15 Christmas Books to Read Out Loud

One of my favorite holiday memories is sitting around the tree and reading stories together around cups of hot cocoa and trays of homemade cookies.  I know, it sounds super cliché, but it’s what we did.  There was nothing like leaving the stresses of work and school behind and getting into comfy pj’s and slippers and listening to my dad read How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Polar Express.  The light of the tree was bright enough to illuminate the pages, and we’d pass the book around and take turns reading the story out loud.

As a proud product of quality parenting, I can tell you this…it is crucial, neigh ESSENTIAL, to take the time to read to your kids.  Whether it’s a quick picture book or a lengthy novel, just taking the time every day or every week to set aside and tell a story is so very important to healthy childhood development, at least, IMHO.  I look back on those moments with my dad and the rest of my family and I cherish them like no other.  Just listening to his voice, the rhythm of his words…I miss those moments dearly…and I greatly look forward to carrying on that tradition with my own family someday.

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When it came to our holiday reading list, the books were quite…shall we say, eclectic.  Sure we’d read the classics, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Snowman, but we’d also read some really strange books, like The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming and The Jolly Christmas Postman.  Since my dad worked at a library, he had hilarious books right at his fingertips…and below are just SOME of the books we’d read together around the holiday season.

If you’re looking to start a reading tradition with your kids, this list is a great place to start.  With books that are great for kids of all ages, this list of 15 Christmas Books to Read Out Loud will get you and your family in the holiday spirit in no time…and this tradition will certainly stick with you and your kids for years to come!

15 Christmas Books to Read Out Loud

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
By:  Dr. Seuss
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A classic favorite around the holidays, How the Grinch Stole Christmas tells the story of a creature called The Grinch who has lived in a cave, hating Christmas, for 53 years.  Watching the town of Whoville celebrate Christmas makes him so angry that he decides to dress up as Santa Claus and “steal” Christmas from the Whos, including all their food, decorations, and gifts.  But when Christmas arrives and the joy of the holiday still abounds in Whoville, the Grinch learns a powerful lesson about the meaning of the holiday.

The Polar Express
By:  Chris Van Allsburg
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Perhaps one of my all-time favorite books, The Polar Express is a treasured story about a little boy who boards a magic train headed for the North Pole.  Together with a handful of other children, he gets a first-hand look at the Big Man himself, and is even gifted a special present by Santa Claus that serves as a special reminder about the magic of the season.  Get out the tissues for this one.

The Snowman
By:  Raymond Briggs
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Another family favorite, The Snowman is actually a wordless book, told entirely with full-color illustrations.  You can gather around and “read” the story together, or designate a special story teller to put words to the images.  After a massive snowfall, a little boy rushes out into the wintery weather to build a snowman.  But later on that night, he learns that his snowman has come to life!  Throughout the night, the boy and his snowman embark on a multitude of adventures together, culminating with a very special trip that will stay in the boy’s memory for the rest of his life.  The Snowman was also made into a movie, which I highly recommend.  Just the music alone is worth a listen.

The Jolly Christmas Postman
By:  Janet Ahlberg
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A fun and brightly illustrated book, The Jolly Christmas Postman contains letters to Santa from a variety of characters, including the Big Bad Wolf and all the King’s Men.  But perhaps the best thing about this book is that it’s interactive.  Kids can physically open letters, read postcards, assemble puzzles, and more.  This is a great book for a snow day and a fun way to interact with older kids.

The Nutcracker
By:  E.T.A. Hoffman
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Whether you see the ballet or read the book with the family this year, there’s really nothing quite like experiencing The Nutcracker.  A simple and charming story filled with the magical dreams of children, The Nutcracker is sure to entertain kids of all ages.  If you decide to sit down and read it together, try to find the version with the Maurice Sendak illustrations.  It’s beautiful and terrifying at the same time!

The Little Match Girl
By:  Hans Christian Andersen
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The Little Match Girl is not for the faint of heart.  A book more suited to older kids, The Little Match Girl is a story about a little homeless girl who tries to sell matches on the last day of the year.  She has nothing to protect her from the cold and eventually she takes refuge between the space of two houses.  She ends up using her matches for warmth and what she sees after lighting her matches, well, it’s absolutely beautifully heartbreaking.  A book that teaches kids about appreciation and kindness, The Little Match Girl is one that will stick with them for years to come.

