December 8 – Gingerbread Decorating Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gingerbread-man-loose-at-christmas-cover

About the Holiday

Originating in the Middle East the art of gingerbread making made its way to Europe in the 10th century. It was quickly embraced for its delicious combination of spices as well as for its soothing medicinal qualities. It was during the 13th century that gingerbread began to be decorated and displayed. The gingerbread man we know today was first introduced in 1875 in a story published in St. Nicholas magazine. To celebrate, mix up a batch of gingerbread cookies and get out the icing and sprinkles!

The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas

Written by Laura Murray | Illustrated by Mike Lowery

 

One wintry morning, the Gingerbread Man heard the teacher calling. It was time to wake up and start a very special day. All the kids listened as the teacher told them, “It’s the season of giving, / and we can give, too! / Our gifts could be things / that we make, say, or do.” Individually, paired up, or in groups, the kids went to work on their gifts. Some made cards, some baked cookies, and one trio practiced singing a holiday song.

The Gingerbread Man wanted to join in too. He thought hard about what he would make and then went to work. As the kids headed out the door of their classroom and into town, the little cookie excitedly said, “I’ll deliver this present / as fast as I can. / With a jolly Ho-Ho from the / Gingerbread Man!” All through town the kids delivered their gifts. A few children sang a song to a police woman, the garbage men got a plate of cookies, and a special card went to the librarian. The kids also visited the dentist, the grocer, and the vet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gingerbread-man-loose-at-christmas-into-town

Image copyright Mike Lowery, 2015, text copyright Laura Murray, 2015. Courtesy of lauramurraybooks.com.

When an icy wind blew up and it started to snow, the teacher gathered all the kids and hurried back to school. But the Gingerbread Man hadn’t delivered his gift yet. He yelled for the class to stop, but they didn’t hear him. He decided to deliver it himself and dashed past the barber, the bookseller, the doctor, the florist, and the bank teller giving them all a happy wave on the way. The snowy sidewalks took their toll on the Gingerbread Man, though, and by the time he found the bake shop, his “feet were all mushy and crumbled.”

Inside, the warm, delicious-smelling shop, the Gingerbread Man held up his card. “I’ve come to say thanks / for your sweet recipe. / without it, / my class would’ve / never made me.” The baker was so touched that she gave the Gingerbread Man a kiss and then noticed his feet. She knew just what he needed. She sat him on the side of a bowl and let him dip his feet into the dark chocolate icing. When she took him out, he was wearing boots! He smiled and told the baker, “I’ll run in my boots, / as fast as I can. / Thank you so much, from the / Gingerbread Man!”

He dashed back to school just in time to join the class in presenting a last, surprise gift—a poem they had all written just for their teacher: “You are a gift / that we get every day. / You help us to learn / in our own special way.” They told her she was “funny and kind,” encouraging, and “clever,” and when they were finished with their special thank-you, their teacher gave them all “a warmhearted hug and a very big grin.”

The book also includes a poster of fun activities to extend the fun.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gingerbread-man-loose-at-christmas-town

Image copyright Mike Lowery, 2015, text copyright Laura Murray, 2015. Courtesy of lauramurraybooks.com.

Fans of Laura Murray’s sweet Gingerbread Man series will be delighted with this holiday treat. With jaunty, pitch-perfect rhymes and a message about the joys of giving thanks for and to all the members of a community, Murray’s story resonates long past the holiday season. Murray’s adorable cookie creation will make kids smile with his plucky attitude as he “hobbles” on mushy legs through the slushy streets to deliver his gift and giddy enthusiasm on succeeding in surprising the teacher. The story offers a wonderful opportunity to talk with kids about truly valuable gifts and ways they can show their love for others.

As cute as ever, Mike Lowery’s Gingerbread Man is a pint-sized dynamo spreading happiness and thoughtfulness wherever he dashes. Kids will love following the class as they fan out into town delivering baked treats, songs, and cards to the adults who make their lives better. Smiles and hugs abound, making this one of the merriest Merry Christmas books around. Little ones will love pointing out the tiny Gingerbread Man on the pages, talking about familiar shops and businesses in the town, and giggling over humorous details like the bat hanging from the vet’s examining table.

