'Tis the season for lightening up and smiling. These new wintry holiday season picture books are full of whimsy, humor and cool mod artwork.
"The Littlest Reindeer" by Nicola Killen; Simon & Schuster; 32 pages; $15.99.
With a modern color scheme of grays, muted blacks, creams and reds, Nicola Killen shows off a dreamy winter wonderland with cutout windows and snowy sparkles. Her sweet story tells of a girl named Ollie who awakens when she hears a "jingle, jingle, jingle" and sleds outside, and finds a reindeer's collar. She then sees the gentle animal and rides upon his back into the night sky. Ollie returns to her cozy home and happily dreams of her experiences.
"The Little Reindeer" is a truly adorable, magical, cozy journey that's perfect for bedtime.
"Walking in a Winter Wonderland" as sung by Peggy Lee; illustrated by Tim Hopgood; Henry Holt; 32 pages; $17.99.
Artist Tim Hopgood loves creating wonder-filled picture books, like his happy "What a Wonderful World." The fun, positive theme continues in this winter celebration of Peggy Lee's famous song; and the eye-catching, retro artwork seems to have popped straight out of the 1950s. The snowy pages depict a family cavorting in frosty fields and woods with a snowman, foxes, owls, squirrels and birds, while Lee's playful lyrics add a freshly fun soundtrack.
"Walk This World at Christmastime" by Debbie Powell; Big Picture Press/Candlewick; 26 pages; $17.99.
With a sort of "It's a Small World" look, Debbie Powell's oversized board book is a Christmastime journey around the world for kids up to about age 8. Beginning with Canada and the U.S., busy pages are packed with different American scenes that have appealingly colorful but small and abstract graphics. We then travel on to South America, Africa, Spain, Italy, Greece and even Iraq, the Philippines and Australia. Each page spread features a rhyming paragraph and flaps that provide more local Christmas details for each place.
"Walk This World at Christmastime" is a cool, artsy way to celebrate Christmas; it makes a smart, worldly gift.
"The Christmas Eve Tree" by Delia Huddy; illustrated by Emily Sutton; Candlewick Press; 32 pages; $16.99.
"A forest of Christmas trees stretching over the hills" is where Delia Huddy's thoughtful tale of a fallen scraggly little pine tree begins. The tree is the last to be chosen at a department store by a little boy. The boy plants the Charlie Brown-like tree in a cardboard box and brings it to his own box home under a bridge. When someone gives the boy change to buy food, he instead buys candles for his tree. His homeless friends, now bitten by the holiday bug, sing warmly and play the accordion by the glowing tree and attract quite a crowd.
Eventually, the little boy moves on. But a street sweeper notices a green sprout in his trash and replants the tree in a park, where it grows big and tall and dreams of "that magical Christmas eve."
A gorgeously written tale of seeing the beauty in everything, thankfulness and goodness, "The Christmas Eve Tree" is also festooned with delightfully vintage-looking, cozy pictures. This one is a keeper and should be a classic. It's simply beautiful.
"Presents Through the Window" by Taro Gomi; Chronicle Books; 36 pages; $15.99.
Taro Gomi has created over 350 books for readers of all ages, and his signature rounded, friendly illustrations are irresistible. His Santa Claus in this book is tan and Asian and determined to figure out who gets what gifts by peeking into windows. First he spots a mouse asleep in a house and drops tiny boots in the window. Then he gives a kitten pretty bows. But after that, his window views go a tad haywire. He sees black-and-white stripes through one and thinks it's a zebra, when really it's geese necks against a black wall. He spots a fox's ears, which turn out to be a dragon's scales, and a crocodile's teeth are actually a bevy of bunny ears sleeping in a row.
With plenty of low-key humor and paper windows to peek through, Gomi's witty book will please even hip parents.
"Prissy & Pop Deck the Halls" by Melissa Nicholson; photographs by Petra Terova; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.
Instagram piglet sensations Priscilla and Poppleton (@prissy_pig) are certainly photogenic enough to star in their own picture book and parade about in holiday garments. Wearing Christmas sweaters and pajamas and even chef's hats, the adorable pigs make cookies, decorate a gingerbread house, cut paper snowflakes and pose by the tree. In one festive scene, Prissy and Pop hilariously sing "Jingle Bells" with their mouths wide and their eyes gleaming, and then fall asleep by the fire.
Adorable photographs depict a pig pair that most definitely did not turn into Christmas dinner.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.