Holiday Gatherings | Savories and Sweets | A Sparkling Home | Holiday Movies | Gifts for All | Holiday Booklists and Book Matches
December can be a joyful time of peace and celebration, but too often “getting through the holidays” seems like more of a burden than a blessing. The push to have it all go perfectly is an impossible dream that undermines the true spirit of the season. Yet entertaining friends and family and decorating our homes, however simply or elaborately we choose to do these things, is something most of us truly want to do.
Let your library be your guide to wonderful resources on decoration, party planning, and gifting, along with a selection of holiday movies to keep you and your guests entertained, whether you’re trimming the tree or sipping cider.
Ultimately, you decide how much time (or how little) you want to put into your celebrations. Let’s get started.
March 12, 1888
She was waiting for her fiancé.
In the fine house on Fifth Avenue, Prudence MacKenzie wrapped her shawl a little tighter around her and looked out onto piles of snow that blanketed everything in glittering cold and listened to the wind howl as it paralyzed the city.
New Yorkers were used to dealing with snow, but the blizzard that struck on that late winter day was one for the history books. Surely her fiancé Charles wasn’t out in it. Surely. He was a sensible man, after all.
These aren’t Claymation perennials or Hallmark heartwarmers, but each film below has something unique to add to the holidays. From the true story of a wartime Christmas remembered decades later to celebrations in song to modern stories of hope restored, we hope you find something here to bring you Christmas cheer.
Author Shirley Jackson knew where the bodies were buried in the American psyche. Writing down her subtle suburban horrors during a period best known for Leave It to Beaver, she could put herself in the place of the outsider. The new neighbor who could not comprehend the quiet cruelty and amusement at her expense as she tries to interact in a straightforward fashion with her surroundings. Or, an intense young girl, estranged and tormented, who lives in a grand, crumbling house on the outskirts of town with her lovely sister and who may very well have killed off members of her family as they sat down to a meal.
Some people hike through the Appalachian Trail as quickly as they can, trying to set speed records. Some people spend hours in the car each autumn, looking at the bursts of colorful leaves on mountainsides, before heading back to their homes on flatter ground. They get something out of their journeys, sure, but they are missing a whole way of life.
Living in the Appalachians can be hardscrabble. Many of the people there are poor in material things. Why don’t more of them leave for better jobs? Some do. But many prefer to stay, and the answer lies in the strength of their families and communities. For hundreds of years, descendants of mainly Scots-Irish, English, and German immigrants, as well as members of the Cherokee Nation, lived in a culture that is self-reliant, and, yes, hospitable—assuming their visitors remain well-mannered.
Foodways are a big part of that culture. In his James Beard Award-winning Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine, Joseph E. Dabney delves into those delicious delights, while including enough personal notes that you’ll feel you’ve spent some time chatting on screened porches.
Like to hear jokes? Like to tell them? People have riddled for fun throughout history and all across the world. From Africa to Spain to Russia, brainteasers and jokes rule. Always have. Today, you can't keep a good joke to yourself. They're everywhere: in books, on cereal boxes, even sometimes on popsicle sticks.
Riddle Me This!
Here's a selection of fun jokes to try with your friends:
What musical instrument is found in the bathroom?
A tuba toothpaste
Why did the math book look so sad?
Because it had so many problems!
What do you call two bananas?
What bow can’t be tied?
What goes up and down but does not move?
What would bears be without bees?
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
Find more funny jokes, punny jokes, riddles and knock-knocks both online and in the library with our jokes resource list. There's also advice for aspiring comedians!
This month’s guest reader is New York Times bestselling author Jamie Ford. His novels plunge readers into the Pacific Northwest of decades past, as experienced by characters whose Asian heritage was a source of personal strength, even as it sometimes divided them from society.
Inspired by a Superhero’s Death
What makes a writer? In Jamie Ford’s case, he had known he wanted to tell stories for a long time. In an interview with Bill Kenower for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he explained that reading about Jean Gray’s (Phoenix/Dark Phoenix) death as a young man in X-Men #137 turned him on to deeper stories and their potential impact. He wasn’t the only one. After X-Men #137, people sent funeral wreaths to Marvel Comics’ headquarters in New York City, mourning Jean Gray. “Suddenly, characters for me had souls… Those characters were unforgettable.” And certainly timeless, as Marvel’s continued popularity at the box office proves.
Fall into the amazingly detailed double-page photospreads in April Pulley Sayre’s Full of Fall. This big picture book is perfect for sharing with small ones, either in a group or for a lap-sit story session. With glowing colors and simple rhymes, this book should absolutely be on your toddler’s or preschooler’s storytime stack.
I watched Dunkirk when it came to the theaters this summer hoping for an outstanding movie, and I got one. A favorite actor, Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, In the Heart of the Sea), portrayed the desolation of the shell-shocked “Shivering Soldier.” There is a point to never formally naming those characters caught between the German onslaught and the English Channel. They are everymen in their terror, helplessness, and humanity. But, I wondered, who are they? Who are all the nameless ones upon the shore, waiting for deliverance? Who are their rescuers? What are their stories? What could be their stories?
The Maggie Bright: A Novel of Dunkirk, by Tracy Groot, begins in an English shipyard in 1940. Clare Childs has inherited a handsome 52-foot yacht from someone she barely knew. She’s tricked it out as a houseboat and makes a small living renting out its rooms as a sort of floating bed-and-breakfast. But Clare doesn’t intend to remain in the harbor forever. She’s saving up whatever spare change she has to sail around the world. For her, it will be the full escape she’s needed ever since she was orphaned at a young age and brought up in isolation by her skinflint uncle.
How is back-to-school treating you? Are you on top of your assignments and after-school activities? Is your room a great place to relax and work, or is it a pile of piles—of clothes, of papers, of toys, of … stuff? It’s hard to relax, have a good time, and get decent grades when your chaos works against you.
Right now, it may seem as though it’s just too much to take on, but once you get in the habit of treating your time and space as valuable, you will find your days can be much less stressful. No more running late, losing important things in the piles of unimportant things, or procrastinating on projects. It’s not hard. It just takes consistency and a gentle push in the right direction.
Getting It Together (A Smart Girl’s Guide) shows you many of the habits that can depress your day and then tells you how to change them without ever being super judgmental. Whether you are a clutter queen or time management is your tyrant, this book can be a huge help in improving your day-to-day experiences.