New Books to Celebrate Christmas 2010
10 Trim-the-Tree'ers: A Holiday Counting Book
Illustrated by Linda Davick
Author Schulman has written a nice holiday picture counting book complete with whimsical illustrations by artist Linda Davick. It's time to trim the Christmas tree so ten little neighbors find a tree and bring it indoors for decorations. First thing to go up is one shiny golden star while another little neighbor starts putting two strings of lights around the big tree. Next comes three little angels glowing against the green tree, while four Santa's elves make toys. Five reindeer decorations are added by two children while two others sit in a chair looking at a book. The tree is filling out with six lacy snowflakes that magically appear. Seven jolly snowmen, eight candy canes, nine menorah candles, and ten colorful presents finish up this brightly decorated tree. But wait, is that Santa being pulled into the room by a little neighbor girl? Ten trim-the-tree-ers have finished their job so they leave the house and begin to sing Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! The last page displays the numbers 1 to 10 along with all the Christmas tree trimmings next to their corresponding numbers. This delightful holiday book will teach children their numbers, as well as entertain in a jolly old way. 2010, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's Books, Ages 2 to 4, $8.99. Reviewer: Della A. Yannuzzi (Children's Literature).
12 Days of Christmas
Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Swaziland inspire this version of a classic Christmas song with full color illustrations created by oil paint, printed paper, and palette paper. A special rebus feature allows even the youngest child to enjoy repetitive verses while counting representations of African life. The author spent ten years in Africa learning about culture, traditions, and daily living. She has written and illustrated many picture books with an African setting, including Ben's Trumpet which earned a Caldecott Honor. In this rendition for instance, "ten lords a-leaping" represent dancers from Mali, "nine ladies dancing" recall women from Swaziland, "twelve drummers drumming" feature instruments from Ghana and Nigeria, and women in South Africa wear "five gold rings." There is a nice rebus key in the beginning of the book to guide children which is helpfully repeated throughout the song. Distinctive African figures for every rebus interact with animals and aspects from nature. Pages include small, lively silhouettes while bright native patterns dress both children and adults with festive flair. As an interactive read-aloud, this easily launches further study and discussion about the history and personal expressions of many African people. Even though geared for the younger set and quite basic, older children gain a finer understanding about featured countries and cultural aspects when combined with additional age-appropriate resources. 2010, G.P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 4 to 7, $17.95. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed (Children's Literature).
Annie and Snowball and the Shining Star
Illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
Annie was so excited for two reasons. It was Christmas and she was going to be a star in a school play. She is about five or six years old and the protagonist. Her cousin, Henry, lives next door so she called him to tell him the good news. He is about her age and is enthusiastic for Annie. She tells him she doesn't know what to do and he suggests that she practice. Annie felt nervous, but her nerves disappeared until the night of the play. When she thought of Snowball, her rabbit, her nerves disappeared a little. Her costume was silver and sparkled when she moved so this made Annie happy. When she heard the applause, after her performance, she was happy again. After the play was over, she went to Henry's house for hot cocoa and popcorn. The first page of this book is written for parents and teachers. The information is limited, but should be helpful especially as it applies to this book. Beginning readers will enjoy reading this book with some help. The author explains the four levels of reading readiness and determines which level the child is ready for. Illustrations are determined to be appropriate for each level. The illustrator has written and illustrated over fifty books for children. This "Ready to Read" book would be an asset to a library serving the primary grades. Students, regardless of the elementary grade they are in, who have reading disabilities would profit from having access to this series of books. 2009, Simon Spotlight/Simon & Schuster, Ages 5 to 7, $3.99. Reviewer: Jennie DeGenaro (Children's Literature).
A Chanukah Noel
Illustrations by Gillian Newland
This O'Henry-like story captures the meaning of the holidays in a charming slice-of-life vignette. Charlotte's family is moving to France where they will be the only Jewish family in a small country town. In addition to the trauma f being uprooted and taken to a place where the language, food, and customs are unfamiliar, Charlotte has a class bully, Colette, who calls her "foreigner" and ridicules her French accent. As the villages prepares for Christmas, Charlotte finds herself additionally marginalized because her parents will only celebrate Chanukah. However, clever Charlotte finds a way to have her buche de Noel and eat it, too! With slightly selfish motives, Charlotte convinces her parents to make Christmas for Colette's poor family therefore enjoying the trappings of the holiday and de-clawing her tormentor at school. The focus on not making Colette's family is a nice touch, and in the spirit of Jewish tzedakah (charity cloaked in justice). This is a lovely tale for conveying the true meaning of the holiday season. There are no explanations of the religious or historical significant of either holiday, so there should be no controversy about a book that simply conveys kindness. The book's somewhat small format and dark but beautifully detailed pictures may not make this a first choice for story groups, but is a fine read-aloud for children. Much like Patricia Polacco's Trees of the Dancing Goat, this slight story shows that a holiday shared is one that is truly celebrated. 2010, Second Story Press, Ages 5 to 7, $15.95. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children's Literature).
A Child is Born
From the Gospel of Luke
Illustrated by Mark-Alexander Schulze
The Christmas story is illustrated using the text from Luke 2:1-20 of the King James Bible. The two page spread for "…there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus" shows people looking at a notice on a wall. Later Mary rides a donkey as she and Joseph travel toward Bethlehem. The newborn Jesus is shown crying as Mary and Joseph stand by. This illustration is also on the cover. An angel in a pink gown, yellow hair, and large wings appears to the shepherds. The angel gives the message, "Fear not…" while standing among the sheep. The shepherds find the baby lying in a manger with a cow, donkey, and sheep nearby. After seeing the baby, the shepherds are shown telling others. "And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." A sweet-faced Mary and baby along with large images of a donkey and ox illustrate the text: "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." This large book might be on the coffee table to read during the Christmas season. 2010, NordSud Verlag AG/North-South Books, $16.95. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children's Literature).
There are five press-out pieces, each a different shape, to be moved from one picture to another. This tactile experience will introduce a young child to a circle, a star, a square, a crescent, and a triangle. Each picture is a winter or Christmas scene, with just enough illustration to make it interesting. There is a Christmas tree upon which to place the star, a white circle for a snowman, a triangle for Santa's hat, and more. On the final double-page spread the reader lifts the pages to show four panels that make up a house. Each shape fits into a space here, too. The crescent becomes the moon, the square package goes next to the tree, the circle becomes the plate for cookies for Santa. The shapes are inconsistently named with their color ("a silver crescent" but "a round circle"). The shapes are small cardboard pieces that can easily get lost. Toddlers will need help in placing the shapes in the appropriate spaces in the book. 2010, Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, Ages 2 to 3, $6.99. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature).
