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Best New Christmas Books for Children Part One

OUR ANNUAL KIDS’ CHRISTMAS BOOKS ROUNDUP …

IS BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER!

– PART ONE –

Wreath free Christmas clip art image

 

Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins cover illustrationMRS. CLAUS TAKES THE REINS
Written by Sue Fliess
Illustrated by Mark Chambers
(Two Lions; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

For anyone interested in a holiday book with a strong female character, I recommend Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Mark Chambers. When Santa wakes up “stuffy” and “sneezy” on the morning of Christmas Eve, Mrs. Claus fearlessly steps in to save the day. She is a proactive problem solver. “‘I may not have magic,’” she says, “‘but I’ve got a brain!’” As she and the reindeer encounter challenges along the way, Mrs. Claus’s resourcefulness helps her stay in control and on task. “[S]tuff[ing] some ribbon to plug up the hole” in the leaky fuel tank, she keeps calm and carries on.

In addition to Mrs. Claus’s gumption, I love the endearing and homey touches in the illustrations:  Santa’s headboard and footboard with their Christmas tree cutouts, his bedspread with complementary tree designs, his reindeer-patterned socks resting on his footboard, and Mrs. Claus’s updated green plaid skirt. Modern day details also make the story relatable to young readers. Holding a Starbucks look-alike cup in her hand, Mrs. Claus starts off her journey waving goodbye to her elves. Her strong organizational skills can be seen as she maps out “her route” (perhaps using Waze?) on what looks like an iPhone. And on what looks like an iPad, she makes “a supply list and check[s] on the weather.” Even her sleigh has an attachment for her tablet that she uses to check off deliveries!

Through rhyme and clever illustrations, children will love to get to know Mrs. Claus’s spunky, can-do spirit.

 

Coming Home book cover artworkCOMING HOME
Written by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman
(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

Written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, Coming Home, is a touching tale about a robin’s harrowing journey home to his mate-just in time for Christmas. Before the story begins, readers are given information about the Scandinavian red robin’s migration to find refuge in Britain from the harsher winters up north. In steady rhythm and repetitive language, Morpurgo narrates the robin’s struggles with snow, sleet, predators, fatigue, and fear. “Beat, my wings, beat faster. Easy, my heart, go steady. Steady.” The story’s underlying themes of perseverance and determination are evident in the robin’s journey—a journey, in fact, symbolic of life’s storms and struggles and the ways we can cope with them. We can find community with others who are on a similar path (as the robin does when he joins a flock of thrushes) and seek cycles of rest and rejuvenation. When the unexpected happens, we can also, like the robin, surrender to the mercy of another’s tenderhearted care.

If you’re looking for a quiet holiday book that highlights the winter season, I highly recommend this story. Double page, bird’s eye view spreads of a dark and deep blue forest as well as close ups of the bird seeking shelter from the rough winter weather complement each other nicely. A great bedtime story to end the day (and the winter season), Coming Home is a hopeful and soothing tale both adults and children will come home to again and again.

 

Tough Cookie by Edward Hemingway book cover illustrationTOUGH COOKIE: A CHRISTMAS STORY
Written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway
(Henry Holt BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

A hilarious fractured fairy tale, Tough Cookie is the story of a cookie with an identity crisis. In a town called the “Land of Holiday Treats” where everything is sugary and sweet, our hero feels like the odd cookie out.

Shaped like a classic gingerbread man, he jumps fresh out of the oven and runs out the door with the familiar “run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me-I’m the….” He  soon discovers, though, that this same old script isn’t true for every cookie. When a curious passerby, Fox, takes up on the cookie’s challenge, the cookie realizes that he’s not only sluggish, but also positively unpalatable. Shocked and dismayed, the cookie tries to fit the mold, but, alas, to no avail. At his breaking point, “Cookie crumble[s]” but then is introduced to a special group of cookies. They have been following him all day eager to share with him his true identity. Proud of his unique role in the community, the cookie joyfully joins his cohorts, singing a new tune: “‘Look, look, look at me! You can’t reach me-I’m a….” (You’ll have to get the book to find out!)

