Miss Megan Talks New(ish) Holiday Classics

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Here at Hooray for Books, our holiday section has exploded into a vibrant display of red and green and silver and gold. It’s a great spot to stop awhile and browse! But if you’re in a rush, one of our friendly booksellers is more than happy to show you their “go-to” books for the season. And I, dear readers, am no different. There are certain books that I just love to hand sell during the holidays. Here are a few of my top picks!

One Starry Night, by Lauren Thompson, illus. by Jonathan Bean, Simon & Schuster, Ages 0-3

In the nighttime near Bethlehem, animal mamas take care of their little babies. A sheep nuzzles her lamb, a cat cares for her kitten, a dog watches over her pup, and in the stable, Mary and Joseph cradle their new baby. This is a simple, sweet little book to share with the smallest children. Jonathan Bean’s sketch-style illustrations, done in shades of brown, indigo, and black, are infused with dramatic light and shadow. The text is simple, sparing, and repetitive. This is a visually stunning book that is a great option for wiggly wee ones who aren’t quite ready for a wordier version of the Christmas story!

The 12 Days of Christmas, by Rachel Isadora, Penguin, Ages 3-6 

Rachel Isadora’s signature style turns to the holiday season, and what a treat it is! Transporting the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to Africa, Isadora’s reinterpretation is full of life and color. Each two-page spread is dedicated to a different tradition as related to the song, while small boxes at the bottom of the page feature miniatures of the previous parts of the song. Isadora’s joyous, collage-style illustrations are beautifully textured and full of bright patterns that will catch young readers’ eyes. I especially enjoyed the author’s brief note at the end, which discusses some of her inspiration found in her travels in Africa. What a great twist on a traditional carol that incorporates practices from other parts of the world!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson, illus. by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins, Ages 4-9

On occasion, my family likes to quote Barbara Robinson’s infamous Herdman family from her novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Now, with illustrations by Laura Cornell, Robinson has adapted her classic story for a younger audience. I love the unexpected qualities of this story. Just try not to laugh out loud when little Gladys Herdman interprets the Angel of the Lord as a comic book character who shrieks, “Shazam!” But when Imogene, the rudest, bossiest, nastiest Herdman finally appears in the pageant as Mary, quiet and reverent and tearful, I defy any reader not to get emotional along with the awed church audience. Robinson’s story is edited here, but it keeps the requisite humor parents expect from the original. Cornell, who illustrated Is There Really a Human Race? and It’s Hard to Be Five, is the perfect artist to pair with this story. Her pictures are raucous, chaotic, and full of mischief–just like those terrible, wonderful Herdmans!

Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline, Candlewick Press, Ages 4-9 

Frances can look outside her window and see the organ grinder and his little monkey. At night, she can hear their mournful music playing on when everyone else is warm and safe in bed. Frances wishes there were some way she could help the organ grinder, but it’s the Great Depression, and everyone is struggling, even at Christmas. But when she gets up onstage as the angel in the Christmas pageant, she finds the organ grinder in the audience, and suddenly she realizes that she’s had the words all along that are able to bring peace and joy in hard times. This book is absolutely beautiful. Kate DiCamillo’s first foray into picture books is accompanied by breathtaking art from Bagram Ibatoulline (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane). It’s the glow of Ibatoulline’s illustrations that makes this book unforgettable. It’s warm and inviting and wistful–everything I want to see in a (new) holiday classic.

These are my favorite holiday releases from recent years! You can’t go wrong with any of these–there’s holiday cheer for everyone on your list!

Happy reading (and happy holidays!),

Miss Megan G.