A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  Bear has never celebrated Christmas, but his research has shown him what the most important element is: pickles.  When Mouse comes over on Christmas Eve, he can’t help searching the house for presents, even as Bear is reminding him that pickles and poetry are what will make their holiday special.  They sit down to the pickle-centered feast, and Bear begins reciting “The Night Before Christmas”.  When he gets to the line about the stockings, he repeats it several times, growing increasingly loud, until Mouse realizes there ARE stockings behind the tree, and one of them has…a present!  Mouse races outside to use his new telescope, and there, under the tree, is a sled for Bear.  Bear struggles a bit, but manages to let Mouse know that he is Bear’s best friend.  48 pages; ages 5-9.

Pros:  Another winning tale of the unlikely but sweet friendship between Bear and Mouse.

Cons:  I was sweating it out about the presents; I don’t even like pickles.

If you’d like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

When’s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: “When’s my birthday/where’s my birthday?/how many days until my birthday?” an exuberant child asks repeatedly as she counts down to the big day.  She anticipates eating cake and other treats, inviting friends to a party, and getting presents.  The night before her birthday, she vows to stay awake, but ultimately falls asleep, dreaming of tomorrow.  And finally…”It’s the daytime!/here’s my birthday!/happy happy! hee! hee! hee!/time for cakey/wakey wakey/happy happy day to me!”  40 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:   I’ve seen this on some Caldecott prediction lists lately.  The simple rhyming text and cheerful collage illustrations perfectly capture pre-birthday excitement for the under-ten crowd.  This would make an ideal birthday gift.

Cons:  I was pretty exhausted by the time the birthday finally arrived.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

‘Tis the Season: Some Holiday Read-Alouds

If you’re looking to fill the long hours of anticipation of the next two weeks, here are some new books to add to your collection.

Merry Christmas, Peanut! by Terry Border. Published by Philomel Books

Kids will love the illustrations created from household items that tell the story of Peanut and his family as they travel to Grandma’s for Christmas dinner.  Along the way, they pick up a host of lonely characters who need a place to spend the holiday.  If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster. Published by Albert Whitman and Company

Little Red Ruthie is bring applesauce and sour cream to go with her Bubbe Basha’s legendary latkes.  When a wolf follows her there, she has to quickly think of a way to fill him up on latkes instead of her and her Bubbe.  If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly Mackay.  Published by Running Press.  The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransome.


Two stories inspired by the classic ballet.  The Nutcracker in Harlem reimagines the story in 1920’s Harlem.  Waltz of the Snowflakes is a wordless celebration of a reluctant girl’s first experience at the ballet, and how she slowly gets caught up in the magic of the tale.  For Waltz of the Snowflakes, click here.  For The Nutcracker in Harlem, click here.


Nativity by Cynthia Rylant.  Published by Beach Lane Books

Simple, spare text and paintings tell the story of Jesus’s birth, concluding with four of the beatitudes offered as a sample of the adult Jesus’s teachings.  If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares.  Published by Candlewick Press

Red the cardinal panics when the enormous tree he and Lulu call home is cut down and taken away…with Lulu still in it.  He follows the tree to New York City, where he finally finds it in Rockefeller Center, ablaze with colored lights.  Red and Lulu become city birds, settling down in Central Park after Christmas.  If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.





Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade: A Thanksgiving Story by Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

Summary:  Rettie has to be mother and father to her three younger siblings, since their mother is sick with consumption and their father is fighting in World War I.  Life in their tenement building is difficult, all the more so when the influenza epidemic hits.  Their building is quarantined, and Rettie is worried that she won’t be able to get out for the Ragamuffin Parade on Thanksgiving.  This is an annual event for poor immigrant children to collect pennies from their more well-to-do neighbors.  Rettie works hard, helping to keep the apartment building clean and washing rags to earn some extra money.  Finally, the quarantine is lifted in time for Rettie to go to the parade.  Not only that, but the cold weather slows down the influenza epidemic, and the war comes to an end in early November.  Rettie joins the rest of America in celebrating Thanksgiving by using the pennies from the parade to buy her family apples and a pumpkin. Includes an author’s note about the Ragamuffin Parade, which may have been the inspiration for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.  32 pages; grade 1-4.

Pros:  Part of the “Tales of Young Americans” series, this is a heartwarming story of a young girl persevering under difficult circumstances.  Readers will learn a lot of history from Rettie’s story, and the illustrations show a great deal of historical detail as well.

Cons:  Rettie seems a little too good to be true.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner

Published by Scholastic Press

Summary:  In brief, rhyming text, a boy tells of his journey to Washington, D.C. to ride with his grandfather in the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom, a parade of motorcyclists held on Memorial Day every year to honor America’s veterans.  The focus is the Vietnam War, where Grandpa fought and lost friends.  The motorcyclists camp the night before, then get up at dawn to join the parade.  It winds past the Lincoln Memorial and ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where there are speeches and tears.  Finally, the boy and his grandfather sit in a field at the end of the day, watching a shooting star in the night sky.  A brief author’s note tells about the Thunder Ride.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Readers with interests in the military, history, or motorcycles will enjoy this; it would also make a great Memorial Day read-aloud (sorry I’m a little late…maybe Veterans’ Day?).

Cons:  The illustrations don’t reflect the diversity of those who served in Vietnam.

The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Published by Candlewick 

Summary:  The story of Jesus’ birth is told through six intricately designed pop-ups.  The text is faithful to the Bible story, beginning with Mary’s visit from the angel announcing the birth, moving on to shepherds and wise men, and concluding with the whole gang gathered at the manger.  The pop-ups are all white with golden highlights on a blue background.  Go here for a page-by-page preview: https://vimeo.com/174534813.  12 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  The pop-ups are truly amazing, with angels and stars soaring above many of the pages.  A beautiful introduction to the Christmas story.

Cons:  The fragile nature of the paper art and $26.00 price tag may make this a better choice for a home library than a public one.


The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers 

Summary:  Hannah Greyweather spends her days trying to survive in the cold winter.  One day while out gathering firewood, she finds a boot and puts it on over the rags she has wrapped around her left foot. She can’t believe how warm the boot makes her foot, and when she goes to bed, she wishes she had a right one.  Lo and behold, the next morning, there’s a pair of boots at her bedside.  The day after that, there’s a pair of mittens tucked inside, and when she comes back from her chores, Hannah discovers her cabin has been replaced by a big, fancy house, complete with feast and feather bed.  A knock on the door reveals the source of the gifts—Santa himself, returning to reclaim his missing left boot.  As soon as he puts it on, everything goes back to the way it was.  Hannah doesn’t mind giving up the fancy house, but she tells Santa she did like the warm boots and mittens, and wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to.  The next morning, Santa has granted her wishes; when an “Arf” comes out of the left boot, Hannah discovers she has a new puppy for company.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A heartwarming holiday story, with splendid illustrations from Caldecott artist Jerry Pinkney.

Cons:  Let’s hope Hannah gives that left boot a thorough cleaning before sticking her foot into it.