I just can't fathom you having existed your entire life without playing either.

I have no objects to modern versions of Candy Land, in case you were wondering - but the new big-eyed, bright colored illustrations on the box does make me sigh a slightly exasperated sigh. What appeals to the modern child clearly does not appeal to me and so I was also very excited to see that Winning Moves also released an edition of Candy Land which is a replica of the original (first appearing on the scene in 1945). The box also contains a bit of the history surrounded this now-popular non-strategic (and sometimes very long) game. It was created by a patient who was recovering from Polio and then picked up by Milton Bradley in 1949. The rest, as they say, is history.


I'm glad to have this beautiful edition to play with my kids (when the mood strikes).

If you are a fan of older editions of board games, first off, you should check in with Winning Moves and check out their many offerings.

Secondly, if you are a fan of the above two games and would like to win them for yourself or for someone you love, please simply leave a comment blow. This contest will be open through Thursday, December 18th and is open to U.S. Residents only. Do not forget to leave a valid e-mail for me to contact you at should your name be drawn as the winner.

Many thanks to Winning Moves who sent copies of the above games my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions - as always - are 100% my very own.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lilla Rose Flexi Hair Clip (Giveaway)

Nope, not a book review but another situation where a company contacted me and their product caught my attention. They offered to send a sample of their product my direction in exchange for a review and also offered up a giveaway to one of my readers. I had heard of them before and was interested to check their stuff out so I had to say yes, of course.

(I have this giveaway and one more to run before Christmas so let's get the ball rolling.)

Today let's take a quick peek at Lilla Rose Flexi Grips. A rep for Lilla Rose contacted me and I was excited to hear from her because I knew that my daughter - who likes doing her hair "like a princess" - would love a chance to sport one of these beautiful Flexi Hair Clips. The selling point for me was that they advertise that they will hold up hair of all lengths, textures and thickness. My daughter is just three years old and while I anticipate her having a very thick head of hair at some point, it is still fairly thin and silky. It's forever falling out of clips and if the Flexi Hair Clip worked as well as advertised, I thought this would be a mighty fine solution.

A little bit about the Flexi Hair Clips:

This hair clip might look similar to ones that you see at your local store, but it is definitely not the same. Each Flexi Hair Clip has a patented sliding pin which allows you to more easily maneuver your hair and gives the clip a firm grip on the hair once you have slid the pin into place.

In doing my daughter's hair I found that it was easy to hold onto the pin while styling her hair. I used the clip to put her hair up in a ponytail and also into a partial updo and it worked great for both. (You'll have to forgive me if I do not know the technical names for hairstyles. Still learning!)

I was invited to choose the size Flexi Clip I wanted. It is highly encouraged (and strongly recommended) that you watch the following sizing video to determine which one would best work with your hair type.

Here is the link to the website offering more details as to sizing. The video above not only informs you of the best size Flexi Hair Clip for your hair but also offers some ideas of how to use the clip to its best advantage. I selected the "mini" size for my daughter and it worked exactly as advertised. They have many beautiful styles to choose from and I had fun browsing their website to select one. In the end, I chose this one for my little dancing girl:
She loved it! And she has enjoyed wearing it. I love their prices and can see myself purchasing more styles in the future as *I* become more accomplished at "doing hair." Lilla Rose has expanded their line of products beyond the Flexi Hair Clip to include: Personally I think they are beautiful, sturdy and practical. I've given up buying clips at stores because none of them ever work quite right. But this Flexi Hair Clip seemed to do the job correctly and so I'd rather buy a few of these than a handful of others than don't work! So let's get to the good part, shall we? Would you like to win a Flexi Hair Clip for you or someone  you love? Simply leave a comment below. You'll need to include the following information with your comment: 1. Tell me what size and design Flexi Hair Clip you would like to receive if your name is drawn as the winner. (Browse here and watch the video clip above to make sure of your size!) 2. Make SURE you leave me a valid e-mail address to contact you if you win! We'll keep this contest short and sweet and I'll draw a winner on Wednesday the 17th. Browse around, have fun and enjoy! (I'm having a hard time getting off their website, truth be told.) THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER (as selected by Random.org) IS #10 - Sherry. CONGRATULATIONS! Many thanks to Lilla Rose for sending a sample my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, December 12, 2014

7, by Jen Hatmaker

I'm practically giddy with excitement after having read this. Stephanie from Everyday Family Living "assigned" this book to me at my proposed Facebook Challenge and I wasn't sure if I was going to manage to squeeze it in before the year was out. But behold! It is finished!

I'm also giddy because I disliked the book so much that I'm doing a jig because it's over.  Now, in saying that, I'm not sure whether or not I should apologize for not liking a book that Stephanie suggested. What she said when she recommended it was that she was curious to see what I would think. She knows me well enough to know that there was a chance I wouldn't like it. The possibility existed!!

