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

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_

The Very Fairy Princess: Valentines from the Heart

The Very Fairy Princess Valentines from 61caklR2VdL__SX496_BO1,204,203,200_The Very Fairy Princess: Valentines from the Heart

Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, Co-authors

Christine Davenier, Illustrator

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Fiction, December 22, 2015

  • Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Valentine’s Day, Creativity, Compassion, Kindness, Friendship

Opening: “One of my FAVORITE days is coming up — Valentine’s Day! Fairy princesses are at their sparkly best making people smile, and what better way to do that than with a FABULOUS homemade card?”

Synopsis: Gerry makes home-made valentines for her classmates using glitter, sequins, glue and sparkly markers. Her mother gives her one of her father’s folders, to protect her valentines. When there is a mix-up in folders at home, Gerry needs to find another way to deliver her valentine message to her friends.

Why I like this book:

  • Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton have written a delightful reminder that gifts from the heart are meaningful, especially when delivered by a spunky and engaging character, Geraldine. Gerry believes she is a fairy princess because “the sparkle I feel inside tells me that it’s TRUE.” It is impressive how a special word like sparkle, can convey so much self-confidence to a child.
  • Gerry creatively personifies the power of compassion when she delivers her special sparkly message to each classmate. Her friends respond with surprise, kindness and generosity towards Gerry. This kind of authentic interaction between children just doesn’t get any better! Coming from Gerry, it is believable.
  • The book has a new format with bonus stickers and is perfectly suited for young readers. It is an excellent gift for Valentine’s Day.
  • Christine Davenier’s warm, expressive and whimsical pastel illustrations beautifully capture the compassionate tone of this timeless story of friendship for children.

Make sure you check out the other seven books and two Early Readers in the New York Times bestselling Very Fairy Princess series. The books hallmark self-confidence, creativity, problem-solving and radiate inner sparkle. They can be read in any order, but I encourage you to start with the very first book — that is where all the magic begins with Gerry, a passionate and memorable character. They are beautiful gift books. For more information, visit the Julie Andrews Collection and Emma Walton Hamilton’s website.

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The King Cake Baby

King Cake Baby51lbtJiI-nL__SX392_BO1,204,203,200_The King Cake Baby

Keila V. Dawson, Author

Vernon Smith, Illustrator

Pelican Publishing Company, Fiction, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: King cakes, Baby, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Gingerbread boy adaptation

Opening: Once upon a time, an old Creole woman and an old Creole man lived in New Orleans. They wanted to celebrate Kings’ Day on January 6, so the woman decided to make a king cake.

Synopsis:  The old woman makes the dough for her king cake and fills it with a cinnamon-sugar filling and a cream-cheese icing. She forms the dough into an oval shape and places the cake into the oven to bake.  While the cake is baking she makes the green, purple and gold sugar sprinkles for the topping. When she goes to the kitchen drawer to retrieve the king cake baby to put inside the cake, baby jumps out and runs away. She chases the baby, but he taunts her, “No, ma Cherie! You can’t catch me, I’m the King Cake Baby!” This cheeky baby has many close encounters with people in a rollicking chase through the French Quarters on his way to the Mississippi River — until he stops to brag.

Why I like this book:

Keila Dawson has created a lively and entertaining retelling of a favorite tale that introduces children to the unique New Orleans culture and its annual Mardi Gras celebration. With lively Creole characters, skillful rhythm and pacing, fun dialect and repetitive language, children will all be chanting “No,  ma Cherie! You can’t catch me, I’m the King Cake Baby!” It’s a fun rhyme or song that builds suspense throughout the book. Dawson adds her own special twist to her king cake baby tale.

Vernon Smith’s colorful, bold and expressive comic-book-style illustrations will appeal to children as they beg to have the story read just one more time. Both Dawson and Smith capture this humorous tale along with the traditions of New Orleans in their wonderful collaborative effort.

The king cake baby escapes on January 6, the day of the Three Kings, a time when the people of New Orleans are baking and eating king cake at the start of Mardi Gras, which leads up to Lent.

Resources: There is and Author’s Note and an Easy King Cake recipe at the end of the story that you can bake with your children.  This book is also an excellent classroom book for teachers to jump-start conversations about Louisiana, the French and Creole dialects, the residents and their culture and traditions. Visit Keila Dawson at her website, where you will find a free study guide with lessons, activities and crafts.

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.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings

Oskar and Eight Blessings51kJJQr3hbL._SY399_BO1,204,203,200_Oskar and the Eight Blessings

Richard and Tanya Simon, Authors

Mark Siegel, Illustrator

Roaring Book Press, Fiction, Sep. 8, 2015

Pages: 40

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Kindness, Refugees, Jews, Holocaust, Hanukkah, Blessings, New York City

Prologue: “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.”

Book Opening lines: Oskar arrived in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah. It was also Christmas Eve.

Book Jacket Synopsis: It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. Oskar, a refugee from the horrors of Nazi Europe, arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he’s never met. As he walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his aunt’s home uptown, he encounters the sights of the city at holiday time — and receives small acts of kindness from its people, each in its way welcoming him to the city and a life in the new world.

Why I like Oskar and the Eight Blessings:

Richard and Tanya Simon’s heartwarming story captures the best of New York and its residents who welcome Oskar to their city through their generous spirits and acts of kindness– a helping hand, a loaf of bread, a superman magazine, a snowball fight, a pair of mittens, and a friendly wink. It is the essence of what America is about, welcoming immigrants fleeing oppression or seeking a better life.

The story is realistic and believable for children. The characters are diverse. The plot is engaging. Oskar is overwhelmed by how small he feels in such a big city. He is tired and hungry. The sights and sounds are strange and confusing. Oskar is brave and remembers the wise fatherly advice he receives that wraps him in warmth during his 100-block journey to his aunt’s house.

