National Post

Season’s readings

- By Anna Fitzpatric­k

A-t this time of year, as storess be come increasing­ly hectic and filled with last-minute shoppers, it’s important to remember that the holiday season isn’t about buying things or getting presents. No, this time should be about celebratin­g what truly matters: hockey, ninjas, and Mariah Carey.

Just kidding. The holidays mean something different to everyone, but “sharing” and “togetherne­ss” tend to be pretty universal themes of the season— it’s the perfect time to curl up with your little ones over a good book, ignoring the cold weather outside. ( You’re 2016’s problem, real world!) Throughout the year, I’ve generally used this column to highlight my favourite new titles in kid’s l-it, so writing a gift guide seemed super f- luous; instead, here are a few season ally appropriat­e picks.

You know Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, et al. But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? Of course you do: his name’s Rudolph, and he was the subject of an immensely popular 1939 children’s book by Robert L. May. Fewer people might now that a followup was released in 1954. Rudolph Shines Again ( Little Simon, ages 4- 6, 40 pp, $ 23) gets a 2015 update with warm, detailed illustrati­ons by Antonio Javier Caparo. I- t’s the Christmas fol lowing the discovery of Rudolph’s magical n ose, and the other reindeer a- re start ing to resent the special treatment he gets from their boss in red. As a sequel, it’s immensely realistic — Rudolph learns the downside to celebrity! — but as a holiday story, it steers away from cynicism in a way that even the original didn’t — Rudolph and the other reindeer learn it’s who you are, not what you’re born with, that counts!

On the prequel side of things, there is an unexpected Christmas origin story with Linda Bailey’s When Santa Was a Baby ( Tundra Books, ages 3-7, 32 pp, $ 20). Santa’s parents know that their chubby little tot, with his booming voice and his predisposi­tion to giving all his gifts away, isn’t like most kids, but they love and support him all the same. By encouragin­g their son even if he isn’t exactly what they were expecting, they allow him to become the best version of himself, which of course turns out to be a man who spreads good tidings and c-heer wherever he goes. Geneviève God bout’s adorably cozy illustrati­ons done in pastels and coloured pencils make this tender story a standout of the season.

Look, there isn’t a lot to say about the picture book adaptation of Mariah C- arey’s pop song All I Want for Christ mas Is You ( Doubleday Canada, ages 3- -7, 32 pp, $ 34). It’s glittery and gim micky, but also very sweet, much like a pop song itself. Colleen Madden’s funny illustrati­ons bring a self-awareness and charm to the project, perfect for both budding divas and grownup fans of the elusive chanteuse (ahem).

It’s safe to say the ninjas in Rubin P-ingk’s Samurai Santa (Simon & Schus t-er, ages 4-8, 40 pp, $23) aren’t really trad itional: they celebrate Christmas, for one, and are nervous that participat­ing in an epic Christmas Eve snowball fight will get them placed squarely on Santa’s naughty l-ist. It’s not the most accurate represen tation, but the slapstick and action in this story will likely draw typically nonreaders in and away from their freshly unwrapped X-Boxes, at least long enough to find out if little Yukio was successful in scaring Santa away in order to have a snowball fight with his ninja friends while hopefully learn a magical lesson about working together in the process.

I-t’s been a quiet year for books featur ing non- Christian holidays from major publishers, but there are a few seasonal t-itles that aren’t strictly tied to any de nomination. Hockey Hero ( Tundra, ages 6-9, 4- 0 pp, $ 20, with illus t-rations by Zachary Pul len) is the second go at children’s book writing by profession­al hockey player Zachary Hyman. It’s a heartwarmi­ng s- tory about an under dog, who is routinely mocked by his peers for b- eing different, learn ing to believe in himself, work hard and overcome the odds: in other words, it is very much like every great sports movie and holiday story (see: Rudolph, above). T- hough not an original narrative, Hy man fleshes his story out with colourful details, particular­ly with references to actual legendary hockey players, teams, a-nd rituals. Despite having no ties what s-oever to the holidays, religious or secu lar, it’s probably the most traditiona­l book on the list.

Rounding out the list is The Bear Who Went Boo! ( Harper Collins, ages 3- 6, 32 pp, $22), the latest collaborat­ion by British comedian David Walliams and illustrato­r Tony Ross. A polar bear cub longing to be fearsome and tough l-ike his papa gets a kick out of sneak ing up on and scaring other animals. W- hen news gets around that a docu mentary film crew is planning to come to the arctic to make a television show, t-he animals become starstruck and im mediately start primping and prepping for their big debut; peak time, in other words, for the little cub to wreak havoc. Things go awry when he learns that his actions have consequenc­es. It’s a lesson in empathy set in a frozen landscape — perfect for a Canadian December.

Santa’s parents know their charming tot isn’t like most kids

 ?? Cloc kwise from Top : Excerpted from When Santa Was a Baby , by Linda Bailey and ill ustrated by Gene viéve Godbo ut, co urtesey Tundra Boo ks; All I want for Christmas is yo u, ill ustrated by Colleen Madden , co urtesey Doubleday boks; Samurai santa , b ??
Cloc kwise from Top : Excerpted from When Santa Was a Baby , by Linda Bailey and ill ustrated by Gene viéve Godbo ut, co urtesey Tundra Boo ks; All I want for Christmas is yo u, ill ustrated by Colleen Madden , co urtesey Doubleday boks; Samurai santa , b
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