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Review – Christmas Makes Me Think

Posted by shelburns on 30th December 2008

I should have reviewed this one before the holidays, but time just got away from me.  Sorry about that, but here you go, while Christmas is still on your mind.

Thank you to Lee & Low Books for sending this to me.

Title:  Christmas Makes Me Think

Author: Tony Medina

Illustrator:  Chandra Cox

Review Copy Provided by:  Lee & Low Books

Summary of Book:  A young boy, narrator, is excited about Christmas, his favorite time of year.  He is looking forward to more fun, watching cartoons at night, no school, baking a cake with his grandmother, a beautiful tree, and lots of presents.  But, he starts to wonder about things.  What happens to the trees that don’t make it to Christmas?  What about all the people that don’t have a home, food to eat and presents at Christmas?  All this thinking sets the boy into action about giving his old toys to kids that don’t have any and hats, gloves, and scarves to homeless people.  He learns that Christmas is not about getting, but about giving.  It is best said with this quote, “Christmas makes me think about  others and not just me!”

My Review:  This is a sweet story.  It is told from the point of view of a young boy, which I love because boys will be able to relate to the character.  It is also an African American themed book, which is why I enjoy Lee & Low’s books because of the multicultural diversity that they are not afraid to put into books.  Kids need to have books with characters who look like them, and Lee & Low does that.  If I had had this book prior to the holidays, I would have shared it with my students because of the message.  Christmas isn’t just about the gifts you get, but what you can give to others.  I think children need to hear that as many of them are so “me” centered when it comes to the holidays.  This book would make a great springboard to writing in the classroom.  Many times throughout the book, these words are used:  “Christmas makes me think…”  After reading the story, I would give students those four words and see what they could come up with.  They could pattern it after the book, or just finish the sentence.  It would make a great class book to make during the holidays when students are excited and not real into working.  This would be fun for them I think.  I recommend this for young children, teachers, and parents.  It is a quick read for a read aloud, easy for children to read alone, and a story with a great message for kids and adults alike.

Free Teacher’s Guide available at leeandlow.com

Other info about the book:

   paperback $8.95
   hardback $16.95
Interest Level
Grades K – 4
Reading Level
Grades 1 – 2
African/African American Interest, Environment/Nature, Family Traditions, Holidays & Celebrations, Home, Religion/Spiritual, Sharing & Giving
Accelerated Reader
Level: 2.8
Points: .5

Posted in Book Reviews, Christmas, Lee & Low Reviews, Picture Books | 6 Comments »

Why I Love Christmas Break!

Posted by shelburns on 29th December 2008

Being a teacher has it’s perks.  One of which is an extended Christmas holiday, which seems to upset most of my family, but hey, it’s the job I dreamed of, so get over it!  So what if I don’t make the money you make?  I make a difference in kids’ lives and I deserve some time off every once in a while!  Anyway, I digress, and that is not what this post is about.  Can you tell I have this conversation with my family alot?

The things I love about Christmas break, in no particular order:

  1. Time to spend with my family

  2. Sleeping in

  3. Not having to get out of my PJs if I don’t want to

  4. Doing what I want, when I want

  5. Reading time

  6. Blogging time

  7. Renewal for my body and soul

  8. The chance to see and spend time with friends

  9. 7 whole days w/hubby (Christmas and New Year’s holidays)

  10. Lazy days

  11. Shopping

  12. Soap operas – I’m not addicted, but I do catch up!

  13. Seeing excited kids at Christmas

  14. Getting my house in order

  15. Cooking

  16. Baking

  17. Giving to others

  18. Christmas specials

  19. The Best of tv specials

  20. Time for me!

Whether you get 2 weeks off or just a few days, what do you love about it?  Please share in the comments by leaving your list or linking to your post.

Posted in Christmas, General Posts | 1 Comment »

Merry Christmas to All!

Posted by shelburns on 25th December 2008

What an adventure this book blog has been!  Since starting in September, I have met many wonderful bloggers, authors, and publishers.  Thank you to all of you for helping me get started, following me, encouraging me, and reading what I have to say.

However you celebrate, whatever you may do; from my heart of hearts, Merry Christmas to you!!!

