This week at Kay’s Creek Elementary in my K – 6 art classes, we will be enjoying language arts; children’s Christmas stories. The students will be creating their own art and I will be reading excerpts from
A Mermade’s Tale: Christmas in Coralsbed
and other of my favorite children’s Christmas books which will be listed below.
A Mermade’s Tale
Finding a Lovely Shell
Being born and growing up near the beach gives a person a great affection for all things nautical. One mer- (that’s French for ocean) made was like that, only a little ways off-shore. Had she been born to the east of the tideline on the Southern California coast, she would have, like totally, been a Valley Girl. But as luck would have it, Shell came from the warm waters of the Pacific and that is where her story sets sail.
At the edge of the sea, there was a small village called Coralsbed, and in it lived a number of mermade families. Some were large and some were small, some lived in fine and fancy sand castles, and others in smaller cozy ones. There was a market, a five and dime and a fuel station. Coralsbed had a fountain, a lovely green park filled with sea grass, sand and toys for mermade children to play on. There was a fancy old restaurant called the Twin Fins that had two large seahorse statues outside, where folks came to eat fried sea chicken dinners. The village had a charming library filled with all kinds of books, and near a stinky lagoon there was a beautiful kelp forest.
One of the families in Coralsbed was the Planktons. The father, Abalone, was the principal of a school of fish in the neighboring village of Oceanside. He was smart and worked hard to keep their yard and mer-tormobile clean. The mother, Nekton, was a perky brunette and a good cook. She loved to dress up her three beautiful children. Shell was the oldest and she was a lovely creature with hair the color of sand, eyes like kelp, a flippy turquoise tail and a beautiful voice that reminded you of soft breezes blowing across crashing waves. She had freckles on her nose and cheeks from playing in the afternoon sun. Next was Sandy, who was three years younger than Shell. Sandy was funny, determined and she looked like a smaller version of her sister. She took good care of her dolls and was a true friend. The baby was Brine. With his big brown eyes and infectious laugh, he was loved by all (even when he got into his sisters’ things.)
The Planktons lived in a cozy sand castle that you might think was small, but to Shell, it seemed very large indeed. She and Sandy shared a room and Brine had his own little nursery. They each had a toy chest and their own seabed and the room was painted a pretty blue that looked aqua in some light and lavender at other times. In their undersea yard, their parents had put up a swing set, yes, mermades like to swing too. They lived on the north end of the village, not far from the kelp forest.
Pearl was the first true friend found by Shell and she was a treasure. Crowned with fiery red hair, she lit up the waves and taught Shell to color in the lines (while listening to Debussy’s La Mer of course), later introducing her to a wavy equivalent of rock-and-roll. Pearl had a particular fondness for a band called the Sea Monkees. Together they learned to make peace with a crabby hermit classmate, picked seaweed out of the garden and taught Shell’s sometimes-pesky little sister Sandy to swim in deep water, a skill that would come in handy later. Pearl had a cheery mom named Oyster, a dogfish and a dad, Dock, who would later break an off-shore speed record on his mer-torcycle.
Shell and Pearl were in the same class at school. Their teacher Mrs. Angelfish was a kindly older mermade who tenderly looked after the little ones in her care. She made sure they had a little snack of oyster crackers in the afternoon to keep their energy up and on hot days, when they came in from recess, she would have them put their heads down on their desks and place a wet kelp leaf on the back of their necks to help them cool off.
Mrs. Angelfish taught her class many important things; Shell’s favorite subject was art. She loved learning how to write the color words, especially when Mrs. Angelfish let her use colored crayons. She wrote “red” with a red crayon and “blue” with a blue one. The teacher showed the class how to make paper sand castles and let them draw pictures of their mothers. The one thing Shell did not like was numbers. When it came time to count, her brain shut right off! She just wanted to paint and that was all. She enjoyed swimming out to recess with Pearl and playing bubbleball and other games with the mermade children.
When Shell and Pearl were not in school, they played Go Fish, except they really did it, and of course swimming was their very favorite thing to do. Pearl’s neighbors, the Finnlers, had a beautiful built-in tide pool and sometimes Pearl, Shell and Sandy would spend the afternoon frolicking in the clear blue waters. Another friend, Foam, had a seahorse and occasionally they would get lucky and take turns riding it. They didn’t pay any attention to boys at that time, considering them little urchins who just wanted to show off their mussels. They dressed their bobbing dolls and went to school to learn their tides tables; now and then winning a shelling bee. One day a week, after school, they attended Piermerry classes where they learned to be good and kind and to help others.
Shell came from a family of distinguished mer-people who had long ago built great sand castles and ruled the seas. Their coat-of-arms from olden times had three beautiful scallops on a diagonal band. But Shell’s world was a little pool filled with family and friends. She was a young merchild, blissfully unaware of the turbulent currents of the meradult world. Creative and determined, she just wanted to play in the ocean and have fun. And unlike other more famous mermaids, she enjoyed being herself and loved her life in the sea.
