How did we get here so quickly? I know everyone may not feel the same way, but this year flew by for me and my family. My kids are near to bursting with excitement for Christmas so I’m trying to calm them down by doing some quiet reading with them. And what better to read than winter-focused books that match what we see out our windows? I’ve got three gorgeous stories that I’m excited to share with my readers, and my kids love each and every one of these.
I’ve loved Jan Brett’s popular book The Mitten ever since I was little. She’s known for her gorgeous illustrations and the little ‘side stories’ that run in the frames of each page. Her latest release Cozy highlights her impressive ability to draw animals in their natural environment, and this book takes place in the high arctic so there’s some colourful Northern Lights imagery too. It’s about a musk ox named Cozy who’s extremely shaggy, and she becomes a soft and warm place to hide from winter storms for other smaller animals on the arctic plain. Somehow she is able to keep the peace between all these warring creatures (lemmings, owls, arctic foxes, etc.) and at the end of the winter everyone goes their own separate way while Cozy sheds her fur for another summer season.
The story is a sweet one that kids are comfortable hearing; if you get along with your peers and neighbors, life is better for everyone. But the pictures in Cozy are the most memorable part of this book. There’s a significant amount of text needed to tell the story, but there are so many details to pore over on each page that both my youngest and oldest were enthralled with the entire book. I also appreciate how life-like each animal looks, and their wildness is never minimized; Brett’s books teach kids that wild animals are meant to be both feared and admired, and for our family who often hikes in the mountains this is a key message that we like to drive home!
5 More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas by Jimmy Fallon and illustrated by Rich Deas is a quick and easy book you can fly through in minutes, and because it centers on the inevitable excitement that every child revels in this time of year, kids of all ages will love and relate to it.
A young boy is counting down the number of sleeps he has to endure until Christmas morning, but he’s able to find festive activities to keep him and his younger sister busy each day to help the time move faster. Nighttime is difficult though; he lies awake in bed trying to fall asleep and when he eventually he does a full-page spread depicts him sprawled on his bed with comic ‘z’s coming from his mouth which my kids love to snore along to. When the big morning finally comes he revels in the influx of new toys until later that day he announces there are only ‘364 more sleeps’ until the next Christmas morning. Sure it’s cheeky and sort of cute, but as a parent if I heard my kid start the countdown again so soon I’d probably tear out my hair.
Personally I don’t see anything particularly appealing about this book other than the cute illustrations and rhyming text, but my kids have started requesting it regularly since it arrived on our doorstep, and my oldest has started her own sleep countdown to Christmas morning so it’s clearly resonating with them. This story is clearly one of those that speak to the younger generation only, but I should have guessed that by the title alone.
And for the most Canadian of every Canadian picture book ever published we have Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates by Bobby Orr and Kara Kootstra, illustrated by Jennifer Phelan. Just as an FYI to my readers who aren’t hockey fans, Bobby Orr is an extremely famous Canadian hockey player, so this title alone will ensure it’s a bestseller in our northern parts. This book isn’t holiday specific, but everyone’s thoughts naturally turn to skating around Christmas here in Canada so I think we can easily lump this into a festival round-up.
Our young protagonist Bobby grows up in a small town, and he loves playing hockey so much it’s all he does when he’s not in school. He has his sights set on a brand new pair of skates he sees in a local shop window, but he ends up getting a hand-me-down pair of skates from his brother instead. Despite their shabby appearance ,they end up working just fine, and Bobby goes on to impress enough people with his athletic talents that someone in his town offers to pay for his new skates. Touched by this gesture Bobby gives his hand-me-down skates to his younger brother to enjoy. The illustrations resemble watercolor paintings, and the text makes this one suitable for ages 3-8. Although this book’s message isn’t exactly relatable, it’s an admirable reminder to kids that everything doesn’t have to be brand new, and because I’m that parent who frequently buys her kids’ clothes from consignment stores I like it even more.