If you are unfamiliar with the premise of 7, it can be summarized in the subtitle: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Basically it's the documented experiment of Jen Hatmaker to live life more "simply". It's also a loose attempt to convince you to live your own life more simply. I tend to find that suggestion annoying no matter who is making it. I'll tell you why in a second. But to get back to telling you what this book is about: it's about 7 months of Jen Matmaker's life attempts to eliminate excess food, clothing, household goods and social media. It's also about an attempt to grow her own food, eliminate trash waste and, ultimately, develop a deeper relationship with God.

I have to tell you that the entire time I was reading this book I had the following passage from Scripture in mind:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

In other words, we need to be careful not to re-order our lives according to a set of "homemade rules" that aren't required of us in scripture. We are free to live "simply" or with a bit of "excess" as befits our situation and personal conscience. Trying to convince others to live exactly as we do because it is somehow "right" is actually wrong.

Which leads me to my chief complaint about the call among some Christians that we ought to all "live simply". What exactly does that mean? Usually when I hear another Christian make an impassioned plea for others to "live with less" or "be content"  or "avoid excess", etc., there is a familiar tone in the voice that I recognize. While I appreciate that people feel passionately about "living simply" I would respectfully request that they remember the above scripture and take care that their passion for simplicity is not evolving into some type of false humility. I suggest that "living simply" is going to mean different things to different people and as Christ didn't lay out any particular example of what a simple home looked like, I think that's ok.

I really think the call to "live simply" should be carefully considered. I hear it being used as a weapon more often than not and besides, I really don't think we should be judging people by only a glimpse of what we see of their lives without understanding the ins and outs of how they go about spending their money or time and for what reasons. (Not that Hatmaker was judging. She was not!!!) For instance - our family makes a regular habit out of hosting large groups of people. Tonight we are hosting our the main dinner portion of our church's Christmas progressive dinner. Because we often host large numbers, I have collected/been given a lot of dishes for place settings. I've probably spent about $30 total on my dishes and the rest have come as gifts. However, I discovered in preparing for this meal that I was about 12 bowls short of what would be needed. My husband and I discussed it and opted to go to the Dollar Store and purchase 12 more bowls as, in the long run, we'd be making good use out of them. When I was standing in line, a lady started remarking about the amount of bowls I was buying and how I must have a very large house with a lot of storage space. Assumptions. I do have a large enough house, but I have minimal storage space. I don't house piles of crystal in my house but I did need 12 bowls at the dollar store to tend to an immediate need. I wasn't even at Target; I was at the Dollar Store. Is buying an additional 12 bowls excess? To some it is, yes. But to some of us it isn't because we have a need, based on our lifestyle and what we feel God has called us to (in our case, hospitality of large numbers). Is my relationship with God right in purchasing those extra bowls? Yes. It is. (Although talk about an awkward moment in the checkout lane.)

Note that there is nothing wrong with trying to live in such a way that frees you up to live the life that God has called you to and for some that might mean not having extra dishes in their cupboards. There is everything right about that. Certainly "things" and "stuff" have a way of stealing our attention from the things in life which really matter. Scripture commands that we remove things from our lives which distract us from our relationship with Christ, primarily. (Mark 9:47; Matthew 19:21 to give a few examples.) We should always be examining the relationships/people/circumstances in our lives and asking God to show us what is distracting us from Him and take appropriate steps to prioritize what is truly important. But to be clear, God doesn't ask all of us to sell literally everything that we own in order to have a relationship with Him. A few may be asked to do so but it would be under pretty remarkable circumstances. (There were, after all,  only 12 official apostles who were called to literally follow Him around, leaving behind their lives.) This to say - yes, be aware of what is keeping you from having a right relationship with God. At the same time, I don't think we should be feeling guilty for owning more items that another Christian thinks we ought to own.

A third concern that I have about this book is that at the beginning of 7 Jen talks about how each month is set up like a "fast" of sorts. During one of the months she gives up all but 7 ingredients from her diet. For that one month she fasts eating only seven ingredients. Then another month she focused on reduced spending wherein she didn't go out to eat or mindlessly shop. A couple of times friends invited her to go somewhere with them but she'd respond, "Sorry, 7!" as a reminder of her ....fasting project? Experiment? But two things about this lacked in consistency: if the friends then offered to pay for her to eat out, she would go out with them. (So if she is learning to simplify her spending habits but is helping her friends spend money on her behalf I'm very confused. Especially if we're calling it a fast.) She used the words "experiment" and "fasting" interchangeably and when you do that you are presenting two interpretations for what you are saying. If she's experimenting then ok, fine, I get it, she wants to share her experiences. If she's fasting then there is the scripture which tells us that if we fast we should have cheery countenances about ourselves and not make it a matter of public concern or awareness. (Matthew 6:17-18) So which was this? A fast or an experiment?

