Wednesday, December 28, 2011

For Twelve Days of Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But don't forget Christmas is twelve days so don't turn off the Christmas carols or put away your children's Christmas books quite yet. You still have time to pick up a new book or read a classic as a family.

"A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas"
By Charles Dickens
For Ages 16 and older
Cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge has an ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after he is visited by the ghosts of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Rated 5 (Christmas, Ghosts, scary)

We've all seen the movie. For that matter we have seen several incarnations of the movie from the classic-styled showings to the modern retelling, Scrooged. But how many of us have actually read the original unabridged text? We recently read it as a family, my wife, myself and our 11 and 7-year-old boys. I was a wonderful experience for all involved.

With the best opening line on literature, "A Christmas Carol" pulls the reader right into the story. "Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that... This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate." A creepy beginning for a story that has become synonymous with Christmas spirit. But to be honest most of the tale is dark, dreary and quite frightening.

Poetic and flowery, Dickens' use of language is incredibly descriptive, although often over the heads of modern readers. Yes, even adults will have a difficult time understanding some of what is written so its good that we have been so exposed to the story already. The language and imagery will lead to several intersting conversations with your family about the interpretation of events in Scrooge's life. You'll find passages in the story you never knew existed and develop an entirely new appreciation for the movies and plays you see every Christmas season.

I was sure my children would be bored by the book, but to my surprise they were the ones that kept asking for "just one more page" to be read before lights out or "another chapter after dinner." They laughed, were scared, angered, and felt empathy at all the appropriate times. I was very happy they enjoyed it and amazed at how well the writing held up after all it was written in 1843. "A Christmas Carol" is generally credited with restoring the holiday to one of festivities and joy. It has never been out of print and is one of the most adapted and retold stories in history.

We may decide to read "A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas" every year -- a new family tradition.

Two on the lighter side:

"Ready, Freddy! A Very Crazy Christmas"

By Abby Klein
Illustrated by John McKinley
For Ages 4 - 8
Freddy’s twin cousins, Kasey and Kelly are visiting for the holidays. Freddy fans know that something always goes a little haywire in his stories, but the more kids you add the crazier things get. Rated 4 (Christmas, family, mischievous fun)

This tale will hit close to home for anyone who has spent Christmas with extended family, had several children running around at one time or hosted a sleepover for your child at your house. Whether hunting for the perfect tree or making beards with whipped cream, Freddy and his cousins know how to have fun. Klein keeps the story entertaining and easily digestible for young readers. They can relate to the characters and understand their motivations. McKinley adds lighthearted illustrations to help readers fill in the visual blanks. "A Very Crazy Christmas" does a good job capturing family fun.

What’s good: Young readers will enjoy the silliness and fun.
What’s bad: Unlike "Ready, Freddy! The Perfect Present," there is no thoughtful message.

"Oh, What A Christmas!"

By Michael Garland
For Ages 4 - 8
What would happen if the harnesses on Santa’s sleigh malfunctioned on Christmas Eve and Santa was left without his reindeer? That is the question at the heart of this fun Christmas tale. Rated 3.75 (Santa, humor, fiction)

When Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and the rest of the reindeer fly off leaving Santa stranded in a field, it looks as though Santa may have a serious problem. How will he deliver his sleigh full of presents to boys and girls around the world on foot? Then Santa sees a barn full of sleeping animals and gets an idea. Maybe pigs can fly. He puts a makeshift team of animals together from the barn and takes off into the night sky. After an eventful night delivering presents, Santa returns to the barn and is reunited with his reindeer. Before he leaves the barnyard animals he leaves a decorated tree and plenty of presents. It's a fun new look at Santa's Christmas night.

What’s good: Bouncy text and bug-eyed animals pop with excitement and humor.
What’s bad: Garland does not break new ground with this story.