It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.
Today was the official start to the holiday season – December 1st. A day when the excitement and anticipation of Christmas I felt as a child still lingers inside my heart and my home. So today I happily went into to the basement storage and began to pull out the Christmas tubs – the lights, the living room decorations, the Christmas mugs and plates, the wrap, the wreath, the Christmas cookie cutters, the advent calendars. It smelt like cinnamon and pine needles. But my favorite tub of all is the tub that stores my Christmas books – my yuletide treasures. These are the books that have been read through hundreds of times to my boys while they were growing up and to my students over the years. I opened up the tub and greeted my books like old friends. The collection has grown over the years but each book holds a special memory for me. These books have brought me so much joy and are a gentle reminder that the only thing I ever really want for Christmas is my family, my dog and a good book.
This week I will be sharing my favorite old Christmas “classics” … (next week some of my more recent favorites!)
Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? – by Jan Brett (2002) In her classic detailed Nordic style, Jan Brett tells a delightful tale of a young boy from Finland and his ice bear who help to scare away a group of trolls who are coming to gobble up a Christmas feast. This book is a wonderful read-aloud, great for predicting and questioning. My son would laugh every time I got to the line “Have a bit of sausage, kitty!” These trolls certainly won’t be knocking again next Christmas!
The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher – Robert Kraus (author of Leo the Late Bloomer) This book was first published in 1969 and was one of my favorites when I was younger. I sadly did not keep a copy of the book but was thrilled to see it re-issued. This book is such a fun read-aloud. Great rhyming patterns which sound rather “Grinch” like at times. While the villagers are sleeping, the Cookie Sprinkler Snitcher comes and steals all the cookie sprinkles so the mothers cannot decorate their Christmas cookies in the morning! Lots of great connections for those of us who love to decorate those Christmas cookies!
Little Robin’s Christmas – by Jan Fearnly (first published 1998) This book was first published under the title “Little Robin Red Vest” so I was a bit surprised to learn the title had been changed. But regardless of the title – it is a sweet story of a generous robin who has a vest for every day of the week. But leading up to Christmas, he gives away each one of his vests to different chilly friends who need something to keep warm. By the time Christmas arrives, poor Robin has no vest and begins to freeze on the rooftop… when a surprise visitor delivers a special gift. I love this book – it is a tender story with a message of sharing and kindness.
Harvey Slumfenberger’s Christmas Present – John Burningham (first published 1993) After arriving home early Christmas morning, a tired Santa discovers he has one present left in his sack – a present for Harvey Slumfenberger. Santa knows this is the only present Harvey will get on Christmas morning, so he sets back out to deliver it. Since his reindeer are already asleep, Santa sets out on foot. He travels by foot, ski, helicopter, horse – everything he can do to deliver this present. I adore this book – I adore the determination of Santa. I adore John Burningham’s soft watercolor illustrations. I adore the fact that we never find out just what the present was that Santa travelled so far to give to Harvey The book ends with the line “I wonder what it was?” – which has invited many wonderful discussions amongst my students over the years. (My favorite answer is when someone says ” I think it was a book”! ( sigh! )
Little Tree – e.e. Cummings (first published 1958) “Little tree little silent Christmas tree you are so little you are more like a flower who found you in the green forest and were you very sorry to come away” This book is an illustrated version of e.e. cumming’s beautiful Christmas poem about a brother and a sister who find a tree in the streets and bring it home. While they are walking home with it, they speak to the tree, asking it questions and comforting it. This is a favorite of mine – the illustrations are soft and calming and the tenderness in which the children care for the tree is heartfelt.
The Snowman – Raymond Briggs (published – 1978) Long before “graphic novels” had made their debut, Raymond Briggs brought us this classic wordless picture book which is written in the style of a graphic novel. This charming story depicts a young boy’s adventure with a snowman who comes to life one night in his dreams. The book has been turned into a Christmas “wordless” cartoon set to music that is apparently as classic in the UK is as the Grinch is in North America. This story is magical, whimsical, delightful. I have a The Snowman stuffy that plays the music from the movie – that’s how much I love this book.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss. (first published in 1957 – and still going strong!) No list of Christmas classics would be complete without the Grinch. Every Who down in Whoville has memorized this amazing story of the true meaning of Christmas. And in an age of outrageous consumerism – it’s a good one to revisit and remind ourselves that what is most important at Christmas is not an upgraded bamboozle or cardinker – but being “heart to heart and hand in hand” with those we love. I read this story every year. I watch the TV show every year. I never will I tire of it.
The Polar Express – Chris VanAlsburg (1986 Caldecott winner) This book is a holiday tradition in our house, as I’m sure it is in many homes. Every year, before my boys go to bed on Christmas eve, I read it aloud. They are teenagers now, but still sit quietly on either side of me and listen to the magical words and savor the extraordinary illustrations. After reading the last page, I take out a small bell from my pocket and ring it – making sure that we can all still hear the sweet sound. I am all grown up but I can still hear the sound of the bell. Can you?
What Christmas classics do you love to read at this time of year?