Archives for December 2014

C is for Christmas

Last night our family celebrated Christmas by hanging up our Fireflies puppet theater, printing out our script and puppets and once again gathering around the living room.   The difference this year?  We have a new 6 year old reader for the first time…   How can this be?  How can my little ones be growing up so quickly?

There is still time to create your own legacy moments gathered around your family puppet theater.   I promise you, it is indeed a priceless moment not to be missed.


Getting ready! Puppets are lined up on the piano bench and scripts are lined up on the podium.


It’s time to welcome our guests. (One Mommy, one Daddy, a Grandpa, a Sister, and a Nana.) Getting ready to celebrate Christmas as a family- led by a 6 year old and a 4 year old.


MY GIFT by Christina Rossetti

Twinkle Twinkle Christmas Star

Twinkle Twinkle Christmas Star

Family Sing-a-Long    Away in the Manger

Family Sing-a-Long Away in the Manger


Mommy sings along.

Daddy and Sister join in the singing.

Daddy and Sister join in the singing.

All in all the “play” took about 20 minutes – no practice necessary – but it was priceless in terms of creating a family moment.   It’s a win-win!

Don’t miss our January Fireflies Presents Script and puppets to go along with our new and wonderful books chosen for 2015!

Merry Christmas with deep appreciation for all each one of you who follow Fireflies Blog.  We can’t wait to share with you in the coming months!

Deni, Mary, Gil, Laura, Rachel, Cheryl, Jocelyn, Amanda, and Lani

The Kline Thanksgiving Show

The 2013 Kline Thanksgiving Show with the Fireflies’ Puppet Theater

Last minute Christmas gift idea?   Fireflies’ puppet theaters are available
at Coffee and Canvas in Longwood, FL.
They may also be ordered by contacting Cheryl directly.

We believe that every home should have a puppet theater and a child-sized podium ready and available at a moments notice for an impromptu Fireflies Presents!   Let us know if you are interested in one of our adorable solid wood child’s podium before our store is set up and running.

Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

Author:  Gloria Houston
Illustrator:  Barbara Cooney


1918: the Christmas Ruthie has longed for all her life and the Christmas she will never forget.

This is the year Ruthie’s family has the honor of giving Pine Grove its tree. Last spring before he left for the war, Papa chose the prefect balsam tree from high on a rocky crag. But now, as Christmas draws near, Ruthie and Mama wait impatiently for the Appalachian mountain train to bring Papa home. Even with news of the Armistice there’s no word from Papa. Soon it’s Christmas Eve, and Ruthie and Mama can think only of seeing Papa again. But despite that, Papa promised the townsfolk a tree, and now–with Papa or without him–Mama will see that his word is kept.


Gloria McLendon Houston’s story of the courage and power of a family is as joyful and timeless as Christmas itself. And exquisite, jewel-like paintings by two-time Caldecott Medal recipient Barbara Cooney capture all the story’s warmth and mountain flavor. Recommended for ages 5 to 8

imgres-4 Deni Corbett

  1. How was the season different when Ruthie and Papa first went in search of the perfect Christmas tree? Look for clues in the pictures. What kinds of things were going on during this season? (Beehives, etc.) Talk about how what you do differs from Ruthie’s experience.
  2. When Mama and Ruthie reach the train station, how do you think they feel? How do you think they feel when they see all the men getting off the train?
  3. What did Ruthie’s family do for a living? What was Papa’s job? What kind of hardships did Ruthie’s family endure because of the war? What was Mama and Ruthie’s dilemma on Christmas Eve? How did Mama and Ruthie solve the problems they faced on Christmas Eve?
  4. How did Ruthie and Papa find the perfect tree? Where did they go to find it? How did they mark it so they would know which one to get when they came back? Why couldn’t they just cut the tree down right then and there?
  5. When Mama and Ruthie went up the mountain to get their tree, Ruthie became frightened. How did Mama help her get over her fears?
  6. Where do you think Mama found the cloth to make Ruthie’s dress and her doll’s clothes? What do you think Mama used to make Ruthie’s doll?
  7. If you were to describe Mama, what words would you use? How about Ruthie? Or Papa?
  8. Why do you think the people in church laughed when St. Nicholas gave all the deacons a lump of coal and a willow switch?
  9. What did Ruthie get from St. Nicholas? What surprise was waiting outside the church? Which gift do you think was the best one? Why?
  10. Can you tell who was telling the story by the end of the book? Is it someone different than you predicted at the beginning? How do you know who is telling the story?
  11. Besides being a gift to Ruthie, what part does her doll play in the story? (i.e., could it be a symbol for hope, love, tradition, faith, triumph, etc.) What does the family do with Ruthie’s doll every Christmas from that time on?



Happy Birthday to “A Christmas Carol”

I obviously read lots and lots (and lots) of children’s books as well as books about children’s books.

This morning was no different as I grabbed a new book that just arrived, The Children’s Book Almanac, and discovered that today is the birthday of The Christmas Carol.

This discovery brought to mind a treasured 18-year-old memory – an unexpected gift I received on my first trip to London – one that I had forgotten.

Finding ourselves with only a few days in this wonderful city, my husband and I each made our list of “must dos” in case we never returned.  My list included visiting all the author homes/museums we could get to in one day and the only surviving home of Charles Dickens ended up on that list.


