Christmas at our house has always been an occasion for favorite stories that capture something magical about the season. There are a dozen marvelous reads to delight grown-ups and kids alike but here are three of the most wondrous—add them to your holiday reads to recall a time when you believed in everything and knew all the best stories were real.
A Pussycat’s Christmas is a gift from Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon and an entrancing, hypnotic writer. Our treasured copy is a hardback published by HarperCollins with illustrations by Anne Mortimer. Pussycat is a creature of now. She experiences everything through her senses and so do we, following along with her as she frolics in the falling snow, hears the sounds of tinkling ice and distant sleigh bells, smells Christmas trees, apples and tangerines, sees shining ornaments and bows on packages and pounces in sheer joy—until she is put out in the hall. Undaunted, she listens for carolers and waits for the family to go to midnight services before she pushes open the living room door and plays with crackling paper, shining glass orbs and curling ribbons. It’s the perfect book to read a small, excited child to sleep on Christmas Eve—the cadence of the lines soothes and lulls and the details remind you of how tiny a thing happiness is, and how easy to obtain.
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera, published by Harcourt Brace & Company, is a delightful romp through fantasy with an Auntie Mame character who keeps huge holiday secrets and a spoiled little girl named Sophie who visits her every afternoon for tea. Auntie Claus lives in the penthouse atop the Bing Cherry Hotel in New York City where Sophie’s family lives, too, on a lower floor. The red and green velvet, white ermine and gilt pad—undoubtedly on the Upper East Side—looks like an ornate Santa’s workshop and has a large oil painting of the man himself over the fireplace. Auntie Claus wears a mysterious diamond key around her neck and instructs Sophie in the finer points of etiquette, emphasizing always that it is better to give than to receive. And every year, just after Halloween, Auntie Claus goes on an unexplained trip and doesn’t return until Valentine’s Day. One year, Sophie decides to find her own answers and stows away in one of the many boxes packed for Auntie Claus’s trip. The diamond key unlocks an old elevator that shoots up into the sky with Sophie, boxed and wide-eyed, in the baggage. What happens after that explains a great deal to Sophie who returns to her bratty brother and ordinary life with an open heart and a legacy of giving. For Christmas that year, Sophie gets a tiny jewel box from Auntie Claus with a small diamond key of her own. Fantastical, whimsical retelling of the Santa Claus legend and a caution to greedy children everywhere.
Frederick by Leo Lionni, published by Alfred A. Knopf, was a Caldecott Honor Book and is a truly beloved book in a house of readers and writers. Frederick and the other field mice live in an old stone wall on an abandoned farm and work all summer and into the autumn to gather nuts, wheat, straw and corn for the long cold winter. Frederick drives them crazy. He sits all day gathering the rays of the sun, staring at the colors of the meadow and collecting words. The rest of the family hauls ears of corn, fallen grain and nesting materials from the fields and badgers Frederick about his lack of industry. When the snow falls, they snuggle into their safe space in the wall and nibble supplies, huddling together for warmth. But, as the supplies dwindle and the bitter cold seeps into their bones, they turn to Frederick and ask him to share what he has gathered for winter. And Frederick gives them an imaginary sun to cheer them, the memory of the red, blue and green flowers and leaves and a lovely poem to celebrate four seasons and a small family of chilly mice who are warmed and heartened by his words.