Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Friday, January 25, 2008

RC: January 2008

This year, as part of my New Year’s Resolutions (NYR: Christmas/Holiday), I decided to participate in a book and movie club through the website Magical Holiday Home. Each month, the organizers of this club select one Christmas book and one Christmas film for members to read and view. Then, on the 25th of the month, those who so choose can go to the Rudolph Club forum (on the aforementioned website) to share their thoughts about what they read and watched. Since I don’t generally have (or make) time to do that, I chose to share my critiques here instead. The selections for January 2008 are given below.

Rover Saves Christmas
by Roddy Doyle

Written for the 9-12 year old set (at least according to, I actually had trouble getting through this little tome, possibly because I am a traditionalist or possibly because I am a grown-up, or both; I’m not sure. At any rate, I could not relate to Rover, the dog with “a brain the size of Arizona tucked into a head the size of a baked potato,” who sold his poo and urinated on cars as a fundraiser for the neighborhood kids (yes, you read that correctly). Nor could I appreciate the revisioned portrayal of that icon of secular Christmas lore, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, as a narcissistic, middle-aged hippy wearing a bandana around his antlers and spouting lines like:
“Look, man, next year, maybe. It’s a mid-life thing. I need a rest.”
“But that’s it, man,” said Rudolph. That’s all it’s about these days. Presents, presents, presents. They’re spoilt, man. The kids these days. They don’t even say thanks.”
I had trouble as well when the poo-selling pooch replaced the flu-stricken Rudolph on Christmas Eve, no doubt qualified for this position by his superior entrepreneurial expertise. He is a dog. Does Santa not employ backup reindeer for such emergencies? Surely, Comet or Dasher or another member of the sleigh-pulling team must have fallen ill at some time throughout history. Please tell me the man who is organized enough to deliver gifts to all the children on earth in one night is not so foresight-challenged as to lack a back-up team. Please tell me it isn’t so. Please!

So much for my opinion. The review on describes the book this way:
Captain Underpants fans and like-minded kids (and grownups) will appreciate such respect for their intelligence --- and their sense of humor.
I am so obviously not a member of this demographic; else I would have enjoyed Rover Saves Christmas. I just think that if you want to raise kids who believe in the “magic” of Christmas, you need provide a narrative that will reinforce that “magic,” and I am not convinced this book contributes positively to that goal.

Sheepishly recommended, but only for teenage boys who may enjoy the “poo” humor. Plush Duck Rating: *****

“All I Want for Christmas”
starring Harley Jane Kozak, Jamey Sheridan, Ethan Randall, & Thora Birch

Much, much better than the January book selection, this film had all the elements that I love in a Christmas movie: sparkle, lots of traditional decorations in the scenery, and characters that convincingly believe in the magic of the holiday, even if it is only from a secular perspective. Better yet, the film also had sibling characters who love each other, demonstrated most pointedly by an older brother who watches over his younger sister not only by taking her to see Santa, but by attempting to make her most heartfelt Christmas wish come true --- reuniting their divorced parents. Accomplishing that goal is the crux of the tale...and antics are certainly part of the process.

A recipient of the Award of Excellence from the Film Advisory Board, “All I Want for Christmas” is definitely a family-friendly film with no profanity that I can recall, no children in abject rebellion, and nothing more than pecks on the cheek amongst the teenage love interests. Boring? No. Refreshingly innocent. Perhaps that is why I had trouble finding it. The movie was nowhere to be seen at my local library; nor was it available on Netflix. It was also missing from my local Walmart and my neighborhood Blockbuster. It was available at Walmart online but, in the end, I purchased it from Amazon, something I don’t always like to do sight unseen. In this case, however, it was money well spent.

With cameo appearances by Lauren Bacall as the grandmother and Leslie Nielsen as Santa. Release date: 1991. Highly recommended. Plush Duck Rating: *****

In addition to the monthly book and movie choices, my daughter and I decided to experiment with a monthly Christmas cookie recipe as well. That way, by the time December rolls around, any new favorites will already be on the cookie list, and no one will be asked to sacrifice a traditional favorite for something unusual or unexpected. The January cookie:


Yield: 66 cookies
Supplies needed: Cookie press

1 cup butter
1 3-ounce package cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar. Beat in egg yolk, vanilla and orange zest. Sift together flour, salt, and cinnamon. Gradually blend flour mixture into butter mixture. Fill cookie press. Form cookies on ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar, if desired. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Remove at once to cooling racks.

Note: the orange zest in this recipe can be quite overpowering, so use caution.

Highly recommended. These little lovelies all but vanished from my kitchen within a day. They never even made it into the cookie jar. Plush Duck Rating: *****

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