Saturday, December 20, 2014

10 More Christmas Books

Hopefully, all you've got left to do is a few Christmas cards and some baking. That leaves much time to cuddle the children and read Christmas books. Time to savor. Christmas need not be all over on December 26, for there is always the week after too, to linger over books.

Put some of these on hold via your library's computer system, and pick them up early next week?

Listen to the Silent Night by Dandi Daley Mackall
Copyright 2011

Synopsis: It was not such a silent night when Baby Jesus was born. From the baa, baa, baa of sheep to the flut-flut-flutter of angel wings, it was actually quite noisy! Here, from CBA bestseller Dandi Daley Mackall, is the story of the first Christmas, using the sounds of that miraculous night to really bring the story to life. With rich, gorgeous paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, this reverent retelling of the nativity is sure to become an essential part of every Christmas collection.

My notes: Beautiful paintings to linger over on each page, and it is truly is a reverent retelling of the Christmas story in engaging rhyme for all ages. A short one; five lines of rhyme per page.

How Many Miles to Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland 

Copyright 2004

SynopsisTwo modern masters illuminate the Nativity story, creating a sumptuous gift book for families to cherish. Mary, great with child. The lively donkey. The dignified wise men. The glorious angels. All the beloved figures of the nativity story are given new life by acclaimed poet and novelist Kevin Crossley-Holland, who links their tales into a chain of voices revealing the miracle and meaning of Christmas. Peter Malone's illustrations glow with the same majestic grace. This is a book for art lovers to admire, poets to praise, and families to read together and treasure.

My notes: Really beautiful book; short, with few lines per page, but meaningful words, all of them. A unique retelling of the Nativity, indeed. My favorite lines are the last page: I am the Light of Light. The baby who will cradle the world. In your heart, hold me. I will never leave you.

Christmas in the Stable by Astrid Lindgren 

Copyright 1998

SynopsisAs a young girl listens to her mother tell the story of the first Christmas, where else would she imagine the miracle taking place but in the stable and fields she knows so well? "Simple loving text and radiantly beautiful pictures in rich colors by Sweden's foremost painter of animals and nature." -- Chicago Tribune "A reverent and lovely Christmas picture book." -- The Horn Book

My notes: Love this book! So gentle, soothing, so loving. You recognize the name Astrid Lindgren, of Pippi Longstocking fame? Yes, same author. A keeper, but possibly hard to find unless your library keeps a Christmas section.

Little One, We Knew You'd Come by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Copyright 2006

Synopsis"... Lloyd-Jones's soothing, lyrical text expresses the universal love felt by parents awaiting the arrival of a new addition to the family. Numerous intimate portraits of the Holy Family, surrounded by realistic renderings of tranquil animals make this a fine volume for sharing. The gentle rhyming verses here may invite introductory discussion of not only the Nativity, but the joyous miracle of birth anytime of year." -- Publishers Weekly

"A brief, poetic text and stunning illustrations flow together with magically successful pacing in this exquisite retelling of the Nativity story... Though this is a Nativity story, its message of awe and transcendent love will also touch new parents welcoming their own babies or expectant parents awaiting a miracle child of their own." -- Kirkus

"the words are a litany of celebration and praise for the miracle of birth-and especially the birth of the Christ Child born in the manger long ago. But... [the words] can be said to any child, at Christmas or on a birthday. This is an absolutely gorgeous book. The illustrations... the gold inlays on each page make the pictures seem like illuminated manuscripts. Sacred pages for a holy Babe, for our holy children, the ones we love. I also celebrate the meaning behind `We Knew You'd Come.' Some things our hearts know, and have always known. What a divine gift this book is for us all." -- ChinaBerry

The Christmas Cobwebs by Odds Bodkin
Copyright 2001

Synopsis: A poor shoemaker and his family move from Germany to Chicago with only a box of glittering glass ornaments. But when a tragic fire destroys their new house and shop, the family has to move into an abandoned shack, with cobwebs dangling from the rafters. Soon the shoemaker must sell his family's cherished decorations. But on Christmas morning, they all awaken to a shimmering surprise hanging from their tree.Spun by the Christmas spirit, a wonderful magic weaves throughout this holiday tale.

