Christmas book lovers are a divided bunch. On one side, you have the people who actively seek out a new Christmas picture book for their collection every year. This is a particularly lovely tradition and one that I partake in with my 28 year old roommate (you’re never too old for picture books). Then you have those staunch traditionalists who prefer the tried and true classics and think new Christmas books are just a savvy marketing ploy to get people to buy more books (is this really such a bad thing? Can you have TOO many books?) To both groups I present Zoe’s Christmas List, a lovely book sure to please both camps.
You may know Zoe and Beans from the delightful series of the same name by Mick and Chloe Inkpen (yes, THAT Mick Inkpen of Kipper and Wibbly Pig fame. Chloe is his uber-talented daughter) Zoe is an imaginative toddler with Oliver-Jeffers-esque stick legs and Beans is her scruffy dog. In Zoe’s Christmas List, the pair head off to the North Pole to ensure that Father Christmas (British for Santa) gets her Christmas list which has only one entry: a Kylie Kurlz doll. Along the way they run into perhaps the cutest polar bear in children’s illustration. Because he seems lost, Zoe invites him along on the journey. They make it to the North Pole, but a storm blows up and the intrepid trio has a near disaster on the way home.
As with all of the Zoe and Beans books, Zoe’s Christmas List is about friendship. Kylie Kurlz, the doll of Zoe’s dreams and the only thing on her list, is forgotten when Little Bear is in danger. Finding a new friend is the best gift of all, though Father Christmas comes through in the end with a surprise for Zoe. The design of this book is exquisite, starting off fairly sparse and then becoming busier and busier as the snow storm gets worse. I especially love the pages on which Zoe, Beans and Little Bear are reflected in the water. There is a delightful three page fold-out featuring Little Bear’s marathon swim
The Inkpens do some fun things with language while keeping the story simple and straight forward. The narrator imparts important lessons without seeming condescending, such as “Did you know that when sticky tape gets wet it loses all it’s stick?” This is the kind of practical lesson a young child appreciates. I also enjoyed the moment of internal rhyme when Zoe offers Little Bear a sandwich: “Ham? Or jam?” You can read this to a very young child (2 or 3), but older children (5 or 6) will find the story just as comforting and charming. Zoe’s Christmas List is a much welcome addition to my Christmas collection, and it will be to yours, too.
Looking for other great contemporary Christmas books? Try one of these, from my 2010 Twelve Books of Christmas Round-up: