Every Month Is a New Year by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Susan L. Roth

Published by Lee & Low Books

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Summary:  Designed like a calendar, opening at the bottom instead of the right side, this book explores how a new year is celebrated in cultures around the world.  Eighteen poems celebrate the new year, beginning with “Midnight Ball Drop” on December 31 in New York City, and wrapping up with “Las Doce Uvas de la Suerte” in Spain the following December 31.  In between, there are visits to Scotland, Russia, China, Iran, Thailand, Jordan, Chile, New Zealand, India, and Ecuador, and celebrations that take place in every month of the year. Includes several pages with additional information about each holiday; a glossary and pronunciation guide; and author’s sources.  48 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  A wealth of information about a wide variety of cultures, all in a clever package–a book designed like a calendar.  The collage illustrations add texture and plenty of color to the poems.

Cons:  I would have preferred the information about each holiday to be on the page with the poem rather than all in the back.  The poems made me curious to learn more, and it was a little unwieldy to have to keep flipping back and forth.

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

Pie Is for Sharing by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrations by Jason Chin

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  A family of four sets off for a picnic in the park one summer day.  The red, white, and blue napkins and paper plates, as well as the fireworks at the end indicate it may be the Fourth of July.  The story is mostly told in the illustrations, while the text is a meditation on sharing: “A book is for sharing/A ball is nice for sharing, too/And a tree? A tree is always shared…even when you think you’re alone.”  What can be shared can be as abstract as time or as concrete as a towel, warmed by the sun.  The book comes full circle with the final lines: “Many can share one light./And a blanket? A breeze? The sky? These are for sharing./Just like pie.”  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  This book really grew on me; both the text and the illustrations are deceptively simple.  My favorite page shows eight smiling kids (and their dog) of different races, genders, and sizes standing around a sparkler that says, “Many can share one light.”  A perfect book for sharing on the Fourth of July or any summer day.

Cons:  The sad picture of the littlest girl looking for a piece of pie and finding only an empty tin.

Groundhug Day by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Christopher Denise

Published by Disney-Hyperion

Summary:  Moose is throwing a Valentine’s party; all his friends are excited, except Groundhog, who is still hibernating.  While the others get into a heated discussion about how  to make Groundhog stay above ground after February 2, they don’t notice their friend emerge, take one long around, and dive back into his burrow.  When they plead with him to come back, he tells them he’s afraid of shadows.  His friends convince him to come out so they can show them there’s nothing to be scared of, then show him how to make silhouettes and shadow puppets.  In the end, though, it’s too cold for Groundhog to stick around for the party, and he goes back to sleep until St. Patrick’s Day.  By then, he’s ready to party, but now Bunny is holed up, preparing for the next spring holiday.  48 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  You can kill two birds with one stone with this book that celebrates Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day (with nods to St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, as well).  The digital illustrations are cute and colorful, and the shadows are well portrayed.

Cons:  Whoops, just noticed this book was released in December 2017.  Back to 2018 tomorrow.

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

Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas! By Laurie Friedman, illustrated by Kathryn Durst

Published by Carolrhoda Books

Summary:  The Christmas family–Ma, Pa, Chris, Holly, Mary, and dog Rudy–love everything about Christmas, and do it in a big way.  All of them, that is, except Mary, who thinks their tree is too big (it pokes through the roof), their lights are too bright (they cause the lights on the rest of the street to go out), and their presents are too plentiful.  She consults with Santa, who tells her plenty of people would love her Christmas and that he’s sure she can find a way to appreciate it as well.  On Christmas Eve, Mary comes up with her plan, and on Christmas morning, she convinces her family to pack up the tree, lights, and gifts, and throw a huge party for the rest of the town.  Everyone in her family and the town is delighted, and when Mary settles down that night, she finally feels like she has had a merry Christmas.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Cheerful cartoon-style illustrations of garish Christmas excesses complement the story about learning to share holiday abundance with others.

Cons:  What, is my name Ebeneezer Scrooge?  Merry Christmas to all!

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

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.