By Kyo Maclear. Illustrated by Chris Turnham.
40pp, ages 3 to 7
Charles and his friend Boggan — a cute red toboggan whose rope handle gives him a rather convincing smiling face — take a jaunt through snowy woods to find a “wish tree,” though Charles’s siblings insist there’s no such thing. This ingeniously nondenominational tale brings a lovely serene pace to classic holiday themes like giving to others and gathering with dear ones. Perhaps most magical is Turnham’s art, which somehow makes soft mauves, pinks and grays take on a holiday sparkle.
By John Duvall. Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon.
40pp, ages 4 to 8
Why do we chop down Christmas trees, anyway? Duvall is out to persuade readers to try a live tree. Alec loves climbing the tall spruce his grandpa planted, but a crew wants it for a city’s holiday display. The boy suggests they “borrow” it, digging it up and replanting it later. He and Grandpa get rides on a barge with the tree and seats at the celebration, a sweet outcome for an act that’s its own reward. Gibbon’s loose art is just right, making the winter world look teeming, twinkling and homey.
By Michelle Edwards. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas.
32pp, ages 4 to 8
“Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,” Mrs. Goldman tells her young neighbor. They make hats together: The older lady knits, Sophia does the pom-poms. But when she sees Mrs. Goldman without a hat — she gave hers away — Sophia decides to learn to knit. Edwards’s (“Chicken Man”) story is not explicitly about the holiday, but a Hanukkah message emanates from the celebration of winter mitzvahs, or kind deeds. Karas’s (“As an Oak Tree Grows”) adorable, radiant art adds to the heartwarming mood.
By Lisa Wheeler. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
32pp, ages 4 to 8
A poor old woman named Hannah lives alone in a cabin in the woods. She finds a warm boot in the snow — just one — in this folksy fable about deprivation, abundance and the spirit of Christmas. Another boot appears, then mittens, and her cabin becomes “a big fancy house.” But it’s not right for her. A visitor comes — kids will happily guess who — to claim the boot but leave what Hannah really needs. As always, Pinkney’s soft, colorful watercolors find deep beauty and interest in simple things.
By Kurt Vonnegut. Illustrated by Ivan Chermayeff.
64pp, ages 5 and up
Vonnegut’s beguiling children’s book, first published in 1980, spins the Nativity tale in a cerebral, humanist direction. “When the Creator of the Universe /… resolved to be born / as a male human infant,” the situation is much like any baby’s birth: An awed crowd materializes, the tiny one struggles to see. Yet it’s also a celestial event, with the players angling to see the “real Christmas star” — playfully presented in the great designer Chermayeff’s shifting, minimalist cutouts against jewel tones.