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.

‘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 Night Before The Night Before Christmas – Book Giveaway

The Night Before Christmas9780989810821_p0_v1_s260x420The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

Jay Dee, Author

Darren Geers, Illustrators

Kraine Kreative, Fiction, Nov. 3, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3 and up

Themes: Santa, Elves, Workshop, Christmas

Opening: “At the North Pole — buried deep in glistening, powdery white snow– lies the cabin of Santa Claus. Outside, not a sound could be heard…But inside, on this night –the night before the night before Christmas — Santa’s cabin was anything but quiet.”

Book Synopsis: At Santa’s workshop, the night before the night before Christmas is hardly a time to rest. The elves work tirelessly to get the final toys made before Christmas Eve, but Elfie just can’t keep pace. He spends too much time making his toys perfect, and when Santa comes to check on production, all the elves are surprised by his reaction.

ElfieTNBTNBC_4_5

Illustrations Courtesy of Darren Geers

Why I like this book: Children worldwide know about the night before Christmas, but have they ever wondered about the night before that night at the North Pole? Jay Dee has written a heartwarming Christmas story about Elfie who makes sure that his toys are flawless and that gets him in trouble with the head elf, Nathan. Elfie is behind the other elves and shutters when he hears Santa is on his way to inspect the progress in the workshop. I like the book’s theme about doing your best no matter how others feel.  Giving your best is all the counts. The story is very creative reminder about the true meaning of Christmas and the holiday season.  Darren Geers illustrations are eye-popping, expressive and gorgeous — just look at the expression on Elfie’s face on the cover. Geers sketches his illustrations with ink and digitally colors them.  They really make this book a standout for children. Visit Jay Dee at his website.ElfiePage8_9_revision1

Resources/Activities:  After reading the book, provide your kids with paper, crayons, scissors, glitter and glue and encourage them to draw a favorite Christmas scene related to the book or to the true story of Christmas. Make an elf mobile. Have children make a Christmas list, but a list that they would give to a special child in need.  Drop off a toy to “Toys for Tots” or look at programs your church may sponsor to help the less fortunate.

Book Giveaway:  Participants must be U.S. residents. All you need to do is leave a comment and indicate that you are interested in receiving a copy.  A winner will be selected randomly. Comment by 11:59 EST December 4.  I will announce the winner on my blog December 7.  Please make sure I know how to get in touch with you (via Blog, FB, E-mail, Twitter) if you are selected.

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.

Little Ghost — Halloweensie Contest

 ghostimages
Courtesy of Google Art

It’s Susanna Leonard Hill 4th Annual Halloweensie Contest!

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

Write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak (or a variation of creak, creaked, or creaking.)  Your story can be poetry or prose, scary, funny or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)

My entry is 98 words. Happy Halloween!

Little Ghost

Little Ghost shuttered and shook. It was his first Halloween.

He hovered over a pumpkin and watched as other ghosts darted after trick-or-treaters and bellowed their names. “Nan—ceeee.” “Bob—beeee.” “Jos—seeee!” Kids scattered with fright.

Little Ghost hid near a creaky porch and ambushed a little witch with his loudest “BOOoooooo!” She slammed him with her sack of candy.

“You’re not a convincing ghost” yelled the gutsy witch. She summoned her broomstick.

“Yes, I am,” he moaned. “I don’t like scaring children.”

“Neither do I,” cackled the little witch. “Candy?”

Little Ghost puffed up his chest. “Sure!”

The Smallest Gift of Christmas

smallest_gift_of_christmasThe Smallest Gift of Christmas

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Sept. 24, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes:  Christmas, Gifts, Disappointment,  Family

Opening“Roland was eager for Christmas Day.  He raced downstairs to see what was waiting for him.”

Synopsis:  When Christmas morning arrives, Roland races to the living room and finds the smallest gift ever with his name on it.  He closes his eyes and wishes for a bigger gift.  Not happy, he wishes again and again. Larger gifts magically appear, but they don’t satisfy Roland.  Frustrated, this feisty and determined boy sets off in a rocket to search the universe for the biggest gift. Looking back at earth, Roland realizes what he wants most.

