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Top 10 Children's Christmas Picture Books of 2005 and 2006

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If you are looking for the best children's Christmas picture books of the year, these are my choices for 2005 and 2006. Both the illustrations and the story in each of these picture books are of high quality.

1. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve

Dennis Nolan’s lovely, soft focus watercolors complement the lyrical text by Pam Muñoz Ryan. It’s often hard for young children, who are used to cold weather and snow during the winter, to understand how very different it was on the first Christmas. By starting with scenes of three children in the snow and contrasting that modern scene with text, then artwork and text, the reader is transported to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. (Hyperion Books for Children, 2005. ISBN: 0786854928)
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2. One Splendid Tree

"One Splendid Tree" cover art
Marilyn Helmer's story, with photo-collage artwork by Dianne Eastman, takes place during WW II, but it will have special meaning for any family with a parent away on active duty with the military. While Daddy is away, Hattie and Junior and Momma are living in a city apartment. Despite missing Daddy, the two children transform an old plant into a splendid Christmas tree, and in the process, create a friendly community of tenants and a festive Christmas. (Kids Can Press, 2005. ISBN: 1553376838)
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3. Dear Santa Claus

Three- to six-year-olds love Dear Santa Claus by Alan Durant. The story is about a little girl, Holly, her correspondence with Santa, and a wish that comes true. Holly’s wish, to help Santa as he delivers Christmas gifts, is a wish many young children share. In addition to the appealing watercolor illustrations by Vanessa Cabban, throughout the book there are envelopes with letters from Santa in them. Some even include special treats. (Candlewick Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780763628291)
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4. Aunt Olga’s Christmas Postcards

Kevin Major’s story will appeal to older kids and adults. Despite the age difference and the fact that Great-Great Aunt Olga “isn’t as sharp as she used to be,” young Anna and the 95-year-old Olga are very close. When Anna visits, Olga shares stories and her postcard collection. There is poignancy to one life just getting started while the other is nearing an end. The artwork combines pen and ink sketches by Bruce Roberts with historical postcards. (House of Anansi Press, 2005. ISBN: 0888995938)
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5. Merry Christmas, Merry Crow

At dusk on a snowy day, a crow flies through the festively decorated town in Kathi Applet’s rhyming story. Flying to and fro, the crow collects all kinds of things, including: “A shiny ring/A piece of string/A length of garland glimmering.” With all of these treasures and some birdseed, the crow creates a special Christmas tree for all the birds. The artwork, paintings in oil and acrylic on canvas, by Jon Goodell, is rich with color and detail. (Harcourt, Inc., 2005. ISBN: 0152026517)
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6. Christmas Remembered

Tomie dePaola, the author and/or illustrator of more than 200 children's books, has written and illustrated a wonderful reminiscence of Christmas over the years. Growing up in an exuberant Irish-Italian family, dePaola shares warm memories of family celebrations, beginning in the 1930s when he was a young child. His stories continue through the 1990s. My favorites include his story of the family's first television set, the Christmas he received art supplies from everyone, and the Christmas he worked in a candy shop. This is a book both older children and adults will enjoy.(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2006. ISBN: 9780399246227)
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7. Through the Animals' Eyes: A Story of the First Christmas

The dramatic artwork in Through the Animals' Eyes is by award-winning artist Christopher Wormell, an English wood-engraver. The Bible story of Mary and Joseph's trip to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus is told from the perspective of the animals encountered on the way and in Bethlehem. The wood-engravings are exceptional and the simple text complements the artwork. This is a beautiful book, one I recommend for all ages. (Running Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780762426690)

8. Little One, We Knew You'd Come

The dramatic illustrations by Welsh artist Jackie Morris, watercolors with gold leaf accents, first captured my attention. Sally Lloyd-Jones' rhythmic text, with its repeating lines and phrases, creates a mood of wonder and expectation surrounding the birth of Jesus. The muted colors of the illustrations, the emphasis on nature in the details and borders, and the story emphasize the love Mary and Joseph felt for Jesus. I recommend Little One, We Knew You'd Come for all ages. (Little, Brown, and Company, 2006. ISBN: 0316523917)
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9. When Christmas Came

In a small town church, a minister stares anxiously out the window. He's worried no one will make it through the blizzard to the Christmas Eve service. With a minimum of words and some repeating lines, author Eileen Spinelli describes all who come, starting with a starling, followed by, among others, the custodian, a cat, a little boy and his mother, the organist, a soloist, and a stranger, enough so that "Christmas comes." Illustrator Wayne Parmeter captures the swirling storm outside and the warmth within. I recommend this book for three- to six-year-olds. (Ideals Children's Books, 2006. ISBN: 0824955072)
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10. Baby Christmas

Baby Christmas is unhappy because Father Christmas is getting ready to leave to deliver gifts. To cheer him up, Mother Christmas dresses Baby Christmas up and puts him in a little sleigh, along with a bag of toys. The young reindeer Rudolph, Jr. is hooked up to the sleigh. Suddenly, the reindeer's nose lights up, a sign that he is now old enough to fly. That's when the fun begins! The amusing story and the cheery watercolor and pencil illustrations fill the pages with color and fun. This is a good just-before-Christmas bedtime story for young children. (Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 2006. ISBN: 0764159984)
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