Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Books

Advent Calendar with Emmy's
elf Graham Cracker
Opening book #1
As the seasons change, so do the books in the basket we keep in the living room.  We have collected books about autumn, winter, spring and summer.  As a holiday approaches, one of our favorite things to do is to display our collection of holiday books in a separate basket.  Last Christmas we decided to made an advent calendar using our books.  Emmy chose 24 books from our collection of Christmas books and then wrapped each one.  We numbered each book as we wrapped and put them into a basket in numerical order.  Each night we opened a book at bedtime and read it together as a family.  We enjoyed this advent calendar better than any other that we have tried and plan on doing the same thing this Christmas.

We recently added two new books to our Christmas collection and Emmy asked that I share them with you.  So here it goes...
Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas by Julia Rawlinson illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2010)
Emmy and I first fell in love with Fletcher, or Ferdie as he is known in the United Kingdom, when we read Fletcher and the Falling Leaves. Rawlinson has created four Fletcher stories - one for each season.  Each of these stories about Fletcher and his forest friends has an underlying theme of true friendship and how giving brings just as much joy as receiving.

In the story Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas, Fletcher is worried that Santa Claus will not be able to find the rabbit family's new home and so he works with his friends on creating a stick path leading from their old burrow to their new burrow. They are invited into the Rabbit's home to share blackberry pie and sing Christmas Carols.  While they are enjoying the Christmas Eve festivities, snowflakes begin to fall and the sticks are buried under the snow.  Fletcher worries all the way home and decides that there is only one thing a true friend would do - stay awake all night to tell Santa the news.  Fletcher settles down to wait but can't help falling fast asleep.

When Fletcher wakes up on Christmas morning and sees the gifts left for him under his tree, he rushes to the Rabbit's burrow to apologize only to find them opening their Christmas gifts.  Santa found his way!

A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea (2011)
It's no secret that Emmy and I LOVE Olivier Dunrea whose series of books about some adorable goslings are still read around our house (read our post about Ollie the Stomper).  We admire his illustrations that are simple yet full of emotion.  When we came across A Christmas Tree for Pyn, we knew that we had to add it to our Christmas book collection.  This book isn't about Santa Claus or presents, it's about the true emotion of the season ~ that Christmasy feeling that we all look for. With each rereading, this book endears itself to me and Emmy more and more.
Oother, and his small daughter Pyn, live in a cottage "on top of a steep, craggy mountain." Oother is a "big, gruff man" who doesn't say much and when he does, it usually sounds like this,"Umphf." Oother loves his daughter very much, but he is a "bearlike mountain man who did not soften for anyone.  Not even Pyn."  Pyn's "Good morning, Papa" is always followed by "My name is Oother."  And so she would correct herself and say "Good morning, Oother."  Pyn is cared for and is happy as is evident in the work she does around the cottage as Oother goes into the woods to work, but you can sense a loneliness admist the text and illustrations.  Dunrea enlightens us to this feeling when Oother thinks to himself, "How very much like her mother she is."  There is no mother around and it is now evident that Oother is still adjusting to her absence.  When Pyn suggests getting a Christmas tree, Oother gruffly responds, "No Christmas tree."  

With gentle determination, Pyn keeps asking until she gets a "We'll see." response.  Pyn finally sets out on her own to chop down a tree, but finds herself stuck in the snow.  Oother is there to rescue her and they then set off together to find the perfect tree. Emmy and I both love how Oother and Pyn bow their heads to give thanks to the tree before they cut it down.  Once the tree is home, Pyn dashes around the cottage finding all of the special things that she has been collecting from the forest (acorns, berries, abandoned birds' nests and birds' feathers) and adorns the tree with her treasures.  Reluctantly, Oother begins to help Pyn place the items amongst the tree branches and when they are finished they stare in amazement at their beautiful tree.  

The finishing touch...Oother goes into the cellar and brings up a small package and says "For your Christmas tree.  It belonged to your mother."  Inside the package is a beautiful handmade bird for the top of the tree.  Now that space has been made in their lives for Pyn's mother, Oother's heart softens and when Pyn thanks him "Thank you, Oother." He corrects her and says "My name's Papa."
Emmy admires Pyn's determination to bring a Christmas tree into her home and calls Oother "A big softy."

This very gentle reminder of the spirit of Christmas is just what Emmy and I need.  With all of the hustle and bustle, the meaning of Christmas is often forgotten.  We will pause and appreciate the beauty of the season from the twinkling lights to the smell of pine to the festive music.  And we will be mindful to bring peace and happiness to those that we meet.  With that thought, we will end this post with these words from Longfellow's poem Christmas Bells.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow