It's time to make merry with a few of our favorite selections.
Auntie Claus: Home for the Holidays by Elise Primavera (S&S/Wiseman, $17.99, 9781416954859/1416954856, 40 pp., ages 4-8, October 2009)
In her third Yuletide adventure, Auntie Claus, determined not to miss her niece in the plum role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to move the North Pole to New York City. Naturally, this is much harder to pull off than Auntie thinks, but it makes for grand entertainment.
A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens, adapted by Josh Greenhut, illustrated by Brett Helquist (HarperCollins, $17.99 9780061650994/0061650994, 40 pp., ages 5-up, September 2009)
"Marley was dead. There was no doubt whatever that Marley was dead as a doornail," begins this adaptation of Dickens's cautionary Christmas tale. And who better to illustrate it than the artist who created Lemony Snicket's Unfortunate characters? An introduction sure to lead readers deeper into Dickens.
The Christmas Magic
by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jon J Muth (Scholastic, $16.99, 9780439774970/0439774977, 40 pp., ages 4-8, September 2009)
"Far, far north, where the reindeer are, there is a snug little house with a bright red door." Thompson (Mouse's First Christmas) takes youngsters inside Santa Claus's cozy home where he prepares for the Christmas magic "when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest." In stunning watercolor and pastel illustrations that seem to glisten with snow and starlight, Muth (Zen Shorts) characterizes Santa as a kindly old-man-next-door who's transformed by holiday spirit.
The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763632236/0763632236, 32 pp., ages 4-10, September 2009)
It's a time-honored tradition to leave cookies for Santa. But what if those sweet treats are gingerbread pirates that need saving by Captain Cookie? Kladstrup (The Book of Story Beginnings) makes the most of the adventurous possibilities, while Tavares's ('Twas the Night Before Christmas) sumptuous full-bleed spreads and spot illustrations play with a cookie's-eye perspective.
The Nutcracker, retold by John Cech from the E.T.A. Hoffmann text, illustrated by Eric Puybaret (Sterling, $17.95, 9781402755620/1402755627, 40 pp., ages 5-12, October 2009)
As he did with his illustrations for Puff, the Magic Dragon, Puybaret once again captures the darker undercurrents of an iconic tale, as Marie moves between her familiar home and the mysterious world of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Cech's retelling of Hoffmann's original story dispenses with some of the old-fashioned phrases. An elegant and accessible version of a holiday classic.
The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, $16.99, 9780312549657/0312549652, 32 pp., ages 4-8, September 2009)
"I had just nodded off, at a quarter past four, when the Spirit of Christmas stepped in through my door," begins the first-person account of the adult narrator, with a tip o' the hat to Clement C. Moore's head of household. Here, too, Tillman (On the Night You Were Born) expertly swirls together reality and fantasy--the narrator's child delights in the sight of the decorated tree, the lion lies down with the lamb--as is fitting for such a magical night.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Rachel Isadora (Putnam/Penguin, $16.99, 9780399254086/0399254080, 32 pp., ages 4-8 , October 2009)
Isadora creates neon-bright collage illustrations in an African setting, and her Santa sports leopard print and gray dreadlocks. The stockings hang by a wood-burning stove, and "visions of sugarplums" dance in the heads of three colorfully night-capped and beribboned children, while cat and mouse sleep peacefully side by side.
What's Coming for Christmas? by Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben (Frances Foster/ FSG, $15.99, 9780374399481/0374399484, 40 pp, ages 4-8, September 2009)
The team behind And if the Moon Could Talk once again imbues the nighttime with a whisper of magic, and on this special evening on a certain present-day farm, a sense of expectation, too. On the same night, a gift arrives in the manger, and in the house, "No one saw who put the gifts under the tree and filled the stockings." Not even the pups that slumber by the hearth stir in the moonlight. A beautiful homage to Christmas past and present.
Where Teddy Bears Come From by Mark Burgess, illustrated by Russell Ayto (Peachtree, $16.95, 9781561454877/1561454877, 32 pp., ages 4-8, August 2009)
A little wolf who stays wide awake one night believes that a teddy bear can help him sleep, and sets off to find out where teddys come from. Burgess (When Vegetables Attack) sends the fellow to "three not-so-little pigs" and Little Red Riding Hood before the furry hero gets the answer from an old man in red, who says "Ho, Ho, Ho!" Ayto's (One More Sheep) nocturnal, slightly askew illustrations make an ideal match for a pleasingly cock-eyed tale.--Jennifer M. Brown