Friday, December 20, 2013

The longest night of the year

Winter Solstice
Dawn turned on her purple pillow
And late, late came the winter day,
Snow was curved to the boughs of the willow,
The sunless world was white and grey.

At noon we heard a blue-jay scolding,
At five the last thin light was lost
From snow-banked windows faintly holding
The feathery filigree of frost.

The Winter Solstice

Ellen Jackson 1997

I found another book about the Winter Solstice.  This one concentrates on the history of how ancient peoples around the world celebrated the shortened days.  Because they didn't know the science behind how the the earth moves around the sun and the reason for our seasons, there was much superstition and magical beliefs. 

Other book about the Winter Solstice:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Star Mother's Youngest Child

Louise Moeri
illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman 1975

I picked up this odd little Christmas story because it was illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.  An old woman living all alone grumbles about never getting to celebrate Christmas.  Meanwhile, up in the sky, the Star Mother's youngest child is complaining about not getting to experience Christmas down on earth.  So an arrangement is made and the Youngest Star Child is allowed to go down and spend Christmas with the old woman.  To her he only appears as an Ugly Child knocking at her door Christmas morning (and he's referred to as "Ugly Child" for the rest of the story).  But throughout the day, she is begrudgingly drawn into celebrating Christmas.  A tree is brought in to her little house and decorated, a "feast" of bread and ham soup is made, even a Christmas present is wrapped and put under the tree.  There's a folk tale feeling to it and of course Hymans illustrations are as wonderful as ever.

Other books illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman:

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Golden Christmas Book

(The view from our walk- looking up our street.)

We had a beautiful snow day this week.  Madeleine walked into town with me, to the post office and grocery store, and we marveled at how beautiful winter can be.  Then with warm drinks in our bellies we put on the movie "White Christmas".  I grew up watching that with my Grandma and now it's one of Madeleine's favorites.  We spent most of the movie lusting after the beautiful 1950's dresses!

So in the vintage spirit, here's a treasure of Christmas songs, stories and poems.

 The Golden Christmas Book
Simon and Schuster 1955

Love those 1950's illustrations!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Christmas Memory

A Christmas story only Truman Capote could tell.

 A Christmas Memory
Truman Capote
illustrated by Beth Peck 1956

It's late November, "fruitcake weather".  Capote tells the story of a young boy and the sweet friendship he has with an older, childlike cousin.  They both seem to be a bit out of place in their world and their family so they form a bond together.  They take an old baby carriage to gather pecans and start the month long preparations for Christmas. 

They bring home a tree, decorating it with homemade ornaments.

But we can't afford the made-in-Japan splendors at the five-and-dime.  So we do what we've always done:  sit for days at the kitchen table with scissors and crayons and stacks of colored paper.  I make sketches and my friend cuts them out:  lots of cats, fish too (because they're easy to draw), some apples, some watermelons, a few winged angels devised from saved-up sheets of Hershey-bar tin foil.  We use safety pins to attach these creations to the tree;  as a final touch, we sprinkle the branches with shredded cotton (picked in August for this purpose).

 And make each other kites for Christmas presents. 

"My, how foolish I am!"  my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven.  "You know what I've always thought?" she asks in a tone of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond.  "I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord.  And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window:  pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark.  And it's been a comfort:  to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling.  But I'll wager it never happens.  I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself.  That things as they are" -her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone- "just what they've always seen, was seeing Him.  As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Trolls

Jan Brett 2000

Another fun book by Jan Brett with her Nordic illustrations.  Off in the woods a pair of trolls have been stealing Christmas decorations and presents.  They don't understand what Christmas means, so it's up to the little girl Treva to tell them and show them.  Like so many other Brett books an adorable hedgehog takes part!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holly Hobbie's The Night Before Christmas

Anyone who has been to my house knows that I don't do "sparse".  And because our house was built in 1950 (and our kitchen is still entirely original) I'm also drawn to 40's/50's brightly colored kitsch.

But there's a part of me that would love to have my house so simply decorated for Christmas just like Holly Hobbie's illustrations.  This poem has been illustrated a thousand times and each of our copies vary greatly in style.  But I love every one of them!

Clement C. Moore
illustrated by Holly Hobbie 2013

 Other Holly Hobbie:

Other "The Night Before Christmas":

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Christmas Panorama

Here's a pretty version of  "The Friendly Beasts" and "The Twelve Days of Christmas" illustrated like a medieval manuscript.

illustrated by Virginia Parsons 1966

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An Early American Christmas

Well, it's December again and time for some Christmas stories !

Oh Tomie dePaola, we love your books!  Inspired by the New Hampshire town he lives in, Mr. dePaola imagines what it was like for the early Puritan and Quaker settlers at Christmastime when a German family moves in and brings with them their Christmas decorations and traditions.  The handicrafts of making bayberry candles, paper cuttings, pretzels and cookies are shown.

Tomie dePaola

 Other Books by Tomie dePaola: