Happy St. Nicholas Day!

December 6th is St. Nicholas Day.  We talk about St. Nicholas in our house, but we don't leave out shoes or anything.  It isn't a tradition Mr. B or I grew up with.  (My German grandma didn't grow up with it, either.)  We love the story of the real St. Nicholas, though, and share that with the girls.

Above are two books.  The Real Santa Claus by Marianna Mayer is a very wordy picture book, illustrated by beautiful old paintings.  We checked it out from the library, and it appears to be out of print.  On a simpler scale is The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Alan Shepard is a retelling of a Colonial American folktale that captures the spirit of the day.  And there's a cookie recipe.  Recipes in picture books are always a plus for me.

For lots more St. Nicholas resources, check out the St. Nicholas Center website.

And because I get a kick out of the guy, um, Gruß vom Krampus.  Tee hee hee.


More seasonal goodness to come!  Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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The Littlest Angel (1962 Edition)

My tree topper arrived yesterday!  My kitschy white tree called for a cute and kitschy tree topper, and I found a perfect, made-in-Japan mid-century angel on Etsy.  And she's dressed in green, my favorite color!  I moved my mom's handmade ornament from the early '80s up the tree, closer to the top,and across the room, singing on top of the piano, are the vintage angel figures I bought at an estate sale last year.

All these cute vintage angels made me think of a book I found at my grandmother's last year.  It was another one of her estate sale purchases.

The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, illustrated by Sergio Leone.  Grosset & Dunlap, 1962.  (Text originally published by Children's Press, 1946.)

The Littlest Angel was first written as a radio script, then adapted by the author, Charles Tazewell, into a children's book in 1946.  The illustrations were by Katherine Evans.  (You can see her illustrations on this YouTube video.)  The Evans illustrations were used for later editions, through the 1950s on into the 1970s. In 1962, Grosset & Dunlap printed this edition, featuring new illustrations by Sergio Leone. I think the illustrations seem to fit with my angel decor this year.

Are you familiar with the story?  The full text is reprinted on this Houston Chronicle blog article here.  It's about an unhappy little angel, and how an Understanding Angel helps him by retrieving a box of favorite things he left behind on Earth.  When Jesus is about to be born, the Littlest Angel gives his box of treasures to God, and God is pleased and makes the box the Star of Bethlehem.

The Littlest Angel was not a story I grew up with, although I have a vague memory of someone reading it to us in elementary school.  I think it was a substitute teacher, actually.  I grew up with another of Tazewell's stories, The Small One, although it was in the form of a Walt Disney cartoon, and not a perfectly faithful adaptation, either, from what I understand.  The Littlest Angel is on the flowery and sentimental side, not particularly my style, but this copy is in great shape and the illustrations are cool.

Anyhoo, if you're interested, here is a YouTube video of the
Loretta Young recording of the story:

And here is the 1969 made-for-tv Hallmark Hall of Fame musical.
I haven't watched it yet, but check out the cast.  

I also noticed a more recent animated version on Netflix streaming recently.  No, I'm sorry, I haven't watched it, either.  

There are more recent editions of The Littlest Angel out there.  The one illustrated by Paul Micich is familiar to me from my bookselling days.  There is also one illustrated by Guy Porfirio.

As for the one read to me in school?  Judging from the year it came out (1984), what do you want to bet it was the special Avon Products edition, illustrated by Susanna Leigh?

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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

well, you know.  Here are a few more glimpses of our house...

My grandma helped us collect the Muppet Babies and Mickey's Christmas Carol stuffies from McDonald's and Hardees back in the '80s.

We finally found our Olivia ornament!

Harry Potter ornament from 2000.

This ballerina was a gift to Big Sis from her godparents.  It hangs on her turquoise Nutcracker tree.

 Last night, we paid a visit to one of the most spectacularly decorated "Griswold" houses in town.  A lot of these decorations (like the enclosed Santa and the reindeer on the roof) used to belong to my favorite Christmas house of all time, the Wey Mansion, which has been up for sale the past few years.

I found the stockings yesterday, along with more ornaments.  So far, the girls' Advent calendar garland has yielded three ornaments and a pair of socks each.  We are reading so many books, and trying to clean up the house so I can take proper pictures we can enjoy our decorations.  Hope to have lights on the porch soon.

In other news, the temperatures are dropping.  The highs will be in the twenties through the weekend.  I still want to do some activities that involve walking outside.  Here's hoping no one wants to kill me by Sunday!

Auntie Claus

The glitter fairy has been here.  At least that's what it looks like to me, with our sparkly white tree, the girls' new glittery Santa hats, and the Nutcracker trees and wreath moved to the fireplace in the family room.  

Last night, "We Need A Little Christmas" came on the radio as I drove Big Sis home from dance class.  "I like this song, Mom," she said.  I told her it was originally from a Broadway musical.  "Which one?"  "Mame."  "Oh...  What's that?"  She's actually seen the Rosalind Russell film Auntie Mame, but she couldn't remember it.  Oh, well.  Some other time.

I knew what we would read at bedtime, though.  

The Auntie Claus books by Elise Primavera are such splashy fun to look at.  The character of Auntie Claus is Auntie Mame meets Diana Vreeland meets Fairy Godmother.  Despite the fact I had admired them each Christmas at the bookstore, I had never read them to the girls!  Thank you, library.  

