Hope, Dreams, Children and Christmas
Transforming the Spirit of Christmas
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol transformed Christmas in Victorian England. The industrial age had resulted in cities filled with the poor people, uncared for orphans, and multitudes of street children. Dickens' notion that the true Christmas spirit embodied caring and generosity -- especially for those less fortunate -- influenced the thinking of those more fortunate and helped to transform the holiday. The book went on to influence much of Europe and the USA.
A Christmas Carol (1843) was written with the passion born of Charles Dickens' painful childhood as an impoverished 12 year old boy from a broken family.With his father in debtor's prison, Dickens was forced to leave school and work ten-hour days for six shillings a week under harsh conditions in England's new industrial economy.
Ultimately, the book influenced the thinking of generations of readers, and transformed the spirit of the Christmas holiday. The transformation was influenced by Dickens' passionate belief that the true Christmas spirit embodied caring and generosity -- especially for those less fortunate.
The power of the marketplace has influenced the celebration in myriad ways and much has changed with the passage of time -- but the Spirit Of Christmas lives on.
Here is a link to the Project Gutenberg's free ebook of the original Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
The illustration of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit is by Harold Copping.
Dickens and the Weight of Truth
"The language around Christmas is usually pretty treacly, as befits the season. But future writers should remember that one of the amazing things about the holiday’s ur-text, Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella, “A Christmas Carol,” is that it’s pretty grim, that is to say realistic, when it comes to depicting Scrooge’s past and Tiny Tim’s present. Without Dickens’s eye and ear for extreme emotional and fiscal predicaments, the story’s more fantastic moments wouldn’t have the weight of truth."
Here is a link to more of Hilton Als New Yorker Christmas article about Dickens, Dylan Thomas, and Horton Foote.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” ...Ebenezer Scrooge
Here is a link to the reading of Dickens' Christmas Carol by Neil Gaiman at the NY Public Library
Dumbledore and Harry, in The Sorcerer’s Stone, in a room with the Mirror of Erised…
“Sir- Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?”
“Obviously, you’ve just done so,” Dumbledore smiled. “You may ask me one more thing however.”
“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
“I see myself holding a pair of thick wool socks.”
“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People insist on giving me books.”
“Children … are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth,” -- by E.B. White in his counsel on how to write for children.
Mr Dog's Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn is a wonderful Christmas book and a rescued treasure. Originally published in 1898, it was a favorite in the family of Betsy Cordes for three generations. Written by Albert Bigelow Paine, the book was read aloud, every Christmas eve, to young and old alike. Paine, in his day, was a highly respected author. His work included a three volume biography of Mark Twain.
"Well, the Hollow Tree people had never heard of Santa Claus. They knew about Christmas, of course, because everybody, even the cow and sheep, knows about that; but they had never heard of Santa Claus."
Under the guidance of Ms Cordes, and with the wonderful illustrations by Adam McCauley , Mr Dog's Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn has been given a new life. Driven by happy personal Christmas memories, the book was produced and published with great care. It has the makings of a holiday classic.
This book will become a favorite with children -- and with any family that reads it aloud on Christmas Eve.
Here's a link to learn more or to order this delightful Christmas book: Mr Dog's Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn.
Dickens' Influence Gathers Momentum
Manifestations of Dickens' influence ranged from the royalty family's much publicized celebration of Christmas to the birth of Christmas cards. These events both added momentum to the cultural change that took place, especially with the middle class and more prosperous families.. Queen Victoria, herself, is considered a major influence in this transformation of the Christmas spirit.
"Many attribute the change to Queen Victoria, and it was her marriage to the German-born Prince Albert that introduced some of the most prominent aspects of Christmas. In 1848 the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition that was reminiscent of Prince Albert's childhood in Germany. Soon every home in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorations and small gifts.
