Henry and I have been working on a project: each week at the library, we get a large stack of books from the Christmas section, and then we read them and see what we think of them. Here is what we have learned: there are a lot of crappy books in the Christmas section.
I had thought that we’d have to narrow down our favorites to fit them into a reasonable-length post, but in fact the problem has been finding ENOUGH for a post. There are tons of good Christian Christmas nativity-story books, but I was looking for books more about the general holiday: the presents, the tree, the carols, the cookies, the stockings. It was okay if there was a little bit of Baby Jesus (like if the family in the book went to a Christmas Eve service), but we ruled out all the books where that was the exclusive deal. After that, the problem was just that so many books weren’t any fun to read, or were unbearably cheesy, or didn’t make any sense, or just barely related to Christmas at all.
For example, Madeline’s Christmas is weird, and not about Christmas, and it introduces a magical theme into a series I think of as being realistic. (That is, in the Madeline books a child might have surgery or be rescued from a river, but a child does not fly around on a magical carpet. Madeline’s Christmas shakes up that expectation.) Christmas Cricket started out totally charming me with both the pictures and words, but then veered off into lying to children about how cricket chirps are “angel songs,” while I was still thinking “NO, there is just a CRICKET living in your CHRISTMAS TREE, and you are going to end up going BERSERK because those things DO NOT SHUT UP, and now you won’t even be able to get RID of it because you have convinced your child that it is an angel. WAY TO GO.”
Well. We did find a FEW we liked.
Merry Christmas, Merry Crow (photo from Amazon.com). A crow flies hither and thither around a town, gathering a bunch of little items: a lost toy car, the ribbon decorating someone’s mailbox, a scrap of paper, a piece of orange peel. It turns out (spoiler alert!) he’s decorating a Christmas tree for all the animals to enjoy. This was a fun book to read and look at: the crow is sometimes drawn hugely close-up and sometimes tiny and hard to find, and there are Christmas activities (shopping, parade, church service) in the backgrounds.
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