Tag Archives: Winter

Pace, Poetry and Passing on the Blessing

I’ve been thinking a lot about cadence and pacing in storytelling lately.  So many good things about that I want to discuss but I’m saving my thoughts for an article in the next issue of Soul Gardening.  So, you’ll have to wait for publication to hear all about it.

In the meantime, I received a little affiliate bonus again and I want to give away a beautiful book to someone: Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. The book is illustrated by the fantastic Susan Jeffers… who breathes life into the delightful Robert Frost poem.

I chose this book for a couple reasons:

1- It’s the thick of winter right now… let’s enjoy the wonderful titles celebrating that…

2- This book is a perfect example of the importance in savoring the words on a page and letting them hang suspended in the air for a bit before turning the page.

3- I love books that are able to serve in making poetry very easy and accessible to children.  Using picture books is a great way to acclimate young ones to the study of, but more importantly, the enjoyment of poetry.

So there’s that.  I’ll pick a winner this Friday in some random but unscientific way.  To enter, just comment please with whatever it is you’d like to say… ūüôā

****** CONTEST CLOSED *******

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Transitioning to Winter…

I love the shifting of seasons.  Sometimes it happens slowly and the leaves deepen in hue and drop off one by one… other times it’s an abrupt wake-up call and a brave little iris is poking its head out of the cold ground.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we were enjoying a normal, wet, mild, windy fall when all of a sudden the bitter cold came yesterday and left a quarter inch of snow dusting the ground.  Winter already?  I marvel in the rhythms of nature… and so many picture books do too.  I have Top Ten lists for all the seasons already, limited though they are. But we all know there exist a myriad of books that really hinge on a very specific part of the season, specifically its inception.  Best are the books emphasizing the beginning of spring and the beginning of winter.  Summer and Fall (well, there is the blooming “harvest time” genre…) are not as common for some reason, at least it seems to me…

Anyway, I read a book that’s new this year that made me think of all my favorite “transitioning to winter” titles.  The book is this one:

Winter is Coming

… and it is stunning.  It might well be my favorite book of the year.  I just love the tone; it’s poetic without being contrived and Jim La Marche could not have been a better illustrator for this book.  The whole story is simply a young girl watching wildlife and how they respond to the shifting of seasons.  In many ways, I was struck by how it felt like the female version of The Raft.  In that book, Winter Is Coming is going on my gifting ideas list because it is just beautiful.
The story is developed in a traditional way but the similarities between a child sketching wildlife in opposite seasons was wonderful; they’d make a great side-by-side comparison for the enterprising teacher.

A couple of the other books that I cherish this time of year are sadly out of print.  All can be found in my local library however, so I suspect they’re available in others.  One is called Waiting for Winter and it is glorious and messy and funny and endearing.  I can’t fathom why it went out of print so soon!  Meschenmoser illustrated it in sparse colors with a scribblish technique that captures the bitter end of fall so well. The little squirrel is waiting for snow and trying to figure out what exactly it’ll be like…

Snowsong Whistling is another one of my favorites because Elisa Kleven is like the bacon of the picture book world… add her illustrations to anything and it’ll turn out amazing.  In this book, the world again waits for the first snow and spritely verses dance across the pages as winter knocks at the door.

Still in the OUT OF PRINT world, there are other goodies also… like Hurry Hurry Mary Dear a very fun book about Mary running about tucking things in, getting ready for the big, blustery winter on its way.  The book is really an depiction of what illustrator Erik Blevgard calls a “domestic drama” but it sure is fun to be watching it all unfold!

So there you are… the best of the “transition” books in my opinion…

 ‚ÄúThe quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It’s a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you’ve got in as many supplies as you can. It’s nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won’t find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth and your solitude, for you have had foresight.‚ÄĚ 
-Tove Jansson
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The Christmas Motherload: Ten “Top 10” Booklists

So I’ve been working on this post bit by bit, over the last several weeks. I exhausted my library with holds several times (had my own CART next to the holds shelf at one point) and I even visited my family in another city and had my sister get another armload of Christmas books that my own library system didn’t carry. ¬†I was also able to make a few book purchases (of stories I was CERTAIN we’d love) for upcoming Christmas gifts. And finally I was happily surprised to randomly find a few YouTube video readings of a couple of these title too! So through it all, I’ve compiled my very favorites. Maybe only 50% of these were ones I already knew and loved. The other 50% were looked at for the first time by me‚Ķ gleaned from ideas on message boards and booklists I had seen as well as plenty from rabbit trails from internet searches. What an inundated book genre!!!

