20 Timeless Christmas Books for Kids

Real Simple Magazine posted a wonderful list of Christmas books for children on RealSimple.com.  If you are looking for a charming Christmas book for the children on your list, I can vouch for most of these as I have read them to my children and my grandchildren.

To see the list, click on this link for RealSimple.com

Say Never

By Janis Thomas

say-never-by-janis-thomasBook Blurb

Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need…

Snarky radio personality Meg Monroe thinks she has the perfect life: no husband, no kids, and best of all, an Upper West side apartment three thousand miles from her family and her childhood demons. But when her brother calls to ask for Meg’s help with his three kids, she is forced to do the unimaginable: go home and step into the dreaded role of ‘parent.’

With no maternal skills whatsoever, Meg is thrust into a world of diapers, tantrums, and projectile vomit, and her decision not to procreate is stunningly validated—she could never be a mom. But as the days go by, and she starts to connect with her nieces and nephew, Meg discovers that her family is not the nemesis she feared, and she might not be the person she always thought she was.
Sassy, sexy, and poignant, Say Never is a hilarious roller coaster ride of self-discovery that will keep you laughing long after you put the book down.  (Blurb taken from Goodreads)

 My Review

Okay, so I’ve had this book for ages and just never seemed to work my way down to it.  Wow, it was worth the wait!  SAY NEVER is funny and poignant at the same time.  A lot of people try to write humor, but many can’t pull it off. Janis Thomas does so – masterfully.

Meg Monroe’s life is a mess, but she believes she’s got it under control.  A 40-year-old New York City talk show host, Meg uses sarcasm when talking to her co-host and guests who call into the show, and this sarcasm spills over into her personal life.  In the book synopsis, she is called snarky, and there is no better word to describe her.  She has no social life, no love life, and hasn’t been out to California to visit her family in five years.  She greets every situation with a feisty I-can-do attitude. In her own opinion, she has it all together.

When her brother Danny calls after his pregnant wife Caroline was in an accident, he asks Meg to come to help him out with their children while Caroline is recovering in the hospital. But what does she, a person who doesn’t want children, know about taking care of a five-year-old and a two-year-old.  Grudgingly she agrees but has no clue to what’s in store for her in California. Her journey begins with lost luggage and a playdate for her niece and five of her little friends. When things start spinning out of control, Matt Ryan, Danny’s neighbor, appears out of nowhere and helps out.  It’s not long before the reader notices a connection between the two, albeit with conflicting emotions as Meg has convinced herself she’s not interested in a relationship.  Then Cera, Caroline’s daughter, is added to the melee. Can Meg handle everything and everyone? I have to stop right here, or I’ll tell you the whole story.

You will love all of the characters.  Each one is well fleshed out and believable.  The circumstances of each relationship between characters are true to life.  Though new characters keep popping into the story, each has a purpose that is developed smoothly and fully. The situations Meg finds herself in are plausible and lend credence to the story as a whole.

If you are looking for a quick read, don’t let the length of the book deter you.  I promise you won’t be able to put it down and will fly through it. I look forward to reading the author’s other books, SOMETHING NEW and SWEET NOTHINGS.  I can think of no reason not to give SAY NEVER five stars.


About the Authorjanis-thomas

Janis Thomas is the author of three critically-acclaimed humorous Women’s Fiction novels, Something New, Sweet Nothings, and Say Never. Award-winning Murder in A-Minor is the first book in her Musical Murder Mystery series featuring songwriting detective Samantha Wedlock. She has recently signed a two-book deal with Lake Union, the women’s fiction imprint of Amazon Publishing, for her latest two novels of domestic suspense. Janis is a popular workshop leader and speaker, and a passionate writing advocate. When she isn’t writing or fulfilling her PTA duties, she loves to spend time with her kids, sing with her sister, play tennis, and throw wild dinner parties with outrageous menus. She lives in Southern California with her husband, children, and two crazy dogs.

Website: Janis Thomas

Blog: Anonymous Soccer Mom

Social Media Sites: Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook

Buy the Book:  Amazon

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Tiger Tale Soup: A Novel of China at War

By Nicki Chen

Tiger Tail SoupBook Blurb

An Lee has the heart of a man. But when the Japanese invade China, she’s forced to stay home while her beloved husband goes to battle. Until he returns, it’s up to her to protect her mother, mother-in-law, daughter and soon-to-be-born son.

Surrounded by the enemy, An Lee buries the family gold, stocks the pantry, and watches in dismay as her former teachers flee to Hong Kong. Then, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and take control of China’s international settlements, including An Lee’s island home. To survive the next four years of occupation, she will need all the strength, resilience, and love she can muster.

Emotionally charged and lyrical, Tiger Tail Soup captures the drama and suffering of wartime China through the eyes of a brave young woman.


