a menagerie of merry Christmas stories

Oodles of charming animals coming your way to wish you a merry Christmas…

santa claus and the three bears cover imageSanta Claus and the Three Bears, by Maria Modugno, illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer
published in 2013 by Harper

The three bears are off on another excursion while their breakfast cools, but this time it’s not Goldilocks who drops in…it’s Santa.

santa claus and the three bears illustration dyer

The charming, Scandinavian cottage, hefty polar bears, and jolly St. Nick are irresistible! There are lots of riffs on Goldilocks but this one is a stand-out. Great fun for ages 2 and up.

harvey hare's christmas cover imageHarvey Hare’s Christmas, written and illustrated by Bernadette Watts
first published in Switzerland; first U.S. edition 1999 by NorthSouth Books

Dear Postman Harvey has his work cut out for him with the piles of packages and letters to deliver at Christmastime. In fact, it all gets a bit overwhelming.

harvey hare's christmas illustration bernadette watts

His animal friends happily pitch in, but one inventive mail-delivery-system after another breaks down, until a small catastrophe brings about a glad and surprising solution! Sweet and woodsy for ages 2 and up.

babar and father christmas cover imageBabar and Father Christmas, written and illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff, translated by Merle S. Haas
published in 1940 by Random House

In this vintage gem, Babar sets out to find Father Christmas and request that he pay a visit to the Elephant’s country.

It’s a complicated search, but with the help of a little dog named Duck (!) and Professor William Jones, Babar finally arrives to a forest full of little mountain dwarfs and the quaint lodgings of Father Christmas himself.

babar and father christmas illustration jean de brunhoff

 There’s a whole lot more journeying to do, though, before the crew arrives to brighten the holiday for the Elephants. Such a delight, for ages 4 or 5 and up.

a homemade together christmas cover imageA Homemade Together Christmas, written and illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
published in 2015 by Albert Whitman & Company

Little Luca, Momma, Dad, and sister Rosie, have decided to exchange homemade gifts this year.

a homemade together christmas illustration maryann cocca-leffler

That’s an exciting plan, and there are lots of mysterious bustlings around the house, but Luca just feels more and more anxious: What on earth can such a little pig make for her family? See for yourself in this dear, warmhearted story for ages 2 and up.

the tailor of gloucester cover imageThe Tailor of Gloucester, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter
published in 1903 by F. Warne & Co.

Did you know one of Beatrix Potter’s stories is set at Christmastime? It’s an elegant and lengthy tale.

It takes place, “in the time of swords and periwigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets — when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta.” Just in case you think Miss Potter’s stories are only for the very young! In fact, I had to look up “paduasoy.” It’s heavy, embossed silk. So.

the tailor of gloucester illustration beatrix potter

Read about the gentle, old tailor of Gloucester, the tragedy of his last groat, and the busy, tiny, seamstresses that change his fortunes one Christmas Day. A wonderful story for ages 6 and up.

the christmas tale of peter rabbit cover imageThe Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Emma Thompson, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor
published in 2013 by Frederick Warne

Are you aware that actress Emma Thompson has been writing a few Further Adventure type stories about Peter Rabbit? 

I am usually a stubborn purist but I will say that she has worked hard to preserve the piquant vocabulary and sort of raised-eyebrow stance towards the characters in this little world, and though it is not Beatrix’s classic work, it does echo her sense and charm.

the christmas tale of peter rabbit illustration eleanor taylor

This story involves Peter and Benjamin Bunny and a friend of theirs who is in mortal danger at Christmastime — William the turkey.  The illustrations are very dear and again imitate Potter’s style. A thrilling and happy tale for ages 3 and up.

a letter for bear cover imageA Letter for Bear, written and illustrated by David Lucas
published in 2013 by Flying Eye Books

Last but not least, this small story of another postman, this time a Bear, who delivers gobs of letters at Christmastime but, sadly, does not receive a single one.

a letter for bear interior david lucas

Bear has a great idea of how to draw some cheer into his lonely cave and it works even better than he imagines! A brief and cheery story that may help inspire some post-holiday thank-you-note writing — always a good idea. And such peppermint-flavored artwork everywhere!