cover image An Early American Christmas

An Early American Christmas

Tomie dePaola. Holiday House, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-0617-3

DePaola begins with a historical note that surely will intrigue children: in Colonial New England, the celebration of Christmas was shunned in many villages. He depicts the arrival of a German family into one such town, showing their careful, loving preparations. Their efforts begin in autumn, when bayberries are picked and candles made; they continue throughout the fall, until apples are dried and strung, cookies and pretzels are baked, ""hearts of man'' and other paper ornaments are snipped and, finally, candles are lit in every window. This provides a fascinating look at Christmas as it once was: a holiday whose customs were entwined with the season's natural bounty. The emphasis is on the joys of preparation and of quiet, heartfelt observance; refreshingly, gift-giving is not a concern. This is a warm and beautifully realized tribute to the spirit and traditions of the season. Ages 4-8. (October)