Why did I do it? ¬†It’s not like I pretend to be the voice of expertise in children’s literature; there are dozens of picture book blogs out there and many other well-read folks who can offer counsel on Christmas books too. Frankly these are just my opinions. And my opinions are formed on an appreciation of living, loving and breathing children’s books for a dozen years now. I blog about children’s books because I have to write about something.¬† I don’t write about my own life and kids anymore, either via blogs or Facebook‚Ķ it’s too much of a temptation for me in a number of ways. And I write for Soul Gardening but that doesn’t take care of wanting to share my obsessions and opine about books all the time! So I have this blog‚Ķ and it’s a fix for me. And these lists are basically for my own records really‚Ķ and to sate my own obsession with categorizing things. This blog is for my children to find someday and remember and smile‚Ķ and maybe even roll their eyes (with affection I hope). But I digress.

Many Christmas books are just plain not worth your time. And many, many more fall solidly into the “good” category. And on top of that, there is the GREAT category! And even that’s full! I couldn’t have possibly put it into one Top Ten list; who could?! So I broke it up into TEN different categories of Ten. And even that was hard! This doesn’t even include my Advent¬†or Epiphany picks! Anyway, I’m such a nerd; I loved every minute of my ‘research’! ¬†Enjoy these opinions of just one mama/biblio-zealot. Know that there are dozens and dozens more EXCELLENT Christmas stories out there and I’m sure I’ll be finding new treasures all the time! ¬†I wanted to be a purist to the number 10, so I limited it. ¬†My comments will be brief; I’ve got 100 books to tell you about and many of you probably know about many of these already! But my very special favorites are in bold.

2014 modifications are in magenta; the year introduced me to new books and ‘new-to-me’ old ones! ¬†
Best Actual Nativity Stories

  1. The Nativity: Six Glorious Pop-Up Scenes: A very special treat to pull out on Christmas Eve.  Truly a delight for your eyes! If only it were back in print!
  2. Bethlehem: Fiona French’s stained glass illustrations to the simple Bible words of the Nativity.
  3. The Story of Christmas: Jane Ray does outstanding, vivid illustrations (love that Mary and Joseph look ethnically believable) and surprise… baby Jesus was breastfed!
  4. The Christmas Story: Here’s one for cheapskates! The classic, basic, no-frills-but-still-sweet Golden Book version of the Nativity, illustrated by one of my favorites‚ÄĒ Eloise Wilkin.
  5. The Christmas Story: The beautiful, biblical text illustrated by the incomparable Gennady Spirin.
  6. The Story of Christmas: Pamela Dalton takes the words from the King James Bible and masterfully weaves intricate, beautiful paper-cut illustrations into it. My husband calls Dalton’s people “hobbits” but I don’t fault her for that. I like hobbits! I do however bristle at the 80 year old, balding Joseph in the story. (Mary was a teenager after all; I can handle middle aged Joseph depictions‚ÄĒthough I prefer envisioning younger, strapping man‚Ķ but the great-grandfatherly representation? Not my favorite.) Anyway, if you liked her¬†Brother Sun, Sister Moon, you’ll love this.
  7. The Nativity: Completely scriptural, this is better for slightly older children, or to be used as an actual family reading on the night of Christmas Eve. I love how the wise men show up (accurately) at the Holy Family’s HOUSE, rather than stable.
  8. The Nativity: Mary Remembers: What I like best about this is its first person perspective from Mary. This helps to give a fresh insight on some of what happened that blessed night.
  9. The Christmas Story: This is the very simple Bible story presented again; it gets a spot on this list for the beautiful few, full-page spreads of Christmas night‚Ķ and the end picture of Jesus who “grew in grace.” ¬†I do wish illustrators made the Holy Family a little more Middle Eastern looking but we take what we can get I suppose.
  10. The First Noel: A Christmas Carousel: This isn’t exactly a story‚Ķ it’s a novelty book that serves as a stand-alone centerpiece. ¬†The book folds out and can be tied together to form a 3D standing star. Gorgeous paper-cut, pop-ups highlight the five major scenes from the Nativity.
  11. The Christ Child. ¬†Perfect. I’m so happy to have found this for 50 cents at the thrift store. It is simple, biblical and timeless. ¬†I love it, a new favorite!
(other books I want to check out in this category:¬†The Christmas Story,¬†Christmas in the Barn¬†‚ÄĒthe original version,¬†The First Christmas,¬†My Son, My Saviour: The Awesome Wonder of Jesus’ Birth)

Best Light Reading or Funny Stories

  1. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree: ¬†My children cheer whenever we open up this book. ¬†Light, amusing and completely satisfying!
  2. The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher:  Much like the Grinch story. Will Christmas be the same without cookie sprinkles?!
  3. Too Many Tamales: Sweet story about a careless child. ¬†Makes me want to have the patience and grace of the mother when dealing with children’s mistakes‚Ķ also makes me want to have a ton of tamales!!!
  4. The Lump of Coal: So clever. This is a hilarious little book that will delight older children especially and the adult reading it with them.
  5. Cranberry Christmas: Back in print! Vintage, cartoony in the right kind of way and fun as always!
  6. Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?: Jan Brett dials up another beautiful book and this one is sure to win the hearts of polar bear lovers!
  7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Is there ANY Christmas book list complete without this one?!
  8. Mortimer’s Christmas Manger: Karma Wilson’s best book since Bear Snores On. ¬†Great fun, vibrant pictures, a satisfying ending‚Ķ excellent all around.
  9. Christmas Alphabet: I generally avoid pop-up books. But I can’t be a complete scrooge and what better time of year to really allow a special, magical book be enjoyed (gently!) by children?!
  10. The Night Before Christmas. This was just released again this year and of ALL the editions of this famous rhyme, this one is my very favorite. There is something perfect about a vintage poem paired with vintage illustrations. And the dimensions of the actual book are kind of a fun novelty too.

(other books I want to check out in this category: Christmas Around the World: A Pop-Up Book, Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn, One Thousand Christmas Beards)

Best Reverent Christmas Stories:

 

  1. Father and Son: A Nativity Story: This is an excellent and novel book offering perspective on St. Joseph’s Christmas night‚Ķ he ponders the irony of being father to the Master of the Universe. ¬†So good!
  2. All for the Newborn Baby: I’m so in love with this book! ¬†I love the sweet text, the lovely illustrations and the little details of nature/botany in the margins!
  3. Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story: This isn’t the usual, classic, elegant book one would expect in this category but I really love it. ¬†All of creation readies for the newborn Savior: “It’s time!” Really nicely done…
  4. A Small Miracle: Two of my sons’ favorite Christmas book of all time! ¬†This one’s wordless so it’s great for non-readers too. So lovely…
  5. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve: A very simple story that begs to be read slow and somber… great reminder for folks who live where there is no snow and may feel disenfranchised from all the traditional Christmas scenery.
  6. The Donkey’s Dream: ¬†Hands down, my very favorite Christmas book of all time. Enough said.
  7. The Miracle of St. Nicholas: Of all my Christmas books, this absolutely would be in my Top Three. I love the art. I love the story. I love the reverence and focus on the season. And I especially love the mini history lesson that can happen with this story.
  8. The Little Boy’s Christmas Gift: A little poor boy follows the procession of people bringing beautiful gifts to the newborn Jesus. ¬†His is merely one of the first examples we see of “up-cycling”in a picture book. Beautifully illustrated.
  9. The Legend of the Poinsettia: Lucida searches and frets over having the perfect gift for the baby Jesus but feels like she’s coming up short. Little does she know how God will reward her best of intentions. Another version of this story is also done really well in¬†The Miracle of the First Poinsettia.
  10. A Christmas Story: Brian Wildsmith never disappoints with his artwork and this little story about a girl trying to reunite a donkey with his mother is very sweet. ¬†Not quite as memorable/glorious as Wildsmith’s¬†Easter Story¬†but still worth picking up!
(other books I want to check out in this category:¬†One Small Lost Sheep,¬†The Shepherd’s Christmas Story,¬†Mary’s Song)

Best Christmas Stories Specific to Already Famous Literary Characters:

  1. Petunia’s Christmas: Petunia gets married! ¬†But not before having some very funny and touching adventures in saving her beloved gander…
  2. Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear: In the same type of narration and spirit as the original; Wood’s pictures never fail to delight.
  3. An Otis Christmas: Bright, vibrant and always fun‚ÄĒ Otis saves the day and a new baby (calf) is born!
  4. Merry Christmas, Strega Nona: Good old Strega Nona gets ready for Christmas Eve… makes for great Advent reading too!
  5. Carl’s Christmas: Carl lovers won’t be disappointed in another adventure filled (wordless) day spent with Carl on Christmas Eve. (Try to overlook the fact that the baby is left alone in the care of a dog‚Ķ)
  6. Merry Christmas, Curious George: Just what we’d expect from this mischievous monkey: curious bumbles and a happy ending.
  7. Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve: My daughter’s very favorite chicken confronts the jolly, red “Mr. Farmer” up on top of the roof.
  8. Merry Christmas Ernest & Celestine: Ernest and Celestine are new to me just this year but this duo has been around since the 1980s!  Belgiun author Gabrielle Vincent is a splendid watercolorist and I love the warm, cluttered pictures shown in these lovely, very simple stories.
  9. The Jolly Christmas Postman: The jolly postman is back delivering special Christmas letters (real letters included in pockets!) to nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters. Very fun! Would make an excellent gift!
  10. The Cowboy’s Christmas: This is everything I hoped it would be; it’s especially¬†appropriate for the Advent season. ¬†The Cowboy books are so, so dear! Know that his imaginary friends don’t make much sense in this story unless you have the context of his first book. I hope to collect all these books for my son. He adores them!
Best Emotionally Evocative Christmas Stories:

