16 September 2014

A Simpler Christmas

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
Unplug the Christmas Machine, Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli
The Christmas Survival Book, Alice Slaikeu Lawhead
These two books were originally written within three years of each other (1982 and 1985, respectively; the Lawhead book originally titled The Christmas Book), and revised in the early '90s, and are virtual bibles for trying to change the conception of Christmas from a holiday of spend-spend-spend and false promises about what the holiday will provide. Lawhead does quote from Christmas Machine: the memorable "Ten Hidden Gift-Giving Rules," which are uncomfortably true. Both books address the same topics (children stoked with toy commercials who compose incredible Christmas lists, the reality of Christmas as opposed to the dream vision given to us by advertising, the fact that Christmas doesn't reform unpleasant families or crises) and even supply their own fictional tale of Christmas woe (Machine's updated version of Christmas Carol and Lawhead's Christmas Eve fantasy vs. reality). Machine provides a large appendix of alternate gift suggestions, addresses how men feel left out of Christmas celebrations and women feel overworked, and suggests ideas for simpler Christmases. The Lawhead book emphasizes spirituality more, even including a chapter of how churches unconsciously add to the burden of Christmas by scheduling too many events. It also mentions how traditions can be meaningful—or a burden. I was also happy to see that she talks about extending Christmas activities into Christmastide itself and through Epiphany, and there are suggestions for non-alcoholic New Year's Eve activities.

Even though they cover some of the same ground, the two writing styles are very different; both, if found, purchase both.

04 September 2014

Sweet September

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
Just when I thought summer would never end, September slipped in the door in the midst of DragonCon. You couldn't have told it by the weather, which has remained hot and steamy. But a few autumn magazines have already strayed my way, and the sky knows it's autumn if the sun does not. Today I found a Christmas magazine from the publishers of "Country Sampler." And I've been reading the first of my three pre-Christmas reads, Celebrate the Wonder: A Family Christmas Treasury.

It's usually the first because it talks about planning for Christmas as early as September, which may make some blanch, but Christmas has turned into such a circus of excess, and even more in the intervening years since this book was published in 1988, that it feels like you must start planning the holiday as if it is a military campaign. Never fear, this book makes planning a gentle thing; the authors' sole purpose is to start you thinking early, with gentle meetings, musical interludes, and thoughtfulness, so that your December does not become a frantic, stressful rush. The volume is Christian-centered, which may turn off some readers, but if you are more a secular celebrant there are many good ideas for simple crafts, ethnic dinners, and tons of snippets about the history of Christmas celebrations and about celebrations in other countries. While many of the illustrations are clipart-type simple line drawings, the book also features some wonderful 19th century engravings from Thomas Nast and other Victorian artists. One of my favorite parts are the bits of poetry quoted throughout, from unfamiliar European carols to familiar passages from A Christmas Carol. It makes you want to pick up a book of holiday poetry.

These days there is also a wonderful nostalgia factor to the book, as it was written just as the internet was aborning. Catalog shopping has been replaced by web surfing, but in the end the results are the same. If you have a chance to pick up this mellow volume at a used bookstore or library sale, it still has something to say to today's Christmas celebrants. My only quibble with it is that it does not address anything after New Year's, although Epiphany and its cast of characters (La Befana, Babouska, the Little Camel, etc.) are talked about in earlier chapters.

04 July 2014

Happy Independence Day!


25 April 2014

Rudolph Day, April 2014

I thought for April I would review the three "Christmas Around the World" books from World Book that I picked up at last month's book sale. It was a nice trip into the holidays in an annoyingly allergic spring!

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
Christmas in Mexico
There are certain Christmas customs from Mexico that have become universally loved, especially the poinsettia and, to a lesser extent, the piƱata and La Posadas, and they certainly have their time in the sun in this book, but other charming customs come to light as well, especially the naciamiento, what the Mexican people call the Nativity scene. Like the French creche and the Italian presepio, the Mexican version mixes the traditional figures with those more familiar figures: people in serapes, tortilla makers, and other friendly faces that bring the world of the Christ child closer to His followers. Another custom I was not aware of was the performance of pastorelas, descended from the medieval mystery plays. A typical performance includes the Devil as a character who tries to tempt one or two humorous, but weak shepherd figures, but who is inevitably defeated by the angels. I also did not know the traditional Mexican celebration lasts all the way through Candlemas.

