A few favorite holiday books (mostly for children):
The Nativity with pictures by Julie Vivas I first discovered this book in library school. Julie Vivas is an Australian illustrator who does beautifully expressive watercolors. Her Nativity is a long way from the formal and reverent oil paintings you’d expect of such a book. The Angel Gabriel sits down at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee with Mary, his wings dripping rainbows and his boots unlaced. A three-picture sequence shows Joseph trying to hoist a hugely pregnant Mary onto the back of a donkey who looks less than pleased at the idea. The text is taken from the King James version, which I have to edit for Mr. FP, but the words are few enough on the page to keep a toddler interested.
Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins by Eric Kimmel with pictures by Trina Schart Hyman The classic story of Herschel the fool outwitting the wicked goblins who prevent the village of Ostropol from celebrating Hannukah. Trina Schart Hyman is one of my all-time favorite illustrators. The story is fun and a little scary, and, alas, a little too long for Mr. FP still. [Updated 12/12 to add]: He was about 4 when he started loving this.
Winter Lights written and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines Looking for broader winter holidays than just Christmas and Hannukah, I found this book. It centers on the celebration of light during this dark time of the year, with all different kinds of celebrations. Santa Lucia, Solstice, Chinese New Year, the disappointment of a child when the sun goes down way before bedtime, as well as Christmas and Hannukah. Each holiday is featured in a two-page spread with a short, expressive poem and a quilt illustrating it. The poems are lovely and the quilts are absolutely stunning. I hope my son will want to read it before it’s due back at the library, but in the meantime, everyone that comes near me is enjoying it.
The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien This book is probably the reason that I still believe in Santa Claus, even though I’ve never liked the Santas at the mall. Father Christmas is strong and wise, managing to get presents out on time in spite of his bumbling assistant, the North Polar Bear, and goblin raids on the toys.
[Edited to add book covers 12/3/2012]