Saturday, November 26, 2022

13 New Picture Books for Christmas 2022

Christmas book shopping season is upon us! I have received a number of new Christmas picture books for review in the past few months, and I want to share a rundown of those new titles today. 

First up, some board books. 

Christmas Street by Jonathan Emmett and Ingela P. Arrhenius (Nosy Crow, 10/4/22) is a companion book to 2019's Alphabet Street. Just like the original book, this one pulls out horizontally to form a 3-D street, and little readers can open and close various flaps to reveal festive pictures of items beginning with each letter of the alphabet. The street is populated by animals dressed in human clothing and many of the figures are parent/child pairs. While the alliterative phrases on each panel (i.e. "delicious drinks" and "lamps & lanterns") are pretty obvious, the fact that this book feels like a toy is really appealing to toddlers. My 2-year-old son, R., will receive this book from St. Nicholas on December 6th.

Santa Mouse Bakes Christmas Cookies (Little Simon, 10/4/22) is a board book starring the character from Michael Brown's original Santa Mouse book, which a high school friend introduced to me when I was a teenager but which was not part of my family Christmas traditions growing up. Rhyming text and adorably sweet illustrations tell the story of Santa Mouse baking cookies with the help of a diverse group of elves so that Santa and the reindeer have something to eat on Christmas Eve. St. Nicholas will give this book to my 2-year-old daughter, A. 

I'm a Little Snowman written by Hannah Elliott and illustrated by Anna Daviscourt (Little Simon, 9/13/22) is a companion book to I'm a Little Pumpkin. In rhyming text that can be sung to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot" various snowmen (and a snowgal) introduce themselves and cheer for the start of winter. The lyrics could have used a bit more polish, as they are awkward to sing at times, but the artwork is very kid-friendly and cheerful, and the colors evoke all the smells and sensations of the winter season. I might put this in A's stocking on Christmas Eve.

Bizzy Bear: Snow Sports (Candlewick, 8/23/22) is a board book by Benji Davies with some interactive components for little hands to slide and pull. The text seems to be based on the classic children's rhume, "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around" and the illustrations shows Bizzy and his animal friends skiing and snowboarding. R. loves books with sliding elements, so this will most likely appear under the tree with his name on it. 

Now, for the picture books.

First is a new version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Candlewick, 9/13/22) illustrated by Matt Tavares. This book is illustrated entirely in black and white pencil drawings and it has a timeless, classic feel. The use of light and shadow in the pictures is very striking and though none of the illustrations necessarily introduce anything new to the story, neither do they try to update or alter it in any way. We tend to rotate the versions of this book we read each year, so this one might get a turn this year if my kids don't request another favorite version.

Another book with a classic feel is a reprint from 1987: Tomie dePaola's Book of Christmas Carols (Simon & Schuster, 10/25/22). In terms of the actual music, there isn't really anything in this book that can't be readily found in any standard book of Christmas songs, but of course the artwork, complete with several fold-out illustrations is utterly charming. I do wish the songs themselves included all of their verses, but otherwise this is an appealing volume that will look lovely on our shelf next to dePaola's Joy to the World.

I'm thrilled to finally see a Christmas book starring Mercy Watson. A follow-up to A Piglet Named Mercy, A Very Mercy Christmas (Candlewick, 9/27/22) sees Stella Endicott and Mercy the pig trying to recruit neighbors to go caroling with them. Most of the beloved characters from the original Mercy Watson series make an appearance and the writing is both funny and poignant. There is also a Mercy ornament included at the back of the book, which can be punched out and hung on the family Christmas tree. My 5-year-old daughter, E., has been wanting a Mercy Christmas story for years, so this book will be her St. Nicholas day gift. 

Raymond Arroyo also has a new Christmas book this year: The Wise Men Who Found Christmas (Sophia Institute Press, 10/11/22). In this book, Arroyo restores the wise men to their proper historical context and tells their true story without any of the embellishments that have been added over time. I was fortunate enough to review a digital copy of this book for Catholic Mom, and after the book was published, Sophia Institute Press kindly sent me a finished hardcover. The artwork is very colorful and fills each and every page to the edges. The story is told from an interesting surprise point of view that gives the book a very kid-friendly feel. This will join The Spider Who Saved Christmas on our Christmas shelf.

Through the North Pole Snow written by Polly Faber and illustrated by Richard Jones (Candlewick, 11/8/22) follows a little fox through the snow to Santa's house. The fox stays all year, through all of Santa's Christmas preparations and finally learns what all the work was leading up to. This is a very cozy and gentle read with engaging collage-style pictures. This book seems a bit young for my bigger girls, so it will either go under the tree for one of the three littles or just go directly on our Christmas shelf.

The Magic of a Small Town Christmas (Aladdin, 10/18/22) is another very cozy book. Written by Megan Alexander, who produces a TV show called Small Town Christmas, and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, this book depicts a variety of scenes that one might witness in a small town at Christmastime. The text rhymes awkwardly and has some rhythmic problems, but the pictures evoke all the nostalgia for me. My kids have never been in a small town for Christmas, so I like that this can give them a taste of that experience. This book also reminds me a lot of Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli and Marjorie Price, which has been a big favorite with my kids for a number of years.

The last few picture books are winter-themed but do not explicitly involve Christmas.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick, 11/8/22) is a bit of a new take on Robert Frost's poem in that it depicts the speaker as a young woman. Since there is no gender specified in the original poem and because the tone and substance of the poem are not altered at all, I don't have a problem with this new interpretation. The muted greens of the illustrations and the use of perspective give the book a strong visual appeal, and I like that the young woman wears braids. St. Nicholas is bringing this to my poetry lover, C., age 7.

Frindleswylde by Natalia and Lauren O'Hara (Candlewick, 11/8/22) is a fairy-tale style story about a Jack-Frost-like creature who brings winter to the woods where Cora and her grandmother live. When Cora stumbles into his underground home, Frindleswylde gives her three impossible tasks to complete before he will let her go. This book is a bit more wordy than the average picture book and is best suited for a slightly older reader. The mixed media illustrations really capture the season of winter, and they are unique compared to the pictures in most of the other books I've mentioned. I think St. Nicholas will bring this book to my 9-year-old.

Finally, Snow Horses: A First Night Story written by Patricia Maclachlan and illustrated by Micha Archer is a new year story depicting one town's annual celebration of the first night of the year in which sleigh rides play an important role. The text is written in free verse and the collage and ink illustrations have a folk art feel on some pages. The book is very gentle and quiet, and it would make a lovely bedtime read-aloud. 

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