A Few of Our Favorite Books and Read Alouds (Gift Ideas for Christmas and a Giveaway too!)

One of my favorite gifts to give are books. Books invite us to experience new things, help us encounter new places and worlds, and introduce us to interesting people and intriguing characters. Books can change our opinions, our outlook, and our world.

There are so many wonderful books to give, it can be overwhelming scrolling through page after page of titles trying to decide which book would make a good choice. To help, I’ve complied a list of our favorite read alouds and picture books. Depending on the age of the child, many of these titles are great chapter books for independent reading. 

Click on the picture to find out more about each book. I participate in the Amazon Services Associates Program and make a very small commission for purchases made through the following links. If you would like more specific recommendations, I would love to help. Comment below or shoot me a message through my Facebook page at EMBRACE ENTHUSIASM.

As you think about gifts for others, I have a gift for you. I am giving away a few of my favorite things. A Starbucks gift card, coffee mug, Bible, Nature book, and a CD from my favorite band.  See the bottom of this post for more information and how to enter.  

FOR AN ANIMAL LOVER OR  NATURE ENTHUSIAST   

GREAT and MEMORABLE ADVENTURES

INTERESTING PEOPLE and PLACES

LOVED CLASSICS

BIBLE and BIBLE STORIES

“A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS” Giveaway 

-1 Starbucks Gift Card

-“Hearth & Hand with Magnolia” Gather Mug

-1 Holy Bible

-1 Nature Connection Book

-MINAMIZE CD

CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY ! 

I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I make a small commission for purchases made through these links. 

For more book ideas and books grouped by theme, check out our BOOKSHELF


The Stranger Maiden- An Interview with B. Diaz, Author and Storyteller

brianna book

“It’s taking your time and really unfolding the beauty of the words as opposed to rushing through the action of the tale. Pausing for a moment and really creating a world for people to exist in for a little while.” – B. Diaz

It’s waiting for the right moment to tell a story and begin adventures in unexpected times and places. It’s taking the time to dream and imagine and embrace the characters who cross our paths. It’s the self-discovery through the pursuit of hopes and dreams and building character with courageous determination and quiet humility. These are the things reflected in author, B. Diaz (B, short for Brianna) and these are the things her storytelling inspires and points people towards.

Diaz’s first book, The Stranger Maiden, has been collecting rave reviews from readers of all ages. More than an exciting adventure story, the published book is one of Brianna’s dreams come true. A dream that began when she was thirteen years old, while wandering through the woods with her friend (and book’s illustrator, Kasey Walko,) the book’s heroine, Darcie, interrupted Brianna’s thoughts and asked her to tell her story.

For years, Darcie lived in Brianna’s imagination. In high school she would write pieces and short stories, “but I would always come back to this one. I didn’t feel like I was equipped to tell this story until I was eighteen—you know, going off to college and all. So I wrote it. And then I ignored it. I ignored it for two and half years until I graduated college in 2014. In early 2015, I decided to revise and publish the story. I was a more mature writer. I had read more books and developed my voice a little more. I was able to add meat and depth to the story whereas before it was just a framework.”

B. has been a reader and writer for as long as she can remember. She can describe in detail her first journal, right down to the material and color of the binding stitches. Her senior year of high school, she won an award for the most books checked out of the school library for that year. And she proudly states she owns more books than any other possession. When she speaks about her favorite books and authors, enthusiasm fills her sparkling green eyes and you can feel the depth of admiration she holds for them and the influence they have had on her life through their words and works. A book to Brianna is more than a good story.  It’s an escape and “a world for people to exist in for a little while.”

Rooted in a strong, faith-filled family and being raised by independent, “no-nonsense, no-drama parents” has also influenced her writing. She has a strong sense of self, independence, and individuality. These attributes and these qualities are woven into the characters she creates. Introducing a strong female character was of particular importance to her, she wanted her main character, Darcie, to be someone her readers could look up to and identify with.

“(Darcie) does not apologize for who she is. She doesn’t mess around. That was important for me in stories with young women. A male character would get the job done so why wouldn’t a woman also make the same choice? Portraying female characters as brave—there is a way to be strong without being macho. And I think that gets muddled a lot—the relationship between strength and femininity.” 

