Friday, December 16, 2011

Happiness is...a good book! *Christmas edition*

As one might expect, I also enjoy a good holiday read, though I confess most of mine are of the picture book variety. I don’t cling to these nearly as religiously and fanatically as I do my music and movies interestingly enough. When I get to the point that I have a family to subject to all of my craziness I will start a tradition that a friend of mine suggested years ago.

Each night as an advent activity of sorts you will all gather around the tree which has books wrapped as gifts piled high underneath it. A child chooses one of the gifts to unwrap and you all read the book together (ideally by the light of the Christmas tree and/or a roaring fire while sipping hot chocolate and wearing flannel jammies) before going to bed, ending with the Bible story on Christmas Eve.

Here are a few that would make it under my tree each year:
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
A charming little story of a tree that ends up gracing the homes of many, many families. You never know how your actions might affect the lives of others.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
Because it's a practically perfect story of repentance and redemption hidden inside lines of exquisite poetry such as...

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
But,Whatever the reason, His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos...
My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Because we all know I love penguins. And just look at those magical illustrations!

Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett
Because it's Christmas. And Trolls! It's a great little holiday homage to my Norwegian ancestry.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore
Again with the near perfection. It's a classic for a reason! Pick any version but this happens to be one of my favorites.

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner
I love Snowmen at Night best but this is a delightful holiday rendition with the snowmen up to their typical, silly antics.
Toot and Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie
I have a secret wish to live in Woodcock Pockect and have a friendship as deep and abiding as Toot and Puddle’s is. The illustrations are just as charming as can be and I love that there are almost always letters and notes and postcards included as part of the stories. There’s a hint of realism and a hint of magic, the perfect Christmas story.

The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry
This was one of my favorites growing up. Each page had an item to scratch and sniff and I can still smell the hot chocolate and gingerbread!
Jingle Bells by Kathleen Daly
Another of my absolute favorites when I was little. I love J.P. Miller's illustrations, especially the ones with the reindeer and their colds and the final spread where everyone is crammed into the sleigh. Great memories!

The Little Drummer Boy (traditional) illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
This was another favorite from childhood which is ironic because, as previously mentioned, I hate, loathe and despise the song. But Keats' illustrations are earthy and timeless.

Outside the realm of picture books I'm a little more foggy. I try to re-read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Christmas Carol every couple of years and that's about it for my selection of ‘grownup’ favorites. This year though I decided to venture into the world of Debbie Macomber who is apparently the queen of Christmas stories. Many of her books have been made into the movies that keep the Hallmark channel busy this time of year. I oh-so-randomly grabbed The Perfect Christmas from the shelf at work. We'll see if it lives up to the reputation.

On deck next is Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor which is a little more tragic...more along the lines of the Lifetime Christmas movies, and then if there's still time I'm going to try one of the cozy mysteries that abound (though I'm not sure who decided murder and Christmas go together.)

Are there any suggestions among you?  If not, I'm going to shun sleep (it is Friday night after all), cozy under the covers and enjoy a visit or two from the Christmas spirits before succumbing to the visions of sugar plums that are sure to dance in my head.  And, as I don't have to work tomorrow, let's hope they keep on dancing til long after the Saturday sun is up.  Happy weekend!

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