Dasher by Matt Tavares

Dasher

Matt Tavares, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Reindeer, Circus, Nature, Santa, Christmas

Opening: “Life was not easy for the reindeer family of J.P. Finnegan’s Traveling Circus and Menagerie.”

Synopsis:

Dasher is a brave little doe with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with family under the hot sun in a traveling circus, but she longs for a different life. Dasher listens to Mama’s story of a “magical place” where she and Papa were free to roam under the glow of the North Star, and yearns to go there. One night a strong wind opens the gate to the circus pen. Dasher knows this is her chance to escape, so she runs into the forest with the North Star as her guide.

It’s not too long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a big sleigh. The sleigh is heavy with toys for children and is pulled by a tired horse, Silverbell. Dasher offers her help. She likes the idea of making children happy.  Santa attaches her harness and before she realizes it, she’s looking at the ground beneath her and the stars before her. And, soon, with the help of a powerful wish, Christmas will never be the same.

Why I like this book:

Matt Tavares has crafted an original new holiday tale that focuses on the origins of Dasher, Santa’s first reindeer. It is a visual journey that will delight children and the young at heart. It’s message is perfect for the holiday season.

Everything about Dasher is gorgeous and elegant. Tavares’ has beautifully designed his book with luscious illustrations that resemble paintings in muted and soulful colors. The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and pastel.  Some pages have double-spreads with minimal text and others have artwork on one side of the page and the story printed on a pure white page. The story is a little longer, but I doubt children will mind at all. They will be holding onto every word of this magical story. The front cover and the illustrations are simply stunning.

Tavares’ story is also about family and the meaning of home. Dasher is the youngest reindeer in her family and is filled with a lot of heart. She has big dreams, a love of family and a wish for a better life for her family. After she helps Santa with the deliveries, Santa brings her to her new home of snow and cold air — the place in Mama’s stories.  Even though is wonderful, Dasher “misses her family and wishes they could be together” under the glow of the North Star. I won’t spoil the story.

This enchanting story is sure to become a Christmas treasure that you will look forward to reading aloud to your family each year.

Matt Tavares is the author-illustrator of Crossing Niagara, Henry Aaron’s Dream, There Goes Ted Williams, Becoming Babe Ruth, and Growing Up Pedro, as well as Zachary’s Ball, Oliver’s Game, and Mudball. He is the illustrator of “Twas the Night Before Christmas, Over the River and Through the Woods, Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport, The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, and Jubilee! by Alicia Potter. Most recently he wrote and illustrated the enchanting Christmas tale Red & Lulu.

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.

Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Around the Table That Grandad Built

Melanie Heuiser Hill, Author

Jaime Kim, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Holidays, Traditions, Multigenerational, Thanksgiving, Diversity

Opening: This is the table that Grandad built. These are the sunflowers picked by my cousins, set on the table that Grandad built.

Book Synopsis:

In a delightful take on the cumulative classic “This Is the House That Jack Built,” a family  gathers with friends and neigbors to share a meal around a very special table.  The table brims with memorable associations: napkins sewn by Mom, glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding, silverware gifted to Dad by his grandmother long ago. And of course there is a delightful spread of food — the squash and potatoes from the garden, bread baked by Gran, and pies made by family and friends. All give thanks.

Why I like this book:

Melanie Heuiser Hill’s Around the Table That Grandad Built is a joyous celebration of family, friends and community. It is sure to become a favorite family treasure, perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday feast.

It also is a multigenerational book that quietly emphasizes diversity through food, faces and culture. Grandad’s table is a gesture of openness and inclusivity.  Coming to feast at the table is a time to build upon memories, show gratitude, recognize similarities and give thanks. The children are the new generation honoring the old but making new memories.

The cover showcases Jaime Kim’s bold and colorful Illustrations, as well as the joy and anticipation on the childrens’ faces.  Who wouldn’t want to dine at this table!

Resources: As the holidays approach, include them in the special activities like setting the table, making the table decorations, helping with the food preparation and baking. Talk about inviting a veteran or someone who is alone to join you. Create some new traditions.

