Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery


yearofanneMy girls and I finished the sixth book in our Year of Anne, Anne’s House of Dreams, a few weeks ago, amidst tears (mine) and laughter and smiles (the girls’). Anne’s House of Dreams might be my favorite Anne book.  Might be.  (Wait. That’s sort of like picking a favorite child.  Impossible!  It’s definitely among my top two or three, though.)  I could wax rhapsodic about this book–the pathos!  The romance!  The humor!  (Oh, the humor!)  Instead, I’m going to make a list, bullet-style, of what I love most about this book.

  • The setting.   This introduction to Glen St. Mary and New Winds Harbor feels like the beginning of a beautiful relationship.  I mean, I love and adore Avonlea, but I think Montgomery does a wonderful job of settling the Blythes into their new domain and helping us readers feel at home there, too.
  • Leslie Moore.  Need I say more?  The Leslie/Owen romance (and the tragic life that predates her meeting Owen) is just the thing to grab the heartstrings of a tweenage girl (or her middle-aged mama).  I can’t think of a single story in all of the L.M. Montgomery books quite as memorable as this one to me.
  • Miss Cornelia.  Oh, my–how I LOVE Miss Cornelia!  Who doesn’t?  I had the most fun reading her “just like a man” pronouncements aloud.  My girls got a real kick out of her.  She is the epitome of the “man hater,” but in true L.M. Montgomery fashion, even she must capitulate to the power of love.
  • Susan Baker.  She takes the cake!  She is the perfect foil for Miss Cornelia.  Her humility, her love for the Blythes (and especially Mrs. Dr. Dear), and her innocent wisdom.  Who wouldn’t love to have a Susan Baker “at the helm” of her home?  She’s right up there with Alice from The Brady Bunch.  I’d let her run my kitchen in a heartbeat!
  • And last but certainly never least, Captain Jim. I’d have named my firstborn son after him, too.

I’m always interested in the variety of book cover that has been designed for the Anne books over the years.  This is the version I have, from my original set which I received for Christmas about thirty years ago:

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I never loved this one because in it Gilbert appears to have red hair coverwhich is simply a travesty.

This cover is nice, though I’ve never seen one like it in real life:

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Most of the other covers, even the vintage ones, do not depict Gilbert.  I kind of like him to be on this one.

Anne’s House of Dreams is as satisfying a read as they come.  We’ve taken a little break from our Anne readings for the holidays, but we’ll be back at it soon to finish up the series!

Christmas book giveaway: five of our favorite titles!

5-of-our-%e2%80%a8favorite%e2%80%a8christmas-books%e2%80%a8Scouring used book stores, thrift stores, and library book sales for gems is one of my favorite things to do.  It is not uncommon for us to scout out the best place for used books when we visit a new city.  This Christmas I have FIVE titles that I’ve purchased or somehow acquired that are duplicate titles from our Christmas book basket, and I’d love to pass them on to you, one of my dear readers.  Our Christmas book basket is one of our most beloved Christmas traditions, and it would make this book-loving mama’s heart happy to know I helped someone else add interest and variety to her family’s own book basket or, even better, start her family’s own Christmas book basket tradition.

The titles I have to give away are some of our favorites!

  • The Peterkins’ Christmas — a picture book adaptation of Lucretia Hale’s stories by Elizabeth Spurr.  Truly hilarious!  Wendy Anderson Halperin’s illustrations are the icing on the cake.
  • Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant — A package delivered by a man on a train helps make a little boy’s dreams come true.
  • The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado–I consider this one a modern classic.
  • If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff–Who doesn’t love the mouse?  Kids sure do.
  • Christmas in the Big Woods (My First Little House Books), adapted from the book.

(The first three books are hardbacks; the last two are paperbacks.)



If you’d like to win this nice little book package (and who doesn’t love a package of books this time of year? 🙂 ), just leave me a comment telling me something about your Christmas:  favorite book, favorite movie, something.

This giveaway will close on Thursday, December 1, at 7 p.m.


Christmas Around the World: Books, Crafts, and Recipes


One upon a time there was a mama with two little girls and a baby boy.  Being a homeschooling mama, she was idealistic and energetic, and, above all, enthusiastic.  Christmas was coming, and she wanted to do something fun and educational with girls–something that really captures the excitement of the season, but because she was a lifelong learner herself at heart, something that she could look back on and say, “Yes!  We learned AND we had fun!”  So she did what she does best:  she started with books.  She added a few crafty projects, no more than a couple per country studied, and occasionally a recipe instead (when she wasn’t feeling very crafty).  What was born from this was a sort of play-by-play series of blog posts detailing what we did starting half a decade ago when the girls were primary-aged and full of wide-eyed wonder.

