Perfect Picture Book – Christmas City

Christmas City:  A Look Again Book

Michael Garland, author and illustrator

Puffin Books,  2004, Fiction

Suitable for:  Children ages 4 to 8

Themes: Christmas Eve Adventure, Giving, Imagination,  Hide-and-Seek Activity

Opening“It was Christmas Eve.  Tommy was sorting through the last few Christmas cards when he found one addressed to him.  There was a note inside from Aunt Jean to join her at once….Tommy put on his hat and coat and walked out into the snowy night.  Sure enough, there was a yellow taxi waiting for him, buried in snow up to its fenders.  The driver was a strange little man who had to stand on the seat to see out the windshield.  He didn’t answer when Tommy said hello.  He just smiled and handed Tommy a note.  But before Tommy could read it, the quiet night was broken by the roar of the engine.  This was no ordinary cab!  Tommy gasped as it lifted off the ground into the air.”

Tommy is taken on the ride of his life  when he arrives at a special destination,  Christmas City.   He enters the Grand Palace and embarks upon a treasure hunt created by Aunt Jean, who leaves rhyming mystery notes around this sparkling city.  Each note leads to a fun destination and a final surprise.  Tommy encounters a courtyard with horse-drawn sleighs, street vendors, elves, ice sculptures, gift shops,  musicians and dancers,  and a grand dining hall.  But, where is Aunt Jean?  Christmas City is a wonderful  addition to every Christmas book shelf.

Why I like this book:  This is a book siblings can read together.  Younger kids will be captivated by the breathtaking pictures and Tommy’s adventure.  Older children will spend hours looking for the 200 items hidden in the pages of the book, decoding a holiday message, and finding their way through a maze.  Garland’s attention to detail is exquisite and his illustrations are dazzling.  Click on my author interview with Michael Garland  (11/30/11) to learn more about the artist and his new book, Oh! What A Christmas.

Activity:  This Look Again Book is educational.  Arm your children with pencils and paper so they can count and list all the items that they find inside the book.  On the last page, Garland lists all the items in a maze-like pattern.   Parents may want to have their own Christmas treasure hunt.  Leave notes for children to search for small gifts and candy, a recipe with ingredients to bake cookies, and items to make treats for their outside furry friends (i.e. peanut butter on pine cones, strung cranberries for an outdoor tree, bird seed hangers).  For more information about other books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Every Friday I will share my Perfect Picture Book, as will other writers on their blogs.  Our selections will be posted on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website under Perfect Picture  Books.  We hope to develop a list of favorite picture books for parents, teachers, librarians,  writers, homeschoolers and gift-givers.