Last year I put together a review list of the Christmas books I’d gotten from the library and read to Little Miss. The idea was to create a reference for subsequent years as I searched for holiday books. I didn’t want to forget the fantastic books…and I wanted to avoid the awful ones. I also wanted to have a quick way to make reading recommendations to other mamas who wanted the same thing.
Below is this year’s list and review, for a similar purpose. Please feel free to add your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments.
Merry Christmas, Thomas! by A. Vesey
A cute story about Thomas, a cat (no, not the train) who really wants to know what his Christmas presents are. He even gets himself into some trouble in the process. Comically written with even a couple of lines slipped in just for the parents reading the book, the pages are colourful and cute and the story is endearing. This book may be almost as old as I am, but like good wine, good books only get better with age. I’d definitely check this book out again.
Waiting-for-Christmas Stories by Bethany Roberts
Although perhaps a bit long for a typical preschooler’s attention span, this book is actually made up of several short stories, and could easily be read in segments, one or two stories at a time. Each tale tells the story of a different rabbit family member as they prepare during the final hours of Christmas. The pictures are bright and quite adorable; the stories are simple with elements of humour, fun, and reality as well as magic; each page has a good amount of text and large pictures.
Gigi, God’s Little Princess: The Perfect Christmas Gift by Sheila Walsh
This is one of the most annoying, stupid Christmas books I’ve ever read. I’ve been tempted to hide it under the couch so my daughter forgets it exists until I can get it back to the library, but…with my luck I’d forget it was there, end up incurring a $60 replacement fee and wouldn’t that just be ironic? Gigi is an only child (and it shows) who wants nothing but princess items for Christmas. She’s been told (apparently) that she’s a princess because she’s a child of God, but she takes the concept to a whole new level. Though the drawings are well-done, their style looks more early 90s than the 2006 print date the colophon claims. Stupid story, uninteresting pictures, and absolutely no good lesson at all. I will never have this book in my house again if I can help it.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A classic. What has always enchanted me about this book is the paintings. They are phenomenal. I love the colour, the lighting/shading, and the emotion his pictures portray. What makes it doubly cool is that the author and illustrator are one and the same. After watching the movie a couple of times I am always surprised at the succinctness of the story in the book, but the story is no less enjoyable. The story is of a doubting boy who almost misses out on his chance to see Santa and the North Pole…and finds that he believes after all. The movie emphasizes the aspect of friendship much more than the book, which centers more around the boy’s unbelief and change of heart and the magic of believing.
Little Whistle’s Christmas by Cynthia Rylant
This book is a case of adorable illustrations making up for the fact that the story is sadly lacking. A real guinea pig who resides in a toy store (for some reason) interacts with all the toys when they come to life at night in the shop. Together the friends write a letter asking Santa if he was the one who made them. Eventually they get a note back confirming it was him, along with a pile of “spare parts” for any toy in need (including vanilla cookies for the ever-hungry lion). To say nothing of the fact that toys in a toy store shouldn’t need extra parts, the story is weak and uninteresting. At least the pictures are cute, colourful, and big.
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble
This is a super sweet book. But it really isn’t for preschoolers. It’s quite long, with a lot of text on each page, and I think a typical preschooler would have a hard time sitting through a book this long, no matter how engaging the pictures. The drawings are adorably well-done; very realistic, artistic, and colourful. This is the story about a homestead family in the 19th century whose survival is partly reliant on their apple orchard. One tree in particular is their favourite, and when an ice storm tears it down, the children are heartbroken. Their father, however, finds a way to keep the tree and make Christmas special for everyone. I wouldn’t mind owning this book, actually. It’s well-written and such a cute story.
The Hawai’i Snowman by Christine Lê
What’s adorable about this book is that it’s a married couple who wrote and illustrated it, and they wrote it for their daughters. A tiny snowman from the mountains wishes he could go somewhere for Christmas. When he sees a shooting star the moon offers him a wish and suggests he pick a place to visit. The snowman chooses Hawai’i and along the way he uses his own body to help two new friends survive. As a result of his generosity, Santa gifts the snowman a lifetime of enjoying the cold and company of the North Pole. The pictures in this book are beautiful and extremely realistic. The bright colours and vivid detail are spell-binding and the story has a good lesson, as well. I’d rate this one an A.
Silent Night by Will Moses
Definitely a winner, I immediately fell in love with the story and imagery of this book. The words the author chooses to describe scenes and situations are poetic and perfect, but not flowery or superfluous. And while Moses doesn’t have a great grasp on painting attractive human faces, he did a gorgeous job illustrating a Vermont country village in the 19th century with an old-timey, reminiscent feel. The book tells the story of a family about to experience the most memorable Christmas of their lives, but it’s broken into sections titled with lines from the well-known carol. The exact situation is purposely left ambiguous until nearly the end of the book, but the story is beautiful–in more ways than one–and I absolutely love this book.
Santa Comes to Little House by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Always a fan of Wilder’s “Little House” series, I of course loved this story. I do think it’s a little long and elaborate for a preschooler, but the story is fabulous, and not just because it’s part of her “Little House on the Prairie” series. The simplicity of their lives, and the dedicated, special friendship the Ingalls family shares with Mr. Edwards are both huge lessons in and of themselves, especially in regards to the Christmas spirit we all admire and seek out. Great artwork, heartwarming story, and a first-hand look at American history.
Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Kathy-Jo Wargin
As far as imagery goes, I think this is my favourite from this batch of books. Part of it is the cool, quiet blue cover in contrast to the bright white and exciting red most Christmas books use. The story is a bit weaker than I had hoped, but I think that’s mostly the word choice and actual writing, rather than the plot itself. When a young girl decides to find out for herself if the legend is true that at midnight on Christmas Eve animals are given the gift of speech, she finds herself lost in the snowy woods…but then something exciting happens, and she has the best Christmas experience of her life. The paintings are lovely in this story, and I absolutely love the realistic detail the illustrator included. I’d check this book out again, and wouldn’t mind owning it, if only for the pictures.