A Picture-book Christmas

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?

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12 Responses to “A Picture-book Christmas”

  1. Mara A. says:

    I got a total of 18 books this Christmas; it’s all I asked for, so I was happy. It would take a little while to list them all, but one of my absolute favorites was a BEAUTIFUL leather-bound edition of “The Arabian Nights,” complete with forty color illustrations. My grandparents also sent me money, which I am going to use to buy up all of the Madeline books I can possibly find (Madeline was my favorite series of picture books when I was little).

  2. Jill says:

    Love Teddy Jam, introduced to me by you.

    Love Someday….haven’t bought it yet though. I’m saving it for when Winnie is around 5. Not sure how I’ll ever read it to her though? I leave Indigo in tears every time I pick it up!

  3. Ying says:

    Mara, your edition of The Arabian Nights sounds exquisite! And lucky you, 18 books. I thought I got lucky with 6! And Jill, I know – I don’t know how I’ll ever read Someday aloud, but I plan to try.

  4. JaneE says:

    When I was little, my mom and I read Teddy Jam and Maurice Sendack ALL the time.

    I got a lot of books, but my favourite was….The Traitor and the Tunnel. My mom ordered it from the UK early 😀 It was SO good. I really enjoyd it. I think it might be my favourite in the series yet! 😀

  5. rayray says:

    my aunt took me to a book fair and said she cried when she read Someday, too!

  6. Faith says:

    This year we gave our 2 year old Helen Oxenbury and Mem Fox’s 10 Little Finger, 10 Little Toes. It is adorable! And she loves it. We gave her the giant lap edition so everyone can read and look at the pictures. She’s still a little too young and grabby for most non-board books.
    I received a Nook from my husband and am looking forward to reading more in the New Year. With a new baby on the way in early 2012 I think it will come in handy.

  7. Ying says:

    JaneE, your mom clearly has excellent taste in books. And thank you so much for your enthusiasm for Traitor! (It’s my favourite of the three, too.) Rayray, I think there might be a rule about crying at Someday! I don’t know anyone who can stay dry-eyed through it. Faith, I love Ten Little Fingers. I gave that to my son a couple of years ago. 😀 Have you seen Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham’s There’s Going to Be a Baby? It’s gorgeous. I hope you have a smooth labour & delivery!

  8. rayray says:

    im really sorry but when i was going through a spy in a house it said jaames was 19 and the james that i was imagining was like older than 19 so now im sort of confused on what he looks like.
    can you plz describe him?

  9. Ying says:

    Don’t be sorry, rayray! James is tall and broad-shouldered, although a little on the thin side. Dark hair, dark eyes, slightly aquiline nose. Definitely not a pretty-boy, although people find him very attractive. What does he look like for you?

  10. QNPoohBear says:

    In the Night Kitchen was one of our favorites growing up. Did you know it’s on the American Library Association’s list of books that have been banned in the past? Yes. Really. Why? Because little Mickey has a bath and the illustration clearly shows he’s a boy. In a later version a diaper was added to the illustration to please those who objected to body parts. I was pleased to see an original anniversary edition recently. I have two little nieces and I love buying them books. Last Christmas I bought the 2 YO a sweet little book called I Love My Little Storybook by Anita Jeram. It was a big hit.

  11. Ying says:

    I had no idea! Oh, the power of a tiny squiggle of ink… I’m relieved to know that our edition is uncensored.

  12. rayray says:

    i don’t really know how to describe what he looked like, but his dark hair was sort of curly, he had light blue eyes sometimes, and brown the other times (i couldn’t make up my mind).
    i guess i thought he looked sort of like the bbc sherlock holmes, but totally different.
    you know?

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