The first book, Auntie Claus, is quite simple.  A girl named Sophie Kringle lives with her family in the Bing Cherry Hotel in New York City.  They are Christmas fanatics.  The most Christmasy of all is Sophie's great-aunt, Auntie Claus, who lives in the penthouse.  She always goes away on business the week after Halloween, and never returns until after the New Year.  Sophie decides to follow her aunt on her trip.  You can probably guess where they go.  It turns out that Auntie Claus is the indispensable big sister of someone very famous.

In the second book, Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas, it's Sophie's little brother's turn to learn the family secret.  Chris Kringle has been informed by two very brainy children that Santa does not exist.  He decides to prove it by getting on Santa's naughty list.  Sophie helps him to find the truth by other means, but Chris must escape from some rather unsavory characters first.  

Finally, the third book, Auntie Claus: Home for the Holidays, finds Sophie cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy in her school production of The Nutcracker.  Neither she nor Auntie Claus wants to miss this opportunity, so the entire North Pole operation comes to the Bing Cherry Hotel - including the weather.

Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera.  HMH Books for Young Readers, 1999.

Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas by Elise Primavera. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002.

Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas by Elise Primavera. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002.

Auntie Claus, Home for the Holidays by Elise Primavera.  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2009.

Auntie Claus, Home for the Holidays by Elise Primavera.  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2009.

Auntie Claus, Home for the Holidays by Elise Primavera.  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2009.

A video from Simon & Schuster about the third book.

Wouldn't it be fun to find a production of Auntie Claus: The Musical to see over the holidays?

But the girls and I have read our books.  The movie still needs funding, and Auntie Claus: The Musical isn't playing in Wichita.  So Lucy cat and I will sit and enjoy our glittery tree, as we listen to this:

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My Big Christmas Book

Here's an odd little book for you.  Of course, it isn't little at all.  As the name implies, this is a big book. Just look at the contents.

My Big Christmas Book is by Hayden McAllister and was published by Peter Haddock, Ltd. in 1983.  And that, my friends, is all the book has to say.  No illustrator credit is given, although the illustrations clearly look to be in a style more popular in the '60s and '70s than in the '80s.  I played with Google, checking every sale listing and blog post I could find about the book.  There were actually quite a few, as this seems to be a childhood favorite of many.  (Mine is a recent acquisition.)  Finally, I found a post about the book over at Danielle Thompson's awesome blog, and she said the illustrations are by a German artist named Gisela Gottschlich.  I'm not sure how she found that out, but Google image search did pull up some very similar illustrations, including this one, which is a story in this book!

The book is full of poems, stories, songs, recipes, and craft projects.  The final section of the book is an Advent story, with songs and crafts interspersed throughout.  If I have a complaint about the book, it is that it clearly lacks diversity, despite the fact it came out in the 1980s.  There is one person of color in the whole book, and she is a craft project.  A-hem.

However, the illustrations are charming and the crafts and recipes are quaint and sweet, the one I mentioned above aside.

I do wonder if there wasn't a second illustrator that was "borrowed" from for this book.  The sixth illustration down has a different look, for example.  Who knows?!  If anyone knows anything more about this book, let me know.  I'm curious.

Happy Advent!

It's the first Sunday of Advent, and it just so happens to be December 1st!  As you can see in the photo above, our Advent calendar garland is hung.  Today's gift was a new ornament for the tree.

We decided to splurge on a new artificial tree this year.  I love real trees, but Mr. B is working very long hours, and I am as bad a plant-waterer as I am a housekeeper.  I admit it.  We decided that if we went fake, though, we didn't want realistic.  We went white!  Last year, there were so many beautiful retro white trees that caught my eye on the interwebs.  Our house tends to be so dark anyway.  The white really shines!

I know it's unusual for me to post on a Sunday, but this was a special Sunday!  I am so excited to share Christmasy things again!  Remember how obnoxious I was about Halloween this year?  Well, anyone who knows me will tell you I'm even more obnoxious about the Christmas season.

How about a book?  This one is incredibly fitting for today.  Last year, I posted about Madeleine L'Engle's The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas.  The copy I showed you was what I thought was the first version of the book, illustrated by Joe De Valasco and published in 1984, as opposed to the newest version of the book, illustrated by Jill Weber.  Anyway, go click on my post from last year and refresh your memory.  Or look at it for the first time.  Whichever.

Remember, I'm a huge Madeleine L'Engle fan, too.

Now, imagine my surprise when I see this post over at My Vintage Book Collection (in Blog Form).

I had read that the 1984 version was the original, but actually, The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas was first published in 1964 by Ariel Books.  The illustrator is listed as INGA, one name, all capital letters.

The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L'Engle, illustrated by INGA.  Ariel Books, 1964.

No dust jacket, but I'll live.

I know you'll be shocked - shocked!, I say - to learn that I prefer the '60s illustrations over the ones from the '80s.  No offense to Mr. De Valasco, I just don't think the '80s were very pretty.  

Now I think I'll have to get a copy of the 2010 edition after all.   Two out of three just doesn't cut it now.

I have lots of book and author-related boards over at Pinterest!  (Lots of Christmas stuff, too.)  If you're on Instagram, be sure and follow over there, as I participate in Pen Pals & Picture Books' "Do You Read What I Read" challenge.  And of course, you can find Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes on Facebook and Bloglovin, too.

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