Solstice Snow

A Very Fuddles Christmas

A Very Fuddles Christmas by Frans Vischer.  Aladdin, 2013.

We have cats.  As of this particular post, we have four.  Did I set out to have four kitties?  NO.  Mabel, our chirpy, talkative tortoiseshell, moved herself in as a sick kitten last winter, and her sister Lucy, the last of our fluffy feral porch cats, finally decided to move in this month.  Poor old Katie and Jenny.  They're 16 and nearly 15, respectively, and not in the mood for these young'ns.

I joke that my kitties are spoiled.  Mabel has become quite fat pleasingly plump since she came to us.  But even Miss Mabel has nothing on Fuddles.

I received an email from Frans Vischer, asking if I would be interested in reviewing his new book. A book about a fat, spoiled kitty?  Of course I said yes!  I even ran to the library and grabbed the first Fuddles book.

Fuddles is an awesomely spoiled, chubby tuxedo kitty.  The first book is all about Fuddles' attempts to go outside - he's an indoor kitty - and the scrapes he gets into when he finally gets his wish.

In fact, here is the book trailer for Fuddles:

A Very Fuddles Christmas begins with some purrrrfectly illustrated examples of how Fuddles is spoiled. (Fuddles sleeping with cucumbers on his eyes?  Fuddles lounging in a baby swing?  I die.)  Problems arise when poor Fuddles believes all the holiday feasting and decorating must all be for him.  Fuddles winds up back outside, this time in the snow.  A chase with some squirrels ensues, and...

Well, let's just say Fuddles gets back into the house in fine, Christmasy fashion.

Once again, enjoy the adorable book trailer:

Fuddles may be a new favorite character around the house.  Big Sis, my favorite 8-year-old review buddy, wanted to help me with this review, as winter break began today.  She re-read the book, with a little "help."

Mabel knows just when to get in the way.

Some quotes from Big Sis:
  •  "I think he thinks like a real cat would."
  • "I like his facial expressions."
  • "I like when he climbs up the Christmas tree!"  [Thank goodness our cats have not tried this, although Mr. B says he keeps finding tinsel and glitter in the litter box.  Someone is eating our white fake tree!]
I totally agree with Big Sis.  This is a wonderfully expressive animal.  (Considering the author-illustrator is also a Disney animator, one should expect no less!)  His thoughts really do seem plausible to a kitty cat.  Hilariously so, in fact.  I know my cats think their entire world revolves around them, and that Mr. B, the girls, and I are merely there to feed them, pet them, and change their litter box.  I look forward to more adventures with Fuddles!

You can see more of Fuddles and his two books at the official website.  (You can see pictures of the real life  inspiration for Fuddles, too!  That's a big, happy-looking kitty!)

Thank you, Mr. Vischer, for asking us to review your book!  Our copy was provided by the publisher, but all opinions expressed here are completely my own - or Big Sis's own.

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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A Christmas Playlist For You

Curious at all about what we listen to around the house this time of year?  This is just a very, very small sampling of some our holiday favorites.  Just hit play and enjoy!  (I hope.)