Letters from Father Christmas
By:  J.R.R. Tolkien
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A personal favorite of my dad’s, Letters from Father Christmas comes from the same man who brought us The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  Every December, an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for Tolkien’s children.  Inside would be a letter, complete with spidery handwriting and drawings, from Father Christmas himself.  A charming and magical book that will give you new parenting goals, Letters from Father Christmas shows how one father truly did his best to make Christmas the most wonderful time for his family.

The Night Before Christmas
By:  Clement C. Moore
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OK, well this one is just a given.  The Night Before Christmas is a beautiful book that is great for kids of all ages.  Filled with amazing illustrations and readable prose, this traditional Christmas story is one that can be told in less than 30 minutes, so it’s great for bed time and kids who can’t sit still for too long.

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
By:  Robert E. Barry
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When Mr. Willowby orders his Christmas tree, he comes to discover that it’s just simply too big!  He orders his butler to trim a little off the top and discard it.  But what happens to that treetop?  Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree follows the tree top from Mr. Willowby’s house through a forest of friendly creatures who all get to share in a bit of Christmas joy.  I actually read this book a couple years ago with my sister and loved it!  It just brought a smile to my face and I just know it will do the same for you!

A Charlie Brown Christmas
By:  Charles M. Schulz
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A book version of the popular TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a cherished family tradition…and it just wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without reading this book at least twice!  A heartwarming tale that talks about the reason for the season, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a sweet and beautiful tale about love, friendship, and what the Christmas spirit truly means.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
By:  Francis Pharcellus Churchyes-virginia_book

In 1897, a young girl wrote to The New York Sun asking whether Santa Claus truly existed.  The paper’s response, written by Francis P. Church, has become a beloved holiday tradition for years.  Another one that almost always brings me to tears, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is a book every child should read, as well as every parent and parent-to-be.

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
By:  Jan and Mike Berenstain
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A great book for kids who are wrapped up in the gifts, The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving teaches kids a very valuable lesson about the joy of giving to others.  A wonderful addition to the full Berenstain Bears collection, The Joy of Giving is one that will help teach kids that sometimes it’s nicer to give than to receive.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
By:  Eric A. Kimmel
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Like many other kids out there, I grew up in a bi-religious household.  My mom was Jewish and my dad was Catholic, so we got to celebrate the best of both worlds!  And since Hanukkah almost always falls on our around Christmas, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins always made it on our reading list.  When a traveler visits a synagogue that is haunted by Hanukkah goblins, he must use his wit and smarts to beat these goblins at their own game.  A book filled with amazing illustrations, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is one that kids and families of all religions can read together and enjoy.

An Orange for Frankie
By:  Patricia Polacco
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A somewhat true story about the author’s own experiences, An Orange for Frankie tells the story of a little boy named Frankie, who is the youngest boy in his family.  He and his family are overjoyed for Christmas, but when Frankie’s father still remains delayed from his business trip on Christmas Eve, Frankie becomes worried.  His father promised to bring back oranges for the mantelpiece, and it just won’t be Christmas without them…or Pa!  A sweet book that’s close to the author’s heart, An Orange for Frankie teaches an important lesson about giving.

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
By:  Lemony Snicket
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Hahahaha, I laugh just thinking about this book!  A yummy potato pancake resists his fate of being cooked in oil and runs screaming through the village, spreading a delicious aroma AND a message about a holiday that has nothing to do with Christmas.  A Christmas book about Hanukkah, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming is an extremely clever book brought to you by Lemony Snicket and a great story for families who celebrate one or both of these holidays.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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18 Fun Facts about Sammy Davis Jr.

If he were alive today, Sammy Davis, Jr. would be 91 years old.  Born December 8, 1925, SDJ was a powerhouse entertainer.  A skilled dancer, singer, performer, and impersonator, SDJ got his start on the vaudeville stage and worked his way up to the stages of Broadway and The Capitol Theatre.

A beloved friend of Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy, and many more influential people of the time, SDJ was a strong advocate for black rights and Jewish rights.  He financially supported the Civil Rights movement and even challenged marriage laws by marrying a white Swedish model during a time when interracial marriage was banned in 31 states.

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As a tried and true Sinatra fan, I’m well aware of SDJ and consider him to be one of the most amazing performers of this century.  I mean, just take a listen to “Candy Man” or “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and try not to have all the feels.

WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I?:

Awarded and nominated for several awards over the course of his career, SDJ held his own in various films, TV shows, and Broadway runs.  He’s won a Tony Award, Grammy Awards, and has been nominated for several others.

Of course, the road to success is paved with potholes.  SDJ’s path to stardom was a bumpy one, and despite his immense popularity and support from big names like Sinatra and Kennedy, he still was a victim of racism and prejudice.

