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.

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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

November 29 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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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!’”

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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!’”

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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.

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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.

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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

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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