Posted in Christmas, General Posts | 1 Comment »

Wednesday Wanderings – Christmas Eve – 12/24

Posted by shelburns on 24th December 2008

My blog posting has slowed down due to the holidays, but I didn’t want to leave out the Wednesday Wanderings post.  This post is filled with all kinds of holiday goodies.  Enjoy!!

Christmas Greetings from the Blogosphere

Holiday wishes are all over the blogosphere as bloggers are slowing down with posts to spend quality time with family and friends.  Here are some wishes I’ve found:  Happy Holidays from Picture Book of the Day, Merry Christmas from Bookroomreview’s Weblog, Merry Christmas from Florinda at the 3 R’s, Christmas Cards from J. Kaye’s Book Blog, and Yes, Virginia!  There is a Santa Claus – Christmas Eve Traditions from Lesa at Lesa’s Book Critiques.

Holiday Goodies

Need a dish to take to a family gathering?  Bermudaonion has posted a Vegetable Casserole today.  What about some holiday treats?  Holly at Brimstone Soup has Orange Vanilla Caramels, Masala Chai, and Olivia’s Sugar Cookies.

Do you have a cookie maker in your life?  Check out the book that Franki over at A Year of Reading just bought.

Get a Santa coloring page for the kiddos to work on while you cook, finish wrapping, or just to pass the time until Santa comes, from Elizabeth at Dulemba.com.


Still need some last minute gifts?  Books are great!  Head over to Books for the Holidays and look at all the suggestions.  You could also “give” a gift in someone’s name, like Melissa at Readergirlz suggests.


I did find some giveaways still going on during the holidays.  Head over to Parent Reviewers.  They are giving away a Brain Quest Workbook and they have opened up applications for to join the Parent Reviewer’s Team

Over at 3 P’s in a Pod, they are having a Lucky Mom giveaway

You could win a copy of the Golden Treasury of Children’s Literature from Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves.

Win a StrollAway from 5 Minutes for Giveaways.

I hope that each and every one of you has a very Merry Christmas!  Until next week…

Posted in Christmas, General Posts, Wednesday Wanderings | 3 Comments »

Holiday Desserts

Posted by shelburns on 23rd December 2008

I thought I would share with you what I am making to take to my parent’s house for Christmas Eve.  My dad has found it’s easier to have someone else do the cooking, so the local Mexican food restaurant that he frequents is making the fajitas.  The rest of us were asked to bring sides and desserts.  My step-mom requested a coconut pie, but since some members of my family (brother, cousins) don’t like coconut, I’m making a dessert for them too.  Did I mention I love to bake?  That’s one reason they ask me to bring dessert.  Even my sister-in-law requested a dessert for Christmas Day (I’ll post that later).   In case you are looking for something for the holidays, or anytime, here are the recipes.

 Caramel-Peanut Butter Bars

Cookie Base

1 pouch

 (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix


cup butter or margarine, softened




miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cup candies, coarsely chopped



caramels (from 14-oz bag), unwrapped


can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)


cup creamy peanut butter


cup peanuts



container (1 lb) Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy milk chocolate frosting


cup peanuts, chopped








Print these coupons…


















About Concordance™







Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in candies. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.


Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, heat caramels and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted. Stir in peanut butter. Heat to boiling. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup peanuts. Spread over warm cookie base. Cool completely, about 2 hours.


Spread frosting evenly over filling. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled. For bars, cut 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Add 2 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour to dry cookie mix. Decrease butter to 1/3 cup.

Old Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie


  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked
  • 1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed DIRECTIONS
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine half-and-half, eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the coconut and the vanilla extract. Pour into pie shell and chill 2 to 4 hours, or until firm.
  2. Top with whipped topping, and with remaining 1/4 cup of coconut.
  3. Note: To toast coconut, spread it in an ungreased pan and bake in a 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

This will be my first time to make both recipes; we’ll see how it goes.

Posted in Christmas, General Posts | 4 Comments »

Review – The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

Posted by shelburns on 19th December 2008

Although I’ve read some Christmas titles during the season this year, I haven’t reviewed any here due to other review obligations.  Imagine my surprise when I opened up a package in the mail yesterday to find this wonderful picture book!

Title:  The Gift of the Christmas Cookie - Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus’ Birth

Author:  Dandi Daley Mackall

Illustrator:  Deborah Chabrian

Review Copy Provided by:  Phenix & Phenix

Summary of the Book:  It’s the Christmas season during a time when people had little money to spend.  Cookie jars held pennies, not Christmas cookies.