But through it all, SDJ turned to music as his outlet.  He recorded several records over the course of his life and even had a Billboard #1 Hit with the song, “Candy Man”.

CANDY MAN:

A few years ago I read In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr. by Wil Haygood and fell even deeper in love with SDJ.  An amazing biography that digs deep into a troubled and complicated life, In Black and White is a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about this amazing entertainer.

For those looking for a reader’s digest version, here are a few fun facts about Sammy Davis Jr. and the amazing life he led.

18 Fun Facts about Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis Jr. got his start performing on vaudeville stages with his parents.  Both his mom and dad were dancers with the Will Mastin Troupe.  In 1928, when SDJ was only three years old, he joined the Troupe as its youngest member.

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After his parents split up, SDJ went to live with his father.  They continued performing together until SDJ was drafted into the army in 1943.  During his service, he experienced horrendous racial prejudice that his father had previously protected him from.  He was harassed and abused by white soldiers and even suffered a broken nose after a fight with his fellow servicemen.

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After the war, SDJ continued performing with the Will Mastin Trio (previously Troupe).  His career took off in 1947 when he and his Trio opened for Frank Sinatra at the Capitol Theatre in New York.

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On November 19, 1954, SDJ nearly lost his life in an automobile accident in the California desert.  The accident shattered his face and cost him his left eye.  While in the hospital, he spent hours discussing philosophy with a rabbi on staff.  Shortly thereafter, SDJ converted to Judaism.

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Contrary to what some may think, the accident acted as a catalyst in SDJ’s career.  A year after his brush with death, he released two top-selling albums and booked several headlining performances in Las Vegas and New York.  He appeared in several TV shows and films, including Porgy and Bess and The Frank Sinatra Show, and starred in the 1956 Broadway hit, Mr. Wonderful.

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By 1960, SDJ was a star in his own right.  He has a massive following, was a proud member of the legendary Rat Pack (along with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop), and was a staple in the Las Vegas and Los Angeles night club scenes.

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Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, SDJ continued making records and was the first artist to be signed on the Reprise label, launched by his life-long friend, Frank Sinatra.

SDJ was nominated for a Record of the Year Grammy for the heartbreaking song, “What Kind of Fool Am I?”, a song which reached the Top 20 of the Billboard pop charts and remains one of his most popular songs to date.

His life stage work continued to shine as well, and in 1964 he received a Tony Award nomination for his performance in the musical, Golden Boy.

In terms of social activism, SDJ was a powerhouse.  At the height of his career, SDJ refused to perform at any club that practiced racial segregation, leading to the integration of several venues in Miami Beach and Las Vegas.

He also challenged the bigotry of the era by marrying Swedish actress May Britt at a time when interracial marriages were forbidden by law in 31 states.

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SDJ was a large financial supporter of the Civil Rights movement; however, he had a very complex relationship with the black community, drawing criticism after physically embracing and endorsing President Richard Nixon in 1972.

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During that same year, SDJ finally got his #1 chart hit with the song, “Candy Man”.  He continued to release records and appear in films throughout the 70’s and 80’s.

His career finally took a massive hit in 1989, when doctors discovered a tumor in this throat.  SDJ underwent painful radiation therapy, but eventually succumbed to throat cancer on May 16, 1990, at the age of 64.

A gifted performer and entertainer, SDJ was awarded a prestigious Kennedy Center Medal for Career Achievement in 1987 and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 2001.  His song “What Kind of Fool Am I?” was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.

Throughout the course of his career, SDJ was nominated for three Grammy Awards, five Emmy Awards (winning in 1990 for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy for Sammy Davis Jr.’s 60th Anniversary Celebration) and won one Tony Award for Best Actor in Golden Boy in 1965.  He was also awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal Award, the NATAS Special Citation Award, and was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1977 for his work in Sammy and Company.

He stared in or appeared in more than 60 films, TV shows, and specials and was in four stage productions on Broadway.

You can also see SDJ’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6254 Hollywood Blvd.

Image result for sammy davis jr., hollywood walk of fame

 

Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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13 Amazing DIY Ugly Sweaters

Tis the season for ugly sweater parties! I don’t know how or why this tradition started, but since it’s caught on, even the high-end department stores have gone to great lengths to create fashionable (and EXPENSIVE) ugly sweaters…but I don’t play by those rulez!

The whole point of ugly sweaters is to make them as tacky as possible…and if you ask me, the only way to really do that is to make them yourself!

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And if you need some creative inspiration, here are a few amazing ugly sweaters made by creative minds just like yours! Just dig through your craft stash and grab your hot glue gun, some feathers, a few pieces of felt and an old sweater and you have the makings to create something truly fantastic!

Maybe Christmas spirit, like this, doesn’t come from a store…
Your Big Collection of Outrageously Ugly DIY Christmas Sweater Ideas - DIY for Life:

Puke up some holiday cheer!
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Well, this is slightly morbid…
Ugly Christmas Sweater

Don’t have a mantel?  BECOME THE MANTEL!
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Want to go in together?  This couple has the right idea!
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Because…why not.
DIY Ugly Christmas Sweaters To Try This Holiday Season | University of Illinois News:

This is a dollar store dream come true!
Ugly Sweater Party —:

BE A SNOWGLOBE!
Learn how to make an uncommon DIY ugly Christmas sweater with this Snow Globe DIY Ugly Sweater tutorial. By using a clear plastic bowl, you will give the illusion of a snow globe bursting out of the front of your homemade ugly Christmas sweater.:

This is my kind of Christmas spirit!
UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER MENS BOOZING SNOWMAN LIGHTS MUSIC JINGLE BELLS SONG SZ L #whocares #Crewneck:

I’m pretty sure my 3rd grade teacher owned this sweater😉
Adorable 2 doves & a Pear in Garland Christmas Tree Ugly Christmas Sweaters Light UP sz L With matching TuTu Tree Skirt w presents Womens by tackyuglychristmas on Etsy:

This one’s sure to get you on the naughty list!
Naughty Ugly Christmas Party Holiday Sweater Mens XL Special Auction | eBay | best stuff:

Really can’t get much uglier than this one…
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Hahahahahahhahaha I honestly love this.
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Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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The Bees Knees: Winter Wonderland

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December 6, 2016 · 9:40 am

9 Edible Treats for Gift Giving

Though December is dominated by cookies of all varieties, not everyone is aboard the cookie train (I know, hard to believe!).  Some folks prefer homemade candies, while others love the combination of salty/sweet snacks.  For those who are looking for a little something different, here are 9 Edible Treats for Gift Giving that AREN’T Cookies!

Great for hostess gifts or for giving out along with your cookie plate, these edible candies and treats are an easy and cost-friendly alternative to baking batches and batches of cookies.  I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a die-hard cookie fan and every year my kitchen turns into a butter paradise in December…but I always try to include a little homemade candy arrangement as well.  It’s something different in terms of taste and texture and it’s a quick project to work on while my cookies bake away in the oven.

So if you’re looking for an easy candy recipe or something simple and quick to bring to your work cookie exchange, look no further than these 9 Sweet Treats that are Great for Gift Giving!

edible-treats

Christmas Muddy Buddies
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Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
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Homemade Turtle Clusters
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Homemade Peanut Brittle
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Vanilla Cinnamon Candied Almonds
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White Chocolate Tag-a-Lings
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Reindeer Rice Krispies
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Easy Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bites
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Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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5 Books to Gift to Book Lovers

So you have someone on your gift list who loves books, right?  Yeah, we all do.  But buying someone a book is a hard decision.  I mean, unless you have a really good idea of what they like (and what they own), buying a book is a big risk.

Thankfully though, I can help you!  As a book lover through and through, I’ve come across a few books that would make wonderful gifts for anyone who loves to read.  I myself actually own all of these and love them every time I decide to flip through them (My Ideal Bookshelf is probably my favorite!).

So whether you’re looking for a Christmas gift, a stocking stuffer, or a birthday present, these five books make great gifts for lit lovers of all ages!

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Fictitious Dishes

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Sometimes the most memorable part of a book is the food within the story.  In an effort to visualize the meals that bring some of our favorite stories to life, author Dinah Fried photographs several popular meals from literature.  Flip through to see the madcap tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the gruel from Oliver Twist, the chicken breakfast from To Kill a Mockingbird and much more.  A wonderful coffee table book for readers who also love food.

Letters of Note

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Enjoy some of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters.  From Virginia Woolf’s heart-breaking suicide letter to Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones, this collection, now in two volumes, is sure to be a well-loved gift!

My Ideal Bookshelf

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Ever wonder what your favorite authors, celebrities, and musicians love to read?  In My Ideal Bookshelf, editor Thessaly La Force gathers reading lists from some of today’s biggest names and puts the shelves together with the help of illustrator, Jane Mount, who creates a unique shelf of books for each entry.  Accompanying each illustration is a little essay from the contributor, explaining why these books make up their ideal book shelf.

