Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Christmas lit for kids

Because I am a little bit of an information and media junkie all year 'round, I guess it's no surprise that at Christmas some of the things I love most are the music and books and movies and TV specials and ... what else could we fit in there?

I've done posts in the past about Christmas music. And while I am not one to pull it out the day after Halloween (unless I'm in a really sad mood and need a pick-me-up that badly) I listen to Christmas solid from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. That's not changing.

But I've never written about this other Christmas thing that is absolutely vital for me: kids' books. I have a growing stack of kids' Christmas books. They come out with the decorations and litter the living room for the entire season. The kids really read them, I think because it feels so special to have some different books for just a few weeks out of the year. And it's always special to snuggle up by a lighted tree or a cozy fire to read a story together.

Here are a few favorites. I make no claim that it's a comprehensive list, or anything.

The Nativity by Francesca Crespi is a beautiful pop-up book. I don't normally buy pop-ups, because you can imagine what happens to them in a household like mine. Destroyed! But this one survives, probably because it's only out for a limited time. And it's worth having; it's just lovely. The illustrations are reminiscent of eastern European religious icons, with gold accents and simple, strategic moving parts, and the story of Christ's birth is sweetly told.

Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco is a guaranteed heart-warmer. A child who is bullied at school becomes friends with the school janitor, and gains insights into Christmas spirit that are absolutely unparalleled. Anything by Polacco is worth adding to your library, but this is one of my absolute favorites.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck can't be beat! The writing shines, and the illustrations by Mark Buehner in this edition draw you in and make you almost feel you've lived the story. It helps, I guess, that the nighttime mountains you see all covered with snow look a little like southwest Montana to me. Oh, and I cry in this story. Without fail. It's a good cry, real, not button-pushing. Beautiful.

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner (more illustrations by Mark Buehner) is pure fun, a peek at how your snowman celebrates when you're not looking. And if you don't already have it, you had probably better add Snowmen at Night to your list, as well.

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. All right, confession. I don't have this book in my hot little hands yet. I just ordered it. But it's way down deep in my soul. This book was the one my dad made us sit through every Christmas Eve before we opened our one present (my family's tradition). I grew up before I realized that it was poetry, not torture. But now it's so full of memories, and I can't wait to bring this edition home this Christmas. I try to add a book a year, and this seems like the perfect choice.

The Polar Express. Come on, do I even need to say anything?

The Nutcracker, as illustrated by the incomparable Maurice Sendak. I cannot imagine a better illustrator to riff on the disturbing fantasia that is this traditional holiday favorite. I've never been a big Nutcracker fan, but I am a huge Sendak fan. And, OK, it's more for me than for the kids.

Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson tells a sweet story about a mouse who learns to make room for the Savior in the little stable he stole from the nativity scene belonging to the family in whose house he lives. Mice are gross, but when they're cartoonish and cute I don't mind them. My kids really enjoy this one.

The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Oh, so sad. Sometimes you need a good cry at Christmas time, don't you? And my kids have been fascinated with it this year. It's given us a good opening to talk about poverty and helping others - so important.

A New Star in Heaven by Val Chadwick Bagley. This is a wonderful hands-on nativity book with a definite Mormon twist. I recommend reading it to one child at a time. If you have a kid on each side, they may be liable to fight over who gets to lift the flaps. Really, I love the way the story is told, and most importantly, the kids love to get involved with the book the way they do in this one.

What are your favorite reads at Christmas time? I'd love to hear!

1 comment:

Those Darn Calls said...

Some of our favorites are:

The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren

The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie DePoala

Jesus' Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

Merry Christmas!