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Kids Book Reviews – Christmas Board Books Roundup 2019

CHRISTMAS BOARD BOOKS

– A Roundup –

 

Merry Christmas Transparent Clip Art

 

 

christmas puppy book coverCHRISTMAS PUPPY:
A Wag My Tail Book
By Salina Yoon
(Little Simon; $7.99, All Ages)

The 12-page, pull-the-tab board book, Christmas Puppy, begs to be read and enjoyed by parents and youngsters alike. Who can resist a furry tail that either parents or children can pull each time there’s a puppy pal sound effect?

Puppy knows there’s a gift waiting for him under the tree, but which one will it be? Each time he thinks he’s found it, that particular present is actually intended for either Mouse, Hamster or Cat. Readers can imitate the accompanying animal squeaks, chirps and meows while pulling the wagging tail tab to their hearts’ content. Yoon’s sweet story with its four adorable animals concludes with Puppy finding and unwrapping his special gift. Have fun with Puppy and friends and enjoy a wag-ful Christmas.

grandmas christmas wish coverGRANDMA’S CHRISTMAS WISH
Written by Helen Foster James
Illustrated by Petra Brown
(Sleeping Bear Press; $8.99, Ages 0-4)

Now available in board book, Grandma’s Christmas Wish celebrates the unique bond between a grandmother bunny and her grandbunny. It’s a gentle reminder that multi-generational relationships mean so much and can bring such joy.

I love how this grandma bunny expresses herself so beautifully in her rhyming couplets. As the pair frolic in the burrow and the snow covered woods, Grandma shares her wishes which are so much more than material ones. Instead they’re about spending time together and her feeling of unconditional love for her grandbunny. “But, you with your grin and all of your charms, you’re my best present, just wrapped in my arms.” Be prepared to smile with every lovely page turn in this heartwarming story just perfect for any little one’s first Christmas.

christmas is awesome coverCHRISTMAS IS AWESOME!
A Hello!Lucky Book

Written by Sabrina Moyle
Illustrated by Eunice Moyle
(Abrams Appleseed; $7.99, Ages 0-3)

The merry, colorful illustrations and simple rhyming text of Christmas is Awesome! convey exactly what children think of when describing Christmas. “… Twinkling Lights, Silent Nights, Busy Elves, Jingle Bells!” Joy jumps off every page of this charming new board book from the sisters who founded Hello!Lucky, “the award-winning letterpress greeting card and design studio committed to using creativity to spread joy, fun, and kindness.” They succeed.

In addition to the festive feel of this 24-page board book, there are many laughs in store. Inside readers will find humorous spreads—I’m partial to the “Ugly Sweaters” one—that are study-worthy to see what surprises have been included. For example, a lump of coal gets up to all sorts of antics and experiences all sorts of emotions in every spread. I discovered new things with every read and children will enjoy doing the same. Kids will love the variety of animals featured throughout the book such as an elephant, a mole, a penguin, a cat, a squirrel, a dog, a mouse and lots more. Easy to memorize, this terrific read-aloud is recommended for little ones who like the fun and funny side of Christmas.

santas cookie is missing cvrSANTA’S COOKIE IS MISSING!
Written by Chris Ayala-Kronos
Illustrated by Anne Passchier
(HMH Books; $8.99, Ages 0-3)

Die-cut board books are always popular with toddlers and Santa’s Cookie is Missing! is no exception. I like the premise of this story; after a family’s Christmas Even dinner has ended, the narrator (a young girl) notices that the cookie usually saved for Santa has disappeared. The child sets off to solve the mystery first at home, then outdoors, and then inside again.

Every new die-cut reveals something related to the narrator’s search in a circle shape that will hopefully lead to the missing snack. Whether it’s a plate, a Christmas tree ornament, a snowball, the hollow of an old oak tree or even a mug of hot cocoa, there are lots of places to look and several possible suspects. Make note of the cat and dog in the artwork and see if your kids can anticipate who might be the culprit. I’ll admit I was surprised, but maybe that’s because I was too busy checking out all the pretty die-cuts. The tree-ornament and the present with their respective sparkly and shiny designs were my faves. What will be your youngsters’ faves? Don’t miss picking up a copy of this book to gift or to enjoy at home.