Sample Chapter
Intro and Chapter 1


Dodging a low-hanging pine, I settle back into my sedan chair. This washed-out road, like the mountains themselves and the tigers that hide in their shadows, is all beauty and treachery. We start up another slope, my neck straining to support my suddenly heavy head. Finally we reach a level spot.

“A moment’s rest, ma’am?” the lead man asks, and I nod. These carriers use their rest periods to lick the opium they carry in their belts. I use the time to look back.

Walking along the trail, I search for a break in the trees, but we’ve come too far. Mountains are blocking the view of my home now. Kulangsu. Island of pianos they call it, drum-surf isle, egret island. Every detail of its contours is carved into my memory—trees everywhere, tile-roofed houses, cottages painted gold and peacock blue, sandy beaches the color of a ripe peach, and the surrounding sea, blue or green, gray or white, depending on the weather. My beloved home, and for nearly eight years of war, my prison.

“Ma’am.” The amah comes up behind me, my son and daughter at her side. “They’re ready to go, ma’am.”

I search my children’s eyes for the strength I know is there. My ox girl, my tiger boy. Too small for their ages. Still startled by loud noises. And yet the might of their ancestors shines through.

“Get in your sedan chair,” I tell them. “We have a long way to go.”

Our journey to Foochew won’t be over tonight or even tomorrow night. I settle back for another leg in the long, uncomfortable journey, and as my chair jostles and jolts, my thoughts bounce from one memory to another. The Japanese guns and bombs. My tiger dreams. My mother, my mother-in-law, and of course, my husband, Yu-ming, so long absent from my bed.

Spring 1938

In the spring of 1938, I was alone and pregnant. And I was worried out of my mind. My husband should have returned days earlier from his business trip. I kept watch for him each day from our bedroom window, straining my eyes and wringing my hands. Each night before falling asleep, I whispered into my pillow, asking him to enter my dreams and tell me where he was. Yu-ming was a scientist, though, and scientists don’t believe in dreams.

Still, I continued to hope for some sign that he was still alive. Instead, when I fell asleep, I dreamed of tigers, nothing but tigers. Here they were again. Tails swishing, eyes flashing, they led me through the forest, past a monk’s fire pit and up to a clearing with white pillars at its center. I’d seen all this before. These dreams that were meant for the child I carried had nothing to do with my husband.

As the sun rose and my dream began to fade, the tigers flicked their ears and growled one last time. I shivered and opened my eyes. Enough with the tiger dreams!

Shaking the dampness from my hair, I dangled my feet over the side of the bed. Surely, I told myself, Yu-ming was still alive. All I had to do was to wait for him. I fluffed the quilt, freshening equally the sweaty and the unused sides of the bed. I’d assumed when Yu-ming went to work for Siemens that the powerful German company would protect him from China’s sorrows. Now I wasn’t so sure. After all, why would bandits care whether the throat they slit belonged to a Siemens engineer? And the bow-legged invaders? I stuffed my fingers in my hair and yanked at it as I padded across the cool tile. It was ludicrous to think the Japanese would ask the affiliation of a Chinese before shooting him between the eyes.

Blinking the thought away, I opened the French doors, and stepped onto the balcony. Below me a rice straw broom whispered on the paving stones. A rooster crowed. And in the distance, one rumbling boom after another. I leaned out over the railing and looked for lightning. But the booming sounded more like bombs than thunder.

No, I thought, it can’t be bombs. The Japanese are still in the north, and these sounds are coming from the south.

“Po-ping,” I called to the amah. “Come out here.”

She shuffled onto the balcony, my daughter’s head resting on her shoulder.

“What do you hear?”

She squinted into the rising sun. “Thunder,” she said.

“No, listen once more.”

“I hear thunder, Young Mistress,” she said again, impatiently bouncing Ah Mei on her hip. “May I go now?”

Before long the distant booms were drowned out by the sounds of shouting and laughter, chickens and birds. A crow swooped down and scattered a flock of chickadees. A vendor selling sweetened soymilk and crispy fried ghosts called at the gate. And once again, it seemed that everything was back to normal on the charmed little island of my birth.

Everything, except that my husband was missing and the Japanese invaders had within the past three months captured Shanghai to the north of us and the capital at Nanking.

Now, I wondered, were they also bombarding cities to the south?

I dressed and went downstairs, intending to ask one of the maids for a poached egg. As I turned a corner, Su-lee nearly ran me down. Only her legs showed as she hobbled toward me carrying a potted Japanese bamboo.

“Oh, Young Mistress,” she said through the foliage. “Look at these flowers. They bloomed during the night.” The small white flowers bursting from a center point in each cluster looked like miniature fireworks. “I want to put them outside,” she said. “Very bad luck. When the bamboo flowers, someone is sure to die.”