  1. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey: Probably on everyone’s Christmas list of favorites‚Ķ for good reason. ¬†P.J. Lynch is a masterful artist and the story is a delight. The movie¬†is pretty worthwhile as well; we check it out from the library each year.
  2. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: A classic. An excellent story illustrated by my beloved Barbara Cooney really sets the spirit of family and life in Appalachia: so great.
  3. Light of Christmas: Beautifully staged high in the mountains, this is the story of a young boy giving up his wish to see the Christmas torch lit, to help an old man in need. ¬†He is rewarded‚Ķ and the message is a reminder to all of us adults today: “In your hurry to keep Christmas, you have forgotten Christmas.”
  4. Angela and the Baby Jesus: This is a bit like the Grinch in that it is both funny and evocative‚Ķ only the former book is more light reading and this latter book is more sentimental reading. My mischievous but well-meaning daughter relates very much to Angela’s antics in this story.
  5. Christmas Day in the Morning: An excellent story to raise up men of virtue! ¬†A boy offers up the most precious gift of all to his father. ¬†So great…
  6. Prairie Christmas: A book on what the “spirit of the season” is really about, a sweet story on the transformation of one girl’s heart.
  7. A Christmas Gift For Mama: I absolutely love¬†O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi‚Ķ but I always remember feeling like it was just a bit too “mature” for lack of better word. There are no children in the tale; the selfless devotion is between a man and his wife. Well, A Christmas Gift for Mama¬†is essentially the same tale, only between a girl and her widowed mother. It’s told and pictured in a lovely way and I feel like it’s more relevant to children today. Very nice story…
  8. An Orange for Frankie: Based on a true story and very, very sweet. A lovely book…
  9. Why the Chimes Rang: Told in the way mid-century stories were often told‚Ķ this is a genuine and lovely tale that captures what it’s all about. Free to read at the Baldwin Project!
  10. Apple Tree Christmas: Like titles 5 and 7, this is another perfect book to embody what it means to give a truly thoughtful Christmas gift.  Beautiful illustrations…
(other books I want to check out in this category: The Littlest Tree, The Christmas Candle, One Christmas Dawn, The Christmas Promise, Christmas Oranges, Gifts of the Heart)

Best Toddler Board Book Christmas Stories:

  1. Gingerbread Baby: Jan Brett shines again in the fun book! Be prepared to have children beg to make a gingerbread man (or baby!)
  2. The Crippled Lamb: This is a lovely tale about a lamb finding his place…
  3. Bear Stays Up for Christmas: Wilson’s rhyming doesn’t lose its cadence or charm in any of her books! ¬†Here’s another sweet one from this author.
  4. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend: Get real with your kids on who’s who regarding Santa/St. Nick. Nicely done retelling of one of the St. Nick legends.
  5. Who is Coming to Our House?¬†The barn animals all get ready for “Someone” to come‚Ķ toddler perfect.
  6. Snowmen at Christmas: Bright, vibrant illustrations and rhyming make this delightful for little ones; a sequel to the very popular Snowmen at Night.
  7. Christmas in the Manger. Simple, easy‚Ķ nothing grand except that it’s child-pleasing.
  8. B Is for Bethlehem: My very favorite toddler book for Christmas-time! ¬†Pure eye candy…
  9. Night Before Christmas: The Classic Edition: There are many editions of the famous poem on the market; the rich illustrations by Charles Santore make this one stand out.
  10. Tonight You Are My Baby: A nice perspective of the human side of Mary just savoring her newborn here: “Tomorrow you’ll be my king, tonight you are my baby.”
(other books I want to check out in this category: Christmas Carols, and Merry Christmas, Baby)
Best Historical Christmas Stories:

