Children's Christmas Books: New Versions of Old Classics

Filed under: Books for Kids

Every holiday season sees several new renditions of the classic Christmas stories '"Twas the Night Before Christmas" and "A Christmas Carol." One really has to wonder how many times those same pieces of text can be re-illustrated. But as unnecessary as they may seem, there are always versions that stand out.

christmas stories

Credit: Amazon

This year, my pick for out-loud readings of the ubiquitous Clement C. Moore poem is a bit of a dark horse. I chose the new hardcover reissue of Mercer Mayer's 1992 "Little Critter's The Night Before Christmas" (Sterling, $10). Some may say Mayer dumbed it down, but you can just as easily argue that he eased up the archaic language. References to "St. Nick" have been replaced with the much more modern-kid-friendly "Santa Claus" and the stanza about the big man's pipe smoking has vanished as mysteriously as those cookies left out by the fireplace. Sure, Mayer has tinkered with canonical literature here, but be honest: Haven't you made on-the-fly edits like that yourself?

christmas stories

Credit: iTunes

As for Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," the new iPad edition by PadWorx DIgital Media ($5) is really worth checking out. At nearly a hundred pages, it's got the majority of the original text intact, but you have to work to see it all. The scene in Bob Cratchit's unheated office is so cold, for instance, that the words on the page have frozen up, and you, the reader, have to wave around the one warm coal Scrooge has supplied you with in order to melt them. And watching the foreboding figure of Scrooge tromp down the page, and seeing the lines of text part to make a path for him, as if even Dickens' words themselves were afraid of the man? Well, that's just cool. There's some pretty spooky imagery in there, though (and tough Dickensian language), so use judgment before sharing it with little kids.

christmas stories

Credit: Amazon

One more holiday poem that deserves to be more of a classic than it is, is e.e. cummings's lovely "Little Tree" from 1923. Read it and you'll see that it could very well have been the inspiration for that also-classic heartwarming finale of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Dragonfly Books just reissued a neat little paperback version of the poem ($6) with gorgeous, emotion-laden colored pencil illustrations by Deborah Kogan Ray (art that itself has been out of print for 16 years). The pictures give in an urban setting, but this tale about adopting a pipsqueak of a Christmas tree and turning it into a bit of yuletide glory is pretty universal.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.