The little winter book of gnomes cvrTHE LITTLE WINTER BOOK OF GNOMES
By Kirsten Sevig
(The Countryman Press; $12.95; All Ages)

This compact book (not really a board book, but the same size) makes a wonderful gift to bring to family and friends for the holiday season. It’s packed with playful gnomes in watercolor illustrations coupled with proverbs inspired by author illustrator Sevig’s Norwegian family and her childhood. Though raised in America, Sevig explains that she and her sister were brought up “in the only Norwegian speaking household on the block.” Clearly her fond memories have influenced the warm upbeat tone of this collection.

Early on, Sevig points out how the meaning of the word gnome actually has a double meaning that’s depicted in every illustration. Not only is a gnome a small woodland creature, it’s also a “wise, pithy saying” and The Little Winter Book of Gnomes is filled with them. I knew the majority of the sayings, but the way they’re lovingly paired with assorted gnomes is the true pleasure that’s to be taken away from any reading. Read just several at a time or sit back, have a cup of warm tea and delight in all 128 cheerful pages. Some noteworthy gnomes include “A tree with strong roots laughs at the storm,” “A warm drink is a hug in a mug,” and “Don’t waste time looking back. You aren’t going that way.” Marzipan and Rice Cream with Berry Sauce are just a few of the recipes that are also included, making this book a go-to read when the weather turns cold and party plans get underway.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Have you read IF ANIMALS CELEBRATED CHRISTMAS by Ann Whitford Paul?
Illustrated by David Walker, Paul’s book is now out in board book format.
Read my review of the picture book from last year here.

Looking for more Christmas book reviews? Click here.

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Kids Book Reviews – Five Holiday Picture Books 2019

 

WINTER HOLIDAY PICTURE BOOKS 2019

∼A ROUNDUP∼

happy holidays clip art

 

vegetables in holiday underwear coverVEGETABLES IN HOLIDAY UNDERWEAR
Written and illustrated by Jared Chapman
(Abrams Appleseed; $14.99, ages 3-7)

Vegetables in Holiday Underwear is a laugh-out-of-your-undies classroom (or anywhere) read-aloud! Our little narrator Pea explains to a skeptical Broccoli in pants that there’s all kinds of underwear, and underwear is for everyone. I was thrilled when my students wanted to dissect each page, ever eager to discuss each type of veggie sporting colorful, fancy, and silly underpants. This story also manages to invoke the holiday spirit about giving to others. Even baby vegetables can have underwear as gifts, although they may not quite be ready to wear them yet. The details in Chapman’s vibrant artwork and the expressions on each lovingly crafted vegetable are a delight for all.

 

one wild christmas book coverONE WILD CHRISTMAS (Life in the Wild series)
Written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland
(Kids Can Press; $16.99, ages 4-8)

Bear, Moose and Beaver love nothing more than Christmas, and their favorite part about it is decorating of course. The cartoon-like style of the illustrations adds to the fun and excitement with every page turn. Filled with festive ideas, Bear, Moose and Beaver busily prepare their home with lights, stockings, presents and more. In all of the hullabaloo, the three friends realize they don’t have a Christmas tree! In One Wild Christmas, Beaver and Moose dash out into the night with Bear close behind. When they all agree on just the right tree, things take an unexpected turn, and it’s up to Bear to save the day. Don’t miss this beautiful twist on trimming a Christmas tree.

 

peanut butter and santa claus coverPEANUT BUTTER & SANTA CLAUS:
A ZOMBIE CULINARY TALE

Written by Joe McGee
Illustrated by Charles Santoso
(Abrams BYR; $16.99, ages 3-7)

What do peanut butter and Santa Claus have in common? That was my first thought too, and after reading this story I now find that they pair up perfectly. In Peanut Butter & Santa Claus, this jam-packed, exploding with pictures book, we follow Abigail Zink (a human), Reginald (her zombie friend) and and her pal Zarfon, a peanut butter loving space alien. The style of illustrations and words conjured up “Calvin and Hobbes” comics from my youth, while we journey along with the story’s heroes, Abigail, Reginald and Zarfon. They set out to discover why their town mayor has declared, “Christmas is canceled!” The three clever friends discover that Santa is, quite literally, stuck at the North Pole and it will take some brains, ingenuity and gooey luck to save Christmas!

snow globe wishes book coverSNOW GLOBE WISHES
Written by Erin Dealey
Illustrated by Claire Shorrock
(Sleeping Bear Press; $16.99, ages 4-8)

