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Most of us remember when we first read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and how it profoundly changed and affected us. It’s just that kind of book.

I was in sixth grade and read it for Mrs. Whang’s English class. We were all a little afraid of Mrs. Whang — she was notorious for being unfailingly strict and rarely smiled. No matter the assignment, only the best would do. For Little Women, we were divided into groups of four and asked to act out our favorite scene(s).

We decided on the first chapter and I was to play Jo. We dressed up in long skirts and shawls and I remember bounding onto the “stage” in my best tomboy fashion and blurting out, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” So began a lifelong love for all of Alcott’s books and a fierce yearning for the quintessential New England Christmas — a dreamlike fantasy of snow-blanketed landscapes and cozy fires, something about as foreign as you can imagine when you live in the land of palm trees and eternal summers.

(click to enlarge)

Heather Vogel Frederick’s new picture book adaptation of the Christmas episode from Little Women is a lovely way to meet the March sisters for the first time and bask in cherished holiday scenes brimming with the spirit of giving and gratitude. Frederick interweaves key elements from Alcott’s novel as she distills the essence of this holiday story (Beth’s frail health, Father away at war, Jo and Laurie’s friendship, Jo cutting and selling her hair, making do with what they have).

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Now that the holidays are here with all the shopping, baking, decorating, socializing, and seemingly endless things to check off those long To Do Lists, quiet moments are hard to come by.

But I was blessed with a quiet day right before Thanksgiving, having just returned from Hawai’i where we celebrated my Dad’s 100th birthday. I had time to reflect on this momentous event and transition into full-on holiday mode by leisurely doing things that made me happy, truly a day like Alice Walker describes in her lovely poem, “Grace.”

GRACE

Gives me a day
too beautiful
I had thought
to stay indoors
& yet
washing my dishes
straightening
my shelves
finally
throwing out
the wilted
onions
shrunken garlic
cloves
I discover
I am happy
to be inside
looking out.
This, I think,
is wealth.
Just this choosing
of how
a beautiful day
is spent.

~ from Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems (Random House, 2003).

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Happy December!

Hope you had an especially delicious Thanksgiving last week.

Dad’s matinee idol pose

We were especially grateful this year to be in Hawai’i to celebrate my father’s 100th birthday. Yes, wow. One hundred years on this earth, an entire century, and who knows how many bowls of dumpling soup! :)

We had started counting down in earnest when he turned 93 or 94 — so thankful then that both my parents were still with us while we lost beloved uncles and aunts — parents to cousins a decade younger than me. Each year, each birthday became a bonus, time we cherished more and more. With each new health crisis, we kept wondering, “Can he make it?”

Dad (standing center) with his parents and two of his five siblings.

Thanks to the grace of God — for there is no other way to explain it — James Young Nam Kim — born before television was invented and now posting daily on Facebook — is very much still with us, inspiring awe and respect, and dutifully keeping us on our toes.

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happy thanksgiving!

Have a good gobble with LOTS of pie :)!

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#50 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

nice

Right now I am loving the work of crazy-talented London-based illustrator and hand lettering artist Linzie Hunter.

Originally from Scotland, she graduated from Glasgow University and then studied illustration at the Chelsea College of Art and Design.

orangesweater

Linzie’s distinctive, exuberant doodles have graced everything from magazine and book covers, posters, cookie tins, children’s toys, stickers and stationery to oodles of promotional materials. Her impressive international client list includes The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Scholastic, HarperCollins, Roaring Brook Press, Sainsbury’s, Random House, Macmillan, American Girl, and Marks & Spencer.

Her hand drawn letters have irresistible “personalities” and her zany characters often prompt a double take. I also love her maps and ongoing poster series of Uninspiring Messages. And yes, she’s illustrated a children’s book: A Small Brown Dog With a Wet Pink Nose (written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen).

Enjoy this mini-trip to Linzie Land! :)

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