Christmas in the Philippines
The Filipino celebration, while highly Christ-centered, is also a time of great feasting and fun. Traditional Asian dishes with ingredients like coconut join foods of Spanish heritage, reflecting their history. While the Filipinos have and love Christmas trees, the decorations central to their Christmas are the belem (short for Bethlehem) or what we would call a manger or Nativity scene and the parol, the star lantern, which can range from a simple small wood-frame and colored paper decorations with a candle in its heart to huge pieces made of colored plastic and metal so large they must be carried on trucks. Celebrations revolve around church services and family, and end on the feast of the Epiphany, known as Three Kings Day.

Finally we travel from two warm locations to a cold one:
Christmas in Scandinavia
Portions of this book are expanded on in the Christmas in Denmark book, especially the story of Christmas seals and the Christmas plates, but its charm is that it includes the other Scandinavian countries, so there are pieces about St. Lucia Day in Sweden, specific culinary treats in each of the countries, Norway providing Christmas trees to barren Iceland (and one very special tree to Trafalgar Square, commemorating the British aide to Norway during World War II), the different aspects of the Christmas elves, and the Star Boys who see out the Christmas season on St. Knut's Day, January 13. Beautiful photos of candles and bonfires against the Christmas snow give this volume a warm, welcoming feel.

16 April 2014

The 2014 Hallmark Christmas Dream Book

I can hear Seigfried Farnon talking about the carol singers in the All Creatures Great and Small episode "Merry Gentlemen," remarking that they come earlier every year and soon they'll be coming before they turn back the clocks! Here it is barely spring and the Hallmark ornament "Dream Book" is already out.

Check it out here.

25 March 2014

Rudolph Day, March 2014

"Rudolph Day" is a way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year long. You can read a Christmas book, work on a Christmas craft project, listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie.

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
If you like your Christmas stories with a bit more excitement and less content for your soul, you'll probably enjoy this huge collection of Christmas mysteries. Of course it contains the usual collection of Christmas standards, like the Father Brown "The Flying Stars," Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," and "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" featuring Hercule Poirot—even a mystery from classic author Thomas Hardy, "The Thieves Who Couldn't Help Sneezing"—but even if you've read the bargain shelf collection Murder for Christmas, there's not as much overlap as you might think (and you don't have to read that awful Woody Allen short story, either).

The book is divided into sections, from "A Traditional Little Christmas" to a special section for some Sherlock Holmes to modern Christmas tales, from police procedurals (at the 87th precinct and more) to amateur sleuths (Lord Peter Wimsey and Ellery Queen among them). There are also some thrillers and psychological pieces, and the authors are a delightful variety of talent including Ellis Peters (two tales, in fact, one not a Brother Cadfael story), Ngaio Marsh (Inspector Allyn), E.W. Hornung (Raffles), Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse), and Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe, of course). Plus a final Christie featuring Miss Marple!

Best yet, there are over fifty stories in total, so you can start sometime in November and end on Epiphany, so you'll be able to read one a day throughout the entire Christmas shopping season and Christmastide.

28 February 2014

Rudolph Day, February 2014

"Rudolph Day" is a way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year long. You can read a Christmas book, work on a Christmas craft project, listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie.

Two different winter storms gave me a good opportunity for finishing up my Christmas magazines, but my reading was touched with sadness since we had to put our little dog Willow to sleep on February 22. She was just not recovering from her illness and eating less and less (and sometimes vomiting that). Occasionally she seemed to rally, but when her bad days began to overwhelm her good days, there was only one decision to help her. Everything is a little lonelier without her.

I was drawn to "Vintage Holiday Christmas" because of its lovely cover of a bowl filled with multicolor Christmas "baubles," as the British call them. I do have vintage ornaments of my Mom's, fifties vintage, in a glass jar with other little memories: some candle bulbs, a plastic stained glass angel ornament, and some glitter, but I love this idea of ornaments in a bowl, which just feeds the multicolor fascination I've had all my life. A super multicolor bauble wreath was also featured, and a series of articles about how to decorate a tree to represent different decades. Pink trees and white rooms, however? Not me. "Style at Home" is a nifty British magazine that gives you inexpensive looks. I do like the British magazines for their (usually) nice wood-trimmed interiors! It had surprisingly cute little projects, like taking an empty picture frame, painting it red, making a star with green ribbon inside, and hanging baubles from the ribbon. What a darling look. Of course some recipes; ho hum.

