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It's time to get in the spirit of the season with special holiday reading. Following are my picks for December sharing.

Six familiar titles lead the list — some adapted, some with new illustrations and some memorable classics:

• "We Three Kings," illustrated by Gennady Spirin (S&S/Atheneum). Spirin's new interpretation portrays royalty, the wise men and their entourages in opulent color. Skies are lit with stars, and the refrain from the old song intertwined. This could be a family keepsake.

• "The Nutcracker," illustrated by Susan Jeffers (HarperCollins) takes a part of E.T.A. Hoffman's full tale, just right for the younger reader ages 3-8.

• "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat (Candlewick), uses intricate paper designs, black silhouettes and a pop-up at the end to interpret an old classic (ages 4 and up).

• "The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pinata for the Pinon Tree," interpreted by Philemon Stures, illustrated by Ashley Wolff (Little, Brown). The author/illustrator duo adapt the sequence with New Mexico flavor (11 mariachi, 10 kachina leapin', etc.), which becomes quite a mouthful by the time gifts for all 12 days are noted (ages 5 and up.)

• "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" by Dr. Seuss (Random) is celebrating 50 years in print. A commemorative edition traces the history of this popular classic.

• "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey," by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick), now appears with a CD narrated by James Earl Jones (all ages).

Gift list

New stories and those in a series make up a list for gift giving.

• Newbery medalist Kate DiCamillo collaborates with Bagram Ibatoulline on "Great Joy" (Candlewick), a story of a homeless organ grinder and his monkey. When a child wants to share the holiday with them, her exclamation of "Great Joy" is surely heartfelt (ages 5-9).

• "Advent Storybook: 24 Stories to Share Before Christmas," by Antonie Schneider, illustrated by Maja Dusikova (NorthSouth Books). When Little Bear is impatient for Christmas to come, his mother shares a different tale every night. These short and spiritual stories go along well with a real Advent calendar, a great activity for all ages.

• Frank McCourt (famous for "Angela's Ashes") has written a Christmas book published in two different editions. "Angela and the Baby Jesus" is the story of a 6-year-old who worries that Jesus feels cold in the church creche and takes him home to keep him warm. One edition illustrated by Loren Long (Scribner) portrays the girl in dark shadows more reflective of McCourt's adult story. The other version — my favorite of the two — by Rual Colon (Simon & Schuster) is dramatically bright with the glow from candles and central light effusive of the time and setting. McCourt fans will welcome either edition to their holiday collection.

• "The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll" by Patricia and Jerry Pinkney (Random). Set in the time of the Depression, Nella and her sister are given a baby doll but at first find it hard to share the gift (ages 4-8).

• "Santa's First Flight" by Sam Beeson, illustrated by Tom Tolman (Covenant). If you've wondered whether Santa was ever slim and clean-shaven, this lyrical story will explain it. Also, the reindeer weren't his first means of transportation, or so the author says. Find out for sure (ages 3-6).

• "The Littlest Christmas Tree," by R.A. Herman (Scholastic). What will happen if a little tree is left in the lot and no one wants to take it home for the holidays? (ages 4-8).

• "Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow," by Holly Hobby (Little/Brown). Fans will readily recognize these porcine friends but may be sad to know that this is the last of the series. Each friend tries to find the perfect gift for the other, which seems to be an appropriate conclusion of some wonderful easy stories for beginning readers (ages 3-6).

• "Olivia Helps With Christmas," by Ian Falconer (Simon & Schuster). Here's another installment of a popular series for the youngest reader. Olivia decorates a table with a tiny tree that has been taken from the top of the family tree, much to the dismay of her parents. Lots of humor here to brighten the reading (ages 4-7).

Easy reading

Four other easy reading series have holiday selections.

• "Christmas in Camelot," from the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborn (Random). Jack and Annie spend Christmas Eve in Camelot in a quest to save the magical place.

• In "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (P.S. So Does May)," from the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park (Random), Room One is preparing for a holiday pageant and Junie causes a small disaster. This is the latest of 25 Junie B. Jones stories.

• "The Holly Joliday," from the Judy Moody and Stink series by Megan McDonald (Candlewick). Just like the other 12 titles in this series, Judy Moody will bring giggles and humor to readers in grades 3-6.

Picture books

A popular picture book will become a read-it-again for the smallest listener.

• "If You Take a Mouse to the Movies," by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond (HarperCollins). Fans of Mouse will remember him wanting a cookie, a muffin and a pancake in the three previous books.

• "Russell's Christmas Magic," by Rob Scotten (HarperCollins). Children will recognize the cockeyed sheep, Russell, and his antics. In this one he comes to Santa's aid when the sleigh is broken. He sheepishly takes the credit, and the humor is not lost in the simple text and delightful cartoonlike figures (ages 3-6).

• "The Jolly Christmas Postman," by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (LB Kids). Tucked in by the postman are letters, notes and tiny gifts just right for the holidays (ages 4-8).

New traditions

Families are always looking for new traditions to carry through the generations.

• In "The Last Straw" by Paula Palangi McDonald (Covenant), the family starts a practice of filling a cradle with pieces of straw whenever something special is secretly done for one of the family. But a twist comes when Eric discovers that he has to do something special for the same person four weeks in a row. A read-aloud for the whole family.

• "Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents, and Peace," by Deborah Heiligman (National Geographic). The latest to the National Geographic Holidays Around the World series shows photos and traditions from many places such as Spain, Hawaii, America and Nepal and has activities for readers 6 and up.

Hanukkah, Kwanzaa

Celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa with a book.

• "Letter on the Wind: A Chanukah Tale," by Sarah Marvil Lamstein, illustrated by Neil Waldman (Boyds Mills Press). Old folktales are always popular for retelling. This one comes from the Middle East and is beautifully illustrated for a spiritual feast (ages 4 and up).

• "The Seven Days of Kwanzaa," by Melrose Cooper, illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau (Scholastic). With vibrant illustrations, a special holiday is introduced to readers ages 4 and up.

Happy holiday reading! Let me know about your favorite holiday book.

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