Gather your little elves for story time, and get set for a sparkling holiday with heartwarming tales of Christmas Eve magic. The plum picks featured here will bring the spirit of December to any reading circle.
A new book from paper-craft whiz Robert Sabuda is always a cause for celebration, and this year he delivers another pop-up masterpiece. The Christmas Story is a spellbinding depiction of the Nativity that will enchant readers of all ages. Sabuda uses white paper with touches of gold to create pristine scenes that capture the majesty of the story of Jesus’ birth. His crisp tableaux lend a new dimension—literally—to the cherished tale. Wise men astride camels, a sparkling star and a stable filled with very special occupants are standout elements in a book brimming with pop-up surprises. It seems there’s nothing Sabuda can’t create out of paper. His visionary take on the Nativity is destined to become a December staple.
You can’t go wrong with a title like Stowaway in a Sleigh. This irresistible Christmas caper from C. Roger Mader features a feline with a problem only Santa can solve. On Christmas Eve, Slipper, a green-eyed cat, discovers an intruder in the house—a big man with furry boots, dressed in head-to-toe red! Deciding to check out his bag of goodies, Slipper crawls inside. Unsuspecting Santa shoulders the sack, and in a breathtaking nod to The Polar Express, Slipper soon finds herself flying high in Santa’s sleigh, heading for the North Pole. How will she get home? With the help of Mr. Claus, of course! In his richly detailed pastel illustrations, Mader conveys Slipper’s many moods—curiosity, wonder and, in the end, contentment. This is a trip readers will want to take again and again.
AN ANTICIPATED ARRIVAL
In Anik McGrory’s The Christmas Fox, a mischievous fox is summoned by his animal friends to help prepare the stable for the arrival of a baby. “Come . . . there’s a place to make warm with sweet-smelling hay,” says the cow. “Come,” the lamb tells him. “There are gifts to get ready with soft, cozy wool.” But the fox—uncertain about how he can help—ignores their words. He frolics in the snow and plays in a stream. Once he arrives at the stable, he finds that he’s able to contribute after all, in true fox-like fashion. Youngsters will fall for McGrory’s impish fox, whose personality comes alive in her appealing illustrations, and if they don’t yet know the Nativity story, they’ll find an easy introduction here.
The Christmas Eve Tree. Illustration copyright © 2015 by Emily Sutton. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, Limited.
WISHES CAN COME TRUE
Lisa Wheeler celebrates the miracles of the season in The Christmas Boot. Hannah Greyweather is out gathering wood when she discovers a lone boot in the snow. It fits her left foot perfectly and eases her walk back to the solitary cabin she calls home. How wonderful it would be, Hannah thinks, to have its mate! The next morning, she’s surprised to find two boots by her bed. Soon anything Hannah wishes for materializes before her eyes, including bright red mittens and a magnificent new house. When the owner of the lost boot—Santa himself—comes to claim it, he brings the magic to an end, but before he departs, he gives Hannah the gift she needs the most. Jeff Pinkney’s breathtaking illustrations make this an exceptional holiday story and a tale to be treasured.
Kallie George’s The Lost Gift is all about the goodness of giving. Squirrel, Rabbit, Bird and Deer wait on snow-laden Merry Woods Hill in hopes of spotting Santa. When they finally spy him overhead, the wind whips his sleigh and a present falls off “like a shooting star.” In the forest, the critters find the gift—a package tagged for the new baby at a local farm. With some ingenuity—and Santa-inspired goodwill—they deliver the present to its tiny rightful owner. At the end of their mission, they discover a surprise—a present just for them, from you-know-who. Stephanie Graegin’s pencil-and-ink illustrations make this Christmas Eve, with its star-studded night sky, one to remember. Little readers will feel big love for George’s furry holiday heroes.
AN OVERLOOKED TREASURE
In Delia Huddy’s The Christmas Eve Tree, a homeless boy rescues a forlorn little fir fated for the trash and takes it to his camp beneath a railway bridge. With the help of candles, the resourceful lad transforms it into a magnificent symbol of the season. The tree’s blazing branches attract passersby, who come together around it and sing. After the holiday, the boy moves on and the fir is forgotten—almost. In the end, it endures, growing to majestic heights in a park. Thanks to artist Emily Sutton, whose watercolor visuals have a delightful retro quality, Huddy’s story brims with holiday sweetness. This distinctive tale is a testament to the way Christmas can create a sense of community.