Then some little upscale reads, like "House Beautiful Christmas Ideas." The "Scandi style" was really big in British magazines this year, all year 'round, not just at Christmas, with its red-and-white patterns. More recipes, and an increasing fascination with creating elaborate wrappings, which has always struck me as silly, since folks are just going to rip it off and toss it out! "Ideal Home's Complete Guide to Christmas" usually covers the whole shebang: gives you a schedule so Christmas prep won't be overwhelming, advises you how to buy a tree and also how to decorate with natural products (it seems common in Britain, at least as portrayed in these issues, that you can just go outside and get all sorts of greens from your "garden"). Setting a good table is also a must! And finally "Victoria Classics Holiday Bliss," with flowers and greens, beautiful crockery and glassware, vintage ornaments and lavish garlands, all enough to decorate Downton Abbey top to toe. Bonus in this one was a pictorial journey through Europe's Christmas markets.

Then on to my favorites, starting with "Bliss Victoria." Like the last magazine, it's a picture of elegance and color. Even the ads are elegant, for gift shops and china. The desserts stand up and pose! You want to walk into the homes shown, sit before the fire and read a book. Perhaps classical music plays in the background. My favorite article was "Christmas at Mount Vernon."

I've been buying "Victorian Homes" since the year they did an article on the Mark Twain house which we had just visited. The historic homes that appear in this magazine are the big draw, and then the Christmas decorations make it a wonderful package. This issue had an article on feather trees (which are made of feathers, but are not those cones you see covered with feathers at craft stores; these feather trees were originally made of green-dyed goose feathers and go back to the early 19th century). A new house had some of the most beautiful Victorian furniture I'd ever seen. Gorgeous Victorians mansions drip with Christmas cheer, stained glass windows, and polished wood. Bliss.

A unique treat this year was a holiday issue of the "Saturday Evening Post." Last year they did an all-Norman Rockwell edition, but this one had other illustrators, and, along for the fun, vintage ads! Starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year's, the illustrations range from 1917 to the 1960s, with a chronology of New Year's babies and how they were affected by world events.

And finally, a favorite since last year, a British outdoor magazine called "Landscape." There are actually two similar magazines, "Landscape" and "Landlove," which both publish bimonthly (I favor the former but both are nice), but "Landscape" has a Christmas issue. The magazines cover the countryside of England and the animals which inhabit it, and foodstuff from the land, whether raised or foraged, plus gardens in each season. Sheep and shepherds, skaters, broom and Christmas cake makers, foresting with horses, and white arctic animals and swans were all covered in this issue. Yes, it had a sizeable cookery section, but at least, being an English magazine, these were different dishes from the usual American potatoes and corn. Both "Landscape" and "Landlove" are tranquil magazines. I read them in the fall and in the winter.

25 January 2014

Rudolph Day, January 2014

"Rudolph Day" is a way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year long. You can read a Christmas book, work on a Christmas craft project, listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie.

I'm still having Christmas when I can because I still have Christmas magazines left; due to Willow being sick. I didn't have a chance to read all of them. I'm still paging through them since things really haven't slowed down since Christmas (it's complicated). My favorite of the magazines so far, of course, is the Christmas issue of "Early American Life." This year's issue was partially devoted to Santa Claus: two people with Santa Claus statuette collections, and then a history of Santa Claus himself. In addition, it talked about Boxing Day and prohibitions on Christmas celebrations by Puritans, plus pyramidal desserts. "Country Sampler" had a nice collection of prim-decorated homes and then the usual catalog. This magazine used to be a "maybe I will/maybe I won't" purchase until they started concentrating on primitive country (many years ago they also featured that ruffly cutesy-poo type of country decorating), but now I always get the fall, Christmas, and winter issues. Not into whites and pastels, so I tend to ignore the issues for the remainder of the year.

I'm not sure why I buy "Holiday Cottage" (or the other "cottage" magazines; I'm in the midst of "Christmas Cottage" at the moment), as the items they show are always expensive! They are also elegant when I go in more for old-fashioned, casual items. I tried a British magazine called "The Simple Things" this year as well. I liked the articles on history and nature; again, although there is "simple" in the title, the products they push are rather costly. (I notice this about the British "Country Living," too; they talk about buying local and living simply, and then they advertise expensive clothing and appliances and furniture!)

