Each year Christmas comes with a mixture of old and new books, stories, DVDs, and music albums for the holiday. This year is different in many ways from the usual holiday pattern. Covid19 has limited where we can go and what we can do as we attempt to avoid getting or spreading the disease. It has interrupted supply and delivery chains, staffing, and so many other elements of the entertainment, educational, and leisure activities world.
It has made obtaining ARCs of many of the books I would ordinarily review difficult or impossible. Many of the previous year’s favorites are available, there are a large number of new Regencies with Christmas themes available, and there’s a delightful new compilation, A Hopeful Christmas, featuring novellas by Anneka R. Walker, Sian Ann Bessey, Carla Kelly, and Krista Lynne Jensen. Bessey also has a wonderful stand-alone Christmas book, No Strangers at Christmas.
Three picture books, a nostalgic return to an old favorite via the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, and a DVD particularly stand out for me this year. The Christmas Apron by Rachelle Pace Castor is a remake illustrated by Dan Burr. The story is a beautiful reminder of unselfish giving and the new illustrations are exceptional. Ming’s Christmas Wish by Susan L. Gong and illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi is an exciting new picture book with a reminder that our world is made up of different cultures and it’s not always easy for a new generation to combine aspects of both the old and new cultures. The third picture book is actually a board book, but it touched my heart with its simple story of a little boy searching for his favorite Christmas decoration. Pearl S. Buck’s Christmas Day in the Morning is an adaptation by David T. Warner prepared for the 2019 Christmas concert.
My grandchildren always look forward to a new video at Christmas. The Santa Box is one for the whole family.
THE CHRISTMAS APRON by Rachelle Pace Castor, Illustrated by Dan Burr
The Christmas Apron by Rachelle Castor is being reintroduced this year as a hardback picture book with wonderful illustrations by Dan Burr. This is a charming story of a young girl who loves to dance. Just before Christmas her dance teacher informs the whole class that Millie has qualified for en pointe. Millie is excited and happy. Of course she will need special ballet slippers. She rushes home to tell her parents and overhears them speaking of having no money for Christmas gifts. She then learns her younger sister is hoping for an even more impossible gift. Their grandmother arrives bringing an apron that has pockets and a long tradition of granting Christmas wishes. The girls know the apron isn’t really magic, but they place their wishes in the pockets. On Christmas morning they discover happiness isn’t the gifts they receive, nor is it magic, but is the result of selfless love.
Rachelle Pace Castor is the send of 12 children in her family. She has taught dance, preschool, theater, and reading classes and is the author of nine books. She and her husband are the parents of three sons.
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THE CHRISTMAS APRON by Rachelle Pace Castor, Illustrated by Dan Burr, Published by Covenant Communications, Inc., 32 pages, hardcover $14.99.
MING’S CHRISTMAS WISHES by Susan L. Gong
In the 1930s there was still a great deal of prejudice against the Chinese people living in America. Ming’s Christmas Wishes is a delightful picture book story of a little Chinese American girl who wasn’t allowed to sing in the choir for the elementary school Christmas program because she was Chinese. On her way home from school she sees a beautiful Christmas tree in a store window and wishes her family could have a Christmas tree. Her greatest wish is to fit in somewhere. At school she isn’t American enough. At home she isn’t Chinese enough. Her father takes her to the mountains to visit a wise old friend, a trip where she learns lasting lessons about the worth of family, of her heritage, and of nature.
Susan L. Gong, the author of this charming story holds M.A. in creative writing. She and her family have lived in Asia, Europe, and North America. The illustrator, Masahiro Tateishi, was born and raised in Sasebo, Japan. He currently lives in Fukuoka, Japan.
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MING’S CHRISTMAS WISHES by Susan L. Gong, Illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi, Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing, 48 pages, hard cover $18.99. Also available for eReaders.
FINDING BABY JESUS by Gale Sears Illustrated by Meredith Johnson
This little book has the thick pages of a boardbook, suitable for a toddler, but contains a delightful story that can be appreciated by all ages. My fourth grader granddaughter loved reading it out loud to me twice. It’s the story of a young boy wading through all of the family’s Christmas decorations looking for the game takes place. Is it for outside? inside? yummy to eat? Does it go on the tree? At last he finds the pieces and fits them together creating a scene that brings comfort, joy, and peace to his heart. The illustrations are exceptionally well done and realistic.
Gale Sears gup in Lake Tahoe, California, attended high school in Hawaii, and graduated from BYU with a BA in playwriting and the University of Minnesota with an MA in theater arts. The mother of two children, she and her husband live in Utah. Meredith Johnson
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FINDING BABY JESUS by Gale Sears, Illustrated by Meredith Johnson, Published by Covenant Communications, 30 pages, Board Book $9.99.
CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE MORNING by Pearl S. Buck, newly adapted by David T. Warner
Pearl S. Buck’s Christmas Day in the Morning was first published in Collier’s magazine in 1955. In 2019 Richard Thomas, Emmy Award winning actor well known for his role as the oldest son on the television show The Waltons, adapted the story for his presentation on The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square annual Christmas concert. David T. Warner used that adaptation of the small book to awaken the desire in readers to the joy of Christmas.
The book is a simple story of a depression era farm family struggling to do the work that needs doing and produce the necessities of life. There’s little to spend on Christmas. On this Christmas morning Rob awakens at four remembering the mornings as a child he always had to get out of bed at that early hour to help with the milking. One morning he overhears a conversation between his parents and is struck by how much his father loves him. He wants to give his father a greater gift than the usual tie for Christmas to show a return of that love. Without any money he gives the only gift he can, a tremendous act of service. As Rob lies there in his bed remembering that long ago Christmas he sees his sleeping wife and recalls all the years she has devoted to caring for him, their now grown children, and being a dynamic force in their family. Lately she has been tired and discouraged and feeling sad the children are no longer home to celebrate Christmas with them. He creeps out of bed and writes her a
The book ends with a handful of empty pages meant for the reader to write a gratitude letter to someone he/she loves. The book is then to be presented to that person.
This charming little book will ignite memories and provides a way to rekindle Christmas joy that goes beyond a present to expressing gratitude from the heart.
Pearl S. Buck was a prolific author. She earned a Pulitzer Prize for her best known book, The Good Earth. She was born in 1892 in West Virginia, but as her parents were Presbyterian missionaries she lived mostly in China until 1934.
David Warner earned a PhD in theatre and film from Brigham Young University. For a little more than a decade he has been with the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra on Temple Square.
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CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE MORNING by Pearl S. Buck; Adapted by David T. Warner. Published by Shadow Mountain, 48 pages, Hard cover $14.99. Also available for eReaders.
THE SANTA BOX (DVD)
Kallie Watts’s family’s Christmases have always been linked to disasters so it isn’t surprising when a fire leaves Kallie and her widowed mother homeless just before Christmas. When her mother finds a new job in another state, Kallie hopes for a change. The change she finds isn’t the one she hoped for, certainly not her mother’s interest in the neighborhood handyman. The new neighborhood is obsessed with everything Christmasy. Even their next door neighbor, an elderly Jewish man, puts up Christmas decorations! Could the mysterious box she finds on their front porch one morning be the answer?
This short movie is well cast. I was particularly impressed by the acting skills of the mother and the relationship roles portrayed by the mother-daughter duo. Unlike many DVDs introduced at Christmas this one isn’t aimed at small children, but will appeal to the middle school and junior high crowd and even adults will relate, and perhaps even shed a tear or two. I thoroughly recommend it for the whole family.
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THE SANTA BOX, Published by Covenant Communications, Exel Entertainment, Starring Cami Carver, Shawn Stevens, and Tatum Langton, DVD $14.99