The Library Girl Recommends // Advent-Christmas Reading Pt. 1

Between Christmas Around the World with my library kiddos, and book club Christmas luncheon, my Readers Advisory picker has been centered around Christmas books lately. Thus, I bring you a meager offering of some books that I gravitate towards this time of year. We'll do this in two parts; today: picture books. (Please note that the ratings are merely for fun, and have no consistant scale.)

Emma's Christmas 
(Irene Trivas)
Set aside everything you've learned about the symbolism in the classic Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and imagine for a moment a story in which a besotted young lover really is  giving loads of highly unorthodox presents. That's Emma's Christmas. Emma is a farmer's daughter, and her true love is a Prince who just happened to see her on the first day of Christmas, and fell in love at first sight. Madness ensues. Emma plays hard to get and the gifts begin. Oh, and just in case you're wondering, the gifts are cumulative. Lets have a homeschool moment and incorporate some math into our Christmas break, shall we? 
Anyway, the story is cute, the watercolor illustrations are delightful, and Emma has a nice (and slightly subversive) answer to the courting Prince. I give this book 3 out of 5 Candy Canes for good clean fun.

Christmas Tapestry
(Patricia Polacco)
Polacco is a favorite of mine, and if you know anything about her, you'll know she's the queen of heartwarming stories. This one is no exception. Take one unhappy preacher's kid, two holocaust survivors, and a gorgeous quilt, and you've got the recipe for a story in which Everything Happens for A Reason. I give this one 10 out of 5 handstitched handkerchiefs for a good cry.  

Little Drummer Boy
(Ezra Jack Keats)
It's just an illustrated version of the song. The text isn't changed in the slightest, and the pa-rum-pum-pum-pum's are even intact. But oh, are the illustrations beautiful. Keats infuses the eponymous little boy with such warmth of color and emotion that looking at the illustrations is akin to a meditation on the saints icons of old. Visible in the boy's face through out the book are wonder as he follows the wise men to the Baby, sorrow at his empty hands in comparison to the rich gifts, humility as he presents himself to God incarnate, openness as he offers what gifts he has, and joy as he plays his drum to the glory of God. A solid 5 out of 5 drumsticks for a Christmas meditation in the form of a kids book. 

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree
(Gloria Houston, ill. Barabara Cooney)
This one has had a tender place in my heart ever since I first heard it at a English department Christmas party at Bryan. Though the Adirondacks are mountains of my homestate and childhood, Appalachia became dear to me while I was going to school in East Tennessee. In addition, having spent the season immersed in Appalachian hymns and carols for choir, this book is high up on my list this year. This story's themes of giving and sacrifice and longing and waiting makes it a perfect Christmas book. Like Polacco's Christmas Tapestry this one is tearjerker, as little Ruthie's dad is away at war, and she and her mother prepare for Christmas without him, especially hard as this is they year they are supposed to provide the tree for the church, a tree that Ruthie and her dad picked specially that summer. I'll let you find out what happens, but don't say I didn't warn you! Cooney's illustrations are among some of her best (though, lets be honest here. I've never seen a bad book from her!) and Ruthie's special angel gown is the stuff of little girls' dreams. A fafillion perfect Christmas trees for this classic. 

Stick around this week or next (depending on stuff) for part 2: Not Picture Books.

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