December 24 – Christmas Eve

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About the Holiday

For children around the world, Christmas Eve night is full of magic and wonder, traditions that only come around once a year and traditions – like reading together – that make any day better. Even Santa Claus and his reindeer have a favorite pre-flight tradition – is it also one of yours? 

Thanks go to Two Lions Publishing for sending me a copy of Santa’s Story for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Santa’s Story

By Will Hillenbrand

 

’Twas a snowy Christmas Eve night. Santa was ready for his yearly ride, but when he went to hitch up his reindeer, he found the stalls empty. Where were the reindeer? Out on the snow-covered hills, they were each doing their own thing. In a race with some rabbits, “Dasher dashed. ‘I better hightail it!’” he exclaimed as he fell behind. Meanwhile, Dancer was dancing—twirling, high-stepping, and leaping.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-story-stalls

Copyright Will Hillenbrand, 2019, courtesy of Two Lions.

Prancer had gathered an audience and was strutting his stuff. And while the snow lay thick on the ground, there still wasn’t enough for Vixen who “vexed, ‘More snow!’” to the snowman who was happy to oblige with his shiny, red snow blower. Watching the snowflakes flutter down, with awe “Comet commented, ‘Soon it’ll be Christmas!’” The other reindeer were also enjoying the winter wonderland in their own way, unaware that Santa was looking for them.

Back home, with the sleigh packed with a bulging bag of toys, Santa wondered where his reindeer could have gone. He tried blowing a horn, jingling sleigh bells, and even calling out a booming “‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’” Still, no reindeer appeared. Then, as Santa pondered, he happened to spy Comet with a book in front of him “and remembered their Christmas Eve tradition.” He called out “Story Time!” and all the reindeer came prancing and dashing and dancing back home. They settled in around Santa and under lantern light listened to him read “‘’Twas the night before Christmas….’” Happy and satisfied, the reindeer got in line in front of Santa’s sleigh ready to take off on the merriest flight of the year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-story-prancer

Copyright Will Hillenbrand, 2019, courtesy of Two Lions.

Will Hillenbrand’s sweet tribute to a favorite tradition of Christmas—the reading of Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas—reveals the individual personalities of the world’s most famous reindeer while they wait for Santa to get Christmas started properly. Little ones will enjoy joining in on each reindeer’s Christmas Eve activity while learning some new words, such as hightail, vexed, and crooned, and discovering how these words relate to the action and/or the reindeer.

Hillenbrand’s lovely, softly hued illustrations add a sense of magic to this North Pole setting, where lights glow from windows, ornaments add sparkles of color to the snowy landscape, and a bunny peeks out from the snowman’s top hat (readers familiar with Hillenbrand’s Snowman’s Story will be cheered to see this pair’s cameo). Hillenbrand’s inclusion of a lighthouse—it’s beam shining brightly out into the world—is an enchanting touch to Santa’s home. Readers will have fun pointing out the searching Santa on the pages and may figure out the mystery before Santa does by carefully watching his adorable pet.

A charming lead-in to readings of A Visit from Saint Nicholas or as a new tradition on its own, Santa’s Story would be a delightful addition to Christmas story time wish lists.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043380

Will Hillenbrand has written and illustrated many beloved picture books, including Snowman’s Story, Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles, and the Bear and Mole series. He has also illustrated dozens of books, including the Big Bear series by Maureen Wright. Will lives with his wife and son in Terrace Park, Ohio. You can find out more about him at www.willhillenbrand.com.

You can connect with Will on Facebook | Instagram 

Christmas Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reindeer-puzzle

Reindeer Teams Match-Up Puzzle

 

Match the two-member reindeer teams so they can help Santa in this printable puzzle!

Reindeer Teams Match-Up Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-story-cover

You can find Santa’s Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 8 – Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I was honored to host the cover reveal of Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer on March 11 and am thrilled to be part of Jim Benton’s book tour as this story about the beloved Comet is launched around the world, just in time for Christmas. This funny and poignant book will light up Christmas-season story times with joy and themes that will be remembered all year round.

