The holidays are a time for reading. As I've advocated in past years, books should be shared throughout December as the holiday preparations begin. This will help provide meaning to the gaiety and enhance the festivities surrounding the holidays.
Included on this year's list are new publications and reissued titles. There are also a few from past years that are available in libraries.Happy holiday reading!
ON CHRISTMAS EVE, by Peter Collington. Knopf, 1990. $14.95
What do chimney-less children do at Christmas?
Collington tells us in a wordless book with 100 drawings. Before the child goes to sleep, she writes her Christmas list and puts out her stocking. When a fairy appears, the action begins. Hundreds of fairies light a runway for Santa's sleigh with candles from the Christmas tree and help him with the gift list.
When Santa drops a present and awakens the girl, the fairy intercedes and Christmas Eve becomes a success.
The meticulous details make this one of the most delightful Christmas books of the year.
- Other wordless books to enjoy:
PETER SPIER'S CHRISTMAS. Doubleday.
THE CHRISTMAS GIFT Emily Arnold McCully. Harper and Row.
GOOD KING WENCESLAS, by John Wallner. Putnam/Philomel, 1990. $14.95.
An illustrated version of the age-old carol that describes how the king and his page take food and firewood to an old peasant on a cold, stormy evening. Juxtaposed to the double-page pictures are cameos of the village and animal life and the pageantry of the court. There's a mixture of gaiety and solemnness in the art, which goes well with the storyline and the music included with the text.
- Another story about gift-giving:
A GIFT FROM SAINT FRANCIS by Joann Cole. Illustrated by Michele Lemieux.
B IS FOR BETHLEHEM: A Christmas Alphabet by Isabel Wilner. Illustrated by Elisa Kleven. Dutton, 1990. $12.95
Twenty-six couplets tell the story of Christmas:
"L is for Lullaby Mary would sing
To her baby, the Messiah, the King."
The brilliance of the book is in the art, with mixed mediums of collage, watercolor and paper folds. The colors are bright and alive. "B is for Bethlehem" would be fun to both chant and to use in the study of art techniques.
- Another look at using various art mediums:
CHRISTMAS CAROL SAMPLER by Margaret Ousack. Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich.
CHRISTMAS TIME by Catherine Stock. Bradbury, 1990. $11.95.
It's Christmas time, and a young child joins in the festivities of making paper chains, buying a tree and making cookies. One special sequence is lining up to talk to Santa. "There are too many people, and there is too much noise." The child hides behind Dad. "Mommy says that we can write to Santa instead."
From the season's first preparations through Christmas morning, "Christmas Time" will be a delight to the 3- to 5-year-old.
- Another book about young children's preparations:
MAX'S CHRISTMAS by Rosemary Wells. Dial.
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS by Ilse Plume. Harper and Row, 1990. $16.95.
"My idea has been to convey the atmosphere, both tangible and intangible; of the Italian Renaissance." Drawing upon illuminated manuscripts, books of hours, miniatures and bestiaries, Plume has brought this traditional song into a stroll through a Renaissance garden. The parchmentlike pages, which are framed with plants, leaves and animals, alternate with the illustration that fits each verse.
This is a lovely addition to the many versions of the traditional verse. Music is included with the text.
- Other versions that can be enjoyed:
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS illustrated by Louise Brierley. Holt.
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS illustrated by Jan Brett. Dodd, Mead.
I'M SANTA CLAUS AND I'M FAMOUS by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Illustrated by Marylin Hafner. Holiday House, 1990. $14.95.
Just were did Santa Claus get his training? How did he learn the tricks of deciding just the right present, dropping down chimneys and flying with reindeer?
"I'm Santa Claus and I'm Famous" explains. During Career Day at school, the children get to listen to fire fighters, sportspeople, astronauts and Santa. He starts at the beginning " . . . when I was little, my parents had BIG plans for me. . . . " He shares how he got tips from an experienced Santa (like which foot goes in the chimney first). Then he became the real thing.
In cartoon format this book will be fun to read time and time again.
- Other books about Santa:
WIPE YOUR FEET, SANTA CLAUS Konrad Richter. Illustrated by Jozef Wilkon, translated by Rosemary Lanning. North/South Publication.
A GIFT FROM ST. NICHOLAS adapted by Carol Kismaric. Illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak. Holiday House.
