Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Time! (And Time and Again)

By Art Taylor

This week's question isn't just timely, here in the thick of the holiday season, but welcome—at least to my mind (ignore that Grinchy Alan Orloff's post from yesterday).

I'm a sucker for holiday traditions—whether those traditions involve food or decorating or reading and watching...or, as this week's question stresses, rereading and rewatching.

That 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story that TBS has run for years (and TNT for years before that, as I remember)? I've had no problem keeping the channel on in the background all day and into the night.

Does A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or Rudolph or Frosty or... well, you can see where that list might grow—do any of those ever lose their appeal? And our son Dash has already grown to love Polar Express so much that he'll watch it any time of the year. Back in mid-summer while vacationing in West Virginia, he watched it twice in a row. (Christmas: It's not just for Christmas anymore, right?)

And it's not just films and TV shows I'm talking about. The Grinch is on our coffee table right now, I can recite from memory "A Visit from St. Nicholas," and the season wouldn't be the season without a certain letter to Virginia who'd questioned whether there really was a Santa Claus. (The answer, as we all know, was "Yes."

My wife and I are slowly building our own holiday traditions—a subject I'm planning to explore in more depth in my column for the Washington Independent Review of Books early next week—but I want to give a shout-out in the meantime to a book that has become a cornerstone of my own seasonal reading each year: William Joyce's Santa Calls.

Joyce is certainly one of my favorite children's book authors of all time (Arnold Lobel and Maurice Sendak would be up there as well), and Santa Calls is, to my mind, his masterpiece—which follows a young man named Art Atchinson Aimesworth, his sister Esther, and their friend Spaulding on a trip to the North Pole, by special invitation of the man in red himself. The story that falls out of that invitation is a stirring adventure and a beautiful coming-of-age tale, unexpectedly emotional and ultimately capturing the soul of the season. Both the story and the images are brilliant, and it's become an annual highlight to read the book aloud—a highlight renewed by sharing it with our son these days.

Need I say I'd recommend it to others?

Happy holidays to all!


Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for the book recommendation, Art! And hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

RJ Harlick said...

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas. See you in the new year.

Kristopher said...

Merry Christmas Art. Santa Calls is out of stock in several locations, but I'll be hunting down a copy. Thanks for the recommendation.

Art Taylor said...

Hi, all! Sorry for just checking the comments a day late. Yesterday was grading grading grading... and more grading. But I'm back in the land of the living today!

And yes, Santa Calls is worth checking out, Kristopher. Hope you can track down a copy!

Merry Christmas to all—and to all, a... good morning now, I guess. :-)