Subtlety and Christmas Mice

I can't tell you how many books there are out there that forget what I think is the point of a picture book: to engage a child's imagination in a beautiful way.  I suppose the logic is that if you put some colorful characters on paper, a child will be more receptive to the "message" that the author wants to get across.  The effect of this is thousands of well-meaning but poorly executed books on manners, virtues, going to the doctor, anger therapy, and yes even (maybe especially!) religion.

I always find it such a joy to discover a book where the "message" may be there, but it is so artfully made that the story is engaging enough without having to convince children to pick it up and read it.  The message may be obvious as in the exquisite What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do You Do, Dear? books... where manners are taught but in such an unexpected and fun way that a child simply has to love it.  Or there are other books which weave in a message within the story without preaching at the child.  Think of Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs which isn't designed to be a bereavement therapy program... but it is nonetheless.  This is where the art of subtlety comes in.  Some authors have it. Others don't.

A relevant case right now is in the world of Christmas picture books. I think there are many categories of books—indeed something to suit everyone— within this genre and all have their place, whether you're looking for a beautifully illustrated Nativity story or a thought provoking piece of history.  But I've slowly come to realize something about myself in this category: my very favorite books are ones that are fun or sweet but have a hint toward the spiritual meaning of the holiday. I don't necessarily need the full blown preaching on the gift of Jesus. I don't need the tear jerker "true spirit of Christmas" charity-toward-the-poor or the be-kind-to-others story. I don't even need the cutesy board books so much.  What I do need... what are my very favorites... are the picture books that tell a lovely story and then somehow the reader is left with a little warm feeling inside that there is something special going on here. And the child doesn't need to be told how to felt. And the child may feel just a twinge of wonder after the book is closed.  It's the same way I feel about music. My very favorite music is definitely not overtly "Christian"... but it is heartfelt and full of depth and meaning and the complexity of human nature. Off the top of my head, when I think of the Christmas books in this category they mostly involve the humble little mouse! How funny that mice are such dear, beloved creatures warming their cute paws by the fire in picture books... but in real life they are loathed and hunted. But I digress:

Mousekin's Christmas Eve
Mortimer and the Christmas Manger (a quite similar book to Mousekin, only newer and cheaper)
The Little Drummer Mouse
Drummer Boy (not a mouse... but a wee, dear toy instead)

a new policy in saving the world...

I had fun giving away a couple saint books this last week. I get just as much joy as the recipients must get from winning I think. I want to do giveaways more. I especially like how 'small beans' my following is here to the point that I can write entries on a whiteboard and have a 3 year old point to a name to choose a winner. No raffle-copter technology need apply when you didn't go into blogging to make it big time.

The point is this: my Amazon affiliate money is now going to be turned right back around to my audience. Unless by some absurd stroke of fate, I start to generate revenue in the thousands of dollars, I am delighted to use my average $15 - $20 per quarter or so to decide to purchase and give away whatever strikes my fancy at the time.

I get to give great books.
It doesn't cost me a thing.
I am happy to know that bookshelves all over are being filled with beautiful things.
It's my mission to bring beauty into the world.

Beauty is evangelization.

And as Dostoevsky said: "Beauty will save the world."

So my link clicks are now dedicated to saving the world.

Carry on...

Double Giveaway!

****CONTEST CLOSED!!!**** 
 I love how my dinky blog gives people a pretty decent chance of winning; how fun is that?!

The winners were chosen by two non-literate children (Henry needs a haircut; don't mind him):

"Hidden Fern" wins the St. Nicholas board book!

"Sarah O." wins the Guadalupe book!

Please contact me asap to get these books shipped out to you: knowloveserve  at   gmail

Thanks for playing everyone!

I have been blessed to receive infrequent but delightful gift card announcements from amazon every few months from this blog.  Your clicks and purchases have added an incredibly fun bonus for me to opine on one of my favorite subjects, which I'd happily do for free anyway.  For that, I am taking this latest reward amount (which was small but exciting) and turning it right back to you...

Kindly leave a comment sharing one of your favorite Advent traditions and I'll have a high-tech method (child's hand reaching in hat) of choosing a winner for two different copies of a couple of our favorite books celebrating the feasts of St. Nicholas and Our Lady of Guadalupe coming up this week and next.

Deadline for both is Thursday, December 4th by noon, PST.

Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend:  This board book is always a happy sight to see in our "baby book basket" this time of year.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: There are a few great versions of this tale; this one is our favorite for its realism and nicely done art.


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