Best Children’s Books for Christmas and the Holiday Season – Part Three

Posted on

BEST CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS BOOKS
A ROUNDUP – PART THREE

 

Here’s the third of our kids’ Christmas books roundup. There’s really something here for everyone from ages 3 to 12 (we’ve even included some board books for the littlest ones). So please take a look, buy the books at your local independent bookseller then let us know which ones ended up being your family’s favorites. Merry Christmas!

 

Nativity by Cynthia Rylant Cover ImageNativity
Written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant
(Beach Lane Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Cynthia Rylant’s Nativity combines the story of Jesus’ birth with well known passages from His ministry in beautiful text adapted from chapters of the Book of Matthew and the Book of Luke. Rendered in acrylic paints, Rylant’s colorful and straightforward illustrations allow young readers to experience the poetry of the King James translation of the Holy Bible.  

The story begins on the cover flap:  “A child is born…” which brings us to a pastoral setting. The animals are white and cloudy; human figures are faceless but, ironically, it’s the simplicity of their forms that communicates the scene: shepherds with staff in hand guarding their flock. As we follow their visit to the Baby Jesus, we notice familiar features, such as the star and wise men, absent from this Nativity scene. As a result,  the presence of shepherds are highlighted all the more; they dominate over half the book — a fact I thought was interesting and appropriate, considering Jesus called Himself the “good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10: 11). Shepherds are spreading the news of Jesus’ birth to passers-by; in the privacy of their homes, they are wondering “at those things which were told them” by “the angel of the Lord.” Young readers may not understand the deep theological matters raised with the coming of Christ, but they can grasp its contemplative effect in the simple and humble bow of a shepherd’s head.

In addition to such quiet gestures, bold colors also help children connect with Scripture. As the angels proclaim peace on earth and “good will toward men” the sky is illuminated with a rainbow of warm, exciting colors-the colors of pure joy. My personal favorite is the way purple is used to illustrate the most poignant points of the story. Against a backdrop of rich purple, Mother Mary “kept these things” she witnessed “and pondered them in her heart.” The color appears once more when the story shifts to show Jesus as a grown man preaching His famous words (taken from the Sermon on the Mount): “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Both these scenes express powerful and profound principles that invite reflection and meditation. The depth of the color calls readers to pause and wonder about the mystery of God and the peace of His Presence. If you’re looking for a traditional Christmas story, this is a book I’d highly recommend.  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

Ninja Claus book cover imageNinja Claus!
Written and illustrated by Arree Chung
(Henry Holt and Company, $17.99, ages 4-7)

Every child hopes to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus placing presents under the Christmas tree or filling their stockings with candies and trinkets on Christmas Eve. Most share the tradition of putting out cookies and milk for the jolly old fellow. There are however, probably a lot fewer who, like Maxwell, a mischievous young ninja, in Ninja Claus!, set traps in an attempt to capture Santa. Utilizing nets, a fishing pole, ropes, hula hoops, and his best ninja tricks, Maxwell manages to capture his dog and his father nibbling the cookies, but he’s swept off to bed by his mother before he can capture Santa.

Arree Chung has written and illustrated yet another Ninja picture book, his third in the series, that is bound to be a hit. With his deft use of acrylic paint and Adobe Photoshop, Chung sets the tone of the night before Christmas, with only the lights from the tree illuminating the pages. And his writing? He had me holding my breath and praying that Christmas wouldn’t be ruined for little Maxwell. And then came the big exhale. The greatest ninja of all, Santa Claus, came and went unnoticed. Hands down, this book is a delight.  • Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

The Nutcracker in Harlem book cover imageThe Nutcracker in Harlem
Written by T.E. McMorrow
Illustrated by James Ransome
(HarperCollins; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

