All I want for Christmas is No Junk.
Junk is suitable for Halloween, Valentine's Day and maybe birthdays, but what if Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa were held to a higher standard?
Toys are fine, but only toys that lead children to learn, grow and wonder.
Gifts that keep on giving, such as family memberships to the Children's Museum and the S.C. Aquarium, are perfect, especially if they come with the promise to take the children to these great places.
Books are ideal for any occasion, but not just any book. As I read through the stack of new Christmas books, I label many of them "junk." I don't mean that a book has to have an enduring moral lesson -- also known as the "kiss of death." Silly books and funny books are high on my list. My point is that some books are pointless and leave children with nothing.
This year, two of my favorites come under the heading "what's old is new."
"The Quiltmaker's Gift" by Jeff Brumbeau and lavishly illustrated by Gail de Marcken is the picture book I recommend year after year. It has nothing to do with holidays and everything to do with the true spirit of giving.
"The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," the classic tale written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816 and illustrated by Gail de Marcken is new this season. From the jacket cover: "Stunning and gorgeous illustrations capture this spellbinding tale of adventure, honor and family."
This is the original story that Tchaikovsky adapted for his ballet.
The text is extensive, more than one sitting for most children ages 7 and up. It's worth the investment of time, especially for children who will experience the ballet. (Also for children who are attending the ballet: "Beautiful Ballerina" by Marilyn Nelson illustrated with photographs of dancers from the Dance Theater of Harlem and "First Ballet" by Deanna Caswell, a simple picture book that gives children an overview of what to expect at the theater.)
In 1902, L. Frank Baum, famous author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," wrote a story called "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus." In 2009, this story has been brought back to life, retold by Janeen R. Audi and illustrated by Charles Santore. This wonderful tale "explains" every detail of Santa lore, from his childhood to the stockings and reindeer. The story is long but captivating. For children ages 6 and up, it could be a family tradition to read this in segments on the nights before Christmas.
I struggle to resist the ever-increasing pressure to be a card-carrying Luddite. I'm already a card-carrying AARP member. Sometimes the two overlap. In my defense, there are young parents who cleave to the traditional.
Also in my defense, next week's column will be all about "new" books for the holidays. (I think I can ... I think I can ...)
Reach Fran Hawk at fran firstname.lastname@example.org.