Great Christmas Books for Kids – A Holiday Roundup

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!

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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.

 

 

 

Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins

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

 

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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.

 

Lucy Cousins’ Latest: PECK, PECK, PECK

In Peck, Peck, Peck no holes are barred!

PECK, PECK, PECK (Candlewick Press, $15.99, ages  2-5 ) by Lucy Cousins, best known for her super popular and successful Maisy series, has written and illustrated an adorable picture you should get, get, get! My 12-year-old son picked it up (it’s hard not to be attracted to the bright yellow cover with actual die-cut holes) and, after reading it, announced, “Very cute! Kids’ll love this.”

Lucy Cousins' Peck, Peck, Peck

This 32-page hardcover book, with its bold graphics and signature bright Cousins’ colors, is so much fun and it’s easy to see how much time was devoted to getting the locations of the holes on every page just right so as not to ruin the next page. The rhyme is simple and catchy that little kids will certainly want to chime in. To start, the little red-headed woodpecker says,

“Today my daddy
Said to me,
“‘It’s time you learned
to peck a tree.'”

And so the pecking begins … first a tree, (with kudos from Dad for a hole superbly pecked) … then onto a fence, a big blue door then into the house for more pecking galore.  The humor is not lost when the little woodpecker practices his newfound skills on an armchair, a teddy bear, and a book called Jane Eyre!! The variety of items that receive holes is hysterical. Nothing seems to have escaped the bird’s beak.

Besides all the rhymes, children will thoroughly enjoy the tons of holes everywhere that they can poke while having one last silly fest before settling down for bed.  Even the story’s little birdie is beat and decides to return to his nest.  Thank goodness that when Daddy plants some goodnight kisses on his little bird’s head, only lots of love and pride, but no holes, accompany them!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Maisy’s Green Thumb

Maisy Grows a Garden: A Maisy First Science Book by Lucy Cousins; Candlewick Press, $14.99; ages 3 and up) is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

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Masiy, Maisy, how does your garden grow? Maisy is busy getting ready to grow vegetables and flowers, and we get to help! We join Maisy and her pal Panda as they plant a garden and complete each step: digging, planting, tending, first growth, weeding, picking, and enjoying.

Each pair of pages in this bright and colorful book includes target words with illustrations (pitchfork, rake, shovel for digging; seedlings, roots, ladybug for first growth). Simple sentences and accompanying illustrations describe the scenes. For example, here is Maisy weeding the garden: It’s not only vegetables that grow in the garden. Weeds grow there, too. Maisy pulls the weeds out so they don’t crowd the vegetables!

The highlight of this sturdy book is the interactive tabs for each section. Help Maisy dig the soil. Pull the tab and see Maisy plant carrot seeds. Watch the vegetables sprout, and my-oh-my, wait until your child sees the flowers bloom! Illustrated in Lucy Cousins’ signature style, Maisy Grows a Garden: A Maisy First Science Book is a fun introduction to help little hands develop green thumbs!

76 Trombones and Maisy, too!

Maisy’s Band: A Pull-the-Tab and Pop-up Book ($17.99, Candlewick Press, ages 3 and up) by Lucy Cousins, is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Strike up the band! Maisy and her friends are putting on a show, and we’re invited to attend. Throughout the 14 pages we assist Maisy and company in getting ready for their performance. Pull the tab and Plinkety-plonk! Tallulah plays the pink piano. Move the tab up and down, and Root-a-toot! Cyril plays on the trumpet. The penguins hum a tune. The last page features a 3D pull-out stage where all five band members perform. Illustrated in Lucy Cousins’ distinct style, this is a bright and engaging hands-on read for youngsters.

Fun Fact: Did you know that there are over 29 million Maisy books in print worldwide?

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