Saturday, December 17, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Picture Books - Christmas Cricket

I love the holidays. Love the hustle and bustle, all the lead-up to Christmas and the crazy chaos of celebrating together. But let's face it -- it can be pretty overwhelming, particularly for the little people in our lives. It's hard for kids not to get lost in the shuffle of all there is to see and do at Christmastime.

Enter Eve Bunting and her sweet story Christmas Cricket. Bunting gives us a glimpse into the world of a little insect who "felt small and worthless in the bigness of night". Looking for warmth, Cricket slips into a house and takes refuge in a Christmas tree, where he begins to sing. But then someone hears him, and comes looking for the source of the song. Should Cricket run away? Or is he safe to sing, even in a place that doesn't seem at all familiar?

Bunting's a masterful storyteller, and one who doesn't shy away from tough subjects (her collaboration with David Diaz, Smoky Night, is one of the most powerful and poignant picture books I've ever seen). And though you might not think Christmas is a tough subject, it can be for many. Though this isn't a book about adoption, as an adoptive parent I couldn't help reading Christmas Cricket with an eye toward children in new family situations. For them, and their families, the holidays can be a time both exciting and scary, as everyone learns their place in the whole scheme of things. Like Cricket, children might feel "small and worthless in the bigness" of Christmas with a family who loves them, maybe in ways they don't even understand quite yet. And new parents, too, can be overwhelmed, as their children don't seem to be enjoying the holidays like they imagined.

As happy as this time of year can be, it's worth reminding ourselves that taking joy in the small things means every bit as much. In the end, Cricket learns that there is joy in his own song, sung in the way only he can sing it. And at Christmas, isn't that the best gift of all?

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