I held the door for her, and she staggered, half-running, through the laundry area and across the yard to the far side of the fishpond. As far from our house as possible, I thought as I followed her outside.

My Review

If reading the book blurb and the Introduction and Chapter 1 above hasn’t convinced you to pick up this book and start reading, let me say I was totally sold on this book from the beginning lines and it just kept getting better.

An Lee is a determined woman who loves her country, her family, and her home. Her husband unexpectedly enlists in the army and is gone for most of the story. This is wartime, World War II to be exact, but this book isn’t about battles and the nitty-gritty details of fighting.  An Lee’s story is one of the hardship, fears, and personal loss the people of China felt as the Japanese invaded their country.  It is a story of personal triumph and the courage of An Lee and the other the women left behind while the men are off fighting the war.

There are many characters to keep track of, but most are essential. Without them, An Lee’s chronicle would be incomplete. For some readers, the most difficult aspect of the book is keeping track of characters with Chinese names. This is a character driven novel and Nicki Chen’s writing flows effortlessly, and her knowledge of the people of China comes though as she beautifully develops the characters in TIGER TALE SOUP: A NOVEL OF CHINA AT WAR.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Any lover of great historical fiction will enjoy TIGER TALE SOUP: A NOVEL OF CHINA AT WAR, however, this is not a book to rush through.  I give this book five stars out of five.

Format: paperback and e-book

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Publication date: May 8, 2014

Page count: 281 pages

Genre: historical fiction/women’s fiction



Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Barnes and Noble

Author’s website

About the AuthorNicki Chen

When I started writing seriously, I was living overseas with my husband and three daughters. I’d been trained as a teacher, but the Manila International School didn’t hire expat teachers. So, after several years of children’s birthday parties, volunteer work, and Chinese painting classes, I decided I needed a new occupation.

By the time I was accepted into the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, we’d moved to a small island nation in the South Pacific called Vanuatu. It made for a very long commute to classes in Montpelier, VT.

My first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is loosely based on the stories my late husband, Eugene, told me about his childhood in China during the Japanese invasion of WWII. He was a great storyteller. Unfortunately, he died before I started writing the novel. So I was on my own.

My daughters and grandchildren keep me busy driving across the mountains or flying across the country to visit them.

I’m currently working on a second novel which tells of a woman who in her eagerness to follow the advice of a fertility doctor, convinces her husband to move to the South Pacific.

Website: nickichenwrites.com

Social Media Links:

Facebook: NickiChenAuthor

Google+: Nicole Chen

Goodreads: Author Dashboard

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

How to Get Kids to Read Independently

The  Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition is out and the results are summarized by Valerie Strauss of THE WASHINGTON POST. Included is a piece by Lois Bridges (2nd half of the article) that puts it all in context.  To read the article click on the link below.


My thanks to Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog for posting this and bringing it to my attention.

GRANDMA PANDA’S CHINA STORYBOOK Legends, Traditions, and Fun

Mingmei Yip’s cleaver use of Grandma Panda to tell the tales of the legends and traditions of China is sure to catch the attention of young ones. She is also the illustrator and has finished the book with beautiful, colorful watercolors.


GRANDMA PANDA’S CHINA STORYBOOK is an excellent way to introduce your young children to the culture and traditions of China. I heartily recommend this book to parents, grandparents, and teachers of early elementary age children.

“Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!”

I first read “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” when my children were little, and now all these years later, it still brings a chuckle or two. The story is written in rhyme with lots of humor by Patricia Thomas, and Wallace Tripp’s artwork is charming. If you can get your hands on a copy of this delightful picture story book, it would be a perfect gift for the young ones in your life.

All of the animals panic when the elephant says he going to sneeze.

“Beware, beware,”

Called the bees to the bear.

“The elephant says he’s going to sneeze.”

“Oh, please,

Not a sneeze,”

“That’s not fair.

I declare,

The last time he sneezed he blew off all my hair,

And left me so bare

I spent the whole winter in long underwear –

I love children’s books, but this is undeniably one of my favorite. I give it 5 stars.

Stand Back, Said the Elephant, I'm Going to Sneeze! by Patricia Thomas

Louey The Lazy Elephant

Louey the Lazy Elephant by Janice Spina

I love children’s books and LOUEY THE LAZY ELEPHANT  by Janice Spina did not disappoint me. It is a story of a lazy elephant that becomes separated from his family because he was too lazy to get up when his mother told him they were moving on.  Frightened, Louey enlists the help of the other animals in the jungle to help find his family, but he must first prove he is not lazy.

This is a delightful story for young children. I love that the illustrations, done by John Spina, are drawn in crayon.

LOUEY THE LAZY ELEPHANT is the perfect read to book for your favorite little person or for yourself if you enjoy children’s books as I do.