Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Mostly (Okay fine, Somewhat) Nonfiction Holiday Round-up

It’s gift-giving time, so think about giving the gift of reading. Everyone seems to be sending around holiday book lists, so I thought I’d make up one of my own. Here are some fairly random and extremely subjective books I cherish once the snow begins to fall and the cold nips my fingers.

First up, my all-time, bring it out every year, favorite holiday book that people (like me) who grew up in inter-denominational families may have an extra-special connection to is The Christmas Tapestry. This one is not nonfiction, but it is based on two true stories, according to Patricia Polacco’s author’s note. I am a sucker for these kinds of stories, especially when they stem from real life. Polacco’s words and pictures weave and swirl throughout this book. In my house of overflowing bookshelves and the constant need to weed books, this is one that will always remain on the shelf.

Our own Deborah Heiligman has two great nonfiction holiday books in a series called Holidays Around the World. They are Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents, and Peace, and Celebrate Hanukkah: With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels. There is even a latke recipe in the back!

Eric Kimmel’s fictional Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is illustrated by the oh-so-missed and decidedly brilliant Trina Schart Hyman. This book won a Caldecott Honor in 1994.

And okay, I have a nonfiction Hanukkah book, too, which came out many years ago. D is for Dreidel is a rhyming alphabet book for very young readers.

Nonfiction author Ellen Jackson’s lovely book, The Winter Solstice, explains the history of the solstice, how ancient peoples celebrated it, and why there are still many traditions surrounding the solstice.

Although the Day of the Dead has been over since November 2, Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter’s book about this Mexican holiday has haunted me since the first time I saw it. It is vibrant and dazzling. Okay, it’s a fall book, not a winter one, but I love it.

And last but not least, especially since I am going in no particular order here, a book I give to children frequently around the holidays is Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr—this book won the Caldecott Medal in 1988.

So, if you are thinking of giving a telltale rectangular-shaped package to someone soon, consider wrapping up one of these wonderful books. Happy Holidays!

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