The Christmas Eve Ghost
In the 1930s, Bronwen and Dylan move to Liverpool, England, from Wales because their da died in a mining accident and their mam must work as a washerwoman and seamstress to support the family. Mam will have nothing to do with her new neighbors, the O'Rileys, because they are Catholics. She rushes about every morning to deliver laundry before Bronwen and Dylan wake up.because she cannot afford a babysitter. Bronwen and Dylan help as much as they can, but they still have time to play. The children know they will not get much in the way of presents for Christmas, but they do not mind. Mam works extra hard to afford at least a small present and on Christmas Eve day she takes the children with her to deliver the clothes. They are very tired after all that walking, so Mam takes them home to rest while she goes out to finish her shopping. While they wait for Mam to return, the children hear a plonk sound coming from the washer room at the back of their house. Dylan is sure it is a "horrid ghostie" out to get them and runs screaming into the street. Bronwen is hot on his heels and they both run into Mrs. O'Riley, who assures them that it is nothing but her sons and husband playing a game of darts. Mam comes to fetch them home and discovers Mrs. O'Riley to be a nice person willing to look after Bronwen and Dylan when need be. The illustrations are delightful and the story is a sweet message of trust and tolerance. 2010, Candlewick Press, $15.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan (Children's Literature).
Christmas Is Here
Illustrations by Lauren Castillo
The first two-page spread shows a father with a child in his arms, a mother locking the door to a row house, and a small child with a dog on a leash on a snowy sidewalk. Another person trims a Christmas tree in front of her house. Nailed to a tree is a sign proclaiming "LIVE NATIVITY TONIGHT!" The second two-page spread shows the family at the live nativity. A sign reads "COME Celebrate JESUS' BIRTH!" The third two-page spread shows the child peering over the side of the manger at the baby. After these spreads, the story of the shepherds as drawn from Luke 2:8-14 of the King James edition of the Bible is illustrated phrase by phrase. "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field" appears on a two-page spread of grazing sheep and three shepherds holding crooks. The book ends with an illustration of the family and a group of singers at the live nativity. Pen-and-ink drawings, filled in with watercolor, are overlaid with fluffy snowflakes at the live crèche. The youngest children and their parents will enjoy this ancient story brought to life through Castillo's wonderful illustrations. 2010, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Ages 3 to 7, $12.99. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children's Literature).
Christmas Kitten: Home at Last
Illustrated by Layne Johnson
Santa has just finished his toy delivery on Christmas Eve when he picks up a stray kitten But Santa suffers from a cat allergy, and Mrs. Claus insists that he find a child to give it to for Christmas. But Santa doesn't give pets to any child who doesn't have parent permission. He finds a letter from Angela, who wants a kitten but lives in an apartment where she can't have one. The playful kitten makes a mess throughout Santa's house, knocking over things and creeping under things. The kitten finds another letter, somehow misplaced. It is a letter from Angela's parents saying they can now have a kitten since they have moved to a new house. Santa is delighted to give away the kitten to a family who really wants it. Mrs. Claus insists on helping with the delivery, though, since Santa has been up driving all night. Angela gets her Christmas wish, and Santa can live allergy-free. This delightful Christmas story remains true to the Christmas spirit and also shows a human side to Santa. This book brings good tidings to cat lovers and Christmas story fans. 2010, Albert Whitman, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Marcie Flinchum Atkins (Children's Literature).
Clifford's First Christmas
Clifford has made a mark on children's media for being "the Big Red Dog," but that wasn't always the case. Long before he grew to enormous proportions, Clifford was a very tiny puppy. He was, in fact, smaller than a candy cane. He slept not in a doghouse, but in a basket next to Emily Elizabeth's bed. At least, he would sleep—if he could. But children aren't the only ones who are excited on Christmas Eve. Dogs are, too. It isn't long before Clifford has sprung from his bed to explore the holiday-ready living room. His adventure takes an unexpected turn when he falls into a stocking; fortunately, a most jolly old rescuer isn't long in coming! Christmas morning brings a host of surprises for Emily Elizabeth and Clifford to enjoy, including a toy car, a dollhouse, a miniature train, and a doll. Clifford thrills in dwarfing them all. But that could never happen—or could it? Established Clifford fans and those new to the crimson canine and his doting owner will appreciate this simple holiday tale. 2010, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, Ages 1 to 4, $6.99. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green (Children's Literature).
Christmas with the Mousekins
The Mousekin family is preparing for Christmas and begin by finding the perfect Christmas tree to bring home. That afternoon Nana Mousekin arrives, bringing not only hugs and surprises, but her love of crafts that she shares with the family. Nana helps the Mousekin children Mimi and Momo make mitten garlands to decorate the tree and Christmas tree hats to wear. The children also write letters to Santa Mouse and help bake cookies to give as gifts. A fresh snow encourages skating, skiing, and sledding along with carolers who visit the Mousekin family. Old family stories and handmade gifts help make the Mousekin Christmas a wonderful holiday. Instructions for paper and felt craft activities, recipes for cookies, and poems and stories fill the pages of this book, from endpaper to endpaper. Crafts include snowflakes, garlands, tree toppers, and bookmarks along with other crafts. Cinnamon Snail cookies and Gingerbread Mice cookie recipes are also included. Poems and songs are found throughout the book in boxes with the complementary text. A quaint story with beautiful painted illustrations paired with wonderful crafts and activities makes this book an excellent choice for the season. 2010, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 5 to 9, $15.99. Reviewer: Barbara Wheatley (Children's Literature).
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
The premise of this smart, funny yet touching novel has the two protagonists, Dash (short for Dashiell) and Lily, getting to know each other by writing about themselves in Lily's red Moleskin notebook, which they hide in obscure locations for the other to find. Dash first finds the notebook, four days before Christmas, while scanning the shelves at New York's Strand Book Store. Though they've never met, they soon share their innermost feelings and thoughts. In addition to being unpopular (she gets along with everybody by not being friends with anyone) and weird, Lily's life is complicated by the fact that her parents are considering moving to Fiji, where they are vacationing over the holiday, leaving her behind with her older brother and his boyfriend. With divorced parents, Dash, too, is on his own. Her Christmas wish is to believe that she will find her special person. Dash's wish is to make enough money to buy the Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. Though in different ways, each is looking for meaning. Told in alternating first-person accounts, the story is also peppered with quirky characters (such as her Grandpa, who is trying to convince a widow nicknamed Glamma to marry him) and locations (for instance, a nightclub holding a Hannukah show and guarded by a drag-queen). When Dash and Lily finally meet, they land in high jinks as a result of which Lily is both accused of being a baby-stealer and lauded for saving the baby. The ending is equally creative, improbable, and satisfying. 2010, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 15 to 18, $16.99. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson (Children's Literature).