As a woman and a mom of two girls, I love those words. It is so important that my girls experience positive female role models in their real life and in literary settings. I want them to meet women who are fearless and know they too can go after their hopes and dreams with confidence. God has created women to be both strong and brave, as well as feminine and graceful.  I am blessed that my girls have access to Brianna and now her book. I also want to note that Brianna wrote this book free of profanity and questionable content. Young girls can enjoy it without coming across comprising situations and questionable material.

I would be remiss not to mention one more important quality I see in Brianna – her humility. Her humility is both refreshing and beautiful especially in a platform-seeking world. Her talent is years above her age, yet she doesn’t desire a spotlight or fame. “I never told anyone that I wanted to be a writer. I never set out to be an author. That’s just not me. It was always a very quiet dream. I would spend hours writing, every spare moment. And nobody but those closest to me knew that. I believe the best tended dreams are ones that start quietly. You’re guarding it. It’s your secret place. And you go there and tend and maybe, eventually, if you tend it well and are confident in its beauty, you might want to share it with other people—because maybe what you created will help someone or make them smile.”

What does B. want for the readers of The Stranger Maiden? “I want them to smile. Enjoy the story and allow themselves to be taken outside of their everyday.” For those hoping and asking for a sequel, B. Diaz says that’s something she cannot promise. “This story has been told. I have done the story and the characters in it justice. And now I have to wait until another one needs to be told and if it happens to be in Terrlyn—and it just might be because recently I woke up and I said ‘I see it’—then I’ll go on that next adventure.”

We will just have to wait patiently until the right moment, when the next story needs to be told and the next adventure begins. One thing I think we can count on, B.’s next book will be just as adventurous, just as full of beautiful settings and imagery, and include just as courageous and complex characters as the first story. In the meantime, we can focus on our own hopes and dreams and work to bring imagination back into our lives by taking hold of a little bit of wonder. As Brianna says, “When we encourage imagination it benefits everyone.”  

The Stranger Maiden is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book. Purchase online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Connect with author B. Diaz at  https://authorbdiaz.blog/ and on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/authorbdiaz/

 Just for Fun…A Little Game of THIS or THAT with B.Diaz…

UNDERWATER or UP IN THE AIR- air

LOST or FOUND- lost

PRINCE or FROG –“Prince. I hate frogs.”

CHOCOLATE or VANILLA-  “Chocolate, obviously.”

SNEAKERS or FLIP FLOPS- “barefoot”

PLAID or POLKA DOT- “Polka….PLAID. I love polka dots but wear plaid more often. “

AQUARIUM or ZOO- “Bookstore? Museum?”

FERRIS WHEEL or ROLLER COASTER- roller coaster

GOLD or SILVER- gold

SWEET or SOUR- sweet

INVISIBLE or INVINCIBLE- invisible

BOOK GIVEAWAY on the Embrace Enthusiasm Facebook Page! I am giving away two books to one lucky winner! To win a copy of The Stranger Maiden AND a copy of Ella Enchanted, Brianna’s favorite childhood book, please like this post and comment with your favorite childhood book or most recent read. You can also enter in the comments on this interview page below. Happy Friday! ❤

(This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. )

bookgiveaway2

 


Pumpkin Fun

Pumpkin Fun

Pumpkins oval, pumpkins round;

Pumpkins tumbling on the ground;

Pumpkins giant, pumpkins small,

Pumpkins lined against the wall;

–Virginia Kroll

Pumpkin books, pumpkin recipes, and pumpkin activities. The last two weeks of school have been centered around learning about one of fall’s favorite, brightly colored fruits as we said goodbye to October and hello to November!

I kicked off our Pumpkin Unit with an introduction and challenge to memorize Virginia Kroll’s “Pumpkins” poem. The poem is full of descriptive words and rhyming couplets.

On the first day, we read the complete poem (see link below.) We created hand and body motions to accompany the rise and fall pattern of the words as we read them. I found some great (and free) reading comprehension activities that went along with the poem and picked the activities that I thought would best be appropriate for the girls to complete.