A thoroughly charming way to celebrate Christmas and sure to spark random acts of giving in young readers, The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas will be a favorite on home bookshelves for years to come.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015 | ISBN 978-0399168666

Discover more about Laura Murray and her books on her website and find lots of Gingerbread Man-related activities too!

To learn more about Mike Lowery, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Gingerbread Decorating Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-man-dashing-home-maze

Dashing Home! Maze

 

Help the Gingerbread Man find his way home the fastest way in this printable puzzle!

Dashing Home! Maze | Dashing Home! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gingerbread-man-loose-at-christmas-cover

You can find The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 4 – National Cookie Day and Interview with Author Tara Knudson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover-2

About the Holiday

Whether you call them cookies or biscuits, these yummy treats have been around for quite a long time. Originating in Persia in the 7th century, cookies conquered Europe by the 14th century and came to America with the earlies settlers. Of course, cookies are great any time of the year, but the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without the delicious snap or soft melt-in-your-mouth goodness of favorite cookies. Baking together is one of the joys of the season for adults and kids, and you can bet that with each batch, good memories are being created too.

Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” The little one cracks an egg into the bowl while the butter, flour, and sugar wait their turn. Mom pours warm melted butter and lets her little bear stir it into dough.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-stirring

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With the dough rolled smooth, it’s time to use the cookie cutters to make…”Christmas tree, / Reindeer, bell. / Snowman, star, / Cookie smell.” The pair add angels, candy canes, and drummer boys before sliding the tray into the oven and watching them bake. At last the timer rings but they still must wait. Finally “ready, set… / Decorate!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cookie-shapes

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

It’s so much fun spreading the frosting and shaking out sprinkles to create green trees, yellow stars, and red-and-white striped candy canes. Even the bakers can’t resist nibbling a few. But not too many, because these are special “cookie gifts. / Made with care. / Pack them up, / Cooke share!” It’s time to invite friends and family for a yearly treat—“Christmastime, / Spirits bright. / Family hugs, / Cookie night.”

A delectable Christmas Cookie Day Recipe follows the story for all little bakers to try.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-into-oven

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

The absence of personal pronouns and a red apron for the little cub make Christmas Cookie Day! gender neutral.

A sweet story to spark a fun family tradition and share the joy of giving, Christmas Cookie Day! makes an endearing addition to a child’s home library.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

Discover more about Tara Knudson, her books, and her other writing for children on her website.

To learn more about Pauline Siewert, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Tara Knudson

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - head shot

I’m excited to be talking today with Tara Knudson about her sweet book, her favorite cookie, and how being a teacher inspires her work.

Christmas Cookie Day has such a joyous feeling. Do you have any special memories of baking with your family when you were a child?  What is your favorite kind of cookie?

I’m so glad that you think CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has such a joyous feeling! The story evokes happy memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters when I was a child. I remember gathering the cookie cutters from the cabinet, excited to get started! We all stood around the kitchen table and decorated our cookies with sprinkles, frosting, and candy pieces. It was so fun!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - decorating cookies

While I do enjoy eating Christmas sugar cookies, my favorite kind of cookie is chocolate chip, especially ones with dark chocolate chips and a little salt. Yum!

As a regular contributor to children’s magazines like Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, Baby Bug, and Ladybug, you write stories and poetry for the youngest readers, what do you like about writing for this age? What are a few of the most important ingredients in stories for little ones?

I love writing for little ones because they are so curious about everything in the world around them—sights, smells, sounds, tastes, new experiences, and people. They take it all in as they learn, develop, and grow. I like to be a part of that.

My poems and stories for this age group often include short and simple sentences with some fun words added that young readers may not be familiar with.

You’ve said that you loved to write even as a child. Can you describe your journey to becoming a published writer?

My journey as a writer has been a long one. I still have my creative writing stories from second grade. Reading them now makes me laugh! Growing up, the stories were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer.

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - school writing folder

I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the          classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from my teaching job and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I worked as a teacher and later took care of my two sons. Finally, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Can you talk a little about your work as a teacher? How do your experiences influence your work?

My teaching background is unique because I have taught different subjects to students of many ages. I started my teaching career as a high school Spanish teacher. Then, while in Barcelona, I taught English to middle school students. Upon my return to the U.S., I taught Spanish to grades K-2 and then math to grades 1-4. 

Whichever subject I teach, and to whichever grade level, there is always something for me to gain as a writer when I work with students. Whether it be from something that happens in the classroom or something that a student says that sparks a writing idea, being around children gets my creative juices flowing! I hope to get back in the classroom soon.

What’s up next for you?

My next book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be released in February, 2020. Also, I’m happy to announce that a third book in my holiday board book series will follow. I will share details about that book soon. I have plenty of non-holiday projects as well that I hope will make their way into the world in the near future.

What’s your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the excitement that leads up to it, the beautiful decorations, the spirit of giving, and the true meaning of the season. It’s such a magical and joyous time for people of all ages filled with traditions and love. I’m so happy that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY can be a part of it all!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - making cookies

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Tara! I wish you a wonderful holiday and much success with all of your writing!

You can connect with Tara Knudson on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter  

Christmas Cookie Day! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Tara Knudson in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Christmas Cookie Day! written by Tara Knudson | illustrated by Pauline Siewert

This giveaway is open from December 5 through December 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 10

It takes just these two steps to enter:

  • Like the Giveaway Post
  • Follow Tara Knudson @taraknudson and @celebratepicturebooks on Instagram
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of cookie! (Each comment gives you one more entry)

Prizing provided by Tara Knudson

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

National Cookie Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-kids-craft

Gingerbread Kids Ornaments

You can make gingerbread ornaments to decorate your tree or windows with this easy-to-make craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  2. Trace gingerbread girl and boy on brown foam sheets
  3. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  4. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  5. Add trim to the edge of the gingerbread girl’s dress
  6. Add socks to the gingerbread boy
  7. Add buttons
  8. Add faces
  9. Paint the hands of each figure with the paint
  10. Sprinkle glitter on the hands to make mittens
  11. To use as decoration attach mountable squares or with a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover-2

You can find Christmas Cookie Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 3 – Make a Gift Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-cover

About the Holiday

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a homemade gift. But what if you’re not crafty and baking’s not really your thing either? A gift doesn’t have to be something you unwrap. There are plenty of ways to share your talents with those you love to show them they’re important to you. Are you handy around the house? Find a project that needs doing and go to work! Are you a dancer? Why not teach a young family member some steps or a short routine? If you sing or play and instrument, invite friends and family to your holiday concert or perform for them during a holiday get together. Whatever your talent is, others will be excited and happy to receive your “homemade” gift!

A Tuba Christmas

Written by Helen L. Wilbur | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

Ava came from a musical family, and the time had come for her to choose an instrument to learn. If she started practicing now, she’d be ready for the family’s holiday concert. Her father suggested the piano like her mother played. Her mom suggested the flute or maybe the violin like her dad played. But Ava wasn’t interested in these—or in following in her bothers’ steps with the cello or clarinet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-family

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ava knew what instrument she wanted to play and proudly announced, “‘I want to play the tuba.’” Her family was surprised but signed her up for lessons. Her teacher, Rodney, played the tuba in the high school marching band. Since a full-sized tuba was much too big for Ava, “Rodney found a tuba that fit nicely in her lap and made her only a little lopsided when she carried it.” Ava loved everything about her tuba, but there was one problem. While Ava could make noise on her tuba, she couldn’t make music.

Ava practiced every day. At dinner, her parents always asked how her tuba playing was going while her brothers laughed and told her she would ruin their concert. Even the kids at school made fun of her choice of instruments, but Rodney told her, “‘Forget about them. The tuba is a noble instrument.’” But when she tripped over her tuba and fell in the cafeteria in front of all the laughing kids, she told Rodney she was quitting.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-choose

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Rodney told her that was too bad because she’d miss being in the holiday concert—a first of its kind in the area. Ava perked up on hearing about the concert and vowed to keep practicing. As the days went on, “The notes came a little easier and sounded just a bit better every night.” Her tuba even seemed lighter to carry. When the posters went up announcing a surprise concert, everyone wanted to know what it was about, but Ava just told them they’d have to wait and see.

