Holiday 2011 Round-Up

GREAT HOLIDAY PICTURE BOOKS

A true joy for this time of year is snuggling up with the kids and reading some favorite holiday stories. Every family has books that they cherish and reread many times throughout the season. While it’s fun to rediscover holiday books that have been packed away for the past eleven months, it’s also a great time to pick up some new ones at the library or bookstore. Following are some books we’ve recently discovered, plus an all-time favorite. For even more choices, check out last year’s list as well. Here’s to a joyous holiday season and healthy New Year to all!

  • Asleep in the Stable
    Written and Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand; Holiday House (2004), $16.95, ages 3-6

    Baby Owl awakens to find a newborn baby and two adults sleeping in the stable. Mama Owl explains that the child is Jesus, a gift from God, and the man and woman are his “earthly” parents. She also explains that the God created the baby Jesus and all living things, and warms us with his love. This selection tells the story of Jesus’ birth in a very light manner that is a quick read and terrific for young kids.

  • The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree
    By David Rubel; Illustrated by Jim LaMarche; Random House (2011), $17.99, ages 5-8

    The lighting of the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City is as much a holiday tradition as baking cookies. This new, historical fiction is loosely based on the origins of this cherished American tradition. During the Great Depression, an out-of-work father and his son sell Christmas trees in Midtown Manhattan. They give the few unsold trees to construction workers who were enjoying an on-the-job party. Touched by the father’s difficulty in building a home for his family, the workers surprise him on Christmas morning with enough lumber to build a house. This story was also inspired by the work of Habitat for Humanity, and the Rockefeller Center tree is donated to the charity each year to turn into lumber for homes.

  • How Santa Got His Job
    By Stephen Krensky; Illustrated by S. D. Schindler; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (1998), $5.99, ages 4-8

    For all those who wonder how Santa really got his job, here is the hilarious answer. Jolly young (and thin) Santa didn’t want an ordinary desk job. So he tried, and failed, at a variety of jobs that ultimately prepared him for his most important job of all. Among the jobs from which he was fired included a chimney sweep (he was too neat), a diner cook (he ate too much) and a zookeeper (he favored the reindeer to the other animals’ dismay), among others. Santa eventually stumbled across a band of toy-making elves who hired him to make deliveries, and as you can image, the rest goes down in his-torr-eee! We’ve been reading this book for so many years, even earlier than the publisher’s recommended age, that our paperback version has been taped together multiple times!

  • The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story
    By Audrey Penn; Illustrated by Lea Lyon; Tanglewood Press* (2008), $8.95

    From the author of The Kissing Hand, this story is about a young girl named Sophie and the Hanukkah miracle. Sophie’s father tells her the ancient story about the Maccabee’s reclaimed temple and the one-day supply of sacred oil that miraculously burned for eight days—hence the eight days of Hanukkah. Sophie’s mother hopes for a similar miracle when the family becomes snowed in and can’t get out to the store. With some creativity and discipline, they were able to stretch their small amount of cooking oil to make a treat for every night. Ms. Penn’s story reads like a folk tale and is a wonderful story of tradition, faith and family, and most appropriate for grade school kids.

  • Priscilla and the Great Santa Search
    By Nathaniel Hobbie; Illustrated by Jocelyn Hobbie; Little Brown and Company* (2008), $6.99

    Tired of seeing so many “fake” Santas, Priscilla and Bettina set out to find the real St. Nick at the North Pole. With a well thought-out plan, they start their journey. Of course, they run into some odd characters, such as Blue Blubber Birds and an Abominable Snowgirl. They finally reach the North Pole, but there is no sign of “the big man.” A fierce storm hits, and they must return home without accomplishing their goal. But, when looking at a photo from their voyage, who do they see in the distant background but Santa flying in his sleigh pulled by reindeer. This hillarious story reads like a Dr. Seuss book with brilliant rhyming verse and whimsical illustrations. It’s a great gift for kids aged kindergarten and up.

  • Santa’s Book of Names
    Written and Illustrated by David McPhail; Little Brown and Company* (1997), $6.99

    Edward was having trouble learning to read. In the middle of Christmas Eve night, he slips downstairs and sees that Santa had dropped a book. Realizing that it was Santa’s “Book of Names,” Edward runs out the door to try to catch him. He draws a giant “B” for book in the snow, hoping that Santa will see it. Santa comes back for the book and invites Edward to fly along with him as he delivers presents. Unfortunately, Santa drops his glasses in the ocean. Edward is his only hope and does the best he can sounding out each name. Edward falls asleep on the return trip and awakens on his living room couch with a new book from Santa. When his father asks if Edward would like him to read it aloud, Edward says he’ll be the one to read it ... and he does! In addition to being a clever “Santa story,” this book teaches a great lesson in believing in yourself.

  • Together for Kwanzaa
    By Juwanda G. Ford; Illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger; Random House* (2000), $3.99

    Kayla’s big brother Khari was snowed in at school and wasn’t able to come home for Kwanzaa. Though she was very disappointed, she continues to help her parents prepare for their celebration. Through the narration, we learn about a traditional African table setting for Kwanzaa, including food, linens and seven differently colored candles. As the seven nights progress, a different colored candle is lit to symbolize one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. On the sixth night of Kwanzaa, Khari is able to make it home and surprises Kayla and her family. This sweet story is a great way to learn about Kwanzaa for kids about four years and older.

  • The Worst Twelve Days of Christmas
    By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen; Illustrated by Ryan Wood; Abrams Books for Young Readers (2011), $15.95, ages 4-8

    The author of Quackenstein Hatches a Family has an equally funny new holiday book. This story is a play on the classic Christmas carol of a similar name. Joy’s a bit bitter about sharing Christmas with her new baby brother, Sam. In the 12 days leading up to Christmas, she has to deal with many baby mishaps, including 12 soggy cookies, 11 wrecked surprises, 10 headless monsters, nine drooly candy canes, and so it goes, down to one stinky baby messing with the tree. But, on Christmas morning, Sam proudly says Joy’s name for the first time and, of course, her heart melts.

* Several publishers did not provide a recommended age range, but I’ve included some guidelines.

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