  1. Christmas in the Trenches: The neat, true story about the Christmas truces called on the Western Front during WW1.  It leaves you feeling bittersweet though… knowing how each side can recognize and celebrate the dignity of the other while commencing to kill anyway… the ugliest sides of war are carefully avoided though.
  2. Lighthouse Christmas: Very cool history about the Flying Santa Service: a pilot delivers Christmas packages to an isolated lighthouse keeper and his family. Circa 1929.
  3. Silent Night: The Song and Its Story:  Beautiful, beautiful book that brings you right to the circumstances surrounding the serendipitous creation of this famous song in 1818.
  4. Christmas from Heaven: The True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber: I’m so happy to have new, fresh Christmas books still being produced year after year! ¬†This one is brand new and an excellent choice for boys, World War II studies, and entire families in general. Really cool history photos thrown in among the story too.
  5. A Gift from Saint Francis: The First Creche: A very nice and matter of fact story of how the very first cr√®che came to be in 1223. There are two other books on this exact story look promising that I didn’t get a chance to look at personally: Saint Francis Celebrates Christmas¬†and The Living Nativity.
  6. A Christmas Like Helen’s: Included because I’m in love with Mary Azarian. ¬†And in love with the nostalgic rural lifestyle of yesteryears that I’ll never know. A beautiful book.
  7. The Christmas Tree Ship: This is “historical fiction” telling the story of the ship that brought Christmas trees to Chicago in the early 20th century. ¬†Really lovely illustrations here…
  8. A Christmas Tree in the White House: A fun, true story from the Roosevelt era. This offers a good look at the “inside life” of a president and his six rascally children.
  9. The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree: A family is just trying to survive the Depression. In so doing, they contribute to the beginning of a national tradition. ¬†A beautiful, beautiful book; Jim La Marche was the perfect illustrator for this story.
  10. Shooting at the Stars. This is another version out this year just like the first title on this list. A bit less sober and a bit more simplified than the other title but the same story, just a preference of versions if you had to choose one. I ended up buying this for my son to complement our WW1 studies.
(other books I want to check out in this category:¬†The Littlest Cowboy’s Christmas, Christmas on the Mayflower

Best Christmas Stories Based on Songs:
  1. The Little Drummer Boy: Very sweet illustrations to accompany the song’s lyrics. ¬†I admit this has a soft spot for me since I remember¬†The Little Drummer Boy¬†as being my mother’s favorite Christmas song and Ezra Jack Keats renders it beautifully.
  2. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Gennady Spirin is pure loveliness. But tied for first place is the version done by Laurel Long, which is just a visual feast on every page. Another good one (that I like in the board book format) is The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett.  Collectors of all things Brian Wildsmith should know that he also has a beautiful one and so does Jane Ray.
  3. The Huron Carol: Illustrated lyrics to the famous carol that St. Jean De Brebeuf wrote to explain the Christmas story to the Hurons. There is another¬†in print version¬†by another illustrator available too; you really can’t go wrong with either. ¬†Haunting and beautiful.
  4. Good King Wenceslas: There are a few versions of picture books set to this song. ¬†One that is story form (rather than just lyrics) and very nice is¬†Stephen’s Feast.
  5. Silent Night: Just what one would expect from the sentiment this song evokes.
  6. Ding Dong! Merrily on High: Oh how I love Francesca Crespi! ¬†Here is a gorgeous collection of carols accompanied by her outstanding pop-ups…
  7. Frosty the Snowman: Frosty the Snowman is probably the easiest Christmas song to sing along to a book. This one has bright, fresh illustrations to the classic song. And it comes with Kenny Loggins singing it!
  8. Away in a Manger: I never exactly jumped on the Thomas Kincade bandwagon but even I have to admit that the “painter of light” is perfectly suited to illustrating Christmas themes.
  9. The Nutcracker: Not exactly lyrics to a song of course as it was a ballet, but I had to include the most famous Christmas fairy tale of all and Susan Jeffers does it best.
  10. White Christmas: Good song. Bright, fantasy illustrations complete with snow fairies that look like munchkins from the Land of Oz… what else could one want? (Maybe an accompanying CD of Bing Crosby.) Michael Hague has a bit of a cult following and they can find more of his signature illustrations in his Treasury of Christmas Carols.
(other books I want to check out in this category: Away in a Manger, O Come, All Ye Faithful,  Nutcracker)
Best “Just Sweet” Christmas Stories:

