Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Laurel Long leaves her readers with a new, Medieval interpretation of the traditional carol in The Twelve Days of Christmas (c. 2011).  Each majestic spread becomes a beautiful re-envisioning of the traditional carol.  At first glance, this beautiful, Renaissance inspired fairy tale world appears serene.  Yet look for all the movement while finding the hidden images that recapture each verse's previous stanzas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Is Here!

I'm looking forward to seeing more from this brilliant new artist, Lauren Castillo.  Check out her webpage: http://www.laurencastillo.com/  and blog: http://www.laurencastillo.blogspot.com/  

My new favorite Christmas book, Christmas is Here! by Lauren Castillo shadows a family taking a winter walk through the falling snow.  Quickly they encounter a Nativity tableau.  Castillo slows the business of the season into a halting encounter of peace.  Feast on her silently striking ink and watercolor illustrations.  Meditate on Luke 2 and the Wonder of this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peter Spier's Christmas!

I've found Peter Spier's books difficult to obtain.  However, if you can get your hands on a copy of Peter Spier's Christmas! (c. 1983) -- it's well worth the hassle!

Everyone in my family is riveted by Spier's illustrations that chronicle the cycle of the Christmas season, beginning with empty tree farms and ending with a weather-beaten tree lot.

We forget that this is a wordless book because Spier's illustrations take on a life of their own, telling their story so well.  It's fun to hear the different dialogues the kids come up with as they peruse the book.  The painstaking detail in each illustration begs to be reviewed again and again.

I'm amused by these next few grocery shopping illustrations.  Spier uncannily captures the experience quite accurately.

This book takes on a whole new meaning when you open it as a parent.  I especially love the Christmas Eve sequence and the mound of dirty dishes preceding the satisfaction of a clean kitchen.

The elements on each page are so recognizable; perhaps my strong attachment comes from the personal feeling that Spier depicts my childhood Christmas story.

So as you prepare and decorate during this Christmas season, feast your eyes on Spier's fascinating illustrations.  And have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Thank you Aunt Bonnie for giving us this delicious book with sumptuous lessons that we can really sink our teeth into!
In Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal presents an unique way of introducing children to life values by building her vocabulary words around the tradition of baking and decorating holiday cookies.  The illustrations make this book, and we love illustrator Jane Dyer who has collaborated with Amy Krouse Rosenthal in illustrating the vocabulary lessons: anticipation, tradition, disappointed, celebrate, appreciative, prosperity, charitable, responsible, moderation, reciprocate, frustrated, perseverance, selfish, thoughtful, lonely, sharing, gratitude, family gracious, believe, joy, peace, and hope.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Polar Express

I just love how Chris Van Allsburg captures the magic of Christmastime with a blast of a train whistle and the tinkling of a sleigh-bell.

Many of you are familiar with The Polar Express because of the animated movie released in 2004.  However, check out this book (c. 1985) to discover why author / illustrator Chris Van Allsburg was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1986 for his breathtaking illustrations.  View his acceptance speech here.

 Here's my cousin's son looking at his favorite Christmas book The Polar Express:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

If you read no other book recommendation from my blog this year, be sure to check out The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (c. 1988), by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, to read to the kids!  It's a timeless story that sings the spirit of Christmas.

Barbara Cooney is not only one of our family's favorite illustrators, she's America's beloved illustrator, illustrator of over one hundred childrens' books and recipient of two Cladecott Medals.  So glance over the illustrations, and you'll find that they speak for themselves.

In addition, acclaimed author Gloria Houston retells this heartwarming Appalachian story as it was passed down from her grandmother and mother.

So what's this perfect tale about?  Let's read what the publishers have to say: "The Armistice has been declared, but still there is no sign of Ruthie's father in their little Appalachian town. So, in accordance with the traditions of Pine Grove, it falls to Ruthie and her mother to bring home the perfect Christmas tree to donate to the town. Ruthie had accompanied her father to the rocky cliff where he marked a tree in the spring, so she and her mother set out to find it again, and haul it home. Their trip becomes the basis overnight of a new town legend; [meanwhile] Ruthie [is] chosen for the role of the heavenly angel in the the church Christmas play . . ."

However, while Ruthie's father is away at war, many of the income earning responsibilities cannot be accomplished by Ruthie or her mother.  So they scrimp where they can, leaving the question of an angel's costume and a Christmas gift for Ruthie an unattainable wish.  Find out what happens to all these dilemmas in the story's joy filled ending.  Just be sure have a tissue ready to wipe those tears.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

I know you'll be tickled to read this charming Christmas story, a true classic with the original copyright in 1963 and thankfully reprints up to 2000.  Fall in love with Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.

Let's hear the review from Random House:
Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree is so tall, it can't stand up straight in his parlor.  Mr. Willowby asks his butler to chop off the top of the tree.  What happens to the treetop?  Where will it be for Christmas?  Snuggle up with this story and follow along through a forest full of friendly creatures who get to share Mr. Willowby's Christmas joy.  Robery Barry's enchanting classic holiday tale, here for the first time in glorious full color, will fill readers' hearts with cheer long after New Year's.

Here's an alternate book cover:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mountain Brook

"Mountain Brook"
by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Because of the steepness,
the streamlet runs white,
narrow and broken
as lightning by night.

Because of the rocks,
it leaps this way and that,
fresh as a flower,
quick as a cat.

from Snow Toward Evening: A Year in a River Valley / Nature Poems Selected by Josette Frank with Paintings by Thomas Locker.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Tree Farm

So have you answered all the "whys" yet?  You know . . . "where did our Christmas tree come from?" . . . "Why did it?" . . . "Why did they?" . . . "What about next year?"

David Budbill writes a simple step-by-step account of a Christmas Tree Farm (c.1974) in his book by that title.  Donald Carrick's pencil and wash drawing compliment the simplicity of Budbill's story.  If your child begs to know where his live Christmas Tree comes from, try checking out this out-of-print book from your local library.  But be forewarned, you may start receiving requests to trek to the nearest Christmas Tree farm in order to purchase that next tree.