[Book Review] Christmas Jars-The Collector’s Edition by Jason F. Wright

Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright

[Book Review] Christmas Jars: The Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

Blurb:

“Hope Jensen is a young, single woman and an aspiring newspaper writer, and when she receives a much-needed but anonymous Christmas gift, she’s determined to find her benefactor. That search leads her to an unusual family with a longstanding Christmas tradition. Sensing a front-page feature article, Hope desperately wants to publish their story, but doing so would be a breach of trust. What she decides to do will changer her life forever. Destined to become a classic Christmas tale, Christmas Jars is a heartwarming story that will restore your faith in mankind and make you want to start your own Christmas Jar tradition.”
 

My Review:

Over the years I have read a lot of Christmas books, and have loved many of them. This book is definitely somewhere at the top of my favorite list! It’s well written and engaging, and the characters come to life on the page. I felt as if I were there with them; we are best friends now, and I’d love to meet them! Not only that, but the story serves a larger purpose in that it explains what a Christmas Jar is and how Christmas Jars help both giver and receiver. I’d never heard of this before, but what an amazing idea! At the beginning of the year you take an old, empty jar and put it in a safe spot. Then each day when you get home from school or work, you take the change out of your pockets and you put it in the jar. You do this every day all year long. Then the week before Christmas, you take your now-full jar, and you secretly deliver it to someone in need (you could also put a copy of the book with the jar to explain it, but it’s not necessary).
 
You could give the jar to someone with a financial need, but it could also be someone who needs a gift of hope or love. Sometimes the receiver could be someone who needs to know she’s not alone. The possibilities are endless! I love this idea so much! I’ve already talked to my husband about starting our own jar for next Christmas. I’m going to read this book to my kids after Christmas, and we’re going to start a new tradition of a Christmas Jar. My only problem is that I never have cash or change on me, so maybe I’ll need to begin using cash more.
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is heartwarming, and the real experiences at the back of the book are just as good! I loved reading them. You’ll need a box of Kleenexes handy, but it’s worth it! And who knows? Maybe you’ll want to start your own Christmas Jar tradition!
 
If you want to read more about this book, learn about the author, or read more amazing Christmas Jar stories, head over to: http://christmasjars.com/
Or you may go to the Christmas Jars Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/christmasjars/ 
 
 
Content Rating G

Rating: G (There’s no profanity, “intimacy,” or violence.)

Recommendation: Everyone!

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
 
 

Other Christmas Titles You May Enjoy:

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler   The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson   A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
 
 
 
 
 

[Book Review] Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler

[Book Review] Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler

Blurb:

“Discover how each figure of the Nativity can lead your family closer to Christ this Christmas season. This children’s edition of Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas will guide you through seven meaningful traditions inspired by the Nativity setting. These simple experiences are not meant to add more to an already crowded holiday season but to offer something different. They will give your family an opportunity to escape from the frantic bustle of the Christmas season and spend time reflecting on the baby Jesus and the miracle of His birth.
 
This interactive book invites children to watch each figure approach the waiting manger and encourages them to ask what they might have done if they had been there on the night Jesus was born. Seen beautiful ornaments have been created to accompany the lesson each figure teaches. Displaying the ornaments throughout the Christmas holiday will remind your children of the lessons they are learning about the baby Jesus. Your free download of the ornaments can be found at www.christcenteredcelebrations.com.

 

My Review:

Children’s picture books are one of my favorite things, and Christmas books are even better! I love reading them, and I especially love reading them to my kids…still! Even though they are big (my baby is 9!), they will all sit and listen. This book will be a wonderful addition to our Christmas books, I am so excited to share it with them! I love the illustrations in this book; they are beautiful; whimsical, and yet so full of emotion.
 
You’re supposed to begin reading this book a week before Christmas. Each day you read another page and add another figure to the Nativity scene. There is a question for every day, and as you answer the questions and ponder about the person discussed, you learn more about yourself and your feelings toward the Savior. There is also a quick activity you may do with your family that is suggested for each of the seven days. For example, on the second night it says,
 
What secret act of Christmas kindness could your family participate
in this season? As you perform your secret act, think of Joseph. 
His quiet acts went uncelebrated, but they were
so needed. When you have finished this activity,
place Joseph’s figure in your waiting stable.
 
