Book Corner, Seasonal

Hygge Books

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Winter is a time for snuggling up together on the couch with a good book.  Family read aloud time should happen all year but our family does a lot more of it during the winter months.  We spend one hygge evening each week listening to an audio book while we each draw in our sketch pads or color in adult coloring books.  The library, Audible, Sparkle Stories and Scribd are great places to find quality audio books and stories for the whole family.

There is lots of research about how important Family Read Aloud time is for teens (here is a great podcast about this).  Reading aloud books with teens allows everyone to slow down and for the teens to experience difficult topics without leaving the comfort of their home.  This can then lead to rich family discussions about the challenges brought up in the stories.

Here are some of our favorite stories to read aloud during the winter time. We also have read aloud suggestions for older children and have included some adult selections about the topic of hygge. Happy Reading!  

Click HERE for a Kids in Service Reading List for the library or bookstore.

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This book does a beautiful job demonstrating the theme of kindness for young children (ages 3 and up).  The Hedgehog’s nest blows away in a storm and he bundles up to go to Badgers house.  Along the way he meets friends who are very cold and one by one gives them pieces of his own warm clothing. This book looks like it is no longer in print but see if your local library has it or find a used copy.  It is a sweet story of friendship and kindness!

From the Publisher: “When a fierce windstorm blows away Little Hedgehog’s nest, he puts on his winter clothes and sets off for Badger’s warm house. On his way, Hedgehog meets his friends, all shivering in the wind and snow. One by one, Hedgehog gives away his cozy mittens, hat, and scarf. But will Little Hedgehog make it through the storm to safety without his warm clothes? A delightful story about sharing with others, with soft flocking wherever Little Hedgehog’s mittens, hat and scarf appear.”

This is our ABSOLUTE favorite winter book.  In this beautiful story, a little girl finally gets her chance to go owling with her father.  This book is about patience, adventure and quality time together. I would recommend this book for ages 3 and up.

From the publisher: “Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind’s close relationship to the natural world. Wonderfully complemented by John Schoenherr’s soft, exquisite watercolor illustrations, this is a verbal and visual treasure, perfect for reading around and sharing at bedtime.”

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This beautiful book of photographs might just inspire a kindness project for the animals near your home.  I would recommend this book for children 3 and up.

From the publisher: “Forest animals, awakened by the birds’ warning that there is a stranger in the woods, set out to discover if there is danger and find, instead, a wonderful surprise.”

 

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett is the story of a young girl named Annabelle and her magical box of yarn.  This story starts with dull, mono chrome illustrations and a melancholy community.  As Annabelle knits sweaters for the people and critters in her town, the colors start to become more vivid and the mood becomes more positive.  When a duke tries to steal the magical box of yarn, a wonderous thing happens.  This book is about joy, kindness and the spirit of giving.

From the publisher: “From bestselling and award-winning author Mac Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen comes Extra Yarn, a Caldecott Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner, and a New York Times bestseller.
A young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community in this stunning picture book. With spare, gently humorous illustrations and a palette that moves from black-and-white to a range of color, this modern fairy tale has the feel of a new classic.”

image.pngThis classic book tells the tale of Peter and all of his adventures during a snow day.  This is one of our family favorites and it is a great hygge read to inspire snow fun while snuggling on the couch.    This is a book for all ages.

From the publisher: “No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever. The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.”

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This is a sweet story about the power of a kind deed and how some good deeds are better done anonymously.  I would recommend this book to children ages 3 and up.

From the publisher: “One snowy day an elderly woman, Sarah, watches children gathering at the bus stop. While they never seem to notice her, she notices them, especially one little boy who has no mittens. That night, Sarah knits the boy a pair of cozy mittens and places them on the blue spruce tree for him to discover. It soon becomes a game, with the children looking for new mittens on the mysterious tree every morning, and Sarah joyfully knitting new ones each night. With its touching message and delightful illustrations, adults and children will enjoy this intergenerational tale for years to come.”

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This is a great non-fiction book to give children a glimpse of who is sleeping and moving underneath that layer of winter snow.  This book would be great for children ages 3 and up.

From the publisher: “Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow lies a secret world of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals making their winter home under the snow. This beloved nonfiction picture book exploring the subnivean zone reveals the tunnels and caves formed beneath the snow but over the ground, where many kinds of animals live through the winter, safe and warm, awake and busy, but hidden beneath the snow.”

 

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This sweet book would be nice for children 4 and up.  Jojo learns all about friendship from her magical snowman, Puddles.  This is a Kindle Unlimited book and can be read for free with a subscription.

From the publisher: “Jojo looks around and everyone seems to have friends but her. She feels sad and lonely. Then, Jojo meets Puddles, the snowman made with magic friendship snow.  Jojo will reassure children that friendship can be learned. Discover how Jojo makes a forever friend by reading this book.”

 

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This is such a sweet story and another family favorite.  It is a holiday story but we feel it can be read anytime.  I would recommend this story for ages 3 and up.

From the publisher: “Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don’t believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion Boggan is ready to join Charles on a journey to find out. And along the way, they discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways.
The poetic text and heartwarming illustrations evoke the true essence of the holiday season and will inspire wishers everywhere. This gem of a book deserves center stage year round.”

 

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I know my kids are hoping for Big Snow right now and this is one of their favorite books.  Johnathan Bean is a wonderful author/illustrator and the pictures in this book are wonderful.  I’d recommend this book for all ages.

From the publisher: “While “helping” his mother with holiday housecleaning, a boy keeps a watchful eye on the progress of a winter storm. He’s hoping for a big snow. A really big snow. Inside, he is underfoot, turning sheet-changing and tub-scrubbing into imaginary whiteouts. Outside, flakes are flying. But over the course of a long day (for Mom) the clouds seem slow on delivering a serious snowfall. Then comes a dreamy naptime adventure, marking just the beginning of high hopes coming true in this irresistible seasonal story.”

Our Favorite Read Aloud Books for Older Kids 

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We have listened to each of these stories on audio and we ALL LOVED them.  The narrators are all great if you listen to them on audio book.  My children are now 9 and 12 but many of these stories can be enjoyed as a family with younger and older children.   We have a subscription to both Audible and Scribd but also use our local library.  I only included stories that I loved as much (or more) than my children.  I find a good story is loved by people of all ages.  Please share your favorite read aloud books below.

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  • Green Ember Series (ages 9 and up)-This series is jam-packed with adventure!  It can be a bit dark at times but my sensitive 9-year-old is just fine with it.  She even named her pet bunny after one of the lead characters.
  • The Land of Stories Series (ages 8 and up)-This series of stories was an ABSOLUTE family favorite.  We devoured these stories and loved the way the fairytale world and our world collided.  These creative stories are read by the author and so much fun to listen to aloud.
  • The Penderwick Series (ages 8 and up)-This is my daughter (and maybe my) favorite series of all time. She has listened to these books DOZENS of times.  My son also enjoyed them and has listened to them more than once.  The four main characters are girls but there are lots of male characters to even out the stories.  They are about family, friendship and the trials and joys of growing up.
  • The Tuesdays at the Castle Series (ages 8 and up)-This fantasy series is about a royal family who lives in a magical castle and the many challenges they face.  This book is filled with adventure, magic and friendship and each book will leave you running to the next to see what happens.  We truly loved this series and hope that there will be a few more in the series.

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  • The How to Train Your Dragon Series (ages 8 and up)This series is very different from the movie (we like the books better) and read by the amazing David Tennant.  My son and I devoured this series but it was too much for my daughter who was 7 and 8 at the time.
  • The Saturday’s Series (ages 6 and up)-This series is about a single father raising his four children.  The first book starts out in NYC and the kids pool their money together so that they can take turns spending a Saturday doing what they would like to do.  This is such a fun series, set in simpler times with LOVABLE characters.  It is sure to be a family favorite.
  • Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd (ages 8 and up)–Natilie Lloyds book are pure magic.  She is a fantastic story-teller and both books contain lovable characters, beautiful imagery and a twist that you won’t see coming.  We all LOVED these two books in our house.
  • Fablehaven (ages 10 and up, was too scary for my 9-year-old)–This is an imaginative series that brings a brother and sister duo to their grandparents nature preserve for mythical creatures.  This series was way too scary for my sensitive 9 year old but my 12-year-old LOVED it.