Each day we worked on the poem, adding two lines at a time. We recited it at lunch, we recited it at dinner, we recited it over Skype, in the car, when we walked, at dance, just about everywhere we went. Even my two year old was reciting the opening line. By the end of the two weeks, the girls and I were able to recite the whole poem from memory.  It was an accomplishment for all of us.

PUMPKIN BOOKS:

When I was teaching in the public school system, I bought a lot of my own books. Consequently, I now have a great homeschool library.  Some fall and pumpkin books get pulled out every October. Here are a few favorites:

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares- A Fall Harvest of Shapes by Felcia Sanzari Chernesky

Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum

From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer

The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis

Too Many Pumpkins

Too Many Pumpkins is one of my favorite, favorite pumpkin books. It is about a white-haired-lady named Rebecca Estelle and her cat Esmeralda. Rebecca has an unexpected encounter with a splattered pumpkin that causes a bit of a situation. A shift in perspective allows her to notice the goodness of her position and she is able to bless those around her. (Sounds a little like A Fierce Flourishing)

With this story, we worked on characterization, cause and effect, and sequencing events. You can get the same materials I used online at The Mailbox Education Center.

PumpkinsToo Many PumpkinsToo Many Pumpkins

FIELD TRIPS:

Our first pumpkin unit field trip included a trip to Rhode Island to visit my family and the Roger Williams Zoo’s Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular. The Spectacular was founded in 1988 by a former mail carrier who has put a team of professional pumpkin carvers together, called Passion for Pumpkins. The carvers spend 6 – 8 weeks creating 5,000 pumpkins to be displayed on the Zoo’s Wetlands Trail amid special lighting and themed music. 1 Some of the pumpkins were amazing (see below, Mother Goose and the Sound of Music.) The creativity is worth seeing. A word of warning though, the path is very dark, there are a lot of people, and some of  the displays are scary. If you have children (or adults, for that matter) who are sensitive to noise and crowds, this might not be the best place to take them. We quickly pushed through the crowds to avoid seeing the more spookier displays.

Mother Goose Pumpkin Sound of Music

The second trip we took was to the pumpkin “patch” (aka Garden Center.) We walked around trying to find all the pumpkins described in the pumpkin poem. After much deliberation, the girls each found the perfect pumpkin to take home to carve.

At home Dad took over as the art teacher. He helped the girls scoop out the seeds, pick a design, and show them how to carve their pumpkins. The pumpkin carving took a long time to complete but the final products- Mater, Puppy, Panda- came out fantastic.

Pumpkin carving Pumpkin Carving Pumpkins

PUMPKIN MATH:

After the carving, it was time to wash, count, and roast the pumpkin seeds. I read How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara. It is a great book to explore estimation and skip counting.

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin

The girls estimated how many seeds they had and decided the best way to count their seeds were by skip counting by 10s. They got busy creating groups of 10s. I cut out circles, pumpkins, and square mats to help keep the groups separated. When all the counting was said and done, our pumpkins contained- 400, 562, and 466 seeds.

pumkin seed counting

Counting Pumpkin SeedsCounting Pumpkin Seeds

PUMPKIN RECIPE:

We like simple recipes. One day, we made Pumpkin Patch Dirt Cups. They were super easy to make and delicious. My kids got a kick out of how real the “dirt” looked. This idea and recipe came from Paintbrushes and Popsicles.

Pumpkin Dirt Cup Pumpkin Dirt Cup Pumpkin Dirt Cup

THE GREATEST PUMPKIN LESSON OF ALL

Finally, the best pumpkin lesson came from my husband’s sermon two weeks ago. During the service, he carved a pumpkin as he describe how we are the pumpkin and God is a brain surgeon, a heart surgeon, and an internist.  He explained that God needs to do brain surgery on us, scoop out the “junk.”  Our junk is then placed on the cross and we are forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice. Next, God performs heart surgery on us. He takes out our dark, broken heart and replaces it with one of love and light. He gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can shine our light bright in a hurting world. The kids were kept in the service and I think that everyone was engaged. It was a great visual with a great message!

 Pumpkin Guts Pumpkin