The activities are mostly activities you may do anyway, and I’m sure you could do your own activities if you already have these traditions. It’s just a simple way to get the family together at the end of the day and remind them of the true meaning of Christmas. There is also an ornament for each day. You may purchase them ready-made or there is a free download on the website listed above. There’s also a cute banner that you may purchase, along with a simple Nativity scene. You don’t need anything fancy; just spending time together thinking of the story of the Nativity will bring the true spirit of Christmas into your home. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!
 
Content Rating G

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone

 
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

[Book Review] The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

The Little Match Girl
by
Hans Christian Anderson
Retold by
David Warner
Paintings by
Greg Newbold

Blurb:
“It’s Christmas Eve, but for one little girl, there will be no stockings hung lovingly above the fireplace or shiny presents wrapped under the tree. The best that the little match girl can hope for is a warm, dry corner of the street to protect her against the freezing snow that has been falling for hours. Helpless and cold, the child seeks a bit of comfort from the only source she has–the bundle of matches in her apron pocket. She had struggled all day to sell even one, but the crowds of people had only hurried past her with hardly a glance as they finished up their holiday shopping and rushed home to begin their feasts. Alas, at least she has the matches now, each one holding the promise of a few short seconds of warmth and light. But as she strikes each match, she discovers a truth that sets her heart soaring–all along, even in times when she has felt most alone, she has been lovingly watched over by those who have gone before her and have anxiously awaited a joyous reunion. She learns she is not forgotten, and in the learning shares a poignant message of love and service. The tender tale of the little match girl reminds each of us to take notice of the least of those among us and to do our part to extend a kindly hand–at Christmastime and always.”
My Review:
Happy December everyone!! I wanted to get this review out earlier today, but life happened! I did go for a run and get my house cleaned though, so that was something. I wanted to start December out with this beautiful Christmas picture book. The illustrations are amazing. Seriously. They are so beautiful! The story is so sad, but very well written. I haven’t read it before, so I wasn’t prepared. Grab your Kleenexes my friends, you’ll need them. Even though it is very sad, there is a little bit of hope for something better. In the intro. it says,
Though on the surface, the little girl seems the picture of misery and despair, her story is one of 
hope for a better life and assurance that a joyous reunion in heaven is awaiting even God’s most helpless children. Despite her suffering, the little girl finds warmth and light, ever believing that all will be right in the end. It is a message that has stood the test of time–and one that reminds each of us to look for ways to bring warmth of love and light of understanding to others. 

This book is a wonderful way to start the Christmas season. Christmas is a wonderful time of year to remember those around us, and to try a little harder to help and serve those around us who are in need of our help, love, kindness, smile, comfort, friendship, and service. With that, I thought I’d share this wonderful opportunity with you. I don’t do this often, but I think this one is important. It is put together by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon Church), but it is non-denominational. It is people and service oriented. It’s called “Light the World,” and it’s 25 ways to serve for 25 days. It started today. Each day from now until Christmas there is a short movie clip and an idea for an act of service. I’ll post the first movie here. If you would like to participate (you don’t sign up or anything, it’s just on your own), you may go to www.mormon.org to find out more information and to see the daily videos. Merry Christmas everyone!!!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!

I know it’s past Christmas, but……
Merry Christmas!!!!
I have been completely preoccupied for the last six weeks! (You could probably tell that I have not posted as much as I usually do.) I have been subbing full-time for my daughter’s class at school. Her teacher had a baby and asked me if I would sub her class for the next 12 weeks. Wow. It has been crazy! I haven’t worked full-time in 14 years, since I had my first baby. That was when I taught first grade, but it has been 14 years! Let’s just say that jumping back into it has been a HUGE adjustment for all of us. I’m halfway through! Six more weeks to go and then hopefully I can get back to my usual routine! I usually do my reading at night when everyone is asleep and I can’t sleep. However, the last six weeks I have fallen asleep so fast that I haven’t been able to do much reading. I did, however,  manage to read this book. I love this book! I have read it many times, but it’s been a few years; so I was excited to pick it up again. 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Blurb (from amazon.com):

The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale — the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating — has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year’s pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.”

