Christmas is traditionally a time for families to get together to visit, eat, laugh, celebrate and exchange gifts. It is also an opportune time for families to read and tell stories together. There are many wonderful Christmas stories for the whole family to enjoy, young and old alike.
For two decades, Canadians knew CBC’s Stuart McLean for the hilarious stories about Dave and Morley that he shared on his Vinyl Café radio show, and his annual Vinyl Café Christmas tour in theatres throughout Canada. Sadly, McLean passed away earlier this year, but the Vinyl Café Christmas stories have been published in a special collection. Christmas at the Vinyl Café includes 12 stories, including the classic “Dave Cooks the Turkey,” as well as five new previously unpublished ones.
The editors of Best Canadian Christmas Stories “tried to select writing that represents the many moods that are inspired by the Christmas season.” There are stories by well-known Canadian icons such as Stephen Leacock, Robert Service, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro, as well as some by lesser-known contemporary authors.
The classic Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas,” by Clement C. Moore, has been illustrated numerous times since it was first published. To me, Christmas is not complete without reading the poem that Moore wrote in 1822 for his two daughters. A 2015 edition illustrated by David Ercolini takes a new spin on the traditional poem. While the text sticks to the original, the illustrations show Santa arriving at a house that is the most over-decorated one in the neighborhood. A plate with two or three cookies for Santa is not good enough for this family – instead there is a table laden with cupcakes, donuts, three cakes and more.
Author Helaine Becker and illustrator Werner Zimmerman have “Canadian-ized” three popular Christmas songs. The first is A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas, followed by Dashing Through the Snow: A Canadian Jingle Bells. This creative team’s most recent is Deck the Halls: A Canadian Christmas Carol, featuring, among other things, a porcupine, beavers, muskox, a moose choir and leaping hockey players. Merriment and mayhem ensue with the witty details in the illustrations. Moreover, you can’t help but sing along.
Jan Brett is one of my favourite children’s book illustrators. Gingerbread Christmas is a twisted version of the Gingerbread Boy story. When Gingerbread Baby hears about the Christmas Festival, he wants to sing with his Gingerbread Band. However, he doesn’t have a band, but his friend Matti saves the day by making gingerbread instruments. Brett uses her signature style of ornamental borders and side panels to extend the story, set in a folkloric Swiss Alpine village. A special feature of the story is a large pop-up Christmas tree.
Take some time to read during the holidays. And don’t forget that books make wonderful gifts for readers of all ages. Season’s readings to you and yours!
Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit fvrl.bc.ca.