In The Nutcracker in Harlem, Tchaikovsky’s ballet comes to life in the dreams of a Marie growing up in a musical family during the Harlem Renaissance. I love the illustrations, by multiple award-winner James Ransome, most of all. In the opening pages, author McMorrow and illustrator Ransome invite us into a bright and boisterous living room, crowded with happy people enjoying music and each other. The clothing and hats in bold blues, greens, and reds transport us to the 1920s. A Christmas party is underway. Marie’s uncle is playing the piano, her parents are dancing, and Miss Addie is singing. Everyone encourages Marie to participate, but she hangs back, shyly watching and listening. The atmosphere is so real and wonderful it makes me feel nostalgic for a party I never attended. When the story shifts to the world of Marie’s dream, the deep, vibrant watercolor illustrations keep the mood warm and happy even when what could be more frightening elements — such as an army of mice — dance into view. By the end, the dream, combined with the magic of Christmas, gives Marie the courage to join in the jazzy celebration.  • Reviewed by Mary Malhotra

Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares book cover imageRed and Lulu
Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

Thank you, Matt Tavares! As a former New Yorker who experienced the majesty of the Norway Spruce at Rockefeller Center most years of my childhood, I was transported by Red and Lulu to Manhattan, not unlike the tree in this simple yet very moving story about love lost then found again during Christmastime. Red and Lulu, cardinals inspired by those in Tavares’ own backyard, make a massive evergreen their home. It’s there the pair see the seasons change in all their glory while always remaining close to the shelter that nature has so kindly provided.  “Once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: ‘O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree.'” Then, while Red is away, the tree is cut down and Lulu clings to it not understanding what is happening. Written with few words that speak volumes and powerful and poignant illustrations, the story follows Red as he tracks the tree on its journey. Unlike adult readers sharing the story with their children, Red doesn’t realize the significance of his home being transported to New York City. He searches high and low to find Lulu amidst the twinkling lights, falling snow, skyscrapers and crowds. As carolers sing their special song, O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Red’s determination is rewarded as the magic of the song, the holiday season and the Yuletide spirit in this famous city help reunite the cardinal couple and fill young (and old) readers’ hearts with joy. Don’t skip the back matter which includes facts about the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition and an author’s note. Visit the Candlewick website to see a book trailer, some interior artwork and order the book for a 25% discount using the code CANDLEWICK at checkout.   • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Weird but True Christmas from NatGeoKids cover imageWeird but True! Christmas: 300 Festive Facts 
to Light Up The Holiday
(National Geographic Kids; $8.99, Ages 8-12 )

Here’s another great stocking stuffer for fans of outrageous facts. There are dozens of paper back books in the Weird but True! series and it’s no surprise since they are so entertaining. This one is no exception. Just when they think they’ve read all the facts, they’ll want to dive back in to share them and spread the holiday cheer. Included are some whammies such as “One family passed down the same fruitcake since 1878,” or “A whole sheep’s head is considered a  holiday delicacy in Norway.” Do your children know that “In India people decorate banana trees for Christmas,” or that “During the Australian gold rush, people baked gold nuggets into their Christmas pudding for good luck?” As can be expected from any National Geographic book, the photographs included are fantastic as are the added illustrations. The 208 page count should not put off any child since the info is written in large font and the graphics are bold and bright.Weird but True! Christmas can be read quickly to get a general overview then returned to when specific facts require further study. If your tweens cannot get enough of all these fun facts, they can download the National Geographic Kids Weird but True app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad!    • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Other Recommended Christmas Books This Year Include:

This Little Reindeer
Written by Aly Fronis
Illustrated by Luke Flowers
(Little Bee Books; $5.99, Ages 2-5)

 

 

Christmas Eve
Annie Auerbach
(Barron’s Children’s Books; $6.99, Ages 1-4)

 

 

Don’t Push The Button!: A Christmas Adventure
Written and illustrated by Bill Cotter
(Jabberwocky Kids; $8.99, Ages 2+ )

 

 

 

Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part One

Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part Two

Holiday Gift Books Guide

SaveSave


A Model of Determination – A Guest Post by Randi Lynn Mrvos

Posted on

 

A MODEL OF DETERMINATION
A Guest Post by Author Randi Lynn Mrvos

Cover image from Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell

 

When I first sat down to write the story about a little first-grader named Maggie, I had not yet met Charlie, a mix-breed hound whose determination changed his life. All I knew of the story was that Maggie had a problem at school. How she would be able to solve that problem was still a mystery to me.

