Subtlety and Christmas Mice

I can’t tell you how many books there are out there that forget what I think is the point of a picture book: to engage a child’s imagination in a beautiful way.  I suppose the logic is that if you put some colorful characters on paper, a child will be more receptive to the “message” that the author wants to get across.  The effect of this is thousands of well-meaning but poorly executed books on manners, virtues, going to the doctor, anger therapy, and yes even (maybe especially!) religion.

I always find it such a joy to discover a book where the “message” may be there, but it is so artfully made that the story is engaging enough without having to convince children to pick it up and read it.  The message may be obvious as in the exquisite What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do You Do, Dear? books… where manners are taught but in such an unexpected and fun way that a child simply has to love it.  Or there are other books which weave in a message within the story without preaching at the child.  Think of Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs which isn’t designed to be a bereavement therapy program… but it is nonetheless.  This is where the art of subtlety comes in.  Some authors have it. Others don’t.

A relevant case right now is in the world of Christmas picture books. I think there are many categories of books—indeed something to suit everyone— within this genre and all have their place, whether you’re looking for a beautifully illustrated Nativity story or a thought provoking piece of history.  But I’ve slowly come to realize something about myself in this category: my very favorite books are ones that are fun or sweet but have a hint toward the spiritual meaning of the holiday. I don’t necessarily need the full blown preaching on the gift of Jesus. I don’t need the tear jerker “true spirit of Christmas” charity-toward-the-poor or the be-kind-to-others story. I don’t even need the cutesy board books so much.  What I do need… what are my very favorites… are the picture books that tell a lovely story and then somehow the reader is left with a little warm feeling inside that there is something special going on here. And the child doesn’t need to be told how to felt. And the child may feel just a twinge of wonder after the book is closed.  It’s the same way I feel about music. My very favorite music is definitely not overtly “Christian”… but it is heartfelt and full of depth and meaning and the complexity of human nature. Off the top of my head, when I think of the Christmas books in this category they mostly involve the humble little mouse! How funny that mice are such dear, beloved creatures warming their cute paws by the fire in picture books… but in real life they are loathed and hunted. But I digress:

Mousekin’s Christmas Eve
Mortimer and the Christmas Manger (a quite similar book to Mousekin, only newer and cheaper)
The Little Drummer Mouse
Drummer Boy (not a mouse… but a wee, dear toy instead)

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2 thoughts on “Subtlety and Christmas Mice

  1. Kytka Hilmar-Jezek

    Hello!

    I see that you reviewed a book on unschooling before. I have written a book that is on the same subject and provides my own experience with my three children now 22, 17 and 14. Would you be willing to let me provide you with a copy of the book in hopes that you would consider reviewing my book as well?

    My name is Kytka Hilmar-Jezek and the book I want to send is titled Born To Learn: How Children Learn Without Schooling.

    You can find a link to it here:

    http://amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=unschooling+learn%2CB00RCD85U0

    I can provide it to you as a digital file.

    Of course, I understand that you are under zero obligation to review my book, and if you do review it, you can leave a good, or a bad review. I am simply looking for the opportunity to have you consider it.

    Thank you so much in advance for your consideration.

    I look forward to your response.

    Sincerely,

    Kytka Hilmar-Jezek
    http://www.amazon.com/Kytka-Hilmar-Jezek/e/B004LY9WFK

  2. Maurisa

    Thank you for the book recommendations! I purchased Mortimer and the Christmas Manger for our goddaughter for Christmas and she loves it! Pax!

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