Infographic Guide to Literature

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For those readers who love pictures, The Infographic Guide to Literature is a lovely and colorful collection of infographics having to do with literature.  This book includes visuals of the top books stole by consumers, track references of commonly used words, death counts and so much more!  This is one book that bookworms of all kinds are sure to treasure and read for years to come!

Lost in Austen

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A must-have for Jane Austen lovers, Lost in Austen is a choose-your-own adventure story set in the Austen universe.  The great thing about this book is that you can end up an old withered hag one time or marrying Mr. Darcy another time!  Filled with some of Austen’s most memorable characters, Lost in Austen is sure to delight!

 

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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19 Fun Facts about Boy Meets World

For us 90’s and 00’s kids, there are so many shows that bring back memories of our amazing childhoods…Dawson’s Creek, 7th Heaven, Friends, Party of Five…but let’s be honest.  None even come close to the amazingness that was Boy Meets World.

Starring Ben Savage, Rider Strong, William Daniels, Will Friedle, and Danielle Fishel, Boy Meets World was a coming-of-age dramedy that chronicled the life of Cory Matthews (Savage).  The show followed Cory and his friends and family through seven seasons, starting as Cory enters middle school and ending as Cory plans to graduate college and start his own family.

Originally airing on ABC as part of the network’s TGIF lineup, the series ran from 1993 to 2000 and is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in popularity with the airing of the sequel, Girl Meets World on The Disney Channel.

Anyone who has seen at least one episode of BMW can tell you that this cast had serious chemistry.  It was that obvious.  There are cast members that are still best friends to this day and most of them have reunited on screen for the GMW series.

Want some more fun facts about this cult classic TV show?  Read on for 19 Fun Facts about Boy Meets World!

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19 Fun Facts about Boy Meets World

Topanga was name after Topanga Canyon.  Creator Michael Jacobs was driving down the highway when production called and said, “We need a name for this character!”  He happened to be driving past Topanga Canyon, so he said, “Topanga.”

boy meets world heartbroken cory matthews ben savage topanga

In the early years, all the child actors (Ben Savage, Will Friedle, Danielle Fishel, and Ryder Strong) were in school together.

Ryder Strong (Shawn) hated the haircut that made him so popular.  Strong has naturally curly hair, so he had to have his hair straightened every day before filming.

Disney wouldn’t let the cast take anything from the set after the show was over, but Ryder Strong took Shawn’s famous leather jacket (swapping it with another in his closet), and Ben Savage has admitted to stealing a pair of shoes.

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Ryder Strong and Will Friedle (Eric) remain BFF’s to this day.  Their scenes in the show were limited because they would just start laughing when they were together.

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Unlike his counterpart, Ryder Strong was hell-bent on his education.  He actually wanted to quit the show and go to college to focus on his studies, but the producers convinced him to take morning classes so he could shoot the show at night.  Strong ended up graduating with an English degree from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College in 2009.

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Lots of young future stars got their start on BMW, including:  Jennifer Love Hewitt, Adam Scott, Linda Cardellini, Brittany Murphy, Charisma Carpenter, and Blake Sennett.

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Michael Jacob’s son plays Joshua Matthews in the season 6 finale.

ABC ran an Internet poll asking viewers if Cory and Topanga should get married.  Jacobs wanted the couple to marry before the show ended, but ABC disagreed…as the characters were only 20 and too young to get married.  But, the fans have the power!

The last scene in the classroom with Mr.  Feeny was only filmed once.  The tears from all the characters were 100% genuine and several actors, including Ben Savage, have said that scene was their favorite memory from the show.

Danielle Fishel was Ben Savage’s first kiss on screen and in real life!

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Cory and Shawn are the only two actors to appear in all 158 episodes.

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Mr. Feeny’s on-screen wife (Dean Bolander) is also his wife off-screen!  The couple has been happily married since 1951.

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The high school in BMW (John Marshall High School) was also used in The Wonder Years, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pretty in Pink, and Transformers.

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Boy Meets World is the only TGIF sitcom show to run on TV, in some way, since the series end date.  Since the show ended, reruns have aired on The Disney Channel, ABC Family, and MTV.

Hundreds of kids signed up to audition for the role of Shawn Hunter.  Ryder Strong was the first audition and Michael Jacobs didn’t see anyone else.

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Boy Meets World was airing just as Ben Savage’s older brother, Fred Savage, was enjoying the series finale of his popular coming-of-age series, The Wonder Years.

Fred Savage also made a guest appearance as a teacher who hits on Topanga in one episode of BMW.

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Angela and Shawn’s relationship was one of the first interracial relationships on network TV at the time.

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Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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