My Review:

I love this book! It’s so cute and full of wonderful lessons; for Christmas time and all year long. The narrator is hilarious and engaging. She has a funny personality that makes you care about her and her story. The mom is so patient and usually has a positive outlook. The Herdmans are awful. I read this to the kids and I had to stop and talk about how unhealthy smoking is, and how stealing and setting fire to things are bad choices. However, it sets a great stage for what is to come in the story. Their bad behavior makes the change that much more poignant. I won’t give it away, but some of the lessons learned are to actually think about the things we do, instead of just going through the motions, and to really think about the things we believe in. It also teaches the importance of not judging others, and to not gossip. It’s a quick read, yet it is such a great book to read at this time of year. Reading this book helps put things in perspective. 

Rating: PG+ (It does talk about the kids smoking, burning things, and doing all sorts of bad things. It does have a religious overtone to it-just fyi.)

Recommendation: As long as mom or dad are sitting there discussing the poor choices that the kids are making, this book is fine for about first grade and up. As a silent read I would say third grade (but I would still recommend that a parent discusses it with them).


Christmas Bookmarks!!!

I have a VERY talented friend! Her name is Colette, and she is the amazingness (Yes, I know that’s not a word, but it describes her perfectly!) behind 

If you ever need any sort of printable (planners, calendars, fabulous subway art, 
bottle cap prints, candybar wraps, Halloween BOO signs….anything, go to her site first 
(I found that out the hard way! I spent hours searching on Pinterest for something and I finally found it! Guess whose it was?? Yep, Colette’s; I should have gone there first and saved myself a lot of time!). Anyway, she has this darling FREEBIE printable bookmark
that she said I could share with all of you! I know my kiddos love bookmarks, and holiday
ones are the best! So please, check out her site, and go grab your cute
Christmas Bookmarks!!!

Here is the link:

A Rare Nativity

A Rare Nativity by Sam Beeson (Images by Nina & Terral Cochran)

Blurb:
“We’ve all heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and we’ve all seen the traditional Christmas crèche. Now, author Sam Beeson and photographers Nina and Terral Cochran combine these two classic Christmas icons to create A Rare Nativity. Upon reading the first lines of the book, it’s clear the narrator holds a bitter grudge as he sends his enemy crude and discarded gifts…Night after night the “gifts” pile up–shards of glass, rusty nails, gnarled twigs, and more. What the narrator’s enemy decides to do with each of these odious gifts is nothing less than a Christmas miracle. The photographic creation of the rare nativity at the end of the book is both a work of art and a wonder to behold. Forgiveness is something we all need to give and receive, and A Rare Nativity opens our eyes to the act of forgiveness and the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a universal message to be shared with readers of all ages. Christmas is a season for giving. Make it a season of forgiving.”
My Review:
I have to admit that this book was not at all what I imagined when I opened the cover. When I think of Christmas books, I think of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, I think of angels and wise men, and I think of happiness and joy. I think of children smiling, of carols, and of family. I also think of yummy treats. When I opened this book I expected to find those things, or things that are similar. Especially thinking of the nativity, I think of Joseph and Mary with their baby in the stable. I think of angels, wise men, and shepherds. That is not what I found when I opened this book, and it definitely surprised me. This book is very different from every other Christmas book I have ever read, and I’m still trying to decide if that is a good thing or not. It opens with the line, “On the first night of Christmas I gave my enemy a briar from a tanglewood tree.” This includes a picture of a burr-like thing; I’m assuming it’s a briar. It goes on like that for many pages, with the narrator giving his enemy all these awful things. In the end, there is a good moral, it all comes together, and you understand. However, I felt like it focused way too much on the negative gifts and the enemy. Maybe it’s because it’s Christmas, but I just felt like it was 90% negative and 10% positive, and even though the positive was good, it wasn’t enough to win me over. It’s still a good book, and it’s a good lesson to teach my kids, but unfortunately it will not be my new favorite Christmas book. If you’re looking for something different this year, then A Rare Nativity will be just the book for you!

Rating: G (It’s clean)

Recommendation: Everyone

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Gift

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans
Blurb:
“Nathan Hurst hated Christmas. For the rest of the world it was a day of joy and celebration; for Nathan it was simply a reminder of the event that destroyed his childhood until a snowstorm, a cancelled flight, and an unexpected meeting with a young mother and her very special son would show him that Christmas is indeed the season of miracles.”

My review:

Wow. This book is full of emotions: happiness, sadness, hope, love, relief, nervousness, and belief. I like the writing style in this book. It’s easy to read and just sucks you into the story. The characters are developed well and are realistic. I liked Nathan at first, but the more you get to know him the more you learn about him, and the more you like him. I liked Addison a lot. She just seems like a normal, everyday mom who works hard and is trying to make the best of the situation she is in. I liked Collin and Elizabeth too, especially Collin. He is so sweet and giving. I really liked Miche as well. She’s awesome. This story is a little cheesy in parts, but it’s okay! It’s a good, sweet cheese that melts your heart. It’s a wonderful story of learning to accept who you are, forgive others and yourself, and move on after tragedy strikes. It’s a story of enjoying life and not taking the people in our lives for granted. I enjoyed being drawn into this world. There are so many lessons to be learned, and it definitely makes you hug your family a little tighter. I got this book at the library for Christmas (Yes, I’ve had it since Christmas…..it took me awhile to get to it.), and my 13 year-old son read it. He kept saying I had to read it, so I finally got to it. I’m glad I did. I do wish I had read it before he did because there are some heavier topics that I would have liked to discuss with him, but he seemed to do okay with it. It is kind of a Christmas story, but is also not a Christmas story, so it can be enjoyed at any time throughout the year.

There isn’t any profanity in this book (thank you!), there isn’t any “intimacy” either. There is one domestic violence scene that involves some yelling, pushing, and a small cut. There is also a scene where a man is confronted about his sexual harassment. It’s not too detailed.

Rating: PG+ (No profanity or “intimacy,” but there is a slightly violent domestic violence scene and a scene where a man is confronted about his sexual harassment.)

Recommendation: 12-13 years-old an up. You may want to read it before your kids do, just to make sure your child is mature enough. My 13 year-old didn’t like the ending, but did fine with it.

Book Review of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We all know the story. Scrooge is a mean spirited old man who doesn’t like Christmas or anything happy, for that matter. He works with Bob Cratchett, and will not allow him enough fire to stay warm. He pays him very little and detests that he wants one day off for Christmas. He used to have a partner, Marley, but he passed away. Christmas eve Scrooge goes home and Marley’s ghost comes to visit him. Marley’s ghost carries heavy chains and tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts that night. So the ghost of Christmas past comes, then the ghost of Christmas present, and then the ghost of Christmas yet to be. Scrooge sees the Cratchett family with Tiny Tim, he sees himself dead, and he sees many of his good past memories. These memories and feelings are enough to give Scrooge the motivation to change his life.

I have heard the story before, I’ve seen a few different movie versions, and I actually acted as Mrs. Cratchett in third grade. So I like the story a lot; however, I have never read the real Charles Dickens’ version. I really enjoyed it. I love the language in many of the classics. I love the attention to detail, the descriptions, and the feeling of this book. It did take a minute to get back into the language, but I loved it. I love the message of this story. I love that it teaches living life to the fullest and the importance of families. I love that it teaches that it’s never too late to change. This is the perfect story for Christmas time. I think I’ll make it an annual read, and maybe read it to my kids next year.

Rating: PG  (It’s a great clean book for all ages. It might be a little scary for the little ones.)

Recommendation: Everyone can read and enjoy this book!

