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
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