One Winter's Night by John Herman, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Philomel books, 2003. Martha is a cow about to give birth to her first calf. She is out alone at night in the deep cold snow, searching for a safe warm place. The full color illustrations on the right side of the page show her as she wanders through an abandoned farmstead, while on the left side of the page above the text we see a monotone drawing of a man and woman traveling on donkey, looking for shelter as well. By following a star they all met in a shed and find comfort and assistance together. This is a refreshing and astonishing retelling of the nativity story. The Holy Family is brown-skinned and Mary is described as a young woman with dark hair, large dark eyes and simple dress. "But even in the hay she was radiant," Martha observes. Joseph's kindness and confidence guides both mothers and their newborn infants. This book makes a wonderful gift for the whole family.
For older readers from teens through adult I suggest giving collections of short stories such as Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present edited by Gloria Naylor. Publishers Weekly says, "the 37 stories unabashedly depict the great diversity of black life. Compiled by Naylor (The Women of Brewster Place), the anthology includes such familiar names as Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Charles Johnson, Ralph Ellison, Jamaica Kincaid and Ntozake Shange, and such relative newcomers as Edwige Danticat." Another good classic one is
For the girls and boys in my family I am giving copies of the Dangerous Book for Boys and the Daring Book for Girls. I am not limiting it to one gender or the other; I suggest getting both in any household of children. Here's a chance to build a tree swing, learn to tie knots and study history or carve a whistle. I see no reason we all can't enjoy learning and doing the activities in both books. If you have a child who questions why you got the other one, you can just say you were curious and wanted to see what was in it. Who can argue with that? These books are fun for everyone.
If you have a favorite gift book leave me a comment or post your own list and join the carnival!
Here is Part II Gift Books.