The thing about established picture book series and holiday books is that there just doesn’t seem to be a stopping point. I mean at least with alcohol, the bartender might cut you off or a friend might say something. Sure, you think it’s just going to be one, one Christmas book and that’s it. No harm there. But then you don’t want to seem to be slighting Hanukkah, and there’s Easter to consider since you already have minor rabbit characters, and St. Patrick’s Day — nobody’s really tackled the snake-banishing element. The next thing you know, you’re binging on holidays and seasons and soon enough you are not even pretending to have any standards, you’re franchised.
The truth is that most picture book series can pull off Christmas, which is a sort of gateway drug here. I’m a big Otis fan, for example, and when the f&g for An Otis Christmas appeared in last year’s fall sales kit, my first thought was, oh no it’s Otis Does Christmas. Loren Long really pulled it off, though. An Otis Christmas was a terrific holiday book. This year’s fall kit contained Otis and the Scarecrow, in which the wheels fall off completely, a classic case of one seasonal book too many. Sigh.
On to the next buy. The first thing out of the Houghton fall box was Little Blue Truck’s Christmas and that worked. I mean it makes sense that the Little Blue Truck would pick up a Christmas tree, and yet, as Galadriel said when Sam urged her to take the ring, “That is how it would begin. But it would not stop with that, alas.”
The sad thing is that everything in the box starts looking guilty by future association. I was happy to see Bats in the Band, however unbidden and unhappy images of a Christmas Bat Book Yet To Come began to form in my mind. Brian Lies’ bats began hanging on a Christmas tree as ornaments and terrifying an unexpecting family. Sure, Brian Lies would make a far more tasteful story of it but that’s not the point. The point is that holiday books are a gift not of Santa Claus but of that clever chap Mephistopheles.