There is a reason snow globes are a cherished gift around the world. Lift a snow globe up, give a little shake, watch the snow fall and all of a sudden you are momentarily transported from our fast paced, action packed world. In that brief respite an opportunity exists to slow our breathing and our busy minds. Snow Globe Wishes reminded me to take a pause during this season, and focus on the true gifts of my loved ones right in front of me. In this upbeat rhyming read-aloud that’s beautifully illustrated, a heavy snowstorm causes a power outage in the community. Families huddle together to make the most of a dark and quiet holiday. Forts are built, candles lit, and families snuggle together for the night. In the light of day all the neighbors come out to play in the brilliance of freshly fallen snow. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take advantage of unexpected time like this with our own neighbors and communities? A I hope to make an extra effort to do just that this yearwith or without a power outage.

the teddy bears christmas surprise cvrTHE TEDDY BEARS’ CHRISTMAS SURPRISE
Written by Bruno Hächler
Illustrated by Anastasia Arkhipova
(Mineedition; $17.99, ages 5-6)

I was intrigued by the front and back cover flaps for The Teddy Bears’ Christmas Surprise. Several plush bears carry toys out into the night, and on the back flap it reads, “Christmas is about knowing the right kind of gift to give.” Don’t we all wonder and worry about what the ‘right’ kind of gift to give is for the holidays?

Following the teddy bears through the rich illustrations, I was captivated by the idea that the reader was being led on a serious mission. Bears from all corners of the town come together for a secret meeting. Just as quickly as they meet, one bear gives a nod, and they all depart again. The bears succeed in their crafty plan to replace all the gifts under Christmas trees with handwritten notes. When the townspeople find notes instead of sparkly packages they are distraught to say the least. As they calm down to read what the notes say they are moved in unexpected ways to connect with loved ones. Will the beloved or long forgotten teddy bears with such big hearts return the original gifts under the trees? You’ll have to pick up the book yourself to find out.

  • Reviewed by Ozma Bryant

 

Read about last year’s picks here.

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Christmas Tree Picture Books Roundup

CHRISTMAS TREE PICTURE BOOKS ROUNDUP
By Christine Van Zandt

 

Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree
Written and illustrated by Lori Nichols
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.99, Ages 3-5)

What happens when it seems your sister is allergic to Christmas? Find out in Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree, a thirty-two-page children’s picture book, the fourth in the series. What begins as the best Christmas ever—the first year sisters Maple and Willow are getting a real Christmas tree—soon becomes problematic when Maple starts sneezing.

To quell Maple’s symptoms, the tree is placed outside. Willow’s sharp words make Maple feel sad about ruining their Christmas. That night, Willow regrets her outburst and has an idea to mend the bad feelings between them. Her ingenious solution takes some hard work but she can’t wait until morning time and, instead, wakes up Maple to show her the big surprise.

Nichols’ slim text complements her whimsical artwork which captures the girls’ emotions well. The cheerful pencil drawings leave plenty of white space on the page, evoking a cold winter scene, a nice contrast to warmth of the sisters.

 

The Christmas Eve Tree
Written by Delia Huddy
Illustrated by Emily Sutton
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 5-8)

The Christmas Eve Tree begins in a forest of Christmas trees where one was planted carelessly, “so that when the wind blew strong it fell sideways onto its neighbor and had no chance to grow.” In this thirty-two-page children’s picture book, we find this little tree is about to get thrown out on Christmas Eve until a homeless boy asks if he can have it. Taking care to not snap its crooked branches, the boy plants the tree in a cardboard box. We share the tree’s thoughts, finding it goes from feeling pitiful to proud when recognizing that it belongs to someone.

In the boy’s homeless village, the tree’s boughs are decorated and an accordion plays a Christmas song to which they sing along. Soon the passersby stop to join in, creating a lively community. “The little fir tree felt it would burst with happiness, because clearly the boy had forgotten that tonight he would be sleeping in a cardboard box.”

Days later, the boy moves on, sadly leaving the mostly dead tree behind. The street sweeper notices some green shoots and, instead of discarding the tree, cleverly plants it in a corner of the park where it lives on, providing a gathering place for people and animals.

The book’s rich watercolor images by Sutton have an old-time feel; their saturated colors contrast with the ivory paper. While the fir straightens out and grows a thicker trunk, the concluding pictures show us that its branches are still sparse. Yet, it doesn’t matter because, in the end, everyone is happy—including the tree.