Christmas in Coralsbed
The wind and waves began to get cold and the sky was often gray. Now and then soft white snowflakes fell on the churning silver sea. When Shell came home from school one day and found her mother making fudge and cookies, she knew it was almost Christmas. Shell loved Christmas, it was her favorite day of the year! She looked forward to the surprises and spending the whole day with her family. She loved the music and the colors, the lights and the cookies. She enjoyed choosing gifts for her favorite mermades.
The Planktons went out the kelp forest one day and chose a tall kelp tree to take to their sandcastle to decorate. Mom put the Mermaid Tribarnacle Choir Christmas music on and Dad brought in boxes of glass bubbles and sea stars. Shell and Sandy looked at the pretty decorations that they loved to see every year. Mom put on the twinkling lampshells and the whole family helped decorate the kelp with colorful bubbles and sea stars. There was a tiny manger scene that the girls both wanted to hang on the kelp tree; whoever found it first got to put it on.
Another time, they swam downtown to the water department where the watermen had built a play village for Sandy Clause to come greet the children of Coralsbed. Did you know that Sandy Claus visits every child in the world? Well, he does. Mermade children always see him dressed differently than human children do, but they love him just as much. Frosty the snowman was there as well as a giant sleepy teddy bear. Sandy arrived in his red wetsuit, goggles and snorkel. He sat in a huge sleigh pulled by dolphins and each merchild got to sit on his lap and whisper what he or she wanted for Christmas. Sandy gave them a candy snorkel and told them he would be back on Christmas Eve.
Mom picked up Shell one day after school; Brine and Sandy were with her. She took the children to Oceanside to the sandbank where they withdrew sand dollars from their accounts to buy gifts. The sandbank teller smiled at the children and gave them candy snorkles for being so good and so cute. Just down the street was a store all decorated for Christmas. Merry music was playing and there were aisles filled with candy and toys and all kinds of wonderful treats. Shell found a pretty pin for Mom and a tin of his favorite candy for Dad. She chose a popgun for Brine and a little purse decorated with shells for Sandy. She picked a new coloring book for Pearl and a little box covered with seashells for Mrs. Angelfish’s desk. And there was one more thing, she found a little net filled with Christmas treats, puzzles and toys that she could take to her class party. Shell had a few sand dollars left. As they were leaving the store, she saw something that made her heart feel even happier. It was a little furry teddyseahorse doll. It was her favorite color of seafoam green, had shining eyes and a happy smile. Shell had to have her. Mom said she could buy the doll and Shell happily held her as they returned home to wrap the presents. She named her Bubbles. That night she slept with Bubbles in her arms. She was soft and fun to cuddle with on those cold December nights.
The next day at school Mrs. Angelfish told her class that at the end of the week it would be time for their class Christmas party. They could bring a wrapped gift with a tag that said boy or girl for the gift exchange. Shell was happy, she already had gifts for teacher and her classmate. Then Mrs. Angelfish made another announcement; if the merchildren could, they were welcome to bring a gift for another family that needed help that Christmas. The father wasn’t able to work and they had no sand dollars to buy presents for their merchildren. Shell thought for a minute. No gifts? How could it be Christmas without gifts? How sad it must be for that mermade family. Shell had spent all of her sand dollars at the store. She wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how.
As she and Pearl swam home they talked about their class party. Pearl had bought a little glass seahorse for her exchange gift. Shell told Pearl about the net filled with little treats. They talked about the refreshments they hoped would be served and the games they wanted to play. This would be the most fun thing that happened at school all year! The children had been learning new songs that they would sing for their parents at the Christmas program. They made chains to hang on the ceiling and cutout paper pictures of Sandy Clause. It was the most wonderful time of the year!
Sandy and Shell got ready to go to the church for Piermerry. Sister Crab picked them up and drove them to Oceanside. The nice ladies smiled as the merchildren swam in to the church. Bonnet led the music and they sang happy songs. Because Shell’s birthday was that month, she got swim up to the front so the other children could sing to her. Dad had given her a sand dollar to put in the collection box for the Piermerry Merchildren’s Hospital; a place where little merchildren who were sick or hurt could go to be cared for by docks and gentle nurse sharks.
Shell and Pearl swam to class together. Their kindly teacher, Sister Windward smiled and was happy to see them. The merchildren listened as Sister Windward taught them about the true meaning of Christmas; about sharing love and kindness with others. She asked them to think of a way they could show their love that Christmas. That night as she snuggled with Bubbles in her seabed, Shell knew what she had to do. She didn’t want to, but she knew what she should do.
Finally Friday came, Shell prepared for the class party at school, she combed her hair carefully, put on her prettiest starfish clip and packed the things she needed for the day. She got Mrs. Angelfish’s gift, the wrapped surprise for her classmate and something to put in the gift box for the poor mermade family. She met Pearl on the playground and they talked until school started. Shell was excited, but a little sad. Back in the classroom, singing Christmas songs cheered her up and so did making ornaments to hang on the class kelp tree as they decorated for the party. She carefully placed her package for the gift exchange under the kelp and took the beautiful little shell-covered box to her teacher’s desk. Mrs. Angelfish smiled the same kind smile she always gave her students and patted Shell’s hand as she told her thank you. Shell took Bubbles, who she had tied a pretty bow on, and carefully placed her in the box for the poor family. She swam slowly back to her seat, wondering if she had done the right thing.
