Winter Holiday Quick Picks
Need a few suggestions for new holiday books for December? Here are some that are worth checking out, to add to your library:
Arrhenius, Ingela P. Where’s Santa Claus? Nosy Crow, 2018. [10p.] $8.99. 978-1-5362-0697-5. In this simple guessing game for babies, cloth felt pieces are used in place of thick paper for the flaps. Each spread asks the reader “Where’s the snowman?” or other “person,” then one lifts the felt flap to see that person. Bold graphic illustrations are nice but overall, just not enough content.
Courtney-Tickle, Jessica. Little Christmas Tree. Candlewick, 2018. [12p.] $15.99. 978-1-5362-0311-0. Although the illustrations are lovely, this doesn’t have a memorable story. A tree in the forest is shown and small flaps reveal animals and plants that share the habitat: birds, bushes, fox, squirrel, bee, etc. The rhyming text describes what the illustrations show. Serviceable, but not really a vital library purchase.
Ho, Jannie. Christmas ABC. Nosy Crow, 2018. [26p.] $6.99. 978-1-5362-0249-6. Common items related to Christmas are used as examples to teach the alphabet in this book that will please children from babies to emergent readers. Both the upper and lower case letters are included, along with the word shown in the illustration that demonstrates the letter: angel, bell, candy canes, drummer boy, etc. The deeply saturated cartoonish artwork depicts children of various ethnicities, and the examples are easy to identify. How does it show X? Excited of course!
Bullard, Lisa. “Holiday Time – Early Bird Stories” series. Various illustrators. Lerner, 09/2018. 24p. $26.65 each:
My Family Celebrates Christmas. 978-1-5415-2007-3.
My Family Celebrates Day of the Dead. 978-1-5415-2008-0.
My Family Celebrates Halloween. 978-1-5415-2010-3.
My Family Celebrates Hanukkah. 978-1-5415-2006-6.
My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa. 978-1-5415-2011-0.
My Family Celebrates Thanksgiving. 978-1-5415-2009-7. In this simple, factual series for primary graders, autumn holidays are described, including the origins, customs, and traditions. This reviewer only saw the titles on Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Halloween, and all featured full color cartoonish illustrations that supported the text. Many first and second graders will be able to read these books easily, with just a sentence or two per page and a few discussion questions. The book on Kwanzaa features an African-American family and talks about each of the seven principles of the celebration. The title on Hanukkah shows the Maccabees (although that name isn’t used) and historic times as well as the contemporary family’s celebration. The Halloween book featured a family with members of different ethnicities and a multicultural group of neighborhood children. Each book concludes with some more facts on the holiday, glossary, and a few other books and websites that are for the same age range.
Morpurgo, Michael. Coming Home. Illus. by Kerry Hyndman. Candlewick, 10/2018. [28p.] $17.99. 978-1-5362-0042-3. This unusual story is told from the point of view of a robin returning from Scandinavia to Great Britain to mate, which is something that usually occurs at Christmas time. The free verse narrative has some repetition but is sophisticated and may confuse younger children. The dramatic full color illustrations show the robin avoiding a hawk and other tense situations. Overall, children old enough to read the text are the best audience; it contains a note on the facts of this aspect of the natural world.
Peacock, Lou. Oliver Elephant. Illus. by Helen Stephens. Nosy Crow/Candlewick. 09/2018. [32p.] $16.99. 978-1-5362-0266-3. A little blond boy shops with his mother and baby sister, but near the end of their trip he realizes he has lost his stuffed blue elephant Oliver. The solid rhyme is reminiscent of the work of Dr. Seuss and scans well, and observant readers will notice when Oliver goes missing. The full color artwork features a modern mom but has a nostalgic charm. This will be fun all year long even though they are Christmas shopping, due to the engaging rhyme, fun plot, and memorable illustrations.
Scheffler, Axel. Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree. Nosy Crow/Candlewick. 09/2018. [28p.] $12.99. 978-1-5362-0276-2. Pip the rabbit eats the cookie decorations and candy canes off the tree, but Posy the mouse suggests a solution to the problem – make paper decorations to replace the devoured sweets. A simple story that very young toddlers will understand, with full color artwork.
Young, Amy. A Unicorn Named Sparkle’s First Christmas. FSG, 11/2018. [36p.] $16.99. 978-0-374-30813-1. Lucy looks forward to a gift from her pet Sparkle, who may be a goat or a unicorn, and is angry when there isn’t one. This lesson on friendship over gifts is not very subtle but will resonate with many children, and the lively cartoonish art, done with thin ink outlines and watercolor on white backgrounds is charming.
Penny Peck, San Jose State University iSchool