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  • The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates Series (ages 6 and up)-This book series is so much fun! The main character is the young daughter of the admiral and her dream is to sail the seas as a PIRATE.  Her companion is a magical gargoyle and their adventures will keep you laughing and saying, “ARGH”.  This is such a fun series.
  • Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Series by Chris Grabenstein (ages 8 and up)–If you like to read, then you will love this series.  It is filled with puzzles, references to great children’s literature and adventure.  These books are NOTHING like the movie, in fact we did not like the movie at all.  If you are looking for a fun literary adventure as a family, we recommend these books.
  • The Peter Nimble Series by Jonathan Auxier (ages 9 and up)–The Peter Nimble books will keep you guessing until the end.  Jonathan Auxier is a gifted story-teller and his characters are like no others.  These stories are filled with humor, adventure and will leave you on the edge of your couch.

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Hygge Books for Adults

I have read all of the books below except for the bottom one (that is on my Read Next List) .  I have found that many of the books contain similar messages and you really only need to read one book (or do some internet research) to gain a better understanding of what hygge is all about.

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This beautiful little book is one that I have given away as gifts many times.  It has beautiful photographs to SHOW you what a hygge lifestyle is all about and how to implement it into your life.  This book is pretty enough to leave out in your home to inspire others to hygge.

 

 

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If you want some stats and graphs about how important hygge is, then this is the book for you.  This book not only explains the concept of hygge, it also gives you statistics that will convince you that hygge is something that should be incorporated in your life.

From the publisher:“Embrace Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and become happier with this definitive guide to the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. From picking the right lighting to organizing a Hygge get-together to dressing hygge, Wiking shows you how to experience more joy and contentment the Danish way.”

 

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I own this book and refer to it often.  It is simple and so easy to read and will give you plenty of ideas of how to incorporate hygge into your daily life.

From the publisher: “This was the first book ever written about hygge in the world. A classic treasure that feels like an old book from times forgotten, with cream coloured pages and hand drawn illustrations. Not only is this book about Hygge, it ‘feels’ Hygge. This is the original and first published book about Hygge that started it all…”

 

 

 

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This is the book on my list to read this year.  It is a memoir from a journalist who moved to Denmark for a year.  She spent that year investigating the secrets to why the Danish are such a happy group.  I am looking forward to reading this one!

 

 

 

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on the image of the books above you will be taken to Amazon.  20% of all profits made through this site will be donated to our charity of the season.  You can see the current charity on our Book Corner page.  Thank you for supporting our site and a very noble charity.)  

If you missed our other posts on hygge you can click on the images below to check them out.

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Holiday, Seasonal

Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” I won’t torture you with the entire song but I will encourage you to SERIOUSLY consider celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas.  We started celebrating them a few years ago and it has stopped the “After Christmas Blues” from coming to town.  Each night we add a candle to our window sill until there are 12 candles lit for Twelfth Night.  It is beautiful.

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One of our favorite parts of the 12 Day Celebration is listening to a new Tullyport Story each day.  Sparkle Stories puts out this LOVELY audio series for the 12 days of Christmas.  Throughout the series Martin and Sylvia (siblings) “explore what it means to celebrate the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ inspired by twelve delightful stories from 18th century Maine.” (Sparkle Stories Website).  You can CLICK HERE to learn more.  If you are short on time each day, they also have a series with the just the 18th Century Stories from Tullyport Maine (a fictional coastal town).  These stories are truly magical, CLICK HERE for that series.

We have been a Sparkle family since they began and this is our FAVORITE series.  You can get a free 10 day trial which would get you through most of the 12 days of Christmas and you’d be able to see all that Sparkle Stories has to offer.  This is not an advertisement, I am just a true fan.

What else do we love to do during the 12 days of Christmas??  Here is a little glimpse into all we have planned this year.

Day 1–Christmas Day-This will be a quiet day for us this year.  We plan to stay in our jammies all day, hang by the tree and enjoy a wonderful dinner made by dad.

Day 2–Boxing Day (Kwanzaa Day 1)–We will be having a family Christmas party this day.

