Christmas Bells Book Review

Christmas Bells

Author: Jennifer Chiaverini

Summary: The story behind the famous carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. The book follows the stories of a nun, an architect, a widow, a priest, a sister and brother, a military wife, and choir director, all against the backdrop of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his life leading up to his writing the famous Christmas poem. All the stories connect in the hallowed sanctuary of an old Boston cathedral, just down the street from Longfellow’s home, now turned museum.

Chiaverini is the author of bestsellers like The Spy Mistress, Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival, and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. It’s no surprise she continues using the backdrop of the Civil War and this poem created in the midst of one of the darkest points in American history.

My Thoughts

Yet, as I read this book I didn’t feel like I was reading history, but news clippings of yesterday and today. I didn’t expect this book to be more of a history lesson, but I loved it, because I love history. History is supposed to help us learn from our mistakes, remember the good moments to celebrate, and create a brighter future. As I read about Longfellow’s experience of watching the Civil War unfold I felt stunned by how similar the dissension between the states then is to the dissension we’re experiencing now. We’re fighting each other, riots and fires are breaking out everywhere, and there’s a fight over who we want as our leader. How can we take so many strides to being better, to find ourselves falling into the same trap of disunity that divided our nation last time.

I never paid attention to the carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, and I didn’t even know if was a poem first. It wasn’t until I went to a Casting Crowns Christmas concert, where they played songs from their new album, one being their version of “I Heard the Bells”. They told the story of the original poem, of how it was written during the Civil War, when “hate was strong” and mocked the song of peace on earth and goodwill to men. What a perfect song to remember after the year we’ve had.

This is what I love about historical fiction. It shines a new light on old stories. Yes, this genre can get it wrong sometimes by adding too much “fiction” and not enough of the “historical”. Ultimately though, historical fiction is a great eye opener, reminding us of history that can touch us in the present.

Just look at last two stanzas the original poem, Christmas Bells, by Longfellow,

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

    The Wrong shall fail,

    The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

-Henry wadsworth longfellow

This year has seen hate so strong, mocking us all with it’s continually tragedies. As we wrap up this year though, this Christmas, for CHRISTMAS IS NOT CANCELED, the bells are ringing. The bells are ringing! They are reminding us God is not dead, wrong shall fail, right will prevail. Peace on earth, good-will to men! The bells are the smiles on children’s faces, the helping hands of neighbors, the lights on Christmas trees, the community food-banks feeding families in need, and all the other acts of love and kinds we see this season.

Let’s not miss the bells. Let’s not miss the opportunity to be the ring the bells ourselves. I highly recommend this book, and that you make print the original poem off, keep it as a reminder, make it your song for this year and the years to come.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And may we see peace on earth, good-will to men.

How to Plan Your Writing

I have all these wonderful ideas that I’ve let go by the wayside, either because they aren’t possible at the time, I don’t have the time to devote to it, or I become lazy and don’t see it through.

I had the wonderful idea of reviewing 25 books for the 25 days of Christmas. When I started I had more time, then I received a call to sub for a week at a local school, and when I came home I didn’t have the energy to read the books, and blog about them. So, in this case I had the time when I started but I didn’t as it continued. I realize now I should have just picked a few, or started with 12 days instead of going all in with the 25.

I’m not happy that I haven’t been able to be consistent with this challenge but it made me think about writing. When we let wonderful ideas float away on the wings of life we have not only deprived ourselves but others as well. You don’t know when needs to hear the story you have to tell. If maybe it’s a short story, maybe it’s a work of non-fiction. Whatever genre, whatever medium, don’t let the idea float away, don’t allow other things distract you, and if you don’t have the time, look at your schedule and see where you can make it work.

Sometimes we don’t continue with an idea or project because we’re worried about failure, but the worst failure is failing to try.

“Not to have tried is the worst failure.”

– George E. Woodberry

I almost gave up writing fiction a few years ago. I began to realize my stories didn’t have a good plot, or characters. Maybe they aren’t as bad as all that, but they definitely need work before I would ever feel comfortable putting them out in the world. I thought the only writing I was good at was non-fiction, opinion pieces, devotionals blogs, etc. It made me sad but I wasn’t going to let go of writing and that’s what mattered.

