It’s a great year for Christmas books, and I have four top choices for your holiday reading pleasure:
The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski
With text from the King James version of the Bible, this picture book tells the nativity story with stateliness and words that will be familiar to many. The great joy of the book is the silhouette illustrations by Pienkowski who has created images that glow on the page. She combines her black silhouettes with colors that shift and seem to be lit from behind. Her detailed cut paper art is awe-inspiring and adds just the right touch of wonder to the story of the birth of Jesus. Recommended for all ages.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
Manger selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann
On Christmas Eve at midnight the animals are given the gift of being able to speak. The poems in this book tell what each of the animals would say during the nativity about what they witnessed and how they contributed. Hopkins has compiled a collections of poems from a dozen poets. The collection ranges in styles and lengths but is also cohesive and the differences in the poems creates a variety that adds freshness.
Cann’s illustrations are lovely with rich colors and fine details. They show the animals clearly and also the wonder of the nativity on each page whether they are fish, fowl or mammal. The poems range from very serious approaches to ones that are gently humorous but they are all done with great respect and honor the reason Christmas exists. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.
Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chuck Groenink
Santa tells his own story of Christmas in these 25 short haiku poems that offer a glimpse into what goes into making Christmas happen. From the joy of snow to the seasonal chores like fixing Christmas lights, readers will see their own holiday preparations in Santa’s world too. But there are also things that are just in Santa’s world like the many letters from children, hard-working elves, reading stories to the reindeer and finally flying off to deliver presents.
These poems are cleverly done, often showing the beauty of the winter season just as much as they are celebrating the Christmas holiday. The mix of natural beauty with Christmas makes the book rich and a holiday treat to share. The illustrations too show the wonder of nature on the page alongside the bustle of the holiday season. It is the quiet snowy scenes and the small special moments that make the strongest impressions both in poem and art. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by LeUyen Pham
The traditional holiday carol is told in a warm new rendition with illustrations that are traditional but also very funny. The carol is unaltered in this picture book that shows what happens as the various gifts arrive. Though in the first pages it seems to be a book that will stack and pile the huge number of gifts on each page, this book is more subtle about things and therefore more successful. Instead it is a delightful mix of diversity, different cultures and the joy of the season. It turns out this is a modern and fresh take on the carol sure to spread joy. Appropriate for ages 4-9.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Doubleday Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.