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The Magic Valentine's Potato

Big Bob and The Magic Valentine’s Day Potato

Sev­er­al years ago, a mys­te­ri­ous pack­age arrived at our house on Valentine’s Day: a plain brown box addressed to our entire fam­i­ly with a return address “TMVDP.” The pack­age weighed almost noth­ing. It weighed almost noth­ing because the box con­tained four lunch­box serv­ing-size bags of pota­to chips. Noth­ing else. Or at least I thought there was noth­ing else until I dumped the box upside down and a slim book fell out — Daniel Pinkwater’s Big Bob and The Mag­ic Valentine’s Day Pota­to.more

Three Wise Women

Three Wise Women

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. More than just an end to the sea­son of Christ­mas, Epiphany is a Chris­t­ian cel­e­bra­tion all its own com­mem­o­rat­ing the rev­e­la­tion of God the Son in the human­i­ty of Jesus Christ. There are var­i­ous tra­di­tions observed around the world, but the sto­ry of the magi who came from afar to vis­it the Christ Child is the cen­tral tale remem­bered, and often, reen­act­ed.… more

Hannukah Bear

Hanukkah Bear

We cel­e­brate Christ­mas at our house, but we live in a com­mu­ni­ty in which many cel­e­brate Hanukkah. As we light our Advent can­dles and string our Christ­mas lights, our Jew­ish friends and neigh­bors light the can­dles on their Hanukkah meno­rah and fry deli­cious pota­to latkes. Dear friends invite us to join them for one of the Hanukkah nights each year and we are blessed to have the fla­vors of fried pota­toes, jel­ly donuts, sour cream, and apple­sauce min­gle with our cin­na­mon, car­damom, Christ­mas gin­ger­bread fla­vors.… more

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree

Oh, wasn’t it grand to have a tree— Exact­ly like Mr. Willowby? My first­born received Mr. Willowby’s Christ­mas Tree (by Robert Bar­ry) from his best friend for Christ­mas 2001. I know this because their names are scrawled inside the front cov­er with the date. I prob­a­bly could’ve nar­rowed it down to the right year, though. He was four, she was three.… more

Quiltmaker's Gift

The Quest for the Perfect Thanksgiving Book

Each Novem­ber I begin the search anew. I know what I’m look­ing for, and I real­ly don’t think it’s too much to ask of a pic­ture book: It must delve into the themes of gen­eros­i­ty, abun­dance, grat­i­tude. It should be beau­ti­ful. Com­pelling in its beau­ty, in fact. Ide­al­ly, I’d like it to cel­e­brate our bet­ter angels, but also not fail to acknowl­edge the prick­li­er parts of our nature.… more

Too Many Pumpkins

Too Many Pumpkins

I have a thing for pump­kins — their orange­ness, their round­ness.… I’m not sure what it is, exact­ly. They’re sort of a har­bin­ger of autumn, my favorite sea­son, so maybe that’s it. Real­ly, I just find them sat­is­fy­ing some­how. Giv­en my love of the orange autum­nal globes, it’s a lit­tle odd, per­haps, that my favorite pump­kin book is about a woman who hates pump­kins.… more

Harriet the Spy

When Your Kids Read the Books You Read As A Child

If you were to take me back to my ele­men­tary school today…and if every­thing was the same as it was when I was a stu­dent there…I could show you the exact place Har­ri­et the Spy resided on the school library’s shelves. It was only there when I didn’t have it checked out, which was not often.… more

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

There is a sil­ly debate tak­ing place about whether adults who read children’s books, includ­ing young adult books, are infan­tile and should have their driver’s licens­es revoked because they’re obvi­ous­ly not mature enough to play dodge ‘em cars on the free­way and text while their two thou­sand pound vehi­cle hur­tles down the road. Grown up, indeed!… more

Read to Them

Three Things This Past Week

The begin­ning of the school year caught up with every­one last week, I think. My kids are exhaust­ed, a lit­tle over­whelmed, a lit­tle crispy around the edges. The oth­er kids in and around my life seem about the same. Fall tran­si­tions can be hard even when they go rel­a­tive­ly smooth­ly. My youngest (age twelve) came home from school one day fried to a crisp — just done.… more

Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh

Winnie-the-Pooh

There are a lot of “chal­lenges” hap­pen­ing in the social media sphere these days — books, ice buck­ets, kind­ness, grat­i­tude, etc. All great things — per­haps one of the bet­ter uses for social media even, though it doesn’t quite beat out birth­day greet­ings and first-day-of-school pic­tures, in my book. Last week, a good friend and fel­low read­er “chal­lenged” me to list ten of the books that have shaped or stayed with me in some way.… more

