Celebrate the season with these new Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books for children and families -- the best of 2009.
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4 to 7) -- Santa, accompanied by only his reindeer, waits patiently for "the magic" to arrive on Christmas Eve. He goes about his tasks and when night descends, is ready to depart in his big red sleigh, knowing "what each child at heart wants most." The spare story is accompanied by beautiful watercolor and pastel paintings.
A Chanukah Present for Me! (Scholastic, $6.99, ages 2 to 4) -- This compact board book, packaged in a holiday box, cheerfully presents the icons of the Jewish Festival of Lights: a menorah, latkes, a dreidel and gelt. For those who celebrate Christmas, the similar A Christmas Present for Me! is also available.
Classic Christmas Collection (Candlewick, $40, age 9 and older) -- Three holiday stories, each gloriously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, are included in this boxed set: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi and Susan Wojciechowski's tale of a woodcarver, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.
I'm Not Santa! by Jonathan Allen (Hyperion, $14.99, ages 2 to 4) -- In this sturdy board book, a baby hare mistakes a baby owl for Santa. The confusion escalates until both are crying. Then the real deal shows up to resolve this charming story.
The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer, illustrated by Jannie Ho (Sterling, 25 pages, $14.95, ages 5 to 8) -- Good grief: Santa's reindeer are on strike. So cats, flamingos, kangaroos and even elephants are hitched to the sleigh until the reindeers' conditions are met. The rhyming tale has fun even as it rebuts the spirit of Christmas generosity.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Charles Santore (Running Press, $14.95, ages 9 to 12) -- In 1902, the creator of The Wizard of Oz series published his imaginings of the origin of Santa Claus. St. Nick was raised by woodland fairies, grew to love children and wanted to be their champion, and eventually became immortal. Santore's page-filling paintings are equally magical.
Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Maguire (Morrow, $19.99, age 10 and older) -- For those distressed by Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl (she dies), Maguire offers a bit of respite. In his reworking of the story, she still dies, but he surrounds the story with another of a boy and his family whose lives become entwined with the family of the Match Girl. Maguire's story was commissioned by National Public Radio in 2008.
The Sound of Kwanzaa by Dimitrea Tokunbo, illustrated by Lisa Cohen (Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4 to 8) -- The seven principles of the African-American holiday and its traditions are explained and celebrated in this handsome picture book.
Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy (Scholastic, $19.99, ages 9 to 12) -- In a dense nonfiction book that chronicles the horrific fighting of World War I, Murphy finds hope in the unlikely Christmas truce of 1914, when both German and British soldiers disobeyed their commanders to sing carols, exchange gifts and declare a truce, no matter how brief.