This review was originally posted on 12/24/11

The Santa Claus League

The Santa Claus League by Stephen Miller
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “Twas the night before Christmas…Julia Martin is the most incredible girl in school, and Mason Howell is hopelessly smitten by her. Julia is in charge of the local Charity Christmas party and she’s pleased at how well everything is going…until her Santa Claus calls in sick. In a panic, she begs Mason to help her by wearing his grandfather’s heirloom Santa Claus suit. Mason agrees, to impress the beautiful girl, but things don’t go as planned…as soon as he puts on the suit, he gets all the powers of Santa Claus! Together with John Patton, Mason’s best friend, they learn his grandfather was a member of an ancient league of men and women dedicated to helping St. Nicholas use Christmas magic to save the world. The three of them could become the newest members of the Santa Claus League…if they can learn the secrets of Christmas magic!”
This book is so much fun! I really enjoyed it. It is a fast, easy read (I read it in a couple of hours.), and is a lot of fun. The characters are well done and mostly believable. There are a few minor things in their characteristics that aren’t fully realistic, but it didn’t distract from the story. Mason and John have a good relationship and I liked both of them. I liked Mason’s sense of humor and John’s excitement for life. I thought Julia was a really cute character and was the perfect fit with Mason and John. This book takes a lot of questions regarding Santa Claus and explains them….in a fun and exciting way. It is great for both boys (lots of action and getting away from bad guys) and girls (Julia is sweet and there’s some kissing action going on). There is a hint of a Christian theme in the book; they talk about prayers at meetings and things, but it is not overpowering and is not a part of the main story line. I love how it explains Santa and I love the Santa Claus suit. I loved the descriptions of the smells and sounds surrounding Christmas, and how each person had an individual scent and feeling surrounding him or her. John’s car is amazing and so creative, and I loved the Rudolph explanation as well. This book doesn’t give away any Christmas magic, but it explains it well, so it is safe for believers and non-believers alike.  I’m going to turn it over to both my boys (12 and 10) and I think they will both enjoy it. I am glad it’s clean and that the characters purposefully try not to hurt anyone. This is a great Christmas book and I recommend it. It is entertaining and fun.
Rating: PG (Some minor violence, some scary bad guys, and some kissing)
Recommendation: 4th grade and up (If that 4th grader is ok with some kissing. The characters are 17.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

*This review was originally published on 12/9/13

Kirby Puckernut and the Christmas Surprise

Kirby Puckernut and the Christmas Surprise by Alicia Richardson

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Kirby Puckernut is Santa’s cleverest little elf. While dreaming up marvelous toys for good girls and boys, Kirby has his best idea yet–a real elf in every home, all through the holidays, spreading Christmas Magic! Santa finds the perfect family and allows Kirby to serve as the test elf for the first momentous visit. Fun and adventure are at every turn, but not everything goes as planned….Will Kirby’s idea be a success?”

If you’re like me, you love Christmas books. I love Christmas books! I try to have books for every holiday, but I have at least three times more Christmas books than any other holiday. I like to get a new Christmas book every year, and this year’s book is fabulous! It’s a cute story, well written, and it talks about the “Christmas Magic.” It is not just about the presents, it’s about the feeling of Christmas, the opportunities for service, and about thinking of others during Christmas. The characters are believeable and quite life-like. The 13 yr-old girl Izzie has a grumpy attitude about Christmas and no longer believes in “Christmas Magic.” She thinks it’s only for babies. Unfortunately, her feelings and how she behaves with those feelings, impact the entire family, especially her younger siblings. It’s a good story about attitude and family.

The illustrations in this book are amazing! I love them! They are beautiful and bring the book to life. I had all four of my kids squished around me on the couch, even my 11 yr-old, and they were captivated with the story and the pictures.

On a side note, you can purchase your own “Kirby” on the author’s website, and have your own personal elf this season. I didn’t do that, but it could be fun!

I really enjoyed this book and so did my kids. I’m sure we will be reading it over and over before Christmas comes. I definitely recommend it!!! It’s a new Christmas favorite.

Rating: G (Clean and great for everyone!)

Recommendation: Everyone will enjoy this book, young and old.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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