Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Beautiful Books of Christmas: The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman and Many More

I had just nodded off
At a quarter past four,
When the Spirit of Christmas
Stepped in through my door.

A benevolent Spirit of Christmas who trims your tree and decks your halls? Not a problem! But the speaker in Nancy Tillman's beautiful new book for the season, The Spirit of Christmas, (Feiwel and Friends, 2009) still finds something missing.

Tinseled trees, marching toy soldiers, tongues red from candy canes, bells jingling on one-horse sleighs, soft snow sifting down on whispering pines--all are well and good, but by themselves don't quite bring forth that Christmas feeling. But the Spirit knows what is needed.

That's when the Spirit of Christmas smiled.
Remember, this all begins with a Child.
Because it took nothing but love to begin it,
"It's not really Christmas if love's not in it."

Christmas isn't really Christmas until it shared, and with this reminder, the real Christmas feeling shines through.
And that's when I got it. That's when I knew.
The thing that was missing from Christmas was you!

As long as the world still spins and still hums,
Wherever you are and no matter what comes,
The best part of Christmas will always be,
You beneath my Christmas tree.

Tillman, author of the best-selling On the Night You Were Born, knows how to pair her appealing illustrations with moving text, and here, in simple rhyming couplets, her simple reminder of the joys of sharing the season is set off by the glowingly lovely illustrations which together create a welcome addition to the Christmas bookshelf.

Part of that Christmas feeling is sharing those great stories of the season, old and new. Of course, there are many beautiful Christmas books which make great gifts and great home read-alouds. Artist P. J. Lynch has provided strikingly lovely illustrations for Susan Wojciechowski's The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey with CD: Gift Edition, for Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, and for O. Henry's classic, The Gift of the Magi. Likewise, Bagram Ibatoulline's gorgeous illustrations grace Newbery author Kate diCamillo's 2008 Great Joy with the warm glow of wartime 1940s nostalgia. Caldecott artist Susan Jeffers' unmatched The Nutcracker is also a stellar example of an exquisite and evergreen Christmas story. Oldies but goodies include Margaret Wise Brown's and Jim LaMarche's The Little Fir Tree, L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, in a new edition illustrated by Charles Santore, Pearl S. Buck's Christmas Day in the Morning, amazingly illustrated by Mark Buehner, and Gennady Spirin's The Night Before Christmas.

This year offers some outstanding new picture books--Newbery winner Patricia MacLachlan's The True Gift: A Christmas Story, Lauren Thompson's and Jon Muth's The Christmas Magic, and Jason Wright's and Ben Seward's Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle--each one artfully written and exquisitely illustrated and sure to delight readers for many a Christmas season to come.

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