I was relieved to discover that this collection of family-oriented holiday stories ranges from silly to thoughtful, with just a hint of subversion. Binder explains his inspiration for the song "We Wish You..." with the story "The Little Drummer Boy Medley," in which he and his Christmas-abstaining family suffer through a seemingly never-ending Xmas muzak medley -- on the day after Thanksgiving. "And they didn't even do the David Bowie and Bing Crosby version!" Some tales (like "The Gold Coins") have a traditional feel about them; others (e.g., "The Boy Who Hated Potato Latkes") are clearly Binder originals. Plenty of wacky voices and places to chime in will engage little listeners. Just as importantly, adults can listen with kids without being hit over the head by morals or contracting deadly Raffi-itis.
Binder says, "One of the things that we do around the holidays is -- in order to keep warm -- we tell stories, because stories fill our minds and spirits." Having grown up in a family whose Thanksgiving celebration always includes Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant", it feels like a good combination to me. But even if you don't normally make storytelling a part of your Festivus festivities, A Holiday Present! does make a nice break from "The Little Drummer Boy."
-- Katie Bircher