It was fun looking at the vintage items in the Christmas "Flea Market Decor." I've never seen any finds like these folks turn up in our local antique stores! The same with "Southern Lady"—lots of pretty homes and decorations! As with most of these magazines, I find the recipes for food and drink, and the occasional clothing articles, kinda dull. I don't like cooking and dressing up isn't my forte unless I can wear a long skirt.

07 January 2014

One for the Road!

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
The Christmas Almanack, Gerard and Patricia Del Re
I didn't know this book existed until I found it among the Christmas books at the last Cobb County Library Book Sale. It's a cheaply-done trade paperback from 1979 with eleven sections concentrating on some aspect of Christmas, starting with the Gospels. Other sections have to do with Christmas films, historical events which happened on Christmas, Christmas literature, and of course the inevitable Christmas recipes, plus a wildcard section of facts, trivia, and other short passages. My favorite part about this book is the authors' tongue-in-cheek attitude to what they're discussing; a particularly favorite comment comes when they are discussing a European Christmas personality, whose entry reads "Berchta...is a frightening old woman who watches out for laziness at Christmas time. She appears in the Tyrolean Alps during the twelve days of Christmas, chastising young women who leave unspun thread at their spinning wheels. She has nothing really to do with Christmas. Her concern is for household duties and seeing to it that they don't get neglected at the approach of the holidays by casting bad-luck spells on lazy females. She was probably invented by someone who never had to undergo the drudgery of keeping a house, presumably a man." LOL. However, much information is imparted as well; there's a nice section on the history of Christmas carols, for example. This was well worth the dollar I paid for it.

06 January 2014

Farewell to Christmas


My Christmas Journey Ends

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW

My Christmas trip with World Book has ended, and even extended into Asia during this last reading bout. Christmas in Russia is divided into three parts, the first about Christmas celebrations in czarist Russia, including a chapter from War and Peace, followed by a chapter about how they holiday emphasis changed to New Year under Communism, and finally how Christmas has been resurrected after glastnost. Christmas in Scotland chronicles the long rise of Christmas in a country which suppressed it for years for religious reasons; today Hogmanay celebrations on New Year's Eve still rivals the popularity of Christmas. The volume also includes the celebrations held on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, including "Up Helly A," which closes the holiday season in the Shetlands.

Christmas in Switzerland is a mixed bag, literally, since German, French, and Italian speakers, plus those of Romansch, combine various customs. In one area the gifts come on St. Nicholas Day, in others, Christmas Day. One area eats seafood, others have turkey or goose. Who delivers the gifts? It could be Samichlaus or Le Petit Noel. There isn't even a guarantee of snow, because there is one Swiss canton is so far south that it has palm trees and a balmy climate. So there is no typical Swiss Christmas, but all celebrations are joyful.

My final volume was the beautifully-illustrated Christmas in Ukraine. The volume emphasizes the down-to-earth Ukrainians, their oft-overrun country, and their love of beauty. The native dress of the Ukrainians is simply beautiful, and the book also shows examples of their art, including pysanky, brightly-colored geometrically-decorated Easter eggs. It also explains the difference between the Western calendar and Eastern Orthodox calendar, which is why the Ukrainians are celebrating Christmas tomorrow.

Someday I would like to get World Book's Christmas in Belgium and take yet one more Yuletide journey in Europe.

05 January 2014

Around Europe (and a Bit Further East) At Christmastide

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
Since my last book review here, I've been jaunting around Europe during Christmastide courtesy the World Book folks, and what a great trip it's been! Christmas in Denmark was very appealing, with their simple approach to the holiday season and the red-and-white color scheme. I love the tradition of joining hands and dancing around the Christmas tree, which is still lit with candles as it was in the past. All those candles during the darkness of the winter solstice sound homey (or "homely," as the British would say) and warm.

