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It’s that time of year again where the holiday movies dominate your TV screens, retail stores play Christmas music on repeat, and colourful lights brighten up the dreary winter weather. It also means that it’s time for holiday themed reads and there are some real gems this year.

 

On the picture book front comes a beautifully illustrated edition of The Nutcracker by one of my personal favourites- Jan Brett. With her trademark illustrations, she sets the story in snowy Russia, and follows the epic adventure of siblings Marie and Fritz who travel into the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. This is a perfect companion to the National Ballet of Canada version (which also features Marie and Fritz) and a true holiday classic.

 

For emerging readers comes Parks and Rec star Aubrey Plaza’s The Legend of the Christmas Witch. Plaza, who loves to scare kids on Halloween, gives Santa an exiled twin sister in a story that she describes as “merry and bright and a little dark, and a little creepy”. Torn away from her brother as a child, Santa’s sister was raised in the woods by a witch. Now, many years later, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find her brother, and learns lessons about bravery, love, and magic along the way. This non-traditional Christmas tale is sure to appeal to kids and adults alike.

 

If you’ve seen the new Nextflix movie A Boy CalledChristmas, check out the book that inspired the movie by Matt Haig, the bestselling author of the Midnight Library, and numerous other titles. Read alone or read aloud, this is a wholly charming Santa origin story about an 11-year-old Nikolas, nicknamed Christmas by his deceased mother, who sets off on a quest to the North Pole to rescue his father who has gone missing. Along the way he meets a prickly reindeer, a difficult troll, and finds the hidden village of Elfhelm who need his help to save Christmas. I loved the movie, and I love Matt Haig’s works, and like most good Christmas stories, it’s not just for kids. Haig is also the author of The Girl who Saved Christmas, and Father Christmas and Me, which make great companions.

 

If you prefer naughty over nice, I’d be remiss not to highlight the classic Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. The story follows the antics of the Herdman siblings, otherwise known as the worst kids in the world. When they unexpectedly show up at church for the free snacks, they end up taking over the annual Christmas pageant and chaos ensues. The story is laugh aloud funny, a little bit wicked, and a must-read for the holiday season.

 

On the YA front, Christmas usually means Rom-Com, and two of my favourites have also been adapted for Netflix.

 

The first is Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. In this fun romance, 16-year-old Lily has left a notebook full of challenges on the bookstore shelf, hoping that the right guy will find it and accept the dares. Dash, who feels more like Scrooge than Santa, finds the book and takes up Lily’s challenges. What follows is a whirlwind romance in letters as the pair pass the notebook back and forth throughout New York City. When they finally meet in person, the only question is will they live up to their notebook selves, or are they doomed to be a mismatch of epic proportions? The authors also wrote a follow up 12 Days of Dash & Lily, picking up one year after the first book.

 

The other is Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson. A blizzard buries the residents of Gracetown under several feet of snow, creating chaos and romance in these three interconnected romantic holiday tales. The stories are sweet, funny, and swoon-worthy, and the authors all have huge followings, adding to its appeal.

 

 

If Hallmark movies are more your thing, check out The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcello about two clashing teen co-workers who accidentally switch cell phones for the afternoon and learn that they’ve each been hiding something from each other. Throw in an unexpected snowstorm and you have the makings of a fantastic holiday romance.

 

On the adult side, there are a number of holiday themed books from popular writers such as Anne Perry, Susan Mallery, Fern Michaels, and Debbie Macomber, but if you’re looking for something new, try Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli. When 29-year-old Niki travels to India for a friend’s wedding, she arrives just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. When she meets London musician Sameer, sparks fly, and as they spend time together, Niki gets back in touch with her Indian roots and starts to reconsider what she actually wants out of life.

 

Another great choice for a non-Christmas holiday book is the Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer. This one is right up my alley and I can’t wait for my hold to come available at the library so I can read it. The novel is about a ‘nice” Jewish girl who has secretly been publishing Christmas romance novels for a decade. When her publisher forces her to write a Chanukah romance, she hits a wall. Rachel finds inspiration at a Jewish-themed music festival called “The Matzah Ball”, where she is forced to work with her summer camp arch-nemesis. It’s a fun, out of the box romance, and will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

 

Finally, for readers who love the switching places theme comes the Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox. When I was a kid I was addicted to stories about twins switching places, and I’ve seen the Candace Cameron Hallmark Movie Switched for Christmas a few times. If this describes you, you’ll love this book. It’s about- you guessed it- twins who switch lives 12 days before Christmas as a temporary escape from their lives. But when you throw a calendar-worthy firefighter and a hot physician assistant into the mix, trading lives becomes much more complicated than they bargained for.

 

Those are just the tip of the iceberg for holiday reads, and whether you want laughs, mischief, scares or romance, there’s something for everybody in these selections.

es or romance, there’s something for everybody in these selections.

 

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Happy Reading!

 

Rachel

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