There is always a flurry (ha ha) of excitement when we bring out the holiday books: for book lovers returning to our favorite holiday books is one of the great traditions of the season.
Christmas and Hanukkah books can be anything from inspired to insipid. Many Christmas books retell classic stories–The Night Before Christmas, Twelve Days of Christmas or even A Christmas Carol. In those cases, it is often the illustrations make a book truly distinguished.
Here are a few of my favorite holiday books–ones that I like to put away in January just for the pleasure of finding them again in December.
Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair
In this version of the classic tale, St. Nick wears muskrat skins and drives a skiff pulled by flying alligators. Ridiculously fun to read aloud and just as unrealistic and romanticized a version as the traditional tale.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith
Exuberant and distinctly modern–as in 1972–I love Brian Wildsmith’s version of the carol. I think the carol is a great prompt for day dreaming–Why are they such strange gifts? What does it mean to be a ‘true love’?–and such a nice counting book.
Too Many Tomales by Gary Soto
Maria loses her mother’s ring while making tamales and now they must find it! A joyful excess of food and family.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Mean kids (who are hilarious to read about) throw themselves into the community Christmas pageant. Totally fun.
And now for Hanukkah:
Eric Kimmel’s books about Jewish holidays (and other things, he’s a prolific author) are great standbys. Golem’s Latkes and Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins are great tales, in addition to being great Hanukkah tales.
The Story of Hanukkah by David Adler
Vibrant illustrations accompany this new retelling the original Hanukkah story.
The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Singer writes for both adults and children and is a great writer about Jews and Judaism. He manages to create new stories that feel as though they’ve existed for generations but are still fresh and engaging. This book includes eight tales one for each night of Hanukkah.