Favorite Holiday Books

Tis the season… I wanted to share some of my favorite holiday books that have found a permanent home on my bookshelf! Warmest wishes to all of my followers for a joyful holiday season! I will return January 6 with a Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

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Oskar and the Eight Blessings

Richard and Tanya Simon, Authors, and Mark Siegel, Illustrator, 2015

Oskar’s mother and father believed in the power of blessings. So did Oskar…until the Night of Broken Glass. His parents put him on a ship to America. He had nothing but an address and a photo of a woman he didn’t know — “It’s your Aunt Esther.” — and his father’s last words to him: “Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” Follow Oskar as he makes his long walk through New York City to his aunt’s home.

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The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale About The Rockefeller Center Tree

 David Rubel, Author, and Jim LaMarche, Illustrator, 2011

Henry’s father comes up with an idea to make money the day before Christmas. He borrows a truck, and he and Henry head for a grove of spruce trees.  They cut them down and drive to New York City to sell them as Christmas trees.  They find the perfect spot near the Rockefeller construction site in Manhattan.  The workers help them unload the trees.  Before heading home, his father decides to give the last trees to Frank and his construction workers.  Frank takes the tallest tree and the men decorate it with cranberries, pinecones and tin cans — the first Rockefeller Christmas tree.  Henry makes a star out of newspaper.  Before he hangs it on a tree, Henry makes a special wish.  He takes a pine cone from the tree to remember that magical day.

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The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved the Day

 Michael Keane, Author and Michael Garland, Illustrator, 2012

Twas the night before Christmas at NORAD’s home base/ Not an airman was stirring, each one was in place/Ready and waiting for the very first sight/Of good old St. Nick on his Christmas Eve flight.”  Every year the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa as he delivers gifts to children worldwide.  But, Santa and his reindeer get lost in a blizzard.  He disappears from their radar.  Will NORAD be able to find Santa with their high-tech equipment and help Santa deliver presents to the children in the world? Children will love the suspense and can go to the NORAD Santa’s Tracker site on December 24 to join in the fun this year.

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Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish

Roseanne Greenfield Thong, Author and Sara Palacios, Illustrator, 2014

‘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!”

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!”

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The Smallest Gift of Christmas

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator, 2013

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.

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The Christmas Wish

Lori Evert, Author and Per Breiehagen, Photographer, 2013

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 the 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.

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Oh, What a Christmas

Michael Garland, Author and Illustrator, 2011

Everything started off the same magical way Christmas always does.  Santa and his reindeer took off from the North Pole, loaded with presents for all the boys and girls around the world.  Santa called out to his reindeer as the sleigh raced across the starry sky.  Then POP! RIP! S-T-R-E-T-C-H!  The harness that attached the reindeer to Santa’s sleigh was tearing.  With one final BOING! it snapped in two!  Ho! Ho! –oh, no!” The reindeer fly off into the night.  Santa and his sleigh full of toys plummet to the earth and crash into the side of a barn.  A sleepy sheep peers from the barn…along with  a pig, a goat, two cows,  a horse and a hound dog.  Santa’s eyes twinkle as he surveys the barnyard animals.  Maybe he has found a solution so the children of the world won’t be disappointed.

May you be filled with the peace of the season and have a blessed New Year!

Patricia

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Separate is Never 61QJH+UcmDLSeparate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Duncan Tonatiuh, Author and Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Biography, May 6, 2014

Awards: 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book; 2015 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Mexican-Americans, Sylvia Mendez, Segregation in Education, Racial persecution, Mendez vs. Westminster School District, Multicultural

Opening: Sylvia had on her black shoes. They were shiny-new. Her hair was perfectly parted in two long trenzas. It was her first day at the Westminster school. The halls were crowded with students. She was looking for her locker when a young white boy pointed at her and yelled, “Go back to the Mexican school. You don’t belong here!”

Synopsis: Sylvia and her two brothers moved with their family to a farm near Westminster, California. Her father, a field-worker, finally got a lucky break to lease a farm and be his own boss. Sylvia was excited about starting a new beautiful school as a third grader. When they went to enroll at the school, her parents were told their children couldn’t attend the white school. They had to enroll in the Mexican school.  Sylvia was confused because she wasn’t Mexican. She was an American citizen and spoke perfect English. Was she banned because she was brown, had dark hair and her last name was Mendez? That fall Sylvia and her brothers attended the small run-down, inferior Mexican school where the teachers didn’t care about teaching.  The school was surrounded by a cow pasture. There was no beautiful playground, just dirt. And, there was no place for the children to eat their lunch.

After approaching the school board with no success, Sylvia’s father, Gonzalo Mendez, began to organize an association of Mexican parents. They filed a lawsuit against the school district to integrate the schools. Sylvia Mendez  and her family helped bring an end to segregation in California, which led to the 1947 Supreme Court ruling for equality for all children in America.

Why I like this book:

Duncan Tonatiuh’s compelling book brings Sylvia’s important story to life in a manner children will easily understand. He cleverly weaves Sylvia’s inspiring story with factual information. The text also includes Spanish words and phrases. I especially like how Sylvia’s story shows children that they can make a difference in their communities, country and world.

