Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Journey: Beginnings

     Joseph and Mary began their long journey to Bethlehem with a old donkey, a basket of bread and a flask of water.  And, yes, a small bag of coins.  Joseph hoped there would be enough to pay the taxes Rome required, with a small amount remaining for necessities along the way.*  

     The road was long and arduous; over hills and across the river Jordan.  Mary, being close to delivering her baby, found travel difficult, bouncing and joggling along on an aging and boney donkey.  But, walking would have been out of the question.

     They arrived in Bethlehem late at night, hoping to find lodging.  The stars above were as numerous, it seemed, as the masses journeying to their ancestral home.  Something told Joseph it would be nigh to impossible to find a place for Mary to rest.  The birth pangs were closer together now.  "Father, help us!  Open up a room, a stable, SOME place for my love."

     The odd couple trudged into town, Mary sitting on the donkey, head bowed, exhausted and ready to close her eyes in sleep.  Joseph, many years her elder, showed himself tall, straight and strong.  

     Door after wooden door closed in their faces.  Innkeeper after unbending innkeeper said the same thing, "No room".  How could there be no room for the Son of God?  
     Incredible. Unthinkable.

     But, haven't we left Elohim out in the cold?  Going our own stubborn way? Saying, "There is no room in my heart today!" Yes, sadly, it's true...

              -from "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012

* Of course, no one really knows the details of that night. I have painted a word picture of what could have been. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Awesome Double Miracle: Elizabeth

Image from "The Nativity Story"

     That same confirmation would come from her cousin Elizabeth who herself, was holding miracle in her womb. Well past childbearing years, Elizabeth and Zacharias were to give birth to a man child.  

     "His name shall be John", the angel Gabriel announced to Zacharias in the temple.  His wife was now in her sixth month, and soon to be visited by a young girl from Nazareth. 
     "Greetings, cousin!  Peace be with you!", Mary had said.  At the sound of her voice, the child within Elizabeth leaped for joy.  "Why am I so privileged to have the mother of my Lord come to me?"  Elizabeth questioned with wonder.  How could she have known?  Only God could have revealed that to her.  

     So, it was true.  Finally, all the pieces flew together in one beautiful picture.  Mary's heart could no longer hold it's joy.  She burst forth in song, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  For he hath regarded the humble state of his handmaiden.  From now on, all generations will call me blessed!"  
     The words overflowed from her spirit as water in a fast flowing rocky stream.  She praised God for His power and providence and yes, protection, in this troubled world.

        -From "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Amazing Announcement: Young Mary

Image from "The Nativity Story"

     Mary was so young, so inexperienced.  Who could have guessed that God the Almighty would send His messenger, the angel Gabriel, down to Nazareth and announce to Mary that she would bear God's Son?

     What good has ever come from that town?  Every female child born since Sarah, and indeed, since Eve, was hoped to be the one to carry the seed of the One who would crush the head of Satan.  Why would the young girls of Nazareth hope for less?  The very meaning of it's name meant "branch" or "preservation".  Of what?  The seed of the Savior, of course!

     And now, Mary struggled to tell her mother of last night's encounter.  Would she believe her daughter?  Or, would she assume, as most would, that she had broken her betrothal vow, to follow her passions?  And what about Joseph?  Would he put her away, or stone her, as was allowed by law?  Mary hoped that he would remember that the Messiah was to be born someday to a woman of Jewish blood...why couldn't it be Mary?  Would he trust in her proven good character?

     If Joseph questioned Mary's story, any hesitancy to take her as his bride was put to rest.  The angel Gabriel's appearance to him in a dream confirmed Mary's report.  She was truly carrying the Son of God!

     -from "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Story of The Unexpected Gifts!

It's that time of year again! I almost chose not to participate, but, I foraged ahead, despite feelings of uncreativity, and joined others for:


The Contest:  Write a children's story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays!  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest :))  (It can be as short as you like, but no more than 350!  Title not included in word count.)  Any kind of weather will do: sun, rain, sleet, heatwave, blizzard, tsunami, monsoon, hurricane, hail, tornado, etc!  Weather may be atypical for your setting (rain in Maine, frost in Florida), it may be extreme (blizzard instead of regular snow, drought instead of lush greenery), or it may be unheard of (spring flowers in Antarctica, snow in the Sahara, bathing suit weather at the North Pole), but whatever you choose, make us feel the impact on the holidays!  The wild weather may be a hindrance, a wish-come-true, a threat, a pleasant surprise, etc.  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The wilder and wackier the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you're competing against yourself!)

