By Emily Leeson & Hilary Drummond
Choosing the perfect tree, hanging the stockings, untangling twinkle lights, madly rushing around town in search of the perfect gift – the holidays are all about making and partaking in traditions. Some are easier than others. In the midst of trying to make a yule-log that doesn’t collapse under its own weight, or convincing a toddler that they DO want a photograph with that strange-looking man named Santa, one of the most rewarding family traditions is sometimes overlooked: reading… together! Cuddling up with that special Christmas story, something new or something cherished year after year, is just the right way to end a day during the holiday season. In Nova Scotia, it may be more important than ever for families to make a tradition out of reading together. In 2014 the Nova Scotia’s Children & Youth Vital Signs report found that only 75% of Grade Six students met expectations for reading – the lowest recorded score in the past five years.
This time of year, any local bookshop or library will be bursting with Christmas books for any age. In fact, we are lucky enough to have our own crop of Nova Scotian Christmas titles. If you are interested in reading and sharing something local this year, here are a few suggestions:
Babies & Toddlers:
A gentle poem describing the journey of a rural mail-sleigh delivering packages and parcels to children, Christmas with the Rural Mail is a holiday classic. The poem is carefully crafted to fit Maud Lewis’ colourful paintings, and the mail-sleigh passes children skiing and tobogganing, oxen and Clydesdale horses pulling heavy loads, and the train station, among other classic rural winter scenes.
A Bluenose Twelve Days of Christmas by Bruce Nunn, illustrations by Doretta Groenendyk
“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: five highland flings! Four coal seams, three lobster traps, two fiddle tunes, and a Bluenose at the Pier Three.” The Twelve Days of Christmas gets a taste of Nova Scotian revelry in this energetic retelling by storyteller Bruce Nunn. With Doretta Groenendyk’s charming and funny illustrations, readers young and old will want to read – and sing! – this version of the carol every Christmas.
Snow for Christmas! written and illustrated by Doretta Groenendyk
This is the simple story of an extended family gathering on Christmas Eve. When asked what he wants for Christmas, a boy responds, “Snow.” This response sparks a flood of reminiscences from the family, each with a colourful, joyful illustration. At the conclusion, when asked why he wished for snow, the boy responds, “Because snow brings stories.”
Buddy the Bluenose Reindeer by Bruce Nunn, illustrations by Brenda Jones
First heard on CBC radio, Buddy the Bluenose Reindeer became an instant Maritime Christmas classic. Buddy is sad because despite his best efforts, he just can’t fit in with Nick Klaus’ fishing crew on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Santa, that normally jolly proprietor of Christmas cheer, is worried because his star performer, the famous Rudolph, is sick with a bad cold! How will Santa and Buddy set everything right?
The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t by Budge Wilson
In Nova Scotia in 1941, Izzie Publicover, her brother, and their friends prepare for a very special Christmas. Despite wartime rationing and the infrequency of winter visits, the Publicover children’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins are coming for Christmas. But plans go awry two days before Christmas when a huge storm hits the village. Can Izzie figure out a way to save Christmas for everyone?
A Christmas Dollhouse by Richard Rudnicki
Dot’s father has work, but her mother is terribly sick and there is no money for presents this Christmas. In town Dot sees a beautiful dollhouse that is being raffled away, but her family doesn’t even have a dollar for the contest entry fee. A Christmas Dollhouse is about hope in the face of hardship and about communities taking care of each other. Set in Nova Scotia during the Great Depression, this is a story that will appeal to anyone who believes in the magic of Christmas.
Trouble Twins Save Christmas by Tom Schwarzkopf
It’s December in Mahone Bay, but it sure doesn’t look like it. There’s no snow on the ground, no decorations downtown, and nobody seems particularly festive. And when Mr. Woodward, the editor of the newspaper, falls seriously ill, it goes from bad to worse. Enter Angela and Emmie, the infamous Trouble Twins, who decide that they can help. They’re juggling schoolwork, newspaper work, and – perhaps scariest of all – boys. Can they handle everything they’ve taken on, or have they finally bitten off more than they can chew? Will they be able to save Christmas for Mahone Bay, and for themselves?
Easily shared by everyone:
A collection of beloved Maritime Christmas stories in one beautiful book for children. From the hilarious “Gadzooks the Christmas Goose” to the heartwarming “A Christmas Dollhouse”, each carefully selected story highlights another aspect of the Christmas season. Love, family, and the natural world are all celebrated in this gorgeous treasury.
The Christmas Secret: An Atlantic Canada Christmas Reader edited by Dan Soucoup
The Christmas Secret is a homemade collection featuring twenty tales of Atlantic Christmases past and present, plucked from the memories and traditions of local lore. This edition features a veritable buffet of holiday celebrations and experiences, from the heartwarming holidays inside a lighthouse on Bon Portage Island, to a struggling Cape Breton coal mining community.
Mary Morrison’s Cape Breton Christmas by Bette MacDonald
For years, Bette has delighted audiences with her irreverent and lovable Cape Breton character Mary Morrison. Now Mary is here to entertain readers with her stories and memories of the Christmas season. Mary Morrison’s Cape Breton Christmas is a treasury of all things holiday, including Mary’s advice for coping with family, gift-giving tips, and favourite seasonal recipes.
Acadian Christmas Traditions by George Arsenault
Based on interviews with Acadians throughout the Maritimes, Acadian Christmas Traditions offers a fascinating look at the evolution of Christmas. This very readable book shows how customs, both spiritual and secular, take hold in families, in villages, and in Acadian culture as a whole. George Arsenault examines all the aspects of the feast of Christmas, from midnight mass to holiday foods. As he chronicles the cultural changes that have taken place over the centuries, he proves that Acadian Christmas today is the result of a wonderful blending of old, new, and borrowed traditions.
Cape Breton’s Christmas: A Treasury of Stories and Memories edited by Ron Caplan