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Three Winter Themed Picture Books

Let it Snow!
A Winter-Themed Review From Rita Zobayan.

The holidays are over, but winter is still in full force in parts of the country! Grab a blanket, your favorite warm drink, and cuddle up to enjoy these wonderful winter stories.

29226You Make Me Smile by Layn Marlow is a sweet and simple story about a little girl who makes a snowman smile. As the first snow falls, a normal day becomes special for the girl who ventures out of her warm house to create a snowy friend. She gathers her materials and builds a buddy, and while the oncoming seasons may separate them, they will once again be able to share their friendship at winter’s return.

I enjoyed the clever play of words during the description. Is the narrator the girl describing the snowman or vice versa?

You’ll be cold, cold, cold, with a radish-red nose. Your arms may be stiff, but your eyes are going to shine. A long woolen scarf around your neck should keep you warm, but the cold doesn’t seem to matter to you, because…today is the special day…when you make me…smile.

The illustrations and typography suit the story well. They are inviting and warm, even though they depict winter. Look for small details, such as the girl’s watchful father, his birdhouse, and its inhabitants. You Make Me Smile certainly brought a smile to my face.

(You Make Me Smile by Layn Marlow, Holiday House, $16.95, Ages 3 and up)

 

17262331In Pip and Posy: The Snowy Day by Axel Scheffler, Pip the rabbit and Posy the mouse are excited to play in the snow! There’s so much to do: leave big footprints, catch snowflakes on their tongues, make snow angels, and go sledding. But when it comes time to create a snow creature, they can’t agree.

“Snowmouse,” said Posy.

                  “Snowrabbit,” said Pip.

Posy was so mad at Pip that she threw the snow creature’s head at him. Oh, dear! Then Pip was even angrier with Posy, so he pushed her very hard and she fell in the snow. Oh, dear! Now Pip and Posy were both very cold and very sad. Poor Pip! Poor Posy!

Will they work out their differences? Can they remain friends? Pip and Posy: The Snowy Day shows children that even best friends can disagree, and that kindness and consideration are really what makes for a great friendship.

(Pip and Posy: The Snowy Day by Axel Scheffler, Nosy Crow, $12.99, Ages 3 and up)

 

Snow can seem magical—its stark purity, its delicacy as it falls, and its ability to create what can seem like another world. When It Snows by Richard Collingridge takes us on a magical journey with a little boy and his teddy bear. On his adventure, the boy finds polar bears, skiers, “the place where the snowmen live,” and the Queen of the Poles who introduces him to “tiny fairies that glow” and “thousands of elves and other magical creatures.”  But the best wonder of all is revealed at the end, and it is one that readers will hold dear.

The illustrations with muted colors and shading perfectly create a feeling of other-worldliness and capture the wonder seen through the boy’s eyes. My four-year old daughter was captivated by this book, I think, mostly because of its sense of fantasy. She even said, “I want to go in there,” pointing to the book, which just goes to show that a book dealing with snow can bring warmth to your heart.

(When It Snows by Richard Collingridge, Feiwel and Friends, 2013; $16.99; ages 4 and up)

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Hanukkah Picture Book Roundup

The Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) Ends Tonight

I just couldn’t light the last Hanukkah candle tonight without sharing a few more terrific Hanukkah picture books for 2013. These are three books you’ll want to keep to read again next Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Bear cover art by Mike Wohnoutka
Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel with illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka, Holiday House, 2013.

According to the copyright page, Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel with illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka (Holiday House, $16.95, Ages 4-8, also available as an ebook) first appeared in Cricket, the Magazine for Children in 1988 and as a picture book titled The Chanukkah Guest with illustrations by Giora Carmi, in 1990.

I’m so glad Holiday House decided to bring out this charming book again, this time with a revised text and new artwork. Whether you read this story in the ’80s, ’90s or are reading it now for the first time, it will not disappoint. Grown-ups and kids alike will get such a kick out of the joyful and humourous Hanukkah tale featuring hungry Old Bear just awoken from hibernation to the smells of cooking latkes, and ninety-seven year old Bubba Brayna, a spry old villager who can neither see nor hear well anymore. Expecting the rabbi, Bubba Brayna opens the front door after hearing a thump and mistakes Old Bear for the rabbi. She then proceeds to have him join her as she lights the Menorah, plays a game of dreidel and finally feeds him. Old Bear “Rrrrrumphs” and “Grrrroooowrs” throughout the evening with Bubba Brayna filling in bits of conversation here and there. The sweet cover image of Old Bear licking Bubba Brayna after receiving his lovely red Hanukkah scarf should be a clue to the youngest readers that the story has a delightful ending and only latkes get eaten!! Plus Wohnoutka’s illustrations have a glowing quality about them that add to the warmth of the story. The end pages contain a handy latke recipe and author’s notes about the holiday for those less familiar with the celebration.

Click here for a Hanukkah Bear maze activity.

Sadie's Almost Marvelous Menorah artwork by Julie Fortenberry
Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah written by Jamie Korngold with artwork by Julie Fortenberry, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013.

Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah, by Jamie Korngold with illustrations by Julie Fortenberry (Kar-Ben, $17.95 hardcover; $7.95 paperback, Ages 2-6), is another fun story for children. Sadie loves school, her teacher Morah Rachel and the approaching holiday of Hanukkah. When Hanukkah arrives she knows she’ll spin dreidels, eat potato latkes with applesauce (my favorite, too!) and light the menorah with her family.  The best part for Sadie is that she and her classmates get to make their very own menorahs from clay. In school she works hard to knead, roll and shape her menorah. Sadie decides to paint hers pink with blue squiggles and can’t wait until Friday when she can bring it home. But when her mother arrives at school to pick her up, Sadie rushes to her and drops the menorah.  The handmade treasure breaks into “a million, zillion pieces!” The clever way Sadie’s mom handles the disaster leads to a new family tradition that  makes for a very happy, unique ending. Fortenberry’s colorful artwork complements the text and conveys just the perfect amount of emotion and detail to help move the story forward. The three candle blessings included in the end are terrific to have especially since our family has only ever known just one to say.

 

Eight is Great artwork by Hideko Takahashi
Eight is Great by Tilda Balsley with artwork by Hideko Takahashi, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013.

For the youngest kids at home, there’s Eight is Great, (Kar-Ben, $5.95, Ages 1-4), by Tilda Balsley with illustrations by Hideko Takahashi, a board book with each page detailing some aspect of Hanukkah incorporating the number eight. Whether it’s eight days and nights to celebrate, or eight candles lit, Balsley finds just the right descriptions in simple rhymes. Of course there are eight places to set at the table and eight latkes to fill the guests’ plates. “There’s more,” says the dad in this family, “don’t hesitate.” Mom helps with eight presents to wrap and for those new to playing dreidel, there are four sides and if you play with two, that makes a total of eight! The story ends, as many a Hanukkah tale does, by remembering “heroes long before us” helping make this picture book complete with just 12 pages. Takahashi’s jewel-toned illustrations light up the board book making this an ideal introduction to the Festival of Lights.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Turkey Tot by George Shannon

Share Turkey Tot with your kids this fall and all year ’round!

Turkey Tot (Holiday House, $16.99, available in ebook format, ages 3-6) by George Shannon with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann, is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

Turkey Tot cover art
Turkey Tot written by George Shannon with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann, Holiday House, 2013.

Turkey Tot. The title made me think it might be a good book to review this time of year. Other than having a turkey as the main character, this book has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. That is, unless you want a book with a turkey in it who would be smart enough to think of a way to escape being cooked for dinner! But that’s not the story.

Turkey Tot, written by George Shannon with artwork by award winning illustrator Jennifer K. Mann, is so engaging with its repetitive verse and brightly colored illustrations, I almost didn’t notice the lessons hidden in the story.

Chick, Hen, Pig, and Turkey Tot are four friends who all want the same thing; sweet juicy blackberries. The only problem is the blackberries are too high on the bush for any of them to reach. Turkey Tot, being quite the visionary, gets excited when he finds some string, and decides that if he could only find balloons, he and his friends could all float up to the blackberries. There are no balloons to be found, but Turkey Tot finds a hammer, nails, and two tin cans. His friends don’t share in his excitement, think he is being silly, and go off to take a nap leaving Turkey Tot, who “has been different since the day he hatched,” alone.

Little ones will see how sometimes, being different is a good thing, especially when you set a goal and have the creativity, ability, and determination to think outside of the box to achieve it.

 


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Jack & The Hungry Giant: Eat Right With MyPlate by Loreen Leedy

 HELPING KIDS TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES AND EAT RIGHT

Jack & The Hungry Giant: Eat Right With MyPlate by Loreen Leedy from Holiday House Books For Young People
Jack & The Hungry Giant: Eat Right With MyPlate by Loreen Leedy from Holiday House Books For Young People

Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate, (Holiday House, $16.95, ages 4-8 written and illustrated by Loreen Leedy, is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Teaching kids about nutrition is an important, if somewhat difficult, task. Young kids might understand the need to eat healthily, but don’t necessarily want to. To help parents and nutrition teachers with this endeavor, Loreen Leedy has written Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate. At 32 pages, Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate is long enough to present the necessary information and short enough to keep the attention of young readers.

Just like in the fairy tale, Jack climbs the beanstalk and meets a hungry giant. This giant is named Waldorf and he isn’t interested in eating Jack. Nope, he is, in fact, quite the kitchen connoisseur and is far more engaged in preparing a feast for his wife Zofia. Jack joins him in the kitchen, and together they transform vegetables, fruit, grains, protein, and dairy items into plates of delicious and healthy meals. During the process, Waldorf and Jack helpfully name the foods in each of these categories and explain the concept of the nutrition plate. (The plate replaced the food pyramid in 2011. More information on the food plate can be found at choosemyplate.gov.) They also show options for exercise, another important component of keeping healthy.

The artwork is bright and bold. Most of the book is illustrated with cartoonish style drawings. Peppered along the way are (what look like) scanned images of food items, such as brown rice, bran cereal, cottage cheese, and lettuce. Be sure to keep an eye on Waldorf and Zofia’s wily orange-striped tiger cat!

Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate is a good start to eating right!

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