By Jan Pease
Shazam! Great new picture books for Christmas are here at the Litchfield Library. One of the very best and funniest books, ever, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” has been retold in picture book form by author Barbara Robinson with illustrations by Laura Cornell. The Herdmans are here, in all their awful glory, but some of the subplots have been left out. As they take over the Christmas program chaos ensues, but some of my favorite moments are when Imogene burps the baby Jesus, Gladys weeps as the beauty of the Christmas narrative unfolds, while the Herdman brothers, wise men, bring their Christmas ham to the Baby Jesus.
“The Christmas Pups” is a completely sweet but unrealistic dog adoption story about three puppies and an older dog who find a loving family who adopts all of them from an animal shelter. Perhaps it isn’t as farfetched as the romantic Christmas books that seem to be everywhere, but really, who would find room for three puppies and an adult dog in their home? Anyway, Teresa Bateman has written a wonderful story for dog lovers, and I wish that every animal needing a home will find one this Christmas.
Toni Buzzeo has written “Lighthouse Christmas,” a wonderful story based on actual Flying Santas that visited families who kept lighthouses, beginning in 1929. Read the story about a brave girl named Frances who helped her dad keep the light on in a lonely lighthouse off the coast of Maine, and then visit the website of the real Flying Santas, http://www.flyingsanta.com, who still visit Coast Guard families in remote locations.
“The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood ,” by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, is a lyrical telling of the author’s childhood memories of life on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, winter 1945. Virginia grew up as the daughter of the Episcopal priest on the reservation, a position that meant her family, while living in poverty, tried to help the families around them first, even if it meant doing without necessities. The real meaning of Christmas comes through in this lovely book.
“The skies shouted it to the seas that thundered it to the waves that roared it to the great white whales that sang it to the starfish in the deep. And tiny sandpipers danced it on shining sands... 'It's time! It's time!' On one quiet night, creation whispered a secret. Grass and bees, robins and trees all spread the word. Sheep told their young while angels sang the song to the shepherds. Hushed news of a miracle echoed to the ends of the earth. The moment had come. The long-awaited child had arrived! Creation cried out in celebration, but only a few people heard. Only a few joined nature's chorus, a song in praise of the newborn King.” These lyrical words are quoted from “Song of the Stars,” by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Sometimes a book comes along that deserves to be an instant classic. I think “Song of the Stars” is one of those books.
Finally, when I was sharing books at the ECFE milk and cookies with Santa, a small group of children and I looked at the book, “A Christmas Goodnight.” This is a goodnight book that lets us say goodnight to all of the characters in a nativity scene, then turning to say goodnight to everything the child sees in his room, ending with the Baby Jesus in the crèche beside his bed. I always ask children about the illustrations, and when I asked about the nativity scene, one tiny little child said in a hushed voice, “That’s God.” Wow! What more can I say? See you at the library!