Written and illustrated by the youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway, Edward Hemingway brings much fun to the story, especially for younger audiences. Just about everything in his illustrations of Christmastown beams with a happy face. Large text, colorful pastels, and traditional holiday colors create a warm, festive, and inviting atmosphere. Hemingway’s humorous play on words through baking references keeps the pace energetic. Added touches are cookie recipes at the end of the story as well as front and back matter illustrations of adorable cookie characters.  I found myself playing a “Where’s Waldo” kind of game by trying to locate each character in the pages of the story (they are there!). I’m certain little ones will find many more creative ways to engage with Cookie’s quest of self-discovery.

  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

 

 

 

 

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Boo! – The Best Halloween Books Roundup 2018

OUR FAVORITE HALLOWEEN BOOKS FOR 2018

A ROUNDUP 

Free Halloween clip art

 

Haunted Halloween by Sue Fliess cover illustrationHAUNTED HALLOWEEN
Written by Sue Fliess
Illustrated by Jay Fleck
(Cartwheel Books; $6.99, Ages 0-3)

Haunted Halloween is a die-cut board book that not only encourages counting, but has tons of trick-or-treat fun packed into every page. Fliess’ rhyming will have even the youngest readers learning the words and repeating the phrases such as: One bat hangs, Pointy fangs. Two toads sleep. Earthworms creep. All numbers are presented both numerically and spelled out to help identify them in increasing order up to ten. Fleck’s assorted costumed trick-or-treaters in this glossy board book are not scary looking, making this an ideal introduction to the popular holiday. As the children make their way past a gate, a Guests Beware! sign greets them. They encounter wolves, owls, ghosts, snakes, spiders, crows, black cats, pumpkins and other All Hallows Eve creatures and things before arriving at the massive front door. What’s inside? A nice surprise – a Halloween party!

 

Spooky Fairy Tale Mix-up book cover artworkSPOOKY FAIRY TALE MIX-UP:
Hundreds of Flip-Flap Stories
Written by Hilary Robinson
Illustrated by Jim Smith
(Barron’s; $11.99, Ages 3-7)

If you have a child with an active imagination, Spooky Fairy Tale Mix-up is the book for them! If you have a child that needs some prompting to get creative, this is also the perfect book, especially at Halloween. This mix and match Halloween hardcover, with its 26 pages and hidden spine, turns what could be a spooky night into a laugh-filled mash up of some fairy tale faves including Ghostilocks and The Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, Mother Goose, Puss in Boots, Rapunzel and lots more. Just a flip of a flap and a story’s changed from the expected to the unexpected with ogres, zombie rats, skeletons and even some princesses doing the zaniest things. Kids can choose from hundreds of possibilities to make a simple story go wild.

 

Bone Soup cover illustrationBONE SOUP:
A Spooky, Tasty Tale

Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Illustrated by Tom Knight
(Paula Wiseman Books; $17.99, Ages 48)

Three hungry witches have only a bone with which to cook their soup. Sound familiar? That’s because Bone Soup, a welcome spin on Stone Soup, the beloved folktale about community and making nothing from something when everyone pitches in, works so well for a Halloween tale. This time around the witches go door to door in their neighborhood to seek out ingredients for their soup. Each time, they’re initially greeted with reluctance. Is it a trick? But Naggy Witch assures them that “Piff-Poof! It’s no trick.” First a monster for water because you cannot have soup without water. Then onto a ghost, a ghoul, a bat, a goblin, a mummy, a skeleton, a werewolf and a vampire to complete the concoction. When the donors begin to have doubts and tempers flare, it’s thanks to a little monster’s resourcefulness that nothing goes awry. And the magic readers have been waiting for comes through in helping produce “a steaming bowl of bone soup for all.” Capucilli’s created a yummy read-aloud that can be shared with or without the original story to complement it. Knight’s illustrations feature a cast of friendly creatures, playful spreads and a lot of movement on every page. But one warning, don’t read on an empty stomach. Mine’s growling as I type! The good news is there’s a recipe included in the back matter if kids and their parents want to try a hand at conjuring up their own delicious Halloween soup.

