Over the summer we discussed some of our picks for the best children's books dealing with positive examples of aging. We are now back with a special Holiday Edition! Read on below to see our choices for holiday children’s books that offer an optimistic view of the aging process and older characters.
How Santa Got His Job (1998)
Written by Stephen Krensky and Illustrated by S.D. Schindler:
This delightful tale by Krensky imagines a younger Santa who tries various jobs such as a chimney sweep, mailman, zookeeper, and circus performer, but for one reason or another they never work out. Finally, many years later, Santa meets some elves who need his help to deliver toys to children all over the world. To his joy and surprise Santa finds he is a wonderful fit, and that all of his previous jobs have given him a variety of skills to be prepared. Santa is probably the most easily recognized elderly character by children and I love how this story debunks the myth that you have to find the one thing you're good at as a young person and stay with it your whole life. Instead Santa tries many things until he finds his passion; and his age does not hinder him, rather it has given him plenty of experience and knowledge. Cleverly written and with charming, expressive characters on every page, this story is a perfect example of how when one door closes another one opens.
A Hanukkah with Mazel (2016)
Written by Joel Edward Stein and Illustrated by Elisa Vavouri:
In A Hanukkah with Mazel a painter named Misha plans to spend Hanukkah alone until a hungry cat wanders into his barn, who he names Mazel. Together they celebrate Hanukkah and since he has no money for candles, he paints a beautiful menorah and flames for him and Mazel to enjoy. When Mazel’s missing owner shows up, what will this mean for Misha’s new friendship? I chose to include this story not only for its heartwarming message of kindness but also because it shows the positive impact an animal companion can have on seniors. Misha begins the story lonely but is energized by the appearance of Mazel and he develops a strong bond with her. I also enjoyed seeing incredible talent and passion portrayed in an older character. Stein’s story is endearing for all ages and Vavouri’s rich paintings add to the magic.
WOOD-HOOPOE Willie (1992)
Written by Virginia Kroll and Illustrated by Katherine Roundtree:
In WOOD-HOOPOE Willie, a young boy is constantly tapping objects to an imagined beat. He is chastised by his family for the noise, but his grandfather always smiles and says that "there’s a wood-hoopoe trapped deep down inside that boy.” On the fifth night of Kwanzaa the family arrives at the local party to celebrate only to find the musicians can't begin because they have no drummer. Is it finally Willie's time to shine? Willie’s music reminds his Grandpa of his memories of instruments from Africa and he is able to share his traditions with Willie. His grandpa provides both wisdom and encouragement and the two share mutual joy. Roundtree’s exquisite and detailed illustrations are as rich as this inspiring story.
Nonna’s Hanukkah Surprise (2015)
Written by Karen Fisman and Illustrated by Martha Avilés:
Rachel is traveling to her Nona's house where Nona and her cousins celebrate Christmas while she celebrates Hanukkah. She brings her special menorah with her but it accidentally gets left on the plane. However, her Nona comes up with a unique solution to save the day. This is a great book for families with multiple religious backgrounds as it shows how everyone’s traditions can be included. Additionally, I like this story because Nona is able to combine both her and Rachel’s passions into something truly special, proving that age is no barrier to shared interests. Avilés’s illustrations are as warm and inviting as the tender tale they depict
Willy and May (1995)
Written and Illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner:
Willy and May follows the story of a young girl who cherishes her visits with her Great-Aunt May and her pet canary Willy. The enthusiastic girl waits for summer and Christmas visits with May where her days are filled with baking, singing to the old Victrola, picking berries, and meticulously decorating the Christmas tree. However one year it seems the protagonist won't get to see her energetic aunt at all and it takes a lot of love and a little Christmas magic to save the day. One of the things I like about this book is it portrays a positive relationship with a child and an older relation other than a grandparent. While having a grandparent’s love is certainly special, it is great that Schachner acknowledges there are many other relationships that offer that loving bond. It reminds me of my own great aunts who are always up to having an adventure with me. Schachner paints May as a caring aunt who strives to share her zest for life and for helping others with her beloved niece. May is vivacious and quirky with “quick, sparkly eyes… flitting about her house.” Schachners's illustrations are as alluring as her words, with plenty of intricate details and vibrant colors.
If you’d like to read these holiday stories check out your nearest bookstore or your local library. Happy Holidays from The Heathers.