Day 3–Hibernation Day–This is the day we do NOTHING.  We play games, read books and just chill.  I love to hibernate and this is one of my favorite days of the week.

Day 4–The Forgotten Gift–Every year one of the gifts gets “forgotten” under the tree.  The kids open it on this day.  It is usually a book to share or a board game to play.  They love having this fun surprise.

Day 5–Family Goal Setting(Click HERE to learn more)

Day 6–Homemade Christmas (Click HERE to learn more)

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Day 7–New Years Eve-This year we have plans for a family game night out with friends.  New Years Eve is usually very low key for us and we like to celebrate at home.  We usually make a nice dinner and do an 8 o’midnight celebration with the kids with a live ball drop from our upstairs.  Having 8 o’midnight means we are always in bed by 10, which I LOVE.  We will see how leaving the house works for us this year 😉

Day 8–New Year’s Day–Every year we have a BIG New Years Day fancy breakfast.  After the meal, we complete our New Years Day Interviews.  You can read all about the Interviews and get your own copy by clicking HERE.  We’ve been doing these interviews for years and it is always fun to go back and see how we have grown and changed.

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Day 9–Plan out Service Projects for the Year--This year during the 12 days I want to have a family meeting where we map out the organizations that we would like to volunteer with this year.  2018 was a big year of service for us but we were flying by the seat of our pants and it felt like we were saying “YES” to everything.  This year I want to be more intentional about our volunteer hours and the money we donate.

Day 10–Family Game Night–On the 10th night we are hoping to break out the new games the kids got for Christmas and a few old favorites and have a big family game night.

Day 11–Family Movie Night–We are hoping to pop the popcorn and find one last holiday movie to watch.  There are a bunch we have not watched yet this year, so I am sure there will be lots to choose from.

Day 12–Family Twelfth Night Celebration--This year Twelfth Night falls on a weekend night and so we can do more than our traditional candlelit dinner.  We are hoping to do a bonfire with s’mores, write some wishes on pieces of paper and send them into the new year by burning them in the fire.  We will also bake a Kings Cake and the person who finds the bean will be the wish keeper for the celebration.  They will hold everyones wishes for the new year in their heart.

Epiphany or Three Kings Day–3 Little presents arrive on this day.  One for each child and one to share.  They are not big presents, just a small item of fun to open and my kids are sooooo excited for this day EVERY Year.  This is also the day we pack away our Christmas decorations and give thanks for all of the fun and magic we had throughout the season.

I loved this graphic from the Art of Simple.  You may incorporate some of these things into your 12 days.  They have a great post about the tradition and history of the 12 days that you can find HERE.

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Holiday, Seasonal, Service Projects for Families

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is the 7 day festival that begins on December 26th and goes until New Years Day. Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga and is a beautiful celebration of faith, community and creativity. This festival originates from African harvest festivals and was created so that African Americans and Pan Americans could celebrate their heritage and come together in unity.

Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on a different principle and each night a new candle on the kinara is lit. Kinara’s can be expensive so if you wanted to celebrate Kwanzaa with your family, you could always make a paper kinara and add a paper flame to the appropriate candle each night.  Some examples of paper kinara’s are HERE and HERE.

The 7 principles or pillars of Kwanzaa are things that EVERYONE can strive for all year long.  Below I have included the 7 principles, some ideas for activities that you and your family can do for each and some of our favorite Kwanzaa books.

