In times of economic stress, the impulse to return to simpler ways is often fore-fronted. We seek out ways to celebrate our days that are more about cultivating relationships than accumulating things; a poignant message during this holiday season. My Very Merry Christmas (I See Me! Personalized Books, 2011) by Jennifer Dewing is a sweet nature-inspired story that is personalized for your child and focuses on giving, rather than receiving. Abandoning the mountain-of-presents mentality that is so often associated with modern versions of this gift-giving holiday, Cardinal, Mouse, Goose, and their friends remind us that fraternity, love, and generosity make up the true spirit of Christmas. The host of animal characters come together to carry your child's Christmas wish to Santa Claus and to request that he bring one very special gift for him/her. They then collaborate to seek out the perfect tree, which they trim and gather around to join in song and to offer a warm Christmas greeting.
The illustrations, by Matt McDonough, echo domestic and folk art traditions and appear to be scans of collaged works that incorporate a medley of patterns, fabrics, feathers, and paints that echo the DIY theme of the book. They have a homemade, child-like quality to them and they pair nicely with the simple rhymes of the story. There is much to see on each page and my little one had a blast picking out each animal in every scene.
There is something about seeing one's name in print that excites us when we are young and never really goes away, even as we age. This recognition and celebration of each of us as individuals with unique importance is part of this story's charm. A secular tale, it has a positive message of togetherness that resonates no matter how you might celebrate the season.