Then I found myself in quarantine, with not a whole lot to do. So, I wrote. I wrote a story I had heard and experienced, about a character I had been trying to write about for a few months. Finally, Adelyn’s story came to me and I fell into a trance like state, just sitting at my desk and not stopping till I finished it. I wasn’t sure about it but something about this story felt different than all the others I had written. I sent it to my sister and she said, “Publish it!” The rest is history. I worked on it, my sister helped with sketches, my mom helped me edit, and more Adelyn stories flowed from my finger tips across the keyboard and onto the screen. These didn’t feel forced, they felt right, they ignited my imagination again, and I didn’t care if they got published, I was just having a blast writing.

I found my love of writing again and I’ll forever be thankful for that. I’m thankful for 2020, even though it changed our plans, I think we can all find something good that has come from this year.

Plans are dependent on reality, and reality is that life is ever changing, ever uncertain. This holiday season though we can be certain of one thing, God’s plan for us is all good, even if it doesn’t feel like it. We may not see the good until down the road, but it’s there, waiting for us to see it.

So, as we exit 2020 and enter 2021 let’s not allow ourselves to become lazy, let’s not wait for another “stay at home” order to get us to follow up on dreams and plans we’ve had. Let’s not allow life’s constant change make us give up. No matter what life throws at us we can still find the good, we can still wish on stars and see our dreams come true. They may not happen like we imagined, but when we don’t give up, when we try, that’s success in and of itself.

Best Gifts for Book Lovers 2020

Christmas is right around the corner and if you’re like me you’re happy for this season of celebration after the year we’ve experienced. The magical holiday lights, decorations, food, and time with family and friends (even if it’s virtual) is a welcome reprise after the darkness we’ve gone through this year.

My favorite part of Christmas, next to the twinkling lights and decorations, is giving gifts. I love searching for just the right thing that I know will put a smile on the person’s face. I specifically love finding unique gifts to match the interests and hobbies of the person. So, for all those bookworms out there, of all ages, here are the top gifts to get them for Christmas this year.

For Kids:

  • Book Sets- book sets are great to help build a child’s library and I still have the books given to me by teachers and friends who wrote sweet notes in them. Here are a few of my favorite book sets to recommend:
    • Madeline Treasury: Madeline Treasury
    • Angelina Ballerina Books (this is the link to the only book set available, I highly suggest purchasing the series separately to keep the cost low)
  • Stuffy’s or Cuddle Buddies- in first grade the student of the week got to take the cuddle buddy home, this meant we took the book home with the matching stuffed animal. It was better than having a class pet! I think the best way to cinch a child’s connection to a book is to add a stuffed animal or doll that matches the main character from the book. Here are some of my favorites!

For Teens and Young Adults:

For Adults:

When shopping for book lovers I highly encourage you to purchase from local bookstores, they need as much support as possible. You may even find a new spot you love to visit! You can search for local bookstores in your area through Indie Bound: You can also shop local bookstores online if you’re not comfortable going into stores right now, by visiting

What’s a gift you would would want to receive as a book lover?

Christmas Book Reviews Day 4: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell

Author: Lucille Colandro

Illustrator: Jared Lee

Summary: Another book about this lady swallowing stuff. She swallows a bell, packages, a sack, and even reindeer. One can only imagine what these items will create at the end.

Quality: I can’t say don’t buy these books, because you might enjoy them. The group of first graders I’ve taught seem to like this old lady who swallows stuff. This book, out of the entire series I’ve read so far, is my favorite because of the cute reindeer in their aviator outfits. I love reindeer and Lee’s design is very cute and original.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Christmas tree rating.

Christmas Book Review Day 3: The Gingerbread Man

Author: Karen Schmidt

Illustrator: Karen Schmidt

Summary: Everyone’s heard the saying “you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” What would happen though if someone did catch the delicious cookie? Who could? Who would? This version of the gingerbread man

If you’re a fan of the morbid fairytales then this is the one for you. I love gingerbread men, they’re so cute and sassy looking, and they taste delicious. This story though is not one I would read to kids to encourage a love of gingerbread men, unless they are older and can appreciate that the old fairy tales did not have “happily-ever-afters”.

Quality: The illustrations are good, and the story not new but it does lend a surprise at the end. Overall, there are other gingerbread books I’d recommend before this one.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Christmas tree rating.

