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For Readers

5 Holiday Classics – As You’ve Never Seen Them Before!

By: Hidden Gems on December 31, 2019

Hidden Gems Books ARC service.

By: Hidden Gems on December 31, 2019


In Iceland, there’s a Christmas Eve tradition called “Jolabokaflod” – in which you’re allowed to unwrap one specific present early; a book which you can then curl with and read on the long, winter’s night. It sounds delightful – and inspired us to look up some unexpected holiday classics that you might like to read to your family in front of a crackling, log fire.

For me, the holidays isn’t just about eggnog, presents, and listening to my uncles discuss politics for three hours. It’s also an opportunity to indulge in some classic holiday capers on the small screen – like the best Christmas movie ever made; Die Hard.

But unfortunately, Die Hard isn’t exactly the most family-friendly movie to curl up with the kids to watch – and, in fact, many other favorites are a little suspect today. I watched Home Alone with my kids the other day and was horrified to see the “wet bandits” subjected to punishment that would have been instantly fatal in any Saw movie.

Fortunately, while our cinematic sensibilities might have shifted over the years, so too has the rise of popular culture; and today there are other ways to enjoy your favorite holiday classics in a format that won’t freak out any judgmental parents. Today, I’m excited to present five of your festive favorites in a format you might never have seen them before.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Doogie Horner and illustrated by JJ HarrisonA Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Doogie Horner

Well, it might not be strictly kid-friendly, because the final page includes the f-bomb “yipee-kayay” of cinematic legend, but this picture book version of the classic 1988 action adventure movie is still a ton of fun. With beautiful full-color illustrations by JJ Harrison and witty, rhyming prose by Doogie Horner, this is a great little guilty treat that subversive dads should definitely not read with their kids; and a different way to enjoy this awesome movie!

“Best book ever,” writes Bethany Still in her 5-star review. “I wasn’t expecting the whole thing to rhyme! It reads to the tune of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ and covers the entire movie perfectly with beautiful illustrations. I love it!”

“Only 1 four-letter word, too (technically, 12 letters, but you get the point),” observes The Irresponsible Reader in a 5-star review. “Horner does an admirable job with taking the flick and turning it into a series of rhymes — it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. A lot of what he doesn’t grab, Harrison takes care of in the illustrations. The art is great — although you could make the case that Harrison gave McClane too much hair. The art is dynamic, you can feel the action, the characters all look just right.”

Home Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook by Kim SmithHome Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook by Kim Smith

From my perspective, the original Home Alone was far more horrific than Die Hard – with eight-year-old Kevin McCallister enacting some truly appalling punishments on the two men trying to rob his house. If the film is too hardcore for you these days, illustrator Kim Smith has a beautiful alternative in the form of this full-color, illustrated children’s classic.

“Adorable,” writes Leria Draven, a Top Contributor. “Perfect for adults who grew up with this movie and the newer generations that we can pass it on to. The artwork is great, the story line is great (no it doesn’t cover every single scene in the movie. It’s just not possible in a children’s book to do that), it captures the pivotal scenes and flows nicely. Even the inside cover artwork plays into the story. A great read for any generation, and one that can be a great way to introduce children to Home Alone or get them into it by reading the book first. This would be a great book to start a new Christmas tradition with!”

“One of the best Christmas movies now a fantastic storybook!” Spike-McFinn writes in his 5-star review. “As a kid, I used to watch this movie all the time. An underdog son and brother is callously left behind on a major holiday trip and is left to fend for himself. Can he do it? And can he reconcile with his family? It’s perfect for introducing kids to the Home Alone series. Try this before they watch the movie so they get to know and love the legacy created by Chris Columbus, who also did Mrs. Doubtfire and Harry Potter. You’ll have a side-splitting time!”

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York: The Classic Illustrated Storybook by Kim SmithHome Alone 2: Lost in New York: The Classic Illustrated Storybook by Kim Smith

I actually went to the cinema to see this movie when it came out – the holiday classic in which Donald Trump even makes a cameo. Written and illustrated in the same style as the previous book, this is a great follow up which I (personally) prefer to the original.

