Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 5 Christmas picture books

List by Danielle

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly.
~Andy Rooney

I recently went hunting Christmas stories at the library for my local daycare, and found a surprisingly wide range of different takes on the holiday, Father Christmas/Santa Claus, as well as more traditional tales about the 'reason behind the season'. Hopes and fears about presents (and goodness vs badness) were prominent - as you'd expect in kids' books - but there were also messages aplenty about Christmas values, like forgiveness, generosity and celebrating with family and loved ones.

I've just noticed, though, that all of the tales on my list show snowy Christmases... one of the features of growing up in NZ has been a somewhat wonky perspective on the seasons, due to reading so many books set in the northern hemisphere. Halloween always means autumn in my head - and Christmas means piles of white, white snow. OK, pass me an aerosol, I have to go decorate my Christmas tree!

Honourable mention: Slinky Malinki's Christmas crackers, by Lynley Dodd. Mischievous fun atop the tree and Lynley Dodd's sure hand with bouncing rhymes and rhythms.

If you take a mouse to the movies / by Laura Numeroff ; illustrated by Felicia Bond
Taking a mouse to the movies can lead to letting him do other things, such as making a snowman, listening to Christmas carols, and decorating the Christmas tree.

I love this whole series, with their crazy logic (each action leads to another, until you've come full circle and are back where you started). The art is fun, too, with plenty of tiny, amusing details to explore, without being over-cluttered. This one celebrates the fun and glitter of Christmas, with carols, a highly-decorated tree and snowball fights with a friend.

Jingle jingle / Nicola Smee
It's snowing and the barnyard is filled with excitement at the prospect of a sleigh ride with Mr. Horse. Cat and Dog and Pig and Duck are all set - but Mr. Horse wants to ride in the sleigh too!

Perfect for younger kids, this is a simple story told with easy-to-follow language, lots of repetition and sound effects. Great to read aloud, and one my two-year old comes back to time and time again.

Merry Christmas, Splat! / Rob Scotton
Splat the cat is worried that he has not been good enough to deserve a visit and a present from Santa Claus.

This was our introduction to the Splat series, and the kids really enjoy them. The pictures are nicely done, deceptively simple, with tiny funny details (why do the cat family have so many toy ducks, ducks on their wallpaper, etc.??). Splat is easy to identify with - such big hopes for Christmas, a bit of self-doubt about his behaviour during the year, and a highly-motivated need to help out that will make parents wince along with his long-suffering mum.

On a silent night, Little Owl, some shepherds, camels, and traveling men follow a star to see a baby in a manger.

If you're looking for a sweet, simple tale that touches on the religious significance of Christmas, this is a nice choice. Our household isn't a religious one, but I found this story was a good starting point for a discussion with my kids about the Christmas story, and the deep meaning it holds for a lot of people. As you might expect, it is a feel-good book that emphasizes the love and joy that Jesus brings with him, through the experience of a humble little owl. A nice antidote to tales of presents!

Mrs Wishy-Washy's Christmas / Joy Cowley ; illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller
Mrs Wishy-Washy has told her animals they must have a good scrub in the bath or they won't get their Christmas presents, but it's so cold in the old barn. Duck knows where there is a much better bath, with warm water, bubbles and fluffy towels.

I love Joy Cowley's rhymes, she's so great to read aloud to toddlers. This story is cute and funny, with a message of Christmas love (and tolerance!) when the Wishy-Washy animals inadvertantly trash the Wishy-Washy house in search of a bath that isn't icy cold. (Think 'Cat in the Hat', but with less ability to pull tiny helpers out of a hat to clean up!) The illustrations fit perfectly, moving from freezing cold fields to the beautiful rosy pink bathroom, and the kids particularly love the heaped plate of biscuits at the end.

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