The Christmas Alphabet

When our kids were small and we were build­ing our Christ­mas book col­lec­tion, the night on which we brought out the hol­i­day books that had been in stor­age since the pre­vi­ous year was always a very spe­cial night.

With #1 Son, this was but a hand­ful of books at first; but once we added Dar­ling Daugh­ter to the fam­i­ly, and St. Nicholas brought a Christ­mas book each year on St. Nicholas Day (Which is today! — Hap­py St. Nicholas Day!) we quick­ly accu­mu­lat­ed quite a col­lec­tion. First one very heavy plas­tic bin was lugged up from the base­ment, and then even­tu­al­ly anoth­er was need­ed as well. We piled/arranged lean­ing tow­ers of books on an end table dur­ing the month of Decem­ber, and every night at bed­time we read sev­er­al. But that first night…that first night we often tried to read them all. This made for a very spe­cial night.

Most of our Christ­mas books are pic­ture books. And the kids still love them at six­teen and almost twen­ty-two. Espe­cial­ly, I think, the pop-up books. When they casu­al­ly shuf­fle through the col­lec­tion over win­ter break, it’s the pop-up books that bring a smile and quick flip through. From the kitchen I’ll hear: “Hey, remem­ber this one?”

We are big fans of Robert Sabu­da. (Do look at his web­site — he has how-to pop-up projects for the mass­es with tem­plates and clear direc­tions.) We have sev­er­al of his books, and most of his Christ­mas books. Some­how, despite the repeat read­ings over the years with two kids, these books have sur­vived.  I can remem­ber say­ing, “Gen­tle fin­gers, please….” when we read them, and so they are, amaz­ing­ly enough, in near per­fect con­di­tion. So now I’m shar­ing them with anoth­er gen­er­a­tion. (Not grand­chil­dren! Young friends!)

Last week I read Sabuda’s The Christ­mas Alpha­bet to my Wee Ones Sto­ry­time folks. I’ve writ­ten about this book before for Red Read­ing Boots — you can read that here. But it worked its mag­ic again this week, so I’m lift­ing it up again.

Our sto­ry­time had sort of set­tled into a com­fort­able chaos that morn­ing — a one-year old rear­rang­ing the nativ­i­ty sto­ry I was try­ing to tell, the babies jin­gling the jin­gle bells ad infini­tum, and an almost two-year-old insist­ing I just get to the book read­ing already. Into all this ener­gy, I brought The Christ­mas Alpha­bet, unsure, frankly, if we’d make it through.

I need not have giv­en it a thought. As soon as I opened it, a hush fell over the group. Tod­dlers backed up to sit in their par­ents’ laps. The jin­gle bells qui­et­ed and then dis­ap­peared with­out com­ment from the babies. “Gen­tle fin­gers…” I said, and using one fin­ger, I opened each of the “doors” to a sim­ple Sabu­da pop-up. 

A is for Angel…

B is for Bell

C is for Candle

That’s all it is — A to Z. No plot. No jokes. No com­men­tary. Just a whim­si­cal pop-up for each let­ter. Cer­tain­ly, Mr. Sabu­da has oth­er pop-up books that are more com­pli­cat­ed, more awe-inspir­ing — but this sim­ple book with plain “doors” sport­ing only a sans serif let­ter, behind which is a pret­ty sim­ple pop-up in white…well, it’s unac­count­ably magical.

There are a cou­ple of doors that when opened fea­ture a pop-up that has a lit­tle col­or — these are some­how a delight­ful sur­prise when you come upon them. “Ooh!” said one lit­tle boy when we opened W is for Win­dow and light pas­tel col­ors filled in the “stained glass” win­dow of Mary and Baby Jesus.

So sim­ple. Just exact­ly what we need dur­ing this some­times busy sea­son. Next year will be the 25thanniver­sary of the first print­ing of this book. I hope they pub­lish it anew.

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5 years ago

nice job of writ­ing this piece. thank you very much.