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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, December 19, 1999

There's No Snow, But Plenty of Holiday Spirit at Library

Is the recent long spell of mild weather keeping thoughts of fir trees and mistletoe far from your mind? I'll admit that getting into a festive mood has been a problem for me this year, but looking over some of the books in the library has helped bring the holiday spirit closer and I hope today's suggestions will inspire you to check out some of the wonderful titles available at your public library.

The Winter Solstice by John Matthews (Quest Books, 1998).

Not many books are available on this timely subject but the solstice is becoming more popular as a time of seasonal celebration for people who don't subscribe to any traditional faith. This lavishly illustrated volume tells the story of solstice celebrations throughout history and gives suggestions for ways to mark the day at home. I always thought the idea of a bonfire on a cold December night was a festive way to welcome back the sun, but there are other ways offered here as well, from Yule logs to the twelve days of Christmas to a midwinter meditation.

Jewish Holiday Style by Rita Milos Brownstein (Simon & Schuster, 1999).

In this Martha Stewart-like lifestyle book ,all the Jewish holidays are transformed into lavish and stylish celebrations. With great flair Brownstein gives new life to traditional celebrations, providing how-to advice for making decorations and craft projects. Recipes for traditional favorites such as latkes, challah and noodle kugel add a nice touch to a beautiful book.

Creating Christmas Memories: Traditions to Celebrate with Family (Zondervan, 1999).

One of our nicest holiday surprises came one cold evening when the two cats ran to the front window and started growling in alarm. We heard noises, then suddenly voices started singing Christmas carols. It was my husband's family, about ten of them all at our front door. This little book is full of ideas focusing on the religious and spiritual rather than the material aspects of Christmas.

A Treasury of African-American Christmas Stories compiled by Bettye Collier-Thomas (Holt, 1998).

This wonderful collection celebrates the true meaning of a most loved holiday. These heartwarming stories tell us about black people's lives during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They were first published in literary journals and black-owned newspapers, and their authors were political activists and visionaries, such as Ida B. Wells Barnett, T. Thomas Fortune, and Fannie Barrier Williams. Offering spiritual uplift, their words come straight from a rich storytelling heritage. A second volume will be out soon.

I'll be Home for Christmas: The Library of Congress revisits the spirit of Christmas during World War II (Delacorte, 1999).

Are you one of the estimated 16 percent of us who were alive when Pearl Harbor was attacked? Do you remember the forties? My memories are vague and seem to be in black and white, like an old newsreel. The Library of Congress has opened its archives of more than 110 million items (maps, photographs, drawings, recordings, rare books, published and unpublished writings, music, and motion pictures) to craft the perfect book for anyone interested in World War II. With black and white photographs, cartoons, and illustrations, I'll Be Home for Christmas shows how the worst of times can bring out the best in us.

The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn (Workman, 1999).

Though not specifically a holiday book, this gem will nonetheless be in great demand by cooks during the holidays. A perfect gift book which tells you how to use mixes as a starting point for a myriad of cakes, cookies, bars and crisps. With a box of cake mix the possibilities apparently are endless

Aunt Dimity's Christmas by Nancy Atherton (Viking, 1999).

Just days before Christmas, Aunt Dimity's niece discovers a mysterious stranger collapsed beneath her lilac bushes and teams up with a priest to search out the stranger's identity and the tragic secret that led him to her door. The ghostly Aunt Dimity teaches her niece the real meaning of Christmas and fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy this latest installment.

Christmas Cookie Murder by Leslie Meier (Kensington, 1999).

Fans of Murder She Wrote may want to try this latest in a series which is well written and enjoyable. Christmas in Tinker's Cove, Maine turns deadly when the new assistant at the day care center is found strangled in her apartment. Lucy Stone the news reporter heroine who tries to solve the mystery and lands is a great deal of trouble for her effort.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.