Inside SFS

Holiday Reads for the Whole Family

The SFS staff recommended some of their favorite holiday books for all ages, perfect for winter break!

With winter break in sight, one of the things I am looking forward to the most is curling up with my kids to read a few good holiday books. If I am being honest, sadly, the “curl up and read” part is probably still only cool with our five year old. Nevertheless, I can’t wait! At the top of our list will be the classic Ezra Keats story, The Snowy Day. There is something about the excitement that comes with the first snowfall that makes me feel like a kid all over again…crunch, crunch, crunch. There are so many great holiday books for all ages - so I decided to ask the SFS staff to share some of their favorites.

Twas the Night Before Christmas (original name: A Visit from St. Nicholas) by Clement C. Moore, an 1820s poem that has more than 1000 versions, is a favorite for many staff members. Some historians have attributed our idea of Santa having reindeer to the poem, and many credit it for our modern vision of what Santa Claus looks like - rosy cheeks, button nose, “broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.”

Brave Irene by William Steig is a wintry favorite for one of our elementary teachers. She shared that her grandmother would read to her every time she visited around the holiday season. She said, “It doesn’t specifically talk about holidays, but it takes place during winter and has a holiday vibe. I like it because the main character is a young girl who steps up to help her sick mother delivering a dress to the ball. She experiences many obstacles along the way, but never gives up!”

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel, a fun twist on the ancient Hanukkah story, substitutes holiday-hating hobgoblins who are determined to ruin Hanukkah for the villagers - but they didn’t count on clever Hershel foiling their plans! Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon is great for older picture book readers through adults, and follows the story of World War II refugee Oskar arriving by ship in New York City on the seventh night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, with only a photograph and address for an aunt he doesn’t know. This is a great book to help reflect on the experiences of those who are far from home - as some in our own community are - and to commit to helping everyone feel welcome this holiday season.

For Kwanzaa, one beloved tale is Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis, which highlights the seven principles of Kwanzaa through the story of seven Ashanti brothers. The brothers, who argue with each other day and night, are given a challenge by their father: in order to claim their legacy, they must spin seven spools of thread to gold - without quarreling! The Kwanzaa principles help them cooperate to overcome the challenge together; for instance, they demonstrate the principle of cooperative economics by teaching their whole village how to weave patterned kente cloth.

Caldecott Medal winner and new(er) Christmas classic The Polar Express is beloved by many staff families, about a little boy journeying by train to the North Pole…but really, about how important it is to still believe in the possibility of magic. Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street) wrote another newer classic, Miracle on 133rd Street, about a Puerto Rican family helping their entire apartment building reclaim the holiday spirit.

However you spend the next couple of weeks away from 300 Gaven Street, I wish you and yours a wonderful and safe winter break, and a happy New Year. See you in 2018!

Posted December 15, 2017