Friday, December 19, 2008

These Are a Few More of My Favorite Things...

Book review Friday is here once again, and I have another round-up of Christmas Kids' Book Faves. This group comprises my more reflective, thought-inspiring choices:

A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of my favorite holiday specials of all time, and I was thrilled to find this treasure of a book under my Christmas tree one year. A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition, by Lee Mendelson with reminiscences by Bill Melendez, is a wonderful keepsake. It's aimed at the adult crowd, so we can wax nostalgic about our childhood memories of the oh-so-anticipated special that comes on every year without fail. Inside, the reader will find interviews, behind-the-scenes stories, photos, and art from the show. There is a wonderful bio of Charles M. Schultz - Peanuts creator, Bill Melendez - animation artist for the special, and Vince Guaraldi, composer of those songs from the show that we all know and love.  Sheet music for Christmas Time Is Here and Linus and Lucy are in there, too, and best of all: an illustrated script of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Truly a Charlie Brown aficionado's delight!

Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl, illustrated in this edition by Rachel Isadora, is the heartwrenching tale of a poor little girl, forced out into the "bitterly cold" New Year's Eve night by her father. With no hat and bare feet, she wanders the streets peddling matches no one has bought all day. Afraid to go home that night, as she had earned not one penny, the freezing little girl curls up in a corner outside a house. She lights one match to try and warm her fingers, and envisions a warm stove. When the vision fades, she quickly lights another and another, desperately trying to hold on to the lovely visions that come to her in the biting cold. This one will bring tears to your eyes, and pity to your heart, and gratefulness to your soul for the blessings you have, as it comes to its bittersweet end. It is a sad, sad tale, somewhat harsh, and one you should read yourself before deciding to share with little ones. 

The Littlest Angel, written by Charles Tazewell and illustrated by Paul Micich, is a much-loved classic whose idea was first conceived by the author in 1939. It is the story of a cherub known to all as The Littlest Angel, who entered Heaven at the age of "exactly four years, six months, five days, seven hours, and forty-two minutes of age." But despite being in paradise, he is very sad. He wants to run, and play, and climb trees, but he can't do those things anymore. Then he meets the Understanding Angel, to whom he admits his unhappiness, and that he misses home. The Understanding Angel helps the cherub find happiness once again, and the other angels marvel at the change. Soon after, it comes to pass that Jesus is to be born, and The Littlest Angel struggles with what gift to offer. When he finally decides, and places it before the Throne of God amongst the gifts of all the other angels, he regrets his choice. What does God think of this small angel's gift to His Son? This is a sweet and moving book you surely don't want to miss.

Winter's Gift, written and illustrated by Jane Monroe Donovan, is the story of an old man who lives alone on a small farm. It's Christmas time and, still missing his wife who had died in the spring, he decides he will not celebrate Christmas this year. It is also the story of a mare who becomes separated from her herd in a blizzard, and has never before been alone. Late at night, after fighting her way through the storm, she collapses not far from the old man's house. What follows is a tale of caring, of companionship, and of hope. A very sweet story sure to warm your heart.

One Winter's Night, written by John Herman and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, is two stories in tandem that will remind the reader of a very old and very special tale. One story is that of Martha, a young cow, pregnant and alone and lost, who gets caught in a heavy snowstorm. Knowing her time is near, she searches for shelter. At the same time, pictures show the other story of a man, and a woman riding a donkey, mirroring her journey. When the storm ends, both Martha and the couple find the same empty barn, but the doors are chained shut. When Martha goes on to a shed on the edge of the field, she discovers that the couple has already found it. From here, the two stories converge into one. But where their stories end, new ones begin. This is truly touching book you'll want to read again and again.

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These five books have a decidedly different tone from last week's selections, but each is just a special to me as the others. They help me to enter the Christmas season with hope, and joy, and thanksgiving, and appreciation for the life I've been given. I hope you find them, read them, and are touched by them.