NOTE: “Delia Huddy worked as an editor in children’s publishing in a long career that included many happy years at Julia MacRae Books in London, after which she became editorial director at Random House UK. She was also an author of novels, picture books, and younger fiction. At the end of her life, in 2005, Delia Huddy was working on the text for The Christmas Eve Tree.”


The Great Spruce

Written by John Duvall
Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR; $17.99, Ages 5-8)

The great spruce, Alec’s favorite climbing tree, captures the attention of some men who are passing through town. Astounded that his parents agree to let the tree be cut down for the city’s Christmas celebration, Alec places himself between it and the chainsaw, imploring that they borrow the tree instead. Soon everyone is digging.

A tugboat transports the tree to the city; Alec and his grandpa accompany their tree on this delightful voyage. In downtown, when Alec flips the switch to light the tree, a young girl declares it the most wonderful tree ever and asks if it can stay. Alec explains that the tree is just visiting then gives her a pinecone and instructions on how to plants the seeds.

The tree returns home to grow even taller. Later, when Alec climbed the tree and “looked hard enough through his telescope, he could just make out the tiny sapling that took root in the big city square.” Alec’s love of nature demonstrates how one person’s courage and creativity can directly impact the environment.

The Great Spruce is a forty-page children’s picture book enlivened with colorful images. Gibbon’s acrylic ink and colored pencil style works for both the serene country scenes as well as the busy cityscapes.

 

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

Co-editor of and writer for SCBWI’s Kite Tales https://SCBWIKiteTales.wordpress.com/

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Debbie Powell’s Walk This World at Christmastime

 

 

WALK THIS WORLD AT CHRISTMASTIME
Written by Big Picture Press
Illustrated by Debbie Powell
(Big Picture Press; $17.99, Ages 5-8)

 

 

Walk This World at Christmastime, a twenty-four-page picture book, is an interesting and unusual addition to your holiday books. Set up as an advent calendar, the relatively sturdy lift-the-flap windows numbering one through twenty-five reveal images and accompanying text. Each page has additional flaps for curious fingers to discover, bringing the total of interactive windows to more than seventy. The left-hand page contains a four-line loosely rhyming poem and the concluding line “Where am I?” Beautiful background illustrations and clues beneath the flaps help readers solve this question (the answer is provided on the right-hand page).

A younger child will enjoy the many tactile experiences and the colorful, abundant pictures. Older kids will gain a deeper understanding of how different cultures celebrate Christmas around the world, learning our similarities such as “Candles at Christmas are a symbol of the triumph of light over darkness.” New ways to celebrate will be discovered as well: “The Gävle goat is a giant Swedish Yule goat made from straw.” Diversity in religious practices are explained: “In Lalibela, Ethiopia, Christian pilgrims dressed in white robes flock to the beautiful rock churches.” Interspersed historical tidbits inform, for example, that the first advent calendar was made in Germany in 1851.

Many pages have fun food facts. “The Chinese give gifts of apples on Christmas Eve,” “Enjoy a Lebanese Christmas feat of kibbeh pie—made from minced meat and bulgur—along with tabbouleh and honey cake.”

Walk This World at Christmastime concludes with an easy-to-follow world map depicting the book’s journey. A dotted line connects the countries and continents, uniting our world through our holiday celebrations.

Read about illustrator Debbie Powell here.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

Co-editor of and writer for SCBWI’s Kite Tales https://SCBWIKiteTales.wordpress.com/

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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.

 

 

 

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A PERFECT TREE FOR CHRISTMAS by Anne Gillespie Lewis

A PERFECT TREE FOR CHRISTMAS
by Anne Gillespie Lewis with illustrations by Carina Stahlberg
(Nodin Press, $7.99, Ages 3-7)

Perfect-Tree-Christmas-cvr.jpg

During the countdown to Christmas, all the trees on the Christmas tree farm are anxious to be selected and go home with a special family. After all, the trees will play an important part in the Christmas celebrations. They stand a little taller, brush the snow off their branches, and wait to become A Perfect Tree for Christmas. But two trees in Anne Gillespie Lewis’ gently suspenseful story aren’t quite perfect. Though green and pointy-needled, one has a crooked top and the other’s tip is split in two.