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Just Like A Baby

I’m miss­ing a dear friend who died very sud­den­ly this past spring. Liz was old enough to be my moth­er and my kids’ grand­moth­er. She loved to give gifts and had an almost mag­i­cal way of doing so. Her taste in books for kids was exquis­ite and she always found the most per­fect, most unique books for us — books I’d some­how nev­er seen before.… more

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On Flower Girls

A year ago this week­end, I had the hon­or of offi­ci­at­ing at the wed­ding of dear friends. They’d planned a grand cel­e­bra­tion — organ and trum­pet, dra­mat­ic read­ings, fantab­u­lous atten­dants, fam­i­ly and friends, and not one but two flower girls. In my expe­ri­ence, flower girls and ring bear­ers increase the “chance ele­ment” in a wed­ding cer­e­mo­ny.… more

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Kuplink, Kaplank, Kuplunk!

We missed straw­ber­ry pick­ing, and there­fore jam mak­ing, this year. We were in the moun­tains, a dandy excuse to be sure, but now we’re in a bit of a pick­le (no can­ning pun intend­ed). We have a strong home­made jam habit at our house, and last year’s boun­ty is dwin­dling. We’re try­ing to fig­ure out how to get jam of some vari­ety in the freez­er in the next few weeks.… more

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We Need Longer Picture Books, Too!

I’ve just read yet anoth­er arti­cle about the new length of pic­ture books. Some say pub­lish­ers won’t even con­sid­er pub­lish­ing a pic­ture book over five hun­dred words any­more. Oth­ers say they should be under three hun­dred words. Why? Inevitably, the short­er atten­tion spans of chil­dren are cit­ed some­where in the rea­son­ing. Rub­bish, I say! As a fre­quent sto­ry­time read­er in var­i­ous venues, I can tell you that chil­dren will sit (even the ones you think won’t) for quite a long time for a good sto­ry well read.… more

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Harry Potter

Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the Har­ry Pot­ter series, came out a few months after Child #1 was born. In my sleep-deprived stu­por, I didn’t notice for awhile; but it quick­ly became dif­fi­cult to be a cit­i­zen of the world and not know about Har­ry Pot­ter. Suf­fice to say, the first four books were in the house by the time that baby boy went to school, which is when and where he found out about Har­ry and friends.… more

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This Vacation’s Audiobooks

Many have asked what our fam­i­ly lis­tened to on vaca­tion this year. We have recent­ly returned and I can now report back. We had a lot of hours in the car — Min­neso­ta through the Black Hills and into the Tetons and up through Mon­tana etc. And back, of course. Good to have three dri­vers. Good to have three stel­lar audio books.… more

Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge

Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge

In down­town Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, span­ning the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, there is a “Stone Arch Bridge” that resem­bles a roman viaduct with its 23 arch­es. Built at a time when Min­neapo­lis was a pri­ma­ry grain-milling and wood-pro­­duc­ing cen­ter for the Unit­ed States, Empire Builder James J. Hill want­ed the bridge built to help his rail­road reach the Pacif­ic Coast.… more

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The Ruby in the Smoke Audio-book

In our roadtrip/vacation van there are four very dif­fer­ent read­ers — dif­fer­ent inter­ests, dif­fer­ent read­ing inter­ests, vary­ing atten­tion spans, etc. In addi­tion to these dif­fer­ences and vari­ances, the kids are five and a half years apart. Find­ing a book that keeps every­one enter­tained and is appro­pri­ate for all ages can be a chal­lenge. Two years ago, The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pull­man fit the bill just fine.… more

Gravity

Gravity

What is grav­i­ty? I have a notion (after many years of school) that it keeps my feet touch­ing the ground. When I jump into the air, I am defy­ing grav­i­ty. What is Grav­i­ty? A book. Writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jason Chin, who pre­vi­ous­ly gift­ed us with Red­woods and Coral Island and Gala­pa­gos. He has a way of tak­ing a BIG con­cept and explain­ing it so that it sticks in my brain.… more

Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

The woman who cuts my hair, Amy, had a par­tic­u­lar­ly hard sum­mer the year her boys had just learned to read. Their school asked that she keep them read­ing over the sum­mer, but there were only so many Mag­ic Tree­house books she want­ed them to read. What oth­er books would be suit­able? The min­utes flew by in the hair­cut­ting chair as I made sug­ges­tions and she lis­tened, appar­ent­ly hav­ing a prodi­gious mem­o­ry.… more

