Waltz of The Snowflakes
Written and illustrated by Elly MacKay
A wordless picture book about seeing “The Nutcracker” is an inspired idea, and with utterly enchanting diorama art, McKay makes it feel like an event. (You might want to put on fancy holiday clothes just to read it.) A girl and her mother, drawn in sepia tones, are leaving for the theater on a rainy night. Once they arrive, scenes from the ballet are in color; in the audience, a boy and his father are also absorbed in the magic. Look closely at the illuminating details, like the high-top sneakers the girl wears with her dress.
32 pp. Running Press. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8)
Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas
By Pamela Ehrenberg. Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar.
The boy who narrates this lighthearted holiday mash-up has an Indian mom and a Jewish dad. At Hanukkah that’s a “lucky combination,” he says: Instead of latkes, the family makes Indian dosas. His only complaint is his wild toddler sister, who’s slowing down the dosa-making process. When she runs amok in the supermarket, he sings to her, to the tune of the dreidel song: “I had a little dosa. I made it out of dal.” But after a mishap her high jinks come in handy. Improvisation, we’re reminded, is at the heart of any winter holiday.
36 pp. Farrar Straus & Giroux. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8)
The Nutcracker in Harlem
By T. E. McMorrow. Illustrated by James Ransome.
This inventive book embeds the classic holiday ballet in the elegant Harlem Renaissance world of the 1920s. Marie’s large family is hosting a musical Christmas Eve party, but she’s too shy to sing. Her Uncle Cab gives her a nutcracker as a gift, and once the guests leave the night brings all kinds of remarkable goings-on. The nutcracker come to life, of course, but perhaps even better, Marie finds a way to sing. Ransome’s rich jewel-toned art makes both indoor scenes and the New York City night vibrate with life and holiday wonder.
32 pp. HarperCollins. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8)
By Martha Brockenbrough. Illustrated by Lee White.
To tell or not to tell? As parental dilemmas go, the “Is Santa Claus real?” conundrum can be a source of genuine agonizing. Based on the beans-spilling letter to her daughter Brockenbrough published in The Times and elsewhere, this earnest book about the end of a child’s Santa era channels the sense of loss into a message about generosity and kindness. Told largely via letters to and from Santa tucked inside envelopes in the book, Lucy’s growth into knowledge, and her mother’s navigation of her role in that, are equally moving.
32 pp. Scholastic. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 6 and up)
The Girl Who Saved Christmas
By Matt Haig. Illustrated by Chris Mould.
If somewhere in the afterlife Roald Dahl met Charles Dickens and they cooked up a new Christmas tale, it couldn’t have much on this fleet, verbally rambunctious, heart-stealing follow-up to “A Boy Called Christmas,” set in Victorian London (with cameos by Dickens himself). Amelia Wishart, the first child to have gotten a gift from Father Christmas, is orphaned and sent to a workhouse. At the North Pole, magic levels plummet. Christmas is in jeopardy, and Father Christmas is in custody. Amelia to the rescue? We’d all better believe it.
320 pp. B Knopf. $17.99. (Ages 7 and up)