Dusk by Uri Shulevitz
On a snowy December evening, a boy, his dog, and grandfather talk a walk. They stop to watch the sun sink over the river and then they head into the city. There people are in a great hurry. There are people shopping for gifts for their children, others heading home to feed their cats, and even an alien speaking its own language. As darkness falls, the lights in the city start to turn on. First just a few, then more, and finally the boy and grandfather are downtown near the large shop windows and it is revealed that this is a holiday book with different windows celebrating Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa.
It took until that final reveal to realize that I was reading a holiday book, and that is a wonderful thing. Instead of centering on the holidays, this book is about quiet moments and time spent together just looking at the changing light in the sky and in the city. The text is so simple, then becomes dancing complexity when the people start to talk, then returns to the simplicity again. Readers will be jolted by the change, just as if their own quiet walk at dusk was interrupted.
Shulevitz’s art is so beautiful. He captures the setting sun with colors that will make readers linger alongside the characters in the book. He plays throughout the book with shadows, light and darkness. As the lights come on in the book, the light is warm against the winter darkness and pools in liquid on the ground. In the reveal of the holiday windows, the illustrations become detailed and honeyed. Again, a place to linger and bask in that holiday mood.
A top holiday pick, this book is a lovely companion to Snow and stands on its own too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko
Sadie celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah in her house. Their family celebrations are a delightful mix of the two holidays. Latkes are on the mantel waiting for Santa to come, he’s a big fan of the family recipe. Carols are sung about dreidels and mangers. Gelt is spread under the Christmas tree. Food is a huge part of both traditions and then stories are shared from both as well. This is as warm and joyous a celebration as anyone could wish.
Alko nicely draws both holidays together, mixing them into something that is even more lovely and amazing than either of them alone. It is a testament to how families that come from two different faiths can honor both of them and also create something uniquely their own. My only complaint is that there isn’t an author’s note discussing the two holidays in more detail.
Alko’s illustrations are done in collage. She combines the detail and texture of textiles with paint and paper cutouts. The incorporation is done in a subtle but effective way, the different types catching your eye and adding depth.
A great pick for the holidays, this book will reach families who are themselves creating new traditions from old. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.
Two Christmas books and one Hanukkah title are my first picks for holiday titles this year.
Duck & Goose: It’s Time for Christmas by Tad Hills
Another winner from Duck & Goose, this board book takes a quietly funny approach to the holidays. Duck is in a hurry to get somewhere, but Goose wants to linger a bit. Goose wants to catch snowflakes, slide down hills, build a snow fort, and much more. It isn’t until the very end of the book that readers learn where Duck was headed in such a hurry. The illustrations are clever and very inviting, especially to fans of other Duck and Goose books. The gentle humor and great friendship is exactly what we have come to expect from Hills. With its short text and board pages, this book will appeal most to children aged 1-3.
It’s Christmas David! by David Shannon
Around Christmas time, everyone always said, “No David!” whenever he tried to do anything! No peeking at presents, no stealing cookies, no playing with ornaments, no opening presents early. And then he also had to be patient in lines, be polite at the dinner table, and go to sleep on time. Of course, David does get into some funny trouble in the book with a reprise of one of the most popular scenes from an earlier David book that is sure to delight young readers. A grand and very funny look at the holidays that children are sure to relate to. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Hanukkah: a Counting Book by Emily Sper
This was a favorite picture book of mine a few years ago, and it is a real joy to see it released as a board book. The thick board pages work beautifully with the cut outs of the candles. Turning each page leads to another candle being added to the menorah. Each page features text in English, Yiddish and Hebrew. Children can count the candles and also another object related to the holiday. Young listeners will enjoy the bright colors and simplicity of the book. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
All books are reviewed from books received from the publishers.