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The Borrowers (audio book)

One of the first books we lis­tened to in the car was Mary Norton’s The Bor­row­ers. We had one child and he was very small. But he’d been well-trained on audio books. He fell asleep to The Vel­veteen Rab­bit (Meryl Streep and George Win­ston) or Win­nie-the-Pooh (The BBC ver­sion) every night. So we popped in the tapes (yes, cas­sette tapes — this was a good fif­teen years ago) to The Bor­row­ers on a trip to Bloom­ing­ton, Illi­nois to vis­it friends.… more

I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO!

I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO!

There has been a lot writ­ten about the brav­ery of cows (no, there hasn’t). Some of it has star­tled us with the sheer audac­i­ty of amaz­ing feats of der­ring-do of which cows are capa­ble (News at 10!). Young chil­dren every­where are pin­ning up cow posters on their bed­room walls, hop­ing to one day be as brave as their cow heroes.… more

All Different Now

All Different Now

Do you know how some­times your hands hov­er over a book, want­i­ng to open it, sens­ing that this will be an impor­tant book, and you hes­i­tate, want­i­ng to pro­long your inter­ac­tion? I did that, turn­ing All Dif­fer­ent Now this way and that, then exam­in­ing the title page, the jack­et flaps … and final­ly allow­ing myself to read the book.… more

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The Fourteenth Goldfish

The ver­sa­tile Jen­nifer L. Holm pens a fan­ta­sy this time around, but it’s a sto­ry suf­fused with humor and sci­ence, deft­ly ask­ing a mind-blow­ing ques­tion: is it a good thing to grow old? So what hap­pens when a 13-year-old boy shows up on your doorstep, argu­ing with your mom, who invites him in, and it turns out you’re relat­ed to this kid, only a much old­er ver­sion of him?… more

Planet Kindergarten

Planet Kindergarten

Books about get­ting ready for kinder­garten and the first day in that Strange New Land are plen­ti­ful, but I can’t recall one that has drawn me into the expe­ri­ence as ful­ly as Plan­et Kinder­garten does. Every aspect of this book, from word choice to sto­ry to the detailed and clever draw­ings, puts this book at the top of my sug­ges­tion list for chil­dren (and par­ents) enter­ing that phase of life.… more

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Pulling Radishes, Thinking About Books

In the gar­den this week I am pulling radish­es. Weeds, too, and maybe that’s why I appre­ci­ate the small, crisp, spicy lit­tle radish­es. Pulling those rosy red globes out of the black dirt makes me think of one of my favorite books from child­hood: Mrs. Pig­­gle-Wig­­gle.  I have espe­cial­ly vivid mem­o­ries of my third grade teacher read­ing us the Mrs.… more

The Scraps Book

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life

Some­times I want to walk right into the pages of a book, know every­thing the author knows, share their life­time of expe­ri­ences, and be able to emu­late their cre­ativ­i­ty. Scraps: Notes from a Col­or­ful Life makes me feel that way. I’ve even enjoyed the feel­ing and tex­ture of the paper because I want in! For you, your fam­i­ly mem­bers, and friends who like to col­lect, to cre­ate, to fid­dle with this and that as you make some­thing, this is the book to have.… more

Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke can’t con­ceive of, write, and draw these sto­ries fast enough for me — and a host of oth­er fans. Just released, this book fol­lows Zita the Space­girl (2010) and Leg­ends of Zita the Space­girl (2012). Doing the math, I know I won’t be read­ing the next install­ment until 2016. Whah­hh. I’ve read so many sto­ries “in my life and time,” pre­dict­ed the out­come of tele­vi­sion and movie plots with reg­u­lar­i­ty, that it’s a remark­able plea­sure when I don’t know what’s com­ing next.… more

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Fevered Reading

Let me be very clear. I do not ever want my kids to be sick. We’ve had run-o-the-mill child­hood sick­ness and we’ve had seri­ous sick­ness — I don’t like either kind. I would wish only good health, hap­pi­ness, sun­shine, and lol­lipops for my chil­dren and the chil­dren of the world. And we are for­tu­nate and grate­ful to have excel­lent health care and, gen­er­al­ly, very good health.… more