Melanie Heuiser Hill is the author of the middle-grade novel Giant Pumpkin Suite. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and children.  About Around the Table That Grandad Built, she says, “I have a fondness for long tables crowded with food food and loved ones — and homemade pie for dessert.” Visit Melanie’s website where she shares stories of her large family and photographs.

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 publisher.

Snitchy Witch by Frank J. Sileo

Snitchy Witch

Frank J. Sileo, Author

MacKenzie Haley, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Tattling vs. Telling, Witches, School, Friendship, Halloween

Opening: It was a full moon at Camp Spellbound. Every year, witches from all over fly in on their brooms. It’s a hair-raising, fun time.

Book Synopsis:

Wanda Witch is a snitch. And Winnie and William and all the other witches at Camp Spellbound can only take so much! Will the snitchy witch find out on her own that she needs to stop snitching? Or will her friends need to use their magical powers to get Wanda to quit?

Why I like this book:

I love how Frank J. Sileo tackles the topic of tattling in a Halloween-themed story. There is a lot of fun word play and a great colorful cast of charachters.

Snitchy Witch is a story kids will understand whether they are the tattler or the teller. This is a perfect book to tackle social skills with children at home or in the classroom. Tattling can be hurtful to others and it can be isolating for the tattler. No one wants to be around a snitch.  It makes other kids angry. Telling is when something is not safe or in trouble.

Wanda is a spunky little witch who just won’t mind her own business. I enjoyed how the other little witches confront her on their own terms and share their feelings of anger and hurt. When Wanda continues to snitch, they cast a spell on her to teach her a lesson.

Oh moon so full, round, and bright. For witches who tattle, witches who snitch, tie their tongues, zip their lips! No witch shall squeal or tell on friends. This spell will be broken when the snitching ends!” 

MacKenzie Haley’s beautiful illustrations are lively, entertaining and colorful. Just look at that cover! She perfectly captures the snitching theme in a humorous tale of learning when it’s important to say something to a teacher/parent or try to work things out on your own.

Resources:  There is a Note to Grown-Up Witches at the end of the book about snitchy little witches. The guide will help little witches talk about the difference between “snitching” and “telling.” This is a great classroom exercise.

Frank J. Sileo, PhD, is a psychologist and the founder and executive director of The Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey.  He is the author of nine other award-winning children’s books, including Sally Sore Loser: A Story About Winning and Losing, Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence, A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness, Did You Hear?: A Story About Gossip, Bee Still: An Invitation to Meditation, and Bee Calm: The Buzz on Yoga. Visit  Sileo at his 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.

Pippa’s Passover Plate by Vivian Kirkfield

Pippa’s Passover Plate

Vivian Kirkfield, Author

Jill Weber, Illustrator

Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Passover meal, Seder Plate, Jewish Holiday,

Opening: Hurry, scurry, Pippa Mouse, / washing, scrubbing cleaning house. / Passover starts at six tonight, / Seder meal by candlelight.

Publisher Synopsis:

Sundown is near, and it’s almost time for Seder to begin. Where is Pippa’s special Passover Plate?

Pippa the Mouse has been working hard all day– cleaning her house, setting the table, cooking the meal. Everything looks great– but her special Seder plate is missing!

Searching through her tiny house turns up nothing, so Pippa ventures out to ask her neighbors if they can help. Bravely, she asks the other animals for help, but the snake, owl, and cat haven’t seen her plate, either. But it’s almost time for the Seder to begin, so she keeps looking– and when she finds it, she invites all the other animals home to join her celebration.

A charming story with a happy ending, Pippa’s Passover Plate pairs simple, rhyming text with bright paintings by Jill Weber, illustrator of The Story of Passover and The Story of Esther. In bravely facing her animal neighbors, this adorable little mouse finds not only her missing Seder plate– but new friends along the way.

Why I like this book:

Vivian Kirkfield’s charming picture book will help children learn about joyful Passover traditions. The story is fun and lively and flows effortlessly in rhyme.  It is a perfect book to read aloud, as the words will roll off your tongue. Jewish or not, readers will relate to the how busy Pippa is in preparing for a holiday meal and the memories made with friends and family.