Duck and Goose: It's Time for Christmas
Duck is walking in the snow with his friend Goose. Duck has a purpose, but Goose wants to play. So Duck tells Goose that it is not time for catching snowflakes. Then Goose must be told it is not time for sledding, nor is it time for making snow angels. Goose also learns it is not time for throwing snowballs and it is not time for making a snowgoose. Duck tells Goose it is not time to skate, which is a good thing, because Goose doesn't do that very well. He does make quite a handsome snow fort, even though it is not time for doing that either. The next to last scene is Duck calling to Goose to come on as he holds a star behind his back and stands near two other birds decorating a fir tree. When Goose comes, Duck tells him it is time for Christmas and Goose stands on Duck's head to put the star on top of the tree. A cute story with nice repetition of the phrase "It is not time for…," makes this a child pleaser. The expressions on Duck and Goose's faces add to the story's charm. This is part of the "Duck and Goose" series. 2010, Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House, Ages 1 to 4, $6.99. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan (Children's Literature).
The Elves' First Christmas: The Untold Story of How the Elves First Met Santa
This mesmerizing and mystical story about Santa and how his elves first came to help him make toys will delight young readers and infuse them with a sense of wonder, generosity, and caring that will extend beyond the holiday season. Santa offers to house a charming band of elves who have been wandering through the forests in search of a home. Santa helps the elves build homes and teaches them to snow proof their windows and fit steam pipes so that their homes will be cozy during the cold, winter months. Then when the elves notice that Santa is sick, Mrs. Claus tells the elves that Santa's biggest worry is that he will not be able to make all the toys he needs for the boys and girls for the Christmas season. But when Elfin takes Santa to see what the elves have been doing, Santa discovers that the workshop shelves are lined with hundreds of brand new toys…enough for every child to get a new toy on Christmas Eve! The simple text and expressive detailed illustrations in this appealing story will charm young readers. They will be eager to read this story over and over again, with or without an adult reading partner, and they will delight in studying the charming, heart-warming illustrations on each page. 2009, Matthew Price Limited, Ages 5 to 9, $16.95. Reviewer: Susan Borges (Children's Literature).
First Dog's White House Christmas
J. Patrick Lewis and Beth Zappitello
Illustrated by Tim Bowers
First Dog, the loveable, cuddly hero of a previously-issued picture book of the same name (First Dog, 2008) is back. Having found the perfect place to live, in the White House with the Obama family, he has been enjoying playing games, taking walks, and gardening with the First Family. When he catches whiff of the upcoming Christmas Gala, he decides to hold his own canine affair. He adds the word "canine" before "guest" on the invitation, ensuring that each attendee from around the world will bring their faithful four-legged companion along. First Dog plans his party, and then welcomes his guests. He invites each one to share information about Christmas traditions in their home countries. In this way, readers will learn about the holiday in many different countries from an English bulldog (England), a Newfoundland (Canada), a French Poodle (France), a Dingo (Australia), a Chihuahua (Mexico), a Rhodesian Ridgeback (Zimbabwe), an Affenpinscher (Germany), a Neapolitan Mastiff (Italy), a Keeshond (Netherlands), Kangal Dog (Turkey), and of course a Portugese Water Dog--First Dog himself (America). Along the way, readers will learn about some of the White House's festivities, customs, and decorations. The party is a success, but the most striking praise comes from a final visitor, who leaves paw marks, crumbs, and a cheery "Bo-ho-ho…and a Merry Christmas to all!" in his wake. This book is sure to be a timely hit with schoolchildren learning about holidays around the world. 2010, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 4 up, $15.95. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green (Children's Literature).
The First Christmas
The National Gallery
Fine art and scripture--what a great combination. Even if the story of the first Christmas is familiar, the art masterpieces that depict the text are gorgeous and may not be as familiar as other traditional Christmas illustrations. From the delicate intricacies of angel wings on the endpapers to the last illustration detail for 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt," the story comes to life as it was presented in the late Middle Ages to the early Renaissance era from such artists as Botticelli and Patel. The scripture is from the King James Version of the Bible, considered the ultimate translation. The images are from the National gallery in London, known for its Italian painting collection; meshing the two results in a superb artistic experience. Following the scripture are pages with the entire illustrations the details are culled from, along with the artist and a brief statement about the work. Not just for Christmas, or for the serious art student, this book is ideal for art lovers of all ages as well. 2010 (orig. 1992), Frances Lincoln Children's Books, Ages 4 to adult, $8.95. Reviewer: Elizabeth Young (Children's Literature).
Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas
Illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke
Beeke's exquisite soft lines and gentle colors provides the exquisite winter images for this story of Fletcher the fox and his attempt to make sure that Santa finds the new home of the bunny family. With the help of his friends the squirrels, the birds, and the mice, he lays out arrows made from sticks to point the way to the bunny home. Once the animals set up the arrows and arrive themselves at the bunny house, they have a celebratory party there while unbeknownst to them it snows outside. When Fletcher and his friends leave the party, the ground is covered with white and no arrows can be seen. Fletcher and their friends promise the bunnies that they will tell Santa when they see him, but, of course, they sleep through the night. Santa, though, does not rely on them. Not only does the story address childhood concerns of being found by Santa, but it also provides a model of helping friends and celebrating together. This is a sweet tale with a positive message of friendship worthy of being shared with youngsters during the holiday season. Originally published in the UK as Ferdie's Christmas by Gullane Children's Books. 2010, Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Ages 3 to 7, $16.99. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson (Children's Literature).
A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time
Mary Pope Osborne
Jack and Annie return to their Magic Tree House for another "Merlin Mission." This time they are whisked to the foggy streets of Victorian England to bring happiness to the famous author, Charles Dickens. When the children find Mr. Dickens' house, the housemaid does not allow them to enter, but Annie comes up with a plan. Disguised as chimney sweeps, the children enter Mr. Dickens' house. When they find Mr. Dickens, he is not interested in talking, and he leaves his house. Annie and Jack follow him. Out on the streets of London, Annie and Jack are accused of stealing a bag and are chased by policeman. To their surprise, Mr. Dickens sees the chase and tells the policeman that he knows the children. Assuming Jack and Annie are poor street children, the author takes them to an inn for some food. There, they learn about Mr. Dickens' sad childhood and his desire to do something good for the poor people in London. He tells the children his words and stories can do nothing to help people and he decides to stop writing. Annie and Jack know they can't let this happen. Using the magic violin that Merlin gave them, they tell Mr. Dickens a story with three ghosts: a ghost from the past, one from the present and one from the future. Jack and Annie's story convinces Mr. Dickens that his writing has value, and that he can teach others about the disparity between the rich and the poor in England. Fast-paced, with just the right touch of action and historical information, kids will breeze through this newest "Magic Tree House" adventure (#44). 2010, Random House, Ages 7 to 10, $12.99. Reviewer: Jody J. Little (Children's Literature).