In 1843 Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design a card for Christmas. The illustration showed a group of people around a dinner table and a Christmas message. At one shilling each, these were pricey for ordinary Victorians and so were not immediately accessible. However the sentiment caught on and many children - Queen Victoria's included – were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards. In this age of industrialisation, colour printing technology quickly became more advanced, causing the price of card production to drop significantly. Together with the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry took off. By the 1880s the sending of cards had become hugely popular, creating a lucrative industry that produced 11.5 million cards in 1880 alone. The commercialisation of Christmas was well on its way."
Here is a link to read more: Victorian Christmas
Save the Children
More than 28 million of the world's refugees are children driven from their homes by war and violence, a number so large that it staggers the mind. Save The Children is a major resource in bringing assistance and hope to children in need in 120 countries. Here are excerpts from their website: Save The Children .
"More than half of the world's refugees are under the age of 18. They have had their childhoods interrupted, and half of all refugee children are out of school. Save the Children calls on the international community to ensure that every refugee child has access to education and is learning. No refugee child should be without education for more than one month after being displaced."
"Education sets children up for success, provides hope and opportunities for the future, as well as a sense of stability and normalcy for those who are overcoming traumatic events. It also prepares children with the skills needed to rebuild and help develop their home countries if and when they return."
Save The Children has produced an exceptional video (under 2 minutes duration), guaranteed to move you. The video is entitled, Still the Most Shocking Second a Day. Here is a link to this important video of a young refugee girl: Save The Children Video.
The photo of the Yazidi refugees is from Reuters/Time Magazine
Little Red Riding Hood Has a Gun
Where does violence begin? In the rewritten NRA versions of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, the children have guns. Here is an excerpt from the Guardian:
"Little Red Riding Hood Has A Gun. Red is off to visit grandma, as usual, but when she’s approached by the predatory wolf things unfold rather differently: 'As she grew increasingly uncomfortable, she shifted her rifle so that it was in her hands and at the ready. The wolf became frightened and ran away.'
In the NRA re-telling, little old grandma doesn’t fall foul of the salacious beast either. The story doesn’t get as far as the wolf gobbling her up and the usual 'what big eyes you’ve got' exchange, it stalls when grandma whips out her scattergun. What a big gun you’ve got, indeed."
Kwanzaa,,,Celebrating African Culture
"Unlike Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa was not born out of religion. Instead it is a largely social and communal holiday that grew out of the civil rights movement. Established by professor and activist Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa was meant as a way to bring the African-American community together once a year for a celebration of its culture and heritage. Over the years, the exclusive nature of Kwanzaa was stripped away by Karenga, and it is now looked at as a chance for people of all races and backgrounds to celebrate African culture the same way we celebrate Irish and Mexican culture on St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo."
Here is a link to read more about Kwanzaa
Paws for Purple Hearts uses therapy dogs trained by veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) to help their comrades with combat-related injuries... "PPH is built upon the trusted and time-honored tradition of Veterans helping Veterans... PPH initiated and trained staff to operate canine therapeutic programs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Maryland), the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (Maryland), and Fort Belvoir (Virginia). These programs have changed the lives of many Veterans struggling with PTSD. The PPH program has been requested at several other sites."
An excellent documentary (4 minutes15 seconds) takes the viewer into the world of veterans with PTSD and other disabilities whose lives have been helped in tangible ways through PPH therapy dogs. Here is a link to this excellent video: PPH Video
Here is a link to their website Paws For Purple Hearts
A Doggy Christmas
Author C.A.Wulff lives in a cabin in the woods with her partner and five rescued dogs of various breeds, sizes and shapes. The following is an excerpt from her touching memoir of many years of life as an animal rescue advocate -- Circling the Waggins -- with heartwarming escapades featuring an array of rescued dogs and other critters.
"Lammy-Lamb sits under the Christmas tree and looks up at the antique lamb ornament above her head. It’s a funny looking little bauble that looks just like her, all glittery, with its front legs stretched out like airplane wings – a little flying lamb. When we decorated the tree, I had held it up for her to see.
'Look at your ornament.' I had said. 'It’s a little Lammy-Lamb – just like you!' She had been so excited that she had done a little dance and wagged her tail like crazy. She has been obsessed with the ornament since then, and has been spending a little time each day staring up at it.
