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 Carpenter’s Gift

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

David Rubel, author and Jim LaMarche, illustrator

Suitable for: Ages 5 and Up

Random House, September 2011, Fiction

Theme:  Giving, Kindness, Depression Era, Christmas Trees, Rockefeller Center

Opening:  “Nearly a lifetime had passed, but Henry could still remember what it felt like to wake up in the old shack, especially during wintertime.  In those days, the Great Depression gripped the country, and like many people, Henry’s parents were out of work.  They couldn’t afford coal for the stove or warm blankets for the beds, so young Henry usually woke up with a shiver.  But he didn’t complain, because it was nobody’s fault.  Instead, he visited warm places in his mind.” 

SynopsisHenry’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.

On Christmas morning Henry awakens to tooting horns and trucks full of lumber.  Frank and his workers who have come to build a home for Henry’s family.  Frank hands Henry a hammer to help and to keep as a gift.   Henry is so grateful for his new home, that he decides to plant the pinecone he saved  from the tree near the new house.  Over the years Henry becomes a skilled carpenter.  The spruce tree grows very tall, and Henry grows older.  One day Henry repays the gift that grew from that special pinecone.

Why I like this book:   This is a book that can be celebrated throughout the year.  It is written by children’s historian David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity.  Each year the Rockefeller Christmas tree is milled and donated to Habitat for Humanity, to build homes for families in needs.  There is a two-page history about the Rockefeller Christmas tree which was first erected in 1931 by construction workers.   The second page is devoted to Habitat for Humanity International which has built 400,000 homes around the world since 1976.  Jim LaMarche’s illustrations are stunning, gentle, emotional and luminous.

Activity:  Take your family to your community tree lighting ceremony.  Parents and teachers can turn this beautiful story into a tree-planting project at home and school during the year.  Links to resources: http://www.habitat.org/youthprograms/parent_teacher_leader/parent_teacher_leader_resources.aspx.   For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

Perfect Picture Book – Christmas City

Christmas City:  A Look Again Book

Michael Garland, author and illustrator

Puffin Books,  2004, Fiction

Suitable for:  Children ages 4 to 8

Themes: Christmas Eve Adventure, Giving, Imagination,  Hide-and-Seek Activity

Opening“It was Christmas Eve.  Tommy was sorting through the last few Christmas cards when he found one addressed to him.  There was a note inside from Aunt Jean to join her at once….Tommy put on his hat and coat and walked out into the snowy night.  Sure enough, there was a yellow taxi waiting for him, buried in snow up to its fenders.  The driver was a strange little man who had to stand on the seat to see out the windshield.  He didn’t answer when Tommy said hello.  He just smiled and handed Tommy a note.  But before Tommy could read it, the quiet night was broken by the roar of the engine.  This was no ordinary cab!  Tommy gasped as it lifted off the ground into the air.”

Tommy is taken on the ride of his life  when he arrives at a special destination,  Christmas City.   He enters the Grand Palace and embarks upon a treasure hunt created by Aunt Jean, who leaves rhyming mystery notes around this sparkling city.  Each note leads to a fun destination and a final surprise.  Tommy encounters a courtyard with horse-drawn sleighs, street vendors, elves, ice sculptures, gift shops,  musicians and dancers,  and a grand dining hall.  But, where is Aunt Jean?  Christmas City is a wonderful  addition to every Christmas book shelf.

Why I like this book:  This is a book siblings can read together.  Younger kids will be captivated by the breathtaking pictures and Tommy’s adventure.  Older children will spend hours looking for the 200 items hidden in the pages of the book, decoding a holiday message, and finding their way through a maze.  Garland’s attention to detail is exquisite and his illustrations are dazzling.  Click on my author interview with Michael Garland  (11/30/11) to learn more about the artist and his new book, Oh! What A Christmas.

Activity:  This Look Again Book is educational.  Arm your children with pencils and paper so they can count and list all the items that they find inside the book.  On the last page, Garland lists all the items in a maze-like pattern.   Parents may want to have their own Christmas treasure hunt.  Leave notes for children to search for small gifts and candy, a recipe with ingredients to bake cookies, and items to make treats for their outside furry friends (i.e. peanut butter on pine cones, strung cranberries for an outdoor tree, bird seed hangers).  For more information about other books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Every Friday I will share my Perfect Picture Book, as will other writers on their blogs.  Our selections will be posted on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website under Perfect Picture  Books.  We hope to develop a list of favorite picture books for parents, teachers, librarians,  writers, homeschoolers and gift-givers.