  1. Mousekin’s Christmas Eve: Mousekin is a Charlotte Mason-ers delight with all the beautiful depictions of the natural world. All of these books need to come back in print! ¬†Here is a lovely analogy about the one place we can all find a home: at the foot of the manger.
  2. The Mice, the Monks and the Christmas Tree: I bought this blindly, without knowing or hearing a single thing about it. This is a rare move for me. But after hearing the title and seeing the cover, I could not resist! ¬†Since info on it is hard to find online, I’ll post more about it separately.
  3. Santa Mouse: (What is it about mice and Christmastime?!) This is a light and fun little story about Santa’s new helper. Little children will like it but what gets it on my list is the darling vintage, Richard Scarry-esque artwork by Elfreida De Witt.
  4. A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree: An old goat of a tree is sad that he never gets picked to be a family’s Christmas Tree. ¬†But animals all around get together to show him how much he matters to them¬†right where he is.
  5. The Christmas ABC: Eloise Wilkins shines her vintage Christmas artwork here. The girl reminds me of my god-daughter which is why I bought this for her this year!
  6. The Little Drummer Mouse: Mercer Mayer’s lavishly illustrated book about a little, unappreciated mouse being the one who is able to make baby Jesus happy.
  7. Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel: The sweet legend of why we decorate Christmas trees with tinsel… it might be enough to convert spider-haters.
  8. The Spider’s Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story: Eric Kimmel always does a great job with fables and legends. What I especially like is that all the emphasis isn’t just on spiders leaving a miracle on the tree, but that Christ’s birth is still emphasized and celebrated.
  9. The Candymaker’s Gift: The Legend of the Candy Cane: The lovely story behind the favorite candy that is full of symbolism and meaning.
  10. Drummer Boy. Loren Long nails these illustrations. This is the classic, lost-and-found-toy storyline. I love when sweet books are able to have a subtle hint to the true meaning of Christmas without forcing it.

Top 11 Out-of-Print Christmas Stories that I Haven’t Seen (Yet)‚Ķ But Would Love to Get My Hands On!

  1. The Christmas Angel: Joan Gale Thomas wrote the very dear¬†If Jesus Came To My House¬†(not to be confused with the newer version with “updated” illustrations) and¬†“A” Stands for Angel¬†which I love (and is also highly Christmas-relevant!) ¬†I’m certain this Christmas story from her has got to be just as lovely as all her work! ¬†She also did¬†If I’d Been Born in Bethlehem¬†which I’d love to see too.
  2. How Six Found Christmas: Something is drawing me to this…
  3. The Dolls’ Christmas: Tasha Tudor and Christmas go together like peanut butter and jelly.
  4. An Edwardian Christmas: I have an affection for wordless books and this looks lovely.
  5. Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers: It’s on everyone else’s lists of great Christmas books, so it must be good!
  6. The Secret Santa of Olde Stonington: I love small town mysteries and legends…
  7. Penny’s Christmas Jar Miracle: Published very recently, this book became a big hit and I’m disappointed it went out of print so quickly!!!
  8. The Christmas Cake in Search of its Owner. I went on a Roger Duvoisin appreciation kick this year and want to see more!
  9. The Christmas Forest. Same reason as above!
  10. Mother Makes Christmas.¬† Anything that includes Lois Lenski illustrations is a must-see in my opinion‚ÄĒthey are so full of “the good old days” charm.
  11. A Christmas Alphabet. I love alphabet books! I love Joan Walsh Anglund! It must be a delightful pairing…
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Appreciating Arnosky

Today I dug into our October basket (yes, our “seasonal” rotation of picture books has now grown into a “monthly” rotation of books!! I include all our picture books in this rotation (excepting non-fiction) so as to ensure we are getting a chance to read and appreciate all the good ones we have.  Otherwise, treasures get buried and forgotten in the surplus.) and pulled out Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky.

I was reminded again of how much we love this author.  Is it the brilliance of the text?  Not so much.  The glory of the illustrations?  Not exactly.  I think what it is has to do with the perfect marriage of text and imagery Arnosky offers in all of his books.  He writes simple story lines… easy enough for a 2 year old to sit through, yet engaging enough for an 8 year old to appreciate.  And he doesn’t fictionalize things or  indulge in anthropomorphism like so many other popular kiddy books do‚ÄĒ I have no problem with talking animals, believe you me… but all things have their place.  And animals in Arnosky’s books are simply stars in the natural history story he has to tell. And they are excellent.

Crinkleroot
Tom Bombadil

We own Grandfather Buffalo and Coyote Raid In Cactus Canyon also but I’m starting to get the itch that tells me I need to purchase more of his titles… so loved they are and so seasonally appropriate they can be.  On my shortlist are Rabbits & Raindrops or Raccoons and Ripe Corn and Armadillo’s Orange (get a load of those used prices! Ha!). And we can’t forget Crinkleroot and his series… which are very basic primers to different aspects of nature; kids love them. As a side-note, Crinkleroot reminds me of how I envision a simpler version of Tom Bombadil. If you get that reference, it’s a strong indication you might be awesome.

Anyway, Jim Arnosky provides good stuff all around!  Go get some books!

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Bargain Book Roundup!

Skimming through the current Bargain Books on Amazon can be daunting because there is so much chaff and very little wheat. But here are some notable hardcover books that are currently on sale for a good price! Get ’em while they’re hot!

The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I I just talked about how much I love Frane Lessac a couple weeks ago! I was so excited to see this book on sale, it’s my favorite WW1 picture book to date.