Now I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever been a huge fan of Dickens’ work, but for some reason I simply love exploring the homes of famous people. Dickens’ home was no exception.  As I walked through the front door of 48 Doughty Street, my imagination went into overdrive and I was transported to the 1800’s and the home life of this literary legend.  His home-museum was rather small, with one of the rooms turned into a book store. (My joy – Steve’s nightmare)

As Steve patiently waited for me to touch every single book  available on the shelves, contemplating which one to take home to our children, a gentleman came up behind me to ask if he could help.  His name?  Sir Cedric David Charles Dickens, the last surviving great-grandson of Charles Dickens and steward of his literary legacy.   Once my brain registered that I needed  to close my mouth, breath, and say something – anything – I had a treasured conversation (can you even imagine?) with this gracious and humble man – the keeper of the his great grandfather’s books.   Luckily Steve joined me and helped me to make sense.

We just happened to catch him at the Dickens’ house.  It was truly a gift – a treasured memory-moment in my life, mainly because of this man’s generosity of time and love of storytelling.   We had a front row seat – just the two of us – to Dickens’ family story time.  Magical indeed…


Cedric Dickens

One of the first items I unpack every December and place on the fireplace mantle is a book (no surprise there…)
The title?   Christmas with Dickens by Cedric Dickens (the friend I made in 1996).   The inscription?

photo (71)Deni……with love
Do try a Carol party.
Pure magic
Cedric Charles Dickens
We met at Dickens house in London

17 January 1996

It needs a lot of practice
So start in on parties as
soon as you get home! 

By the way, if you are interested…  this little book was written by Cedric and his parents as a framework within which families, friends, and church groups can create their own “wonderfully magical Christmas Carol evening”.  Complete with Dickens’ letters to friends as he wrote A Christmas Carol, recipes, and 28 minutes of lines from A Christmas Carol to read aloud.

So Happy Birthday Christmas Carol…   This year I will introduce you to my children’s children who will, like their mommy and daddy, cover their faces when the ghost of Christmas past appears and cheer when Uncle Ebenezer delivers the Christmas feast.   And we will all be reminded that Christmas is a time for family and forgiveness and joy and love.

Deni Corbett

From the Children’s Book Almanac

When Charles Dickens set out to write A Christmas Carol in 1843, both his fortune and his reputation had hit an all-time low. “Boz [Dickens’s pen name] is going down,” the gossips declared, and Dickens financial problems were known all over London. During this time the celebration of Christmas traditions in England were, as the poet Thomas Hood stated, “in danger of decay.” But Dickens short novella, written at fever pitch over a six-week period, would revive Dickens’s reputation as the most popular novelist in England. Also with this small novel he revitalized the Christmas holiday—just with the power of his pen.


Dickens drew on his own childhood and the life around him to fashion his story. Even the death of the child Tiny Tim was all too familiar to Dickens—he had lost a brother and a sister when a mere child himself. The boy Scrooge, left alone in the school during the holidays, finds children’s books to be his only friend, just as Charles Dickens did. And Dickens had been campaigning in 1843 on behalf of the children of the poor, an appeal that had found him an audience of believers. So drawing on experience and invention, Dickens locked himself in his house, excused himself from appointments, refused to see friends who dropped by, and worked all hours of the day and late into night. “No city clerk was ever more methodical or orderly than he,” Dickens’s eldest son Charley stated about his father.

As is often the case with groundbreaking books, Dickens met some opposition to his creation. Although Dickens told a touching tale of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge who was taught the meaning of Christmas by a series of ghostly visitors, his publisher didn’t think the offering had much value. Ever the inventor, Dickens suggested the terms of his own arrangement. He would pay for the production of the book and be entitled to all profits; his publisher would get a small commission on each sale. (This is, by the way, a complete reversion of usual publishing arrangements.) Since Dickens controlled the book’s production, he made some important decisions about this “Ghost Story of Christmas.” The price would be kept low, only five shillings; he made the small book as handsome as possible, with a russet cloth binding and a stamp of gold on the front and spine. Published on December 19, 1843, A Christmas Carol became an immediate sensation, going through several printings right away. Even the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, known to be dour, “on reading the book, sent out for a turkey, and asked two friends to dine.” Thousands of editions have been issued over the years. Australian illustrator Robert Ingpen, winner of the Hans Christian Anderson Award, created an expressive and spirited rendition of the book in 2008. Today, of course, A Christmas Carol can be enjoyed in plays and movies, even now in a graphic novel.


Happy birthday to A Christmas Carol. This book reminds us that, as Scrooge’s nephew Fred says, Christmas can be “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts.”

From Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book Almanac

Song Of The Stars

Author:  Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrator:  Alison Jay


This year as you sing the Christmas carol, Joy to the World, make special note of the words in the second verse.

“While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy.”

With every page you turn in Song of the Stars, you’ll see brilliantly illustrated paintings of the entire universe, breathless with anticipation.   What is this joyous news that is being spread and repeated across fields, deserts, oceans – from stars, to trees, to robins, to flowers?  “It’s time!  It’s time!”  Waves roar it to the great white whales. Tiny field mice and insects squeak and chirp.  Angels sing it to the shepherds.


Then, under the brilliance of a shining star,  animals gather in a lowly stable and gaze in wonder on an infant in a manger.  All nature joins in a chorus of praise to the newborn King.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room, And heav’n and nature sing, And heav’n and nature sing.”

Here are some other ideas for Song of the Stars from a Homeschooling Mom’s blog – Spell OUTLOUD.

Mary Kline