So you may have heard about a little holiday coming up soon? This week is all about the Christmas books – though this first one also includes Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and more generic winter and fall activities, for those who don’t celebrate the coming of the big guy in red. Later in the week, I’ll cover the smaller ones, but today’s trio of titles is for the bigger kids in your life.
Holiday Crafting & Baking With Kids
ISBN: 978 1 4521 0109 5
I say frequently that doing crafts and cooking is great for kids not only to keep their mischievous little hands busy, but also to increase math skills (measuring and estimating) and to improve the specific literacy skill of following directions. And look! A whole book of holiday goodies to craft and bake together. This book is full of great ideas – but not just for Christmas. It offers
some fall ideas, some nice generic winter snowflake-y things to do, and
treats for Hannukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as plenty of sweet and simple things to make for Christmas.
Included are wrapping ideas, treats for stockings or small gifts, crafts for decorating, and easily assembled delicious goodies. Most of them are in fact easily achievable by kids on their own, too, once you get them set up, which to me is a huge plus so you can get some cards written/gifts wrapped while they work, but some of them would be great shared activities. I’m even suggesting some of them as good classroom ideas for my teacher husband, and some of them would make nice gifts for teachers or neighbours, too. I’m a fan of a good craft book with realistic crafts in them (sorry, Martha, you are out of my league!), and can see using this one for years.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Picture Book)
ISBN: 978 0 06 089074 2
I had the same teacher for grades 4, 5, and 6. Every year at Christmas, she read us the same story, but because the story was so great, this was actually a highlight, rather than a bore. That story was the original novel version of this, and it is wonderful.
It’s the story the Herdmans, the roughest bunch of hooligans in town, and how they got involved with a Christmas pageant against all sense and better judgment. Being as the Herdmans are loud, vulgar, feral bullies, everyone is afraid to refuse them, and even more afraid that they will ruin the whole affair. But somehow, once they get the point of the story, they turn out to add a crude, entirely real sort of grace to the whole thing.
Not to say it’s smooth sailing, by any stretch, but that’s what makes it so wonderful – the raw, side-splitting hilarity of it. The wild ride is so thoroughly crazy, it’s delightful, and even the most reluctant and resistant kid would just have to enjoy it. It’s one of those books I can’t read aloud because I am laughing too hard and can’t even breathe – I honestly don’t know how Ms. Barton did it all those years.
This shortened picture book version is designed to bring the story to a younger audience, and while I have to say that reading the original is infinitely better for all the things you won’t miss out on, it is clear that the author has tried very hard to retain the flavour and even much of the language of the original, lifting phrases directly into this version where they will still work intact. For my grade 2, I’m going to introduce her to the story with this for now, and move up to the original later, because I don’t want her to miss the full glory some day, but for now, this works.
The Gift of the Magi
ISBN: 978 0 06 113880 5
I remember the first time I read this story, how it just seemed so sad and wonderful and, well, I was too young to get irony, but I loved the wonderful mixed-up mess of it and how the love in it was just palpable.
It’s the story of how a husband and wife who have fallen on hard time each sacrifice their own dearest thing in order to be able to buy something special for the other. The irony is that each gift is something intended to be used with those very dearest things that are now lost, in a beautifully bittersweet short story twist.
It’s a Christmas classic by a master of the short story, and over the years, I’ve collected up a few lovely little editions of it. It’s been much illustrated, as so many classics are, and often presented as a smaller format gift book, as it is in this modern version.
This is a story for an older child, a teen, or an adult on your list, to be sure. This edition is getting hard to find, being a couple of years old, but there are also lots of other gorgeous versions to be found for different tastes, including this lovely one by Lisbeth Zwerger and a gorgeous one from P.J. Lynch, from whom you can expect nothing less than painterly perfection. I love this as a gift to be treasured for years, as the story grows only more poignant once the reader has (some day) found their own love.