SPRINGVILLE -- Principal Dwight Liddiard and mentor teacher Katherine Beck present their list of new Christmas books every year at East Meadows Elementary. They also were invited to share their all-time favorites at the Springville Library before their annual presentation in Spanish Fork on Nov. 29.
"I find the Christmas books several ways, including literacy conferences I attend and Amazon and other book sites," Liddiard explained to the audience. "This year there were a lot fewer Christmas books for children which were interesting. Usually there are more than 200 to look at but this year there were only about 90. I'm not exactly sure why, but I know publishers don't make much on the first printing of a book so it has to be popular enough to go to the second printing the next season."
"Our list has to fit in about an hour presentation so we have to get it down in numbers, which is really hard," Beck said. "You will keep hearing us say that this book is our favorite over and over again, but they really are. We have been doing this for more than 10 years so we have a lot of books on our lists."
Liddiard and Beck shared a list of 27 favorite books. There were a few well-known titles that had to be included because they are classic favorites. "The Polar Express" by author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg is one of the best in this category. Barbara Robinson's rewritten version of her "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" for younger children in a picture book format is another good choice.
"A classic that's been around for awhile is 'The Elf on the Shelf,' " Liddiard said. "My mom had a similar elf at our house that she called the listening elf. You place the elf in a different location every morning and he is supposed to let Santa know how you are doing."
There are timeless classics, books with new and current trends and books that teach a lesson while they entertain the reader and listener.
"If you choose a holiday book by one of your favorite authors you will usually love it," Beck said. "A few of my favorite authors who have wonderful Christmas books are Patricia Polacco, Jan Brett and Eileen Spinelli."
Beck and Liddiard started the evening's presentation reading "The Perfect Christmas" by Spinelli, which was new last year. It's the story of two families and their very different Christmas traditions. They read the rhyming text, "Abigail Archer's family is as perfect as can be. They drive into the countryside to chop down their Christmas tree. Our tree is artificial, completely out of shape, with several branches missing and one held on with tape."
The story continues to contrast the two families but concludes with them joining on Christmas day and realizing that the perfect Christmas can be painted with a broad brush.
Many books are humorous to both adults and children. Mike Reiss has several funny Christmas books but the best two, in the presenter's opinion, were "Santa Claustrophobic" and "How Murray Saved Christmas."
The only new book Liddiard and Beck would reveal from their 2012 list was "The Christmas Train -- A True Story" by Thomas S. Monson. They said that the story about Monson learning about the joy of giving is one of the top sellers on Amazon and is generating a lot of national attention.
Choosing a Christmas book for a child can be challenging, but both educators recommend choosing something you love, and reading it to the child if possible. Beck would wrap a book for each day leading up to Christmas that could be unwrapped and read. Liddiard keeps a basket of books under his tree where a favorite can be chosen and reread.
"We all make connections to books," Liddiard said. "Sometimes when people are raving at a literacy conference I will pick up that book and wonder why they think it's so great. One of my most favorite Christmas books is about a horse because we raise horses. It's called 'Winter's Gift' by Jane Monroe Donovan and it is special to me because the story is about a family and a horse."
Anyone interested in children's books is invited to the new Christmas books presentation which will be held at East Meadows Elementary, 1287 S. 2130 East, Spanish Fork on Nov. 29 at 4 p.m.