Book Buzz December Picks, the Gift of a Good Book - The Missourian: Newspapers In Education

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Book Buzz December Picks, the Gift of a Good Book

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Posted: Monday, December 23, 2013 11:31 am | Updated: 12:08 pm, Mon Dec 23, 2013.

Hang the greens and string the lights, it’s time to celebrate stories with our “Gift of a Good Book” theme. Bundle up and set off on a journey with Anja, a petite girl from the North; revisit a beloved fairytale featuring a tin soldier and a ballerina; and lose yourself in a fabulous fantasy about a boy who wants to be real more than anything else.

Page On—celebrate the joy of the season in the company of alluring stories.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Thoughtful Anja does for others, but has a dream of her own in “The Christmas Wish,” a sweet story by Lori Evert, with gorgeous photographs by Per Breiehagen.

What Anja wants most is to meet Santa at the North Pole. She pines for her heart’s desire from morning to night. But before she leaves she has some things to do for “an old woman who lives down the lane.”

Anja’s wish to be one of Santa’s elves requires a cross-country trip through the wilderness, and as she sets off her courage wanes, like a candle buffeted by the wind. “What if I get lost,” she wonders…Her doubt is quieted when a flitting red bird lights on her ski pole, offering his assistance.

The winged wonder is just one of the woodland creatures that comes to the child’s aid in a tale sure to warm the heart on long winter nights. Curl up with this marvelous book that reminds us to “Be brave. Be kind. Believe.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

A new version of an old fairy tale, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” by Hans Christian Anderson is lovingly retold by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated with modern brush strokes by Jen Corace. Love does conquer all, but not without some perils along the way.

They were “co-hearts” from the start, and shared a common trait. The tin soldier was made with only one leg, and the pretty ballerina balanced on only one. It was love at first sight in the playroom where they first laid eyes on each other.

Some people can’t stand to see others happy. In this case, a goblin is the nasty. He nips the blossoming romance in the bud, tossing the proud solider out the playroom window.

So begins the tin soldier’s perilous voyage on rushing waters, his vessel a paper ship that’s tossed about, delivering him into the belly of a great fish. He escapes, only to land back in the clutches of the goblin.

Today’s fairy tales end with happily ever after—so don’t despair. In this one, the goblin doesn’t have a let to stand on. Love wins out, “forevermore.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Wizardry and magic collide in “The Real Boy,” a fantasy by Anne Ursu, with more plot twists than a black cat’s tail. Caleb is “the only true magician” in the kingdom of Aletheia. Oscar, an orphan boy is his helper, a rung lower on the ladder than Wolf, a cruel boy who abuses Oscar while serving as Caleb’s apprentice.

Whenever Caleb’s back is turned, Wolf belittles Oscar, who’s a bit slow when it comes to social graces, but is brilliant at concocting potions from plants he gathers.

There’s a great demand for these mixtures—the “shining people,” the perfect ones who live within the high city walls of Asteri, come to Caleb’s shop seeking the tinctures, quick cures for what ails.

Once magic flourished in Aletheia, back when the wizards walked, but they’ve since died; their feet planted firmly in the soil they were transformed into wizard trees. Now the “shining people” depend on Caleb, until the day that the very earth under Oscar’s feet is shaken, when greed prevails and the power of magic is threatened, as are the very lives of the children of Asteri.

The responsibility for saving the kingdom falls to Oscar, a humble, bumbling boy and his newfound friend Callie. Their adventure lays bare ancient secrets in a book chock-full of excitement, and lessons learned.

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