The Happy Holidays Series would be incomplete without a book review and giveaway! Like all the books that I feature, to me this book has that special something. But this one also happens to hit your heart at the same pitch as a holiday children's choir or the distant jingle of a bell.
It says Christmas.
My affection for Red & Lulu, a new Christmas picture book written and illustrated by Matt Tavares (Candlewick Press), began long before I opened it. I spied the cover earlier this year on Twitter, and it triggered a completely emotional response. I knew this book would become a beloved title in our holiday book collection.
I mean, just feast your eyes on this beauty...
The cover of Red & Lulu is both iconic and novel. Through dreamy snowfall, we see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and meet two new characters - lovely red birds Red and Lulu. Without yet knowing their story, through the cover you can feel the birds' bond and glean the excitement of a shared adventure.
This book instantly worked its way into our family's everyday moments...
We sing "O Christmas Tree, thy leaves are so unchanging" in the grocery store and all around the house.
When I asked my 4 year old what book she'd like to put on her Christmas list, she instantly said Red & Lulu.
My fave: At our town's Christmas tree lighting, my 2 year old pointed to the freshly lit tree and screamed, "Lulu!!!"
If this praise isn't enough to encourage you to add Red & Lulu to your family's holiday collection, here's a list of five things that in my view make this book so special:
1. Companionship: "Red and Lulu were happy in their tree." From the start of the book, we read these words and see Red and Lulu moving through the seasons together. Red brings a twig to Lulu in the spring. They perch on a branch in the heat of summer. They seek each other out in the autumn wind. Red and Lulu are inseparable, and their joys are interwoven. Through gorgeous illustrations and gentle, poetic text, Tavares establishes the beauty and certainty of their partnership.
2. Sense of Home: Neighbors are drawn to the evergreen's picturesque side each year to sing carols. But first and foremost, the tree is Red & Lulu's home. Children will most certainly relate to the birds’ sense of safety and identity, rooted physically and emotionally in their tree - making the forthcoming change so effective...
3. Separation: We all fear separation from home and loved ones. So when Red and Lulu are distanced - as their tree is cut down and transported to NYC - we feel their panic and urgency. The juxtapositions created by Tavares in the spread below are powerful. With precision, he demonstrates the step-by-step process of removing and transporting such a large tree, and with a keen sense of scale, he shows Red and Lulu's powerlessness against the change.
4. Postcard Moments: I've been to New York seven times (took me a minute to count that up...), and it’s undeniable - there is just something about that city. It's a constant sensory experience. The architecture, the density, the food, the soundtrack. Tavares' illustrations show the grandeur and the minutia, the brilliance and the everyday commotion - all softened with the dusting of snow. The palette is so expertly restrained, allowing rich reds to pop and the glow of the city lights to linger and illuminate out, up and all around. (It's no surprise that Tavares' Red & Lulu artwork also appears on greeting cards, found here.)
5. Iconic: After an exhaustive search for Lulu, Red happens upon a tree that looks an awful lot like their tree. Tavares captures this moment in an unforgettable image (below), which encapsulates what I imagine a New York City Christmas to be. The spread of wide-winged Red in front of this iconic scene is perfection. As a reader, you know you are getting close... to the tree's true purpose, to the end of Red's journey, to Lulu (we hope!), and to Christmas Day. It's a moment of arrival and joy. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?
I soooooo want to share the next few pages of the book with you, but I can't. You don't want to first experience those moments here. You'll need to share them with someone you love.
The phrase "new classic" is often used to market books. While no one could possibly know if a book might reach a deep place in the hearts of many, when I hear that phrase attached to Red & Lulu, I don't doubt that it will come to pass. I do think it will be one of those books.
One lucky winner will receive an *autographed copy* of this beauty. (Thanks for sharing one with the blog, Matt!) Here's how to enter to win - and be sure to follow Matt on Twitter @tavaresbooks.
Happy Holidays, and good luck!
*** WIN Red & Lulu ***
1. "Like" this post (click the heart below)
2. Follow me (@anitraschulte) on Twitter
3. Retweet my pinned contest tweet by 12/8/17
(Submit a blog comment below and get a BONUS ENTRY!)