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Sarah Simpson column: Christmas book battle newest family tradition

What’s the best Christmas book in your collection?
This is the special mould edition of ‘Baby Reindeer: A Finger Puppet Book’. Thankfully, we have different books now. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

It was three years ago this week that I pulled out my family’s collection of Christmas books only to find them covered in mould.

My then-four-year-old looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“I just hate throwing away books, Momma,” she said, as if it was something I’d made her do all the time. But for her it wasn’t so much about throwing out books — it was that it was those books. It was the memories we’ve all had of the kids growing up with the books sent by their cousins and friends. It was the flaps and the pop-ups, the bright colours and levers; it was the time spent together as a family reading them that we mourned.

SEE RELATED: Tossing traditions and beginning anew

Together, we made a decision.

We could be sad the rest of the day, or we could drop what we were doing and begin hunting right away for some books to start a new collection with.

So, off we went, tucking our old happy memories into our back pockets, in search of new books and new memories.

Fast forward three years and that four-year-old is now seven and a voracious reader, just like her big brother.

The joy of pulling out the Christmas book hasn’t waned, and after I pulled out the tote on Dec. 1 this year my heart was happy to see the kids drop their digital toys and sit on the floor together sifting through the new collection we’ve compiled over the last few years.

They still lift the flaps, look at all the pictures, play with the pop-ups and pore over each and every one.

This year, however, we have added another activity and we’ve dubbed it “The 2023 Great Christmas Book-Off” and it came about after one dinnertime conversation.

One of the kids told us that at school, their class has been involved in a “Battle of the Books” competition with some other classes. The various classes read the books, vote on the one they like better, and ultimately, a winner will emerge.

Sounds like fun, right?

So, looking at our Christmas book collection, we realized we could actually have our own 32-book bracket.

Given my husband and I are avid sports fans, the idea of a bracket a la March Madness sounded like a great idea.

So, the kids and I set to work grouping the books into pairs. We matched books about stars, books about Santa, books about mice, and whatever else we could think up to pair the books up for the first round. My husband made up the bracket and we were good to go.

We had such a nice time dividing up the books and creating the bracket that we figured we should do it again next year, but maybe next year we would use this year’s results as the ranking seeds.

My husband, of course, wants to expand the bracket to 64 books but that’s just because he loves to buy books. (Who doesn’t though!?)

So far, our family of four has read two books each night of December and have voted on the one to advance. It’s never unanimous, which I quite enjoy. I love that everyone has an opinion. I also love that everyone is generally willing to be swayed.

Being an even number, we needed a tie-breaker system.

Placing cat treats on each book and seeing what the cats picked was kiboshed pretty quickly much to the disappoint of my daughter. Instead, we decided that whoever reads the books aloud is the one who gets to have the tiebreaker vote. That extra vote is enticing enough that so far both of my children have been willing to read aloud — something one enjoys and the other abhors.

We’re only just over a week in at this point but I can already see that this is going to be an epic battle. The competition is fierce and discussions are both spirited and persuasive as to why everyone’s pick should advance.

I’m excited to see the final results.

I’m so glad we opted to begin a new Christmas book collection after we lost the last one to mould. It’s even more fun now that the kids can read. And what better way to celebrate the holidays together than by creating a new reading tradition?

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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