“A fun retelling of Home Alone 2, but it’s missing some of the funniest parts of the movie,” writers Olivia Stabler – a Top 1000 Review and Vine Voice. “Nevertheless, we like having a book version of one of our favorite Christmas movies to read this holiday season. The illustrations are awesome and so detailed and colorful. Every time we read it, we find new details we hadn’t noticed before. My 2nd grader can read it mostly on her own and she asks to read it often. Overall it’s a good retelling and any Home Alone fans would like it.”

“Fantastically Illustrated – Story Well Told!” Writers Vine Voice reviewer Bobby D in his 5-star review. “I cannot begin to say how great this book is illustrated. It is a fantastic job they have done, turning Kevin McAllister’s hijinks in New York into this compact children’s tale.”

The Muppet Christmas Carol: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Brooke Vitale and illustrated by Luke FlowersThe Muppet Christmas Carol: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Brooke Vitale

Michael Caine rivaled Patrick Stewart for greatest-cinematic-Scrooge when the original Muppet’s Christmas Carol came out – and now you don’t need to wait for a rerun to enjoy this holiday classic with your family. I enjoyed this one because it contained none of the subversive elements of the more fast-paced movie adaptations; and was just rich in charm and nostalgia; perfect for the holidays.

“Great companion to the Muppet classic film,” writes Patrick’s Mom in her 5-star review. “My favorite Christmas Movie by far, and now I have the companion book to share with my 7-year-old son. Beautiful dust jacket and stunning bound book with artwork as well on the hard cover itself. High quality – very nice to be presented as a gift. Illustrations are beautiful, high quality heavy glossy paper. It is a great blend of the Dicken’s classic and humor from the movie interjected…just like the movie!”

“Love it!” Writes Natalie J. Bervig in her 5-star review. “My favorite Christmas movie now a book! Hooray! Love this story and love having the book version of the Muppet classic!”

The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition by Tim BurtonThe Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition by Tim Burton

Written and illustrated by the iconic director himself, this full-color picture book brings one of the perfect holiday classics to life in a way that’ll delight parents of creepy, weird kids like mine (who get more excited about Halloween than Christmas!) Forget the fact that Jack is guilty of kidnapping and revolution – he’s the hero of this beloved holiday classic, in which he tries to put his own spooky spin on the festive season. 

In a 5-star review, Simon Omnes warns readers that this might not be the holiday adaptation they’d been expecting – and actually pre-dates the iconic movie: “Let’s make it straight, this book is not a direct adaptation of the movie. Instead, this is the original poem Tim Burton had written and proposed to the Studios when he worked as a Disney Animator in the late seventies and early eighties. A poem with his original illustrations accompanying his stanzas. Artwork that is instantly recognizable with its German expressionism and its faerie colors, and character designs. Regarding that last aspect, it is interesting to see that although the characters of Oogie Boogie and Sally are absent, characters with their eventual designs do appear in the background at a certain page. As to whether or not Tim Burton had done those paintings in the seventies before he even got to produce this movie in the nineties, it would be wonderful if he had done that art in the seventies as that specific illustration would foreshadow Sally and Boogie’s eventual presences in this story.”

“Though the poem predates the film by eleven years,” writes RDD – a Top 500 Reviewer, “it’s difficult not to view the book as a companion piece to its successor, if only because the film has surpassed its predecessor. Burton’s poem is a perfect exploration of a theme where the story is second to the concept, while the movie uses the concept to drive the plot. The difference is subtle enough that fans of the movie will find plenty to love in Burton’s original poem and readers of the poem who (somehow) have not seen the film will feel compelled to watch it.”

Whether you’re looking for festive fun, or reading all-year-round, remember that subscribers to Hidden Gems have the opportunity to review FREE books from any of  over 15 different genres, simply by signing up. Don’t miss out!

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