2021 Reading Adventure

New Year. New goals. It’s become habit, a tradition for all, to create new goals at the start of a new year. This year more than years past, we’re all a little hopeful for what’s to come. We’re hoping against hope that 2021, will be a vast improvement on 2020. I do love making lists of things I hope to accomplish for the upcoming year, sometimes the list goes out the water in the second week, but sometimes I look back in December and see I somehow accomplished part of my goals- even if not directly.

This year though beyond my personal writing goals, which I’ll address later this week. I wanted to make a list of reading goals. I’m going to be realistic with it though because I’ll also be working on my second degree and working as a part time substitute teacher. So, I know I want to read new books, new genres, but I also want to reread old favorites. With those thoughts in mind I’ve created a generic list that’s not just for me, but you as well! If you’re looking for a reading challenge, books goals for 2021, then feel free to try this challenge with me! There is a challenge for adults and for kids! If you’re interested in the challenge for yourself or you kids, SUBSCRIBE BELOW. You’ll receive a special code to access our free resources, including the reading adventure. You can use and track your progress on social media with the hashtag, #2021readingadventure – I’ll be posting on my progress and I hope to hear from you too!

*The adult version is a generic list of genres and topics for each month, whereas the kid’s version includes specific picture books, early readers, and a series option each month! These are a grouping of books I’ve read and ones I found recommended, and I hope you all have an amazing reading adventure this new year!

(Check out the end of each blog post for a discussion question! I’d love to hear from you all and build up a community of readers and writers!)

LET’S DISCUSS:

What’s one way you want to challenge yourself in reading this year? What adventures do you want to take through through the pages of books? There are endless opportunities and choices, all you have to do is take that first step and open a book.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Make 2021 an Adventure

Reading challenges can be fun and challenging. I thought it would be fun to do one for 2021, though it will be challenging since I’m in the middle of working on my teaching degree.

Since reading is more of an adventure though, I decided to give this a new name.

Therefore, I’m so excited to announce the first ever Adelyn’s Reading Adventure! There will be more information coming January first! You can sign up for access to the FREE resources, which include the reading adventure, there is one for adults and kids.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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: https://www.indiebound.org/. You can also shop local bookstores online if you’re not comfortable going into stores right now, by visiting https://bookshop.org/.

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!