This year, during Advent, I am attempting to expose Little Miss Muffet (age 2) to both secular and religious Christmas music and stories. We have a Jesse tree - a branch I found outside, decorated with these printable ornaments - and we are reading picture books based on the Bible stories that inspire each ornament, as well as other books about Christmas trees, waiting for Santa, etc. Below is this week's reading list, with summaries of each book and my comments about how we liked them.
Day 1 (11/29/15)
by Harriet Ziefert and Anita Lobel
In this book, set in the aftermath of World War II, Anna's mother has no money to afford a new coat, so she barters various valuables to obtain the wool, and to have it spun into yarn, woven into cloth, and sewed into a coat. The story culminates at Christmas, with a thank you party for all those made it possible for Anna to have her warm, red coat.
This was a childhood favorite of mine - I was around six years old when I first read it, and I can remember taking it down from the bookshelf to read over and over again. Miss Muffet is a bit young for it, and she didn't really sit and listen to it the first time through. She was mostly interested in Anna (she kept repeating her name) and the sheep. I left the book out for her to enjoy during the rest of the week, however, and we did read it an additional time, and she also spent a fair amount of time looking at the pictures on her own. I hope she will enjoy it as much as I do as she gets older!
Day 2 (11/30/15)
The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmasby Adelaide Holl and Florence Sarah Winship
I was a huge fan of the original Poky Little Puppy story when I was a toddler, and my husband had a copy of this book from his own childhood, so I decided to put it on our list. It's by a different author than the original, so the writing is somewhat different (and possibly better...) but the overall story is still a didactic message about listening to one's mother. But if you've ever had a two-year-old, you know this lesson cannot be repeated too many times, so we have read it at least twice, with heavy emphasis on the rules the puppies are given for good behavior.
Day 3 (12/1/15)
by Pauline Baynes
We began our Jesse tree on the first, rather than on the first Sunday of Advent, when our reading project started, because our ornament set only includes 24 days. The first ornament is of The Creation, so we read this picture book version of the King James translation of the story. Much of the language went over Miss Muffet's head, but she was still happy to listen, and she really got interested in the page showing all the animals God made. We are working on teaching her that God made us and all things, so of course this book also prompted her to start making a list. "God made Mama. God made Dada. God made monkeys." Overall, though, I think this book will have more meaning to her in a couple of years.
Day 4 (12/2/15)
by Fiona French
The purpose of doing this project this year is really just to begin the habit, not necessarily to teach Miss Muffet every detail of every Bible story. I included this book, which matches the Jesse Tree ornament for both the second and third days of Advent: Adam and Eve, and The Fall, respectively, knowing that she would understand very little of it. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when after reading the book only once, she was able to tell me, "Adam and Eve not listen to God." The art in this book is really abstract, and there are naked breasts near the end, so I'm not sure I will want to use it at certain developmental stages, but it worked fine for this year. In the future, though, I may just read the story from a children's Bible.
Day 5 (12/3/15)
Since Adam and Eve are featured two days in a row on the Jesse Tree, I opted not to read a religious book again on this day. Instead, we read Christmas Tree Memories by Aliki, which was a recent library book sale find. In the story, a family - mom, dad, boy, and girl - sit by their tree on Christmas Eve and reminisce about the memories their Christmas ornaments bring to mind. Miss Muffet only vaguely remembers last year's Christmas tree, so I wasn't sure she would really get this book, but she was completely silent and still the entire time I was reading, and when the story was over, she immediately wanted a turn to "read" it herself. I think we will enjoy this book more as years go by and we build up our own collection of ornaments with stories behind them.
Day 6 (12/4/15)
by Linda Falken
This book is illustrated using famous paintings depicting various scenes from the Noah's Ark story. The text is taken directly from the Bible. Though I don't think Miss Muffet understood a word of what I read, she was really drawn to the book and asked to hear it a second time. There didn't seem to be anything in particular that she liked; she was just very insistent that we repeat the story before she would take her nap. Personally, I didn't really like the disjointedness of seeing each moment of the story illustrated in a different style - but if I were teaching this story to an older child, I would appreciate having the paintings available to help me, so I'm glad to own this book for future years.
We Were There
by Eve Bunting and Wendell Minor
This book really belongs later in the line-up, as it is a Nativity story, but I found it randomly at the library and didn't want to pass it up, so we snuck it in here since I will have to return it in a week or so. The story follows various animals and insects - a snake, a bat, a cockroach - as they follow the star to the stable where Jesus is born. Jesus is never named, but visual cues make it very clear - even to a two-year-old - that the creatures have come to witness the birth of Jesus. I found this book especially poignant because of its focus on the "undesirable" or "less significant" creatures that will be forgotten by history, while the horses, lambs, and donkeys are praised for their accommodation of the infant Jesus. There is a definite parallel between this story and Jesus's teaching that "the last shall be first" that I found very satisfying. I might like to own this book in the future. Miss Muffet loved it, too, mainly for the paintings. (We are big Wendell Minor fans.)
There are more Advent reads to come! Check back next Saturday for Week Two's Round-Up!