Our home has grown. Not the walls, but the people living within them. Just after Christmas, my husband, Dana, and I shuffled around beds and bureaus to make room for two young children needing temporary care. The particulars aren’t important, other than to say I’ve discovered how much the human heart is like The Mitten, Jan Brett’s classic picture book in which a child’s lost mitten stretches and stretches to make room for an assortment of creatures who shelter inside.
For many people, Christmas is the highpoint of the year, but this year, suffocating under the weight of so much sorrow, it might feel harder to celebrate. Families slaughtered in their safehouses. Others taken hostage. Still others buried beneath the red rain of rockets. The diaspora of the desperate, crossing oceans and mountains and jungles in search of shelter. The hungry, the lonely. Those who’ve lost their way. Those who’ve lost loved ones. Those who’ve lost their homes.
One of my great delights, as both a parent and a teacher, is reading with children. So when I saw that two of my favorite authors – Nikki Grimes and Mitali Perkins – were releasing holiday picture books, I was giddy with anticipation. Grimes’s Lullaby for the King (Beaming Books) and Perkins’s Holy Night and Little Star: A Story for Christmas (Waterbrook) celebrate Christ’s birth with a fanciful look at a few overlooked participants on that first long-ago Christmas.
There will always be
Only one Thanksgiving for me,
With you at the head of the table.
As a middle- and high-school English teacher, I am always on the lookout for books to add to my classroom library. To make the cut, I tell my students a book must have high literary, historical, or spiritual value. Preferably all three. So when I read the first lines of author Dana VanderLugt’s just-released debut middle grade novel, Enemies in the Orchard, a World War II novel in verse (ZonderKidz, 2023), I knew it was destined for my shelf.
As the remnants of Hurricane Lee whipped the trees outside my bedroom window into a frenzy of whirling trunks and leaves, I pulled up the covers and opened my laptop to review Toni Buzzeo’s new middle grade novel, Light Comes to Shadow Mountain. Here I was, reviewing a historical novel about young Cora Mae Tipton, who aims to bring electricity to her rural Kentucky community, and my own electricity had just gone out.