Anyway, we've been reading a LOT of Christmas books around here (surprise, surprise). We have huge stacks from the library, and we've also, like so many of you, been unwrapping one book each day as we count down to Christmas. (Our list of 24 books we're counting down with has been one of the posts I've been meaning to write).
As I already said when I wrote about Thanksgiving picture books, it seems like we have to wade through a lot of so-so ones before we find a few that we really like. There seem to be a lot of Christmas books that are meant to be funny but come across as just being dumb. But here are three that we just discovered this month that had all of us in stitches (hopefully I'll write about some of our new favorite serious ones in a few days--another well-intentioned post).
1. Santa Duck, David MilgrimOn the day before Christmas, Nicholas Duck is thrilled to find a package on his doorstep, containing a bright red coat and Santa hat. Nicholas immediately puts on his new digs and goes in search of Santa because he still hasn't made his Christmas wishes known. On the way, he runs into lots of friends who all start spouting off their wish lists to him! Nicholas is so confused until he remembers he is wearing a Santa hat. When he finally does catch up to the authentic Santa Claus, his sharp and excellent memory prove a huge asset to Santa's busy night.
This really is a silly book. There's not a whole lot in the way of morals and messages; in fact, you could say that Nicholas is kind of a selfish duck, thinking only of making sure Santa knows what it is that he wants for Christmas. But this book made my boys laugh so uproariously that I couldn't help but like it, too. (If you have never heard Aaron laugh, you are missing out. It is truly infectious.) I think their favorite part was when Nicholas was singing "Jingle Bells" like this: "Jingle quack, Jingle quack, Jingle all the quack." I have a feeling I'm going to be hearing their own versions of that for days to come...
2. Merry Un-Christmas, Mike Reiss, illus. David CatrowYou've heard it said that if you had Christmas every day, then it wouldn't be special anymore, right? Well, this book takes that admonition literally.
For Noelle, it is Christmas 364 days each year. Every day, she is given beautiful new presents. Every day, she and her family eat a tremendous Christmas feast. And every day, she doesn't go to school because she is on Christmas break. She can't wait for Un-Christmas, that one unmagical day of the year where everything is boring and normal.
Isn't one of the laws of humor to take something familiar and twist it? That's exactly what this book does, and that's why it's so funny. It takes everything kids love about Christmas (presents and Santa and treats) and makes it seem average and not-in-the-least special, and takes everything from just a plain ol' regular day (the mailman and school and leftovers) and makes it seem out of the ordinary and spectacular.
I love the part in the story when Noelle's mother says, "Guess what we're having for Un-Christmas dinner?" and Noelle and her father excitedly guess, "Meatloaf?" or "Leftovers?" and then give a thrilled cheer when she says, "Even better! We're having TV dinners!"
And I love the picture of the mailman. He totally looks like Santa Claus, but instead he's bringing bills and junk mail, and Noelle couldn't be happier.
My favorite line is at the very end as Noelle's mother is tucking her into bed at the end of Un-Christmas. Noelle says, "I wish it could be Un-Christmas every day." And Noelle's mother says, "Oh, I bet you'd get tired of it after a while." Oh, the irony of it!
3. The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, Jane Thayer, illus. Lisa McCueIn the same vein as Merry Un-Christmas, The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy takes a classic childhood wish (a boy begging his parents for a dog) and flips it (a dog begging his mother for a boy).
When Petey tells his mother all he wants for Christmas is his very own boy, she says she thinks she can manage that. But after searching all over the city, she comes back with the sad information that "they're terribly short of boys this year." So Petey goes in search of a dog who would perhaps be willing to give his boy away.
This book is sweet because it takes all of the things boys and dogs love about each other (playing fetch, going on walks, etc.) but lets the reader see it through the dog's eyes instead. For example, at one point in his search for a boy, Petey sees a bulldog in a car with a boy. He thinks it would be wonderful to own a boy who had a car so he could for lots of rides. And I can imagine there are lots of boys who wish they had a dog to take on road trips in the car. It has a great ending where Petey gets more than he could have ever wished for.
This book--the illustrations, the text, the story itself--has the feel of a classic Little Golden Book (although I don't think it was ever published as one). It is just heartwarming and cozy and almost makes me forget that the last thing I want for Christmas is a dog.
I hope you're making time for some good reading this holiday season. I'd love to hear about your great finds this year!