When I was a full-time employee at Barnes and Noble (for far too long at the age of 21 and 22 years), I invested my paycheck in books. I didn’t just buy art books or fiction books, but childrens’ books. I have a grand collection of childrens’ books from that time. After all, I did work in the children’s department when I got kicked out of the adult section for reorganizing the tattoo books into the art section and out of sociology. Sigh to the uncreative manager I had at Barnes and Noble. Because of my love for books, each year I invest in new holiday books for our bookshelves. Here are some newly published ones that I recommend.
Books About Winter
Ages 2-5 years
This book has gotten starred reviews from virtually all the heavy book reviewers out there: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and the School Library Journal. This special book deserves it. The simple plot allows for some flat-out gleeful fun. A bear finds a red sled propped up on the side of a cabin and, intrigued, takes it for a spin- along with all his woodland pals. Each page shows a new creature holding on for the sled ride of its life. The text consists entirely of the animals sounds as they react to the wild and meandering sled ride. When my 5 year old saw the book he told me it was a “baby book.” After 2 pages of hearing it read aloud, he clambered up on the bed and giggled at the sounds and illustrations. This book is one of my 3 year old new favorites. Delightful book.
Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrated by: Marla Frazee
This book has garnered accolades from Book List, Publishers Weekly and others for not only the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Marla Frazee’s illustrations, but the breezy language of this new book. We love this book in our family and it has become a frequently requested read at night. This book has in it the spirit of “Owl Moon”- that if we look, hear and feel- there is wonder in the world everywhere. There are stars in the moss that climbs the tree, stars in snowflakes and stars in the dried up leaves of dandelions. Stars can also transform: a star sticker can make a child a sheriff, a star wand can bestow wishes and you can even wish on a star. This lovely book creates wonderful opportunities for you to discuss abstract thoughts through visual symbols. I feel sure that this will become a classic book over time.
Books About Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas
This new book has gorgeous and intricate drawings that illustrate the famous song with shades of symbolism. But, what’s truly unique about it is that each day’s new gift is repeated in each sequential drawing- and they are hidden throughout each page. Kids ages 5 years and up will love searching for the hidden doves or rings until the book culminates in one fantastical spread, incorporating each days’ gift. The younger set might struggle with finding the items in the busy illustrations, but can enjoy the book nonetheless.
The Magical Christmas Horse
Mary Higgins Clark
Illustrated by: Wendell Minor
Ages 4-8 years
This adult fiction author is a master of suspense and she uses it to captivate younger readers with her new Christmas book. Young Johnny goes to visit his grandparents for Christmas on their tree farm. He remembers a special rocking horse in his grandparents’ attic which he wants to give to his little brother for a Christmas present. When it’s nowhere to be found, he goes searching. This nostalgic book is a sweet reminder of how wonderful and magical it can feel to be at a grandparents’ home for the holiday. The traditional drawings illustrate the sweeping rural farm and cozy interiors of the farmhouse.
Books About Hanukkah
The Hanukkah Hop
Illustrated by: Steven D’Amico
This feels like the perfect Brooklyn Hanukkah story. Rachel and her parents prepare their apartment for a party- including a rocking klezmer band. They sing, light candles and dance the Hanukkah Hop. The rythmic rhyming lyrics are fun to read aloud and have a distinctive beebop beat to them. The 1960’s style mod illustrations are in perfect timing with the beat of the words. It all makes for a lively, youthful take on celebrating Hanukkah.
Eight Winter Nights
Laura Krass Melmed
Illustrated by: Elisabeth Schlossberg
I got this book not because I love the story- in fact, there is none- but because it explains the traditions of Hanukkah so clearly with carefully constructed (but not overly wordy) rhymes. There are a lot of Hanukkah books out there that set out to explain the traditions of the Festival of Lights with either language that is too didactic or twisted around to make a rhyme that doesn’t really work. Laura Krass Melmed does an excellent job of finding just the right rhymes to make the lyrics easily understandable to even 3 year olds. It’s a perfect primer for a child that wants to understand the holiday. The illustrations are done in pastel and have a warm, fuzzy feel that contribute to the feeling of a cozy family gathering.