Quest Readers On Their Favorite Holiday Books

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

by F.E. Castleberry

Most boys at some point in their youth scratch and claw their way into another world. Our imagination lures us there, propelling us down a rabbit hole of fantasy to a world of adventure, danger, and wonder that awaits on the other side. It’s a world where even the smallest person can change the course of the future. Some are greeted by giant peaches, talking lions, or boys who never grew up. I was welcomed by hobbits. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again had long ago attained critical acclaim by the time I was dog-earing pages and yet it remains a classic in children’s literature to this day.

It was often as the temperatures dropped that I’d find myself in The Hobbit. Maybe it was the hard, cold embrace of December that kept me indoors curled up with it in my hands. I loved it. I still do. The story follows the quest of homebody hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. The tale is told in the form of an episodic quest, in which dwarves, elves, and wizards of Tolkien’s Wilderland all collide in a fantasy of epic proportions. Read it to yourself. Read it to your sons…and to all a good night.

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The Night Before Christmas

by Pamela Suskind

Like many families that celebrate Christmas, the reading of The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve is a tradition in my family that has passed down from one generation to the next. My earliest memories are of my grandfather sitting in a large chair with all the grandchildren snuggled in around him reading that treasured story. My favorite Christmas Eve reading though was fifteen years ago when a huge nor’easter raged through the Hamptons where we had gathered. A fierce wind blew, the power went out and we could not find the book in the dark! My Jewish father assured us that he could recite the whole story from memory. I will never forget sitting in the dark with flashlights shining on my dad who started that tale with, “Twas the night before Christmas and all over New York, everyone was sleeping except a little white mouse. The stockings were hung on the fire escape outside, with the hope that Santa Claus would come during the night.”

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

by Elizabeth Kurpis

Maybe because of my incessant sweet tooth (or because I am a nutcracker at times, says my husband!), I have always had love for E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Each year, my mother would read the story to me during the family tree trimming gathering. Afterward, I would dress up in my ballet-best, and dance around with my own soldier nutcracker, splitting walnuts for all those that were interested. I would then gorge on the holiday sweets my mother made until the nutcracker lulled me to sleep asking that I dream a little dream of him, where I too would pass through Sweetmeatburgh’s macaroon and sugared fruit gateway and its glorious marzipan castles.