  1. Umoja or Unity–This pillar is there to remind people of the importance of unity in their families, their communities and their race.  The center black candle is lit on this night. To celebrate Umoja, it might be a great time to have a family game night, a special family dinner or go on a Gratitude Walk as a family.  Click HERE to learn more.1
  2. Kujichagulia or Self-DeterminationKujichagulia is all about defining who you are and what you stand for.  The far left red candle is lit on this night.  Kujichagulia would be a great day to set some goals with your children.  Maybe you could do a New Year Interview or create a vision board together of their hopes and dreams.  This could be done with old magazine photos, drawings and you could even make a big family vision board.1
  3. Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility-Ujima is about working as a community to solve problems. The far right green candle is lit on this night.  Ujima would be a great day to volunteer your time.  Perhaps you could donate food to the local food bank, visit a nursing home, bring animal supplies to a shelter or clean up a local park.4
  4. Ujamaa or Coopertive EconomicsUjamaa is all about supporting local businesses to help them to thrive and grow in your community.  The second red candle is lit on this night.  Small businesses are vital to our local economies and Ujamaa is a great day to show them your appreciation.  Perhaps today you make cards for the local businesses in your community and deliver them with a “Thank You” for all they do.3
  5. Nia or Purpose-Nia is all about building community and remembering our traditions. The second green candle is lit on this night. To celebrate Nia you could visit or call the elders in your family and ask them to share stories of the past (I know they’d love to hear from you).  Make sure to record these precious conversations so that you can play them back again and again. It might be fun to look through old photo albums to see how traditions have been passed down in your family from generation to generation.6
  6. Kuumba or Creativity-Kuumba encourages us to do as much as we can to leave our world and surroundings better off than when we came. The last red candle is lit on this night. Kuumba would be a great day to clean up your street, your local park or help a neighbor with an outdoor chore.  If your world is covered in snow, perhaps you make hot cocoa for the town plow drivers or give them gift cards to a local coffee shop.  You could make some artwork for the local nursing home to brighten up the residents rooms and leave the world a little brighter. The sixth night of Kwanzaa is also time for the Karamu or the big feast of Kwanzaa.  4
  7. Imani or FaithImani is there to remind us to believe in the people around us (parents, teachers and leaders) and to remember the struggle of the African Americans in this nation.  The last green candle is lit this night.  You can celebrate Imani by thanking all those people in your life who help you out.  Maybe you could write thank you notes for the gifts you received during the holidays or call someone special to let them know how much they mean to you.5

A Great Overview of Kwanzaa for Young Children

Favorite Books for Kwanzaa

517EVTWGW5L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This book is no longer in print but you may be able to get it at your local library. This is a sweet story of kindness is all about Imani learning about Kwanzaa and her family traditions from her grandmother.  In this story it is the sixth night of Kwanzaa and time for the Karamu (the big feast of Kwanzaa) on New Year’s Eve.  It is Imani’s turn to light the Kinara on this special night and she is nervous.  What will the gift for Imani be?

 

 

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This is a nice alphabet book that helps to understand all of the Swahili words and customs associated with Kwanzaa.  This is a great book for your family if you have never celebrated Kwanzaa before and would like to learn more about this festival of light and family. From the publisher: “A unique alphabet book for children and a wonderful introduction to Kwanzaa, the holiday that celebrates African American heritage.
 For example:A is for Africa — Africa is the second largest continent. It has many countries. African Americans’ ancestors came from Africa. Kwanzaa is a holiday that celebrates the rich heritage of Africa.”

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From the publisher: “Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.”

 

From the Publisher: “Li’l Rabbit is not having a very good Kwanzaa. Granna Rabbit is sick, and so his family won’t celebrate his favorite part of Kwanzaa this year: a big feast called Karamu. Li’l Rabbit knows what to do! He’ll find Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu so she can celebrate anyway. Inspired by Brer Rabbit, a trickster character from the African-American folklore tradition, the story of Li’l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa—coming together to help others.”

Holiday, Quick Service Projects, Seasonal, Service Projects for Families

Christmas Jars

I stumbled upon the Christmas Jars book last year when I was searching for a holiday book to read.  Little did I know that this small book would lead to a new and meaningful Holiday Tradition.

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The Christmas Jars is a fictional book by Jason F. Wright and it has inspired a world-wide movement of hope, kindness and giving.  In the story, one family works all year to fill a jar with loose change.  On Christmas Eve, they go and leave the jar anonymously on the doorstep of someone who could use a little help and Christmas cheer.

Last year we left our first Christmas Jar on the doorstep of a family who had come across some hard times.  My husband, son and niece snuck up to the house, left the jar and ran so that they would not be discovered.  This jar inspired my niece to start two jars of her own for this year and ours is almost ready to bless another family a few days before Christmas.

This simple act of kindness can bring so much help and hope to a person in need.  The money in the jar may help to pay some bills, buy food or a few Christmas presents.  The most important thing that the jar will do is to let them know that they are special and loved.

Will you start your own Christmas Jar this year?