Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Book Countdown, Week One, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

For the last several years we have counted down to Christmas with books. I wrap up one (or in some cases two or three or four) holiday book for each day from December 1 through 24, a kind of literary Advent calendar. I got the idea from an old issue of Family Fun magazine, and the name Christmas Book Countdown (CBC) from my friend Sara.

It's a fun way to build up to the Big Day and to ensure all of the Christmas books get read, and it's a nice kind of Advent "calendar" that doesn't involve candy or new stuff. After the kids go to bed on November, 30 C and I wrap up all the books (I saved our wrappings, pre-labeled with kid and day, from last year, so it went super fast and easy), making sure Hanukkah and The Night Before Christmas all fall on the right day. (Past posts on our Book Advent here and here).

This year, E put in a special request that Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas be the first book. (Those of you who are in the know will understand why, for those of you who are not, I think I just blew his cover). This is a super sweet book that many of you may recall was made into a made-for-TV movie by Jim Henson & co. (which is a rare case of a really wonderful story being made even better as a movie).

Written by Russell Hoban and illustrated in beautiful, soft colored pencil artwork by Lillian Hoban (the duo of Frances fame), Emmet Otter is kind of a "Gift of the Magi" story.

Emmet and his mother each want to give the other a wonderful Christmas, so they take a chance at winning the town talent contest, in the process selling an item important to the other's work and income. Things don't turn out as they planned, but they do turn out, with a sweet happy ending.

It's a Christmas story filled with themes of selflessness and the value of people over material items (though it doesn't hit you over the head with it) that doesn't have any religious overtones (other than it being, you know, Christmas).

The book was published in 1971 and appears to be out of print. I got an old library copy from Better World Books (they have one copy now for $4!).

I'd really like to needle felt a little Emmet Otter to put in E's stocking. Wouldn't that otter be adorable in wool?


  1. I love this idea!

    I get out all the Christmas books and we usually start reading them every night before bed. So fun for everyone.

  2. oh my goddess - i totally forgot about that muppet movie, and now i have to find that book!!! colden has become completely infatuated with the stuffed otter i made him. i made several for the craft fair, and he begged me not to take them. i had to reassure him that his otter was staying! thanks for this! i love the book/advent calendar idea too!

  3. Yes - an otter for the stocking! I love your book countdown tradition!

  4. I think if I saw a felted Emmet Otter I would just melt and cry right there. Just thinking about it...yipes. You have to do it.

  5. What a lovely book. I love the pictures, they remind me of Jake Day illustrations.

  6. Some of our favorite books are the older ones. The pictures are beautiful! I would love to subscribe to your Gemini zine (email me at :)


  7. This book sounds so sweet! Thanks for sharing--I'm putting it on our list. I hope you share more with us; I love learning about good, quality kids' books. I plan to post some myself soon. I've been sick and on a bit of a posting hiatus.

  8. I love Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas! It has always been a favorite in our home, first my brothers and I loved it now the little ones do too.
    Now I need to track down the movie, I'd forgotten about it!
    I love the idea of a book advent! I'm going to steal the idea next year.


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