Are your little elves brimming with Yuletide cheer? To help them (and you!) survive till Santa arrives, try curling up together with a holiday story. We suggest one of the merry books below. Ho, ho, ho!
Patricia Toht captures the thrill of one of the best parts of the season in the warm, wonderful Pick a Pine Tree. In buoyant, rhymed stanzas, Toht recounts one family’s holiday preparations, from selecting the perfect pine to placing a special star at the top of the tree. It’s a community affair, as friends arrive to untangle the tinsel and unpack ornaments: “Jolly Santas. / Dancing elves. / Wooden reindeer. / Jingle bells.” Capturing the merriment of the occasion, Jarvis’ illustrations feature wide-eyed children, mischievous pets, an electric train with teddy bear passengers and lots of twinkling lights. Filled with infectious joy, Toht’s book is a gift from start to finish.
A young girl has an unforgettable adventure in Nicola Killen’s The Little Reindeer. On Christmas Eve, Ollie is awakened by a tinkling sound. Determined to find out where it’s coming from, she slips outside and sleds into the woods, where she finds a collar with bells hanging on a tree. Ollie is astonished when a reindeer—one of Santa’s own—emerges from the forest to claim it. The magical creature surprises Ollie when he takes her for a ride through a sky filled with stars. Killen’s illustrations feature fun cutouts that give readers a peek of what’s on the next page. This jolly tale delivers a sleighful of Christmas charm.
THE GREATEST GIFT
Lezlie Evans’ Finding Christmas is a stirring little story about the importance of giving. It’s Christmas Eve, and Hare, Mouse and Squirrel are celebrating in their cozy burrow. Hare is trimming the tree, while Squirrel is baking cookies. In need of a gift for Hare, Mouse heads out into the woods, where she finds a helpless swallow lying in the snow. The three friends bring the bird home and nurse her back to health using the gifts they were planning to give each other for Christmas. The presence of their new friend makes the holiday extra special. Yee Von Chan’s delicate illustrations add plenty of appeal to this touching tale. Little readers will want to spend the holiday with Evans’ sweet creatures.
Elly MacKay’s wordless picture book, Waltz of the Snowflakes, sparkles with the magic of Christmas and the allure of the stage. On a wet December night, Gran takes her unwilling granddaughter to see The Nutcracker ballet. The young girl doesn’t want to go out in the nasty weather (or wear a dress!), but at the theater, she falls in love with the spectacle of the performance. The book is divided into two acts, with an intermission, and by the time the curtain falls, the girl has befriended a young boy in the audience. In intricate illustrations that have depth and texture, MacKay’s paper-cut figures stand out against colorful backdrops. Dancers-to-be will ask for encores of this enchanting book.
Set during the Harlem Renaissance, T.E. McMorrow’s The Nutcracker in Harlem is an inspired re-envisioning of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s beloved story. Marie is excited about the holidays but shy around the people who show up for her Uncle Cab’s Christmas party. When she falls asleep beneath the Christmas tree with the nutcracker Cab gave her, she dreams of an army of mice fighting against a group of soldiers. In Marie’s dream, the nutcracker is a brave young officer who partners her in a dance. Artist James E. Ransome adds 1920s-era touches to the story through vibrant watercolor illustrations that brim with the mystery of Christmas. This is a holiday gem that readers of all ages will treasure.
COME IN, COME IN
The sweet, seasonal book A Christmas for Bear is the latest entry in Bonny Becker’s popular Bear and Mouse series. Cranky as ever, Bear is preparing for his first proper Christmas party, but his ideas for celebrating (eating pickles and reading poetry) aren’t quite what Mouse, his little guest, has in mind! Hoping for a present, Mouse explores the house high and low. Meanwhile, Bear—bluffing—insists that gifts are “unnecessary hogwash.” When Mouse finally discovers his present from Bear, the festivities really begin. The opposing personalities of timid Mouse and grumpy Bear shine in Kady MacDonald Denton’s expressive illustrations. This playful story is sure to become a holiday favorite.
This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.