Mother Ghost cover illustrationMOTHER GHOST:
Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters
Written by Rachel Kolar
Illustrated by Roland Garrigue
(Sleeping Bear Press; $16.99, Ages 5-7)

Mother Ghost is a frightfully fun and entertaining collection of poems for children that is sure to get them in the Halloween mood. It just doesn’t get more ghoulishly delightful than this. Old Mother Hubbard for example is so clever that it makes me think using nursery rhymes for Halloween poems would make a great class exercise. Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard/To Fetch her poor dog a bone;/But the skeleton there said, “Hey! Don’t you dare!/Leave all of my pieces alone!” Two of my other favorites are Zombie Miss Muffet and Mary, Mary, Tall and Scary with lots of spiders, worms, witches and slimy things kids love at Halloween. Kolar clearly had a blast reworking these 13 nursery rhymes and, like Spooky Fairy Tale Mix-up, it’s wonderful how changing just a few lines in a poem can have the most uproarious results. Garrigue’s artwork makes gruesome look great and creepy totally cool. Have some wicked good times reading these aloud.

The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael cover artTHE FRIGHTFUL RIDE OF MICHAEL MCMICHAEL
Written by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Mark Fearing
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8) 

Come along my friends for the ride of your life, well Michael’s life actually. The building doom and the perfect rhyming pattern in The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael promise twists and turns for young Michael on the ominous number Thirteen bus. The events of this story take place on November thirteenth, adding to the suspense and sense of dread. While something felt off, Michael still got on the bizarre bus nonetheless. He really had no other option. Besides, he was charged with transporting his Gran’s pet. And, of all the passengers, Michael seemed to be the least terrifying. Suddenly things were not looking good for the lad. When the last rider departed, Michael was left alone with the fanged and sneering driver. Why did the bus look ready to devour him? Soon the vehicle began veering “toward a slathering maw most horrid!” Rather than bring the story to an immediate satisfying conclusion, Becker beautifully brings on more drama as the menaced becomes the menace. Michael faces the impending evil actions by releasing one of his own! Between the dark tone of the illustrations, the spot on typeface, the right mix of mildly scary characters along with a foreboding feeling depicted in both the art and verse, The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael is a story to read with the lights on any time of year! Pick up a copy along with a flashlight today

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Want more suggestions for Halloween reads? Check out last year’s roundup right here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Witch-Themed Halloween Picture Books Roundup

WITCH-THEMED HALLOWEEN BOOKS ROUNDUP

 

Goblin Hoodgoblin-hood
Written by Sue Fliess
Illustrated by Piper Thibodeau
(Grosset & Dunlap; $3.99, Ages 3-5)

In this Halloween-themed rhyming picture book, Goblin Hood and the gremlins of Scarewood Forest work together year-round making candy. “In the forest of Scarewood, where gremlins made sweets, a creature named Goblin Hood guarded their treats.”

Everything is going well . . . until a witch swoops by, stealing the candy and turning the gremlins against Goblin Hood. Silly illustrations depict the witch directing gremlins to bag it all up and load it on her broom while she reclines on a mountain of candy, feasting on the spoils.

Lurking outside, the Halloween hero of Scarewood Forest, Goblin Hood, plans. Soon, he leaps into action, capturing the witch using licorice, taffy, and gum stashed in his pack.

Goblin Hood reprimands the witch, “You’ll have to make up for the things you did wrong. And help make the Halloween treats all year long.” Not a bad deal for the witch.

The morale of the story: work together while fostering friendships—even with candy-stealing witches. And, don’t disappoint those cute trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.

Piper Thibodeau’s vivid, funny illustrations in Goblin Hood are a treat for a young child with a sweet tooth and sense of humor.


grimelda-the-very-messy-witchGrimelda: The Very Messy Witch
Written by Diana Murray
Illustrated by Heather Ross
(Katherine Tegen Books; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

In Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch, Grimelda wants to make pickle pie, but cannot find her pickle root. “She used her broom to fly, not sweep. Her floors had dirt six inches deep.”

Clever wordplay leads us through Grimelda’s house as she searches for the missing ingredient. We discover her scream cheese spread and rot sauce, but no pickle root—not even in the swamp out back where she finds last summer’s bathing suit.

As any cook knows, it’s critical to use right ingredient. Grimelda flies over to the general store where, alas, pickle root is sold-out and, “All Baby Dragon Sales Are Final.”

