Category Archives: Seasons

Thankful Trip

Holidays are like “mini-trips”, the opportunity to “travel” out of the daily grind.   Sometimes they involve actual travel, sometimes not, but regardless it is a break from the mundane.  Like a vacation, holidays give us room to make exceptions to our typical limitations on food, drink and bedtimes.   I’m particularly fond of Thanksgiving in this respect. How great is a holiday that puts so much emphasis on food?  True, this is a highlight of the day, but I also really enjoy the idea of taking time to simply be grateful for our blessings.   At the heart Thanksgiving is dedicating time to intentionally focus our outlook on seeing the world for all the positive it contains.

That can be hard to do when much of the holiday is wrought with “hostess distress”.  All the pressure out there  – from Martha Stewart to Pinterest – to have the “magazine ready” table, puff-pastry hors d’ourves, turkey butter sculptures and the well-brined bird can overshadow the true nature of the day.   Like any good trip, your holiday should have the requisite “must-haves”- you wouldn’t visit Paris and ignore the Eiffel Tower- so for most of us that means the turkey is non-negotiable.   And just like every vacation needs a little down-time to discover the unexpected joys of the place, holidays need un-orchestrated moments for spontaneous laughter and true connection with those around us.

Much like travel, the destination is better when shared with those we love.   Holidays are the same.   Enjoying traditions with loved-ones bonds us, shared history creates lasting memories and family identity.   Thanksgiving holds wonderful connections to our past.  Although they are both gone, I cherish the recipes that make it to the table from both my Grandmothers.  Enjoying fried cardoon and cranberry-nut jello remind us of their continued presence in our lives.

Regardless of how you spend Thanksgiving Day – at a table set with handmade lace placecards or eating pizza on paper plates -may your holiday be about what matters most – love, family, appreciation, heritage, tradition, friendship and thankfulness.   Here are several Thanksgiving reads, both traditional and modern, that remind us of the true meaning of the day.

overtheriverOver the River and Through the Wood is the classic Thanksgiving poem by Lydia Maria Child.  Originally published in 1844, and eventually set to music, the tale of traveling to Grandmother’s house for a feast on Thanksgiving Day continues to delight children of all ages.  (PB/RA)

nightbeforethanksgivingThe Night Before Thanksgivingby Natasha Wing cleverly tells the story of a modern Thanksgiving Day, from the preparations to the inevitable hilarity that family gatherings always produce, all written in the familiar cadence of Clement Moore’s classic poem The Night Before Christmas.  Enjoy this Thanksgiving spin on an old favorite!  (PB/RA)

mthpilgrimsfacttrackerMagic Tree House Fact Tracker #13: Pilgrims Jack and Annie find themselves in Plymouth colony in the fall of 1621 in Thanksgiving on Thursday  the 27th book in Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse series.  This non-fiction companion answers all the lingering questions about what life as a Pilgrim was really like and how Thanksgiving came to be known as the celebration we enjoy today. (ER 2/3)

turkeymonsterthanksgivingTurkey Monster Thanksgiving by Anne Warren Smith reminds us that Thanksgiving isn’t about being perfect, just perfectly happy.  All the changes in her life, and pressure from neighborhood friend, have got Katie thinking that it is time to have a “real” Thanksgiving.  It doesn’t matter that she’s always loved her dad’s non-traditional, stay in your jammies, eat pizza kinda day.  If Katie can make Thanksgiving perfect then maybe her family will be perfect, too.  Funny, warm and sweet this story reminds every reader that at the heart all a family needs to be perfect is love.  (ER-3/4)

kkdontbesuchaturkeyDon’t Be Such a Turkey! Katie Kazoo is at it again – switching places at the worst times – learning what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.  This double duty special edition has two great Thanksgiving stories from author Nancy Krulik.  First, Katie is off to visit a reconstructed pilgrim village – and you guessed it-  she turns into a real pilgrim!  Can Katie survive the first Thanksgiving?  Then Katie finds herself right in the middle of one of the most iconic American Thanksgiving Day traditions – she’s a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!   For more on this event check out my post Sweet Serendipity.  (ER-2/3)

dearamerica_jasperjonathanpierceMy Name Is America: The Journal Of Jasper Jonathan Pierce, A Pilgrim Boy  All alone, indentured servant Jasper Jonathan Pierce finds himself on the Mayflower.  To combat his loneliness and to create some connection with the brother he left behind, Jasper writes a diary of his experiences from the beginning of the journey through the difficult first years of the settlement at Plymouth.  Written as a succession of journal entries and filled with historical information this book by Ann Rinaldi gives a real picture of what it was like to be a Pilgrim, and a child, in 1620. (MR-4)

MerrieMerrie* In this young adult romance by Vivian Schurfranz 16 year old Merrie stows away on the Mayflower hoping to escape England and an arranged marriage.  She finds herself unwelcome  in this new world, and struggles to survive the lonely, cold, deadly first winter.  As the first Thanksgiving approaches should she return to England with handsome sailor Luke?  Or stay and try to make a life in this new colony with Zachariah, a budding doctor? (YA- 6-8)  

*Part of the Sunfire Romance Series which is out of print, but available used on or at the library.   I adored this series as a middle-schooler, as there is a book (and heroine) for almost every major event in American history.  Although they are formulaic, they are also surprisingly sweet, age appropriate early romance novels.*

Leave a Comment

Filed under History, Holiday, Plymouth, Seasons, Thanksgiving, United States

Summertime and the Reading is Easy!

Time to kick back, relax, enjoy the sunshine, pool time and inhale the aromas of sunscreen, sweat and chlorine.  It is officially summer! Today is the last day of the school year for my kids.  Ahead of us stretch the promise of endless days filled with outdoor adventures in sun and sand, on foot and on bike.  Late nights promise stargazing by a campfire and drive-in movies.  Of course the best part to them is no school – no required learning based on curriculum and tests.  They can spend the next eight weeks focused on whatever they want.

