Christmas Picture Book Reviews

I will be posting some fun Christmas Picture Books throughout the season, plus a couple of Hanukkah and one for Kwanzaa! I hope you enjoy them – I had fun reading and reviewing them! Here’s a preview (in no particular order – except the Christmas ones are alphabetical!)

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Grace (Eventually)

grace eventually

Grace (Eventually)
Thoughts on Faith

Anne Lamott
Riverhead Books, 2007

Excerpt from the dust jacket: “The world, community, the family, the human heart: these are the beautiful and complicated arenas in which our lives unfold. Wherever you look, there’s trouble and wonder, pain and beauty, restoration and darkness—sometimes all at once.

“Yet amid the confusion, if you look carefully, in nature or in the kitchen, in ordinariness or in mystery, beyond the emotional muck we all slog through, you’ll find it eventually, a path, some light to see by, moments of insight, courage, or buoyancy. In other words, grace.

“…Lamott describes how she copes. The challenges seem alternately inconsequential and insurmountable—the anger engendered by an obstinate carpet salesman or president; the engulfing envy at a friend’s professional success; the bewilderment at discovering that a child has grown up or that a friend wants to die on his own terms—and they are also universal.

“Wise and irreverent, poignant and funny, Grace (Eventually) is a primer in faith, as we come to discover what it means to be fully human and alive.”

This book is definitely a keeper and a book to be reread. It is, at times, a bit dated now, 10 years on, because Ms Lamott tends to go on and on about President George W. Bush and his failings. But, by reading between the lines, one can discover a wealth of truth that can be applied to any person in charge anywhere. Beyond that, this book is a favorite because the author is candid about her faith in all its triumphs and failings. If the reader is interested in a book that is positively positive and puts forth the belief that life is glorious once God comes into your life, then this is not the book to read. However, if you want the human truth of what it means to “slog” through the complications of life and how, all too often, your faith can falter and even fail you, and, how eventually, we’ll all make it through by the Grace of God, then this is a book to read. Like the publisher blurb said, it is irreverent, funny but stuffed to the last word of an abiding faith in a Merciful and Loving God.

Rating: 5 out of 5 paws, because there is a lifetime’s worth of diving for pearls in this unassuming book.

Reviewer:

jack-loc Jack

Tears to Triumph

tears a

Tears to Triumph
Spiritual Healing for the Modern Plagues of Anxiety and Depression

Marianne Williamson
HarperCollins Publishers, 2016

Marianne Williamson is a favorite author in the Library. For inspirational reading, she’s my go-to author, even if I don’t always comprehend what she is writing.  Much of what she writes is leagues ahead of me, spiritually speaking and I don’t mind. When I chose an inspirational book to read, I want one that not only meets me where I am currently, but more importantly, inspires me to move forward.

Ms Williamson begins the book by discussing the proliferation of depression in the world today and the medicinal efforts to, if not cure it, then maintain it to an ability-to-live-a-‘normal’-life level. Moving forward she then offers spiritual reasons behind depression and solutions for healing, not just ‘maintaining’ a semblance of normality.

Although this book is placed on my “read once a year for spiritual nourishment” list, there are two things that bugged me. First, the author continually refers back to A Course in Miracles, multiple times each chapter. I don’t mind her quoting the book, but for the sake of continuity in the writing I think footnotes would have been less intrusive. Second, while she discusses the heavy antidepressant use in the general population, and a spiritual alternative to drugs, she doesn’t bring it up again after Chapter Five. By the time I got to the end of the book and read the final, conclusive chapter, she didn’t even mention depression and antidepressants. If seemed like once she offered a spiritual solution, she dropped the subject. A concluding chapter in any book should, in my non-writing humble opinion, should wrap up all the subjects touched on in the previous words (blame it on hard-nosed English professors). It felt like the subject was just left on the table, or, was unimportant.

Rating 5 out of 5 paws – despite the two things that bugged me, this book will become a permanent part of the Library stacks and it will be read at least once a year.

Reviewer: jack-loc

Julia Child Rules

julia child rules

Julia Child Rules
Lessons on Savoring Life

Karen Karbo
Illustrations by Mark Steele
skirt!, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, 2013

From the dust jacket: “…Julia Child Rules dissects the life of the sunny, unpretentious chef, author, cooking show star, and bon vivant, with an eye towards learning how we, too, can savor life.

“…{the author} takes us for a spin through Julia’s life: from her idyllic childhood in California to her confusing young adulthood in New York, her years working for the OSS in Sri Lanka, her world-class love affairs with Paris and Paul Child, and her decades as America’s beloved French chef. {The author} weaves in her own personal experiences and stops for import life lessons along the way: how to live by your whims, make the world your oyster, live happily married, work hard, and enjoy a life of full immersion. It celebrates Julia’s indomitable spirit and irrepressible joy, giving readers a taste of what it means to master the art of living.”

Julia Child was an amazing woman and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her life. The author wrote about Julia in a way one might write to a friend about another friend. It is friendly, warm and funny and far from one of those staid, traditional, (and some may say, dry) biographies. It is inspirational and thought provoking, especially with the ‘Rules’ with which the book was tied together. Some of my favorites were: “Rule 1: Live with Abandon; Rule #3: Learn to be Amused; Rule #4: Obey Your Whims; Rule #6: To Be Happy, Work Hard; Rule #7: Solve the Problem in Front of You.” All good rules for any one follow, but the main overall thought is to accept who you are and be that person. Julia knew she would never win any beauty contest but she accepted that fact and was happy and successful anyway. She lived every moment of her life until she lived no more. Her life had just as many valleys and peaks as any of us has, yet she accepted the moments, both good and awful, for what they were and then moved on, still excited about the next step.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws for providing inspiration to get out of bed each morning and throw myself fully into my life, savoring it all.

Reviewer:

jack-loc

Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian

Goodbye Mog

Goodbye, Mog

Goodbye Mog

Judith Kerr
Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2002

From the dust jacket, “’Mog was tired… Mog thought, “I want to sleep forever.” And so she did. But a little bit of her stayed awake to see what would happen next…’

“Judith Kerr’s stories about Mog have delighted children for more than thirty years and sold over three million copies worldwide. In Goodbye Mog, Judith Kerr uses characteristic warmth and humor to create an extra-special book about everyone’s favourite family cat.”

This is one of those books that talks about the death of a family pet in a gentle way. The author reminds the reader that even though the cat (or other pet) is physically gone from our lives, they remain there in spirit. This reminds me of something I read or heard somewhere – that as long as you remember your loved one they are never really dead. I like that at the end of the book, Mog moves on spiritually when his work is finished – as so often happens, when one pet leaves their human a new one comes along, not to replace the first pet, but to help the human heal and move forward in love and peace.

If you, your family, or someone you know has suffered the death of a beloved pet, this sweet picture book is an ideal way to approach the subject and, maybe, begin the healing process.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws; the author tackles a tough subject with absolute gentleness and hope.

Reviewer:

simon-loc

Simon