Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Book Countdown, Week Two: A Christmas Nutshell Library

For the second week of our Christmas Book Countdown, I want to introduce you to a set of four tiny books by Hilary Knight (who is, I just learned, creator of Eloise, which we haven't read here in this house of boys, but I have seen/heard of this phenomenon).

These little Christmas books by are among my favorites because:

a. They are tiny, and who doesn't love tiny things?

b. This very actual set of books was mine when I was a child, so the nostalgia factor weighs in pretty heavily.

c. Each book has a really cute story and all are wonderfully illustrated.

First there is, of course, the requisite Night Before Christmas, which I can't show you because the book disappeared sometime between being opened and read and this photo shoot (one drawback of tiny things--they get lost). Suffice it to say it's illustrated in sweet black-and-white drawings, and you can't have too many copies of this classic. What I especially like about it is that mama in her kerchief and the narrator in his cap had just settled their brains, and that the narrator heard St. Nicholas exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all..." Now, I don't know if this version is more true to Moore's original or not, but I tend to think that settling down, and before he drove out of sight, and Merry Christmas to all are dumbed down versions for us modern folk, and I resent that. Yes, I know I'm petty.

Next, there is a Christmas ABC called Angels & Berries & Candy Canes, which is delightfully illustrated, and is not at all forced or insipid like so many alphabet books. Each picture has several elements that go with the letter and at the end is a kind of stream-of-conscious list of all the wonders of Christmas in alphabetical order.

Third, A Firefly in a Fir Tree is a retelling of The Twelve Days of Christmas from a mouse's perspective. What would a mouse want for Christmas? Perhaps three thistle dusters. Very cute and fun.

Finally, my very favorite, A Christmas Stocking Story, is the tale of a group of animals who get their stockings mixed up and thus receive gifts intended for another animal. It's written in rhyming couplets and is just a cute, fun, story. (Did I say that already? Cute & fun? Well, they are. Cute. And fun.

And the best part of all? Because they are so tiny, they take no time at all to read, which means putting kids to bed all that much sooner. Now that makes me merry.

It appears that the tiny version of the whole set--A Christmas Nutshell Library--is out of print, but can be gotten for between $63 and $277 at Better World Books (zoiks! Perhaps I should find that missing Night Before Christmas and keep these books up on a high shelf with the breakables! (I did find a few much cheaper sets on Amazon, which I do not like to promote them for various reasons). It also appears that a A Firefly in a Fir Tree and A Christmas Stocking Story have been reprinted (and perhaps re-illustrated, based on the covers) and can be had for a few dollars each. Both would be excellent additions to any holiday book collection.

Now it's your turn!
Speaking of tiny books, I'd like to get E or Z a copy of the mini version of Ollie's Ski Trip for a stocking stuffer. But if I get a book for one, I need a book for the other. So I'm looking for something of comparable size and story type/quality. I already have several Elsa Beskow minis (Children of the Forest, The Sun Egg, Peter in Blueberry Land and Around the Year). We also already have an extensive collection of Beatrix Potter books and Flower Fairy books. (Hmm, that sounds like a lot of books; perhaps they don't need any more!) What else comes in a tiny version that you and your kids love to read?


  1. We have some smallish Madeline books, and I am sure there are oodles of small books I do not know about hiding amongst their fellows but, for that reason, I do not really seek small ones. We are too messy.

  2. I'm doing a similar Christmas book advent calendar with my daughter. She's only two and we don't own too many Christmas books (yet) so I got a lot from the library and wrapped them up. One we opened recently was also a Hilary Knight book. It's a version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" in which a bear brings his true love all the items of the twelve days, but each day he brings the whole list, so at the end she has twelve partridges in 12 pear trees, etc. The illustrations are wonderful and rich, and my daughter has had us read it to her multiple times a day ("Ok, this time sing it. This time just read it. Now sing it.") I think it's one I'll look for to buy to add to our collection.

    And I've never seen The Night Before Christmas replace "Happy" with "Merry" or "ere" with "before," although I have seen "our brains" replaced with "down." But anyway, I agree it's better to have a copy with the original words.

  3. There's a "Nutshell Library" Maurice Sendak collection that we enjoy, http://www.amazon.com/Nutshell-Library-Caldecott-Collection-Maurice/dp/0060255005
    They can all be purchased separately, too. My favorite of the four is Chicken Soup with Rice, http://www.amazon.com/Chicken-Soup-Rice-Book-Months/dp/006443253X/ref=pd_sim_b_1

  4. I love Hilary Knight's illustrations, particularly from the series "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle." If your family hasn't read them, do so. They aren't in miniature and they aren't about Christmas, but they are bust-up funny.

  5. We also have the Nutshell Library Sarah mentions and my kids love them. I'm especially fond of Pierre and Chicken Soup with rice.
    Tiny books, what is not to love? I just discovered and ordered some iphoto mini books via this blog post. So fun.

  6. And one more thing... I just ended up creeping up to the girls' room to see if a set of tiny accordian mouse books that were mine from childhood still exist. And they are apparently still findable. There are other titles as well (although this is my favorite one) but didn't delve farther into Amazon to see if they are also findable. And I just now put together that the author is the illustrator of the Angelina mouse books which makes so much sense knowing the mice in these books. The content however is not Angelina. They are so lovely and I loved them and my girls love them now too.

  7. Oh, sorry I linked you to Amazon... I see now you prefer not to shop there which I definitely get. The ISBN for the mouse book is 0-394-84580-3 if you want to look elsewhere. (And now I promise to stop inundating you with comments!)


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