Great Christmas Books for Kids – A Holiday Roundup

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Kids Christmas Books Roundup –
Reviewers Rita Zobayan and MaryAnne Locher
Share Some of This Season’s Kidlit Faves

Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish'Twas-Nochebuena-cvr.jpg written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Sara Palacios (Viking/Penguin, 2014; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

While Christmas is celebrated all around the world, different cultures have their own traditions and ways of celebrating. ‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish is a new spin on the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

A Latino family is preparing to host relatives and friends on Christmas Eve. They are busy making tamales stuffed with pollo (chicken) and queso (cheese). When ready, they participate in posadas (the reenactment of the Nativity) where families stroll from house to house, asking for shelter. Once back home, the family drinks warm mugs of chocolaty champurrado (a thick hot chocolate drink) and play loteria (a game similar to bingo). Then, it’s time for Misa del Gallo (midnight mass) before the celebration continues with more food and a delicious dessert called bu~nuelos (a sweet fritter covered with cinnamon). It’s a wonderful night of family and festivities.

The artwork is bright and inviting. Little details, such as colorful banners and the town’s architecture, give a feel for the setting. I found the facial expressions, including that of the family cat and dog, to be especially engaging.

The rhyming text makes the book easy to read, even for non-Spanish speakers. With satisfied bellies and sleepy eyes, we head to the sala for one last surprise. Giggling and cheering, we dash for the tree, where regalos are waiting for you and for me! A glossary of 47 Spanish terms is included, as is an author’s note about the origin of this story.

With diverse literature in high demand, ‘Twas Nochebuena provides fun insight into a cultural celebration of Christmas Eve. Feliz Navidad! – Rita Zobayan

Link to review of Round is a Tortilla, also by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.


Maisys-Christmas-Tree-cvr.jpgIf you’re looking for a sweet board book to tuck in a special little person’s stocking this Christmas, Maisy’s Christmas Tree, (Candlewick Press, 2014; $6.99, Ages 2-5) is the perfect pick. Written by Lucy Cousins, the ever-popular Maisy is decorating her Christmas tree with her friends. Cyril the squirrel, Tallulah the chicken, and Charlie the crocodile are all helping out in their own special way, stringing lights, hanging candy canes, and wrapping presents. Eddie the elephant is in charge of the tree topper: an angel who looks exactly like Maisy!


Interior image from Maisy’s Christmas Tree by Lucy Cousins, Candlewick Press ©2014.

Bright primary and secondary colors with a bit of silver sparkle make this a visually appealing book. Its small size and Christmas tree shape make it easy for little hands to hold and help turn pages. Even a toddler full of Christmas anticipation will sit through this book of under fifty words which gently builds to a grand finale. Maisy and friends sing carols around her beautiful tree then shout, “Merry Christmas, everyone!” – MaryAnne Locher

Link to review of Peck, Peck, Peck, also by Lucy Cousins.


Everything-About-Christmas-cvr.jpgEverything I Need to Know about Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book written by Diane Muldrow (Golden Books, 2014; $9.99, Ages 4 and up)

Little Golden Books are endearing. I’m not sure if it’s the vintage-style art work or the sense of innocence that seems to emanate from the words and pictures of a bygone era, but there’s no denying the “aww” that goes along with the series. So, it’s no surprise that Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow draws in both young and old. Compiled from the art of a variety of LGB, this is a guide to keeping your sanity during one of the happiest yet busiest times of the year.

“Christmas is coming!” waves a happy Santa. But, what about all that baking, the endless cycle of cooking and cleaning, and the rounds of social obligations…when you could be taking a nap. Then there’s the snarled holiday traffic…and the scary holiday crowds! The excess! The expense! Then comes the weight gain. Yes, Christmas certainly comes with stresses and obligations. It’s easy to get caught up in the commotion and consumerism. However, don’t spend all your time preparing…It’s a time for traditions, a time for giving the very best of yourself…a time to reach out to someone who’d otherwise be alone. For one night in a manger, under a star, a night witnessed by both shepherds and kings, when gifts were given to a waiting world…and the gift of hope for a peaceable kingdom.

While younger children might not understand the message about keeping the crazy out of Christmas, they will almost certainly enjoy the illustrations and message of love and family. Filled with LGB favorites, such as the Poky Little Puppy and Richard Scarry’s artwork (among many talented others), the book harkens to the wonder and nostalgia of childhood. This is something that LGB does so well. Adults are transported back to their childhoods (and perhaps will remember reading LGB as youngsters), and children will adore the sense of warmth that the illustrations create.

Everything I Need to Know about Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book is a new Christmas favorite in our household, and once you read it, you’ll see why. – Rita Zobayan

Link to review of We Planted a Tree, also by Diane Muldrow.




