I’m taking some time off to be with my family over the holidays this year, so my posting here will continue to be spotty. In the meantime, enjoy this modern and madcap holiday picture book.
Over the River & Through the Wood by Linda Ashman. Illustrated by Kim Smith. Sterling Children’s Books, 2015.
Four branches of an extended family try to assemble, with pies, for a holiday at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Although based on the classic song, this is a clearly modern family where the four grown (white) children have all paired with different people – some of different skin tones, one same-sex pairing, and one family with adopted Asian girls. The focus, though, is on the adventure. They are coming from all over, by car, train, boat and plane, and we follow along as one by one, their chosen mode of transportation breaks down and they must find some other means to get to their destination. Spoiler – it’s an old-fashioned one-horse open sleigh that comes to rescue them, so that they all arrive at Grandma and Grandpa’s at once, luggage, people and pies piled high.
The whole things is told in rhyme that could be sung to the original tune if you feel up to it, and illustrated with crisp cartoonish pictures that emphasize the joy. I enjoyed the big grins, the mischief that happens in the illustrations but isn’t mentioned in the text, and the family photos in the endpapers. And while I love reading to kids about all the different specific holidays this time of year, I love that this particular book never says why they’re getting together. Emphasis on family, pie, and travelling through the snow. That makes it perfect for, say, reading at schools like my children’s that try to avoid celebrating any religious holidays.
My only quibble with the book – and it’s a small one – is that the same-sex parents are two dads. I’ve noticed that the same-sex parents of our acquaintance are pretty exclusively in two-mama relationships, while every recent kids’ book I’ve read with same-sex parents, from picture book to teen, has only two-dad families. Where are the lesbian mothers in fiction, and why the disconnect?
Other non-religious winter picture books we love are Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, and Snow Party by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Mark Jones. You can see my favorite Hannukah, Christmas, and winter solstice books as well.
What are your favorite winter and winter holiday books?