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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Merry Little Christmas Books

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net
Reading in the soft glow of our Christmas tree lights is one of the things I love best about the holidays.  Every year, our family pulls out all of our favorite Christmas books to read aloud once again.  (To see these favorites, please check out this post from last year and this one, too.)  We also like reading some new books.  Here are a few that we found at the library this year and enjoyed:

Cobweb Christmas:
The Tradition of Tinsel,
written by Shirley Climo
and illustrated by Jane Manning, 1982

Every year, Tante clears the cobwebs and the dust from her home, then invites all the children and animals to come see her beautiful Christmas tree.  Only the spiders, who have been swept outside, miss the festivities.  Then one year, Kriss Kringle lets the spiders back into the house.  They crawl all over the tree, leaving their webbing behind.  Using his magic, Kriss Kringle turns their webs into thin strands of gold and silver (the first tinsel) as a special surprise for Tante.

I had heard this German folktale before, but was delighted by this version's story and illustrations.  This is one I'd love to buy for my Christmas book collection!


The Christmas Orange,
written by Don Gillmor
and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, 1998

Anton Stingley is what you might call a spoiled child.  He presents a 16-page list of things he wants to Santa, but when the man in red brings him only an orange for Christmas, Anton decides to sue.  He hires a lawyer, Wiley Studpustle, and the two accuse Santa of breach of promise, among other things.  What Santa has to say surprises everyone in the courtroom....

This is a fun story with amusing illustrations.  My seven-year-old Ben and I both got a kick out of it!


Dream Snow,
written and illustrated by Eric Carle, 2000

A farmer (who looks a lot like Santa) realizes that it's almost Christmas and there still is no snow.  (Hmm... I know that feeling.)  He falls asleep and dreams that snow has covered all of his animals.  When he awakes, he discovers that it really did snow -- but his animals are safe and warm in their barn.  The farmer then decorates his tree in celebration.

Like other Carle books, this one is interactive.  It includes transparent pages of snow (to cover and uncover the animals) and also a button to push at the end that plays a holiday song.


Christmas Cricket,
written by Eve Bunting
and illustrated by Timothy Bush, 2002

Cricket feels "small and worthless in the bigness of night". He hops into a family's home and spies their shining Christmas tree.  Taking refuge in the tree, he begins to sing.  A child hears him and thinks it's the song of an angel. When an adult tells the child that angels sing in the songs of birds, people, crickets, and other creatures, Cricket realizes that, while he may indeed be small, he is far from worthless.

This is a touching little story.  Even Ben said, "Awww...." when we read the final page. :)


Christmas Mouseling,
written by Dori Chaconas
and illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung, 2005

One cold, December night, a baby mouse is born.  The winter wind blows the mouse nest apart, and the mother mouse must find shelter for her baby.  In her search, she hears about a special king, another baby, and when she finally finds a warm, dry manger for her child, she finds the king as well.

Ben and I enjoyed the gentle, lyrical text and the pictures of the animals.


A Merry Little Christmas:
Celebrate from A to Z,
written and illustrated by Mary Engelbreit, 2006

From "angel atop a tall tree" to "the zillion ways Christmas brings cheer", Gregory Mouse and his family ring in the holidays.

I've been a huge fan of Engelbreit's vivid, detailed artwork for over 20 years now.  I find it charming, and the illustrations in this book are no exception.  I hope to add a copy of this to my collection soon!


Mrs. Claus Takes a Vacation,
written and illustrated by Linas Alsenas, 2006

Mrs. Claus has never gone on vacation.  When she decides to take a trip around the world, she leaves Santa behind to take care of himself, promising to return by Christmas Eve. While Mrs. Claus is soaking up the sun and the sights at exotic locales, Santa puts up the tree by himself and tries his hand at baking cookies.  By the time Mrs. Claus returns, Santa has learned that it's no fun to be the one left behind, and he invites his wife to join him on Christmas Eve.

Ben and I giggled throughout the book, at the pictures of Santa and Mrs. Claus trying new things.


It's a Wonderful Life for Kids!,
written by Jimmy Hawkins
and illustrated by Douglas B. Jones, 2006

Based on the beloved 1946 movie, It's a Wonderful Life!, this story was written by the (now-grown) man who played Tommy Bailey, one of the young characters.  This version centers around Tommy -- a kind, friendly boy -- who has lost the money he's been collecting at school for the library fund. He feels badly and wishes he could just disappear, as if he's never been born. Then the angel Arthur appears and shows Tommy what a dismal world it would be without him.

I had never seen It's a Wonderful Life! until just a few years ago.  Now it is easily one of my favorite Christmas movies! While I prefer the movie to this book, I did think that this is a nice way to present the same themes to children -- without including the more adult aspects of the film, such as alcohol abuse and thoughts of suicide.  Ben has only seen bits and pieces of the movie, not being very interested in it, but he really enjoyed this book.


