Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
When Brenda asked me to blog about a favorite holiday tradition, I knew just what it would be. You see, you’ll soon be curling up on the couch to nap, watch football, and dream about turkey sandwiches. Me? I’ll be shaking off my food coma to spend my evening wrapping presents. Am I crazypants? Well, yes. But, not in this instance. Wrapping these gifts in the last few days of November signals the start of our holiday season.
There are twenty-four in all.
And each one is a book.
When I was a little girl, every Christmas Eve would find my younger sister and me in Dad’s lap, listening intently to The Night Before Christmas. He’d read the words, we’d wonder aloud who the heck would go to bed wearing a kerchief, and then we’d scramble upstairs to our own sugarplum dreams. That book became linked to some of my happiest childhood memories and I knew, when I had children of my own, that I wanted to give them the same gift. But, ya know—in the spirit of modern parenting—even better. And bigger.
So, five years ago, when my twin boys were six and my daughter was a toddler, I collected every holiday-themed book we owned (some handed down, some bought by us), wrapped them all up, and stuck them under the tree on December 1st. We didn’t quite have twenty-four, so I supplemented with a few favorites (after all, what says “peace on earth” better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Attack?) I brought my wide-eyed children in to peer at the tree and explained that we would open one each night until we reached Christmas Eve. I’d wrapped the recordable Hallmark book that has my dad reading The Night Before Christmas in a different colored paper, so we knew which to open last. Needless to say, our literary advent calendar was a huge success.
This will mark our sixth year and we’ve since amassed enough holiday books (with the help of friends and neighbors who’ve donated generously to our collection) to open TWO books a night. Come December 26th, those books will get packed away, where they’ll wait to be discovered anew next year.
In the early years, it was all about ripping the paper off those presents, regardless of what lived inside. That was when they were extra little and read-alouds at bedtime happened every day of the year. My boys are eleven now. They’re still hanging on to Santa, but I suspect this will be the last year for that (believe me, I never imagined we’d have the birds and the bees talk BEFORE the Santa talk!) These days they head off to bed with dense books that, if dropped, could take off a toe or two. But each night in December they will happily curl close on the couch with me, my husband, and their sister to flip the pages of Charlie Brown Christmas. Can a mom of soon-to-be-teens ask for any better present? The unwrapped books stay under the tree all season and I’ll often find the three of them paging through The Velveteen Rabbit or laughing at Olive the Other Reindeer (when they take a break from Minecraft, that is). Of course, it just goes to show, none of us are ever too old for picture books. Most importantly to me, though, is that I know when my children think back on their childhood, books will be a huge part of those precious memories.
I hope you and yours find some stolen moments to enjoy the season and I hope some special stories are included in them. Wishing everyone a happy, peaceful and magical holiday season!
(Now, where’s my tape dispenser. AND WHO TOOK THE GOOD SCISSORS!?!)
Jennifer Malone is a contemporary middle grade and YA writer with a love of juvenile pop culture (if it was an ABC Family Movie, she probably can quote it). Her debut AT YOUR SERVICE will be published Summer 2014 by Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin imprint. She also teaches in the Film program at Boston University, drawing on her experiences as former New England Head of Publicity and Promotions for 20th Century Fox and Miramax Films. You can find out more about Jennifer at http://www.jenmalonewrites.com/. Follow her on Twitter (@jenmalonewrites).
And make sure to add AT YOUR SERVICE to your Goodreads shelf. I cannot wait for this release! check out the wonderfully fun cover!