Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things I Love: Children's Holiday Books

It's December First.

This means I have 25 days until I can shove the christmas tree back in the attic, and approximately 33 days until the eggnog starts going bad. I am going to need more rum.

While I have serious issues with the holiday itself, however - and with the associated consumerism - I have a wholehearted love of the drunken debauchery of a good office party, and a warm fuzzy feeling about my favorite children's holiday books. I truly look forward to dragging down the box every year on Thanksgiving, and reading these stories to my children. This is my top five list - and all of these books have one thing in common: if there was any way that I could possibly live inside one of these books, I would. It is escapism at it's best. (I am providing links, they take you to Amazon does not have anything to do with me writing this post or linking to them - I was just trying to keep it easy.)

The first book I reach for on Thanksgiving night - the one I can't wait to read, the one I sneak into the attic and look at in August when I am feeling blue, my very very favorite one of all - is A Beacon Hill Christmasby Barbara Westman. Published in 1976, it is a rolicking tale set in Boston, of the bon vivant Maud, her "special friend" Arthur (who is either the guy she's sleeping with, or her gay friend who accompanies her to events - I just can't be sure) and the days leading up to Christmas. She cooks, she parties, she ice skates, and she makes lists.
I love Maud. I want to be Maud. If you can get your hands on this book, DO IT. It's out of print. You should ask Santa for a copy.

The Sweet Smell of Christmasis next on the list. This is a Scratch and Sniff book - I buy a new one every couple of years so that the sniff stays fresh. (But let's be honest - they really haven't found a way to keep scratch and sniff books sniffing good for more than a few months. Phooey. Scientists: get on this, would you?) This is a tale of a family of bears (vey sweet, non-threatening bears) getting ready for Christmas at their little home in the woods. I could spend hours sniffing the drawing of hot cocoa, but I guess I have some other stuff I could do. This book is my version of sniffing glue during the holiday season.

Next up is The Polar ExpressWhen they made the book into a movie I was furious. How dare they? The book is PERFECT. But damned if they didn't get the movie just right. So we watch the movie after we read the book. Over and over again. I love Chris Van Allsburg's writing style and glorious illustrations - so soothng and peaceful even when something crazy is happening. The movie is more of the same for me.

Then we page through Christmas in New Yorkwhich is a pop-up book that takes pop-up to a whole new level. Incredible. And it makes me happy to look at illustrations of all of the beauty of new York City during the holidays. A few years ago I took the kids to NYC for the week after Thankgiving - it was amazing. We skated at Rockefeller Center, looked at all the shop windows, went to FAO Schwartz AND the Times Square Toys R Us, and made snow angels in Central Park after I carefully explained to them the perils of yellow snow. (Kids from Hawaii don't have a clue about yellow snow, it turns out.)

And then, it's Eloise at ChristmastimeOh, Eloise. I love you and Skipperdee and Weenie and Nanny. I want to live at the Plaza. Everything about you makes me grin like an idiot. Let's be friends.

There are tons more, of course - I am always on the hunt for a new classic - but these are my top five favorite holiday books of all time, and they are pretty unshakeable. However, suggestions welcome, please add your favorites to the list!


The Artful Hawaiigirl said...

Hi Vanessa, I too love the holidays but always have mixed emotions when December arrives. I don't like obligation to give gifts but love to give. I love Christmas music... The Charley Brown melancholy kind, Elvis and hymns by everyone. I love Country Christmas, Martha Stewart, cardmaking, baking on the 23rd of December, decorating a Gorgeous tree and like you I can't wait to get it all put away and start a fresh new year. Did you ever read "The Mitten" ? I love that one. So nice to meet you at Leoda's Pie Shop #MauiTweetUp. Have a wonderful holidays! Merry Christmas. I'll keep "A Beacon Hill Christmas" in mind while thrift shopping and at the libraries on Maui. ~ Marilyn

Lucy said...

My absolute favorite Christmas book has to be "On Christmas Eve" by Margaret Wise Brown. I feel genuine adoration towards this book. I love it.
The illustrations are stunning, and really capture December in my memories.
The book tells the story of three siblings, (a brother and two sisters), on Christmas Eve as they find themselves unable to sleep. They creep downstairs and look at the tree (this is one of my favorite pages). They hear midnight carolers. It is incredible.
If you do not already have it, do your family a huge favor and look into it!!

I recognize that I probably sound like a crazy person talking about this book like it is my soul mate, but I JUST LOVE IT THAT MUCH.