Best Children’s Books for Christmas and the Holiday Season

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Here’s the first of several roundups full of great new Christmas books for kids that we hope you’ll enjoy. There’s really something here for everyone under age 10 who’s interested in a great story or activity during the long holiday break. Let us know which ones ended up being your family’s favorites. Merry Christmas!


A World of Cookies for Santa cover imageA World of Cookies for Santa:
Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World

Written by M.E. Furman
Illustrated by Susan Gal
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BYR; $16.99, Ages 4-7)

In A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World, Santa takes a journey across the globe to drop off gifts and savor treats children leave for him.

The story begins appropriately on Christmas Island in the South Pacific where Santa finds the children’s gift of chewy coconut macaroons. From Christmas Island, Santa visits Asia, Africa, Europe, South American and North America before heading home to the North Pole. Santa’s entire journey may be traced by using the map at the beginning of the book.

Splashes of orange and dashes of red flood the 48 pages and create warm cheery scenes. The joy of giving and receiving is vividly expressed on the faces of smiling children. Parents may stumble over a few foreign words, but there’s lots of opportunities for fun-learning. Furman provides recipes for baking Santa’s cookies which may inspire children and families to try new multicultural holiday recipes. Countries may have different Christmas customs, but they are similar in keeping the traditions of preparing and enjoying treats.
Reviewed by Randi Lynn Mrvos

Bear's Merry Book of Hidden Things cover imageBear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things:
Christmas Seek-and-Find
Written and illustrated by Gergely Dudás
(HarperCollins; $14.99, Ages 4-8)

Growing up, I was always a fan of the “find the hidden objects” puzzles, so it’s no surprise that I love Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things even now as an adult. As the title suggests, the reader is invited to help bear find the items he needs for his upcoming holiday party. Children will enjoy the challenge of perusing through the crowd of cute critters, the jumble of gingerbread, and the sea of snowmen to get bear’s party going. The 32 pages of colorful confections, gift bags galore, and a multitude of mittens make a Christmasy camouflage that will keep the young ones engaged while they look for ice-skates, an ornament, and an array of other goodies. Some things are easier to spot than others so don’t be surprised if this turns into fun for the whole family.

If you’re looking for something to keep the kids entertained while you’re planning a party of your own, Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things should do the trick. And don’t worry, this is not a one-and-done book either. Even after they’ve found everything for Bear, little ones will enjoy looking through the wintery scenes again and again to see what else they might have missed.
Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

Love, SantaLove_Santa_cover_image
Written by Martha Brockenbrough
Illustrated by Lee White
(Arthur A. Levine Books; $17.99, Ages 5 and up)

Will this be the year your child learns the truth about Santa? You may want to hold off sharing this purposely green foil-banded book until your youngest is ready to have “that conversation” with you about whether or not Santa is real. While Scholastic suggests that this picture book may be appropriate for children aged 5, another publication recommends it for ages 6-9 and still another says it’s for kids ages 9-12. To be honest, only a parent knows when their child will appreciate the heart felt message Brockenbrough so beautifully and thoughtfully conveys.

The story is interactive in that a little girl does her annual correspondence to Santa and young readers can actually open an envelope, pull out the letter and then have it read to them or read it themselves. Naturally she’s curious about all things North Pole, until she turns eight. That’s when she leaves Santa’s note for her mother instead, inquiring whether she is actually the wondrous world traveler. Her mom’s response will no doubt resonate with all readers of a certain age. “Santa,” replies the mother, “is bigger than any one person. He always has been.” The message that the truth and tradition of Santa is carried on by all who cherish the magic of believing in something good and selfless is one that will touch everyone this Christmas. Certain to be treasured by all who receive it, Love, Santa is THE book to reach for whenever a child questions the existence of Mr. Claus.
• Reviewed by Ronna Mandel




Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part Two

Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part Three

Holiday Gift Books Guide


New Thanksgiving Books for 2016

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– A Roundup of Holiday Books –


Thanksgiving Countingthanksgiving-counting-cvr
A First Celebrations Book
Written by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
Illustrated by Peggy Tagel
(Charlesbridge; $6.95, Ages 0-3)

Going to relatives or friends for Thanksgiving and don’t know what to bring along to keep your little ones occupied and entertained? Why not consider buying a copy of this counting themed board book, part of the Charlesbridge’s First Celebrations series for the youngest readers in your family?  With its vibrant colored turkey cover, this new book introduces the first Thanksgiving and one ear of corn going all the way up to six multi-hued leaves falling from a tree and lots of scrumptious food in between. Thanksgiving Counting is a great way to get your children to observe all the decorations and food around the dinner table while learning to count all the wonderful things that make this holiday so enjoyable.

