Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Picture Books, Part 1

My favorite thing about Christmas besides the miracle of Jesus--the miracle of hearing from heaven following 400 years of silence--is the Christmas books. Yes, cuddling with my family for Christmas books is goodness and grace and joy all wrapped up in a cozy package. There are tears, giggles, hugs, deep sighs, deep gratitude. We make memories as stories fill our hearts and minds, bring us close together, and knit us strong into a united cloth that is family. Storytime always does this for us, but in December, it's extra special.

Here are six books--just the first installment. I pray you can find them at your library. Enjoy!

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski 

Synopsis by Booklist: "Christmas is pish-posh," grumbles Jonathan Toomey, the best wood carver in the valley. He's a Scroogelike recluse; but he's a gentle grouch, it turns out, and he hides a sad secret. He's transformed, not by Dickensian ghosts, but by an eager seven-year-old boy and his widowed mother who ask him to make them a Christmas creche. The story verges on the sentimental, but it's told with feeling and lyricism (he "traveled till his tears stopped" ). Lynch's sweeping illustrations, in shades of wood grain, are both realistic and gloriously romantic, focusing on faces and hands at work before the fire and in the lamplight. In a beautiful, elemental scene, the angry wood carver stands on the threshold of his home, disturbed by the gentle widow and her son who want his help and will transform his life. (text copyright 1995)

My Notes: Yes, I shared this book last year, too. I do not write either book or product reviews because it would take time I don't have to develop skill at writing them, but hear me when I tell you, you must have this book on your shelf every Christmas, okay? It has heart, humor, love, gentleness, bitterness, patience, self-control, sorrow, grief, healing, transformation, and joy, all wrapped up in a delicate, beautifully woven tale that will keep you coming back for more, Christmas after Christmas, and then some. Don't leave December without it!

Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco 

Synopsis from Publishers Weekly: Polacco's (The Keeping Quilt) knack for spinning seemingly disparate characters and plot elements into personal yarns works to great effect in this holiday picture book, based on a "true story" told as a church homily. Jonathan resents his Baptist preacher father's reassignment from Memphis to a dilapidated church in Detroit, and he's dismayed when damage from a blizzard ruins months of planning to restore the building in time for Christmas Eve services. But the elegant-looking, bargain-priced tapestry he and his dad purchase to cover the damage miraculously brings about the reunion of an elderly Jewish couple separated decades earlier during the Holocaust. Though the tale slows in spots, Polacco's signature illustrations of swirling snow, the fine tapestry and numerous love-filled faces invite readers to linger. All ages. (Copyright 2002)

My notes: I love most of Patricia Polacco's work, and this didn't disappoint; it was a pleasure to read to my family. The children loved it! The coincidental events of the tale are a bit hard to believe, but an author's note indicates Patricia heard the story in two different religious settings, and adapted it to fit young readers, changing the setting to her home state of Michigan. 

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

SynopsisThe Stowell family is abuzz with holiday excitement, and Frankie, the youngest boy, is the most excited of all. But there's a cloud over the joyous season: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and Pa hasn't returned yet from his trip to Lansing. He promised to bring back the oranges for the mantelpiece. Every year there are nine of them nestled among the evergreens, one for each of the children. But this year, heavy snows might mean no oranges . . . and, worse, no Pa!
This is a holiday story close to Patricia Polacco's heart. Frankie was her grandmother's youngest brother, and every year she and her family remember this tale of a little boy who learned--and taught--an important lesson about giving, one Christmas long ago. (copyright 2004)

My Notes: This quickly became a classic in our house last year, and will reappear every Christmas. Just a beautiful story of giving and love and family cohesiveness. Don't leave December without it. A keeper and a sure favorite!

Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw

Synopsis from BooklistOne Christmas Eve, a king purchases a bolt of cloth from an outdoor market: “That cloth is so red and soft and Christmassy!” Perfect, in fact, to make a cloak for the princess. What the king does not expect, though, is that the leftover scraps from the cloth, set outside the back door, hold an equal appeal for others. Before night falls, the castle’s kitchen maid finds the scraps and sews a jacket for her ma; a badger makes a hat for his pa; a squirrel sews gloves for his wife; and a mouse creates a scarf for her son. With its catchy repetitive phrases, this book is perfect for the preschool child or emergent reader, who can anticipate what will come next. The endearing mixed-media illustrations, often arranged on the page within a simple sewing pattern, effectively capture the joy of the season. The warm message of the closeness of family pervades both text and pictures, and the final two-page spread brings all the inhabitants together, ice-skating in their brand-new finery—a lovely communal touch. Preschool-Grade 1. (Copyright 2012)

My Notes: This story tickled me so! My girls too--so much so we had to close the book and start all over right away, it was so delicious! Loved the small repetitive part that my girls could join in on. Fun from start to finish, and I think the grade level could go beyond grade 1 easily. Even a fourth grader would smile at this

The Legend of the Christmas Stocking: The Inspirational Story of a Wish Come True by Rick Osborne

SynopsisThis wonderful Christmas tale, set in the late 1800s, shares the touching story of a young boy named Peter. He sells newspapers to help his family while his father is away at sea, and he’s been saving a bit of his earnings to buy a model schooner in the woodworker’s shop. But after Uncle Jim, the woodworker, tells him the story of St. Nicholas, Peter discovers the meaning behind the hanging and filling of Christmas stockings and learns a heartfelt lesson in kindness and generosity. Filled with the rich, realistic illustrations of Jim Griffin, children ages 4 to 8 will discover the depth of God's love shown through others as they learn the Christian meaning revealed in The Legend of the Christmas Stocking. Through imaginative and innovative products, Zonderkidz is feeding young souls. (copyright 2004)

My Notes: When I looked at the author's name, and saw the ZonderKids label, I that the Rick Osborne--author of a million and one Christian discipleship books for children? Yes, it is. This is a wonderful book too. My children were mesmerized by the legend of the Christmas stocking, and Peter's story is very touching and teaches self-sacrifice, hard work, and family responsibility. 

A Little Women Christmas by Heather Vogel Frederick (New in 2014)

SynopsisA cherished holiday scene from a beloved classic comes to life in this festive, cozy picture book homage to Little Women.

It’s almost Christmas, and Jo March is determined that this year, unlike the last, there will be presents. It is in this spirit that she and her dear friend Laurie build a snow maiden for poor, sick Beth. The next day, Beth is thrilled with her present, and each of the girls, in turn, receives a little something from the others. But the best gift of all arrives when Papa, who has been away at war and ill, makes a surprise return home for Christmas dinner.

With a timeless message of goodwill and giving and stunning painted artwork, A Little Women Christmas makes a perfect gift for fans of Louisa May Alcott’s literary treasure as well as for anyone who appreciates the true meaning of Christmas. (copyright 2014)

My Notes: I was so excited to see this in the new book section! The paintings are beautiful and it really feels like a holiday chapter out of Little Women (with simpler prose). It's a short read so your little ones won't be antsy, but for Little Women fans it will feel too short. 

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