Christmas Book Review Day 2: There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow

By Lucille Colandro

Illustrated by Jared Lee

Summary:This is another book that is part of a series where a lady swallows a series of items, which at the end create something surprising. In this edition, she swallows many cold items as well as items that make a certain winter figure with a corncob pipe and button nose.

Review:I’m not a fan of this series. I’ve read them to first graders before who enjoyed them, but they just aren’t my cup of tea. They have a good poetic rhythm but the overall storyline is just odd, even for a kid’s book. You can always give them a try yourself but I think there are better ones out there.

Rating: 3 Christmas Trees out of 5

Christmas Book Review Day 1: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

Welcome to 25 Days of Christmas Book Reviews!Today I bring you the first book on our list!

If You Take a Mouse to the Moviesby Laura Numeroff

Illustrated by Felicia Bond

SummaryAnother charming installment of this adventurous, curious, and needy little mouse. The title is about the mouse going to the movies but it’s all centered around Christmas and the mouse wanting to do all the typical fun Christmas and winter activities. It’s very fun, cute with little mouse angel ornaments and snowmen.
QualityThe illustrations are adorable, I’m a sucker for a cute little mouse wrapped up in a blanket. I think it’s a great Christmas book, and I think it’s interesting the title doesn’t reflect Christmas even though the illustrations do.
If you’re wanting to add an educational twist to your reading of the story it would be a great one to ask your kids to recall each of the things the mouse wants to do in the correct order. It’s a great way to test their recall and help them practice paying attention to what they’re listening to or reading.
Craft Ideas:– Create ornaments- Paper snowball fight- Cottonball snowman (because not all of us have snow in the winter, plus it’s a warmer way to have the fun of snowman building)- Create your own ornaments (with or without glitter)AND OF COURSE- String popcorn garland!
RatingI give this a 5 out of 5 Christmas Tree rating!

Take Time to Write

We’ve all tried new things over this past year with all the time on our hands. We’ve baked bread, we’ve learned new skills, we’ve discovered how much Netlfix we can watch in one day. Me? I decided to write.
I’ve kept journals since I was little. Writing is a way for me to vent emotions, get ideas out of my head, and see them fleshed out, it helps me think. As a teacher, I’ve realized that not everyone loves to write. I tried to encourage my students to love it as much as I do. Though they may not all have loved writing, I did notice one similarity, they all had stories to tell. Even the mathematic and scientific-minded created interesting and funny stories. We all have stories to tell, and you never know when it’s going to be the story someone needs to hear.
Maybe you don’t like to write that much. Maybe you don’t keep a journal. But I bet you have a story to tell, and writing may just become a kind of therapy for you. So, here are three tips to help you jump start your writing.

  1. Begin keeping a Journal- this can be digital or physical.
  2. Keep a notebook with you to record what you see when you see it.
  3. Creative Writing prompts. Maybe you’re ready to start writing stories but don’t know where to start- then find creative writing prompts! I’ve created some previously that you can find HERE.

Do you like to write? Comment below and let us know if you’ve tried any of these or if you have your own writing habit!

Mystery Writing Prompts

There are a few things from my elementary school days that I can vividly recall. First Grade was one of my favorite years, I had one of the best teachers in the area who taught with such passion and who created a learning environment that made me love learning. One of the things we did every day was writing prompts, and I still have my notebook filled with them up in the attic and I love looking back at the funny writings of a seven-year-old me.

I believe developing good writing habits is extremely important and should be started at a young age. This helps improve grammar, handwriting, and creativity. Creativity is especially important to cultivate at a young age. Daily writing prompts are great, especially for you who are either homeschooling for the first time this year or have moved to virtual learning.

Instead of just giving your student/child a simple writing prompt on a whiteboard or piece of the paper ditch the boring and add a touch of fun with this writing activity!
All you’ll need is a brown paper bag (or if you have a fun mug you have laying around as decorating- or is that just me?), and strips of paper with names of objects, people, places, or you can just use the prompts I’ve created below for easy print and cut!
I’ve also created the same prompts that you can download for yourself if you don’t want to add the mystery aspect/challenge to it.

Let us know you’ve participated in the challenge by tagging us on social media! #Adelynsadventuresinwriting