TWO BOOKS FOR ALL TIME ---The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Polar Express
Have a Reading Party in the Summer
Gather up some kids in the neighborhood during the heat of the day and have a reading party.
Both of these books are great to read out loud and maybe a bit of cool will appear magically as you read them!!!
Treat yourself and your family to both of these books. They are both movies but there is nothing like the book. They are very different but both of them capture the essence of the season.
The Polar Express conveys the magic of Christmas in the secular setting. But a broader application of the content can be made too if characters are evaluated and analyzed which I think we sometimes do too much.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever conveys the meaning of Christmas, the real meaning, the birth of Christ. It is an entertaining, captivating story about a bunch of hooligans who find the meaning of Christmas through a pageant. It is a story not to be missed. Everyone on the planet should read it whether they are Christians or not. It is a classic.
Don't wait till Christmas to read these.
There are books that anyone can read at any time and find themselves caught up in the delicious sequence of events that is woven into the tapestry of the story. These books may be written for a specific time of the year such as Christmas but they can be enjoyed any time.
.The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Polar Express are two such books. As remarkable as these novels are, their authors outshine the works they have set into words.
Barbara Robinson has been writing since her earliest years. She began by writing poetry, plays, and short stories and did not quit. She also has had short stories published in McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, and other magazines. She relates that her most favorite type of writing is writing books for children.
She has the innate ability to make her characters come alive on the page. When she writes, the story she tells is a story just about everyone can relate to, some more than others. She pokes fun at some things that are not funny to some but can be identified with nevertheless. It is gentle humor not mean-spirited.
A peek at the movie
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Ms. Robinson uses gentle humor throughout the story.
We meet the Herdman children and read of their misadventures. The Herdman's are a very important family, in this story. This rather irreverent family can be found in almost any town, in any state, today.
They are not the Cleavers. They are a somewhat scraggly group of children (there are parents of course but the parents are not central to the story line) .They cuss their teachers and smoke cigars and do bad things that sometimes turn out to be good things. The characters are colorful and you will recognize someone you know or maybe even find yourself on the pages of this book.
The Herdman's have never gone to church until one day Charlie, a young boy in the story, lets it slip, that at church 'you can get all of the snacks you want.' That was all he needed to say. The next Sunday the Herdman's showed up and wanted to know where the food was.
Selections for the parts for the Christmas pageant were to be made, the Herdman's heard about it, and decided they wanted to be in the main roles. Not one child except the Herman's volunteered for parts that they had always had in the past because the Herdman's punched and shoved to get what they wanted at school so no one challenged them at church. The Herman's landed all of the leading roles for this pageant much to the disappointment of some of the rather judgmental parishioners.
Much to the surprise of everyone, this pageant is the very best Christmas pageant ever. The real sense of the spirit of Christmas will linger with you as you read the last page.
You do not need to wait until December to read this. It is a book for all seasons.
Fabulous Books with a Message (not just holiday theme)
Walk Two Moons
There are many messages but one is ....do not judge another till you have walked two moons in their moccasins
Bud, Not Buddy
It is filled with so many life messages, one of them being, that others are often at their best when the situation is at its worst
The Bridge to Terabithia
Friendship will get us through the most tragic occurrences in our lives.
Because of Winn Dixie
Learn to accept the bitter with the sweet, joy with sadness, the devastating with the humorous.
The Watson Go to Birmingham
A powerful message that 'history' does not just happen to strangers; it happens to people just like them
The Diary of Anne Frank
There are so many messages that the reader will come away with the one (s) that are most meanigful for his or her life.
Number the Stars
Another one that will leave you with more than one take-away message...one being that friendship is so powerful and important.
An ulitmate book of survival...you can survive almost anything if you dig down deep within your soul.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
This book can be read and interpreted on so many levels. It will be a book you will want to discuss with your children and family. You will find many messages.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Wrong is wrong all of the time. There are some who will stand up for what is right even when it means great personal risk.
Reindeer for Santa's sleigh: The Polar Express
Enjoy the story
Try to avoid over analyzing, over discussing, and try NOT to test on this book. If you are reading it in class, for an authentic assessment, have children create a project surrounding the characters, the theme, but, try not to lose the simplicity of the story by questioning too much. It is a book to read, think about, and enjoy.
This book brings up topics for discussion that you will want to address. And, it addresses gift giving. You can read it and enjoy if for the story, or, you can read it and use it as a teachable moment resource. Either way, select this book as a gift the next time you 'just do not know what to buy.' You can find this book and many others of hers at Amazon.com, local book stores, and the library.
Barbara Robinson has written other books as well: The Best/Worst School Year Ever, My Brother Louis Measures Worms are a few. I have read the Best Worst School Year Ever and it was not my favorite. I think the Best Christmas Pageant ruined it for me because I had found it so engaging.
A book for all ages
It is not just for children. It is for the child in each of us. When I was teaching in upper elementary and in middle school, I read this book each year. The best time of each class period was the time I read from Ms. Robinson's book. There is one place in the book, near the end, where I choked up every time I read it...every time, without fail!
I dragged my eldest grandson to see the play with me several years ago. He tried not to be interested but I saw him smile and I heard a chuckle or two (he is a serious gamer so the idea of this play was not really his cup of tea .).
See the play, buy the book, buy the DVD; it is also on Kindle.. You must read the book FIRST. It is a great read aloud. Tear your children away from whatever they are doing for 20 minutes each night till you are finished reading it aloud. You will find you read longer each night when you are reading it as everyone wants to know what will happen next.
- The Polar Express - lessons, ideas, crafts, and printables to match this book (Train Theme Unit)
This link to teaching heart offers more Polar Express ideas. Teaching heart is also a great resource for teachers elementary teachers in general.
- The Polar Express
At this site, there are a variety of activities to use with the book. Suggestions provided, make it YOUR own...revise, omit, extend..but this offers a great jumping off point if this is the first time it is used.
Chris Van Allsburg
Chris Van Allsburg is the author and illustrator of Jumanji and The Polar Express.
He became interested in drawing. Then found he really liked telling stories through pictures. His books are in the picture book category and are often thought of as children's books but anyone of any age will be enchanted with his books.
He won the prestigious Caldecott award for Juamanji and for The Polar Express. He relates that he likes to give a kind of mysterious effect to his images even though the topic is not full of mystery. To me that makes them have their special quality.
The Polar Express
The Polar Express is another book that will make an excellent gift any time of the year. . It is one that you will want to read over and over and over. It is another book that is a great read aloud book.
This is a story about believing in the magic of Christmas. For some, Santa Claus is taboo and that is respected by this author. So please excuse me if I drone on about SC and the loveliness of this whole time of the year. Christmas is about so much more than SC. We all know that. SC is part of this whole celebration whatever your personal beliefs or ideas of how to deal with him; he is part of it. I am not here to debate the pros and cons of Santa. That is for you to do and decide how to handle.
Santa is a character in this story but the story is much larger than that. It is believing in the magic of Christmas that is really the larger issue. It is worth reading to yourself, to your loved ones.
You will find that the story will remain in your heart and mind. You will think about it and secretly smile as you remember a Christmas of long ago.
Each of us will bring to this story a different frame of reference. Reading it to and with your family can be a way to open up discussions you have wished to have with your family about Santa.
This book also is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your public library.
No matter the time of the year, find a book that will captivate and intrigue your family.There is always time for story that will provide experiences for your family that will be long lasting and sometimes life changing.
Yes, there is a lot of competition for your child's time...video games, texting, social media. You can draw them away from those distractions for some part of every day to fill there heads with imagery and messages that they can carry with them into the future.
© 2011 Patricia Scott
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