If you asked anyone in my household the name of an author/illustrator who publishes Christmas stories, I’ve no doubt that any of them would immediately answer, “Jan Brett.” We had a small copy of her illustrated Twelve Days of Christmas (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1986) when my children were young. It was a holiday tradition to read the book each year, and I vividly recall the kids pointing out favorite details in the elaborate sidebars. Since then, we’ve read, and savored, so many of her other holiday classics. When I discovered her latest holiday story at the library, I knew I had to feature it as a Perfect Picture Book:
Title: Gingerbread Christmas
Written & Illustrated By: Jan Brett
Publisher/date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group)/2016
Suitable for Ages: 3-5
Themes/Topics: Christmas, gingerbread, music, festivals
Opening: “Everyone in the village is talking about the Christmas Festival,” Matti told the Gingerbread Baby. “I can sing in my Gingerbread Band!” the Gingerbread Baby sang out.”
Brief Synopsis: Matti creates a Gingerbread Band to accompany the Gingerbread Baby. But when a hungry child decides that the music is not just sweet but would be tasty, too, both Matti and the Baby must use their wits to save the Band and the Baby.
Links to Resources:
- Bake and decorate gingerbread. Find Jan Brett’s recipe here.
- Make a gingerbread house. Jan Brett has an interactive Gingerbaby House design that can be decorated and printed on her website.
- You also can color a Gingerbaby page.
- Sing favorite holiday songs.
Why I Like this Book: This is a feel-good story for the holidays. I love Matti’s resourcefulness, and I especially love the sense of community as villagers and wild animals dance to the Band’s tunes. When one greedy youngster decides to eat the band, readers will learn how quickly greediness can spoil a treat that was being enjoyed by all.
I love, too, Jan’s folksy illustrations, especially the side frames, that are as integral to this new Christmas tale as they are to Jan Brett’s many other books.
A Note about Craft:
What better combination than sweet gingerbread and sweet music! The band plays a march as, you guessed it, they march to the bandstand. They next play a “snappy” tune – as snappy as the gingerbread my mother baked. Their playing is described as “sweet” – a perfect adverb to describe music fit for the holidays. I love how these descriptors could as easily be descriptions of cookies on a platter as music played on a stage.
The turning point arrives when one greedy, or perhaps just observant and hungry, young girl calls a cookie a cookie and declares that she wants one. Immediately, “everyone” wants a “piece of gingerbread for myself.” Adults will recognize how one person’s vocalization is enough to put an idea into the heads of “everyone.” This could lead to some interesting discussions about thinking for oneself; being a leader rather than a follower; and even, perhaps, sticking up for the poor gingerbread instruments that had been trying so hard to entertain the crowd.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!