December 18, 2012

Six Christmas Books and One Chanukah Story

B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner.
 "A's for Augustus, Emperor of Rome/ Who decreed, "To be counted let each man go home." Thus begins this beautiful alphabet book. It's a bit wordy - so Eleanor usually only lasts through about M before losing interest, but it's absolutely gorgeous with stunning mosaic-esque artwork. I think next year she'll be the perfect age to read the whole thing and fully appreciate the story. Hilariously, I bought my copy used at Bookmans, and someone had painstakingly written out new rhymes for about half the letters, and stuck them in with post-it notes. I like the original text better though! Rating: 5 out of 5

H.A. Rey's Merry Christmas, Curious George.
Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat are at a Christmas tree farm. George is busily climbing the biggest tree he can find, when it gets cut down and loaded in a truck! George and the tree end up at a children's hospital, full of sad children. George decides to make them feel better by decorating the tree with x-rays, bandages, syringes, and other items he can find. The nurse is furious about the mess, and tries to make George leave, but the children start laughing at the funny little monkey, and they all end up celebrating together. We've read this one about 92 times already this year. Rating: 4 out of 5

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore.
The rhyme is familiar - "'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house...", but it's brought to life with Tomie De Paola's trademark whimsical illustrations.
I particularly enjoy the apple-cheeked Santa Claus and the happy-patterned quilts the family is sleeping under when he arrives. We checked this out from the library, and it came with an audio CD, so Eleanor had fun turning the pages and listening to the story. Rating: 4 out of 5

Sister Bear: A Norse Tale, adapted by Jane Yolen.
Eleanor lasted about 2 pages of this book - which is wordy. But it's a lovely fairy tale story about Halva, a girl from Finnmark, who adopts a little white bear cub. The bear grows up protecting Halva and hunting food for her family, so they start calling her Sister Bear. Halva decides to take Sister Bear to Denmark to meet the King, but along the way some nasty trolls try and stir up some Christmas Eve trouble. I really like the illustrations, including the patterned text boxes, which are just perfectly Scandinavian. Rating: 5 out of 5

The Story of Christmas: A Nativity Tale for Children, retold by Anita Ganeri. This is an adorable book - an oversize (10x13) retelling of the Christmas story, as acted out by children. Somehow seeing little kids dressed as wise men and angels, carrying around a doll wrapped in swaddling clothes is the cutest thing ever. Eleanor was pretty enamored with it, and I took it to church and the kindergartners loved flipping through the pages. You can tell the pictures of the sheep and camels are photo-shopped in with the pictures of the kids, but it's still pretty cute. Rating: 4 out of 5

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 
We're all familiar with the usual Scroogey tale, retold and simplified a little for children. What makes this story stand out are the amazingly cool, ghoulish illustrations by Brett Helquist (who also illustrated the Lemony Snicket books). I wouldn't recommend this for pre-schoolers, because some of the pictures are quite creepy, but older kids will probably love this. Rating: 4 out of 5

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland.
A girl named Sadie lives happily, but hungrily, with her four little brothers. One day an old woman gives Sadie a magic pan. All Sadie has to do is say, "Latkes, latkes, good to eat. Cook me up a Chanukah treat!", and the pan keeps cooking latkes for all of them until she says the words to turn it off. The children enjoy delicious latkes until one day when the boys decide to use the pan alone. They can't figure out how to turn it off, and pan keeps making latkes until their whole village is almost buried. The illustrations are bright and cute (I especially loved the expressions on the mischievous little boys' faces); and I liked what a kind, good sister Sadie is. Rating: 4 out of 5

What Christmas/Hanukkah books are you reading?