The Golden Christmas Tree
Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
Animals from around the world decorate a fir tree, make wishes, and dance through the night. The elephant brings a fir tree from "far away." All the animals get along with each other. The wolf helps the deer untangle horns from low hanging branches. The lion lies down with the lamb. The animals are hushed and busy decorating the tree. Kangaroos hang cones and leaves on it. Baboons paint pinecones. The giraffe places the star on top. A raccoon turns on the lights. We don't know where the lights came from. Stars appear. "Then a delicate golden glitter flashed—and each in that moment made his quiet wish." Cardinals drop walnuts, apricots, chestnuts, and plumbs. All dance until morning. The pictures of animals are intermingled with the text. This quiet story of peace and joyful celebration by a favorite author and favorite illustrator looks forward to an ideal time. 2003 (orig. 1988), Golden Books/Random House, $8.99. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children's Literature).
Although the narrator of this tender story is Puerto Rican, his story will touch American-born children of all immigrant families. Author Velasquez's (I, Matthew Henson and Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive) autobiographical story conveys his special relationship with his Spanish-speaking grandmother. Grandma is Eric's caregiver when his parents are at work. Eric is his grandmother's guide and translator on her infrequent trips out of the barrio. Within the neighborhood, Grandma has a network of friends and merchants who treat her with fairness and customary courtesy. Outside her network in English-speaking New York, Grandma is dependent on Eric's translation skills and ability to navigate the majority culture. A school-mandated visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an act of courage for Grandma who does not understand the signs or the "give what you can" admissions policy. She does recognize Diego Velasquez's famous portrait of Juan de Pereja, a former slave who himself aspired to become a great artist. The painting is for Grandma a point of pride, and for Eric a new awareness that people of Puerto Rican heritage have made notable contributions to the world of art. The history lesson is important to the story, but incidental to the real message of the book. The devoted relationship between Eric and his grandmother is the centerpiece of the story. Grandma is the bearer of traditional Christmas recipes and Puerto Rican pride. The kitchen as a place of shared stories is a constant in many books (such as Adele Geras' My Grandmother's Stories) and here, again, we see it as a catalyst for important generation-to-generation sharing that is frequently absent today. The inherent coziness of this book and the overwhelming pride of heritage make it a wonderful addition to multi-ethnic collections, especially for the holiday season. 2010, Walker and Company, $16.99. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children's Literature).
Here Comes Christmas!
Caroline Jayne Church
Like children around the world, our protagonist wonders on Christmas Eve what Santa will bring him that night. The possibilities he comes up with are highly imaginative. Will Santa bring him a dragon? A submarine? A rocket ship? A marching band? When he awakens the next morning, it is as if all of his dreams have come true—on a smaller, yet no less satisfying scale. It looks to be a very merry Christmas indeed! Young readers are sure to enjoy the tactile elements of this board book; little fingers will be drawn to the sparklingly bumpy dragon hide, the underwater bubbles, the twinkly stars, the crinkly red rocket flames, and more. They will also be thrilled to "unwrap" the boys' presents (by lifting flaps) on the last page. This book is the next seasonal follow-up to Here Comes Easter! and Here Comes Halloween! Recommended for home, library or preschool collections, this simple book will be a holiday favorite with the youngest readers. 2010, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, Ages 1 to 4, $7.99. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green (Children's Literature).
Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker!
Tucker is a little white dog who is anxiously preparing for Christmas picking out the perfect tree, getting lots of kisses under the mistletoe and, singing carols with his own distinctive sound. On Christmas Eve he burns his nose on a pan of cookies and his nose gets very red. That night outside his window he hears Santa calling and he is excited as he moves to the head of the reindeer pack to guide Santa's way. He goes up and down the chimneys all night long helping to deliver presents. By sunrise a tuckered-out Tucker is returns home and given the best gift of all…a set of antlers. Tucker can hardly wait for next Christmas. This cheerful tale will brighten up a little one's anxious days waiting for Christmas. Tucker zips across the pages giving the story energy and verve. Children will be amused by his mischievousness and be envious of his ride with Santa. Bright cartoon illustrations are as lively as the text. The accompanying animated DVD will allow children to read along or pop it in the car's DVD player to help pass the time on the way to Grandma's. A full color poster and assorted holiday stickers complete the package. 2010 (orig. 2009), Candlewick Press, $8.99. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children's Literature).
I Love Christmas!
Noodles is a cute little puppy that has a problem with Christmas. Everyone is so busy that they don't have time for him. When he wants to go for a walk, the family is decorating the tree. When he wants to play ball or have a snack, they are still doing Christmas things. Noodles decides that his doesn't like Christmas at all. After a bit of time considering his predicament, he jumps up and joins the fun. He helps wrap presents, decorates the tree, and waits for Santa Claus. He then scurries off to do one more thingtake a bite of the Christmas cookies. In the "Scholastic Reader" series, this book is on Level 1,consisting of short sentences made up of words kids can sound out using their phonics skills. A letter to the parents at the beginning of the book discusses how to read this book with their child. A page of words at the end of the story lists words with the same ending sounds for children to practice, and it also lists some of the words that are used in the story. The simple story with entertaining illustrations is a good resource for parents who are helping their children learn to read. 2007, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, Ages 3 to 6, $3.99. Reviewer: Vicki Foote (Children's Literature).
I Spy: A Christmas Tree
Photographs by Walter Wick
The text on each spread begins with the inviting phrase "I spy" followed by just two holiday-themed items (such as presents, candy canes, cookies and reindeer) to be found hidden in the busy illustration on the facing page. Geared to both new readers and non-readers, the larger print rhyming text is also accompanied by a visual representation of the item, ensuring that children will have the freedom to enjoy the book on their own as well as with an adult reader.The final spread includes two additional searches (Christmas trees and rhyming words) that encourage re-looking at the illustrations through the entire book rather than just a single page. Wick's photographs are cheerfully bright and cluttered making some searches more difficult than others and inviting readers to see what else they can find. This 8x8, simplified version of the popular large-format picture puzzle books is perfect for smaller hands and will be sure to convert newer, younger fans. 2010, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, Ages 4 to 8, $9.99. Reviewer: Amy McMillan (Children's Literature).