At that time with the seeds of this story slowly germinating, I spent the better part of Saturdays supporting my freshman daughter’s cross-country team in Lexington, Kentucky. While the student athletes stretched and warmed up, I chatted with the mothers manning the concession stand. After attending a few meets, I got to know these heard-working ladies and sadly realized they would not be present next year. Their kids would be graduating.

The following year I stepped into the role of running the concessions along with Barbara, another mom whose daughter ran on the team. Standing side by side selling bagels, bananas, bottled water and hot chocolate, I learned about Barbara’s family, her talents, and her pets.

Charlie the inspiration for Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-TellOne of her dogs was named Charlie, and later during that cross-country season, I got the chance to meet him. On that day, Barbara told me his story. She said that a few years ago, she and her family were driving in rural Kentucky in search of buying a farm. They came across an injured dog that had made a bed of leaves by the side of the road. It had used his last bit of strength and resolve to get their attention. He wagged his tail when they approached him. It occurred to Barbara that the dog may have once been someone’s pet. Without a doubt, Barbara knew they were going to bring the animal home.

The dog, after being nursed back to health, learned to walk again. Barbara and her family named him Charlie and he fit right in along with the other dog and two cats in their house. Charlie loves everyone he meets along his walks and wants to befriend everyone. Barbara says this special animal taught her so much about unconditional love, trust, hope and never giving up. Charlie is her best friend.

I was so impressed with Charlie that he became the model for Maggie’s pet. Soon after, the solution to Maggie’s problem became apparent and the themes of the story, animal adoption, compassion, determination, and problem-solving emerged.

Charlie’s story touched me in a personal way. I know what it’s like to feel rejected. Before Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell was published, it had been turned down close to fifty times. Sure, there were anger and tears, but I believed in Maggie. Like Charlie, I was determined to deal with rejection and not give up.

 

Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell
Written by Randi Lynn Mrvos
Illustrated by Emiliano Billai
(Saturn’s Moon Press, $16.99, Ages 4 – 8)
32 pages, available in Hardback
Visit Randi Lynn Mrvos’s website here.
Get to know Maggie here.

 

headshot of author Randi Lynn MrvosRandi Lynn Mrvos’s Bio:

Randi Lynn Mrvos is the editor of the Kid’s Imagination Train e-zine. She has written over a hundred articles for children’s magazines such as Highlights as well as articles for Mothering magazine and The Christian Science Monitor. Mrvos lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and cat Ozzie. Awarded prizes by the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Writer’s Digest, and the Alabama Writer’s Conclave, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is her first book.

A Brief Summary: Meet Maggie, a first-grader in Ms. Madison’s classroom. Maggie has a big problem. Tomorrow is summer vacation show-and-tell. All of her classmates know exactly what they are going to talk about, but Maggie doesn’t have any idea what she can share. She could say she went on safari, or hiked the South Pole, or zoomed into outer space to Mars and the Moon. The truth is, Maggie didn’t travel during the break. The day is nearly over and Maggie hasn’t found anything to bring to school. .. until she remembers falling in love with something special over the months of summer.

For children ages four to eight and pet-lovers of all ages, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is a story of love and compassion. Mrvos’ children’s book was inspired by Charlie, a deserted dog that was rescued on a country road by a friend. Charlie’s remarkable story is included as well as a discussion guide for starting conversations about summer vacations and caring for pets.

NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the author, Randi Lynn Mrvos. No compensation was received for this coverage.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave