During the holiday season, sometimes you want to romp around outside, sometimes you want to snuggle in with a good book. These four picture books let readers stay warm while vicariously experiencing wintertime bliss.
It’s mid-December. Mom is preparing for houseguests, and David is waiting for the first big snow of the season. At naptime, he has a wild dream about a snow so big it comes drifting into his house and, upon awakening, he finds that there has indeed been “big snow.” The warm illustrations of Jonathan Bean’s Big Snow show (brown-skinned) David snug in his cozy home. Young readers are sure to identify with David’s longing and excitement. (Farrar, 3–7 years)
In Dusk by Uri Shulevitz, readers accompany a boy, a dog, and a grandfather on a wintertime ramble through Greenwich Village. The sun sets — “As nature’s lights go out, city’s lights come on” — until the streets are abloom with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas illuminations. Text here is minimal, with a nice lilt featuring irregular rhyme. The city and its inhabitants are deftly sketched throughout Shulevitz’s luminous illustrations. (Farrar/Ferguson, 3–7 years)
In When Charley Met Grampa, Amy Hest’s sequel to Charley’s First Night, Henry invites his grandfather to meet the newest (canine) member of the family. Grampa has some trepidations — “Is he friendly or fierce? I’ve never been friends with a dog before” — but after a snowy trek home from the train station, he and Charley end up as fast friends. A deliciously cozy vignette illustrated with the artful domestic pictures for which Helen Oxenbury is long beloved. (Candlewick, 3–7 years)
Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift by Dara Goldman is an interfaith “Gift of the Magi” story starring two friendly bears. Boris, a Russian musician, and Stella, an Italian baker, are in love. When the eighth night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve, each sells his or her most treasured possession (Stella, her pine tree; Boris, his dreidel collection) for money to buy the other a special gift. Gently humorous illustrations leading up to the “perfect Hanukkah-Christmas night,” complete with catching “big, fluffy snowflakes” on their tongues, express the warm glow of the holidays. (Sleeping Bear, 3–7 years)
From the November 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.