'Are you looking at your ornament?' I ask her.
She looks up at me, sticks the tip of her tongue out, and wags her stubby tail.
A wave of love washes over me."
The photo is of Lammy Lamb resting after a big Christmas celebration.
Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale
Santa's reindeer have been kidnapped by the King of the North. There can be no more Christmas. This is the true story of how dogs came to Snow Valley from the Planet Of The Dogs to save Christmas for children everywhere.
Here is an excerpt from Snow Valley Heroes wherein the Tundra Town traders, in an emergency meeting regarding the kidnapped reindeer, are introduced to dogs for the first time:
“It is good that you want to help,” said Paoli. “But you do not know the King of the North. And you do not know the Ice Castle, a fortress of rock that an army could not enter.”
Daisy then spoke. “What you say is true sir. But you do not know about dogs. They are
clever, brave, and can see in the dark with their noses. They can speak with children. Your caravan would have been warned before the attack was made, if you had dogs. Dogs would have interfered with the attackers and their horses. And if they were bigger dogs, like Tok or Nor, they might have stopped the attack.”
Here is an excerpt from a review of Snow Valley Heroes by Su Chin for Parent Reviewers.
"I personally enjoyed reading this book very much. I found Mr. McCarty’s story-telling to be absorbing and a real page turner... My 8 year old son, enjoyed the book tremendously... Although it had more words than pictures (he’d rather read comics), he was very amazed that he followed through each chapter and finished it...This is a great Xmas gift for any boy or girl, who loves reading. Definitely a huge bonus for kids who are dog lovers!"--
Here's a link to read sample chapters of Snow Valley Heroes
I have long been a fan of Richard Scarry's wonderful books. I have spent many hours in Busytown. I recently made a belated discovery while perusing my grandsons' books: there is a delightful Richard Scarry Christmas book, The Night Before the Night Before Christmas, wherein -- surprise -- Mr. Frumble, after many crashes and other mishaps saves Christmas. Good for you Mr. Frumble!
Yelodoggie is going home to celebrate Christmas.
Yelodoggie's book will help open the imagination and perspective of children to the world around them.
It will help them to recognize and appreciate differences: to understand issues of belonging and acceptance: and to embrace that which is unique in each of us.
I'm reviving an interrupted tradition on this Barking Planet blog. For many years, our holiday blog featured Richard Bradley's dogs in touching, warmhearted Holiday photos that always made me smile.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J.K. Rowling continues to open up her fantasy world. She has sequels that will follow the world of magic and muggles that begins with the book and movie Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. The film is drawing huge audiences -- passing $500 million at the box office -- and fans will find many updates, background, and information about future plans on Pottermore.
If you haven't seen the movie, I suggest taking a look at this action packed trailer: Fantastic Beasts
SING opens in theaters on December 21...I haven't seen it, however the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are favorable... Here is the plot in one sentence: "A koala impresario stages a grand singing competition for the world's animals in order to save his elegant theater in this quirky animated musical."
Clicking this link will take you to a very engaging trailer: SING
Disney is bringing Beauty and the Beast to theaters on March 17. Emma Watson will tame the Beast in this interpretation of the classic fairy tale. I am an enthusiast of Ms Watson's and hope that she can combine in her portrayal an appropriate blend of strength, vulnerability, and purity. The trailer is visually stunning.
Here is the trailer to Disneys new Beauty and the Beast
"A great writer of fiction both creates — through acts of imagination, through language that feels inevitable, through vivid forms — a new world, a world that is unique, individual; and responds to a world, the world the writer shares with other people but is unknown or mis-known by still more people, confined in their worlds: call that history, society, what you will."
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The Planet Of The Dogs series (including Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale) is also available in digital format at..Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, and Tolino.
Librarians, teachers and bookstores ..You can order the Planet Of The Dogs series through Ingram with a full professional discount.
To read sample chapters of any book in the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs
Merry Christmas to All!
Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail. -- Kinky Friedman