Christmas in France is delectable! Many of the customs have to do with eating special food, plus there is the City of Light threaded in even more lights. I am fascinated with the idea of santons, the little figures with which the French populate their nativity scenes. As in some other cultures, like Spain and Italy, the French construct more than a simple stable scene with Holy Family, shepherds, animals, and Wise Men, but build whole villages, with bakers, merchants, carpenters, etc. We had an arrangement like this in our church; it was fascinating to see life going on in Bethlehem. Next we traveled "next door" to "today's" Germany (published after the reunification), where they note that Germany was the origin of many of our enduring Christmas customs, like the Christmas tree, the Advent wreath and calendar, glass Christmas ornaments, and gingerbread houses. Some pages are taken up with how Christmas was celebrated in East Germany when the nation was still divided, and, delightfully, several more about the christkindlmarkts, Christmas markets, where special gifts, ornaments, and foods are sold. It's my dream to see one someday! From St. Martin's Day in November, to Epiphany on January 6, it's a great big long wonderful season.

Christmas in the Holy Land is structured a little differently; the first part repeats the pertinent parts of the Bible narrating the story of the Nativity, and tries to explain a little more about the history and culture. For instance, to us shepherds sound very innocuous, but in those days they had bad reputations and were often former criminals. There are a few pages about Christmas in modern Bethlehem before the crafts/food portion standard to each volume begins.

Once again, Christmas in Ireland emphasizes how the cultures of Europe build up to a twelve-day celebration of Christmas with simple preparations and Advent activities rather than the orgy of shopping in the United States that ends Christmas abruptly on December 25, to have everything swapped out for Valentines Day shopping. It was the Irish who began the custom of having candles in the window at Christmas. They told their British administrators that it was so that the Holy Family could find the home on Christmas Eve, and the British dismissed it as superstition, but it was actually, in those days of Catholic persecution, a sign that a Catholic family lived there and priests could visit and say Mass.

I actually have both the older Christmas in Italy and the newer Christmas in Italy and Vatican City. The texts are the same, just arranged some differently in the newer book,  but over half the photographs/illustrations are different, so I'm keeping both. I'm Italian by ancestry, so all the customs were so familiar: fish on Christmas Eve, the emphasis on having a presepio (manger scene), and the delectable traditional foods. One of the books even has a woman making what we called wandi, but they call crostoli. My Aunty Petrina was a great hand at wandis, even if they were a devil to make, especially at Easter time, when cooking them would be hot, exhausting work. And of course no book about Christmas in Italy would be complete without La Befana, the "witch" who delivers the gifts!

I was amused by Christmas in the Netherlands, where they spend several pages chronicling the adventures and travels of St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas) and his Moorish companion Peter, who arrive in Holland by ship from Spain. Much is made of the mischief but goodness of "Black Peter," who is supposed to collect naughty children in his sack and take them back to Spain, but who ends up being as capricious as the kids. Although photos are provided, there is no commentary in this 1980s volume that Peter is played by white men in blackface, which has become an issue as Holland becomes more racially diverse. He is a very popular character with the Dutch. (This is a volume I need to replace some time if possible; the spine is split.) From Holland we go north and east for Christmas in Poland. The volume is peppered with Polish mottoes, which made me think of the television detective Banacek, who was always spouting "Polish proverbs," and there's an amazing chapter about the elaborate nativity scenes built by the Poles; these look like little castles or palaces.

The last volume I finished today was Christmas in Spain, which is interesting because of the different cultures that exist within the country, from the Moorish influence on southern Spain, which celebrates a warm Christmas, all the way up to Catalonia near France, whose speech is close to the Provencal language. While there are similar foods and celebrations, each are colored by the area of the country they live in. Music and dancing play a great part in the celebration, and children's gift wishes are not fulfilled until the very end of Christmastide, on Epiphany when the Three Kings bring their gifts.

I still have four volumes to go, but am determined to finish reading them all. I probably won't make it before Christmastide is over—or maybe I will. After all, Christmas isn't over in Norway till St. Knut's Day on the 13th, and in Armenia until the 18th. Heck, in Poland some areas celebrate until Candlemas (February 2)!

02 January 2014

An Annual Treat

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
Ideals Christmas
I was very disappointed to hear two years ago that the Ideals folks were no longer going to publish their annual Christmas issues. They had already given up the other five special annuals they did, especially my beloved Thanksgiving issue, with its beautiful photographs of autumn trees. To my surprise, I found an Ideals Christmas last year and this year as well. I guess they had enough protests about this annual to continue.

