Here’s the perfect holiday book for girls who love the Nutcracker story or ballet. A young girl during the Harlem Renaissance learns (while dreaming of the Nutcracker) to stand up and join in the music making by playing the drum! The illustrations by James Ransome are gorgeous and bring this period of history to life. Made me want to dance with the Nutcracker! The author was, in his youth, a stage hand for the Dance Theater of Harlem, so watched the company rehearse. He creates in this story a joyous reminiscence of another time.
In 2nd grade, I played the title role in my school’s production of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, an experience that clearly warped me for life. Although I enjoy conspicuous consumption and fatty foods as much as the next person, the enforced jollity of the holidays has always grated on my embittered soul. For those of you who share the pain of repressing your inner grinchiness, here’s my essential holiday reading and viewing list.
You can take your Dickens, your Clement C. Moore, your Garrison Keillor. For my money, no author captures the elusive spirit of the holidays like…Lemony Snicket. What true grinch doesn’t identify with the misunderstood, Christmas-phobic Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming or the artistically frustrated Lump of Coal whose holiday destiny falls short of his dreams?
Saving Hanukkah and Kwanzaa: The Hebrew Hammer[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx0WauS9Sus]
Santa Claus has been eliminated by his evil nephew, who plans to wipe out Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and all other competitors to Christmas. Who can save the day but a street smart Jewish detective and his bros from the Kwanzaa Liberation Front? This ethnic inflected parody of the Shaft/Superfly genre will have you laughing so hard you’ll plotz over the kinara. Sadly, EPL doesn’t own a copy but if you enjoy this preview, we’ll be happy to get it for you from elsewhere. Stars Adam Goldberg, Mario Van Peebles and Andy Dick. Rated R, 2003.
Cult radio personality Jean Shepherd created the immortal Ralphie and his Red Ryder b.b. gun in this hilarious novel about Christmas in small town Indiana. Of course it became the basis for A Christmas Story, that refreshingly unsentimental look at mean-spirited Santas, overly confining winter garments, and unwise holiday gift choices.
…try sipping mead Christmas Eve with a Dad who’s put Mom in prison, and 3 brothers who may be plotting to kill each other. Such is the happy family dynamic behind The Lion in Winter, the classic Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn film about the dysfunctional, yet highly entertaining home life of megalomaniac monarchs Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. There’s a tv version with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close, but it doesn’t quite match the fire of the original. Rated PG, 1968.
No true grinch list would be complete without Holidays on Ice, the modern classic that first brought David Sedaris and the caustic “Santaland Diaries” to national attention. The 2008 edition adds 6 new stories to the original collection; check out the audiobook to fully experience the Sedaris wit, or download the e-audiobook version to your iPod or mp3 player!