Tag Archives: Christmas

Want to be snowy with your child? ‘The Snowy Day’ will do it for you

Get Transported

If your small children are desperate for it to snow this Christmas, you could give them great joy by trying to get hold of a copy of ‘The Snowy Day’ by Ezra Jack Keats. It was published in 1962 and children from the age of four onwards will love it.

the-snowy-day

Jacob Ezra Katz was the son of poor Polish- Jewish immigrants who lived in Brooklyn, New York. Jacob suffered from anti-Semitic prejudices and so changed his name to Ezra Jack Keats. His past experiences are reflected in his work as he portrays a sympathy and understanding of what it was like to grow up in a similar community that he lived in.

When Keats wrote ‘The Snowy Day’, it was before multicultural characters and themes had come to children’s literature. In the story, Peter, a young African-American boy wakes up to discover that it has snowed while he has been in bed asleep. When he looks out, as far as he is concerned, the whole world has been covered with snow. He goes outside and enjoys the magical pleasures of a playing in a snow clad world. Watch the animated version of the book – it’s beautiful.

As you can see from the above animation, you get  transported into the world of  childhood as Peter lies down in the snow to make snow angels; experiments with footprints and knocks the clumps of snow off trees. All of these things are what many of us have experienced as children and are exactly what our little tots do when they discover a snowy world.

Keats is one of those super talented folks who not only writes the text but also illustrates the book too. This adds to the overall magic of it because he uses cut-outs, watercolours and collage in enchanting beautiful art. Even though the book was originally published in 1962, it can still be enjoyed today as it has an enduring timeless quality to it.

Even if our own Christmas is not as atmospheric as we would like it, we can always transport ourselves with a book. Happy reading.

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Season’s Greetings – Escape Reality with ‘The Box of Delights’

box-of-delights

If you have children, you can offer them a great time this Christmas by sharing the wonderful book ‘The Box of Delights’ with them. However, you do not need children in your life to enjoy this magical tale. As an adult, I find that it truly transports me. It was written by John Masefield and published in 1935. It is also available on dvd and is magical in that form too. In fact, it is one of those tales which becomes a Christmas tradition and can be brought out every year.

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The old man is abducted

The story is set around the cathedral town of Condicote and begins when the boy, Kay Harker is coming home for the holidays the week before Christmas. He is entrusted with a magical box by an old man who runs a Punch and Judy show. The old man is then abducted. Kay finds out that the box can make you either shrink or run swiftly. It also shows wonders and allows you to travel into the past.

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Kay, along with his pals, Maria Jones and her brother, Peter then set about rescuing the old man who is the magician Cole Hawlings. Cole has been kidnapped by scary wolf figures who are minions of the villain, Abner Brown. Brown becomes viler as the plot gathers pace. He eventually kidnaps the entire staff of the cathedral and demands the Box of Delights as ransom. Of course, Kay saves the day.

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Reading this book takes children on an enchanting adventure from the snowy encampment of Roman legions to the appearance of the medieval Arnold of Todi, the inventor of the box. There are humorous squabbles between pirate rats and house mice. The pure magic of the book is not simply the only wonderful aspect of it; there is something much deeper. The box symbolizes the imagination and the message is that we must protect our imaginations from the vile forces of commercialism, violence and stupidity.

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I think that sometimes we have to embrace the magic of an imaginary world in order to escape from the jingle jangle of commercial greed.  If you feel the need to escape from all that just read the book or watch the dvd and away you will go. A word of warning though – don’t forget to return to reality.

Seasons Greetings.  

 

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Kindle! Kindle! Little Star!

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a strange Christmas in many ways but also one where I have been shocked to find out that I have been totally wrong about a strongly held idea.  I’m open minded about most things, but my mind had been firmly closed about this issue for about sixteen years.  If I say that I received a Kindle for Christmas which I hadn’t asked for, things might become a bit clearer about where I am going with this.

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might be a good idea to explain where the distaste for the electronic reading device came from.  Sixteen years ago, I was on a writing course and attended a lecture about writing and the future.  A guest speaker gave the lecture and as the evening wore on he made me more and more depressed as his discourse consisted mainly of threatening my whole way of life as a reader.  As Roland Barthes had written in his famous essay that “The Author is Dead”, so this speaker seemed to be saying that the book was dead.  He gleefully wittered on about how we would not sit reading physical books anymore but would have these electronic reading devices which would send books down a type of telephone line.  I came away from that lecture feeling as depressed as if a lover had ended our affair and I hoped desperately that the chap giving the talk would physically get sent down someone’s telephone line.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why did the idea of sitting looking at an electronic device instead of holding a book alarm me so much?  Reading is one of my greatest pleasures and therefore the atmosphere when reading a book has always been important to how I feel about life.  For instance, I remember sitting by a coal fire at about thirteen years of age having just picked up my very first Agatha Christie murder mystery.  The room was silent apart from the very loud ticking of the clock and the odd hiss from the fire.  My grandmother had developed a need to hoard confectionery after the food rationing of the war and had a long sideboard in her bedroom full of packets of Tate and Lyle sugar and boxes of chocolates.  She’d given me a box of Milk Tray and the chocolates lay open on the arm of the chair as I devoured the details of the delicious murder by the safety of the fire.  As my hand wondered into the chocolate box to find my favourite strawberry flavoured one, my eyes left the book for a moment to glance towards the window.  The moment my eyes met the ones leering in at me, the book fell to the carpet and momentarily, I was in my book.  I stared at the nose with huge hairy nostrils pressed up against the glass and after my initial fright, I become furious and stamped to the front door to berate the middle aged man who was peering in at me.  It turned out to be someone with learning difficulties who had wondered off from the house he was visiting and decided to look at what I was doing.  However, that feeling when I was lost in a murder in a vicarage with a face peering through the window at me will stay with me forever when I read a cosy murder mystery.

