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Hot chocolate and candy canes at the ready! Every year I look forward to the holiday season if only because of the amazing books for children that land on my desk. Whether religious or not, these books all have an ounce of magic in them. They also have more glitter, more night scenes, more spices and tons more lights than other books the rest of the year. For this list, I’ve hand picked my favorites with my girls and it was great fun. I like to discover the books with my girls so we read them together first. After we’ve read it – and commented – together, I like to let the books “sleep” for a few days before I pick them up again for further reading. And that’s how you get a nice list! Whether you’re off to snowy mountains, inviting family for a special celebration or getting together with friends to eat cookies, these books will show children fun facets of the holidays. Most of the books are new releases but I’ve squeezed in a couple of “keeper” oldies.
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By Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Oh what a lovely book this is! Just the ice-blue sparkly cover makes you wish for a blizzard. Set in the little mountain town of Toby Mills, the book tells the story of an icicle. Not just any icicle – this one’s dangling from the nose of the statue of General Toby. How can children not like it? As the weather gets colder, the icicle grows and the town people find new ways to keep warm. Pastor Pickthorn preaches in earmuffs and overcoat. The Sullivan sisters knit a sweater for Elijah the cat. At bedtime Mille Moffat tucks her cold feet into mittens. Read along and find out what the mayor’s “cold snap” surprise is.
A Perfect Day
Written and illustrated by Carin Berger
If you imagined a perfect day at the snow for children, it might go like this book. First, snow would fall until the world was white and then the children would get out and explore the winter snow world from the first tracks to loop-di-loops on a frozen pond or an icicle stand before snow angels. Introducing the wonders of white winters to children, this book is meant to be read with a cup of warm hot chocolate.
The Nutcracker: A Magical Theatrical Book
By Geraldine McCaughrean
There’s no Christmas without Nutcracker and the pop-up scenes and paper cut-outs of this book will delight young Nutcracker fans. From the opening windows with Marie to the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Rat King, this short retelling of the story is a great book to familiarize young children with the Nutcracker before going to the ballet. On the plus side, its sturdiness and absence of tabs to pull makes it a good read for little rough hands.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? / How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Hanukkah?
By Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague
Oh, the roaring little monsters! Your young dinosaur lovers will laugh at the joyful antics and mischief of these highly uncivilized dinosaurs who could very well misbehave for Hanukkah or Christmas if they didn’t know any better. Fortunately, even dinosaurs can learn what the holidays really mean and what matters on these special nights. If dinosaurs can do it, there’s no reason you can’t have a perfect holiday season at home too. [Note: this review is for 2 separate books, one on Christmas, one on Hanukkah.]
The Quiet Christmas Book
By Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska
A must-have for children learning to appreciate what’s special about Christmas, The Christmas Quiet Book follows quiet moments of the cutest bunch of stuffed animals through a day before Christmas. Far from being postcard stuffed animals, these adorable critters go from “Too tall tree quiet” to “Shattered ornament quiet” or from “Gliding quiet” to “Someone’s dad is a costume designer quiet.” Children will love the beautifully soft illustrations and the peaceful moments brought on by the season.
Spider’s First Hanukkah
By Silvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn
Can a young spider spin dreidels instead of spider webs? This take on Hanukkah as seen from the ceiling by a home spider will delight preschoolers. When Sammy the Spider watches the Shapiro family light the first candle of Hanukkah, Sammy wonders what this is all about. Mixing basic facts about the celebration with the colors of the rainbow, the story explains Hanukkah in simple words for young children.
Christmas with the Mousekins: A Story with Crafts, Recipes, Poems and More!
By Maggie Smith
More than a book, this is hours of activities at home with the children! Join the Mousekins family as they prepare for a white Christmas. Filled with fun recipes – my 7-year old wants to bake the gingerbread mice and cinnamon snails, crafts – you too can learn how to make Baby Mouse’s Christmas Mobile in your garage when the kids are asleep, and poems – or songs, Christmas with the Mousekins is a great gift for young children with creative minds.
The Berenstain Bears’ Old-Fashioned Christmas
By Jan and Mike Berenstain
In the same vein as the Mousekins book, this book follows the Berenstain Bears family reunion for the holidays with Gramps and Gran. Along the way you will find traditional songs, ornament-making activities, and Christmas treats for animal friends. No recipes here but the story will remind everyone of the chaos and fun of big family reunions. The “treats for animals” should appeal to animal lovers who want to supplement the winter diet of their neighborhood’s wildlife.
One Snowy Night
Written and illustrated by Nick Butterworth
It’s cold in the park in winter but Percy the park keeper is all bundled up and doesn’t care. When the winter turns to snow one cold night, Percy’s little hut in the park becomes a welcome refuge for all the animals of the forest who are shivering on the doorstep. Just one problem though – too many animals, not enough room! Kids won’t help but wonder at all the creative solutions Percy finds to accommodate his furry friends and if you do sound effects when reading, you’ll win double bonus points for best bedtime storyteller.