'Twas the season of giving,
And all through the stores,
Await bright racks and shelves,
Filled with holiday books galore!
Indeed, this year's crop seems especially good, starting with Bonny Becker's hilarious The Christmas Crocodile (Simon & Schuster, $16, ages 4-8, 0689815034). In an old Victorian home to a young girl named Alice Jayne and her eccentric relatives (including prudish Aunt Figgy and world adventurer Uncle Theodore) comes a mysterious, very hungry present - a crocodile. While Uncle Theodore thinks the beast would make splendid shoes, and Figgy wants him sent to an orphanage, Alice Jayne would prefer to keep the croc, despite the havoc his chomping jowls wreak. Artist David Small, well known for his work in Imogene's Antlers, The Library, and The Gardener, makes this lively story all the better with his fanciful illustrations that'll have you laughing out loud (especially when Aunt Figgy's toes get nibbled).
Illustrator Jan Brett, creator of holiday cheer in books such as The Wild Christmas Reindeer and Christmas Trolls, now puts her distinctive touch on The Night Before Christmas (all ages). Her elaborate designs combine Norwegian coziness (as seen on the reindeer's blankets and the intricately carved sleigh) with Victorian visions of sugarplums and stockings. Brett adds her own twist to the classic by including two stowaway elves in Santa's sleigh.
Julia and Robert Van Nutt have created a possibility-filled world in A Cobtown Christmas (Doubleday, $15.95, all ages, 0385325568), the first in a series of stories about folks in an 1845 American town. The story unfolds in diary entries written by a spirited ten-year-old named Lucky Hart. As the town prepares for Christmas and a special concert in which Lucky will sing, a blind man who doesn't speak English arrives in town. It's nice to hear this is a series, because Cobtown is a cheery, action-packed place readers will look forward to revisiting.
Young readers will enjoy Nancy Tafuri's Counting to Christmas (Scholastic, $15.95, ages 2-5, 0590271431), in which a young girl describes her favorite family activities: making cards, baking cookies, wrapping presents, and stringing popcorn and cranberries. The spare text and bold images make this a perfect choice for toddlers and young preschoolers. Also included are recipes and instructions for the activities described within the story.
Alice Cary is a reviewer in Groton, Massachusetts. Copyright 1999 BookPage Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 1999
The classic Christmas poem is illustrated with Brett's characteristically detailed paintings, which feature scenes of the adventures of two stowaway elves on Santa's sleigh. Many of the familiar events of the narrative are illustrated along the borders, and it is jarring for the text to have so little in common with some of the large, main pictures. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 1998 August #2
Brett (The Hat, 1997, etc.) glorifies an old-fashioned Christmas in her lavish and detailed edition of the classic poem. Elves under animal furs nestle in the back of Santa's sleigh while the reindeer labor under their own finery. The family they visit lives in an ornate Victorian mansion. Snow perches picturesquely on tree branches, and elaborate borders throughout the book highlight beloved tree ornaments as well as secondary actions: the reaction of the house's dog and cat; the alerting of the parents to the clatter of reindeer on the roof the rousing of the children and their approach to the loot Santa has left behind. This eye- filling volume offer a wealth of detail, perfect for sharing in the days counting down to Christmas. (Picture book. 3-8) Copyright 1998 Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal Reviews 1998 October
PreS-Gr 2 Brett sets her distinctive, lavish presentation of this poem in a Victorian house in a New England village, with an Old World Santa and a couple of stowaway elves who steal the show. Double-page spreads offer much to explore, while the artist's signature "in the border" additions extend the story line. Sometimes the paintings illustrate the words to the poem; other times they highlight the behind-the-scenes activities. Winsome reindeer play along good-naturedly with the stowaways, and their facial expressions and body language are utterly endearing. Brett's elves add a lighthearted dimension to this Christmas classic, while her illustrations maintain the appealing Victorian flair of the original. LF Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews