There are many new holiday picture books such as recent versions of old favorites, ethnic traditions, stories surrounding the Nativity and contemporary celebrations.
The following are a few to brighten the season:
New versions of classics
“JINGLE BELLS: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be,” by John Harris, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, Peachtree, $16.95 (ages 6-10)
James Lord Pierpont, credited with writing the popular song “Jingle Bells,” was a minister in Savannah when in 1850 he wrote the song for a children’s holiday choir. For this fictionalized account, John Harris set the story at the time of civil rights unrest. Adam Gustavson expands the text with realistic oil paintings. Young readers may enjoy reenacting this story with bell accompaniment.
“THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS,” by Laurel Long, Dial, $16.99 (ages 3-8)
Many versions of this traditional song exists but Laurel Long takes the story beyond the accumulated account of the Christmas gifts to hunt-and-seek tapestry-like paintings that divulge the embellished French hens, the dancing milking maids and other gifts tucked away in subsequent pages. This truly is a glorious work of art.
For a contrast to the Long version, Jane Ray’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Candlewick) is set in the 1920s with brownstone buildings and nostalgic events including nine maids dancing the Charleston. A version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," illustrated by Jade Fang (Accord Publishing) includes Animotion panels that show the animals and people moving as the pages turn.
“THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,” by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Charles Santore, Cider Mill/Applesauce, $18.95 (all ages)
A stately colonial house is the setting for Charles Santore’s interpretation of this holiday classic. The glittering tree and stockings on the fireplace are beautiful in traditional design. A double-page fold out reveals a shimmering winter scene which adds to the interest and beauty.
Another adaptation of a classic worth noting is “MARY ENGELBREIT's NUTCRAKER,” by Mary Engelbreit (Harper), which interprets E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 story with the artist’s signature illustrations.
Ethnic traditions for the holidays
"THE CHRISTMAS COAT: Memories of My Sioux Childhood," by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier, Holiday House, $16.95 (ages 4-8)
Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s childhood was spent on the reservation when her father was an Episcopal priest. One Christmas when her tattered coat was to be replaced by a donated gift, she was reminded that “others need it more.” Ellen Beier has captured the heart-felt emotions of a child’s sadness and the resolution that leaves a true giving spirit.
A boy who assists the family with collecting sap from trees in the Arabian desert doesn’t realize its value when it is sold to three wanderers who, with the bundle of frankincense and gold, deliver it as a gift to a newborn baby. Bagram Ibatoulline’s iridescent paintings add beauty to a tender story. Newbery-medalist Linda Sue Park’s notes provide information on myrrh and her inspiration for this story.
"STREGA NONA'S GIFT," by Tomie dePaola, Penguin, $17.99 (ages 5-8)
Tomie De Paola’s ideas of Italian holiday foods and traditional practices make a fun balance to what is celebrated in other places of the world. In Calabria, Strega Nona and the villagers are busy preparing for the major events: Feast of St. Nicolas (Dec. 6), Il Capodanno (Jan. 1) and Epiphany (Jan. 5) when animals receive special treats. Magic happens as always in Strega Nona’s world.
"A CHRISTMAS SPIDER'S MIRACLE," by Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrated by Stephen Costanza, Sleeping Bear, $16.99 (ages 6-10)
Two mothers care for their children; a spider and her wee ones in an evergreen tree and a peasant woman sewing to make a life for her children. When the woman moves the tree inside as a Christmas surprise, the spider mother – happy to be in from the freezing weather – spins lacy decorations in the tree. This sweet Ukrainian tale is expanded by the cold blue tones of the winter scenes contrasting to the warmth of a cabin’s fire. This is a story for year-round sharing.
"OH, WHAT A CHRISTMAS!" by Michael Garland, Scholastic Press, $16.99 (ages 4 and up)
Santa is on his way, but mid-flight the harness on the sleigh breaks and the reindeer take flight in one direction and Santa with the sleigh in another. Landing in a barnyard, Santa solicits help from the farm animals, “Now, Sheep! Now, Goat! Now, Piggy and Cow! On, Horsey! On, Doggie! Oh, what a Christmas flight we have now!”
The coup de gratis is Santa’s special “presents” to his new friends. Garland’s digital illustrations with bug-eyed characters and hidden details will encourage many readings of this hilarious tale.
"CAN YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? Toyland Express: Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve," by Walter Wick, Scholastic, $13.99 (all ages)
Walter Wick’s eighth in the “Can You See What I See?” series is a Christmas extravaganza with a simple narrative as well as 250 hidden objects in the meticulously staged photographs.