Perfect-Tree-Christmas-int-spread.jpg

Interior artwork from A Perfect Tree for Christmas by Anne Gillespie Lewis with illustrations by Carina Stahlberg, Nodin Press © 2014.

The farmer does his best to bolster the pair, giving them extra water and fertilizer. He even tries to straighten the crooked tree by binding it with a colorful scarf. But nothing works, and day after day passes while the trees are passed over by picky families. Still, the piney pair happily watch the children taking hayrides, making snowmen, and warming themselves at bonfires.

Readers will root for a happy ending to this tale, especially when the two tree buddies become separated. As the last tree’s teardrops become frozen crystals sparkling on its branches, a joyous Christmas seems nearly impossible. But do not despair, by the last page the perfect solution is found.

Illustrator Carina Stahlberg has done a superb job rendering these trees full of personality despite their static positions. Who knew trees could smile, grimace, and groan so effectively? She surrounds them with a plethora of adorable wildlife and quirkily cartoonish characters, filling the pages with amusing scenery. Squirrels on skis and dogs of all breeds are fun for young readers to spot in scene after scene.

Perfect-Tree-Christmas-int-spread.jpg

Interior artwork from A Perfect Tree for Christmas by Anne Gillespie Lewis with illustrations by Carina Stahlberg, Nodin Press © 2014.

A finalist in the 2014 Midwest Independent Publishers Association’s book awards, this sweet holiday picture book was inspired by author Anne Gillespie Lewis’ sympathy for a crooked tree she spotted in Brooklyn Center. She couldn’t shake its image from her mind, especially since she had been diagnosed with scoliosis as a girl. Thus A Perfect Tree for Christmas began to take shape, reminding us that no one has to be perfect to be loved.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Nodin Press books are distributed by Itasca Books. Click here if you’d like to *order a copy.

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional copy of A Perfect Tree for Christmas and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

*Disclosure: GRWR makes no commission from your purchases and only provides this info as a courtesy to readers since Nodin Press is a regional publisher.

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The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds

Christmas Gifts Come in All Shapes and Sizes.

Reviewer Rita Zobayan shares a book about rediscovering the magic of home.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas, (Candlewick Press, 2013; $14.00, Ages 4 and up), written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

Cover art for The Smallest Gift of Christmas

The Smallest Gift of Christmas written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press, 2013.

Roland is eagerly awaiting Christmas and the presents that the holiday brings. What he doesn’t count on is getting a small gift, and not just a small gift, but “the smallest gift he had ever seen.” Well, this simply won’t do and Roland wishes up some Christmas magic for a bigger gift. He gets it, but he still isn’t satisfied! “Roland stomped off, sure there was a bigger gift for him—somewhere.” So Roland sets off to search the universe for his perfect gift. Will he find the BIG present he thinks he deserves? Maybe, but not in the way Roland imagined.

Presented in a cartoon-style illustration from award-winning author/illustrator Reynolds, with a simple but bold color palette highlighting red and green, the images are perfect for the story. The font, which Reynolds hand-lettered, is kid friendly and eye-catching.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas is a gentle and humorous reminder that material gifts, while fun and exciting and sometimes big, pale in comparison to the true gifts of family and love.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson

Peter Rabbit’s Back for Christmas Thanks to Emma Thompson

cover art of The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson with illustrations by Eleanor Taylor, Frederick Warne, 2013.

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Emma Thompson with illustrations by Eleanor Taylor (Frederick Warne & Co., $20, Ages 3-5) arrives just in time for Christmas and is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

Mr. and Mrs McGregor, Peter Rabbit, and Benjamin Bunny appear again in this story inspired by the original tales of Beatrix Potter, but this time a new character, William, appears.

After spoiling their mothers’ attempts at holiday baking, both Benjamin and Peter are sent on errands. They run into their friend, William, a turkey who is foolish enough to believe the special food and treatment he receives from the McGregors is due to his importance. Peter, having lost his father to one of Mrs. McGregor’s pies, and being the good friend he is, decides he must warn William that he is being fattened up for the McGregor’s Christmas dinner. William blanches at the thought, but the three friends, come up with a brilliant idea that leaves the old couple eating nothing but boiled potatoes and winter cabbage on Christmas day. The Rabbit family enjoys a delicious Christmas feast and Mrs. Rabbit even bakes a special barley-cake for William, whose feathers are still too puffed up to fit in the burrow.

