Archives for November 2014

The Nutcracker

Author and Illustrator:  Susan Jeffers

9780060743864_p0_v3_s260x420What little girl, upon hearing The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, has not twirled and danced around the room?  The music of this enchanting ballet is quite well-known, although scenes of the ballet itself are often absent in books available for children.  Instead, they all seem to have intricate and lengthy  texts.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers will be a book your child will cherish.  Her lovely detailed illustrations will captivate even the youngest reader, as they watch young Marie and her Nutcracker Prince walk “through falling snowflakes to a waiting boat that flew them through the night. ”  And then – the Sugar Plum Fairy led the Prince and Marie to  their seats of honor.

Pink roses waltzed.  At last, the Sugar Plum Fairy danced.  She seemed lighter than air. And all little girls who have danced to that special and enchanting song will see it illustrated so beautifully.

The sweet story of Marie’s bravery and love to save her Nutcracker Prince is one of the world’s most beloved holiday fairy tales.

Mary Byrne Kline

LINKHere is Susan Jeffers, some of her gorgeous artwork and a description of how she worked to make illustrations in The Nutcracker.


Photo images which inspired the illustrated pages.

Through the Woods…

November Reflections
Over the River and Through the Woods…

Load the picnic basket, lawn chairs, old blankets, and be careful to keep the crockpot level!  Are all the pies in? Okay it’s “over the river and through the woods” we go…

For many years our family (now 15 of us), along with uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents have celebrated Thanksgiving out in the woods by gathering at a state park.  Living in Florida provides us the opportunity to enjoy being outdoors late in November.  Tables are lined with crockpots of potatoes and stuffing, trays are laden with roasted and fried turkey, an array of pies look tempting, and a multitude of festive dishes add to the excitement.  Coffee and hot cider bubble on cook stoves.  Lawn chairs, blankets, even playpens are spread around; adults are visiting and kids are throwing Frisbees and acorns at each other.

Just before eating, everyone gathers, encircling the tables, and hands are joined.  Attempts to “shush” the youngest ones are often futile, but no one seems to mind.  Every year we would bow our heads as Great Grandpa, or “Big PopPop” as the children called him, would pray.  His aged, raspy voice always began, “Dear Heavenly Father” and as he continued, with the campfire crackling in the background, I smiled at this precious moment with wiggling babies, gangly teens, aging parents, young families, all gathered together in God’s beautiful outdoors.  Soon the moment passed and chaos reigned as manners were replaced by hunger!

After everyone has eaten, it is time for the unwritten tradition of “the hike into the woods”.  This involves a couple of the daddies and all of the children.  (Mommies love this tradition!)  It also provided Great Grandpa the opportunity for a quick nap.  Before long the hikers have returned with treasures of an abandoned nest, some “priceless” rocks, part of a snake skin, some forlorn looking weeds, and a weird bug or two in a zip-lock bag.  The second round of nibbling at the food and diving into the pies begins, and the cameras start to make an appearance.  Each year we always question as to why this is thought of now that the children are tired and dirty from hiking!  Soon the afternoon sun begins to fade and with regret we know it’s time to pack up for another year.

This year as “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,” we’ll be missing that sweet, raspy voice saying, “Dear Heavenly Father.”  I know I will always hear it in my heart, and that our dear Great Grandpa will be saying it in person to his Heavenly Father this Thanksgiving.  And for that I am truly thankful.

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Kline Family Thanksgiving 2013


Mary Byrne Kline

Here comes the parade!

I know I’m a late sharing two these books.  However, if you have an Amazon account, or a local bookstore near you that keeps great children’s books on their shelves, there is still time to order and read before Thursday morning.   I just received this first book in the mail yesterday and I love it!

And here is a great free activity packet (.pdf) to share with your children, just in time for the Thanksgiving Day Parade!  Use it to create your own Balloons over Broadway adventures.

Use these books to set the stage for watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet



Everyone’s a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who first invented these “upside-down puppets”? Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! In brilliant collage illustrations, Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade. Winner of the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award.   Review by Booklist.




The next book was published in 2006, but still worth sharing in case it is new to you.

Milly and the Macy’s Parade by Shana Corey


For students in Kindergarten-Grade 3
The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a highlight of the New York City holiday season with its marching bands and big balloons. In this story, set in 1924, Corey envisions a little girl whose immigrant Polish father works for Mr. Macy himself. Milly has the run of the store and can fly through the revolving doors and ride up and down the escalators and the elevators. She and all the fashionably dressed customers think that the Christmas merchandise is “gorgeous.” But while Milly and her family are growing accustomed to America, they miss one wonderful custom from the old country: strolling from house to house singing Christmas carols. The child determinedly proposes to Mr. Macy a parade as an alternative. The marchers begin in Harlem with festive costumes, bands, and animals from the Central Park Zoo and end up on 34th Street. And so the annual festivity takes root. Helquist’s acrylic-and-oil paintings feature colorfully dressed people with angular faces and bodies outlined in black. The author’s note gives a history of the parade and acknowledges that while R. H. Macy himself died in 1877, he is a known character “-immortalized in the 1947 classic book and film Miracle on 34th Street-.” While the references to the Follies and the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts may be lost on children, this is an entertaining and lively variation on holiday stories.  Review by Library School Journal


Deni Corbett










The Blessing Cup

Author and Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

61QR-HKhsQLHow are blessings handed down in families?

Is it through time-honored traditions?  Through the sharing of generations of memories?  Perhaps the giving of some treasured heirloom that has been in the family for as long as anyone can remember.

  As a young girl in Russia in the early 1900’s, Anna grows to appreciate the magnificent china tea set that came to be in their family.  She especially loves hearing of the note that was tucked inside the teapot, a wedding gift from Anna’s Aunt Rebecca for her parents.

 “This tea set is magic.  Anyone who drinks from it has  blessing from God.  They will never know a day of hunger.  Their lives  will always have flavor.  They will know love and joy… and they will never be poor.”

Then one night Papa tells the family that the czar has ordered all Jewish people to leave Russia.  Anna’s family takes only a few meager belongings as they prepare to leave: Papa’s sewing machine, a few holy books, their menorah, and the precious tea set.  “It will bring God’s blessings with us on our journey,” her mother whispered.

 The next few months brought great hardship as well as great blessing.  You must read for yourself of the man who came to be loved and known as “Uncle Genya.”  Through his sacrifice the “blessing” of the tea set stayed with Anna’s family, who ultimately made it to America.  Could it be possible that any pieces of that magnificent tea set remain today? What a treasured heirloom it would be to have even one “Blessing Cup.”

Mary Byrne Kline

Critical thinking questions based on Bloom’s:

1.  Why did Anna’s family have to flee Russia?
2.  Name three ways in which Anna’s family experienced blessings, even during hard times.
3.  Think about all of your blessings this Thanksgiving. Is there something in your family that reminds you of God’s blessings?  Do you have a “Blessing Cup”?

Patricia Polacco talks about The Blessing Cup

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