I really don't know that this book should exist. Which is not to say that the conversation should not exist . . . just the book! Jen shares of her experiences in a very conversational manner. If I were conversing with her over a cup of tea or coffee, I wouldn't mind this at all and would have taken a greater interest in what she had to share. However, since she's writing down her thoughts, I felt like she could have taken the time to offer the counter arguments, as well as a lot more scriptural proof and teaching to validate her reasons for making the choices and decisions which she made. Instead it felt like Hatmaker had a whim and a contract to write a book, and why not this idea rather than another? Do we publish books just to publish them?

The bottom line to the "simplicity argument" is that I think you must set yourself up in a state that works for you and your family to love God, love His people and serve in whatever form or fashion He asks of you. It's not about reducing, reusing and recycling; it is about a right relationship with God. Eliminate the "stuff" which distracts from this; gather the tools necessary to do your work.

I'm going to keep my dishes, still go out to eat with friends when the schedule allows for it, collect good books for my children to read, give good gifts to others (at Christmas time and for no good reason at all) eat healthy, yummy food all of the time (and serve it to others) and enjoy the life which God has given me to enjoy without guilt or apology. I will also do all of the above with thanksgiving, acknowledging that none of my life is remotely possible without God's desire to bestow such wonderful, good gifts upon me. He has made my pathway what it is, just as He has made Hatmaker's pathway what it is. Our lives aren't supposed to look the same. Her "simple" and my "simple" no doubt look drastically different and that's ok.  She can be an arm and I'll be a leg in the Body of Christ. I might need more dishes than her and she might need more cowboy boots than me. She has been placed where she is in life "for such a time as this" just as I have been placed where I am for good reason. If we are both simplifying for the sake of relationship with Jesus Christ then it is all good.

I think Hatmaker has the best in mind with this book. I took issue with her ambiguous theological arguments in parts, as well as her practical application (stemming mostly from her theology) but I don't fault her for trying to deepen her walk with Christ. That's the most important thing and she shouldn't guilt away from that any more than I intend to. With three sets of dishes or one, I am the Lord's (and the dishes are the Lord's) and amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Books for Toddlers

Time for a little Q&A.

Someone asked me what Advent book we use with our kids and what I might recommend.

A: Back in 2012 I was given an opportunity to review Why Christmas?, by Barbara Roach (linked to thoughts). We really did like that one and have used it since. We're using it again this year. We find it perfectly suited for the kids in our family. (To clarify, our kids are currently: 2, 3, 5 and 8.)



Each page has a passage of scripture to read through and a prompt for further discussions. Parents are encouraged to define particular words and phrases to their youngsters so that they are better able to understand the story of Christ's birth. There are also song suggestions for each day. (This is a wonderful addition as our children love to sing and seem to do their best memory work when facts are set to music.)

You can read our full thoughts on this title HERE. Also, you can read Annette from This Simple Home's endorsement of this title as well. Her kids are close in age to mine and she loves using this book also.

******

This year I was given an opportunity to review Prepare Him Room, a family devotional by Marty Machowski.





I read through the first half of this book and flipped through the second half and ultimately decided it wasn't a great fit for our family. That said, I do think it's a solid book that ought to be considered by families. I would categorize Prepare Him Room and say that it is best used by "teacher types." This is a thin book but it is laid out like a well organized lesson plan, complete with specific scriptures to read, songs to sing and science experience/art projects to help drive the lesson home.

Please understand that there is absolutely nothing in this book that I didn't like. It just is not a good fit for me because I don't like a book to put me in too tight of a box or structured system. This is likely not at all what Marty Machowski intends but that's how it feels to me. I can think of several friends (coincidentally, all of them are teachers) who would absolutely love this book because it removes the need for a lot of your own thought process to come up with appropriate songs or activities to do to share a message. This book is, as I say, very orderly and, should you choose to use it, you can begin and end your Advent season knowing that you covered all of your bases. It is a nicely put together curriculum and I know some people will love it for that reason. If you prefer things organized for you, this book is for you!

Many thanks to New Growth Press for sending a copy my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.

******

Once upon a time I reviewed a couple of different advent books that I had purchased myself. I have tossed all of them in favor of Why Christmas? In a few years, I'll no doubt need to find another resource but for now this is what is working for us.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmas Book Countdown


As many of you are aware, every year for the past several years I have wrapped up all of our Christmas picture books for my kids to open as they countdown to Christmas Day. I initially got this idea from Amy at Hope is the Word who does the same for her family. The idea is this: collect mass quantities of Christmas titles for your home collection (heh) and then each day one or more children can open one or more of the Christmas book packages to be read altogether. We usually open our books up in the morning, along with our advent calendar candy. (This way the kids can always be smacking in my ear as I am reading to them. Some year I will figure out how to separate these two activities but at the present they really love sitting down to eat candy during the reading time. I therefore struggle to concentrate heavily on the story, not being an enormous fan of smacking lips. I have, howeverlearned to avoid crunchy things.)



