31 Days, 31 Lists: 2018 Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
Merry Christmas! And what a lovely day it is. But why should we designate today’s list to only a single, solitary holiday when there are so many that had such lovely books out this year? This is one of my favorite lists of the month, so it only seems fitting to post it today. Here are the books based on different holidays that I’d feel perfectly happy reading all year long, they’re so good.
2018 Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins, ill. Paul O. Zelinsky
I think a lot of people heard that there was to be a “new” All-of-a-Kind Family and had the same reaction I did: skeptical skepticism. Then it ended up being all-round perfect. Marjorie Ingall in her round-up of The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2018 said it better than I ever could, though: “Just look at that cover! Zelinsky captures the essence of the girls in bold, powerful strokes: There’s Henny, giving epic side-eye! Gertie, with happily squinchy eyes, a closed-mouthed grin and a slightly bulbous Sendakian nose! Buttoned boots and pinafores on everybody! The art throughout is luscious, framed in rich color and heavy yet soft black lines. The heavy paper, too, conveys that this book is a keeper.”
Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo, ill. Kerry Hyndman
Fun Fact: The Scandinavian robin migrates south to Britain around Christmastime every year. What better subject matter for a picture book then? Beautiful art and deft writing make this one of the lovelier Christmas books out this year. It pairs particularly well, both in tone and subject matter, with Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares. It was like they were made for one another.
Decked Out for Christmas by Ethan Long
Bit of a picture book for the young ‘uns here. Of course, small small children don’t really get the whole Christmas thing for a while, but that’s okay. A book where mouse elves “trim” Santa’s Christmas turbo-charged sleigh is good enough for me. It’s fun. It’s peppy. It’s Ethan Long, who’s always a ton o’ fun.
Festival of Colors by Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal, ill. Vashti Harrison
Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors, is one of the most kid-friendly holidays out there, but we’re not exactly drowning in books about it. The board book Holi Colors by Rina Singh doesn’t really talk about the holiday itself (more of a concept book), but this one does! You’ve got your historical and cultural context. You’ve got a range of different skin tones and colors. You’ve got yourself a darn nice book.
Little Christmas Tree by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
This is one of those books that sort of a picture book and sort of a board book. I’ve always found the flaps to be nice and strong. And, naturally, the artistic style is very appealing to the old peepers. Unusual and beautiful.
Meet the Latkes by Alan Silberberg
I think I already told you that this is one of my favorite Hanukkah picture books in years, and I stand by that statement. Takes the Hanukkah story, makes it completely and utterly ridiculous, and then adds in the real story so you never forget it. The sole problem with it? Every time I look at it I get hungry for latkes. Nom nom nom.
Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween by Rubin Pingk
I’ve a weakness. It’s for Halloween books. I like them all the time. Morning, noon, and night. And this one is so much fun to read to large groups or one-on-one. The reason is clear. It’s positively bonkers. Here, I’ll sum it up: Ninjas dress up for Halloween but are terrified of Samurai Scarecrows. Hunhuna? Does that make sense? Who cares! There’s even a spooky scarecrow song you get to sing. Bonus.
Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne
I think there are two different kinds of Christmas picture books in this world. On the one hand, you have the kind that tell an original story and convey some aspect of the time and season. They can be religious or not, depending. Then you have the picture books that are based on hymns and poems and songs. These I find enormously interesting, because they allow the creators a chance to put their own personal spin on the proceedings. Ms. Hawthorne pictures Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus as dark-skinned, as are some of the shepherds and Three Kings. Created in gouache and then run through Photoshop, this is a book of contrasts. The sky is not merely dark, but black, set so that the white of the ground and the animals stand out. Take note of how Hawthorne uses patterns as well, whether it’s in the stars, or the fabric on the manger. We’ve seen this story so many times, but Ms. Hawthorne gives us new things to consider. Even better, at the end she includes information on how the Carol of “Silent Night” began. A great edition to any Christmas collection.
Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummings
Of all the Halloween books this year, this one probably got the most universal attention and praise. It’s a sweet, understated story about FOMO. Or being left behind. Or being forgotten. Feelings we can all identify with. One of the more understated Halloween stories. And a good one.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Anna Wright
You know, there just weren’t that many Christmas carols turned into picture books this year. There was the aforementioned Silent Night and there was this. Both beautiful in their own separate ways. This is a very traditional telling. Not a reinterpretation by any means, but sometimes? Sometimes you’re just looking for something familiar. This not only fits the bill, but is pretty to boot.
Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!
December 1 – Board Books & Pop-Ups
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Wordless Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – CaldeNotts
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Books for Kids
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Poetry Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Comics for Kids
December 21 – Older Funny Books
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Fiction Reprints
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
Filed under: 31 Days 31 Lists
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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