Monday, December 18, 2006

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!" - Gladys Herdman, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Lazy Cow wrote a charming post about Christmas books, and the suggestions and reminiscences poured into her comments box.

I myself adore How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which I read to my boys probably once a day over the Christmas season, and A Christmas Story by Jean Shephard, on which the hilarious movie is based, and William Dean Howell’s wry and snarky “Christmas Every Day,” and Margaret Sangster’s moving story, “The Birthday,” which I have not yet read to my boys as I think they need a few years yet to appreciate its beauty and poignancy. I like The Polar Express well enough, and am enjoying the intricately illustrated Mary Engelbreit Christmas alphabet book I just bought for the children, and also the self-deprecating humor of the Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas book which winds up with Thomas getting a stocking full of coal, for being a VERY USEFUL ENGINE.

I just ordered Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas and Father Christmas Takes a holiday from, where these books are still in print and readily available, and I intend to buy a copy of Martin Waddell’s sweet Room for a Little One, because we are light on the Nativity-story side. I picked up Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book at an estate sale recently (for two dollars), and am looking forward to exploring its contents more fully. I also want to buy Rebecca Ben-Zvi’s Four Sides, Eight Nights: A New Spin on Hanukkah, because Rebecca is the mother of one of Primo’s classmates, and is there anything cooler than knowing the authors of the books on your shelf?

But most of these are in theory, if not absolute fact, children’s Christmas and holiday books. There is indeed an adult market for Christmas stories, and I do not mean just the usual crop of themed Christmas mysteries (cringeworthy but amusing titles notwithstanding).

In my quest to find the perfect children’s Christmas books, I came across the following books that seem clearly destined for an adult’s nightstand or armchair this holiday season. God knows it’s bad enough we have to share the Christmas cookies with the kids; we are certainly permitted to keep some Christmas stories for ourselves!

The Twelve Terrors of Christmas: Drawings by Edward Gorey - John Updike. Edward Gorey + Christmas = Need I say more?

The Dysfunctional Family Christmas Songbook - John Boswell and Lenore Skenazy. All I needed to convince me that this book belongs on the list was the following snippet of (admittedly twisted and WRONG-oh-so-wrong) lyrics quoted in the Amazon review: Grandpa fell, Grandpa fell, Grandpa fell down drunk… sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” You may think this is crazy, but I personally have always been a huge fan of songs like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and sing them to my children. Please don’t call CYS.

The Autobiography of Santa Claus - Jeff Guinn. The REAL story behind The Man.

How Mrs Claus Saved Christmas - Jeff Guinn. Those pesky Protestants, trying to ruin everyone’s fun! But dear Mrs. Claus thwarts them! Yay!

Letters from Father Christmas – J.R.R. Tolkien. I ordered this yesterday evening from, and then got an email this afternoon saying, oops, here’s your refund, it’s out of stock. I tend to take these sorts of things as a sign, since it takes so much for me to work up to spending the money. Any comments to the contrary much appreciated.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson. The boys and I just began tonight our annual reading of this humorous tale of what results when the Herdmans, “absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world,” decide to participate in the church’s annual Christmas pageant. As an aside, the ONLY time in my entire life, including college (and I was a drama major) that I stepped onstage was in the seventh grade, and I played Gladys, the youngest and worst Herdman, who co-opts the part of the Angel of the Lord so beautifully. Shazzam!

Tales from a Texas Christmas Tree Farm - Darrell Bain. This book only caught my eye because it made me think of Badger, and what she would say to the thought of a Texan Christmas tree farm. Careful, Santa’s listening!

I Saw Mommy Kicking Santa Claus - Ann Hodgman. I don’t care if I ever open this book, the title is simply fabulous and reminds me of the one story my mother-in-law tells that can make me roll on the floor with laughter. I can’t even hope to replicate the telling here, but suffice it to say that it involves my father-in-law having a wee little bit too much to drink on a Christmas Eve many years ago and falling asleep on the floor under the Christmas tree, and in the morning, he could not understand why he was sooooo sore.

So, you know, enjoy your carols and your cocoa and your Night Before Christmasses, there’s plenty of room left for “O Holy Fight” and spiked eggnog and crazy Santa Claus capers.


Jess said...


I think that just might end up in my stocking - Happy Christmas to me!

delta said...

My younger son absolutely LOVED "Letters from Father Christmas" by J.R.R. Tolkien. It has real letters (in facsimile, of course) that Tolkien wrote to his son under the guise of being Father Christmas. There are neat illustrations and "envelopes" to put the "letters" in. My son LOVED being able to take the letters out and have me read them to him (he was too young to read). One way you could tell the letters were from F.C. was that the handwriting was squiggly. THus, when I left a thank you note from Santa for the cookies and milk the boys had left, I used squiggly handwriting, too. (Plus, I had a memory of reading a thank you note from Santa myself as a kid and thinking, naively, "Huh! Santa has the same handwriting as Mommy." As soon as my son saw the note from Santa, he KNEW it had REALLY come from Santa/Father Christmas! (I think I ordered this book from THe Common Reader catalog. It must have been about seven or eight years ago, though. Maybe you can find it used.)

Badger said...

I would like to submit for your consideration The Stupidest Angel, A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore.

Although my favorite is still A Child's Christmas in Wales.

lazy cow said...

Why did I have a feeling Badger would mention the Moore book :-)
I'll have to add some of these to my Christmas reading list. Obviously I've been deprived up till now.