How To Be a Pirate by Sue Fliess

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How To Be a Pirate by Sue Fliess is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.


How To Be a Pirate by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Nikki Dyson, Golden Books, © 2014.

Yo Ho, mateys! When digging through a pile of books I’ve yet to review, I uncovered a buried treasure.

How to Be a Pirate (Golden Books, $3.99, also available in eBook, Ages 2-5) by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Nikki Dyson, shines like a piece of eight. Fliess, like the pirates in her latest picture book, can walk the walk (no planks, please!) and talk the talk, showing us how contagious rhyme can be when done properly.

Not a pirate?

Don’t know how?

Ye can learn to be one now!

Sing a shanty,

Whistle, dance.

Do a jig in pirate pants

Dyson’s illustrations practically dance off the pages with the use of bright colors and details that will have your little scallywags crying, “Read it again!” But you won’t mind. There are so many discoveries to be made on every page. Eye-patches and bandanas, hooks and parrots, a treasure map and a pirate’s jig are some of the highlights of what will Aaargh-uably be a favorite on your bookshelf.

Here are links to our reviews of some of Sue Fliess’s other books.





Best Valentine’s Day Books for Children Part 2: Hearts, How Do Lions Say I Love You? & More!

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Read about: Hearts, How Do Lions Say I Love You?, Junie B. My Valentime, Born From The Heart & Will You Still Love Me If …?

Our Valentine’s Day Roundup Part 2 from Ronna Mandel♡
features a selection of faves for the whole family!

This Valentine’s Day, which also happens to be International Book Giving Day, is a perfect time to share books and share love. The picture books we’ve highlighted yesterday and today say I LOVE YOU in oh so many wonderful and creative ways.  The best part of Valentine’s Day is that, since it’s all about finding ways to demonstrate feelings of love and affection, you can read these books all year ’round and the message remains the same. There’s never a bad time to show someone how much you care. And inside the pages of a picture book, there’s lots of love to be found!


Hearts by Thereza Rowe from Toon Books.

♥♥♥ Hearts  by Thereza Rowe (Toon Books, $12.95, Ages 3 and up). The bold graphics in this First Comic For Brand New Readers will draw kids in and the heartwarming storyline will keep them interested. Penelope the Fox accidentally drops her heart into the ocean where all sorts of hazards await. However, a friendly chicken on top of a British double-decker befriends the fox and together they go in search of the lost heart. Will Penelope find the missing heart or will she find something else on her journey? Hearts is all hearts.


How Do Lions Say I Love You? by Diane Muldrow with illustrations by David Walker, Golden Books.

How Do Lions Say I Love You? by Diane Muldrow with illustrations by David Walker ( A Little Golden Book/Random House Books for Young Readers, $3.99, Ages 2-5). It’s easy to see why your little ones will gravitate towards this charming story of all the different ways animals say “I love you.” With catchy rhyme, Muldrow introduces us to a hen saying “I love you” to her chicks with a cluck. She goes on to show us love-struck swans, giraffes, nightingales, peacocks, horses, elephants, lions, wolves, bears, cows and mourning doves.


Mourning doves like
to bill and coo.
And that’s how they
say I love you.

With its adorable, muted pastel colored illustrations, How Do Lions Say I Love You? is certain to please as it gently depicts the love shared in families with examples children will find hard to resist.


Born From The Heart by Berta Serrano with illustrations by Alfonso Serrano, Sterling Children’s Books.

Born From The Heart by Berta Serrano with illustrations by Alfonso Serrano (Sterling, $14.95, Ages 3 and up). When I first glanced through my review copy of Born From The Heart, and its artwork spoke to me so strongly, I didn’t even have to read the story to get a sense that I was going to love this book. This picture book which presents the idea of adoption in the most captivating way, is one I am delighted to recommend to new parents. One of my favorite lines in the book is when the main characters Rose and Charlie visit the doctor to see how they might have a baby and the doctor tells them they need “1 pound of love, 2 cups of enthusiasm and 1 1/2 tablespoons of patience.” Soon Rose’s heart began growing as the couple awaited the arrival of their new baby. When the time was right, they flew far and wide and “crossed landscapes of unimaginable color” until they came to a little house in the middle of a green valley. Rose’s heart burst when she saw her little one. She “kissed the beautiful face one hundred million times.” Alfonso Serrano (the author’s brother) has captured the magic of that moment in an illustration so spectacular yet so simple. Rose is lying in the grass with her baby on top of her. The embrace is priceless. We cannot see Rose’s face, but feel her ecstasy.

Based on Berta Serrano’s experience adopting her son, Born From The Heart, is a truly magical, moving and empowering story for parents that I hope all adoptive parents will read and then share with their child when the time is right.


