The Last Christmas Tree

The Last Christmas Tree9780803737570_p0_v1_s260x420The Last Christmas Tree

Stephen Krensky, Author

Pascal Campion, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Oct. 16, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Christmas trees, Empathy, Hope, Spirit of Christmas

Opening: “Almost exactly a month before Christmas, the trees arrived for the holiday. On the day before, the lot had been empty.”

Book Synopsis: Among the grand balsams and firs at the Christmas tree lot is a little hunched tree that is missing several branches. Still, no tree is more filled with the spirit of Christmas. As the weeks go by, many others are selected but the little tree holds onto its hope of finding a home. On Christmas Eve, now alone in the lot, the little tree receives a special visitor who might just give it what it wants most of all.

Why I like this book: This is such a heartwarming and moving Christmas story by Stephen Krensky that will delight young children for years to come. His story will certainly create empathy among children as the little tree endures snickers and rejection by families searching for the perfect tree. But this little tree has spunk.  It is filled with hope that it will be selected until it is the last tree standing in the lot. Yet Krensky’s little tree is a very upbeat with an unwavering faith and personality. The plot will keep children turning pages and guessing what will happen to the last tree. Pascal Campion’s digital illustrations are colorful, inviting and show the loneliness and joy in the story. Beautiful book with a surprise ending.

Resources: Take your children to a Christmas tree farm or tree lot and let them select the family tree. Encourage them to make their own ornaments and decorate your tree together.

Stephen Krensky is the author of more than one hundred fiction and nonfiction books for children, including How Santa Got His Job, How Santa Lost His Job, Chaucer’s First Winter, The Great Moon Hoax, Big Bad Wolves, Ghosts, Paul Bunyan, and Casey Jones. Visit Krensky’s website.

Pascal Campion is a French American illustrator and animator. Visit Campion’s website.

Positive

Positive9780062342515_p0_v4_s260x420Positive

Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin, Authors

Harper Collins, Memoir, Aug. 26, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12-16

Themes: Paige Rawl, HIV-positive children, AIDS in adolescence, Bullying, Suicide, Hope

Book Synopsis: Cheerleader, soccer player, honor roll student. One of the good kids at her middle school. Then on an unremarkable day, Paige disclosed the one thing that made her “different”: her HIV-positive status. Within hours, the bullying began.  They called her PAIDS. Left cruel notes on her locker. Talked in whispers about her and mocked her openly. She turned to school administrators for help. Instead of assisting her, they ignored her urgent pleas…and told her to stop the drama. She had never felt more alone. One night, desperate for escape, Paige found herself in front of the medicine cabinet, staring at a bottle of sleeping pills. That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning.

Why I like this book: Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin have written a realistic, raw, brave and powerful memoir about a teen living with HIV since birth. Although Paige is stable on medications, HIV is such a sensitive subject and tough diagnosis for a teen to deal with — especially when her best friend betrays her. Once Paige’s secret spreads like wildfire at school, the bullying begins. This is one of the best memoirs I’ve read this year. It is a real page turner that I could not put down. Although what happens to Paige is heartbreaking, her courage to reclaim herself and move forward is inspiring. You will find yourself rooting for Paige as she finds a voice she didn’t know she had. Her memoir is written in short chapters and is well-paced. Her voice is strong and determined. In sharing her story, she encourages other teens to find their inner strength in the midst of any storm. And her experience has made a difference for others.

Resources: There is extensive information and facts about HIV, bullying and suicide.  She shares information on programs for kids who are touched by HIV/AIDS, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and programs to stop bullying.

Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale

Simon and the Bear9781423143550_p0_v2_s260x420Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale

Eric A. Kimmel, Author

Matthew Trueman, Illustrator

Disney Hyperion Books, Fiction, Sept. 2, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Pages: 40

Themes: Miracles, Survival,  Shipwreck, Hanukkah, Jews, Polar Bear, Faith, Courage

Opening: “When Simon set out for America, he promised his mother and brothers and sisters that he would work hard and save money. As soon as he could, he would send tickets for all of them. Simon’s mother lovingly packed his knapsack for the journey…Because Hanukkah was coming, she added something extra.”

