Wednesday, December 20, 2017

CHRISTMAS PICTURE BOOKS: The Legend of Old Befana/The Night Before Christmas/A Charlie Brown Christmas/The Little Reindeer


In this beloved classic picture book, Tomie dePaola retells and illustrates an Italian Christmas folk tale, breathing warmth and humanity into the character of the lonely Old Befana and her endless search for the Christ Child.

Every morning and every afternoon, Old Befana sweeps with her broom. “Cranky old lady,” the children say. “She is always sweeping!” Sweep, sweep, sweep.

But when a brilliant star glows in the eastern sky one night, and Old Befana encounters the glorious procession of three kings on their way to Bethlehem, her little world will never be the same.


Interestingly, I heard a different version of this story shortly before I picked up this picture book.  Naturally, the two versions differed a bit, but the theme remains the same: an older woman searching for the Christ child becomes a Santa Claus-like figure for children.  dePaola does a nice job here showing how Old Befana changes after hearing about the Christ child, and how after missing a chance to travel with the wise men, sets off on her own to find the child.  I think what I enjoyed most about the story is the way Old Befana's heart is touched by the words of a child.  After living a life of routine, mostly taking care of herself, she discovers the importance of giving and the joy of following the Christ child.  As always, dePaola's illustrations reflect a old-fashioned touch that works well for this folktale.


The original tale of The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore is now accompanied by enchanting illustrations from Antonio Caparo in this festive holiday picture book.

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Since it was first published nearly 200 years ago “The Night Before Christmas” has enchanted readers young and old with the story of St. Nicholas landing on a snowy roof, climbing down the chimney, and filling all the stockings with gifts before riding off in his sleigh, wishing “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

This classic poem is now accompanied by stunning, richly detailed illustrations from Antonio Caparo, illustrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Rudolph Shines Again. This beautiful picture book is the perfect Christmas gift.


I am not the biggest fan of Moore's famous poem.  I've read it out loud a number of times and the rhythm just seems off in a few places.  Plus, as a student this week told me, there's not much story there.  A man watches Santa fly around delivering presents and that's it.  So, while I like the poem in a general sense, I'm not a huge fan, especially with Santa smoking a pipe.  What I am a fan of, however, is Caparo's illustrations.  They are gorgeous.  That Santa on the cover is one of the best I've ever seen.  I also liked the big size which makes this version of the poem especially suited for sharing.


Celebrate Christmas with Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang in this gorgeous deluxe storybook retelling of the beloved Christmas special!

Christmas is almost here, which means ice-skating, Christmas carols, and sparkly lights everywhere—even on Snoopy’s doghouse! Everyone is enjoying the holiday celebrations except Charlie Brown. Can the Peanuts gang help Charlie Brown discover the true meaning of Christmas?

Find out in this beautiful deluxe storybook with a cloth cover, lush foil stamping, and incredible illustrations! This makes the perfect holiday gift for fans of Peanuts and the classic Christmas special.


I liked this book for the most part and children who enjoy Charlie Brown will too.  As a Deluxe Edition the book is beautifully put together.  The large size of the book with the fabric red cover make the book a good choice for read alouds.  The music on the end papers is a nice touch as well.   The story of Charlie Brown searching for the spirit of Christmas is a nice one.  Commercialism is a really big problem at this time of year and the book shows that.  I think my favorite part though is where Charlie Brown picks the scrawniest Christmas tree in the lot.  Even though his friends laugh at him at first, Charlie Brown tries to decorate the tree.  Unfortunately, the tree is really too small to hold even a single tree bulb and Charlie Brown thinks he's ruined things again.  I did appreciate Charlie Brown's friends coming to his rescue, but it would have been better if they hadn't laughed at him in the first place.  In addition, the tree isn't the same, it looks like a totally different tree after it's been decorated, but that probably won't bother anyone except me.  Overall, a nice Christmas story about looking beyond the commercial aspects of the holiday.


An enchanting Christmas story about a magical yet unlikely friendship between a little girl and a lost reindeer, lovingly told and illustrated with red foil highlights and interactive die cuts.

When a jingling sound wakes her from her sleep, a little girl’s dreams come true when she meets a lost reindeer in the forest. They set off on a magical adventure and it becomes a Christmas never to forget. Nicola Killen’s evocative illustrations are sure to enchant in this beautiful book with die cut pages, foil, and flashes of festive red.


This is a cute story about a young girl who gets woken up by a jingling sound.  When she investigates, she discovers a reindeer who takes her for a flight before she heads back to bed.  Rather a simple, straight-forward premise, but one young children especially will love to go with her on.  I thought the title was clever, referring to the girl in her reindeer costume, but also related to the animal the girl befriends.  The cut outs on some pages are bound to be of interest, but also create the risk of torn pages.  I would have loved this in full color, but that is just a personal taste, the illustrations work well, highlighting the quiet world in which the girl and reindeer find themselves.

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