I had a delightful holiday season this year, in which I did not (obviously) worry about keeping up with my reviewing blog. Strawberry, aged 3, and Raisin, who recently turned 8, enjoyed a book advent calendar in which we unwrapped a different favorite picture book each day in December leading up to Christmas. This made each day a delightful reading day for us. Even though the picture books were favorites we’ve read many times over the past years, they made the season extra fun. Little Kitty Cat (two months old at Christmas) loved being passed around to all the family, and Strawberry and Raisin loved playing with their cousins.
So here are some Christmas books I’ve read this season that I’d love to share with you now, only a little belated!
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Christmas Truce by Aaron Shepard and Wendy Edelson was a retelling of the story of the Christmas truce in 1914 in which Allied and German troops ceased fighting on Christmas Eve and began singing Christmas carols. During this unique time in the middle of the war, Christians joined in song and games. They shared stories of their lives and swapped details about loved ones back home.
Christmas Truce was a nice retelling in the format of a letter from a soldier in the trenches to his family back home. The illustrations were beautiful illustrations setting the tone of the story as well. I’ve always loved this story, and I appreciated that at end of the story the author included some more facts about the Christmas truce, including what was real and what was fiction.
However, the format of the book was disappointing. Big blocks of text in a boring font were on one side of the page, and the illustrations were centered on the opposite pages, framed with white. This format made the book look a bit awkward; it didn’t look like a delightful picture book and it did not do justice to the unique story and illustrations contained therein.
The Baby Santa stories by M. Maitland DeLand are both clever and also cheesy so of course, my almost 4-year-old daughter, Strawberry, loved them. A few years ago, I had the chance to review a copy of Baby Santa and the Lost Letters. This is the Christmas story my daughter still enjoys reading every year. Although that book makes me groan due to the “cheesy” factor, I enjoyed that book because Baby Santa helps Santa find the letters on each of the continents, and so it teaches a little bit of geography. Others of the Baby Santa books likewise did that.
Baby Santa was about how Baby Santa helped his father Santa know where to deliver the presents by helping him remember. This was not my favorite of the Baby Santa books because it was told in a sing-song rhyme that I didn’t really like. Strawberry, however, loved that Baby Santa could save the day. (I also changed the name of the child receiving a doll to her name, and she loved that!)
Baby Santa and the Gift of Giving put a unique twist on a Santa story. In this one, Baby Santa joined a family in New York City to see the sights at Christmastime and also give service. With the family, Baby Santa helped in soup kitchens, hospitals, retirement centers, and even an animal shelter. They also went ice skating, saw The Nutcracker, and did more New York fun events! In general, it was a nice book about giving a little extra cheer during the holidays. Those who live in New York City would love the unique look at their city.
In Baby Santa and the Missing Reindeer, once again Baby Santa took us on a trip around the world as he helped Santa find the reindeer, who had scattered worldwide. I like the fact that it showed reindeer on location at famous sites from around the world. A downside was that it was once again in a silly rhyme that was not pleasant for me to read (as a parent). My daughter loved the page in which she saw a reindeer dancing in The Nutcracker on the page about Russia. (The Nutcracker is her current obsession, as we went to see it together during the holiday season).
Finally, Baby Santa’s Worldwide Christmas Adventure once again shared a bit about geography and culture as Baby Santa and Santa traveled the world to deliver presents. In this story, Santa’s sleigh was broken, and so as Baby Santa and Santa went to each country, they had to travel using transportation that was unique to that country. For example, they rode on camels in Egypt, a double-decker bus in England, a boat in Venice, and surfboards in summery Australia. I thought this was a clever twist, although the transportation portrayed was not always a truly accurate way that people travel in each country. (For example, a hot air balloon was the vehicle of choice in France: that is the location where the hot air balloon was first invented and used, but it is hardly a common transport method.)
Nevertheless, despite some of the negatives about the Baby Santa books, Strawberry loved seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus with a young child, and she was especially delighted by the ways that Baby Santa repeatedly saved the day!
On That Christmas Night
On That Christmas Night by Lois Rock and illustrated by Alison Jay tells the true story of the first Christmas, beginning with the Annunciation to Mary about her special role. I love Allison Jay’s artwork, and this book does not disappoint in that regard. It is beautiful and tells the story appropriately.
There are a few times that the wording seemed strange, given that this is a children’s book. For example, when the “townsfolk soon found out the news” of Mary expecting a child, they “tut tut” and “oh dear” and the author uses the word “gossip.” The next page brings the angel to Joseph, as is the case in the Bible. I suppose you could say that Ms. Rock provides a unique voice to the traditional story!
Besides, it’s true: gossip probably happened. But I try not to focus on the gossip in the village: I focus on the miracle of it all. I read the book hoping Strawberry would not ask questions about that page. (She did not.) So all was well after all.
In general, I really enjoyed On That Christmas Night, mostly because of Allison Jay’s beautiful artwork.
Which of these books sounds most like the one you would love?
Note: I received digital copies of these books from the publishers for review consideration.