Wintertime the world over invokes a mood of wonderment and magic that warms the hearts of young and old alike. From snow days and snowmen to cosy fires, egg nog, holiday lights and Christmas itself, it invigorates the senses and melts our hearts.
“A Treasury of Wintertime Tales” is an exceptional Christmas anthology, perfect for advent reading with children of all ages. Edited by Noel Daniel and produced by Taschen, this book is similar to their other creations, being a perfect blend of engaging stories and exquisite illustrations. Taschen’s celebrated editor Noel Daniel, graduated from Princeton University, then earned a masters degree in London and worked as director of a photographic art gallery before becoming a book editor.
The thirteen tales, written between 1822 and 1972, reflect wintertime and Christmas themed storytelling traditions from different parts of the world. The stories move between East and West, between the Christian Nativity to the Latin American Las Posadas and Chinese New Year. Winter fun and adventure unfold in the imaginary winter landscapes and in the real world stories set in Mexico, Scandinavia and in between. In the Preface, Noel Daniel remarks the following about the winter season:
Despite nature’s inhospitableness – in fact, precisely because of it – winter is also a time of great celebrations, of seeking sparkle and meaning in the darkness, of coming together, of gift giving, of marking traditions passed from one generation to the next, and of chilly thrills in the snow or on the ice sought by children of all ages.
The oldest tale in this book is Clement C. Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, retold here in a 1912 version called “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The most recent is the 1972 story “The Cowboy’s Christmas” by Joan Walsh Anglund, which tells about the excitement of Christmas preparations for a young boy and his imaginary friend, a bear.
Anyone who grew up with cold winters can relate to the story of lost mittens in “Too Many Mittens” or the excitement of days off from school due to heavy snowfalls in “Winter and the Children”. “Nine Days to Christmas”, tells of Las Posadas, the Mexican pre-Christmas celebration. “Moy Moy” recounts the excitement of children preparing for Chinese New Year and “Children of the Northlights” is a story about the Sami people and a brother and sister braving the harsh Scandinavian winter.
One of my personal favourites is “The Red Horse”, a story about Peter, the young boy who got a traditional wooden horse called the Dala (made in the Dalarna region in Sweden) as his Christmas gift. Peter wishes (oh, so much!) to ride the red toy horse. He wishes for it so hard that one day the little toy horse comes to life. The horse takes Peter on an adventure ride of his life to meet the woodcarver who made the red horse. Many happy days and happy rides pass till the boy realises that he loves his dear Mother more than he loves his little red horse and that it’s time for him to go home.
The stories for this Treasury have been chosen not only to reflect the diverse winter storytelling traditions but also for their inspiring artwork. Its authors and illustrators come from all over the world – Hungary, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Russia, Mexico and America. Many of these artists received the prestigious Caldecott Medal for illustration including, Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, Marie Hall Ets, Leo Politi, Nicolas Sidjakov and Louis Slobodkin. Along with beloved and famous illustrators such as Joan Walsh Aglund, Jessie Willcox Smith and Sibylle von Olfers.
Browse all 13 stories below and see if you can find a favourite? I couldn’t.
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If you'd like to win this book, click here to find out how, then watch out for more great Christmas book reviews coming up in this Advent review series.
The Cowboy’s Christmas
The Cowboy’s Christmas, written and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund (1972). A boy and his imaginary friend Bear prepare for the big day.
A Trip to Gingerbread Land
A Trip to Gingerbread Land, written and illustrated by Einar Nerman (1939). A brother and sister share a magical journey.
Winter and the Children
Winter and the Children, by Hilde Hoffmann, illustrated by Beatrice Braun-Fock (1959). A big city gets the season’s first big snow and school is closed.
Nine Days to Christmas
Nine Days to Christmas, by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida, illustrated by Marie Hall Ets (1957). A girl anticipates her first Las Posadas, a Latin American Christmas celebration.
Marilyn and the Snow Children
Marilyn and the Snow Children, written and illustrated by Sibylle von Olfers (1905). Snowflakes surprise a little girl with a visit to the Snow Queen.
The Friendly Beasts
The Friendly Beasts, by Laura Nelson Baker, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov (1957). Stable animals await the birth of Jesus, deciding what gifts they will give.
The Night Before Christmas
The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith (1912: text 1822). St. Nicholas and his reindeer spread cheer in this holiday classic.
The Red Horse
The Red Horse, written and illustrated by Elsa Moeschlin (1935). A boy received a magical Dala horse for Christmas.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas, written by anonymous and illustrated by Ilonka Karasz (1949). The famous carol of late medieval origin is reimagined.
Moy Moy, written and illustrated by Leo Politi (1960). A little sister helps get ready for Chinese New Year.
Too Many Mittens
Too Many Mittens, by Florence Slobodkin, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin (1958). Twins lose a red mitten and the whole neighbourhood helps find it.
Children of the Northlights
Children of the Northlights, written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (1935). A brother and sister of the Sami people weather a typical winter in northern Scandinavia.
The Ballad of the Snow King
The Ballad of the Snow King, by Tadeusz Kubiak, illustrated by Zbigniew Rychlicki (1968). The Snow King’s winter is ended by a mysterious visitor.
 Other exquisite TASCHEN productions edited by Noel Daniels include “The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen” and “The Fairy Tales of Brothers Grimm”.