Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Stories to Share

I love a good holiday book. What makes a good holiday book for me? Well, I am not into sharing religious stories at the library, so if the rare occasion arises for me to read a holiday book, I like to keep it as secular as I can. It's the same at home, really, because I'm just not ready to discuss the other business with Pumpkinpie quite yet. So for me, I like stories about sharing and giving and goodwill, or else fun, silly stuff. I enjoy a classic Santa tale, too. And as always, I love illustrated books of songs to sing with her.

For those that would like a nativity story, there are lots of lovely ones around. There is a beautiful, simple one by Dick Bruna, an old standby by Tomi DePaola, and a new one out last year that was simple enough that even I took it home. (Room for a Little One, by Martin Waddell, with gorgeous, luminous illustrations by Jason Cockcroft. It tells the tale of the animals coming to the barn and welcoming the title's "little one.")

I would also note that yes, I am sticking to Christmas here. While I put out a nice selection of many holidays at the library, I don't think I'm really qualified to talk about which stories are good ones for lots of holidays. For starters, I will leave Hannukah to Mamaleh, who has a nice post up to start the celebrating. Shalom, Mamaleh!

Santa Comes This Time Each Year

Santa Baby, by Janie Bynum

This book could easily have been overly cute, moving into icky, but instead, it's a sweet, jaunty reworking of one of my favourite Christmas songs, featuring all the highlights of a baby's first Christmas.

Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, by Fred J. Coots and Haven Gillespie, ill. Steven Kellogg

This book is the full version of the song - if you don't know all of it, you are not alone. Ella Fitzgerald sings the whole thing in her rendition, so I if you don't read music (provided at the back), try listening to her to pick it up. And, of course, everything steven Kellogg touches is genius, and this is no exception. It's filled with detail and his trademark warm colours and broad, smiling faces.

The Christmas Orange, by Don Gillmor, ill. Marie-Louise Gay

This is the tale of spoiled Anton Stingley, and what happened when he teamed up with lawyer Wiley Studpustle to sue Santa for breach of promise. Promise? Why, he didn't bring him the things on his lengthy and imaginative Christmas list. Instead, he brought him an orange. A stunned courtroom full of people discover that Santa's job isn't to bring what we want, but what we need. And when he quits, it's up to Anton to fix things. This book is hilarious, if a bit sophisticated, but Pumpkinpie gets it, so I think it's not too far above the heads of the young. Plus, I always love this author/illustrator pairing.

Here Comes Santa Claus, by Gene Autry, ill. Bruce Whatley

This is another illustrated version of a standard Christams song, but beautifully wrought in Whatley's rich painting style. One note: I was surprised to find allusions to god and peace in what sounded like quite a secular song, but I suppose Autry was writing at a time when every family was going to church. While my own feelings on this would make me uncomfortable with much religion in the song to start talking about with Pumpkinpie, this is not too much, even for someone as squeamish about it as myself.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, ill. Bruce Whatley

This being a major classic, there are dozens of versions by dozens of illustrators. While Anita Lobel's has been called a classic for the city child for it's illustrations of Brooklyn-esque townhouses, I like Bruce Whatley's best.

The Spirit of Giving, The Season of Goodwill

Franklin's Christmas Gift, by Paulette Bourgeois, ill. Brenda Clark

I am not generally a fan of serialized storybooks, but I must admit to really liking this story of Christmas and a spirit of generous giving. In it, Franklin's class is collecting for a Christmas toy drive, and Franklin doesn't have anything he wants to part with. Once he starts thinking about how little others have and how much he loves his aunt's meaningful, thoguhtful gifts, he reaches deep and gives a treasured toy to the drive. Pumpkinpie has added the word "generous" to her vocabulary thanks to this new favourite.

Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski, ill. P.J. Lynch

This gorgeous book opens with Mr. Toomey as a gloomy, grumpy recluse who happens to be a gifted woodcarver. A new mother and son in town ask him to carve them a nativity scene to replace one they once had, and the son asks if he can watch and learn how to carve. The mother, meanwhile, brings treats each day. Their relationship warms gradually, and we learn about Toomey's past, which haunts him. By the end of the tale, they have grown together. It's a beautiful tale that could have been sappy if told differently, but is simply heartwarming instead.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

I know, this is obvious. But really, it's one of the greatest stories of Christmas spirit around, still, and I'm not about to exclude it because it's not new and hip! It's a real treasure, and I'm considering buying the old animated movie version this year.

And a decidedly odd but very funny one that I just had to add in somewhere...

The Christmas Crocodile, by Bonny Becker, ill. David Small

The Christmas crocodile didn't mean to be bad, not really... But he just can't stop himself from eating everything. and once he nibbles on a relative's toes, he is banished to the basement firmly by the youngest girl, who is much more sensible than anyone else in the house. Gradually, each person in the full house sneaks down to the basement with something warm for him, feeling badly about his exile. In the end though, there is still the problem of what to do with him - until the right people show up to claim the misdelivered gift.

Find these and other great holiday stories at your local library!

Libraries in Toronto will close at 1:00 pm on Dec. 24th. They are closed on Dec. 25th and 26th. For New Years' Eve, libraries will close at 1:00 pm on Dec. 31st and remain closed on Jan. 1st.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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