Reluctantly, Grimelda sweeps up. When the clutter clears, along with the pickle root, she discovers her long-lost comb. Finally able to untangle her locks, another surprise enables her to return her house to disarray. “Grimelda breathed a happy sigh. At last, she’d make that scrumptious pie!” Or, will she . . .

Heather Ross’s ingenious illustrations show a spider sneaking off throughout with the pickle root—sure to be a favorite with kids who notice subtly hidden pictures. Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch provides a wealth of images for young readers to explore.

hubble-bubble-the-super-spooky-fright-nightHubble Bubble, The Super-Spooky Fright Night
Written by Tracey Corderoy
Illustrated by Joe Berger
(Nosy Crow; $6.99, Ages 6-9)

Hubble Bubble, The Super-Spooky Fright Night, the first book of a new middle-grade series, contains three stories: The Super-Spooky Fright Night, Teddy Trouble, and Granny Makes a Splash. On the opening pages, we are introduced to Pandora and her witchy grandmother, Granny Crow whose ideas are, well, “just a bit . . . different.”

The tales follow Pandora and Granny Crow from Halloween party with musical broomsticks to birthday party where stuffed animals talk, and, finally, on a delightful school trip at a swimming pool. With each occasion, we find Granny ready with her wand, casting spells to help out: “It was time to liven things up a bit, Granny style!” Of course, her well-meaning ways have funny consequences.

Joe Berger’s illustrations on every page make the book visually bewitching. Black, white, and orange ink enlivens the text with color. The abundance of images may help advance picture-book readers to chapter books with these visual clues.

  • 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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Picture Books Giveaway Celebration

WIN WONDERFUL PICTURE BOOKS!

*We’re so thankful to you, our readers. You care about sharing the best books with your children and we do, too. So as promised, after reaching 2000 Twitter followers, we are now celebrating with a “We’re Grateful for You Gargantuan Giveaway” worth over $200 just in time for the holidays. Click the links to read our reviews of the books because you’ll see we’ve included lots of our faves.

To enter the Rafflecopter please scroll down, read the instructions, remember to subscribe to our site, and leave a comment on this post below about what you’d do with this bevy of beautiful books should you have the good fortune to win. We’d also love it if you LIKED the blog on Facebook, though it’s not mandatory to enter. Good luck!

Gargantuan-Book-Giveaway.jpg

*We = Ronna, Hilary, Rita, MaryAnne, Cathy, Dornel, Mary, Rina & Krista

The 13 books you can win are:

Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean – Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox with illustrations by Brian Floca – Published by Schwartz & Wade Books
Elsa and the Night by Jöns Mellgren -Published by Little Gestalten
Frank! by Connah Brecon – Published by Running Press
Goatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl with illustrations by Arthur Howard – Published by Beach Lane Books
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light – Published by Candlewick Press
Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper with illustrations by Raúl The Third – Published by Chronicle Books
Me First by Max Kornell – Published by Nancy Paulsen Books
Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet – Published by Chronicle Books
Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon – Published by Bloomsbury
Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake – Published by Golden Books
Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilli Carré – Published by Toon Books
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Jigsaw Puzzle Book by Michael Rosen with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury – Published by Candlewick Press

It’s easy to enter our “We’re Grateful for You Gargantuan Giveaway.” Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions in the widget below. There’s one mandatory entry and a few optional entries. Feel free to enter more than once to increase your chances of winning!

Remember to enter by December 15th. Rafflecopter widget will randomly select a winner whose name will be announced on the Good Reads With Ronna Facebook page, on Twitter, and on the Rafflecopter widget right here. – make sure you’re following us so you don’t miss a thing!

Good luck – We hope you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Let’s Build by Sue Fliess

LET’S BUILD BY SUE FLIESS WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY MIKI SAKAMOTO
IS REVIEWED BY MARYANNE LOCHER.

What’s better than the weekend? Spending it with your dad, especially when you’re building a clubhouse together in your yard.

Lets-Build-cvr.jpg

Let’s Build by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Miki Sakamoto, Two Lions Publishing, 2014.

