Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’


Top 5 Christmas picture books

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

The Night Before Christmas? Sure! How The Grinch Stole Christmas? Of course! Those are wonderful picture books for December. But everyone knows those. Here are some great Christmas books for children that you might have missed if you live in The Netherlands. As an added bonus, these are all books that grown-ups won’t mind having to read again and again.

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This one ticks all the boxes for anyone who loves picture books: Gorgeous illustration? Check! Humor? Check! Interactive bits? Check! The Jolly Postman is delivering mail to fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. Each letter, card and gift is actually in the book, and can be taken from its envelope and read, and even played with! There’s a board game, a peep show, a jigsaw puzzle and lots more to discover, and the detail in the Janet Ahlberg’s whimiscal illustrations will keep you busy for hours.

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien

A few years ago I found a gorgeous facsimile edition of this book that – clearly inspired by The Jolly Christmas Postman – had the letters printed on separate sheets that could be removed from their envelopes. I wish I’d bought it now, because it really brought something special to Tolkien’s charming letters. Each year, he wrote a letter for his children, purporting to be from Father Christmas,  in which he detailed the latest exploits of the inhabitants of the North Pole. Each letter was decorated with fantastical illustrations drawn by J.R.R. himself. The letters seem terribly dated now, and were clearly written especially for his children rather than a wider audience, but they are quite funny and very entertaining, and full of the magic and fantasy you’d expect from the creator of The Hobbit.

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs

Briggs created the beautiful The Snowman and the disgusting Fungus The Bogeyman. Somewhere in between those two, is Father Christmas, an antidote to the thousands of sappy, sacharine Christmas books that are churned out for children. In this colorful comic book, we see Santa, sans suit, going about his daily business on December 24th – getting dressed, feeding the reindeer, even using the bathroom. Briggs’s Santa is the grandad next door: he does not live at the North Pole, or have hordes of elves to help him. In fact he’s even quite grumpy – and you would be too if you had to deliver millions of presents in one night on your own. But that’s the charm of this book which is 100% Raymond Briggs: magical and ordinary at the same time, and chock-full of chuckles.

Olivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer

The first Olivia book, with its Eloise-esque black and red illustrations and hyperactive, bossy heroine, was an immediate success when it was published. It was so fresh, in all sorts of ways, and like many other successful picture books,  it was full of knowing nods to parents. Olivia has had a few more books since then, and even her own cartoon show, but this is one of my favorites. Olivia and her family are getting ready for the arrival of Santa: setting the table, caroling at the piano, hanging up stockings, putting up the tree, going shopping, and keeping Santa Watch. There’s not much of a plot, and the text is spare, because the point here is to enjoy Olivia’s antics, and the clever and witty illustrations.

Olive The Other Reindeer by Otto J. Seibold and Vivian Walsh

Olive isn’t a reindeer. She’s a small terrier dog. Hopelessly confused by the line “all of the other reindeer” in the song Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, she runs away to the North Pole to see if she can join Santa’s team. Santa agrees to take Olive on, she’s hitched up to the sleigh with a red ribbon and soon makes herself indispensible, helping Santa and the reindeer out of all sorts of trouble. This is such a simple, happy, silly story; it’s really irresistible. The text is sharp, and begs to be read aloud, and the very cool and quirky illustrations are full of lovely little details.

Lit Links: our irregular round up of random book stuff

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

What we have learned this week:

1. PTRL told us about a new Tolkien that’s coming out in May. A new work that hasn’t been published before! The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is a reworking of a Norse epic poem, that Tolkien wrote before he even started on The Hobbit. It’s the perfect tale for Tolkien!

2. Sophie is all excited about two newly announced books:  Disconnected by P. J. Tracy (mother-daughter writers duo that pens tight thrillers with a big group of recurring characters) coming out in August 2009. And An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon. It’s part 7 in the Outlander series, need I say more?. That’s coming in September. “I loved all the other titles by both (or rather, all three of) these authors, and can heartily recommend them.  Will let you know about the new ones as soon as I get my hands on them!”

3. I learned how to make a purse out of a stack of old books.  It involves carving out the innards of three hardcovers, so you’d best not click that link if you really, really love books. But if you always wished that you could pull off the old fashioned way of carrying your schoolbooks in a bookstrap without it looking like you were just begging for a kick in the pants, then you’re going to really like this one.

4. Sigrid found out why we are so fascinated with US Literature. Actually, the writer doesn’t say why we are so fascinated, more like why she’s personally fascinated. But, that doesn’t matter, because she makes some really good points on the difference in cadence between US and UK English that makes one more attractive than the other.

5. Tiemen is discovering that  Young Adult fiction is a really fun section to buy for. He’s taking this section over in Amsterdam from the beginning of March, but actually he’s doing it already, and doing it really well.

Be nice to him now – put your books back on the shelf neatly so that they don’t tumble down onto the unsuspecting customers on the ground floor!

 7. Pleun found out that Dutch men aren’t quite ready to start working those balls…… of yarn. (Maybe they should read this.)  She’s reluctantly put two great craft titles into her bargain section in Amsterdam this week. First is a great bargain for the credit crunch: Son of Stitch ‘N Bitch – 45 Projects to Knit & Crochet for Men . Another great bargain Pleun has for you is The Knitting Man(ual). Pleun says, “Men are finally playing catch up with knitting and using the crochet needle! So don’t be embarrassed and get up to the first floor craft section and knit. 

8. The new postman bags have arrived! Con Tumely is amused by the fact that the latest edition of the ABC postman bags (free when you spend more than 50 euros, or buy something really heavy or are just very, very nice to us)  is a very fitting financial crisis black.

Personally, I’m sad to see the bright pink/blue edition go, but the black one is really neat. We’ve had: royal blue, bright blue, bright pink, red and bright green bags. Which color should we do next?

9. We found out that the Obama hats and t-shirts are back in stock in both stores! Including sparkly ones with rhinestones on them! We have tonnes of different designs and colors. But be warned – the coolest ones are always the first to go, and we’ve seen lots of ABC staff fondling them covetously.

10. Femke disappointed all the girls and honorary girls at ABC with the news that the divine products in Amsterdam’s Bobbi Brown window are fakes or – yuck! - have already been used on someone else! They will not be distributed among the girly girls. Not even if we make 1000 calorie mascara eyes at her.