So when Jack smells something delicious coming from the kitchen, can’t believe his nose.  Cookies!

But his excitement turns to disappointment when he learns the cookies aren’t for him.  Instead, Mother is baking them for the needy people at their church.  While Jack helps roll out the dough, his mother tells him the story of the Christmas cookie.

My Review:  My first impression of this book, without opening it, was beautiful!  The cover is nostalgic, with the scene of an old timey table spread out and messy with sugar cookie ingredients.  I fell in love with the cover and the fact that it was about my favorite holiday, Christmas.  One thing that I love to do during the holidays is bake, and I usually bake a few batches of cookies.  I knew that I had to read this book immediately.

I was not disappointed with this one.  Mackall takes a small action, making cookies with your mom, and turns it into such a large action, sharing the love of Christ with a stranger.  What a sweet story!  It is short, beautifully illustrated, and well written.  A must have for the Christmas collection! 

Sugar Cookie Recipe

(included in book)

4 cups sifted flour

4 cups powdered sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp anise extract

Stir all the ingredients.  Let the dough stand for two hours.  Then roll out the dough.  Imprint with cookie cutters, or use a designed rolling pin, or press into molds.  Let them sit while the oven preheats to 325 degrees.  Bake on greased baking sheets for about 15 minutes.


Posted in Book Reviews, Christmas, fiction, Picture Books | 5 Comments »

Wednesday Wanderings – 12/17

Posted by shelburns on 16th December 2008

I have lots of good things to tell you about this week!  I’m posting this early because of the deadlines on a few of the contests.

First things first…are you a member of Bookblogs?  If not, you need to get over there and check out all the groups that you can be a part of.  Yesterday, two groups were started that I want to highlight.  Natasha, of Maw Books Blog, started a group called Blogging Tips - “A place to share blogging tips, techniques, technical “stuff”, creating an audience, share frustrations and successes, what works and what doesn’t!”  Wendi, of Wendi’s Book Corner, started Book Bloggers Stumble Up!! - “Help drive traffic to your site by learning about StumbleUpon and how we can use it to help each other!”  Both of these groups would benefit new as well as experienced bloggers.

Speaking of Maw Books Blog, she has a great giveaway right now.  Read her post about the Christmas Mouse and see how you can enter to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate.  Hurry as she is announcing the winner TOMORROW!!!

Bookshipper is giving away any book of your choice of $20 or less from either Amazon.com or Chapters.ca because she has had 10,000 visitors to her blog…WOOHOO!!!

Over at Sharon Loves Books and Cats, you can win a copy of The Forest of Hands & Teeth.  Contest ends 12/18

Brimful Curiosities is always having giveaways, but the one that has my attention right now is the Smartshopper.  Have you seen this thing?  I am so into it!  Make sure you check it out and get entered.  You have until 12/31 on this one.  You can check out her other giveaways in the sidebar.  She also does a list of Kid’s Book Giveaways every Monday and Friday.

I came across 2 new blogs this past week.  Both of these are great and are hosting giveaways that I’m sure you’ll want to check out.

The first is Write by Faith - Ramblings, Musings, and a Whole Lot About Books.  Right now she has 3 books and an ornament giveaway going on.  Hurry because these end 12/19.

Next, I happened on Allison’s Attic of Books.  Over at Allison’s Attic, you could win a copy of Perfect on Paper.  This one ends 12/21.

Finally, I’ve saved the biggest one for last!  Run, don’t walk over to Reviewer X!  It is Girl Week and you are in for AWESOME treats – guest blogs, reviews, interviews and contests.  You don’t want to miss this!

This just in…OMG!  Have you seen the contest over at The Story Siren?  It’s an amazing giveaway to say Thank You to all of the readers.  BTW, her blog is 1 year old!!!

