Christmas is coming
Don’t forget to deck your halls with picture books for the little ones. Here are some jolly new selections to add to your holiday favorites.
DAVID'S AT IT AGAIN
When it comes to kids, “no” is a much-used word by adults during the crazy days and weeks leading up to Christmas. So a Christmas story is a natural for the hero of the award-winning “No, David!” books. Author David Shannon presents plenty of hilarious shenanigans in It’s Christmas, David!. His title character is the personification of a nonstop, super-curious, fearless kid, ready to get away with anything.
David’s latest quests go from bad to worse. First he peeks around corners and reaches for cookies, but then his exuberance takes him streaking down a snow-covered sidewalk wearing only a hat, boots and mittens. Later, he writes his name in the snow with a highly suspicious-looking yellow liquid. The brilliant accompanying text says simply, “Naughty list, naughty list, naughty list . . .”
You’re likely to read this delightfully fun book over and over again to your eager little elves—and you’ll all enjoy every minute of it!
CHRISTMAS IN THE FOREST
Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas is a lovely holiday book, sparkling in both language and illustrations. This is the third book about Fletcher the fox and his forest friends, and it contains gentle drama that’s all about friendship, helping others and holiday anticipation.
Fletcher’s friends, the rabbits, have moved, leaving Fletcher to worry that Santa may not be able to find their new burrow. So he and his pals use sticks to show Santa the way. However, a nighttime snowfall covers their trail of twigs. How will Santa find them?
Writer Julia Rawlinson uses precise prose that enlivens every page, while artist Tiphanie Beeke’s pastels are full of layered, lavish color. Fletcher and Squirrel are so fuzzy you can practically touch them, while the forest is a rainbow of soft color. Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas is a wonderfully cozy bedtime read.
NEW FACES AT THE NORTH POLE
For some snappy Christmas fun, try a ride on Santa’s sleigh with Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas. Jeannette is Santa’s daughter, and she’s got plenty of gumption, thanks to the writing of Douglas Rees. Santa’s in a pickle, because he’s too sick to man his sleigh. Jeannette quickly steps to the plate, listening to her dad’s advice about how to handle the tricky reindeer. (“Dasher’s the worst. If he had his way, no one would get any presents.”) This is an adventure with plenty of fun ’tude.
On Christmas Eve, an equipment malfunction allows Dasher and his gang to soar off into the starry night, leaving Jeannette—and Santa’s presents—stranded on a city roof. This crafty kid quickly rounds up a gaggle of cats and dogs to deliver the gifts. And imagine the reindeers’ surprise back at the North Pole when Jeannette introduces her new team: “Buster and Blackjack, Wheezer and Grover, Tiger and Squeaky, Caesar and Rover.”
Olivier Latyk’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this funky, spunky tale, adding a crisp, retro-modern look.
A COLOSSAL PROBLEM
More trouble is brewing at the North Pole in The Christmas Giant, a tale of ingenuity and friendship between a giant named Humphrey and his elf friend, Leetree. The pair is in charge of designing Santa’s wrapping paper, but in the off season they are asked to grow Santa’s Christmas tree. Their beautiful tree floats away on an iceberg, however, and they must quickly find a solution.
The pair triumphs, and author/illustrator Steve Light’s soft, carefully drawn pen, ink and pastel illustrations give this story a soothing glow. This is a lively, yet quiet tale, far removed from the usual holiday hubbub.
In need of a vigorous holiday diversion? Grab Rachel Isadora’s The 12 Days of Christmas. I’ve seen plenty of renderings of the “12 Days” over the years, but this one stands out, bursting with color and energy, recounting the well-known song with African images, patterns and palette. Isadora, inspired by her own visits to the continent, has created pages filled with color that remind me of Ashley Bryan’s wonderful books.
A map and note at the end explain some of the artist’s influences. The ladies dancing, for instance, come from Swaziland, while the drummers’ drums are from Ghana and Nigeria.
An added bonus for young readers is Isadora’s use of a rebus to stand for each of the 12 days. As the verse progresses, rebuses for all the previous days fill the pages, giving children a colorful, creative “code” to crack.
A NEW NATIVITY
Preschoolers will enjoy a fresh new look at the nativity story with Christmas Is Here. In this highly accessible, warm book, a young family walks through falling snow in a small town, where a sign announces, “Live Nativity Tonight!” The first few pages are wordless, as the family rounds a corner and sees the actors and another sign saying, “Come celebrate Jesus’ birth!”
A young child peers at the sleeping manger baby, imagining the Christmas story. On the next page, readers are taken back to the time of Jesus’ birth, and the simple words of the King James Bible tell the age-old story. The ink and watercolors of artist Lauren Castillo cast soft gray-blue tones on the nighttime story, drawn in simple lines and keeping the action front and center. In the final pages, we come full circle, returning to the watchful family of today. Christmas Is Here is simply and artfully told and illustrated.
Another excellent choice for young children is the toddler version of The Child in the Manger. Belgian-born author/illustrator Liesbet Slegers illustrates with bright primary colors and dark, thick lines, making the artwork appear childlike. The nativity story is full of solemnity, but Slegers conveys this sacred story in a warm way that never overwhelms.
The Child in the Manger is the perfect introduction to the Christmas story for the very young. It’s excellent, also, for both religious and nonreligious families, thanks to the carefully worded conclusion:
Now everybody knows who Jesus is. / He was born on the day we call Christmas. / And when you get a Christmas present, / it also celebrates the birthday of Jesus.