Vintage Christmas Books by Margaret Wise Brown (Part One)

I love Margaret Wise Brown.  She led a fascinating life, and wrote such wonderful books for children.  I think it's safe to say that when we think of picture book authors, our favorites tend to be author/illustrators. The pictures usually come first in our mind.  Margaret Wise Brown is an exception.  True, her books were illustrated by some of the greatest in the business, but the words stand on their own.  The girls and I can sit and recite Goodnight Moon at bedtime, and the gentle rhythm of the words is so peaceful that Clement Hurd's illustrations are merely a bonus.

So...  to the library!  In my hunt to find vintage goodies from years past, I hunted down four vintage Margaret Wise Brown books.  All have been reissued with new illustrations (one reissue is out-of-print), but you know me...  If an oldie exists, I at least want to see it!

The first two were illustrated by the amazing Barbara Cooney.

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Barbara Cooney.  Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1952.

Christmas in the Barn is a simple retelling of the Christmas story, with beautiful illustrations by Cooney. The book draws young readers in by depicting the stable, Mary, Joseph, and the other humans as modern and American, allowing them to identify with the subjects.  [A new edition was published by HarperCollins in 2007, with illustrations by Diane Goode.]

I prefer this one for the pictures over the text.  I prefer the other Cooney collaboration for the story.

The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Barbara Cooney.  Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1954.
Harper Trophy edition, 1985.
The Little Fir Tree is about a little tree set apart from the larger trees in the forest, in a field of its own.  It's lonely.  One winter day, a man comes to dig up the little tree, tying its roots in a gunny sack.  The tree is to be a Christmas tree for the man's little boy, who has a lame leg and cannot come to the tree.  The man explains that the tree will be replanted in the field each spring, and brought to the house again each Christmas.  We see seasons pass from the tree's perspective.  One winter, the man does not come.  The tree feels lonelier than ever.  Suddenly, the tree hears voices.  It is carolers coming to the tree, led by the boy who can walk!  The children decorate the tree with ornaments safe for the birds.  [A new edition, illustrated by Jim LaMarche, was released by HarperCollins in 2005.]

In part 2, I show off books illustrated by Helen Stone and Beni Montresor.

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  1. I love the guy with the tree. He's classically cartoon handsome even with his giant mustache. :)

  2. So lovely! oh golly do I love me some MWB. She's the grand master of kid lit, I truly believe it.

    1. She was truly wonderful. Check out the Leonard Marcus biography about her sometime. She led a very interesting life!

  3. The Little Fir Tree is such an adorable story! I used to have a kid's encyclopedia with the same type of illustrations. I wonder if they are from the same artist! I'll have to go look it up :)

    1. Barbara Cooney was a very popular author and illustrator! I wouldn't be surprised. :) The Little Fir Tree is my favorite of the four we checked out.


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