22 December: Winter & Holiday Favorites, 2011 edition

Well, I've figured I need to just stop apologizing for not being here much. There are many reasons, some good, some not so good, but we'll just say I'll be here when I can. 

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I toyed with the idea of not doing a winter/Christmas book post again this year. To be honest, I've plowed through many of my very, very favorites over the last 5 years. And I had a moment of doubt last week about it, thinking it just might come across as excessive. But we really are collectors, they're my favorite children's books of all, these wintery and Christmassy ones. They always have been, since my own childhood, I think. So I've decided to share a few with you again. Some of them are new to us this year (the kids always get new nativity books from St. Nicholas -- though this is getting a bit trickier as Elisabeth is beginning to feel "too old" [whether she actually is or not, that is how she feels] for picture books, but there's reallly just one book that matters on the subject that isn't a picture book), and a few have been with us a bit longer. I know it's not enough time to buy any or probably even find them at the library, but at least it's here for future reference. (As always, the Amazon links are here for your convenience; I don't have an active Amazon Associates account, so I don't make a penny from them, wherever you buy them. Support local or independently-owned booksellers when you can! My favorite is Chinaberry.)


The Night of Las Posadas I really love this one. Tomie dePaola has been a favorite of mine since my childhood, and this book is so sweet, with its mysterious miracle. It straddles the realm of a nativity book and a contemporary Christmas book. It's very reverent and beautiful.

Family Christmas Treasures: A Celebration of Art and Stories I don't recall when, why, or how this book came into our possession, but I absolutely love it! It is a huge book (15" high or so), filled with fine art images from artists as varied as Gaugin, Pissaro, Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses, and Andy Warhol. (Also many 19th century lithographs, etc.), and short pieces (or excerpts of longer ones) from literature. Washington Irving, Samuel Coleridge, Willa Cather, Kenneth Grahame, Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, Robert Louis Stevenson, and so many more. This is, maybe (I say, ever so tenuously), my very favorite Christmas book. Really, really, really.

You Can Do It, Sam So absolutely cute and sweet. We've had this book for probably 8 years and all three of my children have loved it. It's so very perfect for those independent toddler days, when being able to deliver a bag of treats to the front door of a loved one elicits such pleasure and satisfaction in a little one. This is a dear, sweet book.

This Is the Stable This was Fiona's St. Nicholas book this year and it has been a real winner. It's not quite as dull as some of the "house that Jack built" formula books can be, but still repetitive enough to be just right for my almost-three-year-old (!), who loves a bit of sing-song to her books.

The Little Boy's Christmas Gift I'm including this one a bit hesitantly, because it's out of print, and pretty long. It was James's St. Nicholas book this year, and I have to admit that we often don't read the whole thing but just admire the illustrations, which are so beautiful (and are the reason I'm including it). The back of the book has an author's note which talks about the inspiration for the illustrations (15th & 16th century paintings from Northern Europe). He discusses details of the paintings that inspired his, and the symbolism they used. As a piece of art, this book is a masterpiece. As a story, it's a bit slow and dull. 

Apple Tree Christmas This is a book that Elisabeth has been coming back to again and again for the past 2-3 years. It's a story, based on some true events, of a family living in an old barn (it's hard to tell the time period -- maybe anywhere from the mid-1800's to the 1930's), during one very hard winter. The older sister is an avid artist, and the family has a beloved apple tree where she likes to climb and draw. The hard winter comes and there is a lot of damage -- to the tree, to the family's way of life, etc. The way they pull through it is both inspiring and a little bittersweet. It always makes me feel grateful for what we have.

Mouse's First Snow We have a few books in this series (we got the Halloween one when Elisabeth was just a baby), and something always brings us back to them. They're so simple, and everything in them is so familiar. I really like that the father is the one going out to play in the snow with the little mouse, because my kids all really love a good snow day with Daddy!

The Story of Christmas This was Elisabeth's St. Nicholas book this year, and while the text is simply the biblical text (King James version), and the illustrations are (in my opinion) both lush and intriguing, it's a case in point: she thought it was too childish. However, I really like to look at it, ponder the words so beautifully, strangely, and yet familiarly told, and look at the folk-inspired Scherenschnitte illustrations. So, maybe not the best for that in-between time of childhood. ;) Adults and younger children will probably all appreciate it, though.

It's Snowing Oh my goodness, I don't think anything could be cuter than this little round mama and her little round baby, all wrapped up in furs and running outside to play in the snow at night. Such fun, so light-hearted and sweet. What a happy reminder to play with our little ones! 

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I hope you enjoy this year's list, as well as all the previous years' lists. (Find them here: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006.) This may be my last time to do it -- I don't want to be final on that, but I think I've pretty well gone through most of our collection at this point! I have many more winter & Christmas books on my wish list, though, so we'll see what next year brings. (Oh, by the way, I added my holiday listening list to the right-hand sidebar once again, beneath the book list, for your listening pleasure!)

Merry Christmas if I'm not back before then!