Since I cannot write a holiday story without mentioning the Reason for the Season, here is my attempt at 342 words:

                                     THE UNEXPECTED GIFTS

The house awoke early. It was Christmas morning! The snow outside was gently falling. The family gathered to open gifts under the glistening gold and silver tree. Suddenly the wind began to howl. It raced around and around the house until it forced itself though a crack in the door. In it came, swirling around the Christmas tree.

The little family pressed close together. They watched in amazement as the gifts began to rise and dance around the tree. Around and around they went in all their bright and dapper wrapping. Then, just as mysteriously as it came in, the wind ceased its roaring, and became a gentle breeze. As obedient children, the packages landed together under the tree once more.

The wind blew back out the window, and into the morning, as quickly as it entered.

"What was that?" asked Mother.

"Amazing" noted Daddy.

"Whee. . .what fun!" said brother Donald.

"Oh, no!" said sister Wendy. "The tags are gone. They have blown away!"

"It's a muddle," said Sarah, "but what an adventure!"

The family each took a gift from the pile, and opened it.

"This shirt is TOO big," said Donald.

"These socks are TOO small" said Daddy.

"But this scarf is JUST right!" said Mother.

After much laughter and joy, the family read the story of the first Christmas.

"There were plenty of surprises on that night long ago, too," said Daddy.

Sarah agreed. "The shepherds were surprised to see Angels in the starry sky over Bethlehem."

"And the wise men were surprised to find the Baby Jesus in a stable instead of a big fancy palace" added Donald.

"And Mary was surprised at the Wise Men's gifts. Gold, for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh for a prophet." said Mother.

"Those are grownup gifts" said Wendy.

"But Jesus used them later," reminded Sarah.

"Maybe Donald will use Daddy's shirt when he gets bigger", said Wendy.

There was joy all around that Christmas morning. They would never forget the day the wind mixed-up their gifts!

Make sure you go to Susanna Hill's website here, to look at all the other entries. Best wishes to everyone. The prizes are SUPER again this year. . . .MERRY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all!

Friday, December 5, 2014

PPBF: Christmas in the Trenches

Since this is the Christmas season, I thought it would be appropriate to feature a book I happened to come across in our local children's library. I was made aware of this historic event years ago, while I was home educating our two children. It reflects the well-known Scripture verse, ”Peace on Earth, and Good Will to Men." This is exactly why Jesus came over 2,000 years ago!

Author/lyricist: John McCutcheon
Illustrator: Henri Sørensen
Publisher: Peachtree
Date: 2006

Genre: Historic Fiction
Ages: 7-12 (and beyond)
Themes: Christmas, World War I, peacemakers

First Lines: ". . .young Thomas Tolliver curled up next to his grandfather and announced, "Grandpa, this was my very favorite Christmas. Do you have a favorite Christmas?" 
"Yes, Thomas, I do," said Grandpa Francis. "I was far away from our home here in Liverpool. It was a Christmas many years ago during the first winter of the Great War."

Jacket Flap: "The only thing separating the two armies on that cold December night in 1914 was a barren stretch of muddy ground called No Man's Land. It was in this setting that the miracle began.
     A faint sound of singing cut through the frosty air.
                   Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht. . .
     Then other voices joined in.
                   Silent night, holy night."

Why I Like This Book: This is such a touching account of a brief but meaningful break in an awful war that took so many lives. I love the connection (mine) between Christmas and Jesus the "Prince of Peace" and the peace, even for an hour or two, brought to the German and English troops facing each other on the battlefield. And here is a surprising extra "perk": the author, also a folk singer, has written a song about the account, and it's included in s CD with the book, along with a reading of the story.
     In the back matter, the author's note shares the reason for the story and song, along with a historical note about the actual event. I love the eyewitness accounts in diary/letter form found there as well.

Review of the book, and a video of the author singing the song he wrote about the event, HERE

The author's list of PROGRAMS to promote non-violence, conflict resolution and peacemaking.

Here is a site for CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES with extra info relating to the book and contributors.

BBC version with vintage posters!

Ideas to promote peacemaking for parents and teachers from "Focus on the Family."

Author tells the touching tale of the actual men to whom this happened. . .they came to his concert! Gave me goose-bumps.

