On the Second Day of Christmas...

Or I suppose if you must, you could call it the day after Christmas, but I prefer the whole 12 day thing. Seems like a lot of work for a one day event.


Happy Friday!

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

I will post a bit next week, but with the girls out of school, I expect I'll spend a bit less time on the computer. I'll share some pictures and a few more books.  Hope everyone is well.

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Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella (Adrienne Adams)

Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella, a Provençal Carol Attributed to Nicholas Saboly, 17th Century, illustrated by Adrienne Adams. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963.

Because I love Adrienne Adams. And old Christmas carols. And old books.

Merry, merry Christmas, dear readers!

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Holly Claus

Oh, goodness. Okay, first of all, as I begin this post, please forgive my crappy photographs. I still want to share these books, which I have since returned to the library, but I had no idea how out of focus some of the pictures were. Bad blogger. Bad photographer, too, but I never pretended to be good.

Okay.  Now that my apologies are out of the way...

The only non-picture Christmas book I've completed this year is this fat, lush middle-grade fantasy, The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan.

I checked out the picture book, Holly Claus, The Christmas Princess first. I remembered it from Christmas displays at the book store. Then I realized it was an abridged version of a much bigger book.

The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan, illustrated by Laurel Long. HarperCollins, 2004.

This is a pretty fabulous book. A poor young boy in Victorian New York writes his first letter to Santa Claus. He isn't even sure he's doing it right. He's never written before because, despite his poverty, he's never felt like he needed anything. This year, though, he asks a simple question. "Santa Claus, what would you like for Christmas?" That question makes it possible for Santa (known as Nicholas) and his wife to have their one desire: a child, the first child born in The Land of the Immortals, also called Forever. This is a purely secular mythology. Nicholas doesn't have a backstory as a Turkish bishop. There is no mention of Christmas in traditional religious terms. Forever is the land where mortals who have left something memorable behind - something to last forever - go when their time on earth is through. They earn their immortality. Nicholas is the king of Forever. Mere mortals may think he lives in the North Pole, with elf toymakers, but that's just an idea he let loose. The elves are really goblins, and and The Land of the Immortals exists on an entirely different plane.

There is an evil immortal, long-banished to an underworld prison. Herrikhan can only escape if he can possess a willing, completely pure heart. He curses the baby Holly by encasing her heart in ice. In order to survive, she must always be cold. As part of the curse, no one is allowed in or out of Forever, save Nicholas at Christmas. Herrikhan secretly leaves her a magical telescope that allows her to look out into the mortal world, yet she only sees the good things. She longs to visit that world, especially The Empire City, known on Earth as New York City, to which she feels drawn. She knows it is her destiny to go there and earn her rightful place among the Immortals.

As a young woman, she finally finds her way to that city, on her own sleigh drawn by rainbow-hued reindeer. She befriends homeless children who live in Central Park, and is led to a toy store, where she finds herself a job. She has a gift for making dolls that reveal the innermost dreams of children. She is also drawn to the taciturn owner of the store, a young man who seems much older than his years. It becomes obvious that he fits into the puzzle of her life somehow. All this time, she is preparing to meet Herrikhan, hoping to survive the whole ordeal before her father comes for her on Christmas Eve.

Oh, did I mention Holly's talking animal friends? A wolf, a fox, an owl, and just to confuse things, a penguin. I know Forever is not actually the North Pole, but hey...

The black and white illustrations are courtesy of Laurel Long (see The Magic Nesting Doll). Her illustrations were enhanced and colorized by Jeffrey K. Bedrick for the picture book adaptation. The story is still very long for a picture book. I think it plays out much better in the full-length novel, however, the full color illustrations are pretty spectacular.

Holly Claus: The Christmas Princess by Brittney Ryan,
illustrated by Laurel Long with Jeffrey K. Bedrick. HarperCollins, 2007.

The books are no longer available new, which surprised me. They were part of the Julie Andrews Collection, which was once published by HarperCollins and Hyperion. The Collection seems to have moved to Little, Brown. Perhaps that's the reason the books are out of print? Used copies seem plentiful on Amazon, however, and my library had multiple copies of each. Brittney Ryan maintains her Facebook page, still promoting the books, although the website has gone quiet.

Anyway, the Holly Claus story is a nice Christmas fantasy, perfect for fairy lovers. It could take its place on the shelf next to L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, another Santa fairytale origin story.