I especially enjoyed learning about the Seder plate and the six symbolic items that are carefully arranged for Passover: beitzah,(an egg), zeroah (a roasted bone), maror (horseradish root), and charoset (chopped apple, walnut, and red wine), chazeret (Romaine lettuce), and karpas (a sprig of parsley or onion or boiled potato).

Jill Weber’s brightly painted illustrations accentuate the feeling of spring. Most important, they show a very expressive and brave Pippa as she journeys around the woodland searching for her Seder plate. And they showcase Kirkfield’s beautiful text. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources:  Encourage children to participate in preparing the food items for the family Seder Plate. Or you can give them a plain white plate and paint pens to draw the food items on their very-own Seder Plate. It is an easy craft and keepsake for kids and family.

Vivian Kirkfield is a children’s picture book author and a former kindergarten teacher and early childhood educator. A passionate advocate for children and reading, she is the creator of the popular blog Picture Books Help Kids Soar and the author of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, and her newly released, Sweet Dreams, Sarah.

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.

*Reviewed from a book won in a giveaway on Diane Tulloch’s website, Writer and Dreamer at Work.

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 Queen and the First Christmas Tree by Nancy Churnin

 

The Queen and the First Christmas Tree: Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England

Nancy Churnin, Author

Luisa Uribe, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Nonfiction, Oct. 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-7

Themes: Christmas Tree, England, Queen Charlotte, History, Tradition

Opening: “Charlotte wasn’t like other princesses.”

Synopsis:

When Princess Charlotte left her home in Germany to marry King George III of England in 1761, she brought her family’s favorite Christmas tradition with her — decorating a yew bough with flowers and ribbons.

Years later, Charlotte became a queen devoted to charity and bettering the lives of families. She planned a Christmas Day celebration for more than one hundred children, rich and poor to mark the turn of the century. But she needed more than a yew branch to make the day special. She needed a tree decked with candles and paper baskets of treats. Though such a thing had never been seen before in England, Charlotte and her descendants would make the Christmas tree a cherished part of the holiday season.

Charlotte loved helping children so much she went on to build orphanages with cozy beds and loving caregivers. She also built hospitals for expectant mothers so more women would survive to care for their children. She had a love nature and spent long hours in the gardens of Windsor Castle.

What I like about this book:

The holidays are special time for gathering and sharing. This charming story will introduce children to the history of a cherished tradition — the Christmas tree — brought to England by a German princess.  Nancy Churnin’s richly textured story is light-hearted and will remind children and parents of the magic and wonder of decorating the family tree. Luisa Uribe’s illustrations are lively and joyful, but capture the simplicity of the early 1800s.

Queen Charlotte loved her own 15 children, but had a big heart for all children. She planned a party for 100 children to celebrate the new century in 1800. The children at court helped her cut string, and wrap nuts, fruit and toys in colored papers and hung them on a tree.  They added small wax  candles to light the tree. Charlotte was a queen focused on serving.

Resources: Make sure you read the two-page spread about Queen Charlotte at the end of the book and how this tradition continued with her children, including Queen Victoria. And check out Nancy Churnin’s website for a Teacher’s Guide and activities for children to share about what they do for others.  And talk about how early Christmas trees were decorated and how they are decorated today.

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 publisher.

The Night Before the Fourth of July by Natasha Wing

The Night Before the Fourth of July

Natasha Wing, Author

Amy Wummer, Illustrator

Grosset & Dunlap, Fiction, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Independence Day, Celebration, Fireworks, Family

Synopsis: It’s the night before the Fourth of July and all across the United States people are getting ready for hot dogs and fireworks. Decked in red, white, and blue, a family heads to a parade, hosts a backyard BBQ with friends and family, dodges an afternoon thundershower, and of course, watches a fireworks show. The Night Before the Fourth of July captures all the fun, excitement, and pride of the best summer holiday!

Natasha Wing brings all the excitement and fun to life in the pages of this celebration of our nation’s history. The rhyming is fun and playful.  Amy Wummer’s illustrations are lively and colorful. This is the perfect book to introduce young children ages 3-5, to our joyful American birthday party, emphasizing family, diversity and tradition. This is the 20th book in “The Night Before…” series. Collect them all!

