Archives for posts with tag: christmas

9780142412145Compared to the number of excellent picture books for the holidays available — for examples see this list over at the Youth Literature Reviews — books for older readers and adults are a bit more rare. I also have a difficult finding one that doesn’t inspire an epic eye roll à la Liz Lemon. I picked up Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle (Speak, $9.99) at a bookstore that was not my bookstore back in September. I battled internally about the uselessness of buying a book at a bookstore that is not my bookstore and finally refrained, waited, and ordered it last week (thank you, employee discount). By now, most of you know how I feel about John Green, if not, see this post. I couldn’t not read a book with his name listed among the authors. I had also read one of Lauren Myracle’s books a while back; didn’t love it, but I did admire her for writing a book about teenage lesbian characters in the early 2000s. Maureen Johnson’s books I know, but have not read. Let it Snow is a collection of one story from each author, “The Jubilee Express” by Johnson, “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by Green, and “The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Myracle. Stating without hesitation that Green’s story is the strongest of the three either betrays my bias or his talent. Nevertheless, all three stories, essentially Christmas romances, are enjoyable and they weave together nicely. The overarching connections are a snow store, a stranded train, a small town, minimal parents, and various teenagers who, for living in a small town, lead remarkably interesting lives.

One of my favorite conversations comes from Johnson’s story:

“Stuart’s a wizard with those kinds of things,” she said. 

“What kinds of things?”

“Oh, he can find anything online.”

Debbie was one of those parents who still  hadn’t quite grasped that using the Internet was not exactly wizardry, and that we could all find anything online.”

My one complaint is that although both Green and Myracle — I’m not sure about Johnson having not read her stuff — have included gay and lesbian characters in their other books, there was not even a gay best friend — or at least an out gay best friend — to be found among these holiday love stories. And interestingly, the most relatable female character, meaning relatively gender neutral and not wearing a short skirt in the dead of winter, is in Green’s story. Nevertheless, all three authors write believable characters, who are flawed but intelligent. By the time I read the third story, I wanted to go back and read the first one as small details from each plot infiltrate the other two. All three stories are enjoyable reads and I imagine this was a fun project. I am a fan of co-written books.

 

9780545416771While I don’t have exact statistics, it’s pretty safe to say that the Christmas books still significantly outnumber the Hanukkah books. A few years ago, when I was working at another children’s bookstore, a woman saw the Fancy Nancy Christmas book and was severely disappointed. She and her family were Jewish. Her daughter loved Fancy Nancy, but the existence of a Fancy Nancy Christmas book, even if the mother didn’t buy it herself, still made a statement about Nancy’s religious affiliations and that alienated her. Many popular book characters do have their own Christmas volume, Nancy, George, Judy Moody, Olivia. The list goes on. That’s why, this year, it was so nice to see Jane Yolen, Mark Teague, and Blue Sky Press release two holiday volumes: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? AND How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? ($16.99 each) The structure for the text is similar to all the other “How Do Dinosaurs” books. The book sets up several bad behavior possibilities and then resolves 9780545416788with a string of good behaviors. The illustrations are what really make this series. The dinosaurs all live in rather suburban settings with two human parents. Small enough to live in houses, the dinosaurs are much bigger than the parents and implicitly reflect the enormous havoc even the smallest children can cause. The dinosaurs’ behavior is so outlandish that it’s humorous, but there is a toddler truth to everything they do: “On Christmas Eve, does a dinosaur sleep? Does he go up to bed without making a peep?” (modeling good behavior) “Or does he sneak out to check what’s to see?” (addressing bad behavior). The Hanukkah book sold out in our store before I had a chance to gather quotations, but it follows a similar pattern. For such prescriptive books, this series is quite fun and whether or not kids actually learn any behavioral lessons, they’ll still enjoy reading the books. 

Also new this year is Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko (Knopf, $16.99), in which the child narrator joyously celebrates the dual traditions in her family. Her parents participate in their respective holidays, but also cross-over and actively engage with each other’s. I believe Seth Cohen immortalized Chrismakkuh back in 2003 and now we finally have a picture book that reflects both traditions. In the back of the book, there is a timeline of holidays from a variety of cultural traditions that occur throughout the year. 9780375860935

As a bookseller, I love giving recommendations, but it’s always great to get suggestions from customers, too. The other day a woman came in and recommended a book to me that one of our staff members had recommended to her last year. She loved the book so much that she wanted to make sure we kept recommending it. A bounce-back recommendation!

9780375869228The book in question is The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel and illustrated by Jim LaMarche (Random House, $17.99). Beautifully illustrated, this book is appropriate 5-7 year olds, who are better able to sit through a longer story. The narrative is framed as a childhood recollection from the Christmas of 1931. In the midst of the Depression, Henry and his father head to New York to sell Christmas trees. There they meet some carpenters who help unload the trees. At the end of the day, Henry and his father leave the trees they don’t sell with the carpenters, which sparks a ripple of kind deeds that embody the ‘Christmas spirit’. The ripple continues when present-day Henry is asked to donate one of his trees to the Rockefeller Center for their Christmas celebration with the understanding that the tree will then  be donated to help build another family’s home.

At the end there are two pages of information about the Rockefeller Tree and Habitat for Humanity. Starting in 2007, wood from the Rockefeller Tree has been donated to Habitat for Humanity, which uses the lumber to build affordable housing. There is a parallel here. I can see now that our customer wanted to perpetuate the ripple started in this book; an unspoken injunction to continue spreading this story of kindness.

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