We have gotten to the point that our Christmas picture book collection is much larger than we can ever get through in a year, and that’s after weeding out a few titles after last Christmas. Still, I can’t resist a bargain, so we added a few titles this year:
Confession: it was the illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline that sold me on Kate DiCamillo’s Great Joy. (I’ve reviewed books he illustrated here and here.) I had read this book aloud to my girls many, many years ago, and the story itself didn’t make a huge impression on me. However, now that my girls are older, this book is one that I’m glad to have in our Christmas book basket. This is a book that, though it seems to end abruptly and even without a written resolution, is a great one through which to discuss theme. It’s about welcoming the stranger. Highly Recommended, both for its gorgeous illustrations and as a picture book for older children. (Candlewick, 2007)
Animals have become a big part of our family’s life over the past few years, so it seemed appropriate this year to add this Christmas tale to our basket: The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriott. Told by the iconic Yorkshire vet, this is the story of a cat who visits a woman and her three Basset hounds periodically. Then one Christmas morning the mama cat appears with a single kitten that she gives to the woman for safe keeping. This kitten is “the best Christmas gift” the woman has ever received. This is a very gentle and sweet story, and while it’s not exactly exciting, sometimes gentle and sweet are what we need at Christmas. (St. Martins, 1986)
Patricia Polacco writes books that never fail to make me cry, and Welcome Comfort is no exception. (See here and here for a few of our favorites.) Polacco roots for the underdog very often in her books, and in this one the underdog is a pudgy little fellow in foster care who is teased unmercifully by the kids at his school–due to his appearance, his “lesser” status as a foster child, and his strange name (Welcome Comfort), he is helpless in the face of the bullies. His only champion is the school janitor, Mr. Hamp. Welcome and Mr. Hamp have many things in common, and Mr. Hamp has learned to triumph over the adversities of his life. Mr. Hamp becomes a surrogate father for Welcome, and Welcome follows in his footsteps by becoming the school janitor when Mr. Hamp retires. It turns out that Mr. Hamp is more than just the school janitor, though, and Welcome follows him into his alter-ego role, as well. Thus, all his suffering and difficulties have been redeemed for something beautiful and noble: a life of giving to children all over the world. Shelve this one just before The Polar Express as a sweet and poignant Santa story. (Philomel, 1999)
Adding The Mole Family’s Christmas by Russell and Lillian Hoban was a no-brainer for me when I saw it at McKay’s because—hello!–Russell and Lillian Hoban! The Mole Family doesn’t even know Christmas is a thing until their young son, Delver, hears about it from a mouse. He wonders if Santa might bring him the very thing a nearsighted rodent needs: a telescope to see the stars. The Moles go to great lengths to provide the requisite chimney for Santa to descend, and in a surprising turn of events, their mortal enemy, the owl, has a hand (er, wing? feather?) in making their Christmas a merry one. It’s Russell and Lillian Hoban, y’all. Highly Recommended. (Parent’s Magazine Press, 1969)
Last we added a new little board book to our collection from the I Spy series: I Spy Little Christmas by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick. Benny still likes board books, and all of the kids still enjoy a good hide-and-seek sort of book. (Hands down, our favorite is the gorgeous Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long, but we have at least one other I Spy board book.) These little board books are good for preschoolers because the pictures aren’t overly-complicated or crowded. This one makes a fun, short Christmas activity that even the youngest can enjoy. (Cartwheel, 1999)
Even though our Christmas book basket has grown into more like three book baskets now, I’m always on the lookout for a new and irresistible title to add to our collection. I think we’ll enjoy these titles over the next several years.
Did you add anything to your Christmas collections this year? I’d love to hear about your new finds!