Hello, and I hope your holidays were properly blissful! We had a wonderful Christmas and today I thought I’d share with you the picture books we unwrapped as a family this year.
I’m one of those parents who squints at a toy and thinks, “Huh. That’ll be a hit for all of eleven minutes,” before clutching my wallet tighter. But I love, love, love buying books for my kids. This year, we chose:
Someday, by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds
Okay, this is not actually a book for children. This is a gorgeous, shamelessly sentimental book for adults, and I confess that I can’t read it without crying. In fact, I first saw it when doing a bookstore visit in Toronto. There I was, standing beside my publicist, waiting to meet some booksellers, when I picked this up off the shelf. Three minutes later, I was misty-eyed and desperately hunting for a tissue. The book shows a mother imagining her infant daughter’s life and all the things the child might do as she *sniff* grows up. The illustrations are very Quentin Blake, but softer, which means I’m a sucker for them, too.
This New Baby, by Teddy Jam and Virginia Johnson
“This new baby sleeps in my arms
like a moon sleeping on a cloud,
like apples falling through the rain,
like a fish swimming through the sky…”
Teddy Jam might be my favourite pseudonym. (His real identity was a secret until the death of award-winning Canadian novelist Matt Cohen in 1999, when they were revealed to be the same person.) Jam’s poetry is spare and surprising, and the illustrations in this re-issued edition of the book work beautifully with Jam’s free verse. It’s a gorgeous and subtle book.
In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
I’d heard of In the Night Kitchen, but never before read it. Crazy, I know! I’m so glad this was prominently displayed in my local indie bookseller’s very small picture-book section; I might never have noticed it otherwise. And it is pure gold. I love that Sendak makes no attempt at logic, no effort to please a particular age bracket. It’s lunatic and brilliant as a result, and we can’t stop chanting, “Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We make cake, and nothing’s the matter.”
Ruby, by Colin Thompson
Another crazy one! We chose this one for the amazing illustrations, but the story (about a family of tiny, tree-root dwellers who accidentally get caught up in an Austin 7 Ruby) is slowly growing on me. At one point, the mother in the story exclaims of her impetuous son, “He hasn’t even grown his second button yet!” My guess is that there’s a time at which this story will seem completely reasonable, but at the moment I’m still shaking my head at the Green Virus who climbs out of the car’s ashtray. Our resident 3-year-old, however, thinks it makes perfect sense. Delightful nonsense, of the Alice-in-Wonderland variety.
What books did you give and receive this holiday?