Booklist Review: In this poignant Christmas story set in "old Chicago," a "humble cobbler" and his family anticipate Christmas by admiring the one memento they saved from their old home in Germany--a box of beautiful glass ornaments. When a fire burns the cobbler's shop and home, the cobbler rescues only the box of ornaments, taking it with him when he resettles the family in a cobweb-strewn shack. Everyone tries to prepare for Christmas, but the cobbler must sell the ornaments to support the family, leaving the tree bare. The shack's story takes a magical turn when the spiders living in the shack weave beautiful decorations onto the tree, surprising and delighting the displaced family. The simple, well-written text is perfectly paced for quiet story hours, and the stylized, nicely composed paintings echo all the emotional drama. Children who have experienced or can imagine leaving behind the security of their own warm homes will connect with this moving offering, and parents will appreciate the message about materialism. Great for family read-alouds.

My Notes: This is one of my Mary's all-time favorite picture books; she checks it out numerous times per year. Tonight when I finished it for the umpteenth time, she leaned back dreamily and said, "Mommy, I just love that book. It inspires me." When I asked why, she said it's because they didn't have anything and yet they were really happy. She continued: "They didn't blame God or complain about what happened to them. They just started over and they were happy (content) with their love."

So there you have it. A very nice synopsis of this book.

A Cowboy Christmas: The Miracle at Lone Pine Ridge by Audrey Wood
Copyright 2001

Synopsis: From Publisher's Weekly: When Evan, a fatherless boy, senses danger one Christmas Eve, his prayers help save his favorite cowboy, Cully, from a chilly death. They also set in motion a chain of happy events for Evan and his ma. The somewhat overwrought tale is nonetheless fluidly told, and Florczak's (previously teamed with Wood for The Rainbow Bridge) realistic oil paintings, aglow with light and shadow, make ample use of the Western setting. Scenes of cowboys camped around a fire inject a dose of humor, while stunning paintings of Cully's riderless horse on a snowy cliff and Evan's mother strolling with Cully under leafy birch trees convey the dramatic events. All ages.

My Notes: This may have minor flaws, as recounted in a couple Amazon reviews, but I enjoyed it very much and cried at the end. The paintings are gorgeous. Publisher's Weekly called it "somewhat overwrought". Huh? Is a sentimental book a crime? I love me some sentiment. The world is too harsh, busy, crazy. When I sit down with my kids, I want something meaningful, appreciative, warm and wholesome. If I ever write a book for children, I'm sure it too will be tagged as "overwrought".

An author's note provides historical information about cowboys, including that they rarely survived beyond the age of thirty due to the dangerous lifestyle. Audrey Wood researched the life and times of American women pioneers of the West, by reading diaries and journals from the period. The author writes: "A Cowboy Christmas is a tribute to the courage and faith of the men, women, and children who braved the many hardships of the frontier West."

Rocking Horse Christmas by Mary Pope Osborne

Copyright 1997

SynopsisKindergarten-Grade 3. A story that's as rich in the spirit of Christmas as it is spare in its choice of words. Thrilled with his present of a rocking horse, a boy takes all sorts of wonderful imaginary trips. As he grows up he moves on to other interests. Meanwhile, the horse laments his playmate's absence. Finally, it is relegated to the attic. Years later, a small boy discovers the horse with delight. For this had been his father's horse, his "oldest friend in the world." And soon this new boy and the old horse gallop away to their own adventures. Bittinger's oil paintings on linen are rich in palette and detail. The cover and the title-page illustrations showing Santa making and delivering the horse might well go unnoticed, but they are intrinsic to this story and so much a part of its charm. The scenes where the boy's imaginative play surrounds him with cowboys, knights, race horses, and jungle animals are so alive with motion and energy that they fairly leap off the page. The unnamed youngster could be any boy and this horse could be any toy, any treasure, that enables a child to become an adult made richer by memories and imagination. The theme of toys outgrown and put aside but not forgotten is so well-done here that it will strike a chord with many children.

