New Holiday Titles, Act One: Skeptics ‘R Us

h1 December 12th, 2006 by jules

Don’t you think we should take a look at some new holiday picture book titles? Now, when I say “holiday,” I promise I won’t narrow that to Christmas only. As TadMack at Finding Wonderland put it so well, it’s happy EidChrisSolKwanZukkah, thank you very much. But let’s take this list slowly, divide it into parts, since we’re probably all busy preparing for whatever we celebrate anyway. And the first two are Christmas titles, and they are each little joys in their own, lively ways. So, even if you say humbug to the entire season (and on most days, I wouldn’t blame you), these are worth seeing and might cheer you up. And these two titles are for the Santa Skeptics, just going to show that the Buddha was right when he said, “there is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt” (as well as “fruitcake gets a bad rap; I mean, it’s really quite tasty,” one of his more lesser-known comments) . . .

Santa Knows by Cynthia & Greg Leitich Smith and illustrated by Steve Björkman; published by Dutton Children’s Books — First page of this book: “Alfie F. Snorklepuss yanked his little sister’s Christmas stocking from the fireplace mantel.” What the . . . ? you wonder. Well, I would venture to guess that Alfie’s been hangin’ out and talkin’ trash with Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie, that’s what. While Reginald set out to disprove the existence of the town’s friendly dinosaur, Alfie sets out to prove to his sister, Noelle, that there is — gasp — no Santa Claus. And, like Reginald, he pulls out all the stops — does his research at the library; campaigns at school with his “Santa is Fake!” signs; writes a letter to the editor; does his talk radio tour; hits some live t.v. audiences; and posts his facts on the Web. Yes, the simple one-up’ping of his sister turns into a maniacal-mwahahahaha-obsessed look in his eye, as he tells Noelle that Santa is “nothing but a fairy tale!” Noelle, meanwhile, never stops believing and asks Santa for none other than a nicer big brother for Christmas, bringing out Alfie’s utmost Inner Churl (just look at that cover). Well, Santa appears, and how he melts Alfie’s grinch heart is for you to find out, since this is a festive and fun read with Björkman’s buoyant cartoon watercolor-and-ink illustrations. This one would make a rousing read-aloud to the elementary-aged children at which it’s aimed (and visit here for a bit more info and others’ reviews, including a better image of the cover art in order to see Alfie’s anti-Christmas pajamas. Dude, he’s hard-core).

A Clever Beatrice Christmas by Margaret Willey and illustrated by Heather M. Solomon; published by Atheneum Books for Young ReadersClever Beatrice, the poster child for flyaway, unruly tresses, is back. And this time she’s here to demonstrate to three children from her neighboring village that Père Noël is real. How, these children wonder aloud to Beatrice, can he bring presents to so many children in one night? How does he stay warm all through the night on Christmas Eve? And how can one be sure the man in the sleigh wearing a cape is Père Noël himself? Well, snap snap, she isn’t called Clever Beatrice for any ‘ol reason. In order to ease their worries and dispel their doubts, she promises to bring them a bell from his own sleigh; a button from his cape; and a curl from his very own beard. And, yes, she does all three, ’cause she’s a shrewd one, that Beatrice (in the author’s note, we’re told that Père Noël — the French-Canadian version of Santa Claus, of course — “has a special fondness for children like Beatrice — littles ones clever enough to convince others to believe”). The story with Solomon’s distinctive and rather folk-art watercolor illustrations brings to life in vivid detail the French-Canadian traditions revolving around Christmas — the baking of the Buche de Noel, a special Christmas cake made to resemble a log; the stringing of popcorn and pine-cone garlands around the Christmas tree, followed by sprigs of winter-berry and holly; the Christmas creche; and the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, while villagers hold candles and sing after feasting on tourtieres, a smoked goose, and rum cake. Even the front and end page illustrations in this one make it worth seeing, the reindeer flying high enough above the land to see continents sprawled below with snowflakes falling and fish in the ocean. Ah, what a perspective! A joyful read, whether you’re new to Clever Beatrice or have been awaiting her return since 2004’s Clever Beatrice and the Best Little Pony.

Until next time . . .

One comment to “New Holiday Titles, Act One: Skeptics ‘R Us”

  1. […] Just look at those pyjamas! When it came out last year, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast said This one would make a rousing read-aloud to the elementary-aged children at which it’s […]

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