The House in the Night, Susan Swanson and Beth Krommes

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year. It’s not that it’s always the best night of the year. Sometimes the din of gift giving is too loud, or the candlelight service fails to move me with its unusual silence. Sometimes I’m just in a foul mood because, well, that can happen regardless of how much we wished it didn’t on days meant to be special. Nevertheless, come December, I find myself looking forward to this day.

911mhxjpizlMaybe it’s because one of my favorite books as a child was Christmas in Noisy Village. My grandmother’s copy was purchased from a library sale long before I was born, and it was in pretty bad shape when I first got my hands on it. The book hasn’t borne the intervening years well, and the pages now are yellow and torn, but when I pick it up, I’m overcome again by its magic.

Much of that story takes place on Christmas Eve, and I always found that to be wonderfully special. It held all the magic of Christmas without the focus on gifts, which, even as a child, often felt anticlimactic. The excitement of Christmas isn’t really in the accumulation, but in the anticipation, the breathless wonder of dark, starry nights.

It’s that same wonder I see every night when we read our son The House in the Night. The text of the story is sweet and simple, but the art is so special that all three of us feel a powerful connection to the story. There’s one page in particular that my son loves with such passion that he grabs the book (which usually falls on the floor, because six month old fingers don’t have the strength to lift such large board books) and proceeds to have a whole conversation with the moon. The rest of the book has pictures I love even more, but he goes back to that page again and again with such joy that I feel overwhelmed by such pure pleasure. 

It’s that kind of happiness I wish all of you today. Many of us have a moment, a favorite passage or illustration, that we go back to for comfort and joy. It’s one of the incredible gifts of reading, in my opinion, to discover those little treasures – those Christmas Eve moments that are familiar and yet delight us anew every time – and today, in the rush of celebrating (or not – this feeling isn’t limited to the holiday spirit!), I hope you have time to pause and remember the rush of joy such a passage brings. Maybe you can look it up and reread it, maybe you can’t, but either way, allow the knowledge of its existence to make today just a little bit brighter.

A sweet day to you all, and I will see you in the new year!

Cry Wolf, Patricia Briggs

December is such a busy time that I have had far less time to read than I would like. I love to curl up in front of the fireplace with a great read, the Christmas tree joyfully lit up when the sky is dark so early. There’s really nothing cozier than the perfect book paired with a cup of tea and a plate of freshly baked cookies when my toes are toasty and warm. Of course, this year, we aren’t using the fireplace because exploring little people don’t yet understand the concept of “hot,” and I have to keep an eye on the tree lest it be mauled by over-excited little hands. We do spend a lot of time reading in front of it, but the books are small and hard, and they feature a lot of farm animals and rhyming. I’m not complaining. It’s a wonderful way to spend Advent. It’s just not quite as intellectually stimulating as some books on my to-read shelf (oh Sonia Sotomayor, I swear I’ll get to your life story eventually!).

Life being what it is, I’m going to talk instead about a series I read during the first few months of our son’s life. I kept a list of everything I read during parental leave on my computer since I knew I was far too sleep deprived to remember (and feel the deserved sense of accomplishment) how many books I got through. It’s been interesting to go back and look through it, remembering how hot the summer was, and just how many hours I was awake every day. During that time, I obviously wasn’t seeking out any life changing reads. I wanted light and fun, and because I was so devastated when I finished reading all of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, I was over the moon to discover her Alpha and Omega follow-up.

I don’t think I even took a breath from one series to the next. The Alpha and Omega books take place in the same world and feature a character I’d gotten to know in the original series, so it was easy to dive right in. I burned through my phone battery every night reading while holding a sleeping or nursing baby in my arms, and it was totally worth it. In my mind, it was the best of both worlds – sweet cuddles and a popcorn read – and there’s little else a book loving new mom can ask for. 

Of course, Mercy Thompson and I were so tight that I couldn’t bring myself to love the Alpha and Omega series quite as much, even though it was as well written and compelling. I loved the world, and I liked Briggs’ new protagonist, Anna, very much. It was just too soon for me to form a bestie bond with her. Of course, that didn’t stop me from devouring all four books in the series as quickly as I could download them onto my phone. When I think of all the books languishing in my kindle app right now, I feel just a hint of nostalgia for those days when our son slept so much of the day away…but just a hint, because that transition from “fourth trimester sleep confused little person” to “hey! the night is for sleeping little person” is a truly blessed gift. And hey, the long grey days of the new year are just around the corner – plenty of time to curl up under a blanket and read a luxurious page and a half before attending to more pressing things!