Christmas is always seen through the eyes of young children as a special joy, just as it is for the writers and illustrators of children's books. This holiday season, there is a wide selection of unique and endearing Christmas books for young readers to choose from, with stories ranging from the timeless retelling of the birth of Christ to how one special little mouse celebrates the holidays.
Young fans of Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and her other equally silly books will be thrilled with the latest adventures of that little mouse in Numeroff's Christmas offering, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies. In this book, the energetic little mouse and his human friend set out to celebrate Christmas in style, decorating trees, building snowmen and having lots of fun. Felicia Bond's delightful illustrations make this a charming book for the ages 3-6 crowd.
The bright and fanciful artwork of Eric Carle graces the pages of his latest book, Dream Snow, which tells the story of a farmer who dreams of snow for Christmas. Each page is preceded by a clear plastic overlay of snow that settles down on the farmer and his animals. When the farmer finally wakes up, he discovers it really has snowed. A surprise awaits the young reader at the end of the book, with a built-in music box cleverly placed in the back cover.
For sheer beauty in a Christmas book, parents need look no further than Eve Bunting's Who Was Born This Special Day?. The animals in the manger ask each other who was born on the special day of Christ's birth. The soft, beautiful paintings by illustrator Leonid Gore are enchanting, and the soothing poetry and gentle simplicity of Bunting's words make this book a treasure.
Another gorgeous book on the birth of Christ comes from beloved Goodnight Moon author Margaret Wise Brown. A Child Is Born is Brown's joyful rendition of the miracle of Christmas. This manuscript was found after Brown's death in 1952 and is published for the first time this year. The magnificent illustrations by Floyd Cooper portray a unique, multicultural manger scene, with the baby Jesus and his parents portrayed as African-Americans. The combination of author and illustrator provides a unique and interesting exchange of cultures.
The classic story The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition for children and adults alike, and there are many versions of the popular story available. But for those children and adults who like a more hands-on rendition, David and Noelle Carter present a fascinating pop-up version of The Nutcracker that will entertain everyone for hours. Each page features an intricate pop-up scene with figures that move by pulling a small tab on each. A brilliant concept for a delightful story.
Christmas children's books tend to be mainly written for the younger set, but this year popular teen writer Avi presents his readers with a Christmas story of their very own. The Christmas Rat is a thrilling mystery of a vengeful exterminator, a young boy caught up in the hunt and one stubborn little rat. In true Avi-style, readers will find themselves on the edge of their seats.
Finally, qualifying as probably one of the weirdest books of the season is How Murray Saved Christmas. The author, Mike Reiss, is a former writer and producer of The Simpsons. His rollicking, slightly skewed tale of Christmas is one that older kids and adults will find hilarious. When poor Santa is accidentally knocked out cold, deli-owner Murray Kleiner agrees to take his place. With the help of a pushy little elf and an eager young boy, Murray manages to get the job done, but not without a lot of mishaps along the way. The colorful, if slightly bizarre, illustrations of David Catrow make this book an interesting change of pace for holiday reading. (With endorsements from comedians such as Jon Lovitz and Conan O'Brien, you know it has to be a little out there. )
Whichever books you choose, just remember to take a few minutes this holiday season to sit down and read one . . . together.
Sharon Galligar Chance is the mother of four book-loving boys.