Thanks goes to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sharing Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m also thrilled to be teaming up with them in a giveaway of the book. You can find details below.

Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer

By Jim Benton

 

“’Twas the Night Before Christmas….” We know how this one goes, right? Or do we? Let’s see…

“’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” (so far, so good) / “a tense situation.” / “The elves had worked the whole year / without a vacation.” (Oh, rein-deer!)

It seems all this work, work, work, had left the elves in bad moods, especially Stinky and Stanky who got into it over wrapping a present. Seeing that their argument might escalate, Comet hoofed in to break it up, only to be knocked out colder than a North Pole winter. While Comet’s intervention worked as he’d hoped, when he woke up, his arm didn’t. The doctor set Comet’s broken arm in a cast. When Comet jumped up to get back to work, though, the doc gave him the bad news: “‘No dashing, no dancing, / your arm, it needs fixin’. / It will be a long time / before you’re prancing with Vixen.’” Comet was sad to miss out on the big night, but he went down to the launch anyway,  only to see that his replacement was a “rookie named Freddy.” Although the other reindeer were skeptical about Freddie’s flying prowess, they took off into the sky as usual.

Finished for the night, the elves headed to their homes, leaving Comet in the workshop all alone. But what was THIS? There in the corner and reaching up to the ceiling was Santa’s bag of toys! Comet did what any conscientious reindeer would do: “he called Santa’s cell.” Getting no response, Comet knew Christmas was all up to him.

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Copyright Jim Benton, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Try as he might, though, Comet couldn’t lift that bag of toys. He was about to give up when he noticed a letter lying on the floor. He sat down with a mug of hot chocolate and a few plates of cookies and began to read. He was expecting the usual, but this letter was from a little boy asking for something for his sister. It said: “‘She’s too small to write, / but I know what she’d like: / a little green pig / on a little pink bike.’”

But the letter writer didn’t stop there. He added that he knew there were a lot of deserving kids in the world and told Santa it would be all right if he couldn’t bring his sister the pig, ending with “‘She won’t cry a bit. / She won’t even pout. / Just don’t wear yourself / or your poor reindeer out.’” By the time he’d finished reading, Comet had tears in his eyes. No one had ever considered the reindeer before. Comet looked up, up, up at that heavy, heavy bag and saw at the top… “that little green pig.” Comet thought about that bag and his broken arm, and then, with only one reservation, “he hefted that bag / like a brave little fighter. / ‘Would it kill kids to ask / for some toys that are lighter?’”

So Comet took to the sky, carrying that sackful of toys, and touched down in countries from East going West. His travels were fraught with mishaps aplenty. After losing a tooth and getting nearly run over, he flew “on to Egypt and Sweden, / Italy and France, / where he scraped up his butt / (‘cause he didn’t wear pants).” Trips to every city in the world, along with a few more painful encounters, brought Comet no closer to finding the yellow house with a blue roof where the boy and his sister lived.

Comet consulted his map once more and a single tear dropped onto a place he realized he’d missed. He reached the yellow house just as the sun was rising over the horizon and slipped down the chimney. There he was met by the little boy and his sister. Just as he was handing them their gifts, the “phone gave a jingle. / ‘I’ll get it,’ said Comet. / ‘I’ll bet it’s Kris Kringle.’” And it was with many thank-yous and “‘a vacation,’ said Santa. / ‘Can the elves have one too?’ / asked Comet, who knew that’s / the right thing to do.’”

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Copyright Jim Benton, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Laugh-out-loud funny and with a message about going above and beyond for family and friends, Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer will become a kid-favorite in any house for Christmas and throughout the year. Comet’s misadventures on his travels around the globe are slapstick gems kids will want to hear over and over. Adults will also find themselves “Ho-ho-hoing” at Jim Benton’s bouncy rhymes and funny wordplay as well as Comet’s hilarious thoughts that echo ones we’ve all had at one time or another. Amidst all the fun, too, is a heartfelt story about thinking of others, kindness, and the true meaning of giving that will impress and cheer kids.

