I've particularly been focusing on adding books with black characters. It's positive for Eddie to see some of the world's diversity reflected in our collection, of course. But it's especially important to me that Marian be able to place herself easily within the stories, especially those depicting the Nativity. We're surrounded by white faces in the holiday decorations at the stores, in the holiday specials on television, in most of the nativity scenes we see, and every Santa in the mall. Our Christmas books, like the decorations in our own home, are one tiny way of pressing back against that. Here are some of our favorite Christmas books for the preschool-and-under set featuring African-Americans, Africans, and even a Jamaican family living in England.
|Christmas for 10 by Cathryn Falwell is a rhyming count-up story in the same style as her classic Feast for 10. It's a cutie-patootie book that's a good length for toddlers. With its bouncy text and happy children, it's been a favorite of both my kids.|
|How Many Miles To Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland and illustrated by Peter Malone, is a different take on the Christmas story. It assumes you know the basic plot and instead has everyone from the Magi to Jesus sharing small glimpses of what they're thinking and feeling. The Renaissance-style pictures depict a variety of ethnicities and Mary is brown-skinned with crimped hair. I thought the poetic style might be too abstract for little children, but something about it captivates my kids. (One heads up: Herod says he wants to rip Jesus away from his mother, which could be an intense image for some children.)|
|We read The Night Before Christmas before bed on Christmas Eve and I had almost given up on finding a version with a black Santa. So I was glad to discover this version by Rachel Isadora which pairs the classic text with images from across Africa. The collage-style pictures are full of energy and color. And Santa wears leopard print pants. So much fun.|
|Rachel Isadora's newest book illustrates the carol The 12 Days of Christmas. She again pulls images from different places in Africa: twelve men playing drums from Ghana and Nigeria, a woman wearing five "gold" neck rings in a style seen in parts of South Africa. The tone of the author's note at the end makes me twitch a little. But the pictures are vibrant and fun. And I may finally be able to learn all twelve days of the song!|
|I enjoy Margaret Wise Brown's (of Good Night Moon fame) version of the Nativity story in A Child Is Born, but it was the gorgeous illustrations by Floyd Cooper depicting an African Jesus, Mary, Joseph and angels that really drew me to this book. It has a picture of an adorable toddler Jesus that makes me want to nibble on his cheeks.|
|In Waiting for Christmas by Monica Greenfield with illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, a sister and brother can barely contain their excitement as they pass the time before Christmas Day doing little things like drinking hot cider with cinnamon sticks and looking for their presents "one more time". I love the little girl's braids. I also covet the pretty house in which they live.|
|Happy Christmas, Gemma, written by Sarah Hayes and illustrated by Jan Ormerod, makes us giggle. A big brother shares his family's Christmas activities--and reports on the ways his baby sister Gemma "helps". "First of all we made the Christmas pudding. I stirred the mixture and made a wish. Gemma threw the spoon on the floor." It was published in Great Britain, hence the "Happy Christmas" in the title.|
What are some of your favorites for small children?
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