Will You Still Love Me If …? by Catherine Leblanc with illustrations by Eve Tharlet, Minedition.

Will You Still Love Me If …? by Catherine Leblanc with illustrations by Eve Tharlet (Minedition, $16.99, Ages 3-8). Asking his mom lots of questions so many children have asked, Little Bear learns that there is nothing quite as forgiving and enduring as a mother’s love. Whether he tears his clothes, makes a mess, breaks his bed or looks horrendous, he wonders and “wants to be sure,” his mom will still love him. Will it be always and forever, he begins to ponder, even if one day she dies? With the most sensitively worded response, his mom assures him that he’ll still feel her presence. “But I’m still here and I’m not dead yet.” It’s true that youngsters have these thoughts and it’s great this picture book addresses them in a way that’s light and positive. “And what if one day you love someone else more than you love?” Little Bear is unrelenting. “More than you?” Mom asks. “That’s impossible! I might love someone in a different way …” This momma bear knows all the right things to say and is so genuine, loving and supportive that kids will love her just as much as Little Bear. Between the gorgeous artwork and the appealing prose, Will You Still Love Me If …? is the kind of book I would have felt comfortable reading to my kids when they were young and I didn’t have all the answers.

9780385373029.jpg.172x250_q85Junie B. My Valentime by Barbara Park with illustrations by Denise Brunkus (Random House Books for Young Readers, $5.99, Ages 3-7). Everybody’s favorite first-grader is back and better than ever in this hilarious sticker and Valentine’s book (30 are included!) with Junie’s VALENTINE acrostic-style take on Valentine’s Day. This companion book to the bestselling Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime! is filled with fun, original full-color cards just perfect to give out to classmates, friends and family. My favorite Valentine’s Day card – the one where Junie’s written “Will you B. my Valentime? YES or NO? YES ⃞ YES ⃞ (Ha! I did not draw a NO box! That’s hilarious!)” And it really is!
Why not make your own printable Valentine’s Day card by clicking here, too?

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go 40th Anniversary

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Scarry’s Books Are Back & Good Reads With Ronna’s Got ‘Em!

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go 40th Anniversary Edition

40th Anniversary Edition of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry, Golden Books, 2014.

The most well-known Richard Scarry’s books including Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (Golden Books, $15.99, ages 3-7), now classics, were first published when I was a teenager. And while I may have missed growing up with his books, my kids fortunately did not. Now I can look forward to the day when I’ll share Richard Scarry’s books with my grandchildren because there’s a timeless quality to the humor in his stories that will entertain generations to come. It’s true some of Scarry’s books have been updated and made more politically correct, but for the most part, characters like Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat, Bunny Rabbit and the Pig Family along with all their antics will help Scarry’s popularity endure.

Did you know that Scarry’s first books were published by Golden Books back in the  ’40s and by the time he died in 1994 he had sold over 100 million copies of his books worldwide in more than 20 languages? No wonder some of his most beloved books are in the Busytown series – he must have been very busy himself writing and illustrating over 150 books! Scarry was even posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Society of Illustrators in 2012. Now that speaks volumes.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go is an ideal intro for children fascinated with anything and everything vehicularly related. There are tractors and tow trucks, vans and buses, trucks and cars, cherry pickers and cement mixers, as well as trains, planes and dune buggies. In other words, if it moves it’s in there.  And your kids will want to study every single page not once, but over and over again because Scarry’s packed so much into every illustration.  And if that’s not enough, there’s also tons of activity going on, from log-loading trucks lifting to ditch-diggers digging. Why not build up the suspense for your children and have them watch out, perhaps even try to predict things, because with a Richard Scarry, book you never know what’s going to happen next.

In a nutshell, “The Pigs are going to the beach to have their picnic.” Will they make it there in their broken-down truck while dodging all sorts of wild and crazy obstacles along the way? Then Dingo Dog, who has “knocked down all the parking meters” with his awful driving, will be pursued by Officer Flossy (a fox) who wants to give that rascal a ticket. And don’t forget to remind kids to search for Goldbug, a tiny creature who can be found somewhere in every spread. This is truly transportation at its best!

I don’t know who was more excited to see this 40th Anniversary review copy show up at our house, me or the kids? All I know is my murder mystery will remain on the night table tonight while I get nostalgic and swap my cloak and dagger for some crane and digger!

Eager to explore more of Scarry’s books? There are several more titles now available including Richard Scarry’s Best Bunny Book Ever; Richard Scarry’s Nicky Goes to the Doctor; Richard Scarry’s Pie Rats Ahoy; Richard Scarry’s Best Nursery Tales Ever; and Richard Scarry’s Bunnies.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel