My favorite time of the year, despite the craziness, and a time rich with amazing literature. Besides a wealth of charming picture books (Polacco's "The Christmas Tapestry", Joyce's "Santa Calls", Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales") there are wonderful collections of short stories and novels to be had. First and foremost: Connie Willis' "Miracle and Other Christmas Stories". Every one is amazing and brilliant, some funny, some tender, and some even a little bit scary. Plus her intro and final notes suggest other reading and viewing ideas for the holidays. "Epiphany" is my favorite of the stories. Then we have the classic "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens (and the Muppet Christmas Carol is the best film version, I think), Barbara Robinson's "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever", Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" (the collection of essays they based the classic film on), Wendelin Van Draanen's "Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf" and John Grisham's fun and heart-warming "Skipping Christmas". One of my all time favorites, I admit with a blush, is Marion Chesney's Regency romance novel, "Miss Davenport's Christmas", which is filled with fascinating information on English Christmas traditions, as well as being a charming little romance. And this year I added a new favorite: "The Legend of Holly Claus" by Brittney Ryan. What a great book! The details about Santa Claus and his family were delightful, and the story zipped along with plenty of magic and action, especially at the end, when I was bouncing up and down in my chair with suspense. I know it's after the fact, but keep these in mind for next year. I know! If you're like me, you got at least one bookstore gift certificate for Christmas. Use it to buy at least one of these, you won't be sorry! There's a new illustrated "Christmas Carol" (pictures by P.J. Lynch!), and I think "Miracle" is a must have. Go on, do it!