I almost forgot I wasn’t reading Miss Potter’s words or enjoying her illustrations, this book was so exquisitely done. Eleanor Taylor’s sprinkling of woodland animals and barnyard critters in all the right places with just the right colors, provides not only beautiful pictures, but an opportunity for story building. This book is certain to ensure a Merry Christmas for all who read it!

If you’re an Emma Thompson fan, click here to read our previous review of her first Peter Rabbit picture book, The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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Holiday Gift Guide – Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun

PLAY-DOH HELPS KIDS MAKE MAGIC THIS CHRISTMAS

Cover art for Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun

Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun, by Susan Amerikaner with art by Kara Kenna, Silver Dolphin Books, 2013.

Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun, written by Susan Amerikaner and illustrated and digitally composed by Kara Kenna (Silver Dolphin Books, $14.95; Ages 3 and up), is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

Christmas is upon us, which undoubtedly means presents. Why not combine two perennial kid favorites—Play-Doh and books—and delight the youngsters in your life? Silver Dolphin Books and Hasbro have done exactly that. The Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun set includes four cans of Play-Doh, a plastic knife and roller, and 15 projects wrapped into a 32-page activity book.

Santa is on his way to Jolly Town, and Penguin, Cat, and Dog need your help to get the town ready! Help them prepare a tree, a candy cane, a bow, advent candle, a stocking and 10 more fun, Christmas-themed items. Each project is presented in three easy-to-follow steps with accompanying photographs.  Then the project is highlighted in the two-page spread artwork.

Time for presents! Let’s make one.

1. Shape two square in any colors you like. Make one thinner than the other. Then make five small rolls.

2. Put the thin square on top of the bigger one. Flatten the rolls into strips and fold them over. Roll out several tiny round pieces.

3. Use the folded strips to make a bow. Make a ball for the middle of the bow. Decorate with the tiny round pieces.

This gift is ready to go under the tree! Great job! Maybe next year you can work at the North Pole!

The artwork consists of Play-Doh figures on a backdrop. They’re fun and inviting scenes. See the cozy fireplace where you can hang your stockings. Step into Mrs. Claus’ kitchen where she’s busy baking gingerbread cookies, with your help, of course! Watch the snowflakes cover the trimmed tree!

Create some Christmas memories with the Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun activity book and set.

 

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Holiday Gift Guide – The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald

Could a cat have become baby Jesus’s pet?
Find out in this engaging picture book perfect for Christmas.

The Christmas Cat cover image

The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald with illustrations by Amy June Bates, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013.

You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to find something special about The Christmas Cat (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 3-5) by Maryann MacDonald with illustrations by Amy June Bates. All that’s required to be swept back in time to the nativity is to love cats, crave an imaginative tale and desire dreamy artwork. “Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of La Madonna del Gatto, which show Mary cuddling both the baby Jesus and a cat,” MacDonald has crafted a story that will captivate the hearts of little ones while introducing them to the nativity and the power of love bonding a baby to his pet.

On the night that Jesus was born he cried like every baby does. All the animals in the stable tried to quiet the infant, from cooing doves to lowing cows. Even the donkey brayed a lullaby to no avail. Joseph and Mary fretted, wondering how to settle the child. But it wasn’t until a tiny kitten made his way onto Mary’s lap and nuzzled baby Jesus’s neck and let out a “calm, contented purr” that the newborn’s crying began to wane. As time passed the two grew close and the kitten became a cat, always at Jesus’s side to help him fall asleep.

When an angel alerted Joseph that a jealous King Herod might harm this baby destined for greatness, Joseph knew he, Mary and young Jesus had to flee. In the rush to leave Bethlehem there was scant time to find Jesus’s beloved cat. “We can’t leave him behind!” cried Mary. She knew her baby would be inconsolable without his pet. Joseph and Mary tried to quietly cross the desert to Egypt to avoid Herod’s soldiers, but a screaming baby Jesus could bring harm to the three travelers. Nothing, not his mother’s warm, soft embrace nor the donkey’s “rocking gait” could lull him to sleep. But a clever cat had hidden in the side basket and baby Jesus’s wailing woke him up. With the crying now subsided, Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and an adorable, devoted cat could safely make their way to Egypt. “Love had saved them.”

