Moon’s Ramadan by Natasha Khan Kazi

Published by Versify

Summary:  Moon travels around the world during the month of Ramadan, as the part of her visible to Earth changes from the tiny crescent that signifies the beginning of the month to a full circle, and back to the sliver that heralds the end of the month and the Eid celebration.  She watches Muslims in countries around the world fasting, worshiping, and practicing kindness and charity.  As night falls on the Eid celebration, “a billion faces smile up at Moon.  Moon sees a world of love and kindness, and she glows with gratitude.”  Includes a brief author’s note with additional information about Ramadan, information about the lunar cycle with pictures of the phases of the moon, and a Ramadan glossary.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This is a much-needed introduction to Ramadan with beautiful illustrations that show Muslims from all around the world.  I love that it’s told from the perspective of the moon and includes some scientific information…check out the phases of the moon on the endpapers.

Cons:  The labels identifying the different countries were in a smallish font that didn’t show up well; it took me a few pages to notice them.

Chloe’s Lunar New Year by Lily LaMotte, illustrated by Michelle Lee

Published by HarperCollins

Summary:  Chloe is excited to celebrate Lunar New Year, as she and her parents and younger brother Noah work all day getting ready for the evening’s reunion dinner with extended family.  There are all kinds of food to prepare, as well as a thorough cleaning of the house, sweeping out the old to make room for good luck in the new year.  Chloe mentions her grandmother, A-má, several times throughout the day, but when evening falls, only her aunt and uncle come for dinner.  Everyone enjoys all the foods they’ve prepared, and the final pages show the family lighting incense and putting food in front of a photograph of A-má, honoring their ancestor.  Includes an author’s note about Lunar New Year, with specific information about how it is celebrated in Taiwan, and a recipe for Fortune Cake.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Another good resource for Lunar New Year, with a simple story and cheerful illustrations showing a family preparing for and celebrating the holiday.  The bit about A-má is left open for interpretation but provides a good way to show the custom of honoring ancestors.

Cons:  Like A Sweet New Year for Ren, this was a little light on the plot.

Through the North Pole Snow by Polly Faber, illustrated by Richard Jones

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  A little fox out hunting accidentally falls through the roof of a house buried in the snow.  He’s rescued by a pair of red-clad arms belonging to an old, tired-looking man with a white beard.  After getting comfortable, the fox settles in at the end of the man’s bed, and the two enjoy a long winter’s nap.  With the arrival of warmer weather, they wake up, and the man gets to work building all kinds of things to fill his empty shelves.  As the days start to grow short again, snow arrives along with a blizzard of letters.  The man reads each one, using them as a guide to fill his bag.  On Christmas Eve, he hitches up his reindeer, and the fox accompanies Santa Claus as he rides his sleigh into the night sky.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This became my go-to holiday book to read to my PreK-1 students.  They enjoyed gathering clues with the fox to learn Santa’s identity and job.  The pictures at the end will certainly get everyone in the Christmas spirit.

Cons:  The fox seemed a bit slow to catch on. The clues are all there, but he doesn’t completely catch on until he’s taking off in the sleigh with Santa and the reindeer.

The Christmas Book Flood by Emily Kilgore, illustrated by Kitty Moss

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Summary:  A girl searches for a gift book for Jólabókaflóɗ, or the Christmas Book Flood.  As the nights grow longer, people all over Iceland shop in bookstores and by searching the Book Bulletin to find books that they will give as gifts on Christmas Eve.  Time is running out, but the girl finally finds the perfect book.  On Christmas Eve, she and her family exchange books, then everyone settles down with blankets, pillows, and hot chocolate to read through the long December night.  Includes an author’s note with additional information about the Christmas Book Flood.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The very definition of hygge, this cozy book with its colorful illustrations is the perfect Christmas Eve read, for yourself or to give as a gift.

Cons:  Preschoolers may not find book shopping to be the most exciting holiday activity to read about.

The Mystery of the Love List by Sarah Glenn Marsh, illustrated by Ishaa Lobo

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

Summary:  As the only porcupine in her class, Pippa sometimes feels like she stands out.  It’s a lonely feeling.  When her teacher makes a Valentine’s assignment to compile a list of “things that take up room in your heart”, Pippa would rather read her latest Sherlock Gnomes book.  But when she finds a heart with a list that’s similar to her own, she puts her detective skills to work trying to figure out who her potential friend might be.  It’s a tough case to crack, but when Pippa finally figures it out, she comes up with the perfect way to connect: writing a new story called “Sherlock Gnomes and the Mystery of the New Best Friend,” which she leaves for her friend to find in her desk.  The last page shows Pippa and new friend Mitzie the Mouse meeting up in the forest.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A cute story for Valentine’s Day that celebrates friendship and introduces some elements of mystery books.  Kids will have fun spotting Pippa’s new friend in the pictures before she figures out who it is.

Cons:  It doesn’t feel like the right week to be thinking about Valentine’s Day.

Snow Horses: A First Night Story by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Micha Archer

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Summary:  A young woman named Jenny guides her two horses, Tom and Tim, out into a snowy night for a New Year’s Eve celebration.  First, they pull a sleigh full of children around town before dropping them off at their houses to snuggle into bed.  They next go to the manor to pick up the older people, who enjoy reminiscing about their childhood days on their sleigh ride.  Finally, the two horses are led back into the barn where they are bedded down for the night.  Everyone falls asleep as New Year’s Eve turns into New Year’s Day.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The lyrical text and gorgeous collages capture a snowy night filled with celebration.  The colors and textures make for some amazing illustrations by Caldecott honoree Micha Archer.  A perfect addition to winter holiday collections.

Cons:  It’s a bit more slow-moving and contemplative than some other holiday stories.

A Sweet New Year for Ren by Michelle Sterling, illustrated by Dung Ho

Published by Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Summary:  Ren is excited to be getting ready for the Lunar New Year.  There’s plenty of food to prepare, but every time Ren asks to help, she’s told that she is too little (even though she has recently grown two inches!).  Finally, her big brother Charlie comes home, and he has the patience to gently guide Ren through making pineapple cakes.  She is happy when the family sits down to the holiday dinner that she has made something to contribute.  After dinner, everyone gathers outside to watch the fireworks.  Includes an author’s note at the beginning about her connection to Lunar New Year and a recipe for pineapple cakes at the end.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A happy introduction to Lunar New Year, narrated by an enthusiastic young girl who loves the holiday and her family.  The cheerful illustrations will help readers visualize the different foods and decorations.

Cons:  I thought there would be more of a plot resolution around Ren being repeatedly told that she was too little.

Murray Christmas by E. G. Keller and A Very Mercy Christmas by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Published by Candlewick

Summary: Murray is a dog who takes his job as family protector very seriously. When the family starts doing odd things like bringing a tree into the house and hanging laundry by the fireplace, Murray tries to get things back to normal. He starts seeing a weird guy in a red suit everywhere, and then one night the guy appears in his house! Murray tries to get him out, and the ensuing chaos nearly ruins Christmas. But Santa turns out to be pretty helpful, and the two of them work to set things back to rights. Although Murray can’t figure out why this man doesn’t use the front door like everyone else, he’s happy to find a present waiting for him on Christmas morning…his own Santa hat. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Many readers will be familiar with the characters and setting of A Very Mercy Christmas. Stella wants to go caroling, but the humans are all too busy. She heads down the street with Mercy and General Washington the cat and decides to try singing a solo carol. When the animals join in (in their own ways), they’re joined by Maybelline the horse. All the ruckus brings the humans out to join in, and then they all head back to the Watsons’ for some buttered toast. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros: Kids are sure to get a chuckle out of both of these Christmas books featuring some pretty loveable animals and warm holiday spirit.

Cons: Those who haven’t read the Mercy Watson books may be a bit mystified by some of the characters and situations.

Twelve Dinging Doorbells: An Every-Holiday Carol by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Published by Kokila

Summary:  As the subtitle suggests, this is a book that could be used for any large family gathering, although it’s based on “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  The cumulative text begins with “a sweet potato pie just for me,” then goes on to two selfie queens, three posh sibs, all the way to eleven stinky sides (side dishes) and twelve crowded steps as an extended family gathers for a holiday meal.  Macaroni and cheese replace five golden rings with different variations as the day goes on (lots of mac and cheese, where’s my mac and cheese, and finally, who needs mac and cheese?).  The narrator and her grandmother share the sweet potato pie–just for her–on the final page.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  A great holiday choice that features a joyful Black family’s gathering with colorful illustrations, all kinds of people, and plenty of yummy food.

Cons:  While I enjoyed the macaroni and cheese humor, I kind of missed the number five.