The Night Before Christmas (Lisbeth Zwerger)

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore,
illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger. Minedition, 2005.

As the Muppets sang, there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas! And it's the perfect time to show you another picture book version of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," aka "'Twas the Night Before Christmas!"

This one is illustrated by the amazing Lisbeth Zwerger, and was published the year Big Sis was born. It's a very small book, perfect for slipping into a stocking. My photos are mediocre to bad - did I mention the book is very small? - but I do so want to share it anyway!

I love the tall, big city dwelling. The tiny sleigh is especially enchanting next to it.

If you celebrate, then please, have a beautiful Christmas Eve night! 

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The Nutcracker 2016

Five more days until Christmas! And it's time for my annual Nutcracker post This year, both Big Sis and Little Sis danced in the Ballet Wichita production of The Nutcracker. Big Sis was a Ginger Cookie, popping out from under Mother Ginger's skirt. (The man who plays Mother Ginger is actually an old family friend, which made it especially sweet.) Little Sis made her debut at the top of Act II as a Baby Angel.

The 2016 program.

The ballet is double cast, to allow as many dancers as possible to have their turn. Baby Angels only perform in the main weekend production, but the rest of the cast went on tour to McPherson last weekend. There is also an hour long version performed for school field trip groups. Big Sis danced once in McPherson, and twice for the field trips. I sat through all four performances, plus brought the girls to the final matinee to see their friends, and yes, I have been humming Tchaikovsky to myself all week!

Did I mention we got snow the day of their big performance? It was blustery, blinding snow, and the temperatures hovered around three degrees all weekend!

We checked out several good Nutcracker books this year, and I'll post the information for those below, but I decided to focus on this beautiful rendition, a Christmas gift to the girls last year from my dad.

The Nutcracker by An Leysen.  Clavis Books, 2015.

If you were a reader of my blog last January, you may remember a gorgeous book called Pinocchio's Dream. This one is by the same illustrator, a Belgian artist named An Leysen. I adore her work, and these books, published by Belgian house Clavis Books, are handsomely done.

In this adaptation, the little girl is named Clara, like she is in so many ballet versions of the story. (She was Marie in the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story.) However, this version incorporates some of the plot from the original Hoffmann that is usually left out of the ballet, namely the story of Princess Pirlipat (spelled "Pierlepat" here) and the curse of the Nutcracker. It's simplified a bit, with Pierlepat spurning the soldier who saves her, thus transferring the curse to him.

The illustrations are so dreamy, and the text is fine for smaller children, but older children can appreciate it, too. (Mine do!)

As I said, we also checked out multiple books from the library and used bookstore this year. They each have something to recommend them.

I found My First Nutcracker, written by Stephanie True Peters and illustrated by Linda Bronson, at a used bookstore. I bought it for my nieces, as they were going to see the ballet for the first time this year. It has bright, sweet, swirly illustrations and served as a perfect introduction to the story the girls saw on the stage. It is out of print, but the store had multiple copies, so it shouldn't be too hard to find.

My First Nutcracker by Stephanie True Peters,
illustrated by Linda Bronson. Dutton, 2007.

A new book this year is Valeria Docampo's beautiful collaboration with the New York City Ballet, illustrating George Balanchine's celebrated version of the ballet. It's been featured on multiple book and parenting blogs lately.

The Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet,
illustrated by Valeria Docampo. Little Simon, 2016.

The same week we checked that one out from the library, we found this one in the children's bargain section at Barnes & Noble! It is also illustrated by Valeria Docampo, but it is a different book, based off the Hoffmann tale.

The Nutcracker, from the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann,
illustrated by Valeria Docampo. Parragon, 2016.

Last, thanks to interlibrary loan, we finally checked out The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Written by Chris Barton, and illustrated by Cathy Gendron, it tells the story of three brothers from Utah, who were the first to stage a full version of the beloved ballet in the United States. (Where? In San Francisco!)

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-LovingBrothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton, illustrated by Cathy Gendron. Millbrook Press, 2015.

For more Nutcracker goodness, check out my Pinterest board. All of my past Nut-related posts can be found here.

Anyone else see a production this year?

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A Trip To Gingerbread Land (St. Lucia Day)

A Treasury of Wintertime Tales: 13 Tales from Snow Days to Holidays,
edited by Noel Daniel, designed by Andy Disl. Taschen, 2014.

God Jul!

It is December 13: St. Lucia Day. Our month is racing by, with little time to stop and reflect. Much of this is our own doing. Both girls are in The Nutcracker, and this is production week. It is also the last week of school for the year. Due to our state's ridiculous tax and budget issues, our school district chose to make the school days longer, start the year later, end the year earlier, and take longer breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Big Sis's 5th grade show (performing arts magnet, remember) is also this Thursday, so I know she is exhausted. Money is short this year, and we decided to skip Lucia Fest in Lindsborg again. I did make Lucia buns this morning, though! And I have a book to share. A book-within-a-book, really.

A Trip to Gingerbread Land by Einar Nerman, 1939.

Last year, I posted about this beautiful book by Taschen that I got in Washington, DC. A Treasury of Wintertime Tales is full of gorgeously illustrated vintage books from international sources, bound in one handsome volume. One story, A Trip to Gingerbread Land, takes place around St. Lucia Day. It is by Einar Nerman, a popular illustrator, author, and composer from Sweden. It was first published in the United States by Whitman in 1939.

Liza and Peter are helping their mother make gingerbread cookies. It is the night before St. Lucia Day. Their mother leaves the kitchen, warning them not to eat the dough. Alas, the children fail to heed her warning, and after eating the dough, are sent to bed.

That night, a gingerbread goat, much larger than the one they made that evening, appears. It takes the children on a magical flight to Gingerbread Land!

They are greeted by a land where everything and everybody is made of gingerbread, even the animals in the zoo! What's more, everywhere they go they are given gingerbread to eat.

The children are feeling pretty full, but it would be rude to refuse, right?

Finally, the goat takes them to see the King of Gingerbread Land, who serves them a banquet dinner full of gingerbread. Every time they finish a bite, the servants bring more. The children try to tell them no more, but they are so full, they can hardly speak!

At last, they come home. They are awakened from their fitful slumber by St. Lucia. She tries to serve them their gingerbread, and doesn't believe them when they tell her about their overnight journey.

But there on the plate is the gingerbread goat, and Liza and Peter are certain they see it wink its raisin eye at them.

So my Lucia buns were tasty, and now I'm craving gingerbread...

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The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present

The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present by Harriet Muncaster.
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016.

I should have saved this one for Little Sis to review, as it is her favorite right now! She was already such a fan of Harriet Muncaster's Witch's Cat books, but this one really has her name written all over it!

It's about a little girl named Clementine. An extraordinary little girl...

... because Clementine is extraordinarily little!

She is so tiny that she bathes in a teacup and sleeps in a matchbox. Unfortunately, Santa Claus hasn't figured that out yet.

He brings her presents that would be perfect, if only they were scaled to her size! Her fairy dress-up set is lovely. One of the shoes replaces the matchbox as her bed!

Her mother suggests they write a message to Santa with icing on a gingerbread cookie. Santa doesn't get the message. He leaves a puppy!

She writes a message in the snow on her roof, but Santa misses that one, too.

(I joked with Little Sis that I could see her happily standing in the middle of a giant paintbox, too.)

At last, Clementine's parents have the perfect idea. They leave photos of Clementine enjoying her massive gifts through the years.

And this time, Santa leaves her another enormous present. Only this one turns out to be perfect for her. Can you guess what it might be?

Harriet Muncaster wrote on her blog that this was her first full-color 2D-illustrated picture book. While I adore her 3D stuff (those Witch's Cat books!), this book is just as whimsical and charming. We borrowed this one via interlibrary loan (thank you, Derby Public Library, just south of us!), but Little Sis has requested her own copy!

By the way, Harriet Muncaster's Instagram is one of my favorites!

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