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Touching the Reading Spot

About a year ago, I found myself at week­ly appoint­ments with a speech ther­a­pist who spe­cial­izes in func­tion­al breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. I was deal­ing with some breath­ing and voice issues and my aller­gy and asth­ma doc­tor thought I might ben­e­fit from “relearn­ing to breathe.” The process was fas­ci­nat­ing — we worked on pos­ture, word lists, tongue place­ment, swal­low­ing, dif­fer­ent kinds of breaths, etc.… more

An Ode To Beeswax

Back in the days of small chil­dren and lit­tle mon­ey, I reg­u­lar­ly saved pen­nies for The Best Art Sup­plies that could be found. I’d read some­thing ter­ri­bly inspi­ra­tional about giv­ing your chil­dren real art sup­plies: gor­geous col­ors and tex­tures that would help them pro­duce fan­tas­tic works of art even if all they did was scrib­ble, pum­mel, and spill.… more

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My New Hero

I am a fan of super­hero comics. After read­ing about talk­ing ducks, pre­co­cious teens at Riverdale High, and an equal­ly pre­co­cious rich kid, I want­ed some­thing with a real sto­ry, not a sit­u­a­tion. I wasn’t allowed to buy com­ic books, so I had to rely on the kind­ness of cousins. What­ev­er I could scrounge up in their rooms was irre­sistible for me.… more

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The Privilege & Responsibility of Reading in Bed

The indomitable Gertrude Mueller Nel­son gave our fam­i­ly the rit­u­al of Birth­day Priv­i­leges & Respon­si­bil­i­ties. Each birth­day our kids receive a scroll of paper fes­tooned with rib­bons. Inside, in the fan­ci­est (and hard­est to read) script our print­er can man­age, we have cer­e­mo­ni­al lan­guage award­ing the birth­day child his/her next year’s Priv­i­lege & Respon­si­bil­i­ty. We start­ed this on their respec­tive third birth­days, at which time they each received the priv­i­lege of using mark­ers in addi­tion to crayons…and the respon­si­bil­i­ty of wash­ing off any mark­er that acci­dent­ly found itself on the craft-table.… more

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Space Taxi

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight
Wendy Mass and Michael Braw­er, illus by Elise Gravel
Lit­tle, Brown Books for Young Read­ers What a hoot! When eight-year-old Archie Morn­ingstar gets up ear­ly in the morn­ing for his first Take Your Kid to Work Day, he nev­er imag­ines that his taxi-dri­v­ing dad in their rick­ety cab is actu­al­ly a taxi dri­ver for the stars.… more

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The Miss Rumphius Challenge

Hen­ry was a reg­u­lar. He was in after­noon kinder­garten and he and his nan­ny had the morn­ings free to come to the sto­ry­time I did at the indie book­stores near his home. He was old­er than most of the oth­er kids — a very wise and eru­dite six years. His eyes were black and lumi­nous, his curls dark and unruly, and his brow fur­rowed when he thought deeply, which was the only way he thought.… more

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The Crossover

The Crossover
Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court From the moment I began read­ing this poet­ry col­lec­tion, I knew it was a dif­fer­ent type of book because the rhythms, the cadence, were infused with ener­gy and aware­ness. The Crossover is pri­mar­i­ly free verse, with a few hiphop, rhyth­mic poems that change up the action. The nar­ra­tor, Josh, or Filthy McNasty as his bas­ket­ball per­sona is proud to be called, is buoy­ant, obser­vant, filled with sports metaphors, and adept at word­play.… more

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Seussical the Musical!

Dar­ling Daugh­ter has dis­cov­ered the stage. She is in her first musi­cal this spring and is hav­ing a ball. Nine­­ty-four mid­dle school­ers (with help from some won­der­ful teach­ers and staff, of course) are valiant­ly putting on Seussi­cal. I say valiant­ly because it is a big project. It’s real­ly a mini-opera — very few lines are not sung.… more

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A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance
Pad­ma Venkatraman
Nan­cy Paulsen Books / Pen­guin Put­nam Dis­claimer: I’m a fan of Pad­ma Venkatraman’s books. Each one has charmed me. I know I can always expect a read­ing expe­ri­ence unlike any I’ve had before. Her new book does not dis­ap­point. In A Time to Dance, teenaged Veda has already ded­i­cat­ed her life to dance, much to her mother’s frus­tra­tion.… more

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Of Knitting and Books and Tattoos