(Sir Henry Irving was a real-life inspiration for the character of Dracula.)

So have my opinions changed since I have owned a Kindle?  I have to say that they have.  This Christmas, I have sat by the fire with Mildred, the cat stretched out on my knee, a box of chocolates on the arm of the chair and reading Agatha Raisin on my Kindle.  I have to admit, I was just as transported as if reading a physical book.  I’ve also been reading “Dracula” and when Jonathan Harker was being taken to the Count’s castle in the coach with the wolves circling it, I was there.  It’s a strange way to begin a new year, admitting that I have been wrong all these years but hey ho, it means that I can now carry a full library with me wherever I go!

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Dr. Frankenstein’s “12 Days Of Christmas” – Inspired by Mary Shelley and Shakespeare.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Warning!  Invite family and friends to stay for the twelve days of Christmas at your peril.  After the “Frankenstein’s  Revenge” play, Dr. Frankenstein promised to be much nicer and invited The Monster to stay with him over Christmas.   The video recording below is a shrunk version of events.   All insults hurled will be available for your use below the film clip.  So please join in and give this song an airing over Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the second day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the third day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea, 

On the fourth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me;

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the fifth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the sixth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the seventh day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the eighth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea

On the ninth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the tenth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Dung coloured turnip brain,

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

On the eleventh day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Thou shrivelled toe nail,

Dung coloured turnip brain,

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

 On the twelfth day of Christmas

Frankenstein said to me:

Gassy old merchant,

Thou shrivelled toe nail,

Dung coloured turnip brain,

Hog headed prump,

Pus filled big boils,

One mangy rat’s bum,

Thou leaking guts,

Septic earache,

Thou bent nosed fool,

Worm eating corpse,

Old skanky breath,

You’re a wart face on a mouldy flea,

All insults from this song are taken from Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow.

Many thanks go to William Shakespeare for inspiring me to write them.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christmas, Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Revenge, Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow

6 Great Activities To Introduce Kids to Charles Dicken’s “Christmas Carol.”

Create a Victorian Ghost Story Atmosphere.   On Christmas Eve, it is a family tradition in our house to sit around the fire and by candlelight we tell ghost stories just like the Victorians did.  This is a great way to introduce children to “Christmas Carol”.  For older children read the original Charles Dicken’s “Christmas Carol” and do it in stages on the run up to Christmas.  It will be something which they will look forward to particularly if you create the right atmosphere with candles, hot chocolate and marshmallows and a sense of fun thrown in.  For younger children, there are some excellent versions of the story which  have illustrations in and will introduce them to the basic concept of the story.  The main thing is to create the atmosphere and have fun.

Scrooge, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Car...

Scrooge, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Introduce Scrooge  I was first introduced to “Christmas Carol” by watching the old 1951 version starring Alistair Simm as Scrooge.  It was Christmas Eve and the snow floated down outside as I watched it, it was an afternoon which was to mould my attitude to Christmas.  If the children are older you could watch it all the way through, however, for younger ones you only need to watch the first six minutes for them to get a fascinating insight of the character of Scrooge.  Tell the kids you’re going to show them a film clip of a man called Scrooge and they have to decide if he is a Christmas baddie or not.  As you watch the first six minutes ask them why he is not nice and get them to boo him.  It’s also great fun to shout “Baddie! Baddie! Baddie!”  You can even get them to vote as to whether he is the worst Christmas baddie ever or can they think of worse ones and why are they worse than Scrooge.  The important thing is to get a conversation going as to why we don’t like Scrooge and to have fun, fun fun.  For older kids, ask if they think Scrooge can ever become nice and then question why they think that he can or can’t and then tell them that they need to watch the whole film to find out whether he changes or not.   You can watch it here.