Benton’s expressive, madcap cartoon illustrations will have kids giggling at the overworked elves wrapping presents with fatigued, bored expressions, the goofy reindeer (especially Freddy), and Comet’s valiant efforts to lift the enormous bag. Images of Comet’s accidents and near misses will be met with guffaws. Benton’s illustrations also show many examples of empathetic kindness, deep appreciation, and unstoppable perseverance that will resonate with kids beyond the holiday season.

Sure to be asked for again and again on its way to becoming a Christmas tradition, Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer would make a perfect pre-holiday gift for your own family or any child. The book will be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043472

Jim Benton Photo

Jim Benton is the award-winning creator of the New York Times bestselling series Dear Dumb Diary and Franny K. Stein as well as the popular It’s Happy Bunny brand. His books have sold more than fifteen million copies in twenty-five countries and have garnered numerous honors. Like Comet, Jim knows what it’s like to hobble around in a cast; however, he is still learning to fly. Find out more about him at www.jimbenton.com.

You can connect with Jim Benton on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer Giveaway

I’m pleased as Christmas punch to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Press in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer by Jim Benton

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite reindeer for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from December 8 to December 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 14. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer Book Tour Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reindeer-puzzle

Reindeer Teams Match-Up Puzzle

 

Match the two-member reindeer teams so they can help Santa in this printable puzzle!

Reindeer Teams Match-Up Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-comet-the-unstoppable-reindeer-cover

You can find Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 7 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

With so many gift-giving opportunities this month, December is the perfect time to discover new books for any age! Whether you’re sharing the fun or traditions of a holiday, adding to a favorite series, looking to inspire with nonfiction, or buying a baby their first book, the delight, wonder, and shared experiences of reading offers is one of the best presents you can give. This month visit or order from your local independent bookstore to pick out special books for the loved ones on your list. (And don’t forget to treat yourself!)

Latkes for Santa Claus

Written by Janie Emaus | Illustrated by Bryan Langdo

 

Anna was composing an email to Santa, letting him know her house would be a new stop on his route since her new dad and stepbrother celebrated Christmas. She promises him that she’s going to leave him “the best Santa treat ever.” Hearing this, Anna’s brother Michael countered that his cookies were “the best Santa treat ever.” In the kitchen, Michael invited Anna to help him bake, but she was trying to think of something better than cookies.

Her mom was making Bubbe Sadie’s. matzo ball soup, and the aroma made Anna think this would make the perfect snack for Santa. But Michael reminded her that Santa needed finger food, and she imagined “Santa gulping on his sled. / Slurp. Burp. Slop. Spill. / Matzo balls on Santa’s head.” That would never do, she thought. Then she spied Aunt Bea’s noodle kugel on the counter and knew the “sweet taste of noodle kugel” would be just the thing.

His sugar cookies finished, Michael had moved on to making the oatmeal cookies he said Santa loved. He mentioned that Santa wouldn’t be able to eat kugel with his fingers, and Anna pictured him trying with disastrous results. How about Aunt Sarah’s delicious tzimmes root vegetable stew. But was it finger food? Michael didn’t think so. And Santa so loved his chocolate chip cookies. “Anna imagined— A bowl of stew zipping by. / Santa spooning on his sled. / Slurp. Burp. Slop. Spill. / Gobs of stew on Santa’s head.”

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Image copyright Bryan Langdo, text copyright Janie Emaus, 2020. Courtesy of Sky Pony.

Anna went off to think about the perfect treat, and finally it came to her. In fact, her mom had just made a batch. She went to the kitchen, put some on a plate, and hid them for later. That night she stayed awake until the house was silent. Then she snuck into the pantry and placed four latkes on the plate with Michael’s cookies. This time she imagined Santa happy and satisfied as he nibbled on the latkes. “The wind whistled Christmas songs. The stars twinkled like Hanukkah lights” as Anna waited to hear Santa’s reindeer land on the roof. She just closed her eyes for a second… and then Michael was waking her up on Christmas morning.

They ran downstairs and were excited to find that not only had Santa taken all of Michael’s cookies, he’d also grabbed all of Anna’s Latkes. Just then there was a familiar bing from the computer. Anna found an email from Santa saying how much he’d loved her latkes and was already looking forward to next year’s treat. He’d boasted about them so much, in fact, that Mrs. Clause wanted Anna’s recipe.

Reading this, Michael decided that maybe cookies were kind of boring after all, and suggested Grandma Linda’s lemon jello. Was that a finger food? Anna didn’t think so, but she was sure they could come up with something Santa would love. After all, they had a whole year to think about it.

Recipes for Grandma Sylvia’s Potato Latkes and Santa’s Sprinkled Sugary Shapes follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-latkes-for-santa-claus-matzo-ball-soup

Image copyright Bryan Langdo, text copyright Janie Emaus, 2020. Courtesy of Sky Pony.

Janie Emaus’s original story focused on a favorite part of Christmas Eve traditions—Santa’s snack—presents a clever and inclusive way for blended families to celebrate the joys of Hanukkah and Christmas together. Through Anna’s humorous imaginings of Santa trying to eat matza ball soup, kugel, and tzimmes, Emaus offers readers funny rhyming verses with repeated phrasing that kids will love to chime in on, especially “Slurp. Burp. Slop. Spill.” Michael and Anna’s sibling rivalry over the snack is good-natured and shows how this new brother and sister pair are quickly becoming a team. The list of traditional Jewish dishes will excite kids who already love them and entice those who aren’t to try them. Anna’s impressions of the world outside her window on this special night invite readers to embrace both of these meaningful holidays and those who observe them.

In Bryan Langdo’s vibrant and engaging illustrations, Hanukkah and Christmas reside side-by-side, just as Anna and Michael do. A menorah is prominently displayed on the fireplace mantle and Michael spins a dreidel while Christmas lights line the walls and a Christmas tree stands lit and decorated nearby. When the kids take to the cozy kitchen, Anna’s grandmother stands at the stove stirring a large pot of matza ball soup. The banter between Michael and Anna over Santa’s treat ushers in vivid and giggle-inducing images of Santa trying to spoon up splashing soup, dodging flying bowls of kugel, and finally wearing the bowl of stew on his head all while attempting to steer his sleigh. Sketched with a light touch, Langdo’s characters are charming and warm, and Anna and Michael are delightful siblings to carry this story about acceptance and family love.

A fun and inclusive story for Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations and to celebrate the joys of family, Latkes for Santa Claus would make an excellent gift for pre-holiday story times and baking and a charming addition to home, school, and public libraries for any time of the year.

Ages 3 – 6

Sky Pony, Simon & Schuster, 2020 | ISBN 978-1510759886

Discover more about Janie Emaus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Bryan Langdo, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Make Latkes for Santa

 

With this coloring sheet and puzzle, you can put together a plate of latkes for Santa – or yourself!

Make Latkas for Santa Coloring Page

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You can find Latkes for Santa Claus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 11 – COVER REVEAL!

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From a New York Times bestselling author with over fifteen million books in print, the hilarious story of an injury-prone reindeer who saves Christmas:

Comet, the Unstoppable Reindeer

By Jim Benton

 

It’s the night before Christmas, and Comet is ready…until he’s injured in an unexpected elf incident and replaced by a rookie named Freddy.

Comet can’t believe his bad luck. Then he realizes something even worse—in all the confusion, Santa has left the toys behind and isn’t answering his phone. Injury and all, Comet sets out to deliver the presents, crisscrossing the globe from Japan and Egypt to France and Cleveland. After a run-in with a goose, a near miss with a minivan, and too many chimney crash landings to count, can Comet hobble his way into pulling off a Christmas miracle?

Ages 3 – 7 

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043472

Comet, the Unstoppable Reindeer will be released on September 15. The book is now available to preorder.

About the Author

Jim Benton Photo

Photo by Laurie Tennent

Jim Benton is the award-winning creator of the New York Times bestselling series Dear Dumb Diary and Franny K. Stein as well as the popular It’s Happy Bunny brand. His books have sold more than fifteen million copies in twenty-five countries and have garnered numerous honors. Like Comet, Jim knows what it’s like to hobble around in a cast; however, he is still learning to fly. Find out more about him at www.jimbenton.com.

You can connect with Jim Benton on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-comet-the unstoppable-reindeer-cover

You can preorder Comet, the Unstoppable Reindeer on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 24 – Christmas Eve

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About the Holiday

Christmas Day is tomorrow! Are you ready—tree decorated, all gifts bought or made and wrapped, cookies baked? If not, don’t stress! Somehow, it all comes together. And on Christmas morning when you see those little eyes light up and you get to spend the day with family and/or friends, all the last-minute preparations are worth it—as you’ll see in today’s book.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Santa Bruce to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

If you know Bruce, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he “did not like the holidays.” In fact, before he had kids (and mice), he used to sleep right through them. But this year his family wanted that picture-perfect Christmas together. This meant “no migrating! No hibernating!” Whether Bruce liked it or not, “the holiday season was going to be filled with fun and cheer.”

So the geese decorated, and the mice made eggnog. And Bruce? He was not happy. He was awake and he was cold. And because he was awake and cold, he was shoveling the walk in his red long underwear. And that’s when a raccoon made an erroneous conclusion, and Bruce was the victim of “a case of mistaken identity.” Again.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

It didn’t matter that Bruce tried to set the record straight. The little raccoon scampered off to tell his friends. Soon, Bruce’s house was full of animals wanting to talk to Santa. Every young forest critter took their turn sitting on Santa’s…I mean Bruce’s…lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and no sooner had they all gone home then their parents showed up to “thank Bruce for his Christmas spirit. Then, before Bruce could even say “bah humbug,” Thistle announced that Santa Bruce would “deliver presents to all of your kids tonight.”

What was Bruce’s reaction? He headed for bed. When the mice protested, Bruce reminded them that he didn’t have a sleigh. The mice easily fixed that with a wagon and a sled. How about reindeer?, Bruce countered. Well, what else are geese for? Okay, Bruce conceded, but what about the presents? The mice had that covered too.

And so it was that on that magical night that Santa Bruce made the rounds to all the good little forest critters (and even to the “grown up Bunny who still lives with his parents”). As morning dawned and Santa Bruce trudged back home, happy tykes were waking up to a beautifully wrapped present. What was it? You’ll have to join the holiday feast and see!

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

In this new holiday favorite, Ryan T. Higgins’ woebegone Bruce is just trying to make his kids (and those mice) happy when another case of mistaken identity turns his winter topsy-turvey. Bruce’s tetchy responses as he loses control of his fate and becomes Santa Bruce as well as the silly asides and persuasive pleas from the mice will have kids in stitches. Sly references to holiday songs, Christmas clichés, and even a spring holiday add to the zany hubbub, and the little ones’ Christmas wishes will make adult readers chuckle.

Higgins’ unibrowed bear wears his signature scowl with aplomb—not even cracking the wee-est smile as a houseful of tiny, adorable hopefuls cheer and shout for “SANTA!” As usual, the mice are jubilantly unconcerned with Bruce’s feelings, giving him, in turn, thumbs up and innocent eyes as they cajole Bruce into creating their vision of the perfect holiday. The guileless geese are just happy to be along for the ride, and the forest children are sweetly excited to get their special present.

Santa Bruce has laughter, generosity, and togetherness all wrapped into one—and isn’t that what the holidays are all about? A must buy for home holiday and anytime reading.

Ages 2 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484782903

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art on his website.

Christmas Eve Activity

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Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

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To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-cover

You can find Santa Bruce at these Booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 5 – Get Ready for Christmas

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About the Holiday

It’s that time of year when kids across the country visit with Santa to tell him what they’d like for Christmas. Today’s book takes a look at the age-old question—who is the real Santa?

Santa’s Secret

Written by Denise Brennan-Nelson | Illustrated by Deborah Melmon

 

Singing carols all the way, a family drove to the city “all festive and bright” to watch the parade. The little girl climbed on her father’s shoulders to get a better view, especially of Santa in his sleigh. After the parade, the family walked through the city, looking at the beautiful decorations. But on the corner, the girl sees another Santa ringing a bell.

As she declared, “‘That’s not the same Santa!’” everyone turned toward her and stared. The girl’s mother told her that Santa needs helpers, but she wanted to know who the REAL Santa was. Grandma whispered, “‘It’s Santa’s secret, just as it should be.’” But the little girl was determined to learn the truth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-secret-grandma

Image copyright Deborah Melmon, 2019, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

At Santa’s station, the girl waited in line to meet the jolly old elf, and when it was her turn, she asked him some pointed questions. She asked him his name, the names of the reindeer, and whether Rudolph had a favorite treat. Then the questions got tougher as she wanted to know “who helps you decide what presents to give,” whether he liked to fly and where he went, whether the elves lived with him, and more.

As Santa answered each question, the little girl wrote down his answers in her notebook. But she had one more question that she thought would catch him off guard. She asked him straight out if he was the real Santa. But his only answer was “a tug of his beard and a wink of his eye.” Then he asked her what presents were on her list.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-secret-santa-station

Image copyright Deborah Melmon, 2019, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Over a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows, the girl considered her notes and wondered if she had enough information to solve her case. As she puzzled and pondered, she caught a glimpse of a man who had a full white beard munching a cookie and reading a book. His coat pocket held carrots and his black boots were topped with striped socks.

She approached with her notebook, but before she could ask, “He said, ‘Reindeer like barley and berries to eat.’ / ‘But carrots,’ he added, ‘are their favorite treat.’” Then in the moment when she turned to look at her mother, the man disappeared without a trace, except for his mug of hot chocolate. Back home, the girl didn’t know if she’d seen the real Santa that day, but she agreed with her grandma that that is “‘as it should be.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-secret-reindeer

Image copyright Deborah Melmon, 2019, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Between trying to figure out which presents Santa will bring and wondering about the real Santa, most little ones become sleuths around the holidays. Denise Brennan-Nelson’s charming tale gives lyrical voice to that burning question about Santa’s identity while preserving the wonder of this childhood mystery. Brennan-Nelson’s jaunty rhymes and rhythm are a joy to read, as traditional Christmas sights and activities combine with the cozy warmth and community of a coffee shop to convey the homey feelings of Christmas. Her open-ended finale is sweet and just “‘as it should be,’” inviting young readers to wonder if they have seen the real Santa during their holiday jaunts.

Deborah Melmon’s cheery illustrations make sparkling use of “new” Christmas colors, brightening the pages with pinks, lime greens, teals, and purples along with the traditional red, green, and blue. Melmon’s diverse city backdrop provides a glowing setting for the little girl’s encounters with multiple Santas. The girl’s curiosity and inquisitiveness will resonate with kids, and they will cheer her on as she interviews Santa. Her questions provide Melmon with plenty of opportunities to show Santa and his reindeer in novel and kid-pleasing ways.

A delightfully original holiday read aloud that’s sure to generate spirited discussions, Santa’s Secret would make a fun addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110380

Discover more about Denise Brennan-Nelson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Deborah Melmon, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

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Santa’s Sack Maze

 

Santa has one more present to put into his sack. Can you help him take the gift through the maze in this printable puzzle?

Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Puzzle | Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Solution

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You can find Santa’s Secret at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 2 – Get Ready for Christmas

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About the Holiday

For those who celebrate Christmas, Santa Claus’s visit is eagerly anticipated. Kids and adults alike all know about Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, his stable of magic reindeer, and his nighttime ride, but how did Santa become…well…Santa? You’ll find out in today’s book!

Tundra Books sent me a copy of When Santa was a Baby for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

When Santa Was a Baby

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout

 

When Santa was a baby his parents loved his merry dimples and his “‘little nose…like a cherry,’” and when they tickled his tiny toes, expecting a gurgle or coo, they heard a booming “‘HO, HO, HO!’” As he grew older and learned his colors, Santa developed a distinct preference for red, so the “‘dandy blue pajamas from Aunt Mable’” went back in the drawer. “‘Maybe he’ll be a firefighter,’” said his mom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-santa-was-a-baby-laugh

Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

On his birthday, Santa had fun opening a passel of presents, including a toy firetruck from mom and dad, toys from Grandma and Uncle Ned, and “yellow pajamas from Aunt Mable.” But after he’d opened them, he wrapped them up again and gave them away to other children. On his next birthday, Santa asked for a pet that looked like a horse “that had horns and could pull a flying sled.” His parents weren’t sure about all this, so they got Santa a hamster, who soon had eight babies that loved pulling the matchbox full of little toys that Santa hitched them to. Santa’s dad though it was “‘extraordinary,’” and his mom said, “‘He’s so creative!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-santa-was-a-baby-hamster

Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Santa was extraordinary in lots of other ways too. His curiosity for the cold blast from the refrigerator and the sooty chimney led his proud parents to think he might grow up to be a scientist. Santa had a best friend named Eldred, and together they loved to make toys and other things. As a teenager, he “knew his own mind” and even though “he didn’t always fit in with the crowd,” the other kids liked him, and, of course, “his parents thought he was wonderful.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-santa-was-a-baby-chimney

Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Now Santa is all grown up and has “followed his childhood dreams.” He has a crew of elves, led by Eldred, to make toys and he finally has the reindeer he always wanted. On Christmas Eve as he flies around the world, his parents “listen for his sleigh bells. They wave and blow kisses as Santa dips low over their house.” It’s just what they “always thought he’d do.”

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Linda Bailey’s gentle, humorous tale of Santa Claus’ origins in a little boy who always knew who he was and followed his heart will delight children of all ages. With a sprinkling of descriptions about Santa that echo Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, Bailey’s storytelling fits nicely into the traditional image of Santa while revealing while answering kids’ questions about his generosity, the elves, his reindeer, and his North Pole home. Adults will appreciate the support Santa’s bemused parents show as their child grows up and their pride in the man their son is. Underlying Bailey’s story about Santa is an uplifting reminder for all kids to embrace who they are and to follow their dreams.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-santa-was-a-baby-gifts

Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Geneviève Godbout’s slightly gauzy illustrations rendered in muted browns, greens, and golds punctuated with red bridge the past and the present with rustic details and universal hair and clothing styles, adorable hamster pets, and Christmas traditions. Children will giggle at the booming “Ho, Ho, Ho!” that erupts from baby Santa and the image of him standing naked (except for one red sock) in front of the open refrigerator with a fan blowing and a popsicle waiting on the table. Little readers will be happy to see that young Santa had an elf friend, who was equally comfortable being himself while wearing green and long, pointy-toed socks. Godbout’s images of the grown Santa at the North Pole and flying in his sleigh on Christmas Eve close out the story in a cheery and satisfying way.

Charming from beginning to end, When Santa Was a Baby would be an often-asked-for addition to Christmas story times from year to year and is highly recommended for home and library collections.

Ages Preschool and Up

Tundra Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1770495562 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1101919163 (Board Book)

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Geneviève Godbout, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

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Polish-Dipped Ornaments

 

These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make eye-catching decorations for your tree. Make some to give to friends too!

Supplies

  • Plastic ornaments, available at craft stores
  • Nail polish in various colors
  • Plastic bowl or container, deep enough to dip the ornament into the water
  • Drying stand – I used a clear, plastic egg carton, or string for hanging ornaments to dry

Directions

Fill the plastic container with warm to hot water

  1. Using two or three colors, gently “paint” the water with the nail polish, using the brush or a toothpick in dots and swirls
  2. Slowly dip the plastic ornament into the water and turn it to pick up the nail polish floating on the top of the water
  3. To dry, place the ornament on a stand or hang with a paper plate, wax paper, or other paper to catch drips

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-santa-was-a-baby-cover

You can find When Santa Was a Baby at these booksellers

Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review