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First Christmasses: Books About Seeing Holiday Traditions Through Fresh Eyes

By Edited Jun 11, 2014 0 0

Every year brings with it the publication of dozens of new Christmas picture books. Within this large category, there are several sub-categories, one of which involves one's first celebration of Christmas. While the occasional book will feature a child from a different culture enjoying Christmas festivities for the first time, the vast majority of these books feature animals, since animals grow up much faster and, through the magic of anthropomorphism, could be fully cognizant of the holiday at the age of just a few months, in a way that a human could not. Below are just a few of the many Christmas books involving nonhuman characters' first experiences of Christmas.

Flamingo's First Christmas - The main character in this book written by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by Fiona Robinson is an awkward but earnest flamingo living in Miami. After noticing all of the hubbub about town, he decides to investigate, trying to figure out what Christmas really is. He meets with frustration again and again but perseveres, and his altruism and innocence are refreshing. While the illustrations leave a bit to be desired, this is a cute book demonstrating that Christmas should be accessible to everyone. Additionally, it's one of only two books in this list with overtly religious overtones, as most stories along these lines tend to focus more on family traditions.

Little Porcupine's First Christmas - Another book about a lovable oddball. Joseph Slate is the author behind this story, while Felicia Bond of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie fame furnishes the whimsical illustrations. The story is written in the present tense, which often strikes me as a stilted form for fiction, but it works here, lending immediacy to the troubling proceedings. Poor Little Porcupine just wants a part in the school Christmas pageant, but his schoolmates scorn his enthusiasm. Indeed, they are alarmingly cruel, but this juvenile meanness does not have the last word. Instead, the beauty his mother has always seen in him manifests itself on opening night, to the surprise and chagrin of all who rejected him. An illuminating tale.

Clifford's First Christmas - In most of the books in Norman Bridwell's series about a bright red dog and the girl who loves him, Clifford is an enormous pooch whose size gets him into trouble but also puts him in a unique position to help others. In this story narrated by young Emily Elizabeth, he is only a tiny puppy, but again, his size allows him to have a unique perspective. Plotwise, the book is a little thin, and there seem to be a few timeline inconsistencies involving just when Clifford grew out of his teeny-tiny state when compared with other books, but it's fun to see this familiar character taking a ride on a toy train or getting cozy inside of a stocking. A good one for youngsters who already know and love Clifford.

My Little Pony: Rose Blossom's First Christmas - Written by Ann Marie Capilija and illustrated by Carlo LoRaso, this cheerful book involves the initiation of one pony into the Christmas traditions of her community. I get the sense that Rose Blossom is a newcomer to Ponyville rather than a resident born there within the past 12 months. One odd thing about this book is that every character appears to be female; then again, girls are clearly the target audience, and maybe Capilijia and LoRaso figure that they would rather not have boys around at all, even if they are in equine form. Historically, there have been a few male My Little Pony characters, but the females definitely dominate. The book's colors are fun, with lots of bright pink and purple in effect. While it's a bit strange to see ponies performing basic tasks with hooves when individual digits are clearly required, young pony lovers probably won't nitpick about that. Instead, they will hopefully revel in the sense of welcome that everyone offers to Rose Blossom. One wonders, though, if they would be so welcoming to a male pony...

Froggy's Best Christmas - Froggy has never experienced Chrsitmas before, and he can't wait to get in on all the fun, once his friends who wake him up convince him that this is a holiday worth staying awake for. Dressed in a dapper red and black cap and matching coat, he flings himself full-throttle into the preparations. This is one of several Froggy books written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, and they seem to be a winning combination. Here, I love the emphasis on friendship and family togetherness as Froggy embraces all of these traditions for the first time. All he needs to have a merry Christmas is the people he loves best, with a dusting of snow and a few festive trappings sweetening the deal.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas - This adorable book written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman is a sequel to Bear Snores On, one of many books these two created together. After sleeping through Christmas the previous year, Bear is determined to remain wide awake this time around. It's not an easy task, though, and he seems to be avoiding the nap that's calling to him mostly for the sake of his devoted friends who feel badly that he missed out on most of their fun last year. The illustrations are adorable, realistic-looking with just a slight cartoonish touch to give the animals more personality. Meanwhile, the rhyming text with its repeated refrain feels as soothing as a crew of woodland creatures snuggling in a cave together as icy winds howl outside.

All you have to do is plug the words "first Christmas" into the search engine for your local library, and you're likely to bring up a list of books belonging to this sub-category of Christmas stories; if you're thinking more along the lines of the very first Christmas, you'll have a wealth of options there as well. Some "first Christmas" books are better than others, but generally speaking, it can be fun to experience the traditions of the holiday from a fresh perspective.

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