Classic Children's Books That Make Great Christmas Presents
We’re never too old for picture books. Of course, it isn’t the same for everyone, but for many, illustrated books continue to have a profound effect on the way we recall our youth. Those halcyon days when imagination was unbridled and we were open to a magic that our later years often deny. Illustrated children’s books may often be short on page count but never the less remain one of the hardest books to write and achieve any modicum of success. They are a peculiar form of art in that it is only in the seamless melding of images to words that the magic transcends the page to spread by word of mouth. With Christmas fast approaching we asked our readers to recommend 5 classic picture books that would make great stocking fillers for children. The emphasis was on classics and we had over three thousand replies. They are stylistically different but each represents an author and illustrator who brings something magical to their pages and each one would make a Christmas present to be treasured.
So without further ado and in no particular order, let us delve into the first five:-
1 - We can’t believe any top five list of the best-illustrated children’s books would be complete without the glorious illustrative prowess of the late Maurice Sendak. Thoughts will invariably turn towards “Where The Wild Things Are” and we were a little surprised when The Sign on Rosie’s Door, received considerably more mentions. Exuding a timeless charm it’s a testament to Sendak's unique ability to integrate fantasy and reality in a way that children so readily relate to.
2 - The Polar Express: By any stretch of the imagination Chris Van Allsburg is an exceptional illustrator, but never better than in this magnificent Christmas tale that has been wielding a magical yule tide hold over readers of all ages ever since its publication. The illustrations are quite simply stunning and inject the simplicity of his words with a magical spark that so assuredly ignites the imagination. In the bell that might only be heard by those who still believe in Santa, older readers are left reflecting on a magic that all too readily fades with the years. This the true genius captured in the Polar Express, raising the spectre of expectation whilst leaving the reader hungry for an illusion, that must be forever confined to the pages of a book.
3 - The Prayer: A Christmas classic for every day of the year, is there anyone who's read this book by Stephan J Myers and not choked back a tear? With its simple but elegant watercolour illustrations, when it comes to the seamless melding of images to words that magically transcend the page, The Prayer is an undeniable masterpiece which manages to explore the profound and idealistic nature of Christmas from the perspective of a child who has nothing. An incredibly powerful story and life lesson, few parents will read it and not want to hold their children a little closer as they reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
4 – Hugo Cabret: Too many authors and illustrators come and go, but if one who is sure to withstand the yellowing of his portfolio, it is the very talented Mr. Brian Selznick. Hugo Cabret is an extravagant and infinitely elegant fantasy which radiates a brazen love for the magical perception and innocence of childhood. Fantastic, deceptively complex and a tad bizarre it stands both as a testament to the silent age of films and the ingenuity of a wonderfully creative mind. Rarely have black and white illustrations conveyed so much in the absence of words whilst imparting such depth of meaning. A hypnotic melody of images and words that never fails to capture the imagination, no matter how many times it is read.
5 – The Princess And The Pea: Although the tale has been told and illustrated countless times Child’s creative genius shines through. Eschewing traditional illustrations in favour of a series of three-dimensional miniature theatre sets which were photographed by Borland and creating a loving hybrid of style that is wholly engaging. A classic tale re-imagined with warmth and humour, Child seems to effortlessly capture that elusive magic so many authors/illustrators of children’s books strive for.
Every Christmas brings a must-read children's book but the timely magic of a real classic never fades. For discerning readers who want to give their children something truly special, these are our must-read recommendations. Enjoy!