The Christmas Song:
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,
written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells
and illustrated by Doris Barrette, 2007

The familiar lyrics of Mel Torme's famous Christmas song combine with Barrette's warm, endearing illustrations to create a treat for kids from one to ninety-two!


Merry Navidad!:
Christmas Carols in Spanish and English,
written by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy
(English version by Rosalma Zubizarreta)
and illustrated by Vivi Escriva, 2007

This book contains nineteen carols from Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain, Argentina, Chile, and Puerto Rico.  (Each song is presented first in Spanish and then again in English.)  The authors also provide background information about the carols and various traditions.  Music for six of the songs is included in the back of the book.


Cookie Angel,
written by Bethany Roberts
and illustrated by Vladimir Vagin, 2007

When the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, all the children's toys under the tree come to life.  Monkey speeds around the room in a toy race car while Doll and Jack-in-the-Box fight over candy canes.  Can Cookie Angel, an ornament that has also come alive, persuade them all to wait quietly and peacefully for Christmas morning?

Ben and I thought this was a cute story, and we especially liked the recurring images of snowflakes whispering outside.


Drummer Boy,
written and illustrated by Loren Long, 2008

A child receives a toy drummer boy to help him "enjoy the Christmas spirit early".  He loves the toy, playing with it often.  Then the drummer boy is accidentally (and unknowingly) knocked into a trash can.  The toy begins a long journey, from the city dump to an owl's nest to a cemetery, where the boy finds him as he lays poinsettias on his grandfather's grave.  The child brings the drummer boy back home and sets him in the middle of the family's nativity set where he can play his drum for the tiny infant in the manger.

This is a heart-warming story complete with luminous illustrations.


The Gifts,
written by Regina Fackelmayer
and illustrated by Christa Unzner, 2009

Mia is all ready for Christmas, except she needs a tree.  She finally buys one and on her way home, she stops to help an old man who's fallen on the ice.  When he's up and on his way, Mia returns home.  There she realizes she's forgotten her tree and rushes out to find it.  She doesn't have any luck, but does come across a little boy who's lost his hat, and she gives him her own.  Later, back at home, Mia is sad not to have a tree on Christmas Eve.  Then, magically, the old man and the boy appear at her door with her tree, all decorated for the holidays.

I love the fanciful pictures in this book and the good-hearted characters.  (So does Ben.)


Christmas Is Here,
words from the King James Bible
and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, 2010

While several pages have no text at all, only pictures of a family going to a nativity play, the rest of the book uses scripture to tell the story of Jesus' birth.

I love how Castillo's artwork tenderly illustrates each scene.


It's Christmas, David!,
written and illustrated by David Shannon, 2010

Temptations abound at Christmastime, and little David has a hard time resisting them.  He may have made it onto Santa's naughty list, but as we all know, Santa's a softie -- all of David's worrying about receiving coal for Christmas turns out to be unnecessary.

When Ben and I read this one, we both laughed out loud every time we turned the page!


12 Days of Christmas,
illustrated by Rachel Isadora, 2010

Isadora takes this familiar English carol to Africa, providing bright and colorful illustrations along with rebus-style text.


One Starry Night,
written by Lauren Thompson
and illustrated by Jonathan Bean, 2011

The animals in the Holy Land watch over their young, just as Mary and Joseph watch over the new baby Jesus.  

With its simple but powerful rhymes and understated illustrations in blue and brown, this is a beautiful book -- another one that's on my "to buy" list.


The Christmas Quiet Book,
written by Deborah Underwood
and illustrated by Renata Liwska, 2012

Christmas can be loud and chaotic... but it can be quiet, too. Underwood lists various quiet moments of Christmas while Liwska's adorable animal artwork illustrates them.

This is a sweet, quietly humorous book that put a smile on my face. (Ben's, too.)


As you can see, most of the Christmas books we checked out from the library were picture books.  I did check out one middle grade chapter book, however, and this was probably my favorite one of all:

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,
written by Barbara Robinson
and illustrated by Judith Gwyn Brown, 1972
The Herdman children -- Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys -- are the town bullies who steal things and smoke cigars.  No one would ever think of having them take part in the church's Christmas pageant, but when they find out about it and insist on participating, nothing goes as expected.

I have heard good things about the movie based on this book before. (I've never seen it, but would love to!)  Earlier this year I read and enjoyed another book about the Herdmans, so I decided to give this one a try.  I'm so glad I did!  I read this in the car last month as our family traveled to Iowa over Thanksgiving, and I burst out laughing on nearly every page. I had to keep stopping and rereading parts, this time aloud, so that my family would know what was so funny.  I highly recommend this book, and plan on getting myself my own copy of it soon!


Have you read any of the books above?  If so, I'd love to hear what you thought of them.  What are your favorite holiday books?

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