Fast-forward another half decade or so, and the girls are mature tweenagers and the boys–a pair of them–are similar in age to the girls when we started this journey around the world at Christmas all those years ago.  I decided it’s time to dig these posts out of the archives, dust them off, and share them again.  And it’s time for me to do it again with my boys, so I’m taking my own advice.  🙂  If I do anything different and noteworthy this year, I’ll blog about it and link it here.

Those are the countries we’ve studied over the years.  Have you studied any others country’s Christmas traditions?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!



Christmas novels to read aloud


We’ve read a number of Christmas novels together as a family over the years. Some of them have been overt Christmas stories, while others of them have had Christmas as a backdrop to an unfolding plot.  Both types of books have helped our family cultivate a rich Christmas tradition of reading aloud.  These are our top five Christmas novels for family read-alouds:

Published first in McCall’s in 1971 and then expanded into a novel, Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is an iconic Christmas tale.   A story about the Herdmans, the family we all love to hate (or at least be repulsed and embarrassed by), not many stories get to the heart of the matter like this one.  It’s not hard to find local dramatic productions of this one, either, so that’s always nice–to follow a reading of it with a live performance.  We did that when my girls were little, and the sense of ownership they felt toward the story was almost palpable.

The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer is one of those stories that’s set at Christmas time.  It’s the story of a boy and his aunt whose Christmas plans are upended when they are stranded at a lighthouse.  Full of spiritual insight, this is a story that really captures the meaning of the season.   This is my pick to read aloud to the DLM, age six, this year (with the three year old Benny listening in).   If you haven’t read this Newbery honor book from the early 1950s, make this Christmas season the one you read it!

The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton is a very British novel about a girl, Annaple, whose father and siblings are eager to marry her off because she Mother Hens them to death at home.  They even have a prospective bridegroom.  However, the fellow isn’t quite romantic enough to suit Annaple, so her younger siblings start coaching him on how to win Annaple’s heart. The story takes place (obviously) during the thirteen days of Christmas, so (obviously) Annaple’s young man is inspired by the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  When Annaple writes him a positively glowing thank you note (because she’s proper that way) for the partridge in a pear tree that he sends her on day one, he goes over the top for day two, and his gifts keep getting more and more . . . more.  🙂  By the end of the story she ends up with 364 things–various and sundry birds (including hens he sailed to France to procure), pipers, drummers, leaping lords, etc.  The chaos that ensues is quite entertaining!  This story is great fun.

A list like this really wouldn’t be complete without A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, would it?  I read this one aloud to my girls when they were really young–ages eight and seven.  I have to say that we all enjoyed it–even the DLM (two at the time), with his randomly pronounced bah humbugs!  Introducing younger children to the story via Mickey’s Christmas Carol or The Muppet Christmas Carol first before plunging into Dickens himself might pave the way for greater understanding.  Exposure to Dicken’s genius with the language is good for everyone, no matter his or her age.  🙂

Image result for maggie rose her birthday christmasI saved my own personal favorite for last. Maggie Rose, Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer is truly a vintage gem.  It’s the story of Maggie Rose Bunker, one of “those Bunkers,” a large family of friendly, incorrigible riff-raff that lives on the Maine coast.  Maggie Rose is different, though–she knows her family’s not quality, like the summer people who populate the shore houses, or even like Miss Myra Moon, her teacher and confidante.  However, even though she knows her family’s different, she loves them and even both accommodates and fills in the gaps for their inadequacies.  Maggie Rose is special, just like her Christmas Eve birthday.  This year, the year of her ninth birthday, she has decided to have her own birthday celebration.  She spends all summer raising money by picking berries to sell, and she collects as many friends as she does pails of berries.  About three chapters from the end of the story the unthinkable happens, but the resolution is just as wonderful as it can be.  It’s about family and community and being able to give instead of always receiving.  Like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, it represents the true meaning of Christmas as well as any story I’ve read.

Those are our favorites, but we’ve read others:

Do you have a favorite Christmas novel to share as a family? I’d love to hear about it!