Working with a team of assistants, Wick designs and builds miniature sets which he photographs in vivid color. One scene shows toys and toy parts as part of a circus. Another is a bin of discarded toys with a list of hidden objects to discover.
When the holiday rush takes over “Can You See What I See?” is a book for all ages to lean back and enjoy.
"A TREE FOR PYN," by Olivier Dunrea, Philomel, $16.99 (ages 3-8)
Little Pyn wants nothing more than a “real Christmas tree” but her gruff father, Oother, “didn’t soften” to such things. He finally relents to the luxury and a happy-ever-after ending makes this a real clincher of a holiday story. Olivier Dunrea’s signature illustrations of a cold, snowy setting with fur boots and a warm hearth add to the spirit of love and giving.
"SNOW ANGELS," by Angel Randall, illustrated by Brandon Dorman, Shadow Mountain, $17.99, 32 pages (f)
Two little girls get stuck in the snow and must call on the Snow Angels for help. That experience inspires them to become "angels" themselves and help others by doing such things as visiting lonely neighbors, making cookies and making quilts in this picture book by author Angel Randall. — Carma Wadley
However, as he checks his list in this new story, Santa Claus comes across a few people who don't believe, otherwise known as bleebernobs in the special language of Elfanese. Join Santa on his journey to change these bleebernobs into doobinbleebs, or true believers, in the iPad app "Kundersanterbleebin, A Christmas Tale" by local author Bret Hickenlooper. The app is a great story for all families looking to enrich their holiday traditions. It is especially great for children on the verge of disbelief. The eye-catching illustrations by local illustrator Kory Fluckiger, background music and narration add dimension and make this story complete. — Leanne Mills
Three new picture books bring back familiar characters to the holiday scene:
"FANCY NANCY: Splendiferous Christmas," by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, Harper, $17.99 (ages 4-7)
With outrageous energy, Nancy is spinning with excitement over the coming festivities. But when her fancy “tree topper” is broken she stresses, “I am devastated, which is upset, only a zillion times worse.”
Nancy fans will love this new version.
"THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS," by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi, Holt, $16.99 (ages 4-7)
The same unorganized family from Eileen Spinelli’s “The Perfect Thanksgiving” will bring laughs as they are compared to a neighbor who does everything as “perfect as can be.” JoAnn Adinolfi’s scattered mixed-media illustrated are most appropriate for the disjointed funny story.
"THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER," by Barbara Robinson, illustrated by Laura Cornell, Harper, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
Barbara Robinson’s 1971 novel became an annual classical read when the brazen Herdman children pull off antics that disrupt the Sunday School Nativity story. They are labeled “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The picture book adaptation of the story leaves out some treasured laughable parts but still retains a flavor of the whole comic escapade.
Picture books about the Nativity
"A CHRISTMAS GOODNIGHT," by Nola Buck, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright, HarperCollins, $12.99 (ages 2-5)
This perfect bedtime story includes a traditional scene at the birth of Jesus followed by a contemporary one as a youngster settles in bed where a crÈche depicts a Bethlehem scene. “A Christmas Goodnight” would be a wonderful first gift for a child who is just bubbling over with holiday excitement and finding sleep hard to find.
"ONE STARRY NIGHT," by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathan Bean, Simon & Schuster/McElderry, $16.99 (ages 1-6)
Animal mother and child love is reflected in the simple rhyming couplets, which lead to Mary, Joseph and Baby surrounded by loving animal pairs. Lauren Thompson notes that all animals portrayed are actually ones that could be found at the time of Jesus’ birth in the Holy Land.
"LISTEN TO THE SILENT NIGHT," by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, Dutton, $16.99 (ages 3 and up)
Dandi Daley Mackall has taken an unique approach to the Nativity through the possible sounds heard on that “miraculous Christmas night” such as the animals noises, the hustle and bustle of many people crowded in Bethlehem and simply the slap of sandals on village paths. Steve Johnson’s iridescent blue drawings are appropriately for this quiet story.
"A PIECE OF SILVER: Christmas Story," by Clark Rich Burbidge, illustrated by Annie Henrie, Wine Press Publishing, $16.99, 28 pages
Daniel, a homeless boy, takes refuge in Bethlehem stable before noticing a couple is also there and the wife is having a baby — a baby names Jesus. He wants to five the child a gift, and his only possession is silver ring. But that won't be the only time Daniel meets the Savior in this story by a University of Utah graduate and illustrated by a Brigham Young University graduate. Because of the amount a text, it's best for parents to read to their children or for older readers. — Christine Rappleye