House of Literature Bookmobile

This is the place I share book (movie) selections and reviews I have found worth mentioning. I'll also share gleanings of family life, faith, home education, and ongoing writing projects. Book selections will include children's books, books on home education, Catholic books, classics, series, raising children, and books that are made for reading under a shady oak tree with lemonade, in a bubble bath with a latte', or next to a snuggly fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas Books We Read Today

Today the children delighted in the fact we had three Christmas stories all with animals as the main character. I happened to notice the significance that each one was a "beast of burden". They all carried a burden upon their back that turned out to be more a blessing than a burden.

The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Berger is one we read every year. It's prose is simple and refined, yet beautifully profound. The author gives careful consideration to the various symbols given to Mary through the history of the Church and even clues the reader in to the les yeux de Marie (Mary's eyes) which are sprinkled throughout the book. It's message was a wonderful one to hear on this feast day of the Immaculate Conception.

It was our first year reading Saint Francis and the Christmas Donkey by Robert Byrd. What a find! This book captures the same pleasure that children find in stories and pictures of Noah's Ark. There are animals. Animals galore!!! What child can resist animals? The donkey in this story is a hapless comical-being whom one can't help but feel sorry for...and love at the same time. He's a sad creature who has caused his own tale of woe but, by story's end, has made amends for his prideful and vain behavior and been redeemed by Christ. Despite an abrupt ending, one is left with the sense of knowing that the donkey's peace and happiness is as thick as the falling snow and as vast as the starry sky. Do not overlook the author's note at the end, even if your children don't want to sit and listen. The author covers a pot-luck of information on St. Francis of Assisi, meanings found inside this storybook, the reasons the author chose to depict the Nativity as he did, the mention of donkeys in the Gospels, and even the distance of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem. Do you know how many miles it was? Interesting stuff!

The Last Straw by Fredrick Thury was our last book of the day. Dear ol' Hoshmakaka is a weary old camel plagued by aching joints, gout and a dreadful sciatica nerve problem. He is happy to sleep most of the time, compete in water-drinking contests, and attend the near-by cud-chewing convention. What a retired life he leads. Until...

...voices in the desert sand tell him that he is the chosen one to "carry gifts to a baby king." And dear ol' Hoshmakaka grudgingly drags himself up.

Every hour on the hour someone blocks his path and asks him to take their gift to the newborn king. Complaining of his joints, his gout, his sciatica every step of the way; he slowly makes his way across the desert sand in the vain attempt to prove to the younger camels that he is "as strong as ten horses."

Finally, just as they see the town of Bethlehem in the distance where the star hovers, a young boy approaches and asks him to carry his gift (a small piece of straw) to place in the newborn king's bed. Hoshmakaka now looks a lot like this:

With his joints, his gout and his sciatica, the straw causes him to falter and fall to his knees in front of the manger scene. Feeling he has failed and shown his weakness, Hoshmakaka bows his head in shame.

Then, what Hoshmakaka interprets as mockery of his weakness, he sees the wise men falling on their knees and bending their heads as well. Yet, what happens next is only to be shared with your children at your side for, "...from the humble manger, a tiny hand reached out and touched Hoshmakaka..."

It's a Christmas story you simply have to read. Another tear-jerker.


  • At 8:10 AM, Blogger Karen E. said…

    Funny -- I just posted about The Donkey's Dream this morning. We just love that book. I've got to check out these others, though. Thanks!


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