Could the legend of a kitty being born on the same night as Jesus possibly be true? You decide. I know Bates’s beautiful illustrations will stay with me long after Christmas ends and it will be hard to see a nativity scene and not search for a little kitty in a corner somewhere.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Holiday Gift Guide – Santa Claus: All About Me

GIVE BOOKS AS GIFTS THIS YEAR


Today’s must-have, Santa Claus: All About Me (by Me), written and illustrated by Juliette and John Atkinson, (Minedition Books, $34.95, all ages) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette and John Atkinson, Minedition Books, 2013.

Santa Claus: All About Me (By Me) is simply a gorgeous book. Perfect for the Christmas-lover in your life, it is chock full of information and astounding artwork. The reader learns many interesting details about the evolution and history of Santa and Christmas throughout the world and the ages. For instance, did you know that Christmas was officially banned in England during 1647-1660 and then in America during 1659-1681? Christmas crackers—those fun, paper, party poppers—were invented by an English confectioner named Tom Smith in 1847. They have been an English tradition, filled with a paper crown, a trinket, and a joke, ever since.  Today, Santa is seen as wearing red; however, earlier portrayals had him in luxurious green and blue gowns.

Interior image of poppers from Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette and John Atkinson, Minedition Books, 2013.

Presented as Santa’s own scrapbook, and two years in the making, Santa Claus: All About Me has flaps, booklets, a sixpence, recipes, a 3-D snowflake, letters, and so much more to explore. Every time I open this book, I discover something new. The artwork ranges from historical representations of Santa, such as etchings, to photographs and paintings. A wide range of co-characters fills the pages. Some such as Mrs. Christmas (Mrs. Claus) and the elves are to be expected, but in comes Charles Darwin. What could possibly be the connection? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Santa Claus: All About Me is a wonderful choice for a coffee table or gift book that will provide hours of entertaining and informative reading, as well as a visual feast. Your family will look forward to taking it out, displaying and sharing it for years to come.

 

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Holiday Gift Guide – I See Me Books

 

Books as Gifts,
The Good Reads With Ronna Holiday Gift Guide

Good Night Little Me cover image by Mary GrandPré

Good Night Little Me by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by Mary GrandPré from I See Me! Personalized Children’s Books, www.iseeme.com

Beginning today Good Reads With Ronna will be sharing books we recommend as gift ideas this holiday season including these beautiful personalized children’s books from I See Me! (www.iseeme.com). Order your customized book by Sunday, 12/15/13 and get it in time for Christmas (Continental U.S. only). PLUS: Use the code “goodreads” to get a 15% discount! There are so many cool choices on the site so don’t just take our word for it, go on and check it out.

I was excited to get my review copy of the latest I See Me! personalized storybook in the collection, Goodnight Little Me (the me gets customized to the name of your child) written by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by Mary GrandPré’. You may recognize the latter name since Mary GrandPré was the award-winning illustrator of the Harry Potter® series. Her artwork is cheerful, dreamy and colored with muted blue and purple tones setting just the right mood for a bedtime story. Couple the soothing, sleepy time illustrations with Dewing’s rhythmic parade-themed tale and you’ll have one content child heading off to the land of nod in no time at all.

My copy was entitled Goodnight Little Tyler, and the name Tyler (I don’t know a Tyler, but you might so comment here and you may win a copy!) was incorporated into the story and illustrations over 10 times (samples shown here are from the I See Me! website where Elizabeth is the name used). My kids, with their uncommon names, would have gone wild over a personalized book when they were little, but even if their names had been Michael or Mary, they would have been delighted to see their name printed inside the pages of a such a lovely book. Even the glossy pages feel good to the touch.

“Sail away, sweet Tyler,
on silver moonbeams,
as the Goodnight Parade
marches into your dreams.”

interior artwork from Goodnight Little Me by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by  GrandPré

Interior artwork from Goodnight Little Me written by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by Mary GrandPré, I See Me! Personalized Children’s Books, 2013.

I love how the marriage of words, art, plus a youngster’s name can turn a very good bedtime story into a magical celebration of make-believe in a sky filled with all types of friendly looking animals. There are owls, eagles, frogs, mice, bears, sheep, cats, monkeys, and dogs. There are also some very happy looking cows jumping over a rainbow adorned moon as well as Dish and Spoon. As the story comes to a close, the back of the child is seen watching the parade end with an adorable doggie kick line. As your little one sails off to sleep, you’ll be pleased that you chose an I See Me! book to brighten their dreams.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

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My Pen Pal, Santa by Melissa Stanton

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.

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