Sunday, December 16, 2007

#4 Favorite Christmas Picture Book: Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury

I love Jan Brett. She is an excellent illustrator and I'm not the only one who thinks so. She has sold over 12 million books! Brett excels at bright, colorful, detailed illustrations against a soft natural background. Her animals and trolls are expressive and endearing, and she often features girls in her stories. Her stories have a strong Scandanavian influence. Many of them take place outdoors in the winter snow, so they make wonderful Christmas stories.

Bret is perhaps best known for the way she formats her illustrations. She creates a two-page illustration, bordered on either side with windows or smaller scenes that add fun and depth to the main story.

Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury has her very best Christmas stories under one cover. Titles included in this collection are:
  • The Night Before Christmas

  • The Wild Christmas Reindeer

  • Christmas Trolls

  • Trouble with Trolls

  • The Twelve Days of Christmas

  • The Hat

  • The Mitten

I prefer to buy the books separately, rather than all in one collection—simply because it looks more impressive on the shelf and the thickness of the book doesn't intimidate the children. (Descriptions below are promo materials from various websites.)

The Night Before Christmas. It is signature Jan Brett, a story told in the text with another story told in the bright, detailed pictures that frame the larger images. The poem by Moore is familiar and Brett breathes new life into it with her interpretation. Set in the not too distant past, Father in his stocking cap watches St. Nick go about his business. Two young elves have stowed away in St. Nick's sleigh and do cause some slight mischief, but nothing St. Nick can't handle.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer. Little Teeka thought she had to be firm with the reindeer to get them ready for Santa's important flight, but when her bossy yelling only got their antlers tangled up, she knew she had to try something different. After a few false starts, Teeka discovers the best way to get Santa's reindeer ready for Christmas Eve.

Christmas Trolls. Christmas is Treva's favorite time of the year. But this year, decorations and presents are mysteriously disappearing. When Treva follows a small creature making off with the Christmas pudding, she discovers two irresistible trolls who think they can steal Christmas. She shows them how to truly have Christmas, and it seems the two squabbling rascals learn the lesson.

Trouble with Trolls. Treva's trouble with trolls begins when she climbs Mount Baldy with her dog Tuffi. The trolls who live there long for a dog, and they try to kidnap him. But Treva is brave and quick-thinking. She outwits one troll after another until she reaches the very top of the mountain, where five trolls are waiting--and they want her dog! When Treva and her dog Tuffi are set upon by these nasty creatures with dognapping on their minds, the girl dissuades the little folk by offering them other belongings in Tuffi's stead. And, ingenious child that she is, Treva retrieves her goods and also saves her pet before adventure's end.

The Twelve Days of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas has long been a holiday favorite. A straightforward beginning to a carol grows increasingly complicated as both the list of presents and the numbers involved accumulate. Brett's lavish treatment of the song portrays various levels of meaning; she has illustrated the fantastic gifts in outrageous splendor (seven swans swim in folkloric Russian headdresses), turned them into a border of tree decorations, included a menagerie of animals carrying banners with "Merry Christmas'' in different languages, and set into the outer edges of each page an ongoing story about a family's preparations for the big day itself. In the final frame, the decorated tree serves as the centerpiece for their own caroling.

The Hat. A little hedgehog, appropriately named Hedgie, finds himself stuck in a stocking, which has blown off the clothesline. As the barnyard animals laugh and poke fun at Hedgie's new "hat," Hedgie convinces them that everyone needs a winter hat to keep warm as the cold months approach. When Lisa, the clothing's owner, realizes that her stocking is missing, she tracks down Hedgie to take it back, only to discover that all the animals in the farm are now wearing clothing articles from her clothesline! In the end, Lisa has to run around the farm, retrieving her clothes from the animals.

The Mitten. Baba, Nicki's grandmother, knits pure white mittens for him, even though she is afraid that he will lose them in the snow. Sure enough, the first time Nicki is out, he drops one and some animals promptly move into its snug wool interior. First comes a mole, then a rabbit, a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox, a bear and, finally, a mouse. That mouse tickles the bear's nose and he sneezes, dislodging all of the animals at once. Nicki finds his mitten, and takes it home, but Baba is left to wonder about how it became so enormously stretched out.

These are by no means all of Jan Brett's Christmas titles. I recommend you visit your local bookstore or library and browse them all.

Now playing on my iPod: Winter Wonderland performed by Anne Murray

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