Book Synopsis: When Simon leaves his home in the old country, his mother reminds him to celebrate Hanukkah during his sea voyage: “Who knows? You may need a miracle on your long journey.” Turns out Simon does need a miracle. When the ship strikes an iceberg Simon is offered the last seat on a lifeboat, but selflessly offers it to a gentleman who has a son. As the ship sinks, Simon leaps onto the iceberg. Knowing he needs a miracle, he pulls out his menorah and lights the Shamash. A polar bear appears from the icy water. Simon shares some of his latkes and eggs with the bear. In turn the bear curls up and sleeps next to Simon, keeping him warm. Days pass, Simon runs out of food and has one last candle to light. Will Simon run out of miracles?

Why I like this book:  There are never too many altruistic books for children during the holiday season and this one is perfect for Hanukkah. Eric A. Kimmel has written a heartwarming story for children that encourages faith and a belief in miracles, which is what Hanukkah is about. The story mirrors the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic. The plot is strong with just the right amount of tension to keep you turning the pages. Kimmel’s tale is filled with details of foods and traditions related to Hanukkah. Simon is a child filled with heart, faith and courage.  Matthew Trueman’s illustrations are evocative and add considerably to the sacred mood of the story. His stunning double-page spreads of black and deep blues are contrasted with images of light in the darkness, symbolically suggesting miracles are possible. Beautiful collaborative work between author and illustrator.

Resources: An Author’s Note on the history of Hanukkah is included at the end.  Jewish communities in the United States celebrate Hanukkah from Dec. 17-24. Visit the Lookstein Center for activities, poetry, games and projects.

Owl’s Christmas Promise – Holiday Writing Contest

Owl imagesCAWCKEB4

Courtesy of Google Images

It’s Susanna Leonard Hill’s Fourth Annual Holiday Contest!

All you have to do is follow the simple rules I copied from Susanna’s website and make sure you check out all the entries.

Write a 350-word children’s story (kids under age 12) in which wild weather impacts the holidays! Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate. But your story is not to exceed 350 words. Whatever you choose, make the readers feel the impact on the holidays! Your entry should be posted on your blog between Monday December 8 and Friday December 12 at 11:59 PM EST.

My entry is: 346 words

Owl’s Christmas Promise

“HOOOOT…HOOOOT!”

Owl’s tummy grumbled. It was Christmas Eve and he flew from the hollow of his tree to search for dinner. He spotted a mouse and dove to catch his prey. He missed.

The wind howled. Snow whipped and pelted Owl’s wings making it hard to navigate.

“A blizzard,” screeched Owl. “Better return home…”

CRACK! SNAP! A branch smacked Owl and he tumbled from the sky. THUD! He landed near Mouse.

Owl broke his wing and he couldn’t fly. He limped toward Mouse.

“Help me, I’m injured,” screeched Owl.

“Why should I help YOU?” squeaked Mouse. “You tried to eat me!” He scampered down his tunnel.

Owl wobbled on until…

He spied a rabbit.

“I’ve broken my wing and need a safe place from this storm,” hooted Owl. “Would you share your burrow with me?”

“NO!” Rabbit’s ears twitched. “You clawed my brother!” And he hopped to his burrow.

Owl staggered on, his wing dragging behind until…

He spotted a badger.

“Please share your warm den with me,” pleaded Owl. “I can’t fly and need a place to heal.”

Badger stood on his hind legs and eyed Owl. “How do you know I won’t roast you for my Christmas feast?” Badger asked. He snarled and trotted to his den.

Owl shivered and stumbled. He fell and didn’t move.

The forest animals peeked from the safety of their homes. They gathered around Owl.

“It’s Christmas and we can’t let the little owl freeze in this blizzard,” growled Bear. He cradled Owl in his paw and lumbered towards his cave. The animals followed.

The cave was warm. Nestled against Bear, Owl began to stir. He trembled and gazed into Bear’s kind eyes.

“He lives,” squeaked Mouse. The animals cheered.

Owl’s eyes brimmed with tears. “You saved me!”