Written and illustrated by Michael Hall
(Greenwillow Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

For Hall fans and those who also appreciate the art of Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert, Wonderfall is sure to delight. As the jacketflap says, “In this book you will discover 1 colorful tree, 2 scurrying squirrels, and 15 blended words created to celebrate the wonder of fall!” So much goes on around this one majestic oak tree. In 15 brief poems that tell the story of the people and animals that live and work near it, we see what an important role this tree plays as autumn turns into winter. Peacefall, Plentifall, Playfall,  Frightfall, Thankfall, and Watchfall, are just a few of Hall’s wordplay topics that culminate in Snowfall. The stories move from acorns dropping with a plink, plunk, plop to the magic of  fall’s magnificent colors. The tree is there to welcome trick-or-treaters, witness animals enjoying nature’s bounty and provide piles of leaves in which children frolick, and branches in which squirrels chase. A bonus for readers is the five pages of back matter containing great information about the tree, the animals that find shelter in it and get nourishment from its acorns. I’ll weigh in here with one more blended word that happens to be my reaction to reading this charming new picture book – Joyfall!

Thankfulness to Color:thankfulness-to-color-cvr
Gratitude to live and color by
Written and illustrated by Zoë Ingram
(Harper; $15.99, Ages 4 and up)

Coloring books are so popular right now and with the hectic holiday season upon us, there’s no better time to find a few quiet moments with your kids to decompress. Coloring helps foster creativity and mindfulness, and most of all, it’s calming. Adults and children alike will find the designs and quotes that Ingram has provided to be perfectly suited for  Thanksgiving. On the last page of Thankfulness to Color is a list of these quotes including Henry David Thoreau’s “I am grateful for what I am and have,” all of which have been woven into the plethora of beautiful patterns. Keep this book to enjoy with the family or give as a gift to your holiday hostess.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Here are links to our book reviews from previous Thanksgivings:

Written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer


Written and illustrated by Mark Fearing



This is Not a Math Book by Anna Weltman

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THIS IS NOT A MATH BOOK: A Smart Art Activity Book
by Anna Weltman
(Kane Miller; $14.99, Ages 8 and up)


If you have a doodler, or a kid who likes geometrical shapes and patterns, then This is Not a Math Book is for you! There are over 30 fun and creative drawing activities that just so happen to have a subtle math spin. With a few drawing and math tools in tow, kids’ll be set to choose an activity. I can see this book coming in handy for the classroom or for homeschoolers. You can learn to make tessellations or fractals, and see how neat it is to create drawings with lots of circles and triangles.


Interior artwork from This is Not a Math Book by Anna Weltman, Kane Miller Books ©2015.



Interior artwork from This is Not a Math Book by Anna Weltman, Kane Miller Books ©2015.

I decided to try my hand at a little tessellation and I really enjoyed inventing a creature to match my shape. This book makes math entertaining and gives ample creation decisions to the reader.


Sample of Transformers activity from Kane Miller Books’ This is Not a Math Book completed & photographed by reviewer Lucy Ravitch ©2015.

Even as an adult I found the book fascinating. I also watched my kids spending a good amount of time on their creations, intent on making them just right. The instructions were easy to follow and could be used by most kids ages 8 and up. It’s helpful, too, that there’s a handy Table of Contents and Glossary if you’re looking for a particular activity.

Kudos to Weltman for coming up with this unique, hands-on math/drawing activity book that is sure to be a hit with children and parents alike.

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

headshot LucyRavitchLucy Ravitch is the blogger behind and author of The Pancake Menu: What will you order? An interactive book that lets kids practice math as they play restaurant, with free printable order sheets and play money on Lucy loves everything that makes math fun, and enjoys crafting and cooking books as well. She has a degree in Elementary Education and lives in Southern California with her family and cute, crazy dog.

Play and Learn with Wallace: Giant Workbook by Roger Priddy

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Play and Learn with Wallace: Giant Workbook
by Roger Priddy is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.


