We’re into the holiday season now, everyone! I’ve got gift books coming, and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books are on the way, but first, a look at some Christmas books to stuff in your kiddos’ stockings. Take a look!
Where’s Santa Claus? by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536206975
Guessing games don’t get much cuter than this! Five illustrated spreads show different Christmassy folks, including a polar bear, snowman, elf, and Santa, all hidden behind fuzzy felt flaps. Bold, black font asks,, “Where the polar bear?” “Where’s the snowman?”, inviting babies and toddlers to lift the cloth and discover them all on their own! The final flap, shaped like a house, asks where YOU are, and the reveal is a mirror so little ones can see themselves. The illustrations are bold, bright, and adorable; the felt is soft to the touch and bright.
It’s a perfect cuddle time, circle time, and storytime book for your youngest kiddos. I’ll be using mine quite a bit this season, mainly because I can’t stop reading it to myself in a high-pitched voice and announcing, “There he is!” The kids here at the library are starting to stare at me.
Christmas ABC, by Jannie Ho, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536202496
This holiday abcedary is loaded with seasonal icons: A is for angel; B is for bell; C is for candy canes, and D is for drummer boy. Cartoony, bold, and bright, with capital and lowercase letters side by side, this concept book is as sweet as a bowlful of chocolate chips. Smiling Nutcrackers share spreads with Mrs. Claus as a pup emerges from an Unwrapped box and a bottoms-up Santa is upside down in a chimney as he Visits a home. There are familiar sights to see, but there are also words to describe feelings and emotions, like joy, excited, and quiet. Read this with your little ones and point out familiar objects around the home, classroom, or library: ornaments, reindeer, or tree will work nicely. Some concepts, like Kings and Winter (a winter scene at a windowsill), make take a little explanation, but it’s all part of the holiday fun.
I love a good board book, and Christmas ABC delivers. Put this one front and center in your board books, holidays, and concepts areas, and watch the little ones reach for it.
Little Christmas Tree, by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, (Oct. 2018, Big Picture Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536203110
This larger board book is loaded with flaps, letting little fingers discover wintry delights as they wander through the story of a little Christmas tree wakes up in its forest after a snowfall. Nature comes alive with each spread as foxes, birds, squirrels, and mice join the scene, and by the story’s end, the tree sparkles in the moonlight. The silver foil added to the trees and snowflakes create a lovely scene that catches light nicely; make sure to let the kids touch the book and feel the texture of the pages. Each flap reveals color, animals, and woodland life, many of which will be familiar to kids: owls, foxes, and sun, to name a few. Little Christmas Tree is a beautifully crafted, interactive reading experience that toddlers and preschoolers will come back to. Keep this one in your storytime reference so you have one intact for next year’s storytime – the flaps are sturdy, but circulating copies of this book will be well-loved.
Little Christmas Tree has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree, by Axel Scheffler, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $12.99, ISBN: 9781536202762
Pip and Posy are back, and trying to decorate their Christmas tree – but the edible ornaments keep disappearing! When Pip develops a bellyache, it’s pretty clear to Posy what happened, but she’s a good friend: she gets Pip outside for some air, and the two decorate their tree in a slightly less tasty, more durable fashion.
This series about two best friends is popular here at my library, so this will be a welcome add to the shelves. The Pip and Posy books are all about simple problems, resolutions, and friendship. Here, it’s about decorating a Christmas tree with tasty ornaments that Pip can’t resist: the kids are in on the joke, as Pip smiles and sneaks snacks whenever Posy leaves the room. You can invite kids to count ornaments and candy canes as part of the storytime; the text lends itself to a guessing game as Posy announces how many things are missing. There’s a bit of a cautionary tale here, too, since Pip eats too much junk food and feels sick afterward, and a wink and a laugh at Santa’s gifts to both friends.
The gouache illustrations and bold text are eye-catching and perfect for storytime reading. The white pages let the characters pop off the page, allowing the eye to go directly to the action. The Christmas Tree is a nice addition to both holiday shelves and Pip and Posy collections.
Oliver Elephant, by Lou Peacock/Illustrated by Helen Stephens, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202663
Noah is a little boy who gets up early to go Christmas shopping with his mom and baby sister, bringing his stuffed elephant, Oliver, along for the ride. As Mom shops, Noah and Oliver are predictably antsy and manage to get into a little bit of trouble – but Mom and the staff are good-natured, thank goodness! A quick snack and it’s time to go home, but wait! Oliver is missing! There’s a panicked search, but little sister Evie-May saves the day when she reveals that Oliver has been hitching a ride with her all along.