  1. "Christmas Time is Here" - Vince Guaraldi Trio
  2. "I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus" - Brenda Lee
  3. "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" - Gayla Peevey (Big Sis insisted)
  4. "Merry Christmas Baby" - Otis Redding
  5. "Please Come Home for Christmas" - Charles Brown
  6. "Sugar Rum Cherry" - Duke Ellington
  7. "Carol of the Bells" - The Bird and the Bee
  8. "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" - Thurl Ravenscroft
  9. "Medley: Alfie, the Christmas Tree/It's in Every One of Us" - John Denver & the Muppets
  10. "Ol' St. Nicholas" - Doris Day
  11. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" - Frank Sinatra
  12. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlement/We Three Kings" - Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan
  13. "Sleigh Ride" - Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops
  14. "Peace On Earth/Silent Night" - Dean Martin ("Peace On Earth" is from Lady & the Tramp)
  15. "The Christmas Waltz" - She & Him
  16. "I Wish My Mom Would Marry Santa Claus" - Gene Autry
  17. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" - Peggy Lee
  18. "Ave Maria" - Sarah Vaughan
  19. "Frosty the Snowman" - Fiona Apple
  20. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" - Perry Como
  21. "Mele Kalikimaka" - Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
  22. "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" - Billie Holiday
  23. "Suzy Snowflake" - Rosemary Cooney
  24. "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" - Natalie Merchant
  25. "Once in Royal David's City" - Sufjan Stevens
  26. "Christmas for Cowboys" - John Denver
  27. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Judy Garland
  28. "Light of the Stable" - Emmylou Harris
  29. "Caroling, Caroling" - Nat King Cole
  30. "True Blue Miracle" - Cast of Sesame Street (as of 1979)
  31. "O Holy Night" - Tennessee Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae
  32. "O Come O Come, Emmanuel" - The Civil Wars
  33. "Christmas Time All Over the World" - Sammy Davis, Jr.
  34. "Nuttin' For Christmas" - Art Mooney & His Orchestra, featuring Barry Gordon
  35. "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season" - Andy Williams ("The Holiday Season" was written by Kay Thompson!)
  36. "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth" - Bing Crosby & David Bowie
  37. "Angels We Have Heard On High" - Joan Osborne
  38. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" - Jane Monheit
  39. "In the Bleak Midwinter" - Shawn Colvin
  40. "Pretty Paper" - Willie Nelson
  41. "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" - T-Bone Burnett and Sam Phillips
  42. "Hard Candy Christmas" - Dolly Parton
  43. "This Time of Year" - Mandy Barnett
  44. "Patapan" - Julie Andrews
  45. "The Man With the Bag" - Kay Starr
  46. "Gabriel's Message" - Sting
  47. "Coventry Carol" - Loreena McKennitt
  48. "Little Altar Boy" - The Carpenters
  49. "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" - Mahalia Jackson
  50. "In Dulci Jubilo" - King's College, Cambridge Choir
  51. "The Holly & The Ivy" - Mediaeval Baebes
  52. "What Child Is This" - Vanessa Williams
  53. "White Christmas" - The Drifters
  54. "The Little Drummer Boy" - Harry Simeone Chorale
  55. "The Friendly Beasts" - The Louvin Brothers
  56. "Baby Born Today" - Elizabeth Mitchell & Friends
  57. "Someday at Christmas" - Stevie Wonder
  58. "Jingle Bells" - Ella Fitzgerald
  59. "Let It Snow" - Diana Krall
  60. "The Wexford Carol" - YoYo Ma with Alison Krauss
  61. "The Christmas Spirit" - Johnny Cash
  62. "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" - Johnny Mathis
  63. "Ole Santa" - Dinah Washington
  64. "Ding! Dong! Merrily on High" - The Chieftains with the Renaissance Singers
  65. "Marshmallow World" - Darlene Love
  66. "Winter Wonderland" - Chet Baker Quartet
  67. "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" - Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
  68. "The Christmas Guest" - Grandpa Jones
  69. "Away in a Manger" - The Innocence Mission
  70. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" - Sarah McLachlan
  71. "The Spirit of Christmas" - Ray Charles

The Sounding Joy

I love Christmas music, but I am picky about it.  The local light rock, Clear Channel-owned radio station became "The Holiday Station" back before Thanksgiving, but this year, it has a serious case of the doldrums.  I think they have the same 20 songs on shuffle, and I'm sick of it.  Computer-related issues have left me temporarily (I hope!) without my mp3 collection, and many of my CDs are in storage.  That leaves me with Spotify, Pandora, and my vinyl records.

But I bought a new CD this year!  Even though this beauty is available for streaming on Spotify, I love owning each Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Flower album.  Her music was some of the first my baby Big Sis fell in love with, and I cherish each new release.  Now there is a Christmas album!

The Sounding Joy is subtitled "Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook," as the songs on the CD are mostly old American Christmas and winter songs collected by Ruth Crawford Seeger, mother to MikePeggy, Barbara, and Penny Seeger, and stepmother to Pete. The songs are mostly religious in nature, as they pre-date Santa and our modern American Christmas, but you don't have to be religious to enjoy them as the beautiful folk songs they are.

 Mitchell is joined on the album by her husband, Daniel Littleton, and their daughter, Storey, but also a host of wonderful guests: Peggy Seeger, Natalie Merchant, Dan Zanes, Joan Osborne, John Sebastian, and more.  The gorgeous album art is by family friend Brian Selznick.  (May I say how much I adore Brian Selznick?  The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of my favorite books.  Silent movies and kids' books?  Two of my favorite things.)

The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth
Crawford Seeger Songbook
- Elizabeth Mitchell & Friends.
 This is a peaceful album, a beautiful respite from the more raucous bustle of the season.  This is a relax-on-the-couch-while-looking-at-the-lit-tree-with-the-kids kind of album.  A knitting-late-at-night-with-a-hot-cup-of-tea kind of album.  A soothe-your-little-one-to-sleep kind of album.

You can download The Sounding Joy here and here, or you can buy the CD here and here.  (If you download from the Smithsonian-Folkways site, they even provide a link to download the liner notes.)  It is also available via iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon.

Ruth Crawford Seeger's daughters recorded a similar album, which is also available from Smithsonian-Folkways.  The book American Folk Songs for Christmas by Ruth Crawford Seeger has also been reissued.  Check out the Barbara Cooney cover art!

For the record, a lovely woman contacted me with the offer of a free zip file of the album, in exchange for a review.  I told her the truth:  I have no place to store music files right now, and I was planning on buying a CD for myself anyway.  I had already listened to the album more than once on Spotify, and I'd already planned on telling everyone how lovely it is!

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Lucia Fest 2013, Lindsborg

St. Lucia Day has come and gone, of course, but I have one last hurrah to share:  some images from our trip to Lindsborg, KS, for their annual Lucia Fest.  We visited shops, drank hot drinks and ate lunch at our favorite coffee shop, watched the folk dancers, and followed the procession to the beautiful white Lutheran church, where Lucia was crowned.


We like to get Mr. B coffee for Christmas, but this year, he requested that we buy some food, too.  For Christmas, he wanted pickled herring, cheese, and bread.  We found the grocery store in Lindsborg, and bought several yummy things:  Swedish pancake mix, lingonberries, glogg, gingersnaps, even a Scandinavian Christmas soda!

This was our special Christmas book purchase.  It was one I'd longed to read, but our library doesn't have it.  I love tomte stories, and I enjoy Sven Nordqvist's "Findus and Pettson" books.

The Tomtes' Christmas Porridge by Sven Nordqvist.  Floris Books, 2011.

This one is darling.  Father Tomte is worried the human family on the farm will forget to leave out his Christmas porridge.  Mother Tomte knows they will forget, so she and her children go to great lengths to make sure some porridge is left out!

And what is Swedish Christmas porridge?  Hot rice cereal with cinnamon sugar!  Mr. B must have a little Scandinavian something-or-other in his blood after all.  Cooked rice with milk, butter, and sugar is one of his favorite things.

For more, you may want to see last year's Lucia Fest post.  If you're on Pinterest, I have a few related pinboards:  "It's Christmastime All Over the World" and "Nordic Dreams, Scandi Love."  (I try so hard to be clever with my Pinterest board titles, but when I go to type them out, I realize how cheesy I am they are.)

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The Nutcracker in Book Form

It's that time of year again!  Time for ballet companies all over the world to put on their annual productions of The Nutcracker.  The colorful costumes, the beautiful dancing, the famous Tchaikovsky score...  Well, I love all things related to The Nutcracker.  Cases in point:  my Nutcracker board on Pinterest and my most-viewed post on this blog of all time.

For the second year in a row, our elementary school took an all-school field trip to see the abridged school performance of the ballet downtown.  Our school is a performing arts magnet, and the girls' school dance teacher was dancing in the production again.  This year, she performed the Arabian pas de deux.  The kids loved it.  The girls know a lot of people in the production, which makes it pretty special.  But Mom wanted to see the ballet, too, so another trip was made downtown to see the full ballet, Saturday night.

