I was looking forward to Christmas this year, unlike many years past. It is a children’s holiday after all, and this is the first year I had children in my life (small ones, not the tweens who don’t give a shit unless you give them electronics).  The spirit of giving was certainly overflowing, and I enjoyed every new gift (I mean, book, since, as Jesse noted, they make the best presents).  So what if I was buying them for babies, they need to get started on the right foot. Yes, even my unborn niece got some, the biggest stack in fact! 

Due to some health issues (mental and physical) I wasn’t up for huge amounts of family this year.  So despite my new found love for the holiday, Tim and I escaped to Vermont.  As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I travel it’s hard to know what books to bring.  I’ve been on a historical biography kick lately, but that isn’t very, well, Christmasy.  Perhaps it was all the time spent in the children’s section buying for the babies, but I wanted storybooks to read on my mini vacation.  But where to find just the right stories?  I had a tall order: they had to be  1) smart 2) funny and 3) engaging.   That just about rules out all adult books, so off to the YA section I went.

I have always had an affinity for fantasy stories so I usually start there.  Besides if ever I needed escapism, it was now, since my trip was literally that – an escape – a retreat from reality.  This time I also wanted something new, not a re-read (because, to be honest, the Dark Is Rising series has been calling to me for months). 

Alright, I’ll admit it!  I saw the Spiderwick Chronicles movie.  I didn’t love it, but in the bonus features they showed some of Tony DiTerlizzi’s drawings.  They also talked about the “real” Grace children (what is real indeed, Tony) and I was hooked (good marketing, guys).  I went right down to the store and got the boxed set.

I was not disappointed.  Each of the five books was everything I wanted, and especially heavy on the engaging part.  When I was done number five, I was soulfully sad, and even considered starting over.  Then I found there are two Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles books out, and a third yet to come.  Now I’m a total addict; I even bought Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, which is gorgeous!  It will sit on my shelf next to Brian Froud’s amazing Good Faeres/Bad Faeres.  

I could not have picked a better choice.  These books, with their amazing illustrations, and an almost biological feel to them, remind me how, as a child, I endlessly thumbed through Gnomes by Will Huygen (I used to giggle at the naked gnome butt!), hoping that there really were such creatures.   These books provided, turns out, exactly what I wanted and needed – to feel like a child again during the holidays.