Picture Books for the Season

Hanukkah is just around the corner, and several new books will be fun to share with little ones. Jane Yolen’s popular dinosaur series has a double entry for the season this year.  How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? and How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? both go through many of the traditions of each holiday.  In the first half of the story, extremely large dinosaur “children,” illustrated grandly by Mark Teague, are grumpy or misbehaving. In the second half, they do a 180 turnaround with actions to melt a parent’s heart.  Children will be able to identify with some of the potential holiday disasters, and they generally find it very humorous to see how much bigger the dinosaurs are than their human parents.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko shows how one child celebrates both sets of beliefs and traditions with her parents.  At Sadie’s house, latkes are left out for Santa and the Menorah has candy canes.  This book will be fun for families that observe both holidays and revel in a little bit of holiday chaos.  Older children who like to help in the kitchen might enjoy Maccabee Meals by Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler.  Simple recipes and instructions with fun illustrations make this cookbook kid-friendly.  Recipes are divided into various meals, from brunch to Shabbat dinner to pajama party food.

Sweetness abounds in several new Christmas books perfect for sharing while snuggled in a big armchair with your favorite toddler.  Puppy’s First Christmas by Stevel Smallman and Alison Edgson is a choice for our Christmas storytime on December 13th.  Puppy cannot figure out what is going on at his house. First, his owners brought in a tree and covered it with shiny lights and balls (which he is not supposed to play with), and now, they nailed their socks on the wall.  When Cat explains about Christmas and Santa Claus, the two cuddly pets decide to stay up to meet him.  Furry felt hats on pages throughout the story give little hands something soft to feel while you read.

Together at Christmas by Eileen Spinelli is a cute countdown book, beautifully illustrated by Bin Lee.  Ten little mice on a snowy night try to find a warm place to sleep, but eventually they all end up back together in a hollow log where there’s room for everyone.  In Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw, a piece of red cloth is “just right” for a cloak for a princess. After the King’s sewing maids are done with the gift, the scraps of cloth are left outside the door where a girl finds them. They are just right for her to make a gift for her mother. The scraps from each project work their way down until the final piece becomes a scarf for a mother mouse’s son.  And each gift is just right.

Need something to do while waiting for Santa to fall down the chute?  Bruce Hale’s Santa on the Loose is a Where’s Waldo style mystery, and kids can pass the time inspecting the colorful pages to find Santa and all the clues.  Santa Retires by David Biedrzycki is as silly as it gets, with Santa doing cannonballs into the pool, taking hula lessons, and making sand snowmen. But will he really skip Christmas for good?  This one is great to get the giggles going.

Bob Shea’s new dinosaur book will be another big hit.  You’ve already seen him in Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and Dinosaur vs. the Potty – now he’s kicked it up a notch to Dinosaur vs. Santa!  Follow this festive dino kid as he roars his way through decorating the tree, crafting presents for his parents, and even being extra good.  If he can just fall asleep on Christmas Eve, Dinosaur will win again!

Rabbit’s Snow Dance by James and Joseph Bruchac is a real winter treasure.  Joseph Bruchac has written many children’s books with Native American themes, often retelling tales that have been passed on orally for generations. He wrote this traditional Iroquois story with his son, James, also an author and storyteller.  It is summer, but Rabbit wants snow so he can walk on top of it and reach the yummy leaves and buds. Rabbit is very impatient and begins drumming and singing his snow song – “EE-OOO! Thump! Thump! EE-OOO! Thump! Thump! YO, YO, YO!”  The snow falls, covering the other animals and pushing Rabbit to the top of the trees, just as he wanted. But a sunny ending to the book leaves Rabbit in the lurch and also explains why bunnies have very short tails.  Jeff Newman’s expressive paintings of Rabbit and his friends are lively and fun. Don’t be surprised if you have little ones drumming and chanting after hearing this story.

Printed in The Mercury 12-2-12

Reviewed by Jennifer

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

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