The Legend of Saint Nicholas Demi’s version of the story, criticized for having a Catholic bias. I hate to break it you everyone, but Nicholas of Myra was in fact, a Catholic bishop.

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert This is a pretty new book on St. Martin. I bought it full price last year when it came out… so great was my curiosity. Some folks were a bit offended that the monks in here were portrayed as meanish or critical. I don’t know St. Martin’s story really well, but I do know that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints… and that sometimes, holy people have faced more persecution from INSIDE the church than outside of it! So I was not too bothered by any biases that some saw in this book. It had lovely art and was a good primer on a wonderful man.

Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott I just learned a little about this famous author and was surprised to find out that she never WANTED or INTENDED to write a book for girls! She had other material that her first publisher didn’t love and she was asked to write a story for girls… so she did, and did the sequels just to keep the bills paid. Despite the fact that those stories weren’t what was initially on her heart, she sure made a success of herself for generations to come!

The Trouble with Wishes This is a light, fun retelling of the famous myth about Pygmalion.

Pandora I love Robert Burleigh’s Hercules book and he writes a bunch of other excellent non-fiction titles as well.

Ad√®le & Simon in America I absolutely love Barbara McClintock; her illustrations are so old-world evocative… and this is a fun little look and find book for little eyes.

Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman One of my favorite Johnny Appleseed picture books.

Snow Superb picture/text symetry here. This would be a great addition to anyone’s winter basket (the general part of this season sometimes gets overlooked in deference to the millions of Christmas season books…)

Close to the Wind: The Beaufort Scale I have not seen this in person yet, but it looks absolutely delightful and original and perfect for explaining not only the scale on which wind is measured but so many other nautical things too, lovely art!

Angela and the Baby Jesus A beautiful picture book embodying the “real meaning” of Christmas from the author of the famous Angela’s Ashes.

Merry Christmas, Curious George! I don’t generally advocate for commercial characters in picture books, but Curious George was cool before he became… well… cool. So if you have any young fans in your house who’d love a George Christmas book, this is your ticket…

Corn. Gail Gibbons may not author the most beautiful books on the planet, but they sure are excellent contributions to non-fiction topics. Corn would be a great addition to anyone’s harvest or autumn basket of books. I recently found Spiders at the thrift store for our Fall basket and think Corn would accompany that nicely!

Panorama: A Foldout Book I don’t know much about this book, but it looks intriguing and like it might make for a beautiful, unique gift. Here is a blog post I found describing it a bit more in depth.

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More Wintry Titles

Aside from the titles, on my Top Ten Winter Book list, we’ve gone on another library binge of snowy titles in a desperate attempt to will some snow to come before spring!  So here I’m just throwing out some collected seasonal picks as we round out our wintertime.

Snow by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Lauren Stringer. A completely evocative book, slow and deliberate, with a delicious, stunning spread of a pink sunset reflecting on the snow. I’ve never seen THAT moment captured in an illustration before this… lovely all around.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas. An easy, living book if there ever was one. Contemporary, clean illustrations.

Over the snow, the fire crackles, and parks shoot up to the stars.  I lick sticky marshmallow from my lips and lean back with heavy eyes. Shadows dance in the flames.  Under the snow, a queen bumblebee drowses away December, all alone.  She’ll rule a new colony in spring.


Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen. I’ve been thinking on Van Dusen for some time… just how I want to pinpoint him as an author/illustrator and decided he deserves his own post quite soon.  So look for that. Until then, suffice it to say, we are big fans of Mr. Magee in this house!

The Snow Globe Family. A novel little story that will make you wish you had your own living snow globe family.

Snowmen at Night by Carolyn and Mark Buehner. Rhyme time!  Best enjoyed by the younger crew and recommended as a board book!

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Yellow Sled by the one and only Maj Lindman.  As a child, I couldn’t get enough of these Swedish triplet boys and their female counterparts Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka. I know the 1940s innocence of these stories are a bit contrived but I can’t help loving them nonetheless. Such sweet morals and goodness in these series.

Winter Shoes for Shadow Horse by Linda Oatman High and Ted Lewin.  I was surprised that this book had no written reviews on Amazon, so I had to make one. It isn’t really snow focused. It’s just a lovely, well written book about a young boy learning to do a man’s work under the watchful eye of his father.

I pry, and salve, and whisper, and tap and nip and rasp and clinch, Papa’s hand on my shoulder. Shadow Horses’s back ripples and I flinch, scared. “Go on,” Papa whispers, his hand heavy and strong.

Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli and Marjorie Priceman. New in 2012, this book is bright and vividly illustrated; the ultimate snow storm picture book emphasizing community! Includes simple and yummy recipe at the end. Now all we need is some snow to make it happen!