“You’re a member of our forest family,” Bear roared. “Rest here until you mend. Tonight you’ll join our Christmas festivities.”

“We’re friends forever!” Owl hooted.

The forest animals celebrated that blustery night.

Owl healed and kept his Christmas promise. He guarded his forest friends below…

…and Mouse hitched a ride.

© Patricia Tilton

Christmas Book Giveaway Winners

The Night Before Christmas9780989810821_p0_v1_s260x420

Congratulations! The winners of Jay Dee’s inspiring book, The Night Before the Night Before Christmas are:

Katie Alexander 

Sara Meyer

Jay Dee has generously donated two copies of his new Christmas book.  My husband drew the winners’ names. Please leave me a comment so I can contact you by e-mail and get your mailing address. I enjoy reviewing and giving away books when I have the opportunity. Happy reading!

Happy Holidays,

Patricia

‘Twas Nochebuena

Twas Nochebuena9780670016341_p0_v2_s260x420‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish

Roseanne Greenfield Thong, Author

Sara Palacios, Illustrations

Viking, Fiction, Oct. 16, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes: Latin American Christmas traditions, Christmas, Feast, Family, Community

Opening: ‘Twas Nochebuena / and all through our casa, / every creature was kneading tamale masa. / For one of our holiday tradiciones, / is making tamales — / not one, but montones!”

Book Synopsis: It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laugher; love and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate).  After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”

Why I like this book: Roseanne Greenfield Thong has written a beautiful and heartwarming Latino themed picture book that re-imagines the beloved Christmas story, Twas the Night Before Christmas. The story is narrated  in English and peppered with Spanish words to expose children to a language some of their friends may speak. The rhyming is perfect. The setting is vivid and festive and teaches children about other cultures and traditions. The plot is lively and shows strong family bonds and community. The characters are endearing. Sara Palacios’ illustrations are vibrant, colorful, expressive and action-packed. She works with a variety of media including collage, ink and digital to combine her drawings with layers of color and texture. This is a joyful and magical holiday story that offers children a way to celebrate a Latino family’s Christmas traditions.

Resources:  One Latino celebration is the making of piñatas, which are filled with candy and small toys. I used to help children make them at Christmas.  Blow up a large balloon and then help kids cover it with strips of paper mache.  [Here] is a site that shows you step-by-step of how to make a piñata. Most of the ingredients you have at home.

Roseanne Greenfield Thong has authored many multicultural books including Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper. Her most recent November book release is, Noodle Magic.

Sara Palacios illustrated the Pura Belpré honor book Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Whispering Town

The WhisperingTown9781467711951_p0_v1_s260x420The Whispering Town

Jennifer Elvgren, Author

Fabio Santomauro, Illustrator

Kar-Ben Publishing, Historical fiction, 2014

Suitable for ages: 7-11

Themes: Denmark, German Occupation, Jews, Holocaust, World War II

Opening: “There are new friends in the cellar, Anett,” Mama said when I woke up. “Time to take breakfast down to them.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: It is 1943, in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Danish Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to neutral Sweden. Worried about their safety, Anett thinks of a clever and unusual plan to get them safely to the harbor.

Why I like this book: The Whispering Town is based on a true story. Jennifer Elvgren’s text is simple and will teach children about the Holocaust and the heroes who risked their lives to help. It is a great introduction book to the Holocaust. This is a compelling story about the courage and compassion of a girl, her family and village to defy the Nazis and house and guide Danish Jews to Sweden. The story is narrated by the main character, Anett, who is very mature and learns to keep a very big secret. Anett is courageous and clever. She knows how to sneak extra food from the right people who are helping on the underground. When the Nazis begin knocking on doors, the stakes rise. The Jews must be moved. A problem occurs when it is too dark to sneak the Jews through the town. The villagers like Anett’s idea and “whisper” the Jews to the fishing boats. Fabio Santomauro’s artwork suggests an air of secrecy with his dark and muted tones and black lines. This is an important book to add to a school library as it focuses on the courage of a community.

Resources: Visit Jennifer Elvgren at her website. Kar-Ben Publishing has resources on the Holocaust. It is growing Jewish library for children.