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Archive for November, 2012

One of the sweetest animal Christmas stories I’ve ever seen:

Who Is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

who is coming cover

It’s very short and simple.  All the animals in the stable know that someone is coming to their house, and they wonder and wonder who it could be.  They do what they can to prepare for their guest, and at the end, everyone welcomes Him.

A very warm, gentle, and happy book (and Mary is shown lying down and snuggling the baby after giving birth, which I always appreciate!).

who is coming to our house interior

I’ve linked to the sturdy board book version, because I think little guys will appreciate the warm colors and friendly animal faces — but I always find the little story moving and comforting, myself.

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Okay, so I just completely forgot to post a book pick yesterday.  Today, I’m featuring two good books for Advent reading.  The first recommendation is written by the wonderful Steve Gershom (Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine, Thanks).

****

The Golden Key by George MacDonald
illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Everybody runs the risk of doing what Revelation 2:4 warns about: forsaking their first love. I come back to The Golden Key often, to remind me what my first love was and is.
It’s a children’s story, and my mother first read it to me when I was maybe eight years old, but it laid the groundwork for all the things that, when I am at my best, I am able to remember about life: that it is terribly good and terribly exciting; that the stakes couldn’t be higher; that real goodness is a thing that glows white hot; that our final destination is a beauty so deep you could never hit bottom.
Not that kids will get all of that at first. It works as a standard fairy tale, too: the quest for a magical object, the strange, sage-like figures met along the way, the tests and trials. The adult will see further, and if he’s reading it out loud, should probably have several kleenexes at hand.
                                                                                                                                                                                                   –Steve Gershom
*****
And, since I owe you a book from yesterday, let me remind you that ADVENTHOLOGY has broken free from the murky realms of pre-ordering, and is now on sale.  Here is the cover for my contribution:
Here is an excerpt:

But what if we’re too sick, too busy, or too lazy to enter into a full observance of each season?  What if we’re just half-hearted draftees as the calendar reels by?  Or what if we get so caught up in the preparation that we miss the main event?  What if we’re never sure we did it right?

It’s the liturgical calendar to the rescue again.  Just like any life, the life of the Church includes healthy doses of Ordinary Time.  Mother Church, in her wisdom, knows that her children need regular lulls of boredom and routine in order to process everything that happened to us during the feasts and fasts.  The great celebrations of the liturgical year are a tremendous gift to us, but ordinary time is something just as valuable:  time to unpack the gifts we received.  Time to see what we really have.

And time to remember that Christ was born as a baby.  The thing about babies?  They need time to grow.

Stay tuned for more excerpts from the other contributors, Dorian Speed and Brandon Vogt (and click here for an excerpt of Dan Lord’s contirbution).  Also check out the editor Ryan Charles Trusell’s redesigned website, where he’s recently started blogging!

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Posted mainly so I can’t weasel out of it today.

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Today’s book pick is one I just read to my kids last night, and it’s just as good as I remembered it from my childhood.

The Flying Carpet by the wonderful Marcia Brown 

(retold from Richard Burton’s translation of The Arabian Nights)

Very lavish and rhythmic, so much fun to read out loud (warning:  plot spoiler!)

“Alas!  We have traveled far and wide for hope of wedding the Princess Nur-al Nihar.  But in vain!  She lies on her bed, sick unto death.  Her women weep and wail in sorrow.  O my brothers, if you would see her for the last time, take a look before she is no more!”
Ali and Ahmad looked into the tube.  Indeed Nur-al Nihar was about to die.  Ahmad turned to his brothers.  “Come, she is not yet lost.  I can save the princess!” He pulled from his pocket the magical apple and told them what it could do.
“My carpet!” cried Prince Husayn.  “It shall fly us in the twinkling of an eye straight to our beloved!”

The illustrations are like what you’d get if Marc Chagall were an Arab — gorgeously gaudy,  just absolutely perfect to completely satisfy a child’s thirst for brilliant color, emotion, texture, and action.  We love this book!

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You and your heathen friend

In which, at a loss for how to answer a question that seems too obvious to need answering, I make up encyclicals and advise people not to be poops. 

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Today’s book pick is from my father, Phil Prever, who not only read us The Odyssey, but he let us act it out as he read, which must have been the most annoying thing ever.

******

   About a hundred years ago when I was a college freshman, I took a survey course in Western literature.  One of the reading assignments was excerpts from Homer’s Odyssey.  The book made no particular impression on me then, but I do remember a comment offered by a bright young woman during a class discussion.  “The only thing remarkable about it,” she said of the Odyssey, “is that anyone could have written it so long ago.”  I knew she was wrong, but I didn’t know why.  Now, after reading it close to a dozen times over the decades, I know why.

   The Odyssey is remarkable in many ways.  On one level there are the fabulous adventures: magical encounters with the gods, brutal conflicts with hideous monsters, a terrifying visit to the land of the dead, and audiences with wise and legendary kings.  These adventures make the book a wonderful read-aloud, as I believe all eight of my children will attest.

    On another level, Homer probes with startling psychological depth the relations between husband and wife, father and son, and citizen and homeland.  Furthermore, the Odyssey records the reintegration of a man’s soul as he is redeemed from the wreckage wrought by war and pillage by his struggles to reclaim the things in life that are most important.

   Above all, the Odyssey appeals to and satisfies the desire we all have to make things right, to correct injustice, to restore the divine order in our lives.  At the end we can say with Shakespeare, “Jack shall have Jill, nought shall go ill…and all shall be well.”  And even more, we can look forward to the time when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

   So the question is not, how could anyone have written the Odyssey so long ago but, why in almost three thousand years has no one written anything better?  Since I have failed in my feeble attempts to learn Homeric Greek, I have had to read the Odyssey in translation.  If you like that sort of thing, Richmond Lattimore’s version reads like it is incised on marble tablets.  Robert Fitzgerald’s is airy and fast-moving, but I find that Fitzgerald’s Homer sounds an awful lot like Fitzgerald’s Virgil.  Last time around I read the translation of Robert Fagles.

It was delightful, with real meat on real bones, and seemed to me to have the best of everything.  I read it very slowly because I didn’t want it to end.

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but I’ve just opened a CafePress store.

Check it out. 

T-shirts (including plus size and maternity), Dignerrieres, and even Dignaroos.  It’s all there.

For a little background on this tomfoolery, see

Pants:  A Manifesto

and

Pants Pass

and, just to show my heart’s in the right place, one more post which didn’t spawn any products at all:

WWMD

But really, overall, I’m so ashamed.  But on the other hand, do let me know if there’s another product you’d like to see!

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