Christmas is a great time for not only giving books, but reading some new holiday favorites. Here is a selection of holiday picture books for young readers.
“THE CHRISTMAS QUIET BOOK,” by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska, Houghton Mifflin, $12.99 (ages 4-8)
There is no mistaking the sounds of Christmas, but don't forget the quiet times: snow-angels quiet, listening-for-sleigh-bells quiet, breathing-clouds-in-cold-air quiet and writing-a-note-to-Santa quiet. Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska (“The Quiet Book” and “The Loud Book”) have defined many obvious “quiets” that may be overlooked in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations. With its simple text and muted drawings, “The Christmas Quiet Book” is just right for a cold cuddle-up-and-read time.
A young boy looks through all of the family's Christmas decorations — including the attic, yard, kitchen and tree — in search for his favorite one, the nativity set. As he finds it, he and his sisters look at each piece as they display it.
Utah author Gale Sears helps share each aspect of the Nativity as seen through the eyes of children. Meredith Johnson's illustrations are light and fun as he is looking through each place.
“GOOD KING WINCESLAS,” retold by Jane Seymour, illustrated by Omar Rayyan, Deseret Book, $21 (all ages)
The beloved Christmas carol tells of a king and his faithful servant who provide supplies to a poor peasant family, setting a tradition for my generations to follow. Actress Jane Seymour relates this story with beautifully matched art depicting medieval settings. A DVD accompanies this rendition with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir music as background.
From "A is for Angels" to "Z is for ZZZZZs," Tonya Skousen Arenaz shares a holiday-related word, from the spiritual to celebratory. Artwork from a variety of artists is paired with the alphabet letters.
The writing/illustrating team that has entertained us with eight previous dinosaur antics (like “How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?”) revisits them again with an exuberant celebration of holiday festivities. While speculation is that the a dinosaur might taste the candy canes or deplete the tree of its baubles, “No — a dinosaur doesn’t. He carols with care; he helps trim the tree so no branches are bare.” And so, the festivities go off without a hitch.
Jane Yolen’s cleverly-paced rhymes set on Mark Teague’s colorful two-page spreads are begging to be read and chanted time and time again.
Published simultaneously is “How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?” with new pranks in mind, like hoarding the dreidels so no one else can play or blowing out the candles in the menorah. However, this mischief maker “eat(s) up his latkes, helps clear away dishes, gives Bubbie and Zaida big Chanukah wishes.”
“THE CHRISTMAS TUGBOAT: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City,” by George Matteson and Adele Ursone, illustrated by James E. Ransome, Clarion, $17.99 (ages 4-8)
Where do the magnificently-trimmed trees come from that grace our public parks and shopping centers for the holidays? This story is told from a girl’s perspective as her tugboat captain father steers a ship carrying the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to New York City. James E. Ransome’s acrylic paintings including details of the skyline and the tugboat’s interior complement the storyline with much interest. Surely, the discussion of where one’s own tree comes from and those of the White House and other public displays will follow.
In a medieval monastery, Smudge (so called because of his sloppy appearance and lackadaisical ways) is appointed in error by Brother Gregory (“hard of hearing and vainglorious”) to assist with the spiritual task of copying the Christmas story, then putting finishing touches on the delicate illumination. While the finished product isn’t perfect, the spirit of “trying” is evident. “Smudge” will likely become an annual favorite story for the holidays.
“THE BIRDS OF BETHELEHEM,” by Tomie dePaola, Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (ages 5-8)
Animated, tiny fowl get a birds-eye-view of the Nativity from their perches above the stable. In his classic style, Tomie dePaola tells a simple story with the birds broadcasting the news far and wide. Other holiday stories by dePaola to be enjoyed are “Strega Nona’s Gift” and “The Night Before Christmas.”
“THE SANTA TRAP,” by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene, Peachtree, $15.99 (ages 3-7)
There is no doubt that Bradley Bartleby is bad. In fact, he is very bad. But even though he is bad and his parents are terrified of him, Santa always leaves Bradley a present: a pair of socks. Bradley decides to trap Santa and “take the whole lot” for himself but finds out that his bad behavior is not rewarded. Young listeners trying hard to make Santa’s “good list” will classify Bradley Bartleby as another Grinch and maybe try a little harder themselves.
“THE TWELVE DAYS OF A MUPPET CHRISTMAS: And a Chicken in a Pine Tree,” by Martha Ottersley, illustrated by Amy Mebberson, Little Brown, $4.99 (ages 3-5)
The traditional song takes on new spirit with items such as pine trees running amok and, of course, a chicken in a pine tree. Zany pictures with fold-out flaps make this a singing fest ready to happen that will probably continue into the new year.
“A KING JAMES CHRISTMAS: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from Around the World,” edited by Catherine Schuon and Michael Fitzgerald, World Wisdom/Wisdom Tales, $19.95 (ages 8 and up)
Verses from the King James Bible are grouped by the birth, childhood and teachings of Jesus. Prints of Catherine Schuon’s stunning paintings provide the illustrations, which are reminiscent of the European Renaissance painters as well as those influenced by Asian and Mediterranean artists. A beautiful book for the family library.
“MY CHRISTMAS TREASURY,” by Cheryl Ryan, Lucille Colandro and Steven Kroll, illustrated by Jared D. Lee, Scholastic, $8.99 (ages 6 and up)
Three stories make up this special collection: Ryan’s “Christmas Morning,” “The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever” by Kroll and Colandro’s “There Was An Old Lady That Swallowed a Bell!” All three are perfect for reading aloud.
"TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS," by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Elena Almazova and Vitaly Shvarov, Grafton and Scratch, $16.95 (all ages)
This is the classic Christmas story with one exception — Santa has quit smoking. The story is seamlessly edited and the darling illustrations quietly leave out Santa's pipe and the curling smoke of the holiday staple.
Contributing: Christine Rappleye