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

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BEST CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS BOOKS
A ROUNDUP – PART TWO

 

As promised, Good Reads With Ronna continues this year’s roundups of great Christmas books and activities to share with your children before and during the holiday. There are so many terrific new books to choose from that we felt it was important to review as many as possible so you could find some special ones that appeal to everyone in the family.

 

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Emma Randall cover imageThe Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Emma Randall
(Penguin Workshop; $16.99, Ages3-7)

The traditional Christmas song about a partridge in a pear tree can get to feeling a bit cluttered by the time seven lords are leaping around, but in The Twelve Days of Christmas, Emma Randall’s illustrations are a breath of fresh winter air, clear and colorful throughout. For example, each leaf and pear in the partridge’s tree is separate, forming a lovely mosaic that could be Swedish or Ukrainian. The characters are drawn in a homey style that reminds me of Jessie from Pixar’s “Toy Story,” with old-fashioned winter afternoon-wear replacing cowgirl duds. There are plenty of visual details to search for and enjoy, and of course you can sing the song while searching if caroling is your jam.  • Reviewed by Mary Malhotra

 

Susan Jeffers Jingle Bells cover imageJingle Bells
Written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers
(HarperCollins; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Susan Jeffers offers a new interpretation of another classic holiday song, Jingle Bells. Her cover illustration gives us the main characters: a boy carrying a gift, a girl snuggling a dog, a beautiful horse, and lots of snow, including raised sparkling snowflakes just asking to be touched by little fingers. Open the book and the front endpaper lays out the path the sled will follow, from the children’s barn, over a river, through a forest and on to a little house. Working with such a familiar song, Jeffers takes the opportunity to include new things for readers to ponder. The children would like to stay bundled up in the sled, but their dog is determined to discover every winter animal playing or hiding in the white world outside the sleigh. Readers can look for the animals, too; the last two pages identify them for reference. Near the end, we find out where the children are going and who will receive their gift. In a surprise, the story shares some insight about what it might be like to have a famous neighbor. Add this one to your songbook collection.  • Reviewed by Mary Malhotra

A Charlie Brown Christmas Deluxe Edition cover imageA Charlie Brown Christmas
Deluxe Edition
(Part of Peanuts)
By Charles M. Schulz
Adapted by: Maggie Testa / Illustrated by: Vicki Scott
(Simon Spotlight; $19.99, Ages: 4-99)

I tried to share my favorite holiday television special with my own kids twenty years ago — and it didn’t really work. Maybe the animation techniques or sound quality didn’t hold up, or maybe I had loved it partly because I could only see it once a year, whenever CBS decided to air it. At any rate, my kids couldn’t relate to my anticipation. I opened A Charlie Brown Christmas: Deluxe Edition (Peanuts) hoping this book might be a way to share the Peanuts magic more successfully with my grandchildren. I’ll know for sure when I see them before the holidays, but I’m thinking this version is a “yes!”  • Reviewed by Mary Malhotra

This deluxe edition, by Maggie Testa (Adapter), Charles M. Schulz (Author), and Vicki Scott (Illustrator), is big, with an almost-velvet red cover framing a smiling Charlie Brown holding his special little Christmas tree. The endpapers are sheet music of the Christmas carols “Jingle Bells” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The art throughout pops with bold colors and stylized shading. In case you’re unfamiliar with the characters or story, Charlie Brown is a kid who has few friends and can’t do anything right. He is correspondingly depressed, yet embodies optimism, always coming back to try again. In the Christmas story, his true friend Linus thinks he knows how to cheer up Charlie Brown. “You need to get involved. How would you like to be the director of our Christmas play?” Charlie Brown takes charge, but after he gets a straggly little tree to decorate the stage, the other kids convince him he’s ruined everything again. Later, led by Linus, everyone comes together to decorate the tree. It shapes up like only a cartoon tree could, and the true spirit of Christmas shines. This adaptation hits the important notes I remember from the animated special, including my favorite scene: Linus reciting Luke 2:8-14 after assuring Charlie Brown, “I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”  • Reviewed by Mary Malhotra