However, an organized Pigeon like myself, who wants to fit as much into a busy summer as possible, needs to know what my kids want.  So each summer we make a giant posterboard that hangs in our kitchen and says,

“This Summer I Want To…..”

They fill in the rest.  Ideas range from “go strawberry picking” to “have a no sock day” (which was debated as valid since hardly anyone around here wears socks in summer anyway).  We try to limit the ridiculous (skydiving, pie-in-the-face day) but encourage big and small ideas (ice cream for breakfast, trip to California).  Often what they write says more than they realize.  “Enjoy camp” showed up this year.   I thought the wording of that was interesting – not “go to camp” but “enjoy camp”.  It is going to require a bit more investigating to figure out what that means.  This board, while a depository for the kids summer dreams, is open to the entire family.  I put down my suggestions for fun summer activities, too.  Some of which are embraced (Renaissance Festival) and others derided or ignored (clean your room day).  When we do an activity on the board we check it off. By September we are amazed at everything we’ve done with our summer, which is full and busy (biking, hiking, camping, swimming) and surprisingly laid back (“do nothing day” had 3 checks last summer).

A must-do on our list every year is the summer reading program at our local library. It encourages kids to read over the summer, but without specific requirements.  They are rewarded for reading what they want to read. And there is no discussion, comprehension assessment or test after.  Just a prize.  They go in a”secret room” and pick their prize each week – cute nick-nacks that clutter my house, but to them are a source of pride and accomplishment.  Teen readers earn entries into a drawing – last year’s prize was an iPad.  Yup, pretty cool incentive to read.

These first few days of summer hold all the magic.  The possibilities are endless, the wonder of days stretched out before us without schedule or requirement.  Sit down on the porch with an ice cream cone at twilight and watch fireflies or swing in a hammock and bring along one of these amazing summer reads. Mom’s Bookshelf: Summer has a grown-up collection of seasonal reads perfect for the beach, backyard, patio or pool.

nightbeforesummervacationThe Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing – In the rush to pack for vacation something is sure to be missed in this adorable story told in the familiar cadence of Clement Moore’s classic poem.PB

RHSsummertreasureSummer Treasure (Robin Hill School) by Robin McNamara – Hannah sees her teacher on a trip to the beach and gets a special surprise. ER/1



summerpartySummer Party by Cynthia Rylant – The Cousins, Rosie, Tess and Lily are heading home.  But they will miss Aunt Lucy’s house and each other.  So they decide to throw a special party to welcome their parents home and celebrate their good times spent at the cottage. ER/2

MTHsummerseaserpentSummer of the Sea Serpent :Magic Tree House #31 by Mary Pope Osborne – The 3rd book in the “Merlin Missions” begins on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, when Jack and Annie must solve another riddle and travel to a land of myth and mystery. ER/2-3

judymoodynotbummersummerJudy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (Book #10) by Megan McDonald – It’s bad enough that Judy’s best friends are leaving for the summer, but now her parents are going on a trip and she’d stuck home with Stink and Aunt Opal!  Not to be defeated Judy is determined to make this summer the most exciting, eventful and thrilling ever – with hilarious, unexpected results. MR/3

summerhumphreySummer According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney – Humphrey, everyone’s favorite class hamster, is shocked to find out that school is ending!  What will he do for the summer?  Go to camp, of course!  Along with many familiar friends from Room 26 Humphrey braves the wild and has lots of summer fun. MR/3-4

seaglasssummerSeaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee – Poppy loves animals and hopes to become a veterinarian.  She gets her chance when her parents let her visit her Uncle Sanjay, a vet, while they go to India for the summer.  Poppy’s summer of discovery teachers her that there is more to being a vet than just taking care of the animals.  With a little help she’ll learn to balance the hard work, joy and sadness of caring for furry creatures.  MR/4

frozensummerFrozen Summer by Mary Jane Auch  – The summer of 1816 was shockingly cold and for Rememberance Nye and her family, who recently settled on this new frontier, the unusual weather causes enormous challenges that threaten their very survival.  Take a trip to Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY to see a cabin just like the one the Nye family lived in. MR/4

penderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall – When the Penderwick sisters spend their summer at Arundel they charm the housekeeper, befriend the young boy who lives there and get into a variety of exciting adventures.  Delightfully charming and sweet, sincere and heartwarming!  National Book Award Winner and A Paperback Pigeon All Time Favorite. MR/4-5

onecrazysummerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia – It’s the summer of 1968 and Delphine and her sisters fly from Brooklyn to Oakland to meet the mother who abandoned them years earlier.  They eat take-out Chinese food, attend a summer program run by the Black Panthers, and try to make peace with the reality that their mother really doesn’t want to know them.  In a summer filled with self discovery, the girls realize that there are some bonds you can’t deny, and family is worth fighting for.  MR/5-6 A Newberry Honor Book, Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Coretta Scott King Award, National Book Award Finalist

summergermansoldierSummer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene – When 12 year old Patty Bergen’s hometown becomes the site of a German POW camp during WWII she finds herself befriending an prisoner.  How can this Jewish girl reconcile her relationship with the enemy?  To what lengths will Patty go to keep her friendship secret, and is the risk worth it? MR/5-6

hiddensummerThe Hidden Summer by Gin Phillips – Torn apart by a feud between their mothers, best friends Nell and Lydia are forbidden to see each other all summer.  They secretly maintain their friendship by meeting at an abandoned golf course where a series of clues reveal a mystery waiting to be solved, and the opportunity to become who they’re meant to be.  YA/ 6 & up


Filed under Multi-Cultural, Seasons, Summer, travel, Uncategorized