Well, sort of. I’ve pulled the decoration boxes out of the basement and started to put a few things out. We’ll get our tree and really deck the halls this weekend. For now, I have my village, my angel, and a whole stack of Christmas and winter books. Oh, and another Santa star! I’m particularly fond of this little guy. Something about his buttons and green eyes….
I made the Christmas village last year using these templates as a base. The Boy decided my bottle brush tree belonged in the village, despite its size, and I think he’s right. There are plans for village expansion this year – another house and some sort of village green. Maybe some tiny people, or at least a dog.
My grandmother bought the angel for me when I was small, a special treat one year. We were at Russell’s Garden Center and there was also an angel with a red dress, and I had a hard time deciding which one was lovelier. She’s sweet, isn’t she? Miss R and I love her so.
Now, about those books. What would the holidays be without special books? It’s hard for me to decide what to write about first. My childhood favorite? The one I discovered as a bookseller? The one my kids ask me to read over and over? They are all special. I will go quickly, so you can see which appeals to you and run off to find it.
Winter Poems by Barbara Rogasky is a beautiful collection of famous and not-so-famous poems, illustrated with glowing paintings by Trina Schart Hyman that capture the winter landscape, from snow-covered roofs to the soft early dark of December. This was my bookseller favorite.
Little Tree by e.e.cummings and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Kay. The paintings that illustrate this gentle poem have a wispy, magical quality that matches the sweetness of a brother and sister’s excitement when they find a downtrodden little tree and take it home to decorate for their own.
I’ve written, briefly, about Red Sled before and it deserves another mention here. This bright and joyful (nearly) wordless picture book by Lita Judge captures the fun of deep snow, a good sled, and friends to share the day with.
When I was young, my father would read A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas aloud on Christmas Eve. Later, he assigned us parts, and I still laugh at the descriptions of the somnolent cigar-smoking uncles and the whistles that would “blow him off the face of Christmas.” This particular edition, illustrated with simple woodcuts by Ellen Raskin, is my favorite.
And then there’s Mr. Willoby’s Christmas Tree, by Robert Barry, which some brilliant person decided to bring back into print a few years ago. They added some color to it but it’s still charming. Mr. Willoby’s Christmas tree, which came by special delivery, is too tall for his house. The butler chops off the top, and from there the ever-decreasing tree trimmings grace the homes of the local wildlife, finishing with the diminutive Mistletoe Mouse.
Young revelers, in simple costumes and with great enthusiasm, perform a house-to-house swashbuckling holiday play featuring a dragon in this cheerful book by Richard Schotter. The back of the book offers a quick history of Christmas revels and encourages kids to try their own.
I can’t skip this classic by Ezra Jack Keats. The Snowy Day follows young Peter’s exploration of his urban winter wonderland, from funny tracks to snow angels to an attempt to keep a snowball for the next day.
The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, takes the classic poem and renders it in stylized 1940s paintings. The printing blurs the images here and there and Santa appears with a little soot on his beard. I’ve always liked how this version of the poem uses classic Christmas images in a less cutesy way.
I couldn’t resist adding my brother’s childhood favorite here, The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer. Petey wants a boy for Christmas but his mother tells him that they are in short supply, so he must find his own. He is just about to give up when a chance meeting grants his wish and brings joy to a lonely little boy.
For the very little ones, DK’s Baby Touch and Feel series offers a cute chubby book with bright holiday images. It’s a fun and simple way to introduce a baby to some of the strange new decorations they’ll see over the holidays.
Miss R is fond of this little board book featuring Duck & Goose, It’s Time for Christmas. It’s a quick little story in which Goose, distracted by sledding and snow angels and winter fun, is led by a patient Duck to a tree-trimming party.
Tell me, what are your favorite winter and holiday books?