Little Robin’s Christmas by Jan Fearnley

Little Robin’s Christmas

Jan Fearnley, Author and Illustrator

Nosy Crow, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Bird, Animals, Caring, Giving, Friendship, Christmas, Santa

Opening: “Once upon a time, there was a little brown bird. His name was Little Robin, and this is his story.”

Synopsis:

It’s the week before Christmas, and each day Little Robin leaves his nest and gives away one of his seven vests to someone who is cold and needs it — a frog, a porcupine, a hedgehog, a mole, a squirrel, a rabbit, and an otter baby. Finally, on Christmas Eve, he gives away his last vest to a shivering mouse. Now it’s snowing and Little Robin is cold and alone.

Luckily, a certain magical man dressed in red knows about Little Robin’s selflessness and has the perfect present to keep him warm.

What I like about this book:

Jan Fearnley simply communicates the true meaning of Christmas in her charming  holiday tale about Little Bird, a compassionate and generous bird who gives away his warm vests to help his friends stay warm. Little Bird feels happy inside as he spreads holiday cheer. The joy of giving is a heartfelt message to share with children.

Little Bird’s journey is perfect for young children, as they will have fun guessing what will happen next. The text is lyrical, flows nicely and has a repetitive feel to it, especially with the seven-day countdown. But, the ending is a surprise.

Fearnley’s colorful and wintry mixed media illustrations are expressive and lively. They help build the tension of what is to come.

Resources: This is the perfect opportunity to show kids how good it feels to give to others less fortunate. Help your children pick out toys they no longer play with and clothing that is too small, and donate to a local toy/clothing drive. Let them pick out nonperishable food items at the grocery store to give to a local food bank.

Jan Fearnley is the award-winning author-illustrator of many books, including Milo Armadillo, and the illustrator of Never Too Little to Love. She lives in the French countryside with  her husband, two donkeys, five rescued goats, two Limousin hens, five cats — and any other stray that appears at the kitchen door.

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 website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale by Carole Gerber

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale

Carole Gerber, Author

Yumi Shimokawara, Illustrator

Familius, Fiction, Oct. 1, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Christmas tale, Animals, Nativity, Rhyming, Religious, Holiday

Opening: “The gentle beasts of sky and earth / prepare their stable for Christ’s birth.”

Book Synopsis:

The Gifts of the Animals shares the miraculous offerings the humble animals in the manger gave to the baby Jesus.

The birds on the roof of the lowly shed / prepare a pillow for His head, / with feathers pulled from downy breats; / mice carry them to where He’ll rest.

Celebrating the Savior’s birth, this beautiful reimagining of the nativity story is a must-have addition to any family’s Christmas library and Christmas Eve traditions.

Why I like this book:

Carole Gerber’s The Gifts of the Animals is a beautiful and elegant tale! She creatively imagines how the animals lovingly prepare for the birth of baby Jesus. The ox fills the manger with straw. The sheep share bits of wool. The birds pull downy feathers from their breasts and the tiny mice carefully arrange the offerings in the bed, as they all wait with anticipation for the baby’s birth.

Gerber’s fluid and poetic narrative is both soothing and joyous as the angels announce the arrival to the shepherds. Her rhyming story is condensed from The Book of Luke.  Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning watercolors are realistic, warm, joyful and celebratory. The gorgeous book cover is exquisite and heavenly. Children will delight in pouring over all of the details of this quiet and contemplative Christmas book. It is a perfect gift book that will surely become a family favorite.

Resource: Make sure you read the postscript of the story from the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, at the end of the story. Ask children what special gift that they might leave in the manger (a song, a poem etc.)  Hand them paints, markers and crayons and encourage children them to draw their own scene and their unique offering.

Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her most recent picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and  has taught middle school and high school English as well as college newswriting and factual writing at OSU. Learn more about Carole at her website.

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 website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Broken Ornament by Tony Diterlizzi

The Broken Ornament

Tony Diterlizzi, Author and Illustrator

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 18, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Christmas tree, Ornaments, Family relationships, Fairy, Fantasy, Magic

Opening: Jack wanted this to be the best Christmas ever! “I want more decorations,” he said. “That way Santa will see our house first.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Jack wants this to be the best Christmas ever, and he knows just how to make it happen.

More! More lights, more presents, more cookies, more treats. More. More. More! So, when Jack breaks a dusty old ornament, he’s not sure why his mom is so upset. They can always get more ornaments, so what’s the big deal? Turns out the ornament was an heirloom, precious for more reasons than one. And Jack has a lot to learn about the true meaning of Christmas.

A fairy emerges from the shattered ornament. She has the power to make the most magical Christmasy things happen. Suddenly trees are sprouting, reindeer are flying, and snowmen are snowball fighting. All of it is so perfect, or it would be if she could fix Mom’s ornament. But she can’t.