Now, for us, I like lining up the books that we read with particular activities. So, the first thing I do is start ordering out our Christmas parties and then I might schedule in some special family activities or movie nights with particular themes in mind. Example: I select in advance the day we will watch The Polar Express and then I wrap up the Polar Express book and "schedule" it for the same calendar day. And then every day leading up to that day I hear the begging and pleading from Bookworm2 that we get out all things Polar Express (his favorite story). The children have learned that when they open the Frosty the Snowman book that means that they get to watch that movie the same day. They have definitely learned that the books can be a tip off for events in the evening and that also adds to the excitement level. We've had some books in our collection now for long enough that my oldest two eagerly await "finding" them in the stack and cheers have been known to erupt when they finally open the book of choice. (Bookworm1 was really excited to open up The Christmas Story: The Brick Bible - linked to thoughts - this past weekend. No, I haven't gotten rid of yet. But Mater Saves Christmas did bite the dust.)

Let me be clear: this tradition takes a lot of work. It typically takes me 2-3 hours one evening to sit down with the calendar, stack the books in order and get them all wrapped up. In some ways it's a bit of a pain. But in most every other single way, it is a delight to be able to do this for my kids and I can't recommend the practice highly enough. It is something that they look forward to and, truth be told, I do also. (Because I forget which order I have placed the and sometimes I'm surprised myself! Such is my memory.) Ha!

Now, as I talk about our habits with the books, I also try to share about some of the ones in our home library and give a quick review. Here are some links to past reviews/titles which I have shared:




All of the above titles are still included in our collection. That said, at the end of last year I culled our stack a bit, eliminating some titles that I didn't care for as much. At the beginning of this year, I replaced some with new titles I had researched.

Here are two of our new titles:


Good King Wenceslas was one I researched a bit. My kids especially love books which invite you to sing and I wanted to find a book based on a lesser-known-but-still-familiar carol. I know the song of Good King Wenceslas but I don't think I've ever paid much attention to the words before. I found this edition on Amazon and liked the classical look of it. We read it for the first time the other day and I absolutely love it.

You do sing the song as you read the book but the verses are broken up and mixed into the story of the Good King who sees a peasant gathering wood for a fire. The king and his page boy go out to help the begger and take him some food. The king spends an enjoyable evening with the "least of these" in this kingdom before returning to his palace as the song and story go. And, as I say, as you read along the story you pause to sing the various verses.

This book includes a DVD which is narrated by Jane Seymour and sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I can't tell you how the DVD is because I couldn't bear the Amazon price for the book. I purchased this one through a third party seller on Amazon but the DVD was not included. (The price, however, was more to my liking!) I'm glad I picked this one up. I think it's a great addition to our collection.


The next book I purchased was one that we had previewed from our local library last year. We borrowed The Christmas Train: A True Story land I absolutely fell in love with it. I stuck it on my Amazon wishlist until such a time came to feel comfortable with the price. (Again though, I picked up a used "like new" copy via third party seller. However, I also bought a brand new copy to be gifted to some friends of ours this year.)

This book tells the true story of a little boy who was given an electric train from his parents for Christmas. His mother has also purchased a wind-up train to gift to a neighborhood boy who is "less fortunate" then he. When he discovers the gratitude which exists in the friend who has a mere wind-up train, he feels remorseful over his own attitude of greed.

Now, I'm not a proponent (in the very least) of making anyone feel guilty for receiving good gifts. I hope I give my children good gifts and I trust they will enjoy them as they should. There is nothing wrong with the giving and receiving of good gifts. (I've already argued this.) I like this book though because the message is delivered in a way that doesn't beat you over the head with false guilt, but makes the reader to know that they ought to be thankful for everything that they have received. The message isn't, "Oh, he got a simple train and you got a fancy one. You should give yours away." Rather, the message is: "Maintain a proper attitude concerning what you have been given."

Give and receive, but do both joyfully! This is a lesson I hope that my children learn well in this life. We should always look to bless and receive the blessings with thanksgiving. God is generous to us and we, in turn, ought to be generous towards others. These are the messages of this book and so I love it. I whole heartedly love it and am happy to have it among our collection.

Now, just because we have a nice collection of books doesn't mean that I'm necessarily done with my set. There are still books among my stack that I would weed out if I were to come across a better one. I'm always up for suggestions! If there is a Christmas picture book that you and yours have loved, please tell me about it! I'd love to hear from you in the comment section with recommendations of your own.

In the meantime, I hope you all are having a fun December celebrating time with your loved ones and are pursuing a few fun traditions of your own.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
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