THE LEGEND OF THE CHRISTMAS ROSE. Selma Lagerlof. Adapted by Ellin Greene. Illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak. Holiday House, 1990. $15.95.
There are many legends about the Christmas rose, a member of the buttercup family that often appears in the wintry cold.
The story is of the Robber family, which has been banned from the village because of stealing a cow, who visit the Ovid Cloister and the abbot's beautiful garden. When Robber Mother tells the abbot about the forest garden that appears on Christmas Eve, a bargain is made to allow Robber Father to be pardoned.
"The Legend of the Christmas Rose" has a longer text that could be a sensitive family read-aloud with realistic paintings that enhance the story.
- Another book of legends:
CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD by Florence Petit. Crowell.
LOTTA'S CHRISTMAS SURPRISE by Astrid Lindgren. Illustrated by Ilon Wekland. R/S Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1990. $13.95.
First published in 1977, this is a story of a child who saves the home festivities by finding a Christmas tree when there was none to be found in the market.
Children will be delighted by Lotta's tenacity.
- Another book by this author:
THE RUNAWAY SLEIGH RIDE by Astrid Lindgren. Viking.
THE CHRISTMAS CARP by Rita Tornquist. Translated by Greta Kelburn and illustrated by Marit Tornquist. R/S Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1990. $13.95.
In Czechoslovakia people don't eat turkey or ham at Christmas, but a fish called carp. Thomas buys the biggest one in the market, names him Peppo and puts him in the bathtub to keep him moist until Christmas dinner. But Peppo isn't eaten for dinner and is returned to the river.
This book by a mother-daughter team presents some delightful traditions of another country enhanced by soft watercolor drawings.
- Christmas in another country:
THE CHRISTMAS TOMTEN by Viktor Rydberg. Illustrated by Harald Wiberg. Coward, McCann Geoghegan.
THE GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBLE by Madeleine L'Engle. Illustrated with frescoes from the Scrovegni Chapel by Giotti. Simon and Schuster, 1990. $19.95.
"Possible things are easy to believe. The Glorious Impossibles are what bring joy to our hearts, hope to our lives, songs to our lips. . . . "
The Glorious Impossibles are what this book is about from The Annunciation to The Resurrection and The Ascension.
L'Engle's text is sedate and solemn, fitting well the paintings that make an event happen at a glance. The afterword by A. Richard Turner, professor of art at New York University, tells the story of the frescoes. This book is a masterpiece. Text, art reproduction and layout make this a family treasure.
- Another with art pieces:
"We Wish You a Merry Christmas: Songs of the Season" with art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Arcade/Little Brown.
MY PRAIRIE CHRISTMAS by Brett Harvey. Illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray. Holiday House, 1990. $14.95.
Christmas is going to be different on the prairie than it was in Maine with all the relatives. When Papa goes for a tree and is caught in a blizzard, little Elenore finds out that the real meaning of Christmas comes from being together as a family.
This book about love could help children who are in a new place for the holidays.
- Another book about a prairie Christmas:
CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE by Joan Anderson. Photos by George Ancona. Clarion.
CARL'S CHRISTMAS by Alexandra Day. Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1990. $10.95.
As in other Carl wordless books, the big black dog is babysitting. In this case, it is Christmas Eve. Carl takes the baby downstairs, decorates the living room, then goes out on the town to see carolers and meet Santa.
In this fantasy excursion, the author/illustrator has provided much humor that young children will see as improbable but desirable. The paintings are like old-time art, and each could be a Christmas message of caring.
- Another book about animals and Christmas:
THE FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by James Howe. Morrow.
THE SECRET KEEPER Anna Grossnickle Hines. Greenwillow, 1990. 412.95.
Joshua is feeling left out of the Christmas preparations. When Grandma arrives, she helps him make secret presents for the family. Then he surprises her by doing something special. This is a story of appreciation for family and will bring satisfying reading to preschoolers and first-graders.
- Another story about gift-giving:
A CHRISTMAS BOX Eve Merriam. Illustrated by David Snell. Morrow.
A SONG OF THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. Pictures by Donna Diamond. Harper and Row, 1990. $12.95.
Every holiday season needs a read-a-chapter book. This is my choice of a new one. Children ages 5 and up will enjoy the short chapters and happy resolution.