It's Christmas, David
David is back with a holiday twist. Christmas holds many temptations for David, from searching for presents to participating in rowdy snowball fights, as well as many occasions when he has to behave himself, such as holiday family dinners. Constant reminders about the naughty list do little to deter David from misbehaving, and he begins to question on Christmas Eve if there will be any presents for him the next morning. Tension mounts, but everything is happily concluded with David hugging a fire truck on Christmas morning. David could be any child during the holiday season, and many children will relate to his mischievous ways. Shannon's illustrations add much humor to his sparse text; the page showing David clad only in boots, mittens and hat will have young ones howling. While this might not be the kind of book that will be read every holiday as a treasured family tradition, it is recommended for all libraries and schools with children who just cannot wait for the arrival of Christmas. 2010, Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, Ages 2 to 6, $16.99. Reviewer: Tiffany Erickson (Children's Literature).
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
The sister of Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player to break through the color barrier, tells an inspiring story from her family history. The Robinsons are the first black family to move into their Brooklyn neighborhood. There was some opposition, but the family of young Steve Satlow has been supportive. Steve, a big fan of the Dodgers and his idol, Robinson, is at the Robinson house as they decorate their Christmas tree. Steve mentions that his family doesn't have one. When Robinson brings a tree to the Satlows, the situation is awkward, since the Satlows, who are Jewish, do not celebrate Christmas. But they decide to accept the gift in the spirit of its giving. After some discussion and explanation, the Satlows have both their Hanukkah menorah and the Christmas tree. Lewis's single and double-page watercolor scenes depict both the neighborhood and the families naturalistically, clearly conveying the mixed emotions. The one illustration of the arrival from Russia to America of Steve's grandparents is in tones of sepia. There is even a panoramic view of the old Ebbets Field. Robinson adds a note on the factual background. 2010, Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 5 to 9, $16.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
A fall in a parking lot sends Jake's widowed mother to the hospital with a broken leg just before the Christmas holidays. There is no one else to care for Jake except his paternal grandfather who he knows only through twice-a-year phone calls. Granddad arrives all ex-military spit-and-polish with a gruff demeanor and a "nightmare dog" named Max. It takes the efforts of cheerful neighbor Mrs. Buttermark to help smooth over the awkwardness the two are feeling. Gradually, the pair warm up to each other and it is revealed that Granddad is as unsure of this relationship as Jake but, like the boy, wants it to work. Spending time with his Granddad, Jake discovers he is very much like his dad. He remembers knowing his grandfather in younger days, and even when he and Max were "puppies" together. That Jake learns to overcome his fear of the deep end of the pool and his aversion to the rambunctious dog are perfect, non-didactic life lessons for readers. As Christmas Day approaches, the new family unit is joined by Aunt Ginny and mom's friend Suzie. They all come together to make a special holiday not only for Jake's mom but for each of them as well. This warm, spare first-person narrative moves briskly, and readers will be charmed by Jake's poignant inner thoughts. Jake and Granddad's acceptance of one another is comforting and the resolution is credible. This true-to-life story celebrates acceptance of different kinds of family units and proves that a small family like Jake's can be at once tender and powerful. This is a perfect gem for a family read-aloud, not just at Christmas but any time. 2010, Random House, Ages 7 to 12, $15.99. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children's Literature).
The Littlest Christmas Star
Illustrated by Sanja Rešček
The holiday season has arrived and Max's class is going to put on a play. Even though he is the smallest child in the class, he still dreams of being the star of the show. When his wish comes true quite literally (his role is the star of Bethlehem), Max can't hide his disappointment. While everyone else practices songs, makes costumes, and learns their lines, Max hovers on the sidelines. His attempts to "help" the others with their roles further highlights how very small his own part is. Caring adults attempt to offer comfort, but Max refuses to be consoled. Only when his moment in the spotlight finally arrives does Max realize just how important his part really is. Amidst cheers and smiles, Max discovers the true meaning of the Christmas story. Rešček's bright palette and gentle illustrations capture the innocence of childhood, and Max's expressive face vividly portrays his emotional journey from frustration to joy. Although this variation on the familiar "no small parts, only small actors" theme uses a Biblical story as its foundation, the overarching message is more about being true to oneself. 2010, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic Inc., Ages 3 to 6, $3.99. Reviewer: Leah Hanson (Children's Literature).
Llama Llama Holiday Drama
Illustrated by Anna Dewdney
The holidays are arriving. There's snow on the ground. Mama Llama is busy preparing for the festivities and Llama Llama can hardly wait. Llama Llama helps Mama as she goes shopping, bakes cookies, and decorates the house. At school, Llama Llama participates in a several activities and makes a gift for Mama. However, Llama Llama has a "holidrama" as the waiting gets to be too much. In her gentle way, Mama reminds her little one that they both need to stop, rest, and remember the true spirit of the holidays. The story moves along with its rhyming verses. Preschoolers may identify with Llama Llama who finds the waiting for Christmas Day to be so difficult and overwhelming. The colorful illustrations capture Llama Llama's different emotions from wonderment to excitement to impatience while waiting for the Christmas Day. Even the tangle of holiday lights on endpapers foreshadows the frustration that sometimes occurs during the holidays. This book is a part of the Llama Llama series. Visit the website for activities to download and information about Anna Dewdney and Llama Llama books. 2010, Viking/Penguin Group, Ages 2 to 6, $16.99. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children's Literature).
Looking for Christmas
Peggy Van Gurp
Lowy the snowman is looking for Christmas. Oh, he has everything he wants, including shiny new buttons and a bag of food. But he knows something is missing. Off he sets on his adventure. His travels bring him to a hungry rabbit, a mouse hiding in a teacup, a little duck that happens to be frozen to a pond, a fox stuck in a trap, and a horse with a humungous appetite, among some other furry friends. Surprisingly these animals receive a visit from one very important Santa Claus and together experience the true meaning of Christmas. Van Gurp's illustrations are sure to bring the winter chill right to the reader's lap. They are engaging and colorful and capture the feeling of a perfect winter's day. This book not only teaches a very important lesson, it can also be used in the classroom. The illustrations would make excellent writing prompts and students will be able to implement basic reading strategies, such as sequencing and retelling. This is sure to become a Christmas favorite among many. 2010, Clavis Publishing, $17.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Summer Whiting (Children's Literature).