Ava’s brothers couldn’t believe she could be in a concert. They told her she’d “hit the wrong notes.” Rodney reassured her though that playing in an ensemble was a “great chance to learn.” He told her “if someone misses a note, other players will hit the right one and no one will know.” Ava felt better and on the day of the concert she ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she joined all of the other tuba players in decorating her tuba and donning an elf hat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-rodney

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the audience saw that the orchestra consisted only of tubas, they looked around skeptically. Rodney explained that the tubas would play each song twice: once alone and then for everyone to join in singing. Everyone smiled when they recognized the first song, Jingle Bells. On the second go-round, the whole audience was soon singing. The tubas played lots of familiar songs. “the concert was loud and it was fun. At the end everyone cheered and cheered.” Even Ava’s brothers were proud to point her out and claim her as their sister. And just as her parents had promised, her father presented Ava with her very own tuba and a welcome to “the new musician in our family.”

An Author’s Note following the story reveals the origins of Tuba Christmas concerts, which take place all around the world. A description of the tuba, how it works, and other instruments in the tuba family is also included.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-gets-tuba

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen L. Weber’s original holiday story will delight any child who sees life a little differently from their friends and family. Ava’s perseverance in playing the tuba despite the teasing and from her brothers and friends and a bit of skepticism on the part of her parents, will embolden readers who are met with similar reactions to their desired pursuits. Ava’s teacher, Rodney, gives sage and reassuring advice that provides positive perspective and will encourage kids to continue working on their skills despite setbacks or nervousness. Through her characters’ honest, realistic dialogue and emotions, Wilbur reveals the ups and downs of beginning any new activity, hobby, or vocation and offers children support and inspiration on their journey.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 5.17.38 PM

Mary Reaves Uhles captures all of the heart of this one-of-a-kind story in her vivid and action-filled illustrations that reveal Ava’s enthusiasm for her shiny, coiled instrument. Images of Ava practicing while the cat covers its ears and the neighbor’s dog howls as the notes go awry add humor, but also reinforce Ava’s determination to learn the tuba. Ava’s interactions with Rodney are uplifting and will boost young readers’ confidence in their own abilities. The cheerful double-page spread of the tuba orchestra decked out for the holiday concert will have kids wanting to attend a Tuba Christmas concert—or take up the tuba themselves!

A heartening story for any child who marches to a different…tuba, A Tuba Christmas is a book that cheer and reassure kids at any time of the year.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363841

Discover more about Helen L. Wilbur and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Make a Gift Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-cover

You can find A Tuba Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Day of Giving

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

About the Holiday

Following the shopping “holidays” of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been designated as a day to celebrate generosity and giving to others. 92nd Street Y in New York City created the holiday for people to think about charitable giving to those less fortunate not only for one day or one month, but all year round. The spirit of today’s holiday will fill you with cheer every day—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books sent me a copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | Illustrated by Frank Morrison

 

A little girl wakes up with a smile on her face and “the spirit of the season” in her heart. As she and her mother head out into the snowy city, she hears “the spirit in the air” as carolers sing and a corner Santa rings a bell. She’s been saving her money to add to the familiar red pot and happily drops it in the slot. The choir is now singing “Deck the Halls,” and the little girl sings along with all her heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-spirit-in-air

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then it’s time for a yummy roasted treat to warm her up in the shivery air. On the ice-skating rink, the girl and her mom “swirled and twirled around the spirit” with other kids and adults enjoying some frozen fun. Afterward, a tour of the store windows decorated with lights and glitter makes her feel sparkly inside. But when they come upon a mother and her two children huddled against the wind with a “Help Please” sign, the girl says, “I felt the spirit deep down in my soul.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-skating

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In a crowded store nearby, the little girl looks wide-eyed at all the toys then whispers to a tired Santa her wish “for the spirit everywhere.” As she, her mom, Santa, and a host of other people leave the store carrying wrapped packages, they feel the spirit spread by the girl’s smile. Outside, the little girl and the other shoppers give the presents to the needy family. The little boy grins from ear to ear as his mom stands by happily and the baby rests in Santa’s arms.

The Christmas spirit is not just a thing or a place or a person, the girl understands, “The spirit is you!” Then the girl gets her own surprise when she spies her dad coming home. She runs to him and he lifts her into a hug. Here is what she wants for Christmas—“Peace for all, good tidings, and cheer—let’s live the spirit every day of the year.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-coming-home

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As the sights and sounds of Christmas begin to light up towns, stores, and homes, Connie Schofield-Morrison’s story fills young readers with the joy and deeper meaning of the holiday. Little ones wanting to share their bubbly excitement for Christmas as well as their innate empathy will fall in love with the little girl who eagerly joins in on all of the city’s festivities while also embracing those in need. Her big heart and buoyant spirit will inspire kids to find the spirit of the holiday in everything they do too. Kids are invited to join in reading with exuberant alliterative words like “Ding Dong Ding, that call out to the little girl

Readers can almost hear the bells and singers, feel the soft snow, and smell the roasting nuts as he takes readers on a tour of the city decked out for the holidays. In his gorgeous, realistic paintings, the emotions and actions of the little girl cheer young readers as they see her belting out a Christmas carol, gliding on ice rink, and walking side-by-side with Santa to deliver her surprise gifts to the needy family. Images of the girl dropping money that she has saved into the Salvation Army pot and frowning sadly as she comes upon the destitute woman and her family mirror the compassion many children feel for those less fortunate.

Like its predecessor I Got the Rhythm, I Got the Christmas Spirit is an uplifting and beautiful book to add to any child’s collection—not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. A top choice for public libraries too.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681195285

To learn more about Frank Morrison and view a gallery of his art, visit his website.

I Got the Christmas Spirit Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | illustrated by Frank Morrison

This giveaway is open from November 27 through December 2 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 3

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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

Day of Giving Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-ornaments-craft

Polish-Dipped Ornaments

 

These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make the perfect 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

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

You can find I Got the Christmas Spirit at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 24 – Christmas Eve

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-cover

About the Holiday

While traditions may vary, children around the world look forward to Christmas Eve night with its sense of wonder and magic. Anything, it seems, is possible on this special night—just as today’s book shows.

The Little Reindeer

By Nicola Killen

 

Ollie, dressed in her reindeer pajamas, had just drifted off to sleep when she heard a faint “jingle, jingle, jingle.” She woke and “rushed to the window, but all she could see was a blanket of fresh snow!” She picked up her sled and headed outside. Just as Ollie caught a falling snowflake, “she heard the magical sound again. Jingle, jingle, jingle.” She flopped on her sled and zipped down a hill, following the sound as it became clearer and clearer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-bells-jingle

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

When Ollie came to the edge of the woods, she could hear the bells jangling louder and louder. “She took a deep breath and, feeling very brave, she ran into the darkness.” There, she saw a red collar “circled with silver bells.” She wondered whose it was. Suddenly, “a reindeer stepped through the crisp snow toward Ollie.” The reindeer knelt down as Ollie attached his collar. Then he bent lower to allow Ollie to climb on his back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-on-sled

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

While Ollie thought that they might ride through the forest, she found herself soaring “up into the night sky, leaving the trees far below!”  They flew over the town and the bay, over fields and forests through the snowy night. The reindeer brought Ollie home, landing softly in the snow right outside her door. Ollie didn’t want to leave her new friend, but she knew “there was someone very special who needed the reindeer’s help that night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-into-forest

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ollie quietly climbed the stairs to her room and quickly fell asleep, “dreaming of her magical journey.” She didn’t hear the jingle of the bells as her reindeer once more streaked across the sky. In the morning, Ollie unwrapped a very special gift that would  remind her of her new friend until they met again next year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-finds-collar

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Nicola Killen’s tale of imagination and the magic that children can find in Christmas will charm young readers. Adorable Ollie dreams of reindeer not only at night but all the time, as children can see in Ollie’s room that is filled with reminders of her favorite animal, including a book about reindeer, a reindeer bookend, reindeer sheets, reindeer wallpaper, a reindeer plush, and plenty of reindeer drawings.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-reindeer-meets-reindeer

