Holiday & Winter Reading ~ 2008 edition


Somehow our family has amassed quite a collection of holiday and winter books over the years. Partly it's because St. Nicholas always brings a Christmas-themed book gift, partly it's because my dad was, for a time, helping with a friend's Amazon used book business and he would save aside any good children's books for us, and partly it's because we are just bibliophiles in general.

I did a really long holiday & winter reading post last year -- kind of late, though. This year's is surprising me by being later than I expected, too, but hopefully you will get some good ideas. This year's list will be shorter because I've done it now for the last two years already. ;)

The Snowy Day. This was a favorite of mine and my siblings growing up. Oh, the pleasures of snow play! Both of my children love this book. We are looking forward to some snowy play days anytime now ... yes, anytime you feel like arriving, snow!

Bear Snores On. OK, I know that this series has kind of become a bit cliche as they have continued to add to it. But the use of language in this first one -- the alliteration and rhyme -- is so clever, well-done, and beautiful. It is one of my favorite books to read aloud, with phrases like, "An itty-bitty mouse, pitter-pat, tip-toe, creep-crawls in the cave from the fluff-cold snow." Oh, I just love to say those lines.

Great Joy. This was new to us last year, and it is so very beautiful. The story by award-winning Kate DiCamillo is heartwarming, but the incredible soft illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline are the can't-be-missed element. The soft glow of street lamps, the cold of snow, the shining in the young girl's eyes at the end of the story -- all of these small details are captured so exquisitely it makes me get a lump in my throat. This book is truly a treasure.

A Child's Christmas in Wales. When I was a girl, our local NPR affiliate used to play a recording of Dylan Thomas reading his classic tale each Christmas morning. I love his beautiful, beautiful poetic writing that turns the ordinary Christmases of his boyhood into something fantastical and mesmerizing. And though I'm actually a very good reader-aloud, I still really love to listen to his version. Nothing compares to hearing a poet read his own words. (If you intend to read this book aloud to your family and you're not yet familiar with the writing, I would suggest practicing it a few times privately, because his use of language and turns-of-phrase can feel a bit clumsy on the tongue the first few times.)

Fireside Stories: Tales for a Winter's Eve. A collection of tales from around the world for the winter season -- from Halloween to First Snowfall to Christmas Eve and New Year's and on through Candlemas. Eight tales in all, appropriate for slightly older children (I'd say 5 or 6 and older), and absolutely magical.

Stranger in the Woods. Another book that may have become a little cliche as the franchise has expanded, but amazing if taken on its own. Since we like to decorate an outdoor tree with treats for the birds, my children relate to this tale of a gift-laden snowman in the woods, and the photographic captures of the deer and birds and other little forest critters coming out to first explore and then accept its gifts are really beautiful.

Grandmother Winter. An expansion of the traditional Mother Holle tale of the old woman who shakes her featherbeds to create snow on the earth. The illustrations are pure magic! We love this book.

The Snow Tree. This is a really neat book with textured pages about forest animals coming to decorate their own tree with different colorful gifts from the forest. It's just right for the toddlers in our lives.

And of course, the Jan Brett books. I think even the most curmudgeonly of Scrooges would be put into the Christmas spirit by her version of The Night Before Christmas, Christmas Trolls, or any of her lovely wintery books.

(From last year's list -- don't miss The Tomten or Christmas in Noisy Village. We can't go more than a few days without reading either of these.)