Mary Engelbreit's A Merry Little Christmas : Celebrate from A to Z
Each letter of the alphabet presents objects and activities associated with the holiday as happy little mice characters prepare for Christmas. Not only do we see the family decorating the tree, baking cookies, and engaging in outdoor snow activities but we also see Santa and his elves at work. There are some clever touches in the illustrations, such as the acorn on the serving platter looking as if it were a roast turkey. Cuddly, expressive mice and a warm, cheerful tone to the text and illustrations reflect the ideals of the holiday season. As an alphabet book, however, it has its limitations. A two-page spread for the first letter of the alphabet allows for a large letter on the left-hand page. Most of the other letters are relegated to one page each and letter identification in the smaller size becomes more difficult for the child. The larger letters are red-and-white-candy-cane-striped while the smaller letters are red with white polka dots. Entwined within each letter are two or three objects that begin with that letter. On the "R is for reindeer" page, the reindeer mentioned in the text is a small stuffed toy the little girl is showing her father. The reader will have to look carefully to see it. A robot wrapped in a ribbon can be found in the letter. On the "F is for frost" page, we do not see frost. Nor do we see the snowflakes falling as described in the text. A fire truck and a toy frog decorate the letter. The rhyming text reads like an extended greeting card. 2010 (orig. 2006), HarperCollins, ages 3 to 7, $6.99. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature).
The Night Before Christmas
Clement C. Moore
Illustrated by Eric Puybaret
Performed by Peter, Paul, and Mary
The luminous paintings for this holiday favorite have a familiar feel because the traditional scenes and format are similar to many previously published versions. These pictures seem to glow with a special joy of their own, however. Jewel-like colors and flowing forms dance on the pages as they portray an enchanting Christmas Eve event. The reindeer are covered in luxurious blankets of green and gold; an enthralled dog awakes to observe the magic; and the toys shimmer in the moonlight as a tiny fairy oversees the proceedings. Santa's look is enhanced with a flowing handlebar mustache and a long pointed hat. A fifteen-minute three-track musical and narrative CD is included in the back cover. It features an upbeat version of the poem sung by Noel Paul Stookey, a reading of the poem by Mary Travers, and "A'Soalin" performed by Peter, Paul and Mary. A lovely Christmas gift for families with children of all ages. 2010, Imagine/Peter Yarrow Books/Charlesbridge, $19.95. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
The Night Before Christmas in Africa
Carroll Foster, Jesse Foster and Hannah Foster
Illustrated by Jean Christodoulou
This adaptation of "The Night Before Christmas" is part of a series of versions for other cultures. Those familiar with the original will recognize the similarities. The new text maintains the original rhyme, but the context is very different: "The children were nestled On mats on the floor, Dreaming of monkeys That chatter and roar." In this version, Santa wears red trousers with a red and white patterned, short-sleeved shirt, matching duku, and black sandals. He has a black beard with gray streaks. What looks like a "donkey cart" is pulled by six kudu and one black rhinoceros. After leaving presents, Santa asks the man watching him what he wishes for. When the man asks for rain, his wish is granted: "I heard in the distance The rumble of thunder. Lightning flashed through the sky. I stared up in wonder." Words from a mixture of African languages are used. A glossary of African words with pronunciations is included. The duku (doo-koo) is a tribal headband. Children and their parents will enjoy the humor of this variation of an old favorite. 2010 (orig. 2004), Pelican Publishing Company, Ages 5 to 8, $16.99. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children's Literature).
Retold by AnnMarie Anderson
Illustrated by Alison Jay
It's Christmas Eve. Clara and the children wait for the arrival of Clara's godfather who is a toy and clock maker. He presents the children with special gifts. Clara unwraps her present, a Nutcracker shaped like a soldier, which she adores. Unfortunately, Clara's brother breaks the nutcracker when he roughly snaps the lever. Clara is disappointed. Godfather Drosselmeyer uses a handkerchief to keep the parts together until he can repair it the next day. At bedtime, the children place their toys including the nutcracker under the tree. In the middle of the night, Clara wakes up because she can't sleep. Quietly, she goes downstairs and snuggles with her nutcracker underneath the Christmas tree. When the clock chimes, incredible things begin to happen and Clara has quite a wonderous adventure which includes a visit to the Land of Sweets with a prince. This magical, classic tale about the Nutcracker is based on E.T.A. Hoffman's story. The illustrations are beautiful with their rich, warm, oil paint colors with crackling varnish. The tale is one to enjoy all cozy together. 2010, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Group, Ages 4 to 9, $16.99. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children's Literature).
O Christmas Tree
Illustrated by Joanne Friar
Did you know that today's Christmas tree had its genesis in 1300 BCE when Egyptians festooned their homes with palm leaves during the winter solstice? Or that the red-and-green colors of the holiday evolved out of the medieval apple-hung Paradise Tree? Author Jacqueline Farmer shares these and other fascinating facts in this history of an enduring tradition. She also takes readers behind the scenes to a modern tree farm to reveal how evergreens are planted, tended, harvested and sold in present-day America. Gouache illustrations by Joanne Friar softly illumine the subject like old-fashioned candles on a 19th century tree. 2010, Charlesbridge, Ages 7 to 11, $16.95 and $7.95. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature).
Paige the Christmas Play Fairy
Rachel and Kirsty are excited about participating in the upcoming holiday production of Cinderella. But when they arrive at the rehearsal hall they discover that the costumes have arrived and none of them fit the actors correctly. In the midst of the frustration, Paige the Christmas Play Fairy appears and tells the girls that Jack Frost is determined to ruin the play because he was not selected for the part of Prince Charming. A ballet shoe must be recovered from his demons to break the spell of the ill-fitting costumes. A golden horseshoe is required for the scenery and props to function properly and Cinderella's glass slipper holds the secret for all of the players remembering their lines. Rachel, Kirsty, and Paige work together to defeat Jack Frost and the demons. This results in some unusual adaptations as the play is being performed. These add humor to the production and result in a standing ovation. Simple pen-and-ink drawings contribute meaning. An accessible and enjoyable read for middle-grade girls. Part of the "Rainbow Magic" series. 2010, Little Apple/Scholastic, Ages 7 to 10, $6.99. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer (Children's Literature).
Pocket's Christmas Wish
Illustrated by Russell Julian
Pocket, a brown bunny, searches for the true meaning of Christmas by following the footprints that lead from a snow angel. Along the way, he experiences the love of his rabbit family, the joy of song from trilling birds and the gift of giving by sharing his carrot with a hungry mouse. So many stories about the pleasures of giving sail right over the heads of little ones, but this gentle tale by Ann Bonwill seasons its message with lyrical language and concrete examples. Illustrator Russell Julian captures the vast beauty of the snowy landscape through which the small hero hip-hoppingly quests. Perfect for a cuddly holiday storytime. 2010, Barron's, Ages $12.99. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature).