Originally published in the UK, this Christmas rhyming story beautifully captures the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with lively, crowded city streets and department store scenes. There’s a particularly gorgeous spread early on in the story, as a whole department store is laid out for the eye to take in, complete with giant Christmas tree in the center; the detail of Mom holding onto Evie-May’s stroller with one hand while she keeps a hold on Noah, who’s swinging Oliver around, will make parents smile in recognition. Kids will relate to Noah’s restlessness; while Mom shops, he and Oliver play with dollhouses and dance on the displays until the inevitable “oops” happens. On the next spread, Oliver and Noah are slumped on a chair while Mom finishes shopping. The illustrations are warm and colorful, with point of view going from large to intimate – Noah playing with Evie-May, Mom snuggling Noah; there are wonderful little details to see throughout the story, and the primarily beige backgrounds let the story pop off the page for readers. Red lined endpapers put readers in a holiday mood going into the story.
Oliver Elephant has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and is a sweet addition to holiday collections.
Coming Home, by Michael Morpugo/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536200423
A robin sets out on his own to fly back to his home and his mate in this lyrical Christmas tale. The bird bravely invokes his heart and wings to fly him home as he travels day and night, through battering rain, fog, and snow, and under threat of predatory birds to make his way home. He encounters a kind-hearted fisherman who takes him out of the rain, letting him rest and eat, before setting him free on the final leg of his journey; finally arriving home to his garden, his mate, and the human family that’s been waiting for his return.
The digital illustrations are crisp, with the robin’s red face and chest a bright spot against the cold winter backgrounds. Kerry Hyndman creates some memorable moments, including the menacing black shadow of a hawk swooping over the robin, and the looming hands of the fisherman, from the bird’s point of view. At once a story about migration and its hazards, and families reuniting for the holidays, Endpapers bring you into the story by offering a single robin, tracking through the snow on the front endpapers, and joined by his mate on the rear endpapers. Coming Home is a lovely add to your collections. Display and booktalk with Matt Tavares’ Red and Lulu (2017) for a similar themed story. Make your own no-cook bird cakes with this recipe from Saltwater Kids.
Michael Morpugo is no stranger to sweeping stories: he’s an award-winning writer who boasts a Carnegie Medal (2003). He has also been Children’s Laureate (2003-2005) and he’s been knighted. You may know him as the author of War Horse. Illustrator Kerry Hyndman is also a mapmaker, a talent you can see just by seeing how she plans out her landscapes. Her frozen forests are breathtaking, and her residential neighborhood is so well plotted out, it could be your own neighborhood.
Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets, by Russell Ince, (June 2013, Waxcrayon Ltd), $21.95, ISBN: 0-937739-65-0
Geared for a more independent audience, Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets gives kids the full scoop on all of Santa’s secrets, including his history (he’s not the Saint Nicholas from Turkey that people often take him for), how the Post Offices around the world help him out, and how to stay off the dreaded Naughty List. Chronicled by Santa’s official biographer, Russell Ince, the book combined the look of an illuminated manuscript with a journal feel, as if Santa’s – and Russell’s – words were written especially for each reader. There are sketches throughout to bring the words to life, including realistic reindeer and Santa’s sleigh, and a sack full of toys, waiting to be loaded up for that Christmas Eve journey.
This one’s a good bet for your intermediate readers, who may be questioning the Man in Red’s existence, and have more questions to ask.
Santa Claus: The Annual (Volume 1), by Russell Ince, (July 2016, Waxcrayon Ltd), $19.99, ISBN: 0-937739-67-7
Santa was so delighted with the response to his Book of Secrets, that he decided to write a book about how he spends a year. Each 2-page spread details a month in Santa’s life: January is a time to rest up after a hectic December; March is dedicated to training reindeer and visting the Elf School; in June, the Clauses pack up and travel the world, while the elves stay home and compete in an Elf Olympics. In September, the Christmas planning begins anew. Learn more about the elves, Mrs. Claus, and the general ins and outs of the North Pole here, one month at a time.
The style is consistent here, with an illuminated title setting off each page, festooned with colorful snowflakes, toys, candy, and sketches. Written on a parchment-look paper, these two slim volumes provide a magical look at the Christmas secrets kids are dying to know.
That’s a taste of Christmas for you! I’ve got Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books on the way, plus a gift guide for the holidays. I’ll keep you posted!