The Night Before Christmas
This is my last post before Christmas and I wanted to share a quick look at a few of my favorite seasonal books and authors.
I memorized the poem, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, when I was in sixth grade and I have loved it ever since. It is one of my favorite things to read aloud at this time of year. It is especially wonderful when accompanied by lively illustrations. Artist Richard Jesse Watson's 2006 version pairs the traditional with a little high tech spice. Santa's sleigh looks like a reindeer drawn rocket and the page that shows the controls deserves special attention. The expressions on the faces of each character are so realistic that you feel as if you know them. Santa's elves represent different ethnic groups and each has a distinctive personality. The book ends with an interview with Santa. Did you know that the reindeer were a gift from the king and queen of Lapland? I could really spend hours with this book.
Another version that deserves many readings is Jan Brett's book. This is a rich looking book done in Brett's Scandinavian style. One of my favorite features of a Jan Brett book is her borders. As you read you see that the story is played out in the borders as well as the main page. Added fun is a visual side story: two elves hitch a ride with Santa and get into mischief with the reindeer while Santa is busy inside. Call your children's attention to the different expressions on the faces of the reindeer.
One more old favorite of this classic poem is a little Rand McNally Jr. Elf book illustrated by Elizabeth Webbe and published in 1950.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
It is Teeka's job this year to get the reindeer ready for their big trip on Christmas Eve. But Teeka is young and inexperienced and does everything wrong, resulting in a tangle of antlers and tears. Teeka learns the lesson that strength comes with gentleness and real leadership is shown in love and caring. The reindeer each have individual personalities and it is extra fun trying to figure out which reindeer is which. The borders in this book belong to the elves in the workshop. Each page is a new day in December and shows how the elves make different toys. Pay special attention to the Scandinavian style Santa's village and workshop.
Other favorite Jan Brett Christmas Books: Who's that Knocking on Christmas Eve? and Christmas Trolls
- Put some chairs together and make Santa's sleigh. Will it be super powered like the one in Richard Jesse Watson's book? What makes your sleigh fly? Where will you travel? What kind of gifts will you bring to people?
- Be a Christmas elf and make a gift for a neighbor and deliver it.
Story Circle Activities:
- Make your own interview with Santa: Ask the children what questions they would like to ask Santa. Write the questions on a white board or a large sheet of butcher paper. Let the children take turns being Santa and answer the questions. Be sure to write down the answers.
- Creative Drama: Choose portions of The Wild Christmas Reindeer to dramatize. Read the part of the story that you want to act out. Talk to the children about what action is taking place. Discuss the dialogue - who is speaking, what is being said, how are they saying it. Choose some of the children to be the reindeer and one child to be Teeka. The rest of the class can direct the action by raising their hands and giving suggestions about what Teeka should say, how the reindeer will respond, etc. Be sure and rotate actors so that everyone that wants to can have a turn.