This is a particularly pretty issue, with a lovely poinsettia cover. I wish there were more landscapes inside and fewer still lifes, but it's a minor complaint, and there's a great shot of a snowy barn to compensate. The poems are simple, but nice, and several charming essays, including one about a day-by-day arrival of manger figures and a classic from Marjorie Holmes. Definitely one to add to your Ideals collection.

Ideals, please bring back the Thanksgiving issue!!!!

01 January 2014

Continuing Around the World With World Book

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
Christmas in Australia, Christmas in Austria, Christmas in Brazil, Christmas in Britain by World Book Encyclopedia
I've just cracked the surface of the volumes I have bought. Of the four, the Australia and Brazil books are the most lightweight in text. The Australian book pretty much concentrates on how traditional British celebration changed due to the climate, while the Brazilian book notes the combination between the Portuguese Roman Catholic and the native slave-religion (from Africans captured and imported for sugar plantations) which has shaped the Christmas/New Year's celebration. Both books note how hot it is! Lovely color photos bring out the beauty of Australian and Brazilian flowers and summer costumes.

Due to a longer history, the Austrian and British books have much denser texts. The Austrian book not only talks about Christmas customs (Christmas trees with candles not decorated until Christmas Eve, Advent wreaths, etc.), but features Vienna during the holiday season and the musical season that surrounds the New Year. The first half of the British book follows the Christmas preparations of the Bushnells, a typical middle-class English family: mother, father, the daughter Elizabeth, and her two mischievous brothers. Information on "Christmas past" is supplied almost totally by a dream Elizabeth has when she falls asleep as her father reads A Christmas Carol and finds Ebenezer Scrooge guiding her through vintage Christmas customs. Since I'm not a warm-weather person, you can guess these two volumes were my favorites!

Chills, Charm, and Creeps

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
An Oxford Book of Christmas Stories, edited by Dennis Pepper
Well, I wanted a different book of Christmas stories, and this one certainly qualifies! No Scrooge, no Taylor Caldwell, no Norman Vincent Peale, no Pearl Buck.

Ostensibly this is a children's book, but these days, with the stories' vocabulary, I would say older children, and mind that they are not for a child who is used to cloying Christmas stories with sweet, happy endings. This volume contains, among others, some very traditional British ghost and thriller stories ("A Lot of Mince-pies" is especially creepy), stories about children with unhappy lives (Frank O'Connor's "Christmas Morning" and "Get Lost," about a rejected child in the hospital top this list), and even fairy tales about killer snowmen. But there are tender or memorable moments: a flooded-out Australian family's unique holiday, Laurie Lee talks about carol singing as a youth, a story of a stillborn child and a mysterious stranger, memories of a refugee camp after the Second World War, the nativity story as recollected by Mary. Shirley Jackson provides a bitter twist as always, and there's even a humorous tale about a remarkable boyfriend. For a touch of the familiar, there's Mr. Pickwick sliding on the ice.

I really, really enjoyed the twists in some of these stories, even though I'm also a Chicken Soup for the Soul kinda gal. There must be some tart to balance the sweet and this offbeat book certainly provides a generous amount. Highly recommended!

30 December 2013

A Whole Greater Than the Parts

CHRISTMAS BOOK REVIEW
Happy Christmas, compiled by William Kean Seymour and John Smith
I gave this book a rather half-hearted review a few years ago when I borrowed it from the library, but that didn't keep me from buying a copy since it was only a dollar at the library book sale. This volume was published in England and contains an assortment of British fiction, diary and journal entries, historical excerpts, sheet music, and poetry. There are selections from Thomas Hardy, Dylan Thomas, Kenneth Grahame, Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, and more, verse from Christina Rosetti and T.S. Elliot, etc. The line drawings are by Beryl Sanders.

My chief complaint with the book is that the excerpts are abridged; poor Beatrix Potter's "Tailor of Gloucester," for example, is reduced to one page about the cat, which renders the story incomprehensible. Only "The Mountains of Papa Morelli" appears to be intact. And some of the pieces seem to have been included if they just mention Christmas, even if it actually has nothing to do with the holiday. However, it's a nice variety of pieces, perfect for reading before bedtime, and a nice spread of historical excerpts. If  you can find it at an inexpensive price, it's worthwhile for those reasons.