On her desk, she found a plate of cookies, a cup of red Hawaii Island punch and a toy boat made out of candy. It was so clever, Shell had never seen anything so fun! She played musical shells with the other children and nibbled her cookies, saving two for Sandy and Brine. She decided to take the candy boat home to show her family. Then it was time for the gift exchange. Each child picked a number; when the number was called, each one swam to the kelp tree and selected a mystery gift. Shell couldn’t wait to open her present. When each merchild had their surprise, Mrs. Angelfish said they could open them. Shell was surprised and happy to receive the little glass seahorse that Pearl had brought, it reminded her of her best friend and her beloved doll. At the end of class, the children wished each other and Mrs. Angelfish a happy Christmas and swam home to tell their parents all about their wonderful Christmas party.
Within a few days it was Christmas Eve. The lampshells on kelp tree shone, making the bubbles and sea stars sparkle. The Planktons enjoyed a special dinner and gathered under the tree for their Christmas Eve family program. They sang their favorite Christmas songs and took turns telling the story of the wonderful child who was born so long ago to bring peace and kindness to the world. They each picked one gift to open before they hung their little nets for Sandy Clause to fill with goodies. Shell unwrapped a music box her grandmother had sent her (she would receive two that year, since she had mentioned to both grandparents that she wanted a music box.) Sandy opened her present that contained the purse with seashells and squealed with joy! Brine had fallen asleep and had been carried to his crib. He would open his gifts in the morning. The Planktons tried to repeat “Twas the Knot Before Christmas,” without looking at the words. They enjoyed Mom’s delicious cookies and fudge. Everything was happy in their world. Sandy and Shell kissed their parents good night and swam off to bed to dream of Sandy Clause and the miraculous baby who was the center of all that was good. They were so excited, they had a hard time falling asleep.
On the other side of town, as the sun rose, a small merchild awoke and swam to see what surprises were under her kelp tree. She laughed with joy when she found the little seafoam green seahorse tied with a bow, with shining eyes and a happy smile.
This is the poem the Planktons recite every Christmas Eve.
TWAS THE KNOT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
‘Twas the knot night before Christmas
Way down in the deep,
Mermade parents were wondering
Were the children asleep?
All tucked warm and cozy
In their little seabeds
Did sweet dreams of Sandy Claus
Float in their heads?
Their little net satchels were hung nice and neat
Just waiting for Sandy to fill them with treats
Mom was now sleeping
And Daddy snored too
Peace filled the home in the ocean so blue.
Then above the sand castle
There was such a clatter
Dad woke up and looked out to see what was the matter!
The moon shone down on their home in the sea
Lighting sea grass and shells and fish and sea weed.
And what to his wondering gaze did he see?
A team of quick dolphins and who, but, Sandy?
A red-suited diver so lively and quick
He knew right way that it must be Saint Nick
With the moon on the crest of the foaming blue waves
We thought, to ourselves, “have we really behaved? “
More rapid than sail fish, his dolphins they came,
And he whistled and laughed as he called them by name;
Now Scallop! Now Cowrie! Now Murex and Nekton,
On Captain! On Zephyr! On Lobster and Neptune!
From the sandcastle roof to the top of the yawl
Now swim away, swim away, swim away all!
As winds before the wild hurricane blow,
Those dolphins flashed past just as fast as they’d go
And up to the sandcastle rooftop they drew
The sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too.
And then in a twinkling we heard on the castle
The snorting and squealing as each dolphin wrastled.
As I looked on in wonder at the seaworthy flash
Into our sand castle he came with a splash.
He wore a red wetsuit from his head to his foot,
And flippers and goggles and air tanks to boot.
A net full of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a sailor just wet from the tack.
His eyes – how they watered, his beard, it was floating!
His cheeks were all red like he’d spent the day boating!
His kind little smile was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as wet as the snow;
The curious fish all swam in from the reef
This Aqua Claus almost defied their belief!
He had a nice face and happy round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a fish full of jelly.
He was bubbling and dripping, a jolly wet elf,
And I laughed at him too, quite in spite of myself;
He winked through his goggles and turned his kind head
And I said when I saw him, “there’s nothing to dread”;
He silently started to do his good work,
He filled the net satchels, then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his goggle,
Through the water he went as my sleepy mind boggled!
He swam to his sleigh, to his team gave a wave,
And away they all swam, as we started to rave:
Thank you dear Sandy, so kind and polite!
“Happy Christmas to you and a merry good night.”
My favorite Christmas stories:
Luke 2; Holy Bible New Testament
Morris’s Disappearing Bag
The Littlest Angel
Willow at Christmas