As we always seem to do before a special event, at home, we pulled out books.

The Nutcracker first appeared in a story called "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann.  If you are unfamiliar with the original story, please read the Wikipedia synopsis I linked to above, or here is the whole text.  Alexandre Dumas published a revision the story in 1844.  It was the revision that inspired the ballet in 1892.

We own a few (now out-of-print) bargain books, and we hit the library for a few new books.  I thought I would share some of the examples out there.  I will be honest, I haven't read or seen all of these in person, but I would love to go through them all.  These books are either still in print or so recently out-of-print, they can easily be obtained.  There are some wonderful less traditional versions out there, but I stuck with the versions featuring human characters, based on the familiar story.

For adults, teenagers, and precocious older children, give the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story a try. Compare it to the Alexandre Dumas version.  

From left to right:  Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman & The Tale of the Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas.  Penguin Classics, 2007.    The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Gail DeMarcken.  Orchard Books, 2009.  The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  Crown, 2012 (reprint).

Or just curl up with a little one and a beautiful picture book adaptation.  Some of these favor the Hoffmann version, some the Dumas, and some follow the ballet in its simplest story form.

Top (left to right): The Nutcracker, based on the Balanchine ballet, illustrated by Alison Jay.  Dial, 2010.  Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker by Mary Engelbreit.  HarperCollins, 2011.
Bottom (left to right):  The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin.  Scholastic, Inc., 2002.  The Nutcracker by Michael Hague.  Chronicle Books, 2003.  The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers.  HarperCollins, 2007.

Share the gorgeous Tchaikovsky music with a young one!  Some books come with CDs...

From left to right:  The Nutcracker, illustrated by Julie Paschkis.  Chronicle, 2001.  The Nutcracker, retold by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Peter Malone.  Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008.  The Nutcracker, adapted by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Renee Graef.  HarperCollins, 1999.

And surprise! - The Nutcracker lends itself to some lovely "tricks," like lift-the-flaps, moving die-cuts, and fold-out pages that recreate the magic of the ballet.

From left to right:  The Nutcracker by Patrick Regan, illustrated by Natasha Kuricheva.  Andrews McMeel, 2012.  The Nutcracker: A Magic Theater Book by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Kristina Swarner.  Chronicle, 2012.  The Nutcracker Ballet: A Book, Theater, and Paper Doll Fold-Out Play Set by Mara Conlon.  Peter Pauper Press, 2008.

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The Chipmunks' Merry Christmas

The Chipmunks' Merry Christmas (A Little Golden Book) by David Corwin, illustrated by Richard Scarry.
Golden Press, 1959.

I wrote about this book last year, but it's time to do a full post about it.

I found this book at my favorite antique mall, along with a few other fun finds.  I saw the cover, didn't recognize it as one I had ever seen, let alone owned.  I assumed it was Richard Scarry, and confirmed it when I glanced inside.  The back cover suggested it was pretty old.  Great, I thought.  I put it in the cart.

When we came home, I opened the book and started reading.  "Would you like to meet three chipmunks?Well, here they are.  Here is Simon.  Here is Theodore.  But Simon and Theodore make only two!  Where is the third chipmunk?  Where can little Alvin be?"

I yelled for Mr. B.  "Omigosh, did you know Richard Scarry illustrated an Alvin and the Chipmunk Little Golden Book????"

Of course, he didn't know.  I certainly had no idea.  I failed to notice the monogrammed jackets and shirt on the cover.

The book was published in 1959, one year after "The Chipmunk Song," by David Seville and the Chipmunks, became an unexpected holiday smash.  The same year this book came out, Dell began publishing a comic book, and by 1961, the first animated series was created.  I assume the look of the characters had changed so much by then that this particular Little Golden Book was allowed to slip quietly out of print.

Were you singing along with the chipmunks? 

 I thought Alvin wanted the hula hoop.

I hope this plays.  It isn't on YouTube, at least, not without some

If you want to see more pictures, just follow after the jump.  Otherwise, I hope you're having a beautiful Sunday.  It's the third Sunday in Advent!  We're getting closer...

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