Copyright Nicola Killen, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Killen’s story has a dreamy feeling, prompting readers to wonder: is this nighttime jaunt real or not? A clue may lie in the fact that the reindeer wears a blanket of the same pattern as Ollie’s bedspread. Killen’s gray-scale illustrations are beautifully accented with touches of red and sprinkled with silver that glints from the sleigh bells, snow-topped trees, and in the magical swoop of the reindeer’s flight. Several die-cuts invite readers to follow Ollie into the night and through the woods and offers a peek out Ollie’s window to see her reindeer pass by as she sleeps.

A sweet story for little dreamers, The Little Reindeer is a classic tale that will enchant children around the holidays and beyond and would be a favorite addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481486866

Discover more about Nicola Killen, her books, and her art on her website

Christmas Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fireplace-and-stockings

Hanging Stockings Coloring Page

 

Hanging stockings by the fireplace is a fun Christmas Eve tradition! Get your crayons, colored pencils, or markers and enjoy this printable Hanging Stockings Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

November 29 – It’s National Gratitude Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-cover

About the Holiday

National Gratitude Month was established to encourage people to embrace gratitude every day. When we focus on the good influences in our lives, we’re happier, healthier and less stressed. While during this season our thoughts turn to giving to others and the fun of getting a little something too, it’s good to be mindful of and grateful for the things we already have. More is not always better—as today’s book humorously demonstrates.

Pig the Elf

By Aaron Blabey

 

Trevor wrote Santa Claus a very pleasant note asking for something nice for Christmas. He even ended it with a declaration of love. His note sits on the table propped against a glass of milk next to a plate of gingerbread cookies and another of carrots in the living room decorated for Christmas Eve. Everyone’s feeling festive—especially Pig who giggles “with glee— / ‘The presents! The presents! / For ME! ME! ME! ME!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-christmas-eve

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

His list stretches on like a long country road and contains items galore, like “a motorcycle, a rocket, a drum set, a pony, a skateboard, a cotton candy maker….” After all, “Santa takes orders,” right? Pig can’t wait for Santa’s arrival. He picks up poor Trevor and shouts “‘When will he get here? / Oh, WHEN? / TELL ME WHEN?!’” But when Trevor mentions sleeping, Pig isn’t having it. “‘I’m sitting up late! / I’ll be here when he comes! / I declare by the stockings / and gingerbread crumbs!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig's-list

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

So as Trevor climbs the stairs to go to bed, Pig hides behind the tall tree. Finally, at three thirty-three he hears a sound. Pig peeks around and sees Santa with a bag full of toys. He leaves Trevor and Pig presents in tidy little stacks and then turns his attention to his snack. But as he’s drinking his milk, Pig pops out, yelling “‘HEY!’” He complains about the few packages left on the floor, reminding Santa that he asked for much more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig-peeking

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

But Santa has other presents to deliver, so he heads back up the chimney. Just as Santa’s about to disappear, Pig takes a big bite of his pants and doesn’t let go even as Santa climbs out of the chimney and runs pell-mell over the roof to his sleigh. Pig begs, “‘Don’t be a cheapskate! / I want all my stuff! / The pile that you left me / Is just not enough!’”

Santa quickly jumps in, and the reindeer take off at top speed. Pig’s grasp is no match for the zooming sleigh, and he plunges through the night sky toward the center of town. In a miraculous turn of events, though, Pig “survived that big drop, / and was saved by a tree…with an angel on top.”

The back cover endpapers display part of Pig’s list with amusing asides and a changing number of desired skateboards.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-santa-running

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey knows that Pig the Pug just can’t resist the allure of presents and has written a funny, over-the-top story of what can happen when someone’s list is all get and no give. Blabey’s rollicking rhymes and free-wheeling dialog will make kids giggle at Pig’s insatiable appetite and unbridled impatience. Fairly popping out of his red hooded sleeper, Pig is a boisterous foil to the real Santa. As Pig hangs on to Santa for dear life, kids of a certain age will laugh out loud. When Pig falls directly atop the town Christmas tree, readers may be cheered to find that he can indeed be a little angel.