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Pick of the Week: Mice on Ice

 

Mice on Ice by the Rebecca Emberley and her father Ed. This was a random grab at the library, chosen for its season appropriateness and because I am a big fan of Ed Emberley. I credit all his drawing books to really jumpstarting my boys with the confidence to become little artists of their own. We own several of his books and will happily check out more when given the opportunity!  Regarding this particular title, I love it for three main reasons.

1- The illustrations are fun, bright and engaging!
2- It’s a reader book with very basic wording, yet not boring.
3- There’s an unexpected and clever little “development” in the book that I appreciated very much and won’t spoil for you with details. Otherwise, you’re pretty much just enjoying pictures of mice on ice the whole book.

And it’s as simple as that folks!  Fun, easy reader book that is both wintry and engaging!  Readers usually suffer from one two problems: they are either commercialized character books (which annoy me aesthetically and concern me parentally, when fed in excess to children) or they are dry as dirt in their story lines (if you can call a cat sitting on a mat a story).  Usually they are both.  I understand that the stories HAVE to stay simple to some extent but this is proof that they don’t have to be banal.  A refreshing change up.

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Here Comes Jack Frost

This isn’t exactly new (2009) and it isn’t exactly obscure but I wanted to give a plug for a new addition to our Winter Basket this year: Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara.  Kohara made waves in the picture book world with her Halloween title Ghosts in the House but I think Jack Frost is really where she shines best.

The books screams WINTER through and through because of its crisp two toned blues and whites and it’s sharp linocut illustrations.  It’s lighthearted, sparkly and a fun addition to the mid-late winter category of books. Jack Frost visits a bored little boy and they have all sorts of fun until the hint of spring chases Jack Frost away.  The book would make an excellent springboard for resist-art based projects with children.  I’m particularly fond of this winter birch tree art project (then again, I’m particularly fond of birch trees in general…) which seems very, very easy to do! Enjoy the book!

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Owls and more

This is the latest thrift store cache, a smallish but respectable lot.  First is a nice, sturdy hardback of the winter classic, Owl Moon, which I bought to replace my raggedy paperback copy.  Next to that you see a mint condition copy of Sector 7 from that wordless master, David Wiesner.  I am so happy to add that to my bookshelf!  Then we add to our Tomie de Paola collection with Strega Nona Meets Her Match.  Underneath you see a really novel book that is excellent to leave lying about near the breakfast table for the children to “discover.”  It’s called: Nature Got There First: Inventions Inspired by Nature.  But the real treasure Goodwill had to offer me was this book on bottom left called Owls by Tony Angell.  It is fascinating.  This is truly what a living book is all about.

Tony Angell is a naturalist and an artist and he writes and draws about eighteen different owl species with superb realism and from his own first hand experiences. (Read this lovely article on him here.) I never really thought much about owls, but they are a fascinating part of the bird family and this book is just the hook to draw someone in.  I also discovered that Angell is actually from this area and he has several public sculptures around the Puget Sound that I hope to see at some point.  The book is published through the University of Washington so it’s not a big mainstream seller, but it’s absolutely worth keeping an eye out for!

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Flicka, Snapp, Snurr.

Do you know Maj Lindman? Seeing how she’s a Swedish author and during the wintertime, I’m hot and heavy over all things Scandinavian, I thought it a good time to rave about the wonderful little series she created in the 1930s and 40s. They’re still in print today!

Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr are three young triplets who get into all sorts of fun predicaments before a happy ending and good moral end the story. We’re not talking phenomenal storytelling here. But don’t be deceived by the Dick and Jane vintage illustrations either… there is a real, good, edifying story to be told. It’s so charming and happy and just the sort of thing to read to a houseful of rowdy boys to perhaps interest them into wanting a respectable sort of day.
My personal favorite is Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, and the Gingerbreadbecause you are guaranteed giggles over three batter covered boys…
Of course, there’s also Flicka, Ricka and Dicka who were something of heroines to me when I was a young girl. I always wished they could have been quadruplets and I could’ve been, oh I don’t know… Nicka? Sticka? Blicka? Whatever… I just wanted to have a gaggle of girls around me to have as much fun as these three had. I loved the story of Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the New Dotted Dresseseven if it was terribly predictable.
See what’s so charming about these books is that they are so happily virtuous. They would never exist in today’s children’s literature world. The drama would be amped up. The girls would be seeking their individuality. But it’s quite refreshing to read a sweet, simple story about sweet, simple girls. And I think kids are inwardly hungry for this kind of innocent goodness. Think of Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka as you would a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning topped off with a dollop of honey and cinnamon… wholesome, sweet, simply good for you.
Here’s a quick, random video that shows the inside of Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and their New Skates. The new edition comes complete with paper dolls!
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