Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Christmas Books

My Pen Pal, Santa. Melissa Stanton. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. 2013. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Soon after Christmas, Ava wrote a thank-you note to Santa Claus.
Dear Santa,
Thank you for my Christmas presents. I really like them. But why didn't you eat the cookies I left you? Were you full from the cookies at our neighbors' houses? I'm six years old and I go to kindergarten, or did you already know that?
your friend Ava

I really loved this picture book. Ava is a little girl that I just adored. She decides to write a thank-you note to Santa. When he replies, the correspondence continues through all twelve months. I loved this premise. Writing letters to Santa in November or December, very common indeed. But to write to him in April and July? It's one thing to write letters to Santa "asking" (or should I say begging?) for gifts. It's quite another to write chatty letters with Santa, to truly become friends.
Dear Ava,
Thank you for the great drawing. People usually don't think of me on Valentine's Day. Well, Mrs. Claus does, of course, and I think of her. I love giving gifts, but it's also nice to receive them. I say Merry Christmas all year long, so....
Merry Christmas!
It's a cute picture book. I thought Ava was sweet, and I liked reading Santa's replies. I also loved, loved, loved the illustrations.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas. Peter H. Reynolds. 2013. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Roland was eager for Christmas Day. He raced downstairs to see what was waiting for him. But when he saw his present, he was not impressed. It was the smallest gift he had ever seen. Had he waited the whole year for this tiny gift? Roland closed his eyes and hoped and wished as hard as he could for a bigger gift.

Peter H. Reynolds is the author of The Dot, Ish, and Sky Color. I have really loved some of his picture books in the past. They are certainly a little different and a bit unique. But that's a good thing.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas is a tale of greed and selfishness. It's a tale of what happens when wishes come true. The first clue that Roland is more than a little greedy comes early. The illustrations on the first page show that Roland's stocking is ten times the size of the other stockings. He must be expecting great things. So his fit when his gift is oh-so-small isn't that big of a surprise. As Roland learns that his wishes are being granted, his true heart is revealed. He is very greedy indeed!

It's a true tale in that I think Roland is a good example of the I-can-never-ever-get-enough-stuff mindset which is a big problem in society. More, more, more, bigger, better, always wanting, never satisfied.

Roland learns his lesson, as you might expect. As he's searching the universe for the biggest and best present ever, he realizes that earth--his home, his family--are very small, very tiny, and so far away as seen through his telescope. In that moment, he realizes that great things can be "small things." His desire for home is just as real as his prior greed.

I definitely liked this one.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Virtual Advent 12:33 PM  

My Pen Pal, Santa, sounds really cute!

Kailana 12:34 PM  

oops. That was me. I wonder if posted under the wrong account anywhere else and didn't notice!

Unknown 1:39 PM  

Aww, those books sound so sweet! I love Christmas books, especially those with a good moral within!!


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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