Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent: Winter Books

Our family loves books, and years ago I stumbled upon the idea to wrap up holiday books before the start of advent, and mark the countdown to Christmas by opening up a book each day. We've done this several years now, and it's a tradition that both of my girls love - as soon as they awake in the morning, they are making their selection for the day and tearing into it.

There are some books that I know are only in our home temporarily (especially board books, which will age out as my youngest develops a longer attention span), but I thought it would be fun to share what is currently in our collection. Please feel free to contribute suggestions; there are several titles on my wishlist, and each year I try to add at least one new book to the rotation.

If you are interested in starting your own tradition but don't have many Christmas books on hand and are intimidated by the cost of buying dozens of books, I recommend you collect all year, keeping an eye out at garage sales and library sales (my library is kind enough to have a holiday section, which I go straight to each year). Then I enhance my collection via Amazon (the Amazon links here are affiliate links, meaning that should you make any purchase via these links, Amazon will give me a small percentage, at no additional cost to you).

As our pile is pretty diverse, I'm going to do this in installments. Here I share the books that celebrate the winter season, and I also shared collections that focused on the general interest Christmas booksour nativity books, and our board books.

Also, one suggestion (that I have yet to implement myself): when you're packing away the books for the year, I suggest taking the time to wrap them then, so you're not rushing yourself once Advent rolls around again (one year I was wrapping some books every few days, as I didn't have enough time to do them all before we began). Otherwise, I'm hoping to sew reusable bags to easily insert them in, so as to save time and eliminate the wrapping paper waste.

The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader
This is a Caldecott Medal book, but it's not for the faint of heart if you have young children with short attention spans. As the weather turns, this book shows the animals preparing for winter, whether through food storage, migration, or hibernation. At the close, we even see a family putting food out for the animals. (I've since passed this on to a friend, but I'll leave it up here in case it's of interest to others, or I want to acquire it again some day.)

The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll
A simple story about a snowman-building competition. The challenge is to make the biggest snowman. Two young mice work independently, then learn the benefits of joining forces.

Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
I've enjoyed hunting down holiday books at rummage sales and well-organized library sales. I find Brett's books easy to find (they're quite popular holiday reads), and this one was discovered in time to join our home before Christmas 2017.

We meet a gingerbread boy who wishes for friends. He finds himself in a bakery and is making overtures to the other pastries, but they are inanimate. He returns home devastated, only to learn a new set of cookie friends have been baked.

As is standard for Brett's books, there is plenty to explore on every page, and the margins can have their own story taking place (in this book, we see a recipe for gingerbread cookies).

As far as Brett's numerous books go, this, in my opinion, is the weakest, although my girls may disagree.

The Hat by Jan Brett
This Brett book was discovered in time to join our home before Christmas 2017.

This is a perfect companion book to The Mitten, also by Jan Brett. Aided by Brett's characteristic, highly detailed illustrations, children get drawn in by the story of winter clothing being aired out on a clothesline. When one woolen sock slips off, a hedgehog tries to make it his hat and the other animals try to find a way to get involved.

The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
Annie and her dog spend a winter day playing outside in the snow. When they retreat inside, Annie learns she has somehow misplaced her mitten. She's sad at the loss, but when she looks outside, she learns the snowman they built has a red mitten that is strategically placed to look like a heart.

The Mitten by Jan Brett
As a knitter, I have a fondness for this book. In it, a boy asks his grandmother to knit him mittens, white as snow. She scoffs, fearing they would be quickly lost, but he remains firm, and she relents. When they are finished, he goes off exploring. Unbeknownst to him, one mitten drops on the snow, and the majority of the book shows various animals taking shelter inside its warmth.

Snow by Steve Sanfield and Jeanette Winter
This book celebrates the first snowfall. A boy wakes up to snow outside and he goes exploring.

Snow by Uri Shulevitz
I love the illustrations in this book. We start with an overcast, gray sky, and slowly the flakes start to fall. A boy and his dog are delighted, while those around him remain skeptical it will amount to anything. There's not much text, but it captures the delight of snowfall.

Snowball Soup by Mercer Mayer
We love Little Critter books and have quite the collection. This particular story has very simple words and sentences, as it's geared towards beginning readers, so it's not the most engaging compared to some other Mercer Mayer works, but the girls enjoy it.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
This Caldecott book tells the true story of Wilson Bentley; as a young child, he is charmed by ice crystals, and while he initially examined them visually and then later drew their detailed shapes, he finally found a way to photograph them. This is an informative story of his journey overcoming the challenges to capture them, and then trying to convince people of the merit of his work. It's a favorite of mine.

The final page includes a quotation as well as several of his stunning photographs.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

We have two versions of this story, both the original wordless Briggs story, and a simplified version of the original Briggs story.

The latter edition is a beginning reader book; in it, a boy builds a snowman and it comes to life, taking him on a flying adventure after discovering things like the cat and paper towels.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
This was a book I was wanting to add to my collection, but even without communicating it to anyone, my youngest sister purchased it as a gift for my youngest. It's a short book about a boy who enjoys the first snowfall of winter.

This is a book that is hard to extract from my daughter - she adores it and requests us to read it to her year-round. In 2016, Amazon even released a darling movie inspired by the events in the book.

Stella, Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay
I come by things in a roundabout way. The first I heard of Stella and Sam was a friend mentioning an app that was free during a short promotional time. I downloaded it to my tablet, and that's how my girls grew to know these fictional siblings. They generally are very sweet with each other, and Stella has a vivid imagination. We have only recently watched some episodes of the show.

When I heard there was a winter-themed book, I ordered it to include in our collection, beginning in 2017. It's a pleasant book that has Stella introducing her brother Sam to his first experience of snowfall and answering his questions in imaginative ways. My oldest daughter nabbed this book briefly before it was wrapped and has already given it her seal of approval (she told her little sister she knows the size of it and is going to try to open it first to share in the delight of it with her).

The way Stella and Sam relate with each other mirrors my daughters' relationships together, not to mention their personalities, so I anticipate this being a beloved favorite for many years to come.

The Walking Coat by Pauline Watson
This is a silly book about a boy who ends up with a huge coat after his cousin gets a new one. The boy wears it around town on the first snowy day and, as it's impossible to see any of him, it appears a disembodied coat is wandering around.

This is a little-known work that has been illustrated by Tomie de Paola, whose artwork I appreciate (several of my Christmas titles are illustrated by him, and I have still more on my wishlist).

We've had this book for a couple years now, but only in 2017 have I thought to add it to our advent collection due to the seasonal focus.

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