Let’s Build, a picture book written by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Miki Sakamoto, (Two Lions; 2014; Ages 4-8; $14.99) shows us that having fun can sometimes be hard work, and that hard work can often be fun. From idea to finished product, a dad and his son work together as a team. The son picks the perfect spot in the yard, the dad draws up plans, then they both make tracks to the hardware store for supplies.

Here’s a handsaw,
bolts and screws.
Look! Some plywood
we can use.

There are opportunities to learn about safety when using tools …

Time to hammer.
Swing it now?
Wait! Here, let me
show you how.

… and about keeping your work area safe for pets. (No animals are harmed, but there are blue and red dog and squirrel paw prints all over the pages.)

Paint the outside
blue and red.
Oops! I dripped some on Dad’s head!

As in so many of her books, Fliess writes in verse, and in a meter that hits the nail on the head. Sakamoto uses acrylics and gouache then Photoshop to create the brightly colored illustrations that bring the story to life. Together, author and illustrator have constructed a solid picture book.
I’d recommend this book for anyone planning to build a clubhouse, fort, or playhouse with their son or daughter.

Here are some links to other Sue Fliess books we’ve reviewed.

How To Be a Pirate

Robots, Robots Everywhere!

Tons of  Trucks

A Dress for Me!

Shoes for Me!

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How To Be a Pirate by Sue Fliess

How To Be a Pirate by Sue Fliess is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

How-To-Be-Pirate.jpg

How To Be a Pirate by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Nikki Dyson, Golden Books, © 2014.

Yo Ho, mateys! When digging through a pile of books I’ve yet to review, I uncovered a buried treasure.

How to Be a Pirate (Golden Books, $3.99, also available in eBook, Ages 2-5) by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Nikki Dyson, shines like a piece of eight. Fliess, like the pirates in her latest picture book, can walk the walk (no planks, please!) and talk the talk, showing us how contagious rhyme can be when done properly.

Not a pirate?

Don’t know how?

Ye can learn to be one now!


Sing a shanty,

Whistle, dance.

Do a jig in pirate pants

Dyson’s illustrations practically dance off the pages with the use of bright colors and details that will have your little scallywags crying, “Read it again!” But you won’t mind. There are so many discoveries to be made on every page. Eye-patches and bandanas, hooks and parrots, a treasure map and a pirate’s jig are some of the highlights of what will Aaargh-uably be a favorite on your bookshelf.

Here are links to our reviews of some of Sue Fliess’s other books.

ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE!

SHOES FOR ME

A DRESS FOR ME

TONS OF TRUCKS

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Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess

ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE!

Robots.jpg

Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake, Golden Books, © 2013

This latest Little Golden Books, ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE! (Random House Children’s Books, $3.99, ages 2-5), by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake, should fly off the shelves because, between the flawless rhyme, the playful illustrations and the $3.99 price, it makes a perfect addition to any picture book collection.

Okay, so technically they’re machines, but robots are cool machines and we love ’em! In the book there are all kinds of robots featured in all kinds of places: on the ground, up in space, beneath the seas, in fields, on farms and at home. Here’s one of my favorite rhyming couplets –

Under couches, over rugs,
Vacuum robots have no plugs.

Kids will like the cheery, colorful looking robots because they look friendly and funny. And what’s funnier than a robot with a good sense of humor? The robots are clearly designed to appear non-threatening for even the youngest of readers. In fact, some are even used to save people like the one shown rescuing a little scout. (Rescue robots seek and find.)

Robots spin and race and run.
Robots, robots — I want one!

Well I want one, too, especially the vacuuming kind! For a child ready to learn about robots and all the different tasks they perform, Robots, Robots Everywhere! is an ideal introduction. The bonus is getting Fliess’s fantastic rhyming text together with Staake’s whimsical artwork. So parents, whether you’re a Jetson’s fan, or a fan of jetpacks, you’re going to enjoy sharing this picture book with your kids.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Author Sue Fliess has been reviewed on GRWR before so click below to read previous posts:

SHOES FOR ME

A DRESS FOR ME

TONS OF TRUCKS

For links to books illustrated by Bob Staake that were reviewed here, please click titles below:

BLUEBIRD

LOOK! A BOOK!

WE PLANTED A TREE

MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMP

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