Tonatiuh’s bold and unique illustrations are done in muted tones with a Latino flare. They significantly contribute to Sylvia’s story and emphasize the theme of separatism and inequality. The cover is magnificent!

I was surprised to discover that the movement to desegregate schools for children of all ethnicities and races began with Latino children in the 1940s with Mendez vs. Westminster School District. There would be no “Brown vs. Board of Education” Supreme Court ruling without  Sylvia’s original lawsuit. This book belongs in every school library.  Children read a lot of books about the civil rights era, so it is important to introduce this important piece of Latino history into Black History month.

Resources: The author includes detailed information at the end of the book from court files, newspaper accounts and update information and photos of the real Sylvia Mendez, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2011.

For tweens, parents may want to check out a middle grade novel, Sylvia and Aki, which is a more in-depth story about Sylvia and her relationship with Japanese-American girl, who has been sent to an internment camp.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

If You Plant a Seed 511V106f+0L__SY498_BO1,204,203,200_If You Plant a Seed

Kadir Nelson, Author and Illustrator

Balzer + Bray/Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Fiction, Mar. 3, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Nature, Planting and Growing, Sharing,  Seeds of kindness, Generosity, Friendship

Opening: “If you plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed, / in time, / with love and care, /  tomato, carrot and cabbage plants will grow.”

Synopsis: Rabbit and mouse, plant seeds in their garden. They patiently tend to their garden and watch the rain and sun do their magic. As the fruits of their labor begin to pay off they do their happy dance and marvel at the sweetness of their bounty. When five birds appear from the sky, rabbit and mouse try to protect their vegetables from their winged friends.  The birds stare them down (illustrations are priceless) and pandemonium breaks out, until mouse gives the birds a peace-offering. Because of mouse’s act of generosity, the birds return with seeds of kindness and friendship reigns.

Why I like If You Plant a Seed:

Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed is a timeless story for the entire family that will charm you from the first double-spread to the last. His spare and clever text makes this story an easy book for kids to read alone or to a sibling. It shows children what happens when you are selfish and hoard your bounty. And it teaches them what happens when they are kind and share with others — friendships form. These are values they will easily understand. The cover is gorgeous. Nelson’s beautiful, oversized oil paintings are breathtaking! Facial expressions are dramatic, expressive and humorous. The vegetables look so real, that you want to reach out and take a bite of a carrot or tomato. If You Plant a Seed has heart, humor, connection and friendship. It  is a treasure! Visit Kadir Nelson online at his website.

Kadir Nelson won the 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award and Illustrator Honor for Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. He received Caldecott Honors for Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, for which he also garnered a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and won an NAACP Image Award. Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. Nelson’s authorial debut, We Are the Ship, was a New York Times bestseller, a Coretta Scott King Author Award winner, and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book. He is also the author and illustrator of the acclaimed Baby Bear.

A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu

Morning with Grandpa 51r2LRx0zTL__SX395_BO1,204,203,200_A Morning with Grandpa

Sylvia Liu, Author

Christina Forshay, Illustrations

Lee & Low Books, Fiction, Apr. 1, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Intergenerational relationships, Tai Chi, Yoga, Grandfathers, Multicultural

Opening: “Mei Mei watched Grandpa dance slowly among the flowers in the garden. He moved like a giant bird stalking through a marsh. His arms swayed like reeds in the wind.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Mei Mei’s grandpa is practicing tai chi in the garden, and Mei Mei is eager to join in. As Gong Gong tries to teach her the slow, graceful movements, Mei Mei enthusiastically does them with her own flair. Then Mei Mei takes a turn, trying to teach Gong Gong the yoga she learned in school. Will Gong Gong be able to master the stretchy, bendy poses?

Why I like this book:

Sylvia Liu has written a story that celebrates the special relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather as they learn tai chi and yoga together. Mei Mei watches her grandfather practice tai chi, wants to know more, and adds a lively spin to his methodical movements.  Grandfather shows patience with Mei Mei’s  enthusiastic and energetic interpretation of tai chi and praises her movements as “perfect.” He’s a good sport when Mei Mei in turn shows him yoga movements, despite his creaky knees.  Liu’s book is a beautiful intergenerational story about a grandfather and grandchild teaching each other something new. Christina Forshay’s colorful illustrations are warm, expressive and capture the lovely memories of a morning spent together.

Resources: The book includes instructions for the tai chi and yoga exercises described in the text in the back matter of the book — a fun activity for children, parents and grandparents. Visit Sylvia Liu at her website.

1-2-3 A Calmer Me

1-2-3 Calmer Me 51hB9ta-cnL__SX397_BO1,204,203,200_1-2-3 A Calmer Me: Helping Children Cope When Emotions Get out of Control

Colleen A. Patterson and Brenda S. Miles, Authors

Claire Keay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 22, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Anger, Emotions, Calmness

Opening: I am happy, but sometimes I feel mad and VERY frustrated! Like the other day when I let go of my balloon. I felt s-o-o-o mad!

