A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Patricia Toht and a Class of First Graders + Giveaway!

poetry friday buttonThanks to Jane at Raincity Librarian for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon
Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Hello Friends! Just In case you haven’t visited before, let me tell you a little about A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. My great nephew, Landon (now an eighth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on one Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests sharing poetry and art in beautiful collaborations. I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.

**GIVEAWAY! Before you view today’s collaboration I wanted to let you know that Patricia has generously offered a signed copy of Pick a PIne Tree. Today’s collaboration is based on an excerpt from this beautiful book and I have a feeling you’re going to want get your hands on it! I already have my hands on a copy and I’m in love with it! Hug! Hug!
**All you have to do is leave a comment below by December 1st at midnight CST. A winner will be randomly selected. Those who enter must have a US address.

About the Story: Part of the magic of the Christmas season stems from the traditions that families and friends take part in every year: hanging up stockings; putting lights in the windows; and, one of the most important of all, picking out and taking home the Christmas tree. With style and warmth, debut author Patricia Toht and Jarvis, the author-illustrator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, evoke all the rituals of decorating the tree — digging out boxes jam-packed with ornaments and tree trimmings, stringing tinsel, and, at long last, turning on those twinkling lights. Joyously drawn and rhythmically written, this celebration of family, friends, and the holiday season is as merry as the tradition it depicts.

Look What Reviewers Have to Say! (Notice the starred review from Kirkus 😀 )

“Pick this delightful story for a Christmas storytime, for library collections, or for family reading around the Christmas tree.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Holiday spirit crackles in Toht’s warm, step-by-step recounting of how humble stately pines transform into shimmering Christmas trees.”
Publishers Weekly

And now it’s my pleasure to share a creative collaboration from . . .

Patricia Toht and a First Grade Class

From Patricia: When Penny invited me to do a post for “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt,” I hoped to be able to nab some young relatives to collaborate with me. But our family is spread around the country, and we wouldn’t be gathering together until after the holidays.

Then came an invitation from the American Writers Museum in Chicago to host a story time featuring my new book, Pick a PIne Tree. How exciting! I asked Penny if students might work instead of relatives, and she agreed.

Ms. Jackson’s class from Ogden International School arrived in high spirits. Pick a PIne Tree tells the story of a family turning a pine tree into a Christmas tree, so we brainstormed about decorations. The kids had loads of ideas for ornaments, and I told them about my original text:

“My editor in England didn’t like one of the ornaments,” I said. “Which one do you think it was?”
The students made their guesses before I revealed the answer: the cookie boy.
“What?” they said. “Why?”
“She wanted me to use gingerbread man,” I said.
But gingerbread man had too many beats and ruined the rhyme, I explained. I sent a note back to the editor.
“The readers will see in the illustrations that cookie boy is a gingerbread man,” I insisted.
“No cookie boy,” the answer remained.
I was grumpy about it until it finally dawned on me what the crux of the problem was – Brits don’t use the word cookie; they say biscuit!
“How about biscuit boy?” I suggested.

I then read this passage from the finished book:

“What’s missing?” I asked.
“The cookie boy!” the kids called out.
In the end, I explained that I left out gingerbread man/cookie boy completely, and the book is really no worse for it!

Following story time, the students made their own Christmas trees. They used markers to decorate foam cutouts and tied on a gold ribbon for hanging. Little bags of jewels went home with them to apply later (so they wouldn’t fall off in transit).

The trees were super cute. And, in the end, it tickled me pink that nearly every student included a cookie boy on their tree!

The Students’ Artwork Inspired by Patricia’s Book

Many thanks for Patricia and the students for this heartwarming collaboration!


Meet Patricia: Patricia Toht once owned a children’s bookshop called Never Never Land before turning a love of books into a love of writing. She is the author of All Aboard the London Bus and Pick a Pine Tree, as well as numerous poems in children’s magazines. She lives with her family outside of Chicago and very soon will be setting out with them to find the perfect Christmas tree.

42 thoughts on “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Patricia Toht and a Class of First Graders + Giveaway!

  1. That was a new and different take on your usual, Penny. I liked the story of the collaboration with the kids and the way they each put a “cookie boy” on their tree. I have a cookie boy who goes on mine every year, made by one of my kids in preschool with silver cord icing and marker eyes. It’s one of my favorites. Looks like a great book. I hope I win!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful post to start off the holiday season, Penny. The book looks wonderful, and the trees are decorated with quite traditional things, including that ‘cookie boy’. I love hearing about the discussion/argument between Patricia and her editor. It looks like the kids had a great time, and the poem is just right!

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    1. It’s a wonderful book to share at Christmas. It celebrates the Christmas tree in a beautiful way. I imagine the kids were so excited! The excerpt is just right…as is the entire book. Truly delightful! Thanks for coming by, Linda 😀


  3. Our first home had a small Christmas tree farm in the back. So I was immediately drawn to the story when I saw it. I put this book on hold at the library and am afraid I won’t get it in time for Christmas. Want to review it! I was taken by this story immediately. I love the story behind the story and the illustrations are so festive. Beautiful book!

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    1. I hope your hold is filled before Christmas, Patricia! It sounds like you had a short walk to pick a pine tree in your very own backyard. I think my hubby would’ve liked that….


  4. Fabuloso post! Love the book (am interviewing Pat for AS). Interesting to hear about the cookie boy, and great seeing the kids’ decorated trees. That ornament spread is my favorite from the book. 🙂 (No need to enter me in the giveaway.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the book, too, Jama. It makes me feel warm and cozy and Christmassy! I love it when a book does such a great job that it elicits such strong feelings! I can’t wait for your post on AS. I know it will make me love Patty’s book even more!


    2. I’m so grateful, Jama, that you and Penny are hosting Pick a Pine Tree on your blogs! I love that spread from the book, too – so many of Jarvis’ ornaments look just like ones we have on our tree.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Biscuit boy was a brilliant alternative! Can’t wait to add this delightful tale to our treasured Christmas book collection!

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    1. She did, Julie. And how fun to live near a Christmas tree farm. I grew up in Colorado and when we’d hike or go up in the high country in our jeep I would scope out perfect Christmas trees. So did my dad and he would return before Christmas to cut ours…easily done with a permit from the forest service. Thanks for coming by 😀

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