Make your own Christmas ghosts on film.   Watch Horace Gawp’s Christmas Carol below, check out our ghosts and then make your own.  It is easy and great fun to do.  All you have to do is get the kids to put some of their dressing up clothes on or use different clothes than they normally wear.  If there are any hats or wigs in the house these can be used.  Putting clothes on which are far too big or small will give a comic effect.  Once the clothes are on, get the children to pretend that they are a long lost ancestor – they don’t have to exist – you can pull them out of the air for instance, you can have great uncle Theophilus Windbag.  Tell the children to pretend that they have come to visit each other or you with a message for the future.  When they have worked out their message, get them to act it out and film them.  It doesn’t need to be very long.  Upload your chip to your computer and if you have ‘windows live movie maker’ – you can use that.  If you haven’t got ‘windows live movie maker’ on your computer upload your film to Youtube. (For You tube, upload your film and click on “enhancements “- you will see a menu of different colours, it is probably best to choose the lightest but play around with different ones to get the effect which you wish.  Don’t forget to save your final choice.)   For ‘ windows live  maker’, click on that.  In the top menu click on “add videos and photos”  and it will ask you to choose which photo or video you wish to use.  Click on the film clip you have just made.  When your film pops up, look at the top menu and click on “visual effects”.  You will see one which is all white, this is the one which we used for our ghosts, however – play around to see which suits you best.  Once you have done this, return to the “home” menu at the top and save your film.  You will be asked to give it a title and that’s it you have created your own speaking ghost.

Create your own Christmas Ghost Story.   Once you have gotten in the mood for Christmas ghost stories, it is a good idea for the kids to create their own.  I use the term “create” as opposed to “writing” because I know that as some stage most adults are able to read and write, however, to me, it is more important to concentrate on encouraging children to think creatively.  Once they are bursting with ideas then they can be recorded but the pressure to put pen to paper before the ideas have been thought often creates a creative blockage.  So if you start off with a framework of a person who treats others badly at Christmas time but gets visited by three ghosts who want to show him something from his/her past, present and future, then you have got a basic plot to work from.  Character wise – start off with Scrooge (or whatever you wish to call your main character) and perhaps discuss why this person treats others so badly and hates Christmas time.  You will be surprised how much this gives you to put into your story.  The main point here is to get the kids thinking and having fun.  Let them create three ghosts, get them talking about where they want their story to be and in what time period.  It is amazing how creative kids become once the pressure to sit down and write is off them – so get them shouting out their ideas, looking on the internet for what their ghosts can look like and generally having fun.  It doesn’t matter if the story never gets finished because the end product is not what this exercise is about.  The object of the exercise is to get the kids to know a little about Christmas Carol and Charles Dickens and most of all it is to give them the confidence to be creative.  Encouraging them to be creative is one of the most important gifts you will ever give them as creative thinking is quite simply problem solving – this is needed every day of our lives and the  more children do it, the better they become at it – need I say more?

Marley's ghost, from Charles Dickens: A Christ...

Marley’s ghost, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Playing at Christmas Carol.    When I was a child we would watch a film or television programme and then we would go outside and play “Batman” or “Robin Hood”.  When kids play like this, they are effectively creating drama.  So if you’ve read them the story or watched the film, it’s a great idea to let them play some scenes from “Christmas Carol”  Which child wouldn’t like to be the horrible Scrooge?  They can get out all their inner niggles without getting in trouble.  How exciting to play Marley’s Ghost with the chains and frightening the life out of that horrible Scrooge.  Let them improvise with their own words and their own rendition of the story, join in with them until they get the hang of it and let them get lost in the old fashioned world of playing.  Who knows, they might come up with their own shortened version which they want to put on for the family for Christmas.  Children never fail to surprise me with the depths of creativity once a seed has been planted.

Ignorance and Want, woodcut — from A Christmas...

Ignorance and Want, woodcut — from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Visit a stately home in the run up to Christmas.    Hardly anybody can build up a Dickensian atmosphere like these folks.  There the children will see the costumes and decorations in reality.  Many places have got special events on this year which will especially demonstrate how Christmas was in Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol.  The National TrustEnglish Heritage and Historic Houses Association are good places to begin looking.

We hope these “Christmas Carol” activities have been of use to you but most of all we wish you a very Merry Christmas.  Have fun.

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Filed under Christmas, Education

“Christmas Carol”- inspired by Charles Dickens.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Every year on Christmas Eve, we gather around the fire and by candlelight we read and tell each other ghost stories.  This of course is inspired by Charles Dickens, the Victorian novelist, who virtually designed our model of Christmas with his ghost story, “Christmas Carol.”  One of the aims of Loony Literature is to encourage folks and children to read more classic literature and also to use it as a springboard for their own creativity.  Therefore, for this Christmas, we have created our own comic version of “Christmas Carol” to both entertain and inspire you. 

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Christmas Carols For Beginners.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Christmas Carol Singing.

Horace Gawp prepares for his Yuletide vocals with the Mugwashs.

Every year, at this time, Mistress Loony entertains the Deserted Village with her festive events.  She is determined to outdo Mistress Mount-Crankshaft who ruined Mistress Loony’s carol concert in the village hall last year by bringing a crowd of village rowdies from the church choir.  It really did not need to end the way in which it did but as the choir pelted Mistress Loony with cabbage skin, she became heated and suggested that the vicar resembled a vampire.  Needless to say, the Loony Literature carol concert will be from home this year with only certain members of the public invited, namely Horace Gawp and the Mugwashs.  So sit back and enjoy the Loony version of a carol concert and as for you, Mistress Mount-Crankshaft – get a load of my festive hat and weep!!!!!

So remember if your festive endeavours fall into the mire,  you can always emerge with a sweet aroma if you get a festive hat.

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Filed under About Loony Literature, Christmas