For fans of Pig the Pug, kids who like slapstick humor, and adult readers who enjoyed the antics of Alvin the Chipmunk, Pig the Elf is a fun holiday read.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Pig the Elf to check out. All opinions are my own.

Scholastic Press, 2017 |ISBN 978-1338221220

Discover more about Aaron Blabey and his books on his website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thank-you-card-template

Personalized Thank You Card

 

Often the best gift you can give someone is a “Thank You!” With this printable Thank You card, you can let someone know how much you appreciate them by drawing and writing a special message.

You can even get creative! Write a story, draw a picture, make a cartoon, or use a little glitter! You can also attach this to something you bake or make. Why not give the important people in your life a personalized thank you? It’s guaranteed to be appreciated!

Picture Book Review

December 25 – Christmas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-in-the-barn-cover

About the Holiday

Christmas is anticipated all year round for the joy of giving, the fun of receiving, and the message of hope the holiday gives. Honoring the birth of Jesus, it is a religious observation celebrated with hymns, special services, prayers, and remembrance of others. Incorporating long-held traditions from around the world, the holiday also welcomes Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Papá Noel, Ded Moroz (“Grandfather Frost” in Russian), Julenissen (“Christmas Gnome” in Norway), and many other names, who brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. The day inspires family dinners, home baking, parties with friends, and togetherness.

Christmas in the Barn

Written by Margaret Wise Brown | Illustrated by Anna Dewdney

 

“In a big warm barn in an ancient field / The oxen lowed, the donkey squealed, / The horses stomped, the cattle signed, / And quietly the daylight died / In the sunset of the west.” As the animals in the barn gathered for a meal of hay in the waning light, a star shining brighter than all the others rose in the sky. A couple and their donkey approach the barn, led there by the innkeeper who has no more rooms to give.

Welcomed by the farmyard animals, “…they were all safe and warm / All together in that ancient barn. / When hail—the first wail of a newborn babe reached the night / Where one great star was burning bright….” Shepherds tending their flocks come to watch the baby sleeping, and three wise men from far away travel to give him precious gifts. “What child is this who is born here / Where the oxen stomp and peer, / Away in a manger, no crib for his bed / What child is this who lays down his sweet head?”

With the dawning Christmas Day, the wise men rejoice while the special child still sleeps watched over by his mother and father, the sheep and the goats, the ox and the dog, the cat and the doves. “And there they were / All safe and warm / All together / In that ancient barn.”

From the first line of Christmas in the Barn, readers will delight in this Margaret Wise Brown picture book for little ones. Her distinctive rhythm and rhyme scheme brings the story of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus close to the heart of listeners. Wise Brown describes the events of that first Christmas Eve night and dawning Christmas day with simple, lilting sentences that emphasize the tenderness and togetherness in that “ancient barn.” Children will respond to Wise Brown’s gentle animals and the recognition of lines from familiar carols. The openness of the text allows for personal discussion of the story, making this a wonderful choice that will become a favorite with young—and even older—children.

Originally published in 1952, Christmas in the Barn is given a new and stunning look by Anna Dewdney. Her mixed-media illustrations glow with the mystery and splendor of the story. As the couple travels to the little inn, they are portrayed in silhouette, tiny against the vast peach-colored desert. The animals eat their dinner, unaware of what will soon happen in their home. Their sweet faces welcome the two people to share their space, and when the baby is born, the midnight blue sky lightens with the onset of the guiding star. Dewdney’s depictions of the barn’s interior focuses on the newborn baby, while the reverence shown him are moving and beautifully portrayed.

Christmas in the Barn is sure to become an often-read Christmas tradition, and would make an excellent selection for holiday collections.

Ages 3 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062379863

Christmas Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-coloring-page

Christmas Tree Coloring Page

 

Brightly wrapped presents under a pine tree decorated with traditional ornaments is a favorite sight at Christmas! Grab some pencils or crayons and color this printable Christmas Tree Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review