Monday, December 13, 2010

Author Ann Bonwill discusses Christmas Picture Book Favorites

Tis the season for some great Christmas picture book recommendations, and who better to go to for them than the debut author of a Christmas book herself?  Ann Bonwill's POCKET'S CHRISTMAS WISH first came out in the UK (with Oxford University Press) last year, and is now available in the US (with Barron's). 

Ann is a very good friend of mine now, but I wouldn't know her if it weren't for this blog.  Shortly after she moved to Germany (she's since moved back to the US), she wrote me an e-mail telling me she loved my blog and she lived in Frankfurt too.  Isn't that cool?  We've bonded over games of Time's Up, two trips to Italy together, trivia nights, and tons of sushi.  I am so thrilled that she's finding picture book success (not only is POCKET out, but she has THREE books coming out in 2011 and one slated for 2013 - check out her website for more details).

This is what she says about POCKET:

When writing Pocket’s Christmas Wish, I wanted to convey my own sense of the meaning of Christmas. For me it is not about presents and commercialism, but about a feeling--a spirit of the season. This spirit is hard to capture on paper, but I do think that it contains love, joy, memory, promise, and comfort, just as Pocket discovers on his journey. And it is about giving--not just gifts, but giving of yourself to others, which hopefully continues all year round.
Isn't that inspiring?  POCKET is a heartwarming tale that is neither religious nor commercial - a rare thing in the Christmas picture book market.  It's found its' way under the tree of my favorite little tykes.

And now, please welcome Ann Bonwill:

When Lenore asked me to recommend my favorite Christmas picture books, I thought I'd make a neat and tidy list of about four or five. But then I had so much fun revisiting books both old and new that my list exploded. So here are two lists, highlighting five favorites from my childhood and five new favorites I have found as an adult. Hope you find some favorites among them.

Newer Christmas Faves:

1. WOMBAT DIVINE - Mem Fox/Kerry Argent (Sandpiper, 1999) - Wombat cannot wait to join his friends in the nativity play, but he's not quite right for any of the parts. You'll have to read this charming Australian story to find out just what part he ends up with and how perfectly he performs. (And if you like the subject of nativity plays, don't miss Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for middle grade readers.)

2. SHALL I KNIT YOU A HAT? A CHRISTMAS YARN - Kate Klise/M. Sarah Klise (Square Fish, 2007) - Mother Rabbit knits a hat to keep Little Rabbit's ears warm in the snow. Her gift kicks off a collaboration between mother and son as they work together to make hats for all their friends. Not only is this a snuggly story of friendship and giving, but the hats make fantastic fashion statements. Break out your knitting needles.

3. SANTA DUCK - David Milgrim (Putnam, 2010) - The bold illustrations are a perfect match for this funny story about Nicholas Duck who finds a Santa hat on his doorstep. He becomes the go-to guy for Christmas wish lists, and when it's all getting to be just a bit too much for Nicholas, he runs into Santa himself. A winner with a warm message and lots of laughs.

4. SANTA'S STUCK - Rhonda Gowler Greene/Henry Cole (Puffin, 2006) - I can definitely relate to eating too many Christmas cookies! Unfortunately for Santa, all this munching results in getting stuck in the chimney. Not to worry, with a little help from his animal friends Santa is soon on his way. Fun rhymes make this one a great read aloud.

5. STICK MAN - Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler (Arthur A. Levine, 2009) - This quirky story stars Stick Man, who despite being a stick somehow manages to have a big personality. Stick Man gets into a series of scrapes until some help from Santa returns him to his Stick Lady Love. Gotta love a book with a character named Stick Lady Love.

Childhood Favorites (that are still available!):

1. MR WILLOWBY'S CHRISTMAS TREE  - Robert Barry (Doubleday, 2000) - Originally published in 1963, this fun Christmas classic was reprinted in 2000 with full color washes. An ode to recycling before its time, it tells the story of a giant Christmas tree that bring happiness to many, from a Monopoly-like millionaire to a tiny mouse family.

2. Richard Scarry's FAVORITE CHRISTMAS CAROLS - Richard Scarry (Sterling, 2009) - True, I was a teenager when this one first came out in 1990, but I'm putting it on my childhood list since Richard Scarry was one of my favorite childhood illustrators. I'm not usually a fan of books that make noise, but who can resist the play-along keyboard attached to this jolly volume of carols. It was reprinted in 2009, perfect timing for my son to enjoy Scarry's wonderful animal illustrations.

3. THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS - Clement Clarke Moore/Tasha Tudor (Little Brown, 2002) - No Christmas collection is complete without at least one copy of The Night Before Christmas. While many illustrators have put their spin on these famous words, the one nearest to my heart is Tasha Tudor's interpretation, which I have read with my parents every year since its first publication in 1975. Perhaps this book is the reason that I now have a Corgi...

4. TALES FROM MOOMINVALLEY - Tove Jansson (Square Fish, 2010) - OK, so I'm cheating and this isn't a picture book, but I can't miss an opportunity to talk about my favorite characters, the Moomintrolls. This reissued collection of stories includes one holiday tale, The Fir Tree, in which the Moomins wake up from hibernation just in time to experience the mystery of Christmas.

5. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS - Dr. Suess (Random House, 1957) - I couldn't leave this one off my list. I love the characters (yay Max!), the word play, and the message. Perfection.

There you have it, my Christmas library. And while I'm at it, I can't resist mentioning two of my favorite Christmas movies - A Christmas Story for pure nostalgia, and White Christmas for pure glamour. In fact, I am off to watch White Christmas right now... Happy holidays to all!

What are some of your Christmas season picture book favorites?


Steve said...

We got Pocket's Christmas List last year (thanks to YOU! and signed, thanks to you Ann!) and this year, I enjoy reading it to Scarlett. It does a good job about conveying Christmas values without getting into Santa nor any religion. It's nice to teach the meaning of the holiday without having to instill any myths or dumbed down kiddie versions.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Nice to hear from you Steve! Glad Scarlett is enjoying POCKET :)

Zibilee said...

Pocket's Christmas looks so adorable! I have the perfect little person in mind for this book this Christmas, so thanks for making my holiday shopping easier!

Lenore Appelhans said...

Heather - It is adorable! And makes a great gift too :)

christina said...

Zomg! A book with a Wombat in it?? And illustrative?? I heart wombats!

Ann Bonwill said...

Thanks so much for inviting me to appear on your blog, Lenore. It was fun to talk about my Christmas faves - can you tell I love Christmastime?!

Steve, I'm so glad to know that your daughter is enjoying Pocket, and Heather I hope your little person enjoys it too!


Ann Bonwill said...

Christina, aren't wombats wonderful?! For more of their furry fun try Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.


Anonymous said...

A wish for wings that worked: An Opus Christmas Story.

It is fun, heartwarming, charming and features the handsomest penguin around.