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One Thousand Christmas Beards

One Thousand Christmas Beards by Roger Duvoisin.
Knopf, 1955.

In my own perfect world, I would own all the wonderful old books by Roger Duvoisin, so I could pull them out whenever I needed a smile.

Alas, I do not live in a perfect little world. Many Duvoisin titles are out of print, few are available for check out at the local library, and used copies can go for large sums of money, more than I would be willing to pay.

Perhaps there is hope: Knopf / Random House just re-released Duvoisin's long-unavailable version of The Night Before Christmas. I tried to pick up a copy at my local indie store last week, but they were sold out! That's a good thing, though, right? See, publishing companies, people will still buy these books!

I did score a tattered copy of One Thousand Christmas Beards this year. From 1955, it's full of the humor and whimsy one expects from a Duvoisin book. The opening endpapers are stamped "Discarded." Isn't that terribly sad?

The beginning of the book finds Santa raving. He cannot believe how many imposters are about in the world! With fake white beards! He is angry. He wants to put an end to all the fake Santas.

And so Santa goes on a rampage. He bustles about, yanking beards off many imposter Santas. Except for the Santa in the coffee shop - he gladly gives Santa his beard, as it's getting in the way of his coffee.

Santa returns to the North Pole, proudly showing off his haul to Mrs. Claus. One thousand white beards!

But Mrs. Claus is appalled. She reminds Santa that he is much too busy to be out and about in the world. It brings people joy to see Santa Claus, even if he's peddling Christmas trees or ringing a Salvation Army bell. Santa begins to regret his snatching of the beards. He wraps up each beard and mails them to their owners.

This was in the girls' Advent calendar bag on December 6, by the way: St. Nicholas Day!

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Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Richard Scarry, Little Golden Book)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Little Golden Book) by Barbara Shook Hazen, adapted from the story by Robert L. May, illustrated by Richard Scarry. Golden Press, 1958.

Christmas confession time: I am not a big fan of 1964's Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special. When I was little, it always felt too long. As an adult, it's just so flippin' weird - and too long. It wasn't on any of my dad's Christmas junk tapes, either, so it didn't get the repeat viewings that Frosty the Snowman or 'Twas the Night Before Christmas got.

But I loved the song. John Denver recorded it on Rocky Mountain Christmas, which spun on the turntable all Christmas long. I loved the original Gene Autry version, the swinging Dean Martin version, and yes, even Burl Ives. (I actually love Burl Ives.) I liked the Max Fleischer cartoon from 1948. The gawky deer (not really reindeer) were so cute. And I loved my Little Golden Book, a reprint from the '70s that made a nice companion to the cartoon, featuring illustrations by Richard Scarry.

My childhood copy disappeared long ago, but that's okay. I love this one: it's an original red-spined copy from the '50s! (See the lead photo.) It shares a space on my LGB rack with the current edition, starring the Rankin/Bass figures.

And here is the Max Fleischer cartoon from 1948. You can tell this is from a re-release: the song didn't come out until 1949. They tacked it on to the opening for reissues.

Before the cartoon or song or Little Golden Book versions ever existed, Rudolph was a character designed for Montgomery Ward in 1939. Robert L. May wrote the story as a booklet, published by the department store. Maxton Books would go on to publish the first mass-market edition of the book. Applewood Press has just released a new facsimile edition for Rudolph's 75th birthday. I was able to page through it at my local bookstore, but I had to resist it this time. I'm waiting for my library hold to come in, but I can tell you it's quite handsome and definitely worth looking at!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (75th anniversary facsimile edition)
by Robert L. May, illustrated by Denver Gillen. Applewood Press, 2014.
First published by Montgomery Ward, 1939.

While my Richard Scarry Little Golden Book version of Rudolph is no longer in print, we did pick up a newly reissued copy of Richard Scarry's Christmas Mice, originally published as a First Little Golden Book (with a different cover) in 1965. New Little Golden Books, old Little Golden Books...  If they fill my LGB rack and have popping artwork, I'll take them all.

Richard Scarry's Christmas Mice (Little Golden Book). First published as a First Little Golden Book by Golden Press, 1965. Reissued as a Little Golden Book by Golden Books / Random House, 2014.

How on earth can it be that Christmas is only three days away? What happened to December? Sigh.

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