17 December 2007

'tis the season: holiday books

We are a bookish family. Okay, well, to be precise, I am a very bookish person, and I'm doing my best to pass on a love of reading to my boys. One of my favorite things about being a parent is introducing my kids to things I loved as a child (and still love). I had so much fun reading Charlotte's Web to James, and I am waiting impatiently to start reading him the Little House books. But it's also a ton of fun to discover new books together with my children.

This year we've started a holiday book collection. We've always had holiday books, but this year we've collected them in one place and plan to make it a tradition to read our favorites every year. Below the fold, I've compiled a list of some of our favorite holiday and winter children's books, both classics and new favorites.

One of our favorite children's authors in general, ever since Greg's mom got us one of her books years ago, is Jan Brett. Her illustrations are intricate and beautifully drawn, and are wonderful accompaniments to fun stories. The Hat and The Mitten are two of our favorite winter stories, so I was excited to see that this year, she'd come out with a version of The Night Before Christmas. I've been wanting to buy a copy of this poem for the boys, and when I saw Brett's at the bookstore, I knew it was the one. The classic Clement Moore poem with Brett's illustrations is a beautiful combination.

Next on the list, a modern classic, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. This is one of the rare children's books that I can read over and over without tiring of it. Which I had to do when Evan went through a Grinch phase a few months ago, and and requested it every day at naptime, and sometimes bedtime, for god only knows how many days. But the magic of Dr. Seuss is that the rhyming and nonsense words are fun even for grown-ups to say, and until you really memorize it, you have to pay attention for the trickier phrases. And the story can't be beat -- a Scrooge-like cave-dwelling creature learns the true meaning of Christmas just in time to redeem himself. We also love the movie (the original movie, that is, not the horrible Jim Carrey remake), which is very faithful to the book.

Another new favorite, also introduced to us by Greg's mom, is Olive, the Other Reindeer. What could be cuter than a little dog who thinks she's a reindeer? She tries her hardest to help Santa on Christmas Eve -- and succeeds, too, in unexpected ways. This one is really a lot of fun to read, and popular with the kiddos, because that dog is just SO cute.

The last book I'm going to mention is another family favorite, The Polar Express. Haven't seen the movie (sources tell me it's not worth it) but the book is one of those magical Christmas stories that kids and adults love. The illustrations are beautiful, and to combine the Santa myth with a train? Genius, as far as kids are concerned.

And that's it for the holiday books we own, though I have to note two of my favorite Christmas stories, both of which I'm trying to find in children's versions with illustrations I like (tricky, because I'm kind of picky about things like that): The Nutcracker, and A Christmas Carol. Actually, I hope to eventually start a tradition someday of going to see each of those live (we nearly went to see A Christmas Carol at a local theater over the weekend, but it turns out that even with the family discount, we still couldn't afford it), but it won't hurt to have books as well. As I always say (and as Greg always disagrees with me), there's no such thing as "too many books".

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