Have you noticed that holiday decorations appear in stores earlier and earlier each year? These days, it's hardly a surprise to see a Santa perched next to a Halloween cat, but don't let that spoil your mood. Just remember this: The holiday season doesn't really start until Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Paying tribute to this staple of the holiday season is a wonderful new book for young readers called Milly and the Macy's Parade. It's a story that will delight both children and adults. In this charming historical fiction picture book, the talented team of Shana Corey and Brett Helquist celebrate the origins of an American tradition, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first Macy's parade was organized in 1924 by immigrant employees of the store. Taking that fact as her inspiration, author Shana Corey has created a fictional Polish immigrant named Milly, who loves to go to Macy's every day after school to visit her dad at his job on the loading dock. She also loves to wander through the store, sailing up the great escalator and down the grand elevator, and staring wide-eyed at all the trinkets and treasures.
But when Milly visits her father and his friends one November day, she finds them depressed and homesick for the holiday traditions they knew back home. Albert remembers caroling from house to house with big brass instruments. Herman misses family and friends. That's when Milly gets a marvelous idea. Why not create a truly American celebration, which also reflects the traditions immigrants brought with them? Milly takes her idea right to the top: Mr. Macy. And the Macy's Day Parade is born.
Using historical material from Macy's archives, Brett Helquist's charming illustrations depict scenes from the original 1924 parade, including floats, storybook characters and animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. Milly even gets to ride on an elephant! New holiday books appear every year, but few stand the test of time. Like the parade itself, Milly is sure to become a beloved American tradition for families everywhere.
If you're looking for a book to share on the night before Christmas, consider Jan Brett's newest offering, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve? A popular children's book author and illustrator, Brett has previously released The Mitten, Christmas Trolls and The Trouble with Trolls. Her new book is a retelling of a Norwegian folktale that takes place in a magical setting populated by ice bears and hungry, mischievous trolls. One Christmas Eve, a boy from Finnmark sets out for Oslo with his ice bear, a giant polar bear. On the way he stops at a hut, where a girl named Kyri is making a delicious feast of sausage, buns, cakes and apple cider. Yet Kyri can't help but look anxiously out the window every time she hears a noise, for on past Christmas Eves, trolls have invaded the house. Sure enough, no sooner do Kyri and the boy from Finnmark sit down to eat porridge than they hear a menacing pounding on the door: Knockety knock, knockety knock! Before long, the hut is invaded by a swarm of hungry trolls. Everything seems lost until the littlest troll of all spies what he thinks is a cat snoozing under the stove and cries, "Have a bit of sausage, Kitty!"
Before you can say Merry Christmas, "Kitty" rears up, reveals himself to be a giant polar bear and chases every last troll away.
Jan Brett and her husband traveled to the northern province of Finnmark in Norway to research this story. And the magnificent ice bear hero is based on a polar bear named Kinapak, who lives in the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. With richly detailed, lavish illustrations, this is a holiday story perfect for those cozy winter nights.
Deborah Hopkinson is the author of several historical fiction books for children.