I met her while knit­ting. She worked at the children’s book­store next to the yarn store I fre­quent. I was knit­ting with the usu­al group gath­ered around the table at the yarn store when she came in. Cat!” my table­mates called out that day. (I’m embar­rassed to admit I don’t know if she spells it with a C or a K.… more

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My Son’s First Book

Sev­en­teen years ago today, I became a moth­er. My water broke in the mid­dle of the night and I called my hus­band, who was work­ing the night shift, to come and get me. It was time. I was ready. More than ready. I had a bag packed with slip­pers and the new bathrobe my moth­er had giv­en me, along with wee lit­tle one­sies and sleep­ers for the long-await­­ed baby boy.… more

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Gifted: Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac

Ani­ta Sil­vey writes, among oth­er things, books that help us find good books. And not only does she help us find more books that we or our chil­dren or our stu­dents will enjoy, but she tells us the sto­ry behind those books. Oh, what fun it is to know that Charles Dick­ens had to pub­lish A Christ­mas Car­ol him­self because his pub­lish­er did­n’t believe in it.… more

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Gifted: Up All Night

My moth­er had the knack of giv­ing me a book every Christ­mas that kept me up all night … after I had opened it on Christ­mas Eve. I par­tic­u­lar­ly remem­ber the “oh-boy-it’s‑dark-out­side” year that I received The Lord of the Rings and accom­pa­nied the hob­bits into Woody End where they first meet the Nazgul, the Ring­wraiths.… more

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Gifted: So, You Want to Be a Chef?

So, You Want to Be a Chef?
How to Get Start­ed in the World of Culi­nary Arts
Be What You Want series
J.M. Bedell
Beyond Words/Aladdin, Octo­ber 2013 Introduction
If your child or teen is often caught watch­ing cook­ing shows, they’re not alone. In 2010, Melis­sa Kossler Dut­ton on ParentDish.com wrote, “Every month, 12 mil­lion chil­dren ages 2 to 17 watch the Food Net­work.”… more

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Gifted: The Matchbox Diary

When a young girl vis­its her great-grand­­fa­ther for the first time, her imag­i­na­tion swirls with every­thing she sees in his antique shop. He asks her to pick out her favorite item and he will tell her a sto­ry about it. She choos­es a cig­ar box filled with match box­es. As it turns out, this is her great-grandfather’s diary, assem­bled from items, each stored in a match box, that remind him of a cer­tain part of his life … cre­at­ed when he could nei­ther read nor write.… more

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Gifted: Under the North Light

Under the North Light
The Life and Times of Maud and Miska Petersham
writ­ten by Lawrence Webster
fore­word by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead
Wood­stock Arts, 2012
info@woodstockarts.com
ISBN 978−0−9679268−6−5 My hus­band, Steve, and I have worked togeth­er for the last 25 years. We have been mar­ried for 32 years, so it took us sev­en years to dis­cov­er that we would enjoy cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing a busi­ness, devel­op­ing it as our inter­ests and skills grew.… more

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Gifted: Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

Farmer Will Allen and the Grow­ing Table
writ­ten by Jacque­line Brig­gs Martin
illus­trat­ed by Eric-Shabazz Larkin
after­word by Will Allen
Read­ers to Eaters, 2013 Introduction
My sec­ond pas­sion in life after books and read­ing is sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture and organ­ic farm­ing. There are a few good books for chil­dren on this top­ic, but I’m always delight­ed when a new, inspir­ing true sto­ry finds its way to my library.… more

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Books Plus: The Goods by McSweeney’s

The Goods by McSweeney’s:
Games and Activ­i­ties for Big Kids,
Lit­tle Kids, and Medi­um-Size Kids

edit­ed by Mac Bar­nett and Bri­an McMullen
fea­tur­ing Adam Rex, Jon Sci­esz­ka, and more
Big Pic­ture Press, an imprint of Can­dlewick Press, 2013 For your hol­i­day gift-giv­ing con­sid­er­a­tion … An over­sized book filled with every imag­in­able dis­trac­tion, this should be on every family’s hol­i­day gift list.… more

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Gifted: Giving Thanks

Giv­ing Thanks:
Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs for Thanksgiving

edit­ed and with reflec­tions by Kather­ine Paterson
illus­tra­tions by Pamela Dalton
Hand­print Books / Chron­i­cle Books, 2013
ISBN: 978−1−4521−1339−5 The sea­son when we focus on giv­ing thanks will quick­ly be here. If you are look­ing for a gift to take to your hosts, to give to your fam­i­ly, or to give to your­self, this book is ide­al.… more

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