That’s all for this week’s Wanderings.  As always, if you have something you’ve “wandered” on or want me to add, please leave it in the comments.  Until next week…


Posted in Christmas, Contests, giveaways, Wednesday Wanderings | 3 Comments »

Wednesday Wanderings – 12/10

Posted by shelburns on 10th December 2008

I apologize for these being so late today.  It has been a hard week here.  We had writing benchmarks yesterday for 3, 4, 5, so I was with a small group all day.  Last night, had to make cake balls and spicy crackers for our Pig Out day today.  Then today, had a reading training after school, in the SNOW.  Yes, it is snowing in Houston, TX!  Can you believe it?  For those of you up north, it’s no big deal, but for us, BIG DEAL!  I am even going to write plans for a sub tomorrow in case I can’t get in.   I live 30 miles north of Houston and my school, so things out here are usually worse.  Plus, I have to go over alot of bridges and overpasses, so I’m leery of the ice.  If it gets too bad, they may call school, but it has to be REAL bad for our superintendent to do that.

Anyway, I didn’t want to go without Wednesday Wanderings, so I’m giving it to you short and sweet tonight.  I would like to say, that if you are having a giveaway or a special post on your blog that you’d like me to highlight one week on Wednesday Wanderings, please email me.  My email addy is in the sidebar.  I would love to hear from you and add your giveaways and posts so that others will see them. 

Brimful Curiosites is having 4 giveaways right now.  Here is what she’s giving away:  IttyBitty Bookworm, ends 12/15, WordWorld Toy and DVD ends 12/15, Cole Family Christmas Book ends 12/15, and Toot & Puddle: I’ll Be Home for Christmas children’s book, ends 12/16.

Books Ahoy is giving away Snow Valley Heroes: A Christmas Tale, children’s chapter book.

If you love 5 Minutes for Mom, you have to check out their new site: 5 Minutes for Giveaways.  Right now they have 2 DVD copies of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN 3-disc collector’s edition.

Novel Menagerie has a giveaway right now.  You can win a 4 pack of Jane Porter’s books, but you have to enter by 10 PM, PST tonight.  On another site, she is also giving away one of her BookCharmers.  If you haven’t seen them; you have to check them out!  Enter by tomorrow over at Thursday Thoughts by telling her whether you are a cat person or a dog person.

Until next week…



Posted in Christmas, giveaways, Wednesday Wanderings | 3 Comments »

Poetry Friday 12/5 – December Celebrations

Posted by shelburns on 5th December 2008

This month for poetry Friday, I thought that I would share poems that I have used in my classroom.  When I taught Kindergarten, we did a poem of the week. We read it everyday and then on Friday, I made copies for the kids to put into a poetry notebook.  Every poem had pictures on it that they could color.  They took the notebooks home over the weekend and read them to their families.  They loved their poems and the parents had a wonderful keepsake at the end of the year.  We also started December with the following poem…I hope you enjoy!

December Celebrations


Every year at just this time,


In cold and dark December,


Families around the world


All gather to remember,


With presents and with parties,


With feasting and with fun,


Customs and traditions


For people old and young


So every year around the world


In all lands and nations


People of all ages love


December celebrations!!

Find more poems at the Poetry Friday Round-up, hosted this week by Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books.


Posted in Christmas, Poetry Friday | 3 Comments »

My Wishes

Posted by shelburns on 13th November 2008

I’m not one to toot my own horn or promote my wants or needs, but they’ve twisted my arm.  You are encouraged to join in if you’d like.  If you are reading this right now, you are probably a book lover.  You probably would like to get books for Christmas, but maybe you are embarrassed to tell some people that.  Why not create a wish list and let them know what you want?  Wouldn’t that be better than getting something that you don’t really want or need?

I have been asked to share my wish list with you and to let you know why I’ve chosen some of the books that are on there and/or why I would like to receive them as gifts.  I keep my list at Amazon and I just continuously add to it.  I don’t take the time to create different lists for professional books, children’s books, etc., although maybe I should as the list is growing.

There are books on my wish list that I have added because of recent blog reviews:  Chains, The Underneath, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Hunger Games.

Others I’ve added because they are by favorite authors, and I just love to read what they’ve written.  That would be Bill Wallace and Lois Lowry.

I have just recently added the Twilight Soundtrack because I am a Twilight junkie, and The Host because I enjoyed Stephenie Meyer’s writing in the Twilight Saga.

There are a handful of professional books on there as I am always looking for ways to help the children I teach.  Of course, as a teacher, I love picture books, so there are a TON of those. 

Do you have a wish list?  If not, create one.  If so, what are your wishes?

Posted in Christmas | 2 Comments »