Around the holidays, everything has a story and significance behind it. The music, the decorations, the movies, the food, the books… These things become rooted in our traditions, and they become loaded with nostalgia, like the heavy snow-covered branches.
Since I’m a writer, I hold the holiday-themed books that I’ve grown to know and love close to heart. They are time capsules for my memories of growing up in Vermont with my younger sister, and they conjure visions of holidays past when my children. Here are some of my family’s favorite holiday books:
1. THE SNOWY DAY
by Ezra Jack Keats
There’s just nothing like the first snow storms of a new winter. They are magic. Everything's fresh and white, a landscape in transition, alive with possibilities.
Simple, yet stylish and strong, this book captures the excitement of exploring a wintry wonderland and wanting to stay out as long as you can, and when you come inside it’s even cozier and more welcoming than in other seasons.
2. OLIVE THE OTHER REINDEER
by Vivian Walsh and J.otto Seibold
I just love the premise of this book: that a mixed-up line from a popular song, “Olive the other reindeer,” could start such a crazy adventure.
Bold, quirky art and graphic page design make the thoroughly modern story an instant classic. The colors and type treatments bring the action to life. Each spread is different and engaging. It is an adventure to read.
3. THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Clemens Clarke Moore and Lisbeth Zwerger
A forever classic. If you do not have a nice vintage addition from your childhood, give this version from 2005 a try. I discovered it when I was taking a painting class and the instructor recommended a magazine for watercolor enthusiasts that featured the illustrator.
I believe it's only available in a mini size now, but the larger format is stunning. The art work is phenomenal! It’s traditional, yet modern. The book plays with white space to frame and highlight the illustrations.
Take a closer look at the dancing snowflakes scattered on the end pages and throughout the book—they are made up of tiny characters and reindeer, a beautiful touch that captures the enchantment and wonder of the season.
It would be a great to collect and study the many, many versions of the book and see how illustration and book design can impact the same words.
4. HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS
by Eric A. Kimmel and Tricia Schart Hyman
At my house, we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, and this Caldecott Honor book from the mid '80s has always been a favorite of my twin sons since they were small. In this story, a traveler rids a village synagogue of goblins by outwitting them to light the candles on a menorah.
The text is a little longer to weave key elements of Hanukkah into the story. One by one, Hershel of Ostropol fools the goblins into letting him light the candles. On the last night, he must trick the King of Goblins into lighting the candles for him to rid the town of the goblins and save Hanukkah. Quirky goblins to dark and ominous goblins, this story unfolds with vivid drawings and clever dialogue.
The layout doesn't change much with full-spread artwork and white blocks to keep the text visible on the dark backgrounds. This helps the story look and read like an old folktale, a great way for children to drift off to sleep after lighting their menorah.
5. THE BIGGEST, BEST SNOWMAN
by Margery Cuyler and Will Hillenbrand
Little and big.
Little Nell's family thinks she's too small to do anything, but with the encourage and support of her animal friends she builds an enormous snowman—and she builds her confidence along the way.
I love the quirky sisters, Big Sarah and Big Lizzie, in this one, their crazy hair, their colorful clothes.
What are your seasonal favorites?
Happy holidays! Happy reading! Happy writing!