April is National Poetry Month. April 30 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. At my previous place of employment, I used to do celebrations of poetry, readings in the library and kept a basket of poems out for people to put in their pockets on that day. Lots of promotion of poetry as a literary art form. I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say I am a huge poetry fan, but I am a fan of expression and encourage art and literary expression in all forms.

This year, I am not celebrating these events, but I am interested in sharing a little something with you. I stumbled across a poem from a listserv I follow and I enjoyed it. I will reprint it here and you can be sure I’ll have it in my pocket on April 30.

In the Library

by Charles Sivic

There’s a book called

“A Dictionary of Angels.”

No one has opened it in fifty years,

I know, because when I did,

The covers creaked, the pages

Crumbled. There I discovered

The angels were once as plentiful

As species of flies.

The sky at dusk

Used to be thick with them.

You had to wave both arms

Just to keep them away.

Now the sun is shining

Through the tall windows.

The library is a quiet place.

Angels and gods huddled

In dark unopened books.

The great secret lies

On some shelf Miss Jones

Passes every day on her rounds.

She’s very tall, so she keeps

Her head tipped as if listening.

The books are whispering.

I hear nothing, but she does.

And that is your poem for April. Hope you enjoyed it, I think it beautiful. Feel free to share a poem on your own blog in honor of this month and link back to it in the comments.

My Favorite Christmas Books

Books are a core part of my life, that’s fairly obvious to anyone paying attention. Each year, around the holidays, I have a small selection of reading that I do, simply because it makes me happy. It recalls the scent of the Christmas tree, the twinkling of the lights. It tickles the memories of childhood, racing to the tree to see what Santa has left. As an adult, these memories are even more precious to me and that is why I read these items, year after year. Full disclosure, I do not read each of them every year, but most of them, most every year.

Here are my favorite holiday reads.

1. The Autobiography of Santa Claus. As told to Jeff Guinn. Without question, my favorite thing to read at the holidays. I tend to read this annually, but it was packed in boxes until last January, so the last two Christmases, it did not get read. It did this year and I was, once again, amazed at how perfect this book is. Also, it has 24 chapters, meant to be read, one per night, from December 1 to Christmas Day. Would make a terrific read aloud for older kids (maybe 8 and above?).

2. Home Again. Kristin Hannah. I first read this book the year it was published, 1996. Even back then, I was a sucker for a holiday romance. Boy did Ms. Hannah fool me. While it is romantic and lovely, this book is so much more. I will admit I have not read it every year since, but I’ve easily read it 15 times…so most years.

3. A Visit from St. Nicholas. Clement C. Moore. Every year, without fail. Honestly, I can almost do the entire poem from memory. It’s one of the most recognizable Christmas poems in the world. Most of you know it by its first line, ‘Twas the night before Christmas…

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t know, and love, this story? The Grinch’s heart growing three sizes, Miss Cindy Lou Who, it is timeless. The movies are fine, but the prose of Dr. Seuss makes this a better read than a movie.

5. A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. Another one that most people know from the movies. Have you actually read the original story? I’ve read it many times. I’m not a huge fan of Dickens, nor his writing, but I will admit that his style perfectly suits this classic story. It is almost chilling to read the original words and makes you think about the meaning; it is much deeper and darker than it is portrayed in film.

6. Twelve Days. Teresa Hill. Remember how I said I am a sucker for a holiday romance story? I love hitting bookstores and buying new ones each year. This was one I bought, brand new, when it came out in 2000. I’ve read it almost every year since. This year, I just found out, she released follow up novels for each of the children in the book. I’m so excited to read them. It’s not a traditional romance, but it is a traditional sappy holiday story.

7. How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas. As told to Jeff Guinn. This is the sequel to the original book. I like this one, but not as much. It’s still charming and delightful, like the original, and the second perspective is great. But, if you read them you’ll understand that while good, it is not quite as good as Santa’s story.

8. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Barbara Robinson. To be honest, I had never read this story until I took Clayton to see the play, two years ago. I bought the book and read it and found it delightful. I read it again last year and plan to read it again this year.

9. Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy. Debbie Macomber. This book is hard to find these days. You can get a hardcover version on Amazon, but that’s about it. I read it when it first came out (1999) and loved these quirky angels spreading holiday cheer. They are now featured in several holiday stories by this author. Always delightful and funny and sweet and nostalgic.

10. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. Francis Pharcellus. This one is a bit of a cheat because it isn’t a book or a poem. It is, instead, an editorial response to a letter written to the newspaper by an 8-year-old girl. It was written and originally published in 1897, but the response holds as true today as it was then. The paper no longer exists, but it’s available online in tons of places. That link will take you to it. If you have never read it, take 5 minutes and go do it now. It is just the very perfect answer. I actually wrote about this once before, on my old blog. If you’d rather, you can read that post.

And there you have it, my ten favorite holiday reads. Are you surprised there are so many? I read dozens of holiday specific things each year, but these are my enduring favorites. If you haven’t, I strongly encourage you to try #1, I just love that book so very much.

Stay tuned for movies!