Monday, December 18, 2017

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston & Barbara Cooney


I love this book. More than a Christmas book, this is a book about sacrifices families make for the military and about good old fashioned pluckiness. 

And strength. I love how strong this momma is. 



Ruthie's house in the valley of Pine Grove. Coming on to Christmas. 


Earlier that year, her father told Ruthie it was their turn to provide a Christmas tree for the town, as each family did. He and Ruthie set out to find just the right one. 


The one they found was out on a craggy rock. They tied Ruthie's hair ribbon to the top of the tree so they would remember which tree it was when the mountains were all changed by winter and snow. 


Unfortunately, her Daddy was called up to fight in the first World War not long after that. Ruthie and Momma kept things going. 


The war was finished that November, but Ruthie's daddy wasn't on the train of returning soldiers. 

They didn't know when he would return. 


The day before Christmas Eve, the minister comes to say they will just get a tree from someone else, since they know Ruthie's father is still away. Ruthie's momma won't allow the family honor to be tarnished in that way, so she politely declines the easy way out and heads out into the moonlight with Ruthie and Old Piedy the horse to find the chosen tree. 


After a lot of walking, they finally see the tree. Away up over there. 

I may have laid down right there and died. But not these hardy women. 


They get things done. 


As the sun is rising, they drop the tree off at the church and head home. For a reason I don't really understand, the mother doesn't claim the tree. The minister comes to say it is a miracle--in the land of cedars and pines, a balsam tree was left outside the church last night. And Ruthie's momma says Imagine that! 

But whether everyone else knew or not, Ruthie and her momma would know they had done her Daddy proud. 


Ruthie goes to sleep. Her mother stays awake all day sewing Ruthie the perfect angel costume. Because whatever family gives the Christmas tree gets to have the angel part. 


Isn't this cozy? It actually was probably freezing cold. But I like the quilt.


Ruthie's tired mother sews an amazing dress. One that looks suspiciously like her wedding dress. 


The tiny angel on the top of the tree was made to exactly match Ruthie in a dress that was suspiciously similar to the silk stockings Ruthie's Daddy sent home for her Momma. 


Old Saint Nick gives her the beautiful doll. 


And that is when her Daddy comes home. 

I feel like this part is somewhat anti-climatical. It could have been so much bigger. But maybe it is just meant to be Momma and Ruthie's story. After all, they were tough enough to keep things going.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Santa Claus in Comin' to Town Illustrated by Steven Kellogg


Steven Kellogg was one of my favorite illustrators as a kid. He was a superstar of kids books in the 80's-90's. Or at least of MY 1980's and 90's. 

Although he is not quite as popular as he once was, he is still illustrating books in his own intense way.


There is just so much detail in his pictures! 


Green and red spotted giraffes? Of course!



A little bear is the one who visited Santa, so he is the one telling the kiddies Santa is coming. 




This song has always seemed slightly stalkerish (does Santa have a spy cam on me?) but I still like it. And Kellogg's pictures make it delightful. 



I actually didn't even know this part of the song (I leaned pretty heavily on the chorus as a kid) but I have quickly embraced it. Because... Scandinavian decorated elephants. 


The stars! 


Isn't it all so marvelously over the top? 


All those little compartments




Ahhhh.... the joys of Christmas morning!

 At least in Kellogg books. Because I never received a unicorn rocking horse for Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ernest and Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent


This is SUCH A CUTE BOOK. A bear and a mouse, best friends. It seems like Ernest, the bear, is also older and wiser than Celestine, so a sort of father figure dynamic going on. 

But whatever they are, they are perfectly adorable. 


Celestine brings Gideon, her green beaked duck on a walk with Ernest. 


Gideon has a mishap.


Sadness and sorrow


Finger of blame


Gideon met an unfortunate end. 

Ernest tries to figure out how to compensate for this tragedy. 


He compensates lavishly


But... They aren't Gideon.


So Ernest asks Celestine to draw Gideon just so. 

He then works away at his project.


All that work is well rewarded!


All that joy needs an outlet--a party is planned!


Chaos and joy and tears.


A giant sleepover


Is all forgiven? 


I think so. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Blizzard by Betty Ren Wright & Illus by Ronald Himler


I discovered this book at our library last week. I am a little bit of a sucker for a good midwestern Blizzard. Not sure why, but I just am. 

This is a sweet, quiet book.


In this book, Billy is pondering the unfairness of birthdays. His sister's birthday is in the summer, so cousins can always make it. His birthday had to be in December, which means that once again, his cousins can't make it out from town because the weather is supposed to be bad. 

I feel his pain. I am a February birthday. I had a cold or the flu on my birthday for 3 consecutive years which meant no party. 


A dejected walk to school. 

Aren't these watercolors lovely? 


By recess time, there was a good snowstorm going on. 


A while later, in blew someone to tell the teacher the school was to stay there overnight because the weather was so bad. 


Our intrepid teacher, Miss Bailey didn't have blankets or food for overnight visits, so she decides to go to the closest house, which is  Billy's. 


Human chain so none of the littles would get lost in the wind and snow. 


Billy's mother greeting her unexpected guests.


Billy letting his father know they have company.

(I adore barn pictures.)


After everyone helps with the barn chores (barn chores are ever so much more fun when you have friends over. I speak from experience.) they settle into a big supper in the snug and cozy house. 

A large supper with all your friends, the prospect of a sleepover ahead, and a lot of snow to explore tomorrow. 

Life is pretty good all around. 


And suddenly it is a party. A birthday party!


After everyone is snug in their beds, stacked in like cord wood, Billy's dad asks him if maybe December birthday's might not have their compensations. 

Billy concedes that yes, they just might.