So it’s up to Jack to make some Christmas magic of his own.

Why I like this book:

There is so much heart, imagination, charm, humor and love in Tony Diterlizzi’s Christmas story. Kids make mistakes and want to make things right.  When Jack accidentally breaks his mother’s ornament,  he finds a heartfelt way to put a smile back on his mother’s face.  The message is simple and endearing – that making someone else happy is the best gift of all.

Diterlizzi’s colorful and playful illustrations are dazzling and fill this holiday story with magic and cheer. With the help of a fairy, the front door opens and elves, snowmen, nutcrackers, and reindeer leap across the pages and transform Jack’s house into a winter wonderland. Children will have a grand time studying each page to make sure they don’t miss any of the action. This book is a winner!

Resources: Visit the Tony Diterlizzi’s website where children will find holiday decorations, activities, a maze, and ornaments.

Tony Diterlizzi is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator who has created books with Simon & Schuster for over 20 years. His pictures books include Jimmy Zangwow’s Out-of-The-World Moon-Pie Adventure and The Spider and the Fly. His middle grade novels include Kenny & the Dragon and the WondLa trilogy,

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 website.

*Purchased copy.

The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan

The True Gift

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Brian Floca, Illustrator

Scholastic Books, Fiction, 2013

Pages: 81

Suitable for Ages: 7-11

Themes: Christmas, Farm, Animals, Cow, Gift, Family, Community

Synopsis:

Lily and Liam look forward to spending a few weeks alone at their grandparents’ farm during the holidays. Their parents arrive a few days before Christmas. The children save their money all year long to purchase gifts at the only store in town. Liam carries his money in an old sock, along with his stack of books. Lily has her stash too.  It’s always the perfect trip for Liam and Lily. They love their grandmother’s cooking, walking to the lilac library, trimming the tree, and giving gifts.

When they arrive, Liam notices that White Cow is standing alone near the fence in the pasture. The donkey is missing and Liam is worried that White Cow is lonely. He talks to his grandpa, who says “it’s hard to tell about cows.” When Liam visits the cow in the barn, the cow nudges him and almost knocks him off his feet. White Cow follows Liam around the barn. He watches and waits for Liam’s visits every day.

Liam goes to the library to research cows and discovers that they are social animals. He  may be right about cows feeling lonely. Liam can’t think of anything but White Cow. He and Lily come up with a plan that will make their visit different this year. This holiday, Lily and Liam will find out the meaning of a special gift that comes in different forms.

Why I like this book:

This is a heartwarming and original story for all animal lovers. Patricia MacLachlan’s signature spare and elegant prose tells a warm family story with a classic holiday theme. It is a celebration of family and community and the true meaning of giving. Brian FLoca’s full-page, detailed pencil drawings add a special touch to this holiday story.

The plot is well-paced and the chapters are short for young readers. The characters are memorable. Lily narrates the story and is a thoughtful older sister. Liam is kind and compassionate and can’t bear the thought of White Cow feeling sad. Lily is a bit afraid of White Cow’s size, but shares Liam’s wish to do something . They work well together as a team. I don’t want to give the story away, but this is such a perfect example of children making a difference in the world. And, they have others willing to help.

This is an endearing holiday classic from a wonderful storyteller. Parents will want to include The True Gift in their holiday book collection. Older children will be able to read it on their own. This is a book worth reading for both young and old alike.

Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include Skylark, Caleb’s Story, More Perfect than the Moon, Grandfather’s Dance, Word After Word After Word, Kindred Souls, The Truth of Me, The Poet’s Dog and My Father’s Words; she is also the author of many beloved picture books, a number of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Purchased copy.

The Brave Little Puppy by Lori Evert

brave-little-puppy-513orm7vwtl__sx448_bo1204203200_The Brave Little Puppy

Lori Evert, Author

Per Breiehagen, Photographer

Random House Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 13, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 2 – 5   Board Book

Themes: Nordic Christmas Tale, Lost puppy, Nature, Animals, Friends

Opening: “This is Anja’s puppy. His name is Birki.”

Synopsis: In this Nordic Christmas tale, Anja’s puppy is very curious. When Anja takes Birki for a ride in the basket of her sled, she doesn’t notice that her puppy falls out when she hits a bump. Brave and adorable Birki is lost and must find his way back to Anja. He sets off in the deep snow to follow Anja’s trail. Birki makes many new woodland friends on his journey — a polar bear, a wolf, a squirrel, a lynx and reindeer — who help him find his way to Anja.

Why I like this book:

Lori Evert and her photographer husband, Per Breiehagen, are back with another wintry 18th century Nordic adventure with their daughter, Anja, and her puppy, Birki. This tale is a board book for small hands. With simple and engaging text appropriate for young children, The Brave Little Puppy is a visual treasure, perfect for reading aloud and sharing at bedtime. Award-winning photographer Breiehagen captures the breathtaking and enchanting snow-covered landscapes, the wildlife and the touching moments between Anja and Birki.  This is another beautiful collaborative holiday offering by this husband-wife team, and their daughter Anja.

The Brave Little Puppy is the fourth book in The Wish Book series: The Christmas Wish, The Tiny Wish and The Reindeer Wish. Click on The Christmas Wish website to view enlarged photos from all the books. The three books will be made into a movies, starting with The Christmas Wish in 2017.

Resources: Visit Random House Kids for more information about The Wish Books.  Children can select their favorite photos from the books and send holiday e-cards to friends and family. They can download  and print selected photographs from the books and make their own holiday cards and ornaments. There is a video and other special activities for children.

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 Christmas Wish14858500_201309121500the-tiny-wish9780385379229_p0_v3_s260x420The Reindeer Wish51K66-2f6xL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_brave-little-puppy-513orm7vwtl__sx448_bo1204203200_

Star Bright

Star Bright9781416958581_p0_v2_s260x420Star Bright: A Christmas Story

Alison McGhee, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Atheneum Book for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 30, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Nativity: Nativity, Baby Jesus, Angels, Gifts, Christmas

Opening: “It was the end of December, and a baby was soon to be born. A baby! In the heavens, angels turned light with joy. On Earth, travelers prepared gifts.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: A baby is soon to be born, and the heavens are all abuzz. Yet one small angel peers down fretfully…What gift can she give this most important baby when the winds, the birds, and even the Magi are already bringing such wondrous treasures? With a heart so big, in a night so dark, she takes a big leap — and gives the most shining gift of all.

Why I like this book: Alison McGhee has written a kid-friendly story about a traditional story that will delight young readers. Written in very simple language, she truly captures the joy and spirit of Christmas and its meaning. This is a book that you can read to children or encourage them to read on their own because of the sparse text. Peter H. Reynolds has given this book a more contemporary look with his signature illustrations. The little angel is dressed in flight gear and goggles, checks out her computer to watch what gifts are being given to the new child.  The artwork is lively, whimsical, joyful, and compliments the story.  This book is a treasure and children will read it again and again

Alison McGhee is the New York Times bestselling author of Someday, Little Boy,  Bye-Bye Crib, Always, and A Very Brave Witch. Her other children’s books include All Rivers Flow to  the Sea, Countdown to Kindergarten, Snap and the Julia Gillian series.  Visit McGhee’s website.

Peter H. Reynolds has written and illustrated The Smallest Gift of Christmas, The Dot, Ish, North Star, Sky Color, and I’m Here, as well as collaborated on the Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald, and books with Judy Blume and Alison McGhee. Visit Reynolds’ website.

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.

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.

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.

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

Michael Keane, Author

Michael Garland, Illustrator

Regnery Kids, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes: Santa, Christmas, NORAD, Military, Teamwork

Opening/Synopsis‘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 the illustrations.

Why I like this book:   Michael Keane has written a beautiful picture book in the style of Clement Clark Moore’s The Night Before Christmas.  Every year millions of children track Santa on the NORAD Santa Tracker.  I especially like how Keane shows children the humanitarian side of the military.  The generals worldwide come together to develop a plan and teach kids about teamwork during a crisis.  They learn military language and the compassion of all services worldwide to serve the greater good.  There is even an element of suspense with the involvement of Special Ops teams.  The book speaks to the true nature of Christmas when we can set aside our difference and remember our humanity.  Michael Garland’s artwork is eye-popping.  His digital illustrations are bold, colorful, lively and will engage both young and older readers in looking at the detail.

Favorite Stanzas “The Commander-in-Chief was handed a phone/ Scramble the fighter jets/Send up a drone!/For both red state and blue state, this is a real threat!/It’s even much worse than our national debt!”

“Go Army!  Go Marines!  Go Navy and Air Force!/Call in the Reservists and the Guardsmen, of course!/To the ends of the earth, help with Santa’s big haul!/ Now march away! Fly away! Sail away, all!” 

Resources.  There are six wonderful pages of history about how the tradition began in 1955 with a very funny story involving an ad in the newspaper and a wrong phone number.  Have your kids track Santa on the NORAD Santa Tracker  on December 24, to check on Santa’s location in the world.  They can map Santa’s progress and learn about time zones.  NORAD volunteers take kids phone calls and respond to e-mails.  NORAD actually begins the countdown on December 1, so kids can visit the site daily.

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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.