Christmas Paper Crafting: Holiday Cards, Gift Tags, and More!
Authors: Valerie McKeehan, Valentina Harper, Thaneeya McArdle,
Robin Pickens, Angelea Van Dam
(Design Originals, an imprint of Fox Chapel Publishing; $19.99, Ages 6+)

With a title like Christmas Paper Crafting: Holiday Cards, Gift Tags, and More! it’s no surprise that this book contains cards, envelope templates, and gift tags. The “more” includes bookmarks, mini cards, full-page images called frameables, and scrapbook paper (which makes nice two-sided gift wrap). Most pages are perforated and easy for a child to use on their own. Kids can choose an item, then draw or write on the mostly blank second side—some have short quotations. The envelope templates are straightforward as are the instructions for bookmark tassels or fridge magnets.

The artwork is that of best-selling artists Thaneeya McArdle, Robin Pickens, Angelea Van Dam, Valentina Harper, and Valerie McKeehan. A variety of styles showcases the holiday sentiments. Images are produced on thick paper and in full color—except for a few in black and white for self-coloring. While most pictures are appropriate for a range of holidays, in keeping with the book’s title, many of the quotes on the back of the cards refer to Christmas and some are of a religious nature. If the quotes aren’t suitable, the card’s second page can be omitted and used as postcard-size instead.

If you’re strapped for time, Christmas Paper Crafting can give your cards a more homemade feel. It may also be less costly than buying individual greeting cards or boxed card sets. Kids who enjoy making their own choices and crafting will appreciate the freedom to pick what they like then to embellish a bit, adding their special seasonal touch.  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Mary Englebreit's Color ME Christmas Book of Postcards coverMary Englebreit’s Color ME Christmas
Book of Postcards
(HarperCollins; $9.99, Ages 4+)

I picked up Mary Engelbreit’s Color ME Christmas Book of Postcards because it looked like a fun, creative project to do with my granddaughter, coloring in holiday postcards, gift tags, and ornaments illustrated with designs in Engelbreit’s signature vintage style. I love that at Christmastime, every arts and crafts project is also an opportunity for young kids to make presents for the people they care about. The book is printed on thick card stock, so after coloring, the items will be ready to mail, tie onto gifts, or hang on the Christmas tree. Paired with a package of colored pencils or markers, these postcards make a wonderful gift for any young visitors you may be expecting. Recommended for ages 4 and up, in other words, for anyone who’s a kid at heart like me.  • Reviewed by Mary Malhotra

 

 

Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part One

Christmas Books for Children Roundup – Part Three

Holiday Gift Books Guide


My Pen Pal, Santa by Melissa Stanton

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My Pen Pal, Santa, by Melissa Stanton with illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell (Random House Books for Young Readers, $9.99, Ages3-7), is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

My Pen Pal, Santa cover art by Jennifer A. Bell

My Pen Pal, Santa by Melissa Stanton with illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013.

There are few things in this world that make me happier than Christmas. I don’t get aggravated by retailers who advertise earlier every year. Nor do I get annoyed by the local radio station that plays Christmas music beginning mid-November. I love the traditions of the holiday, both religious and commercial. I also love the food, festivities, and of course, Santa Claus. So, when I came across My Pen Pal, Santa  written by Melissa Stanton and illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell, I knew this was a book I was meant to review. After all, how many of you can say the only songs you have ever downloaded from iTunes are of the Christmas variety?

Six year old Ava writes a thank you note to Santa Claus after Christmas. In it she asks him a couple of important questions, such as, “Why didn’t you eat the cookies I left you?” While Santa is certainly surprised to get a letter after Christmas, he nonetheless sends off a response answering Ava’s questions. He even signs his letter Merry Christmas! So begins a monthly correspondence between jolly old St. Nick and the little girl.

I enjoyed how many of my (I mean children’s) concerns were answered throughout this charmingly illustrated book. Does Santa know the tooth fairy? What about the Easter Bunny? What do he and Mrs. Claus do during the off season? Most importantly, for those of us without fireplaces, how does Santa deliver presents to children without chimneys? We (I mean kids) need to know this stuff, right?  My Pen Pal, Santa even addresses believers and non-believers in an open and loving way.

