Because my plan to catch up with my blogging backlog over the holidays was an epic fail (so little time, so much to do!) , I will spend part of January in an attempt to mow it down to zero, so I can start fresh for 2010.
I am posting a list of the backlog in a subsequent entry (still working through the stacks), but I’m posting a few more of the Christmas reads, otherwise it’ll take me another year before I can post them again.
Forever X by Geraldine McCaughrean, trade paperback
The 411: Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Forever X renews a jaded family’s Christmas spirit when their car breaks down in a snowstorm and they find themselves in an inn that celebrates Christmas all year round. With a wacky set of characters and a whirlwind of strange events, Forever X reminds us that Christmas doesn’t necessarily have to come just once a year, and it doesn’t have to come with all the trimmings.
My take: I got this book in a bargain bin a few months ago and looked forward to reading it this Christmas, but I found the plot just plain weird and difficult to follow. It’s hard to place whether this book is meant for young readers or for adults — the main characters are kids and the language is around middle reader level, but the humor is dark and the themes are mature (fugitives, domestic drama, death, etc). It takes on too many issues and the complexity overshadows the Christmas spirit, so it didn’t really appeal to me. It’s the first I’ve read of Geraldine McCaughrean, though, and I’ve got a couple more in my TBR; I hope I appreciate her other works some more.
My rating: 2/5 stars
Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, hardcover
The 411: The picture book adaptation of Robert Frost’s famous poem, rendered in monochromatic pencil illustrations with a small touch of color in each spread.
My take: I’ve always wanted a copy of this book and I happened to find it just before Christmas in a bargain bin! The poem is one of my favorites, there’s a melodious and soothing ring to it that I never tire of hearing:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
The poem is showcased beautifully in exquisite illustrations, and I know this book will be a much-treasured copy in my collection.
My rating: 5/5 stars
The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, paperback
The 411: A Caldecott classic, The Big Snow (1949) is a traditional story about animals getting ready for the coming winter.
“Honk-honk-honk.” The wild geese fly south when cold winds begin to blow from the north. The red squirrel stores nuts and acorns and seeds under leaves and logs. It is getting ready for winter … and the first BIG SNOW.
My take: This is another book for my Caldecott collection — I have about 12 of the medals and 16 of the honors. The story is pretty much a straightforward animal story that can teach kids about the preparations animals make for the coming winter, although readers from countries that don’t get winter (such as ours) and don’t have these animals will have more difficulty relating to it. It actually reminds me of Bambi. The illustrations are traditional but beautiful all the same, alternating between black and white pencil drawings and vibrant watercolors of various wildlife in great detail, and it will definitely be of interest to animal lovers.
My rating:3/5 stars
Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies, illustrated by Tomie de Paola, trade paperback.
The 411: This book was actually a novella written by Davies alongside the 1947 film, and they were released simultaneously. It’s a Christmas story set in New York, about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Santa, named Kris Kringle, who claims he is the actual Santa Claus. Kris is hired by Doris Walker, a harried young mother who is jaded after she is forced to raise her daughter Susan on her own. Kris touches the lives of Doris and Susan (who is nine going on thirty and doesn’t believe in Santa Claus) and their next door neighbor Fred, who is in love with Doris. Kris also inspires a chain of acts of goodwill in New York City. Kris goes to court because he insists he is Santa Claus, and Fred, who is a lawyer, defends him. As the classic goes, Fred and Kris win the case, Doris learns to let down her guard, and Susan gets her Christmas wish.
My take: I’ve seen the movies and I think I even read the 1994 movie novelization once, but this is the first time I’ve read the Davies novella, which I found in a bargain bin early this year. The story is a charming holiday classic that captures the magic of Christmas, and its message still rings true today: “Faith is believing in thixngs when common sense tells you not to.”
Tomie de Paola’s delightful illustrations complete the package, with the simple lines and rounded, rosy faces, echoing the story’s holiday cheer.
My rating: 5/5 stars