Synopsis: A girl becomes angry when she lets go of her balloon. Her friend tells her it’s okay to feel mad, but there is something she can do to feel better. He shares with her a rhyme he uses to calm his body and mind. “1-2-3 a calmer me. 1-2-3 I hug me. 1-2-3 relax and b-r-e-a-t-h-e…1-2-3 a calmer me.” When she discovers it melts her angry feelings, she begins to use the technique when someone takes away her favorite crayon, when she has to stop playing and eat dinner, and when she loses a race.

Why I like this book:

I was delighted to discover Colleen A. Patterson and Brenda S. Miles’ book which helps children with relaxation and mindfulness when their emotions spin out of control. We need more books like this to use at home and at school to help upset kids regain control so that they don’t act out in a harmful way. Claire Keay’s illustrations are rendered in warm and comforting pastels and capture the emotion of the story.

1-2-3 A Calmer Me introduces readers to a very simple rhyming mantra to help them stop their negative reaction, calm their anger, frustration or disappointment and replace it with a very easy technique.  In the first action of the mantra the girl wraps her arms around herself and gives herself a big, tight hug. Then she counts again and slowly breathes in and out and relaxes her body. In the last action she slowly releases her hug and lets her arms dangle by her side. She feels the relaxation.

Resources: The book includes a “Note to Parents, Teachers and Other Grown-Ups” with more information about the steps of the “1-2-3” rhyme, and advice for working through the steps with your child.

Betsy’s Day at the Game by Greg Bancroft

Betsy's Day 51PPSIp5vML__SY398_BO1,204,203,200_Betsy’s Day at the Game

Greg Bancroft, Author

Katherine Blackmore, Illustrator

Mighty Media Press, Fiction, 2013

Mom’s Choice Awards, 2013 Winner

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes: Baseball, Keeping score, Intergenerational relationships, Family traditions

Opening:  “Elisabeth, Grandpa’s here,” Betsy’s mom called out.  A car pulled in to the driveway. Betsy came running with her Boo Bag.”

Synopsis: Betsy is going to a baseball game with her grandfather. She packs her baseball glove, score book, pencil and hat in her special bag.  Betsy puts on her cap and they head toward the city ballpark. They sit just behind home plate. Betsy is eager to work on her score keeping with her grandpa, who drills her and offers advice.  As the action begins, Betsy keeps track of the players, the foul balls, the strikes and the home runs.  When a batter hits a ball into the stands, Betsy grabs her glove and catches the grand slam home run ball.  She has a lot to share with her mother. But, her mother has a surprise to share with Betsy.

Why I like this book:

This is a heartwarming intergenerational story about a girl and her grandpa spending the day together at the ballpark.  What a perfect way to share family traditions about America’s favorite pastime — baseball.

Bancroft’s story celebrates everything there is to love about a baseball game — the sights, the smells, the sounds and the thrill of catching a ball in the stands.  Katherine Blackmore’s illustrations are warm, inviting, colorful and support the story. There are maps of the field with scorecard codes and separate squares detailing scoring information on the players.

The story focuses on teaching children how to keep score at a baseball game through the happy chitchat between Betsy and Grandpa.  The author provides fully illustrated scorecards at the end, which can be copied and used when a child watches a baseball game.

Resources:  Learning how to keep score is a great way for parents, grandparent and children to interact and have fun. The story itself will teach parents (if you don’t know) and children about keeping score.  Take your child to a local baseball game for a fun family outing and work together to fill out the scorecards. This is a great way to make family memories.  Click here for a free downloadable Educator’s Activity Guide.

Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways

Ouch! Moments51oze-lcWOL__SX399_BO1,204,203,200_Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways

Michael Genhart, Author

Viviana Garofoli, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 22, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Hurtful words, Microaggressions, Insults, Conduct, Caring, Empowerment

Opening: “When a bee stings, Ouch! That hurts! Catching a finger in a closing door hurts a lot. Ouch! Hearing a mean thing or ugly word hurts too. That is definitely an Ouch moment!”

Synopsis:  Sometimes kids use hurtful words to put down another child. They can be said by a child when they are trying to be funny, “oink goes the pig” or “he throws like a girl.” They can be used by kids to have power over other kids to make them feel small. Ouch moments happen quickly and other kids don’t know what to do. When these moments occur, the perpetrator, the victim and the bystanders need help. Readers will be encouraged to be caring and take a stand.

Why I like this book:

Michael Genhart introduces readers to “ouch moments” that are usually directed towards a child that is different. His thoughtful book will help parents, teachers and children recognize mean, ugly, and hurtful words.  The language is simple, hopeful and ideal for kids. The characters are believable. Children will learn strategies that will empower them to stand up to insults and hurtful language. This is a book that all children can identify with because they have been on both sides, as the perpetrator and receiver. Genhart also helps kids to recognize their own hurtful language in a way that doesn’t shame. Many times they repeat something they’ve heard from someone else. Viviana Garofoli’s illustrations are colorful, expressive and compliment the story.

Resources:  This book is a resource for home and in the classroom. It is great resource for school teachers at the beginning of the school year to talk with kids about hurtful language and share their  “ouch moments.” There is a Note to Parents and Caregivers about microaggressions, and strategies for talking to children about hurtful language, discrimination and bias.