Parents, see what magic happens when you read this book with your child. It’s just perfect for a 3-7 year old who might already be questioning Santa’s existence, but still wants to believe. And who doesn’t?

Click here for Santa Stationery created by Jennifer A. Bell.


Jim Hensons PAJANIMALS Bedtime Books

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Pajanimals logoI’m a huge Jim Henson fan so when I received these new Pajanimals bedtime board books (some even include my fave – reusable stickers!) and paperbacks from Running Press Kids, I knew I had to share them all with you. The best part about this new collection is that they provide parents with ideal reading material for toddlers dealing with concerns and fears quite common for their developmental stage.

The writing in all the Pajanimals bedtime books is upbeat, easy flowing and each colorful book focuses on a way to tackle the title’s issue in a comforting way whether it be about jealousy, nightmares or waking up on the wrong side of the bed. For instance in Sweet Pea Sue Misses Mom and Dad, Sweet Pea would rather sleep with Mom and Dad than spend the night in her own room. However after a quick visit to the Moon with her pals Squacky, Cowbella and Apollo, and a thoughtful question from the Moon, Sweet Pea Sue solves the dilemma herself. I sure wish books like these had been available 18 years ago when my oldest daughter faced many of the same challenges. Children will be able to relate to their favorite TV characters and parents will be thankful for an easy, affordable way to discuss otherwise tricky topics. The books’ size makes them easy to take along on vacations or outings. Why not also consider giving them as a gift because, when paired with another Pajanimals product, they’d certainly please most any toddler you know!

PAJANIMALS PAPERBACKS

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksApollo Has a Bad Day – $4.95

Lots of things are going wrong for Apollo today. When he is feeling too angry and sad to sleep, he and the Pajanimals travel to The Night Sky. The Moon reminds Apollo that though there are bad days, tomorrow is always a brand new day. 

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSquacky Is Afraid of the Dark – $4.95

Squacky is afraid to go to sleep in the dark. Luckily the rest of the Pajanimals know just what to do! They travel to The Night Sky where the Moon reminds Squacky that he is always shining bright in the sky and watching over the Pajanimals.

 

SMALL FORMAT BOARD BOOKS

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSweet Pea Sue Misses Mom and Dad – $6.95

Sweet Pea Sue can’t sleep because she wants to be in Mom and Dad’s bed. When the Pajanimals travel to the Moon, she remembers that Mom and Dad are always close by if she needs them, and that Moon is always there watching over them.

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksCowbella and the Bad Dream– $6.95

Cowbella is afraid she’s going to have a bad dream and doesn’t want to go to sleep. The Pajanimals travel to the Friendly Forest where Jerry the bear assures Cowbella that if her imagination can think up scary thoughts, it can also make happy thoughts! So she learns to only think of happy things before she goes to sleep.

 

BOARD BOOKS/12 pages (Includes reusable stickers – warning: small parts. Not for children under 3 years)

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksIt’s Apollo’s Special Day – $7.95

Tomorrow is Apollo’s Birthday and the Pajanimals are excited to celebrate—all except for Cowbella. She wishes that it was her Birthday so she can get all the cake and presents. But when they visit Mr. Happy Birthday at Birthday Land, Cowbella discovers that the fun part about a Birthday party is spending time with the ones you love.

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSweet Pea Sue Makes a New Friend – $7.95

Sweet Pea Sue can’t sleep because she’s scared of a picture of an octopus she saw in a book. When the Pajanimals go to the Big, Blue Sea, they meet Ellie, a real octopus. To Sweet Pea Sue’s surprise, Ellie is scared of the Pajanimals. The two realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of because they just want to be friends.

 

Jim Henson's Pajanimals Bedtime BooksSquacky and The Gift of Christmas – $7.95

The Pajanimals are excited that Christmas is coming! Squacky really hopes he gets the new Fantastic Splash Super Sub, but then becomes worried that Santa won’t bring it. The Pajanimals travel to The Night Sky where the Moon reminds Squacky that Christmas isn’t about the presents you get, it’s about spending time with the ones you love and sharing Christmas traditions together.

To find out more about the Pajanimals, see their TV schedule, see videos, get activities and craft ideas plus enter contests, visit Sprout here.