December 15, 2011


Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas. By Jane O’Connor. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. Harper. $17.99.

The Happy Elf. By Harry Connick, Jr. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Harper. $17.99.

A Christmas Goodnight. By Nola Buck. Illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins. $12.99.

Pinkalicious: The Princess of Pink Treasury. By Victoria Kann. Harper. $19.99.

     Old or new, secular or religious, books that bask in the spirit of Christmas – which is to say, the spirit of good will, whether within or outside religious traditions – are always welcome. And they can be a genuine delight, as is Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas, originally published in 2009 and now available in a new, fancier-than-ever edition. Jane O’Connor’s Christmastime story of the perky little girl who loves big words, French phrases and tremendously overdone clothing and decorations is just wonderful, and Robin Preiss Glasser’s illustrations are as near-perfect as any illustrations can be. From the opening contrast between the ordinary, non-fancy everyday house and the overdone-but-wonderful Christmas-decorated house, through the story of waiting for Grandpa in order to decorate the tree, to the book’s crisis of a broken tree-topper and its solution through creation of a handmade someday-to-be-heirloom, this is a book brimming with Christmas spirit and, equally important, with Fancy Nancy’s spirit – which, in any season, is indomitable (that’s fancy for “can’t keep her down”).

     There are warmth and humor of a different sort in The Happy Elf, a brand-new book based on a holiday song that is included, sung by Harry Connick, Jr., on a CD. For those who don’t know the song, it is about Eubie, the happiest of all elves, who finds when checking the naughty-or-nice list that there is an entire town where not a single person has been nice. Determined to find out what is wrong and fix it, Eubie breaks “the most important rule” by using magic away from the North Pole. He discovers the problem, but is caught by Santa – who takes away his magic hat. But thanks to his friend Gilda, Eubie is able to return to the town of Bluesville, bringing a hearty dose of Christmas cheer, and this time when he is caught, he finds out that “there is one rule…that is even more important than the most important rule” – the result being a happy ending for all. Yes, this is a somewhat soupily sentimental story, maybe even a bit overdone, but being overly sentimental is one part of what Christmas is all about.

     Another part – the biggest one for some families – is celebrating the holiday through the Nativity, and that is what A Christmas Goodnight does. Simple, mildly poetic text by Nola Buck is combined with sensitive and tender illustrations by Sarah Jane Wright to produce a story that starts with the biblical tale of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus, with angels above and “weary Wise Men” visiting the manger – then switches midway to a modern country scene, with a bright and starry night and a full moon illuminating a farm as a mother and little boy look through the window at gently falling snow. The repeated “goodnight” lines of the first half of the book (to “the tired donkey,” “the smallest sparrow” and so on) now return in the context of the family’s crèche, as the little boy puts baby Jesus to sleep on the dresser by the window, then falls quietly and peacefully asleep himself. The result is a sweet bedtime story for Christmas Eve, or anytime in the Christmas season.

     Now, pink is not a Christmas color – it is, if anything, more closely associated with Easter – but Pinkalicious is a colorful delight in any season, and if The Princess of Pink Treasury is not about Christmas, it would certainly make a wonderful Christmas gift for pink-loving girls. Intended for “ages 1-Pinkfinity,” the book includes five complete Pinkalicious stories by Victoria Kann, a CD in which all the tales are read by Eliana Shaskan, and a whole slew of bonuses and special activities. There are jump-rope rhymes, tips on making new friends, find-the-differences pages, indoor winter activities, “jokes to tickle you pink” (with hints on how to tell them), rebuses and more. The full-length stories, originally published between 2006 and 2010, are School Rules, Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink, Pink around the Rink, Tickled Pink and Pinkie Promise, and it is certainly possible that families containing a Pinkalicious fan already have all of them. But Christmas can be, among other things, a time to splurge a bit, and since the CD and bonus items here are completely new, The Princess of Pink Treasury could be just the thing for a bright and happy Christmas morning – especially if the original books have become a bit worn through many enthusiastic readings. Christmas may be more about the colors red and green, but this is one book that is sure to have fans of Kann’s charming character in the pink.

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