The familiar phrase, "Santa is coming! Santa is coming!" is proclaimed by many kids every December. Kids wait for him to come on Christmas Eve and he comes when they sleep. The anticipation of his arrival, as well as other information about Santa Claus is well covered in this leveled reader (level G) that gives young readers an opportunity to read about Santa on their own. Readers learn where he lives, who lives with him and helps him make toys, and that he flies in his reindeer-drawn sleigh above the Earth. In addition, they learn about the traditions of hanging a stocking and leaving milk and cookies for Santa and are asked what their own family does for Christmas every year. An opening page of "Words to Know" offers assistance with reading the regular text. The author's use of rhyme adds to the ease of reading and comprehension. Catchy, clear photos and some colorful illustrations enhance the text. A drawing activity at the book's end asks readers to look at a variety of Santas and then draw their own. A plus for adults is the final page of notes that lists objectives, a prerequisite for reading, questions, additional information about how to use the drawing activity, and a way to elaborate on the rhyming. Another Santa book is also suggested and a web address for a useful teacher's guide is included. This book is from the "My World" series and is well-suited to teach about tradition and about a well-known holiday. 2011, Crabtree, Ages 4 to 8, $18.60 and $5.95. Reviewer: Nancy Attebury (Children's Literature).
Santa Duck and his Merry Helpers
The holidays are overwhelming, even for children. It is easy to get caught up in the preparation and the giving and receiving of gifts that the true meaning of the holiday season is quickly lost. Milgram attempts to do what so many books, movies, and television shows have done before and present the true meaning of Christmas in a fun and heartwarming manner. Nicholas Duck is tasked each year with discovering what the animals throughout the forest want Santa to bring them for Christmas. But when his younger brothers and sister follow him on his rounds, wanting to help and offering much more to the animals than Santa would be able to deliver, Nick loses his temper and yells at them that this is his job and they are doing it all wrong. But Nick soon sees the error of his ways, realizing that Christmas is a time of sharing and spending time with family, and he lets his siblings go along with him as he completes his rounds. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and convey the importance Nicholas feels as he creates his list, but also show the trouble his siblings cause as they try and help. 2010, G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 3 to 5, $12.99. Reviewer: Danielle Williams (Children's Literature).
Small, Medium & Large
Jane Monroe Donovan
Illustrated by Jane Monroe Donovan
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this book, the illustrations tell the story. The only words are found in two brief letters to Santa Claus, written by a little girl named Sammy who has just moved to a new house. In the first letter, she says that she doesn't need any toys for Christmas, but she does want something else. The reader discovers what she wants in the illustrations that follow. Under the Christmas tree are three presents in three sizes: small, medium, and large. The small present contains a cat, the medium present contains a dog, and the large present contains a pony. The little girl and her new animal friends have wonderful times making breakfast, sledding in the snow, building a snowman, throwing snowballs, baking cookies, and just being friends together. And, at the end, when all four of them cuddle up in bed for the night, the reader is assured that Sammy's Christmas wish has come true. This is a beautiful book of large, mostly pastel illustrations. The colors are blended so well that in some cases they create the illusion of depth, and Sammy's hair is particularly well done. The illustrations lead the reader from one event to another in a well-ordered fashion, but they also leave room for plenty of imagination. Parents and teachers who are presenting this book to children will want to ask for lots of reader participation and interpretation, something that should spark a lot of fun. The book would make a beautiful Christmas gift for a youngster, and particularly girls. 2010, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 2 to 6, $15.95. Reviewer: Leona Illig (Children's Literature).
The Spider's Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story
Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrations by Katya Krenina
When Katrusya hears that there will be no Christmas this year, she is angry. Even through the harvest was poor, she insists that they can have a tree. After all, it is free for the cutting. So, she and Grandfather get a tree, and the family decorates it with brass buttons and whittled animals. Then, Father gets out his bandura, a stringed instrument, and plays some music. Mother bakes kolach, a traditional braided Christmas bread. The next morning, Mother discovers that the tree is full of hatchling spiders and silk webs. She wants to put it out, but Katrusya persuades her to wait until after Christmas. For their meal, the kolach is placed on the table with a candle. It stands for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hay is placed beneath the table to remind them of Jesus in the manger. The family enjoys a feast. Then, they join other villagers at church. When the family returns from the Christmas service, Katrusya discovers that the spider webs have turned to silver, while the buttons have become gold. The whole village comes to see. Father Roman declares it a miracle. Katrusya wants to share the fortune with the whole village. The spirit of Christmas giving is celebrated in this folk story. Bright colors against many dark backgrounds in these illustrations set the mood. 2010, Holiday House, Ages 5 to 8, $16.95. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children's Literature).
The Story of Christmas
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
This retelling with simple brightly colored cartoon-like drawings with people with vertical oval eyes will be understandable to the youngest children. At first Mary was frightened, but the angel told her not to be afraid. When Joseph worried, the angel told him not to worry any more because Mary was carrying God's baby. The couple went to Bethlehem to pay some money to the emperor and found many people. "Mary and Joseph knocked on every door, but the only place left was a stable, where animals were kept." The baby was born. Shepherds heard about it from angels and went to see. Three wise men saw a star and came with presents. In the picture with the innkeeper, Mary has her hands on her large belly. The youngest shepherd leans over the baby as if he were about to tickle his tummy. Parents will enjoy reading this to their young children during the Christmas season. 2010 (orig. 1998), Candlewick Press, $6.99. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children's Literature).
Ten Christmas Sheep
Illustrated by Honor Ayres
One by one, ten adorable sheep join a shepherd boy on a starry night. Author Jan Godfrey playfully engages little ones in counting sheep—and hopefully lulls them to sleep even as they listen to the Nativity story. The scene: a Bethlehem hillside. As each sheep arrives, it adds a "baa" to the bleating mix (one "baa" for the first sheep, two for the second and so on) and introduces a new descriptive verb, including "yawning," "slipping" and "tripping." Snuggly gathered together, the sheep next "baa" ten times in fear when a "glorious angel" appears; but by the last page, they are baa-ing joyously as they bound off to tell of Christ's birth. Honor Ayres adds a touch of whimsy to her pictures, with depictions of a sweet-faced shepherd boy and expressive sheep. 2010, Pauline, Ages 3 mo. to 3, $12.95. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature).
'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Illustrations by Kat Whelan
With all the editions of this Clement Moore perennial favorite it is hard to know just which one to select to own. With the exception of the poem illustrated by the notable artists like Jan Brett, Putnam, 1998, or Cheryl Harness, Random, 1989 or Robert Ingpen, Sterling, 2010 most are average at best. For this edition Whelan has chose a family of mice to await the arrival of jolly St. Nick featured here as a chubby, bespeckled, white haired mouse. Printed on heavy stock the double-page spreads open with a cut-away of the mouse family's house that is filled with cozy creature comforts and moves on the several of the airborne Santa and his reindeer coming in for a rooftop landing. Santa pauses in is work long enough to enjoy a snack of milk and cookies and cheese before ascending the chimney. The final spread, with reindeer leaping into the night sky carries the famous tag line, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight". The colorful watercolors have a homey feel to them with touches of glitter that add sparkle to the familiar poem. While there is nothing outstanding about this title neither is there anything inherently wrong with it. The happy mouse family and endearing mouse Santa along with the pleasant design and sturdy pages will make it a good choice for younger children. 2010, ME Media, Ages 3 to 7, $12.95 Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children's Literature).
