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.
We all know Eric Carle for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Quiet Cricket. But for those of you who have missed his Christmas tale Dream Snow, it is truly a must-have for any bookshelf. In it, a farmer (with a rather familiar white beard) dreams of snow falling on each of his animals (conveniently named 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Special plastic pages printed with snowflakes hide which animal is covered with snow until the child lifts it and exposes each animal’s slumbering shape. When the farmer wakes up, he realizes he has some last-minute preparations to make and dons his red cap, coat and boots. Children will delight in this simple story, with the added surprise of a special push-button Christmas tune that plays at the end.
A few months ago, I reviewed one of the unbelievably charming books in the BabyLit series – Romeo and Juliet: A Babylit Counting Primer (click here for the review). And now they’ve gone and done it again. The amazing literary team that is writer Jennifer Adams and illustrator Alison Oliver has created yet another instant classic in their holiday book A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit Colors Primer. This utterly adorable board book will keep your little drooling darlings delighted with its lovable drawings, all while learning their colors! Scrooge never looked so good, and the added bonus of a hidden mouse throughout the pages will keep even the most discerning baby literati on their toes. Now, I’m an old English major dork so the thought of board books based on classic literature is just about the most wonderful thing to happen. But you don’t have to be an Austen aficionado or a Dickens dilettante to appreciate the brains behind these beautiful books. If I were you, I’d buy all the babies in my life the full set of these. Adams and Oliver have covered many of the most beloved books, from Sense and Sensibility to Moby Dick, all the way to my personal favorite, Jane Eyre. (I always was a sucker for Rochester…) Honestly, I can’t think of anything better than these wee little books – perfect for your wee little bookworm.