I fell in love with Susan Branch's wonderful watercolor art years ago, and two of my favorite books of hers are these (she also has a Christmas memory book which I have):
Susan Branch took much of her inspiration from Beatrix Potter, who too many people know only as "the author of those silly kiddie books where the animals are in clothes." While Potter's fame rested mainly on these "Little Books," as she referred to them, she is so much more; even in her illustrations for the "Little Books": the minute details of these juvenile pieces of artwork are stunning. Take any of these illustrations and look at them closely, especially those of hearthsides and countrysides. The little country store in "The Tale of Ginger and Pickles" was based on a shop in Potter's hometown of Sawrey and even today the drawing looks exactly like the restored shop.
But not many people know that Potter was a talented nature artist and illustrated university-level botanical catalogs (the ones she was permitted to, that is, since the faculty usually blanched upon discovering that "HBP" was a woman, even as they admired her detailed illustrations). One of her watercolors of winter at her Hilltop Farm is one of my favorites:
Which is why I picked up the following:
If you don't remember "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" having anything to do with Christmas, don't worry. "Peter" and his sequels ("The Tale of Benjamin Bunny" and "The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies") are included here because "Peter" is her most famous work, and also because over her lifetime Potter used Peter and his cousin Benjamin as themes for her home-made Christmas cards which she sent to friends and especially children of friends. These rare cards and notes Potter wrote to the children are included in this volume, along with a Christmas chapter from Potter's The Fairy Caravan, a lesser-known novella written after she stopped writing her "Little Books" and devoted herself to farming full time—and preserving the wild landscape of the Lake District—with her husband William Heelis, plus the story "Wag-by-Wall" about a poor woman, which ends on Christmas Eve, and "The Tale of the Two Bad Mice." The gem in the collection is Potter's "The Tailor of Gloucester," her favorite of all the stories, the tale of a poor tailor, a selfish cat, and some very talented mice.
A great gift for your favorite child, even if that favorite child is yourself: a great book to pore over on a winter afternoon with a cup of tea and some gingersnaps.
A link to Potter's brilliant botanical art, which was featured in textbooks.