Play and Learn with Wallace: Giant Workbook by Roger Priddy, Priddy Books/Macmillan, 2014.

Summer is lots of fun for children, but it can also mean learning loss for some students. This might be especially true for students gearing up to enter kindergarten. Play and Learn with Wallace: Giant Workbook (Priddy Books/Macmillan, $12.99 Ages 3 and up) with
content created by Ellen J. Bretherton, has over 300 activities that work on tracing, pen control, cutting and pasting, the alphabet, phonics, numbers 1-20, times table, days/months/seasons, colors/shapes/patterns, and telling time (both analog and digital).

Wallace the dog joins our young learners and helps them throughout the book. He’ll let them know what they need to do, such as “follow the direction of the arrows” or “paste the cutouts into the white squares.”

Number recognition is presented in fun games such as Matching Socks where you draw lines between socks or Bone Hunt where you match the dogs to their bones using number pairs.

For phonics, children will trace each letter and then draw a line to connect the sound to the picture that it begins with. They can also play Which Letter? where they look at each picture and then circle the letter that makes the starting sound.

Full of bright illustrations and photographs with multicultural persons, the Giant Workbook is engaging, as well as educational. The reward chart is a bonus. My youngest child has greatly enjoyed working her way through this book and hasn’t complained at all that this is “work.” I don’t think there’s a more positive review than that.

Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins

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Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.



Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins, Candlewick Press, 2014.

My youngest daughter adores a certain mouse by Lucy Cousins, so Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book (Candlewick Press, 2014; $11.99, Ages 3 and up) was a huge hit with her. With over 50 activities, it’s perfect for doodling, coloring, drawing, and, most importantly, using imagination. Each of the pages has a prompt and an illustration to inspire little hands to get busy with crayons, markers, or pencils. For example, your child can give these mugs some pretty patterns or can help draw some food that she [Tallulah] would like to eat. The prompts help children learn or reinforce colors, patterns, shapes and content knowledge.

As with all Maisy books, the illustrations are splendid in their simplicity, and Maisy’s friends are there to join the fun. Draw lots of teeth for Charley so he can crunch on this tasty carrot. Make his shirt striped. Panda has been eating tomato soup. Draw the TERRIBLE MESS he has made on his face and everywhere else!

The pages are 12.5” x 9”, so there is plenty of space to color. When we’ve been on our way to dine out, I’ve torn pages from the book and taken them with us. That way, my daughter has her placemat(s) at the diner, as well. In her words, “You could color it, look at it, and it’s fun.”

Check out this terrific My Friend Maisy/Maisy’s Fun Club site for kids.


The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities by Rich Davis

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The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities compiled and illustrated by Rich Davis, (The Jolly Crocodile, $13.00, Ages 4 and up), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey. 

The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities

The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities compiled and illustrated by Rich Davis, The Jolly Crocodile.

Rich Davis, a children’s book artist and illustrator, has devised a simple drawing game that is a clever, engaging way to unlock kids’ innate creativity. Using a deck of Pick and Draw cards ($10), pencils and paper, kids can compile unique characters with exaggerated and unusual features. These characters can provide the springboard for storytelling, writing, art and drama activities both in and out of the classroom. Plus, it’s just plain fun to draw and doodle!

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 9.19.58 PM

Artwork provided by reviewer was inspired by The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities.

I easily found willing young partners to play several rounds of Pick and Draw around the dining room table. To the right is a sample of our creations, and some of the crazy descriptive character names that they inspire.

The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities companion book features fifteen chapters written by experts and specialists in a variety of fields. The helpful subject outlines offer good suggestions to incorporate drawing and storytelling activities with Pick and Draw for everything from geography lessons to illustrating English idioms. For readers seeking Christian content, there are chapters specifically geared toward Sunday school, vacation bible school, and other activities for church youth groups.

Davis has illustrated The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities with over 200 fun, silly and playful cartoons that are a pleasure to pore over for broader inspiration. They punctuate the margins and headings with a lighthearted and delightful tone that will spark kids’ imaginations and tickle their funnybones. In addition, The Big Book of Pick and Draw Activities has just received the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, awarded to products that help create better informed parents as they tackle the challenges and enjoy the many rewards of parenting.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy and cards from the publisher and received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”