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!

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.

 

 

 

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano

Always looking on the dark side of life? Reviewer MaryAnne Locher says you’ll find that with The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield.

Cover art for The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano with illustrations by Sophie Blackall

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, Viking, 2013.

If you’re looking for a book with a happy ending, one where the protagonist learns a lesson or has personal growth, this may not be the book for you. However, if you like to read about things on the darker side of life, The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield might be the perfect book for you.

This is the story of the last in a long line of miserable bullying Baddenfields, as well as the only remaining servant in the kind and caring lineage of Winterbottoms.

We’ve all heard the rumor that says cats have nine lives, right? Who would ever think to test that theory? One very horrible rotten boy, that’s who. To make things worse, Alexander uses his own cat Shaddenfrood in his experiment. With the help of a mad scientist, Dr. Krastenenif, Alexander has the nine lives of his cat transplanted into his own body!

It would seem that nine lives would be sufficient to last well, nine lifetimes, and for any normal person they would. Not so for Alexander. Not even under the guidance of his faithful servant, Winterbottom. The boy was so reckless, so disobedient, and so foolish as to think himself invincible, that he used up his nine lives in less time than you or I would use just one.

Written by author John Bemelmans Marciano, The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield (Viking, $16.99; eBook, $10.99, ages 10 and up) will delight readers who love Lemony Snicket or who have an appreciation for grim humor. The black and white pictures by illustrator Sophie Blackall, scattered throughout the 135 page book, complement the contrast between darkness and light, evil and good, and Baddenfields and Winterbottoms.

This book comes with a warning to all readers about one-third of the way through, marked by a skull and crossbones. It reads: “You are about to embark on a tale that recounts the sometimes gruesome deaths of a young boy, and his not always pleasant rebirths.” It says more than that, something about “enjoying the story so far” and “being made of sterner stuff,” but I think you get the idea. In my opinion, this book is bad to the bone, and I mean that in the best way possible.

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