This is the story of a gray and white mouse who, desperately hungry, seeks food from the bird feeder. Rick catches a glimpse of it as "a silver parfait ripple" and decides to help the tiny creature. But when 7-year-old Hattie Lou arrives, trouble begins.
In a rollicking adventure, a magical mouse becomes the pivotal character.
- Another story about a mouse:
THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE by Elizabeth Wenning. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
THE CHANUKKAH GUEST by Eric A. Kimmel. Illustrated by Giora Carmi. Holiday House, 1990. $14.95.
Making latkes (potato pancakes) was the forte of Bubba (Grandmother Brayna). Even though her eyesight was failing, she made a big platter full of latkes for the expected Hanukkah guests.
The "guest" does appear, and he eats them up and takes the offered gift, a scarf. Later the rabbi and neighbors appear and the "guest" is discovered when the children find bear tracks.
This is a delightful story that will bring giggles to everyone.
HANUKKAH by Miriam Chaikin. Illustrated by Ellen Weiss. Holiday House, 1990, $14.95.
When the Jews return to Jerusalem after the battle between King Antiochus and Mattachias, they rededicate the temple. Even though they had only enough oil to burn for one day, it miraculously burned for eight. This celebration became a Jewish holiday for all times.
In simple text and colorful pictures, the story is told for young readers.
- Other books about Hanukkah:
THE CHANUKKAH TREE by Eric Kimmel. Holiday House.
I LOVE HANUKKAH by Marilyn Hirsch. Holiday House.
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Clement Moore.
Two new versions of the poem are available this year. Cheryl Harness' version (Random, 1990. $6.95) is done in a traditional Victorian setting. The artist adds humor in the clutter of the seasonal celebration.
The illustrations in Wendy Watson's version (Clarion, 1990. $13.95) are in a contemporary New England setting complete with paved sidewalks, streets and recreational vans. Her precise and detailed art make this my choice over the Harness one, but there will be many to compare from past years, too.
- Other versions of this poem:
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS illustrated by Anita Lobel. Knopf
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS illustrated by Tomie de Paola. Holiday House.
THE CHRISTMAS SKY by Franklin M. Branley. Illustrations by Stephen Fiesser. Crowell, 1990. $14.95
Branley has written over 130 books on science subjects for young readers. He is astronomer emeritus and former chairman of the American Museum-Hayden Planetarium. "The Christmas Sky" is the basis of lectures at the Hayden Planetarium and was first published in 1966. It is a scientific explanation of the Christmas star. Was it a group of planets, exploding star or brilliant comet or meteor?
Branley traces the astronomical findings with biblical references, noting historical notations on taxation, holidays and cultural celebrations to raise pertinent questions. He concludes that "we may never know what the star really was . . . " but reasons that the influence is widely felt. A terrific book to share with older children.
- Another book about the Star of Bethlehem:
FOR EVERY CHILD A STAR by Thomas Yeomans. Illustrated by Tomie de Paola. Holiday House.
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS WITH FOUR CLASSIC NATIVITY ORNAMENTS by Joyce Patti. Paper design by David Carter. Dutton, 1990. $13.95.
This book is the Christmas story in a simple text of six pages. The unique feature is the Renaissance-style paintings and four fold-out ornaments tucked into two pockets that are meant to be used as tree or wreath ornaments. The colors are deep and luminous, signifying the star-lighted countryside.
- Another book with added media:
SILENT NIGHT: A CHRISTMAS BOOK WITH LIGHTS AND MUSIC Aladdin Books/Macmillan.
MY GRANDMOTHER'S STORIES by Adele Geras. Illustrated by Jael Jordon. Random House, 1990. $17.95.
A storytelling anthology of Jewish folk tales perfect for Hanukkah. The contents are a blend of humor, sentiment and folk wisdom that are passed from grandmother to granddaughter
- Other anthologies for reading aloud:
FAMILY READ ALOUD TREASURY Little/Brown
THE DOUBLEDAY CHRISTMAS TREASURY. Compiled by Jan Oliver. Doubleday.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL Charles Dickens. Illustrations by Scott Cook, Random House, 1990.
This is an abridged version, and there are many others on the market from which to choose.
- Another version of this classic and a related title:
A CHRISTMAS CAROL Charles Dickens. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday House.
A PRESENT FOR CHARLES DICKENS by Seon Manley. Westminster Press.