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!

Maisys-Christmas-Tree-int.jpg

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.

 

 

 


Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

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Roseanne Greenfield Thong's Round is a Tortilla book cover

Round is a Tortilla, A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong with illustrations by John Parra, Chronicle Books, 2013.

Round is a Tortilla, A Book of Shapes (Chronicle Books, $16.99, Ages 3-5) by Roseanne Greenfield Thong with illustrations by John Parra, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

Round is a Tortilla has been chosen for the 2013-14 Macy’s Multicultural Collection of Children’s Literature!  

A great way for preschoolers to begin learning a foreign language is with picture books. They introduce new words in a simple, straightforward way making them fun to read with a parent and easy to remember, especially when presented in rhyme and coupled with shapes or colors. SoCal author Roseanne Greenfield Thong has done that so well with her picture books that she’s now written four in the series: Round is a Mooncake, Round is a Tortilla, Red is a Dragon, and the forthcoming Green is a Chile Pepper.

Thong does an impressive job incorporating circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, ovals and stars into scenes of daily life that could be here in the States or anywhere in Central America, places where Thong’s lived and taught English. Parra’s bright, cheerful, folksy illustrations complement every stanza making Round is a Tortilla an uplifting read-aloud.

“Rectangles are carts
with bells that chime
and cold paletas
in summertime.”

Paletas are ice pops and a little girl and boy character are about to enjoy them before they melt. They’re muy trio and muy delicious and writing about them just makes me want a cold and delicious popsicle, too! For triangles Thong’s described “Sandias (watermelon) chilled in tubs of ice, quesadillas by the slice …” She’s managed to rhyme what could have been difficult words, but everything flows beautifully. Some of the words in Round is a Tortilla are: abuela, campanas, huevos, masa and many more. Before moving onto the next shape, Thong always asks a question, “Square is a fountain from long ago. How many square things do you know?” so that parents or caregivers and children can discuss what’s been read, perhaps making a game out of searching for all the different shapes in the book, and maybe even in a child’s bedroom.  A helpful glossary of all the Spanish words in the book is included at the end.  I’m ready to learn colors now with Green is a Chile Pepper, the next book in the series which also happens to be just my speed.

RECOGNITION FOR ROUND IS A TORTILLA

Macy’s Multicultural Collection of Children’s Literature List, 2014 (Round is a Tortilla)

Georgia Book Award Nominee, 2013

Texas Library Association’s 2 x 2 List for 2014 (Round is a Tortilla)