Resources: What are you going to do on the Fourth of July? Will you dress-up, attend a parade, go to a family picnic, and watch fireworks? Will you wave a flag? Adults will find the book will bring back a flood of  childhood memories they can share with their children.

Natasha Wing is the author of When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon, 2017. She has written nearly 25 books in her “The Night Before…” series which deal with Easter, Christmas, Father’s Day, Preschool, Summer Camp, Kindergarten and many more delightful holidays and celebrations. She was born in Connecticut and now lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. After graduating from Arizona State University, she worked in advertising. It wasn’t until 1991 that she decided to write children’s books. Luckily she sold her first book within six months and has been writing children’s books and articles ever since.  Visit Natasha 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.

Jingle Bells by Susan Jeffers

Jingle Bells

Susan Jeffers, Artist/Illustrator

Harper Collins Children’s Books, Fiction, Sep. 26, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Sleigh Ride, Winter, Jingle Bells, Adventure, Ice Skating, Holiday Book

Opening: Jingle bells, jingle bells.

Synopsis: Ride along through a winter wonderland with a girl, a boy, and their pony — plus a mischievous dog! It’s a joyous adventure to Grandma’s house where a very special guest helps spread the yuletide cheer.

Why I like this story:

Artist Susan Jeffers’ takes children on an enchanted wintry journey set to lyrics of this beloved and joyful holiday song, Jingle Bells. Jeffers’ pastel illustrations are lavish and energetic. Each double-page spread captures the magnificent detail of the winter woodland scenes with romping furry critters, a playful dog bounding alongside the sleigh and a big adventure with a few bumps along the way. The ending is very clever.  This book is a lovely keepsake and gift.

Children will have fun searching for the many animals Jeffers has hidden among the trees and in the snowy bushes. There is a picture guide of the hidden winter critters at the end of the book.

Susan Jeffers, the Caldecott Honor and New York Times bestselling artist of The Nutcracker and The Twelve Days of Christmas. She won the ABBY Award from the American Booksellers Association and a Caldecott Honor from the American Library Association. Her work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. Her books have sold millions of copies and have been published around the world. Visit Jeffers at her website.

Resources: Take a walk outside in the fresh snow and identify animal footprints. Look for signs of their burrows.  Sing Jingle Bells. Go sledding.

Happy holidays everyone!

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.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

Pick a Pine Tree

Patricia Toht, Author

Jarvis, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Sep. 19, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Choosing  a Christmas tree, Nature, Decorating, Family traditions, Holidays

Opening: “Pick a pine tree from the lot — slim and tall, or short and squat. One with spiky needle clumps, scaly bark, or sappy bumps.”

Book Synopsis: One of the most beloved Christmas traditions begins each year with … picking out a pine tree! Then bringing out boxes stuffed with trimmings, string garlands from bough to bough, and finally turning on the twinkling lights. Once that’s all done it’s not just a pine tree anymore — it’s a Christmas tree!

Why I like this book:

Patricia Toht’s lyrical and rhyming text flows nicely and pairs beautifully with Jarvis’ joyful illustrations. It reminds children and parents of the magic and wonder of this time-honored family tradition. This story will become a favorite family read each year. It’s imaginative and will stir up so many memories.

I like that the family is interracial, with a white father and dark-skinned mother. Other characters helping in the festive activity represent different ethnicities.

Jarvis’ large, colorful digital illustration are done in pencil, chalk and paint. They are all double-page spreads that are filled with a lot of detail kids will enjoy exploring. The illustrations have a retro feel to them and illuminate the entire adventure. Once the tree is decorated, the page turn reveals the completed tree in all its splendor.

I would recommend giving this picture book to children before Christmas to give them ideas and increase their excitement. The book is filled with so much nostalgia, especially for parents who remember a time when we all had real trees.  This is also a great classroom book. Visit Patricia Toht at her website.

Resources: Every family has its own traditions for picking and decorating their Christmas tree. My favorite activity is to share a memory about many of the ornaments your family has collected over the years. The author also has some wonderful activities for decorating your Christmas tree on 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.