Lighting up a child’s Christmas with a wonderful book is a great experience. As one of my favorite Maine authors, Monica Wood, said recently, “When you receive a book, more than any other gift you feel chosen. If it’s a gift to a child, the children’s book becomes a continuum between lives and generations.”
I have just finished reading a bunch of Christmas story books for kids, some of which will be found under the Christmas tree for our grandchildren. Here are the books I can recommend to you. Not only are the stories wonderful in each of these books, but the illustrations are awesome. And yes, they will help establish that continuum between lives and generations.
Merry Moosey Christmas, written by Lynn Plourde (Winthrop), illustrated by Russ Cox (Tennessee), published by Islandport Press of Yarmouth. Lynn Plourde is one of our favorite children’s book authors, and this is one of her best, for sure. Rudolph asks Santa for a year off, so he searches for a substitute. The search results in a bull moose pulling Santa’s sleigh, but this is no typical moose. For example, he uses a headlamp (because he can’t get his nose to glow), a jetpack to lift him off the ground, and GPS to find his way to each and every home. I loved the illustration on the back – Rudolph enjoying Christmas on the beach!
One Maine Christmas Eve, written and illustrated by Douglas Coffin (Stockton Springs), published by Tilbury House in Thomaston. I can’t describe this delightful book and poem any better than Mariellen Eaton at Tilbury House does: “One Maine Christmas Eve by Douglas Coffin is our gift to Christmas this year! What a hoot! It is a verbal and visual lark that turns ‘The Night Before Christmas’ into a tall tale of good old Yankee making-do!” I’d recommend reading the traditional Twas the Night Before Christmas first and this book immediately after. It is a hoot.
This book has special meaning for my family, because Doug’s father, Frank Coffin, was a distinguished public servant and judge. Our daughter Rebekah worked for Judge Coffin after she graduated from law school, and the Judge presided at Rebekah’s marriage to Patrick Mellor. Doug dedicated this book to his father, “who never let his distinguished career as a public servant interfere with his fondness for fun.”
The Scallop Christmas, written by Jane Freeberg (Georgetown Island), illustrated by Astrid Sheckels (Hatfield, Massachusetts), and published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth. This opening of the book begins with a grandmother hanging painted scallop shells on her tree with her two grandchildren: “The chips were old, chipped, and dull, and to some they may have looked out of place hanging among the brightly colored glass ornaments that sparkled red and gold and blue. But to me, they were the most beautiful. My mother painted them years and years ago, and each Christmas they bring back precious memories – memories of perhaps the happiest day of my life.” That happiest day of her life may bring tears to your eyes. This is a powerful, inspiring, and very moving story. I will read this one with my 8-year-old grandson but honestly, even adults will enjoy it.
My Wonderful Christmas Tree, written and illustrated by Maine’s extraordinary Dahlov Ipcar, published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth. We have a quite a few of Dahlov’s 30 books, of which My Wonderful Christmas Tree was the last, published in 1986. Thankfully, Islandport has republished many of her books and she continues to create beautiful works of art into her 90s. If you’ve never seen a Dahlov Ipcar book, you are in for a treat. I can tell you that the illustrations will captivate any child – and probably you too! The story features wild critters she sees from her window on Christmas night. I have a lot of Ipcar favorites, but this is right at the top of the list.
Where Do Fairies Go When it Snows? Written by Liza Gardner Walsh, illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, published by Rowman & Littlefield. Down East Books is an imprint of Globe Pequot, the trade division of Rowman & Littlefield. This book will help all of us adjust to the colder days and snow. Mitchell’s illustrations are sure to captivate children. Using clever rhyming questions, Walsh helps children understand where fairies go when it snows. You may want to join them there! Here’s one of her questions: “But when the days get cold, dark, and dreary, do their spirits get low and do they feel weary?” Your answer?!! Towards the end of the book, the suggestion is offered to build a winter house for the fairies. And the suggestion comes with an important message – for all of us. “For this is the same kindness that fairies show you. Helping each other is what we all should do.”
Christmas in Maine, written by Robert Tristram Coffin, with woodblock prints by Blue Butterfield, published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth. IslandPort has done us a big favor by pairing Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and revered writer Coffin’s classic Christmas story with evocative original woodblock prints by Maine artist blue Butterfield and an interesting foreword by Maine writer Jaed Coffin. As the introduction recommends, “This special edition is a book to read aloud year after year to remind ourselves of the true meaning of holiday traditions.” Seventy five years after he first told this story about Christmas at his house, Coffin’s Christmas message is fascinating. Here’s a bit of the story, about their Christmas meal, to whet your appetite:
The table had to be pieced out with flour barrels and bread boards and ironing boards. It was a house’s length from the head of the table, where your father sat and manufactured the roast up into slivers, to your mother dishing out the pork gravy. Whole geese disappeared on the way down. The Christmas cake, which had been left sweetly to itself for a month to age into a miracle, was a narrow isthmus when it got to Mother. But Mother always said that Christmas, to her was watching other people eat. She was the kind of mother who claimed that the neck and the back of the chicken were the tastiest parts.
The prize goose, whom you had brought up by hand and called Oliver Cromwell, Old ironsides, or some such distinguished title, was duly carved. And Father found his wishbone snow-white and you all applauded, for that meant lots of snow and two more months of coasting on your sleds. There were mince pies by the legion. And if Uncle Tom were there, a whole raccoon baked just for him and girt around with browned sweet potatoes. Mother’s wild strawberry jam was there on deck, winking at you like rubies from the holes in tarts that melted away like bubbles in the mouth. That dinner was three hours in Beulah Land!
Wow! Makes me hungry! And happy!
And then there is Felix’s World by Kevin McShane of New Sharon. It’s not Christmas book, but it’s a book to give to a child for Christmas. Felix’s World is a simple story, suitable for youngsters like our 19-month-old granddaughter Ada. The illustrations by Kristina Young are very entertaining. And yes, I may be trying to influence Ada toward, someday, joining Grampy on a real fishing adventure! When you access Kevin’s website (musicfromthesugarhouse.com) to purchase this book, also check out his tiny “The Little Rabbits and the Fir Tree.” It’s a very imaginative way to present a story, billed as a “holiday car, story, and mantle decoration”). I think our granddaughter will love it.
You can order these books from any bookstore or purchase them online from the publishers or Amazon. Merry Christmas!