Why I like this book:  Peter Reynolds has created a very charming story that both children and adults will relate to in a manner that is light-hearted. Reynolds addresses the importance of family and being happy with what you have in a very entertaining manner. This is a small book packed with a big message.  The illustrations are festive for the holidays as each page is beautifully done in bold splashes of red and green.  And, the characters are done in Reynolds signature cartoon style. This is a wonderful gift book.  Visit Peter H. Reynolds at his website.

Resources:  This is meant to be a humorous read, but it also can be a great discussion book to talk with kids about the importance of Christmas. Put out paper, markers, crayons, glitter and glue and encourage your child to make Christmas cards or small gifts for family members.

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

The Christmas Wish

The Christmas Wish14858500_201309121500The Christmas Wish

Lori Evert, Author

Per Breiehagen, Photographer

Random House, Fiction, Sept. 10, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Christmas,  Arctic region, Tundra animals, Santa Claus, Adventure

OpeningLong, long ago, in a place so far north that the mothers never pack away the wool hats or mittens, lived a sweet little girl named Anja, who greatest dream was to become one of Santa’s Elves.

Synopsis:  Anja, who lives in the arctic region, dreams of being one of Santa’s elves.  She watches the position of the North Star at night and memorizes the great map  at school as she prepares for her trip. Leaving behind presents and a note for her family, she bundles in Nordic clothing and straps on her skis so she can travel through the deep snow. Along her way, a bird, a horse, a musk ox, a polar bear and a reindeer help Anja on her journey to find Santa Claus at the North Pole.

Evert_Breiehagen_Anja_--_credit_Per_Breiehagen_cropped_jpg_165x0_q85Why I like this book: Lori Evert has written an enchanting Nordic Christmas tale that is pure magic. The author was inspired to write the story when she saw an image of her daughter, Anja, with a reindeer.  Award-winning photographer Per Breiehagen captivated this beautiful story with his extraordinary photographs of breathtaking landscapes and touching scenes of Anja.  This was a beautiful collaborative effort by this husband-wife team, and their daughter Anja. The Christmas Wish is a treasure you will want to keep on your book shelf for years. Visit the The Christmas Wish website to see enlarged pictures of the book and a video.

Resources:  Visit Random House for more information about the book.  Click on the activity page at the top and you can download The Christmas Wish ornaments and find other winter activities.  Encourage your children to take winter pictures of animals and children romping in the snow

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

A Chanukah Noel

Chanukah Noel9781897187746_p0_v1_s260x420A Chanukah Noel

Sharon Jennings, Author

Gillian Newland, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Moving to a foreign country,  Feeling left out, Chanukah, Christmas, Friendship

Opening:  “One day, Daddy came home from work and said, “I have a big surprise.  We are going to live in France.”  I wasn’t so sure I liked this surprise, but I left home with Mommy and Daddy and sailed all the way across the ocean. 

Synopsis:  Charlotte and her family move to France.  She doesn’t speak the language and is put in a lower grade.  She finds that foods in her French village some times taste and smell strange.  Many of her classmates are friendly, except Colette.  At Christmas the village is beautifully decorated.  Charlotte is Jewish and wants to celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas.  She’s disappointed when her mother tells her they will celebrate Chanukah.  At least, at school she can participate in the festivities of decorating the class and bringing a gift.  When Charlotte discovers that Colette is poor and won’t be able to celebrate Christmas either, she sets aside her hurt feelings and comes up with a plan to help her friend and celebrate both holidays.

Why I like this story:   Sharon Jennings has written a charming story based on the true story of her friend.  Readers never learn the origin of Charlotte’s country, only that she is Jewish and she finds Christmas in France exciting.   It is also a story about feeling left out.  But, Charlotte shows a lot of compassion and helps a poor classmate enjoy Christmas with her family.  I enjoyed the story, but wished there was a little more shown about Charlotte’s Jewish Chanukah tradition.  Gillian Newland’s illustrations are rich and capture both the holiday spirit and the feeling of a timeless French village.

Resources:  Chanukah or Hanukkah activities for children and teachers can be found at this website.