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Washington, D.C.
Illustrated by Sarah Hollander
Holiday tourists and denizens alike will relish this "capital" riff on the popular Christmas song. Born in Washington, D.C., author Candice Ransom clearly enjoys having her girl character, Olivia, introduce readers to this festive city. In town for the holidays, Olivia sends a series of chatty letters back home and provides details about the things she mentions in her version of the song. For example, "5 dollar bills" refers to Olivia's trip to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where paper money is made; "10 agents spying" sees her skulking through the International Spy Museum. Colorful illustrations by Sarah Hollander add even more pizzazz to this playful guide. 2010, Sterling, Ages 7 to 11, $12.95. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature).
The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas: An Austin Family Story
Illustrated by Jill Weber
This story follows the Austin family as they prepare for Christmas, the church pageant, and a new addition to the family. It is an excellent book to share joys of the holiday season with young children. Seven-year-old Vicky Austin represents all young children with her anticipation and participation for the holiday. The brightly colored illustrations throughout the book remind the reader of the joy of the season. The impending arrival of a new baby provides some suspense as there is concern Mother may not be at home for Christmas. And how will there be Christmas without Mother? The family's preparation for the holiday season is shown in-depth, and can be savored by young readers as they relate to their own family's plans. Vicky, her brother John and her little sister Suzy do something special every day during the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas to celebrate. Parents could use this story as a how-to guide to prepare similar activities for their children. This is the third book in the "Austin Family" series. 2010 (orig.1984), Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, Ages 6 to 11, $12.99. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith (Children's Literature).
Two Holidays: A Hanukkah and Christmas Story
Illustrated by Phyllis Harris
Sam is suffering from his own version of the December dilemma. With a Jewish mom and a Christian dad, he does not know which holiday to say he celebrates. All his classmates gleefully claim Hanukkah or Christmas as their own, but Sam has both a Christmas tree and a menorah and the confusion of his cultural identity upsets him. Is he, as children say, a Christmas or a Hanukkah? The answer is easy: he is both. With an intermarriage rate of close to 60% among contemporary Jews, this is a book that will provide a sympathetic response for many children of Jewish and Christian families in which both parents have kept their religious and cultural traditions. Illustrator Harris is to be congratulated for not showing a "Hanukkah bush" as part of Sam's celebration. His Christmas tree celebrates one part of Sam's heritage and his Hanukkah menorah represents another. It does seem unlikely that in today's society, Sam would be the only child in his classroom with this particular problem, but his mother's explanation that the holiday season celebrates love in any faith is a satisfactory solution to the problem. The book will answer a need for a specific audience and does so in a very gentle and sympathetic way. A great gift for families facing this quandary, and a good addition for libraries or classrooms, although the paperback format will not hold up through many circulations. 2010, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, $7.99. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children's Literature).
Who's Coming for Christmas?
Illustrated by Jeannie Winston
Illustrated in the reds and greens of the holiday season, this is a before Christmas book. Every page in the book has a nearly full-page flap that looks like a brightly wrapped package. The bottom of each package says, "Who's that . . ." and the reader pulls down the flap to find a slowly evolving poem. The first two pages read, "Who's that hearing church bells ring?' and "Who's that stopping by to sing?" Behind the first flap children are making a snowman with a church in the background and the second illustration reveals carolers at the front porch. There are eleven pages, each with a large flap to pull down. The final flap reveals a jolly Santa Clause surrounded by children, a snowman, and a bear to wish everyone Merry Christmas. The pages celebrate all the things that make Christmas such a happy time: church bells ringing, children singing, baking and eating, putting up the tree and lying in bed waiting for Santa and his reindeer to land on the roof. 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 3 to 6, $9.99. Reviewer: Eleanor Heldrich (Children's Literature).
A Wish for Elves
As Christmas approaches, a young boy who is frustrated with all he has to do around the house to get ready for the holiday wishes he had elves to help him out. At the North Pole, Santa ventures to his workshop to find all of his elves missing. He sets about putting up "missing elf" posters and trying to get the toys ready on his own. Meanwhile, the boy is awakened by his newly acquired elves. He puts them to work cleaning his room, doing the laundry, fixing his breakfast, and doing his homework. But things don't go quite as he planned; his clothes shrink, he gets a D on his homework, and there are just too many elves underfoot. He tries to sell them but doesn't have much luck; instead, he sends some sailing away attached to helium balloons. One elf makes it back to the North Pole, and Santa takes off to retrieve the rest. The boy happily gives them all back, except for "maybe just one or two" and everything gets back to normal just in time for Christmas. The text is very sparse, relying instead on the graphic format paneled illustrations to tell the bulk of the story. Bright, cheerful, geometric computer-generated illustrations in various shades of yellows, reds and greens are just waiting to be imitated in a classroom art or writing project. 2010, Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan, Ages 3 to 8, $12.99. Reviewer: Amy McMillan (Children's Literature).
Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus
Illustrations by James Bernardin
A little girl's simple question and a New York Sun reporter's response are given a back story in this integral part of Christmas lore. In 1897, young Virginia is proud of the book she has made for Santa Claus and can hardly wait for Christmas Eve so she can leave it for him. The taunts of schoolmate Charlotte, who scoffs at the very idea of Santa, compels Virginia to seek his authenticity. Books in the library are interesting but not definitive and the skinny Santa with the scraggly beard at Herald Square embodies the kindness of Santa (his gave his coat to a poor woman) but admits he is not the real one. At her father's suggestion, Virginia writes to the Sun only to have her letter tossed in the trash. Moping and waiting for an answer, Virginia gives skinny Santa a new coat and her generosity prompts him to declare, "Today, you are Santa." When Charlotte finds the discarded letter and teases Virginia even more, skinny Santa heads to the Sun's office to demand respect for the little girl. With a change of heart, the reporter writes the now famous reply that appears in the next day's paper. Virginia is vindicated and a whole city comes to believe. Meanwhile her book returned to her by a jolly rotund man in a red suit with a twinkle in his eye. While the story is sweet and predictable it has great appeal and will help parents emphasize the spirit of Santa and Christmas. Handsome watercolors capture the period perfectly although the children with their large heads and big wide eyes tend to be cartoonish. Overall it is a nice addition to the holiday genre. 2010, HarperCollins, Ages 6 to 9, $16.99. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children's Literature).
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