This Hanukkah story, set in 1938, is timeless and should be shared with children no matter what tradition they celebrate. Compassion and kindness towards others is not limited to color, race or culture. This is a story of hope for humanity.

Mark Siegel’s illustrations are hauntingly beautiful. With spare text, the illustrations are expressive and really show the story. There is so much feeling captured in the characters eyes and smiles. The illustrations are uplifting.

Resources: An Author’s Note offers historical insight into the story, a glossary provides definitions of key words, and a map shows Oskar’s walk up Broadway in 1938.

Check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s review of Oskar and the Eight Blessings, on Perfect Picture Book Friday, which will return January 8.

The Reindeer Wish

The Reindeer Wish51K66-2f6xL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_The Reindeer Wish

Lori Evert, Author

Per Breiehagen, Illustrator

Random House for Kids, Fiction, Oct. 6, 2015

Pages: 48

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Christmas, Wishes, Reindeer, Arctic region, Nature, Adventure, Friendship

Opening: Long, long ago, far to the north and high in the snowy mountains, where you could ski for days and never see another soul, lived a kind little girl named Anja.

Synopsis: Anja wants a puppy for Christmas. School is out for the holidays and she is lonely. She writes a letter to Santa and places it in the postbox. After spending Christmas Eve skiing down her favorite snowy hill, Anja finds a wild baby reindeer abandoned under a tree. Her parents let her care for the little reindeer in the hay shed. Anja is thrilled with her gift and names the reindeer Odin.

Odin gets stronger daily. By spring, Odin’s antlers begin to grow. Anja and Odin become best friends and spend the summer exploring the budding countryside, the cascading waterfalls, and the mountains.

Anja roofTHE REINDEER WISH_@PER RBEIEHAGEN-19Photograph courtesy of Per Breiehagen

As winter returns early to the arctic, Anja teaches Odin to pull a sleigh. She begins with her little sled packed with heavy sacks. By Christmas, Anja decides Odin is ready to pull her father’s sleigh. They borrow the sleigh and search for the perfect Christmas tree to decorate for Santa. On another journey with Odin, Anja sees a herd of reindeer along a ridge. She wonders if Oden would be happier living with other reindeer. How could she give up her best friend? She knows she must make a decision.

Anja sledTHE REINDEER WISH_@PER RBEIEHAGEN-20Photograph courtesy of Per Breiehagen

Why I like The Reindeer Wish:

  • Lori Evert and her husband, Per Breiehagen, have teamed up to create their second enchanting and richly textured Nordic Christmas tale featuring their rosy-cheeked daughter, Anja. The Reindeer Wish is a magical tale of friendship, bravery and believing. It will give children something to wonder about.
  • The setting is realistic and contributes to the fairy tale charm. Anja is bundled up in authentic 18th century Norwegian clothing, reindeer boots, and slender wooden skis with straps. Her rustic log house has an earthen roof. The text is friendly and imparts information about nature and survival in the arctic.
  • I have shared some of the story, but I have not given away the unexpected ending that will delight both children and adults.
  • Award-winning photographer Per Breiehagen captures this beautiful story with his extraordinary photographs of breathtaking landscapes and playful scenes of Anja interacting with animals and nature. Readers will journey through the seasons in this story and experience the beautiful Northern Lights. Exquisite!
  • This is a beautiful collaborative effort by this husband and wife team, and their daughter Anja. Fans of The Christmas Wish and The Tiny Wish will want to add this heartwarming treasure to their collection. It will open their hearts to the magic and wonder of Christmas.

Anja ornamentTHE REINDEER WISH_@PER RBEIEHAGEN-21Resources: Visit the Random House for Kids for more information about the book. Click on the activity page and download The Reindeer Wish ornaments, a Santa wish list, a reindeer adventure page and coloring pages. Kids can also view a video and send a free Christmas e-card of their favorite photograph to  friends. Make sure you also visit The Christmas Wish website to see enlarged pictures of all three books.

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.

America’s White Table — Veterans Day

I reviewed America’s White Table for Veteran’s Day four years ago. Every year many people search my website to read about this tradition. I decided I would share it again. Enjoy!

America's White Table14673149America’s White Table is written by Margot Theis Raven and illustrated by Mike Benny for children of all ages.  I was delighted to find a book about this very simple, but deeply meaningful tradition observed by service members for over 40 years.  Few civilians are familiar with the symbolism.  It seemed the perfect book to share on Veterans Day.  Raven tells a moving story, and at the end  provides a detailed history of the origin of the White Table and how it became a symbol of caring for our MIA and POW service members after the Vietnam War.  Benny’s subdued pastel paintings add to the mood of the solemn occasion that transcends generations.

It is Veterans Day and Katie’s mother has invited her Uncle John for dinner.  She explains to Katie and her two sisters that they will  be setting a separate little table,  just like the ones that will be set in  Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy dining halls across America to honor the men and women who have served their country.  Mama gets out a white tablecloth,  a single empty  chair, a white plate, silver ware, a black napkin, an overturned glass, a white candle and a red rose in a vase tied with a red ribbon.  She explains the significance of each item on the table, and what it will mean to Uncle John.

Much to Katie and her sister’s surprise, they learn a special story about their favorite uncle from their mother.  Uncle John was on a rescue mission in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down over enemy territory.  He was taken as a Prisoner of War (POW).  Uncle John found an opportunity to escape and carried his wounded friend on his back to safety.  He was a hero.

Katie and her sisters are in awe when they hear the story.  Katie stares at the little white table and feels there is something missing.  The girls come up with a special idea and surprise their uncle at dinner.  Uncle John is moved beyond words by their loving gesture.

This is an outstanding book that will touch the hearts of young and old alike.  It is a time to remember and honor those who are not with us.