Hope you enjoyed today's offering for Perfect Picture Book Fridays, when we review picture books which we deem worthy of mention.  This concept was created by Susanna Hill, and is a helpful resource for librarians, teachers and parents.  For a list of all books reviewed so far, along with activities to complement them, click here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

PPBF: The Little Yellow Leaf

Since Fall has left us (at least in the Midwest: and what a gorgeous Autumn it was!), I want to sneak in a touching book that features leaves, and a universal theme to which we can all relate. It's not my usual historical fiction offering, but I purchased it as a template text for scientific-themed manuscripts. 

Here goes!

Author/Illustrator: Carin Berger
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollinsPublishers)
Date: 2008

Readers: 3-8 (they say) 6 to 66 and beyond! (I say)
Themes: Autumn, Fear of the Unknown
Genre: Fiction

First Page: "It was autumn. In the hush of the forest a lone yellow leaf clung to the branch of a great oak tree."

Jacket Flap: "As all the other leaves float off and fly past, Little Yellow Leaf thinks, I'm not ready yet.
As the seasons change all around, Little Yellow Leaf holds on to the tree. Still not ready. Will Little Yellow Leaf ever be ready?
This is a story for anyone who has ever been afraid of facing the unknown — and a celebration of the friends who help us take the leap."

Why I like this book: It's precious! And the gentle, soothing words flow and fall into our minds and hearts as does the story. The illustrations are unique. It seems Carin uses a cut paper technique that holds a surprise if you look closely! They have a definite "country/colonial" feeling, reminiscent of "The Ox Cart Man."

Extra Goodies:

You can find it on Amazon

More about Carin Berger and her books/art at her WeBSITE

Interview: All about Carin's path to publication and Designs!

Another interview HERE featuring Carin's other books

Youtube visit to her studio . . . wait until you see her artwork!

Here is the Link if you can't see it below:

For the Kiddies:

"Why Leaves Change Color": Made Simple for Kids

"Why Leaves Change Color": Science Experiment 

Hope you enjoyed today's offering for Perfect Picture Book Fridays, when we review picture books which we deem worthy of mention.  This concept was created by Susanna Hill, and is a helpful resource for librarians, teachers and parents.  For a list of all books reviewed so far, along with activities to complement them, click here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

PPBF: Camping With the President

Here is my second of two historical fiction PBs featuring one of my favorite US presidents: Theodore Roosevelt!

Author: Ginger Wadsworth
Illustrator: Karen Dugan
Publisher: Calkins Creek (imprint of Boyd's Mill Press)
Date: 2009

Ages: 7-12
Genre: Historic Fiction
Themes: National Parks, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, camping

First lines: "President Theodore Roosevelt mounted his favorite house and shook the reins. He and Renown shot out the White House stable door. They galloped straight for the woods on their daily ride. As always, hooves pounded behind them. The President made sure that the Secret Service had to ride hard to keep up with him."

Inside Jacket Cover: Imagine a U.S. president on a camping trip. It seems unlikely today, but in May 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt dismissed his Secret Service men and sent away reporters and dignitaries to go camping with John Muir, the world-famous naturalist. For three glorious nights and four days in California's Yosemite National Park, the two men talked about birds, giant sequoia trees, glaciers, as well as the importance of preserving wilderness for future generations. They slept under the stars, built blazing campfires, traveled on horseback, and enjoyed the beauty and the uniqueness of the area.

Why I like this book: Not only is it written in an engaging way with charmingly realistic illustrations, but Wadsworth's author's notes in back are priceless for those who are writing a PB on either of these men, but is a ready and very substantial list of resources for those just wanting more information on the topic. Another perfect example of how a non-fiction picture book should be organized and written. Almost a guide in itself!


Everything you've always wanted to know about John Muir HERE

All about Ginger Wadsworth and her books HERE

     Camping With the President BOOK TRAILER

Ten Cool Things about John Muir HERE

John Muir National Historic Site HERE

"Theodore Roosevelt for Kids" is a comprehensive resource for parents and teachers. Find it on Amazon HERE

Hope you enjoyed today's offering for Perfect Picture Book Fridays, when we review picture books which we deem worthy of mention.  This concept was created by Susanna Hill, and is a helpful resource for librarians, teachers and parents.  For a list of all books reviewed so far, along with activities to complement them, click here.

Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel