Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Day in the Morning

Christmas has been in the air at my house the past few days. We're running last-minute errands, playing holiday music all day long, preparing special meals, indulging in goodies (again, all day long), arranging gifts under the tree, making special phone calls, and taking long light-viewing walks after dark. We've even dressed the dog in a holiday collar. It's fun.

Last night I spent some time with two wonderful seasonal picture books you might enjoy checking out:

A Christmas Memory
by Truman Capote wasn't written for children — it's a memoir of Capote's childhood experiences in rural Alabama, and a companion piece to The Thanksgiving Visitor — but its rich characters and beautiful story about true friendship and the search for Christmas meaning make it a great read-aloud for the whole family. The tale gives young ones something to think about, and Capote's beautiful yet accessible writing exudes warmth and comfort without hitting you with a trite or treacly message. Beth Peck illustrated the picture book version of this story (Knopf, 2006). Her subdued paintings perfectly capture the action and mood, making it seem as though she and the author worked together to create this gem of a book.

I read Pearl S. Buck's Christmas Day in the Morning for the first time last night. I enjoyed it so much that I reread it first thing today. The story was first published in 1955, but this is the first picture book interpretation of it. Illustrator Mark Buehner's gorgeous artwork (look for embedded symbols in the clouds, quilts, and wood grain) brings to life Buck's spare, sincere tale of a boy's Christmas gift of love. The story is easy to grasp even for the very young, but — as with Capote's story — the very old, and every age in between, will find beauty in the universally meaningful tale. (I read it while carrying on a brief conversation with my husband — meaning just half my focus was on it — and I still teared up.)

I probably won't do any more reading today. It's time to prepare our pre-Christmas Eve service hors d'oeuvres. We'll spend the latter part of the evening with a few more cookies and holiday spirit(s) as we listen to Dylan Thomas reading his A Child's Christmas in Wales. Then it's the traditional watching of Holiday Inn and off to bed to listen for reindeer on the roof.

Here's wishing all of you out there in blogland a peaceful and very Merry Christmas!

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