Daily Archives: November 12, 2009

I can hear sleigh bells in the distance? Can you? Check out these Christmas-y beauties


*The two winners of these books have been chosen and have been contact via email. Thanks for sharing your favourite holiday reads!*

Evidently, Scholastic is already very much in the Christmas spirit, because here I am, reviewing two new picture books for the upcoming holiday season. I’m also delighted to be giving away to two lucky readers, copies of both The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson with illustrations by Jon J. Muth, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King adapted by Wren Maysen and illustrated by Gail de Marcken. Leave a comment on this post, naming your favourite holiday picture book ever (doesn’t have to be Christmas!). Be sure to include a contact email so that I can reach you.

If I had to make a list of my favourite illustrators for children, Jon J. Muth would be on it, for sure. I am such a fan of his light style, the delicacy of his watercolours and the sense of humour he infuses into so many of his illustrations. He’s an artist whose studio I would love to be able to visit. I find all of his books impressive and evocative, and The Christmas Magic is no exception. Here’s a short trailer, to give you a glimpse of the text and pictures:

The text is sweet and simple and made up of few words – allowing so much space for Muth’s illustrations to shine. I like the way this one already feels like a classic tale, and I also like that Thompson isn’t trying to do a single gimmicky thing. Her story is about the magic of the season, a magic that many readers know well. There aren’t dancing snowmen or talking toys or penguins wearing cute hats. This is a calm book, about Santa’s quiet preparations for his busiest night of the year. I can imagine reading this on Christmas Eve to my niece, who could use all the help she can get trying to keep the anticipation under control. I’m definitely passing this one on to my sister before December. Here’s just one of the beautiful pictures (note the adorable sleeping reindeer – I want one):


When I was a girl, one of my most-loved Christmas books was an edition of The Nutcracker. I can’t remember which one I had, but I read that book over and over again. The first Christmas I worked at the bookstore, I couldn’t believe the number of different versions of the story that were out there. I guess everyone has a favourite. I imagine that The Nutcracker and the Mouse King would satisfy most people looking for a traditional, straight-up presentation of the classic story. Marcken’s illustrations are detailed and the palette is bright and rich. There are several double-page spreads which will encourage readers to stop and take in all of the detail. Here’s one picture of little Marie:

Nutcracker and the Mouse King spread 1

I can see this version being quite popular with someone wanting to give a child a classic tale, in an edition that feels like a gift book. I’m more partial to the subdued tones and understated style of Lisbeth Zwerger’s version, but I think Marcken’s might have more child appeal.

Just leave a comment, sharing your favourite holiday picture book, if you’d like to have copies of these two titles. Winners will be contacted after December 1st. Open to US addresses only.