Nearly everyone I know has, at one time or another, received Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s The Jolly Christmas Postman as a holiday present. It is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite holiday book. In it, the Jolly Postman delivers Christmas mail to all of the fairy tale creatures: Mother Goose, Red Riding Hood, the Gingerbread Man. Sounds great. But wait! Young readers will delight in the fact that, within the book, there are little envelopes they can open and pull out the letters, written in the creatures’ own handwriting. There’s just something magical about a book like this – where each page holds a new and exciting treasure just waiting to be found. And with this, I wish all of you a very happy holidays. I am so grateful for your readership, your comments, your support and your unending love of children’s books. Happy Holidays to you all! With love, Katie
Today, in place of recommending a holiday book, I wanted to take a minute to thank one of the most gracious, talented and altogether wonderful children’s book authors around. Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the inimitable Lunch Lady series among other amazing works, recently unveiled a piece of artwork in response to the tragedy in Connecticut. This piece, entitled “Make Magic, Preserve Wonder” is, to me, a true recognition of all that is most wonderful about children and all we must to do safeguard just that. This piece, which you can see above, was created by Jarrett to honor the beauty of childhood and the role that educators play in maintaining that beauty for the world. So today, in honor of Jarrett’s contributions, please take your child to a local library or bookstore and pick up one of his many, amazing books. From Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute (my sons’ personal favorite) to Baghead to Max for President, Jarrett makes magic and preserves wonder with every word he writes and each picture he draws.
First, a brief disclaimer. This is not a “holiday” book, per se. No tinsel or holly or jolly gentleman. But it is just one of those amazingly charming books with snow in it, so I’m willing to include it in my holiday books round-up. I hope you’ll forgive me. It’s just too adorable to pass up. And penguins are festive! They’re jolly, right? For anyone who loved Antoinette Portis’ “Not a Box” and “Not a Stick” (trust me…you’ll LOVE them), her tale of a penguin named Edna cannot be missed. First of all, kudos to any author who names a penguin Edna. Sheer perfection. In Portis’ tale, Edna wants more from her life than just the white snow and the occasional waddle. What she finds is a research station and an orange glove. Sounds simple? It is….simply wonderful. Portis’ poetic and minimalistic text, dry sense of humor and graphic novel-like illustrations make this book a favorite of mine and one I heartily recommend to you this holiday season and every day after it.
Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman was a staple in my home growing up. Not only did I linger over his stunning illustrations, but my mother would always play the soundtrack of the book for me on our little tape player. What distinguishes Briggs’ tale from other holiday books is the fact that he so compellingly and beautifully weaves the story of the little boy and the snowman without words. Told only in pictures, The Snowman is as clever and engaging a read as any word-ridden book and will delight readers young and old. In the book, a little boy builds a snowman. Then, that night, after a fitful sleep, the boy goes outside to find that his snowman has come to life. But this is no Hallmark card remake of Frosty the Snowman. This is better. It is lovely and heartbreaking and, without one word, entirely literary. If you’ve never read this book, please look for it at your local library or bookstore. It is one of the most wonderful books in the world.
So, you want to give the all-time classic Christmas tale to someone this Christmas. Well, it’s certainly easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of them on the market. Personally, I don’t think anyone can have too many copies of Clement Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. (I, myself, have about six and each one is a favorite.) But, in my opinion, if you are searching for the most beautiful of them all, look no further than Mary Engelbreit’s version. The quintessential colored pencil artist, Engelbreit has created the most gorgeous Christmas Eve tale yet – and her illustrations are the perfect match for Moore’s timeless verse. This books makes for not only a wonderful Christmas Eve read-aloud tradition, but would make a gorgeous gift to anyone you love. It’s a big, beautiful book filled with timeless delights and inimitable illustrations. A true Christmas treasure.
Last year, my utterly wonderful friend sent a little package to me with a children’s book inside that, no kidding, is one of the most adorable holiday books I’ve seen. Maggie Smith’s Christmas with the Mousekins is, for lack of a better term, darling. Darling, darling, darling. In it, the Mousekin family is busy with holiday preparations – writing letters to Santa Mouse, cutting paper snowflakes and baking holiday cookies – all with a special mouse-ish flair. What makes this book so amazing is that Smith has included fun craft activities and baking recipes in the story so that the readers can write, cut and bake right along with the Mousekins! From making paper Mittens-in-a-Row to baking Gingerbread Mice, Smith’s easy-to-follow instructions and whimsical illustrations will have you spreading Christmas cheer all over the house! (And if you want to take a peek at Maggie Smith’s amazing stuffed animal creations, just visit www.maggierama.etsy.com for more! This is one talented lady!) I can’t even begin to tell you what a wonderful addition to the world of holiday books this little treasure is. It would make a delightful tradition to read every Christmas – and makes a lovely present for loved ones. Darling. Just darling.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree is enormous. Much too enormous for even for his mansion of a house. Not too keen on the idea of a leaning tree, Mr. Willowby calls upon his butler, Baxter, to trim just a little off the top. Baxter, ever the resourceful assistant, decides that this little tip of the tree would be perfect as a Christmas tree for the upstairs maid. But she, too, must trim a bit off the top to fit in her room, so she gives that tip to the gardener. And so on and so forth, until just about everyone in the entire household (including the mice) has been given the gift of the perfect Christmas tree. This delightful book will keep your children laughing as Robert Barry’s rhyming verse tells this fun and whimsical tale.