Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas flights of fancy

Each year it seems there is a snowstorm of new Christmas books from publishers. Many are forgettable, but always there are some destined to stick around to become favorites. I included two (and one for Kwanzaa) in my News Tribune reviews linked below. Here are two more I didn't have space for.

The Christmas Giant
The Christmas Giant
By Steve Light
Candlewick, 32 pages
$15.99, ages 4 to 8

Humphrey the giant and Leetree the elf are best friends who live and work for Santa at the North Pole. Their regular job is making wrapping paper. Humphrey handles the big rolls, while Leetree is in charge of detail work. Kids will enjoy the invention here. The elf a paint-dipped tricycle to stripe one roll of paper and walks wearing Christmas tree stamps to decorate another.

This year, Santa (who comes up to Humphrey's knee) gives the pair a special assignment – growing the holiday tree for Christmastown. They're excited and take the job seriously. All goes well until it's time to bring the big tree to Christmastown. Then a big mishap forces the friends to come up with a creative Plan B.

Light's pen-and-ink and pastel illustrations have the look of wood cuts. They add to the considerable charm of a tale that celebrates friendship, creativity – and, of course, Christmas.

Captain Sky Blue
Captain Sky Blue
By Richard Egielski
Scholastic, 32 pages
$17.95, ages 4 to 8

Rarely is a Christmas story packed with so much action. Captain Sky Blue begins beneath the Christmas tree when Jack meets "his best toy pal," a pilot named Sky and together they build an airplane kit that Santa brought. Quickly the the tale leaves the living room as airborne adventures begin. At Jack and Sky are together, but soon there's a "MAYDAY!"

Sky's plane is wrecked. He bails in a parachute, blows far from home into the ocean. A whale, iceberg and North Pole trip later, he helps pilot Santa's sleigh through another emergency and lands back at Jack's in time for the next Christmas.

Caldecott Medalist Egielski's illustrations are big, bold and exciting. He sprinkles the text with lots of colorful pilot lingo, such as "goon up" (screw up) and "boards out" (brake flaps extended). There's a glossary on the endpapers, but it's fun to read the story aloud once first and see if you can guess what's going on.

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