Enjoy these recommendations for children's literature from Dispatch arts editor Nancy Gilson! You can celebrate the season with these new books -- from lighthearted to inspirational -- about Christmas and Hanukkah.
*"The Christmas Eve Ghost" by Shirley Hughes (Candlewick, $15.99, ages 6 to 10): A single mother in 1930s Liverpool struggles to feed and clothe her two children while keeping her distance from her Irish Catholic neighbors. A Christmas Eve emergency brings the families together in this beautifully illustrated and understated story of getting along.
*"The Christmas Giant" by Steve Light (Candlewick, $15.99, ages 5 to 9): While delivering a Christmas tree, Santa and his elf encounter disaster; and the two must devise an alternative plan involving imaginatively designed wrapping paper. As Light draws him, Santa is a tall fellow resembling a lumber jack accompanied by a miniature, white-robed elf. The illustrations are as distinctive as the story.
*"Christmas Is Here," illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Simon & Schuster, $12.99, all ages): Watercolor and ink paintings portray a contemporary town celebrating the holiday as well as scenes from the first Noel, with minimal text from the King James Bible. The paintings are lush and atmospheric.
*"Duck & Goose: It's Time for Christmas!" by Tad Hills (Random House, $6.99, ages 2 to 4): Goose wants to ice skate and make a snow goose, but Duck keeps him pointed toward the activity at hand: decorating the tree. The title marks another success in Hills' humorous board-book series.
*"It's Christmas, David!" by David Shannon (Blue Sky, $16.99, ages 3 to 6): Speaking of humor, just try not to laugh when rowdy preschooler David streaks down a snowy street dressed only in boots, mittens and a hat. These and other infractions give him pause -- for a few seconds, anyway -- that he might discover a lump of coal in his stocking. Shannon's autobiographical series about his childhood began in 1998 with "No, David!"
*"Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book" by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg (Chronicle, $16.99, ages 4 to 8): From lighting the menorah and telling the story of Judah Maccabee to spinning the Dreidel and eating latkes with applesauce, a family celebrates Hanukkah in this warm book with pencil and pastel illustrations.
*"Jackie's Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah and Jackie Robinson" by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Viking Juvenile, $16.99, ages 5 to 8): The daughter of the great Jackie Robinson tells a family story of how the Dodgers' second baseman gave a Christmas tree to a young fan in the neighborhood, not realizing that he was Jewish. The tale is sensitively told and touchingly humorous.
*"The Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Robert Ingpen (Sterling Children's, $12.95, all ages): Proving there's room for yet another treatment of the classic 1822 poem, the Australian Ingpen gives a country setting to the tale and makes Santa truly an elf with a cherry nose and "dimples how merry."
*And another new version of "The Night Before Christmas" (Imagine, $19.95, all ages) features vibrant, contemporary paintings by Eric Puybaret and a Peter, Paul and Mary CD, with Mary Travers reading the poem over a score by Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow.
*"Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star" by Petr Horacek (Candlewick, $15.99, ages 3 to 6): Silly Suzy (aren't all geese silly?) tries to pluck a star from the sky to place atop the Christmas tree. She not only fails but also becomes lost, only to be rescued by her barnyard friends and, finally, to figure out a way to top the tree with that star.
-- Nancy Gilson, firstname.lastname@example.org