My Notes: Very well done. A well-paced, vivid, imaginative story. Makes a parent smile, thinking of all the ways little ones use their toys and how real and vivid the adventures are to the children. A toy ceases to be a toy and becomes "real" like in The Velveteen Rabbit. This reminded me of the magic of The Velveteen Rabbit. Okay, yes, I think I did cry at the end, but that's nothing new around here. My kids would be shocked if Mommy didn't cry during 60% of picture books.

My Prairie Christmas by Brett Harvey
Copyright 1990

SynopsisOnce again, and with great success, Harvey mines the grandmother lode as she did in My Prairie Year (Holiday , 1986). Two days before Christmas, Elenore Plaisted's father goes out to find a tree and does not return. On Christmas morning, Mother leads the children out into the deep snow to chop down a cottonwood. Just as they finish decorating it, Papa bursts in, explaining that he had been trapped in town by a blizzard. The joyous celebration is followed by a snow walk under the star-filled prairie sky. The story moves readers through an emotional spectrum from contentment, to the dread in waiting, to the relief and rejoicing. Ray's full-color watercolors with colored-pencil illustrations are warm and simple, perfectly suiting the Plaisteds' family life. Children who have read the Christmas barrel chapters from Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter (1953) or Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985, both Harper) will nod in recognition at this bit of American history. A beautiful addition to holiday shelves that will serve all year long in American history sections.

My Notes: I really enjoyed the quaint pictures of prairie and family life. Made my girls and I warm and happy to read this and take in the wholesomeness of the whole scene, with the handmade decorations for the tree, the handmade presents, and the Christmas barrel, with its flour and sugar, enabling the family to bake some Christmas goodies, which they couldn't do before Pa brought the Christmas barrel laden with presents from Maine. Like the synopsis above indicated, it reminded me of a Little House on the Prairie Christmas.

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant

Copyright 1987

School Library Journal SynopsisGrade 1-4. Full-page watercolor paintings decorate this warm, sentimental story loosely based on actual events. Rylant traces the origins of an Appalachian "Christmas Train" that travels through the mountains each year on December 23 to a rich man who wished to repay a debt of kindness he had received many years before. He faithfully returns and tosses silver packages from the caboose to the coal-town children who wait by the tracks. One such child is Frankie, who longs for a doctor's kit every year; instead he gets much-needed socks or mittens along with small toys. As an adult, he moves back to the town to live and work, having fulfilled his dream of becoming a doctor. With her clear, balanced, and well-paced storyteller's voice, the author builds the anticipation and excitement that the children?and especially Frankie?feel at the train's annual arrival. Although the heroic profile of this child-turned-man makes him more of a symbol than a real person, his story is capably told. The illustrations provide panoramic views of the Appalachian countryside, with deep nighttime blues and wintry colors, strengthening the sense of place. A well-rendered reflection on the importance of giving and sharing.

My Notes: Should be a classic in every home with children. Very meaningful, about giving back to our communities. Told beautifully from two perspectives, that of giving and receiving, demonstrating the blessing of each. 

Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modugno

Copyright 2013

SynopsisPapa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear weren't expecting any company when they went for a walk on Christmas Eve, but that's exactly what they got! Debut author Maria Modugno teams up with award-winning artists Jane and Brooke Dyer to deliver a festive twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with Santa Claus stepping in as the cheerful intruder.

Leaving their pudding to cool on the kitchen table, the unsuspecting bears head outdoors for a crisp evening walk. But when they return, they are shocked at what they find! Their pudding . . . eaten! Their chairs . . . broken! Their cozy beds . . . slept in! And it looks like the culprit is still there! Fast asleep in Baby Bear's bed is someone awfully familiar. A fluffy white beard, a red jacket covered in soot, and two black boots sticking out from under the covers. Could it reallybe . . . ?

With sparkling prose and splendid watercolor paintings, this delicious holiday treat glows with warmth and humor that will delight readers page after page.

My Notes: Very sweet illustrations. We loved it, but then we're fans of most Three Bears renditions.

1 comment:

Amber said...

Those all look like wonderful books. I do think I'm going to see if my library has a few of these. Thanks for sharing.