December 24 – Christmas Eve

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-cover

About the Holiday

While Christmas Eve traditions vary around the world, children and adults everywhere look forward to this special night of giving with its wonder and magic. Today’s book tells the story of the first Christmas with gentle beauty. I also talk with author Carole Gerber about her inspiration and her own family traditions. 

Thanks go to Familius for sharing a copy of The Gifts of the Animals with me for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

After the animals in a Bethlehem stable watch Joseph help Mary dismount from their donkey’s back, they go to work to prepare a place for the soon-to-be-born baby Jesus to sleep. “The ox that stands in the drafty shed / drops straw into a manger bed.” The sheep and lambs add bits of wool to make the bed “feel soft and full.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-mary-and-joseph

Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Using downy feathers from the sparrows, chickens, and little chicks, the mice make a plump pillow for Jesus’ head. The cow finds a blanket, and with the help of the ox they lay it over the manger. “Then in this place, humble and warm, Christ, the Prince of Peace, is born.” Mary wraps Him in swaddling clothes then Joseph lays Him in the manger to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-sheep

Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

On a distant hillside, shepherds are startled by the brightening stars but listen to the angel who tells them of Jesus’ birth. Then the sky fills with a choir of angels singing “‘Peace on earth. Good will toward men. / Go now, shepherds, worship him.’” The shepherds hurry to Bethlehem to join in the joy of Mary, Joseph, and the gentle animals and to sing “‘Glory to our newborn king!’”

A condensed version of the Christmas story from the King James version of the book of Luke, chapter 2 follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-shepherds

Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

The wonder of that first Christmas night glows in Carole Gerber’s beautiful story that follows the animals in the stable as they make a warm and soft bed for Jesus to sleep in. Young readers will be mesmerized by the gentle generosity of the ox, cow, sheep, birds, and mice as they all work together to provide for the baby to come. As the shepherds are visited by the angels and go to worship Jesus, Gerber uses the lyrical language and flowing cadence of the King James version of the biblical story to create a tender and glorious read aloud for the whole family. 

Yumi Shimokawara’s gorgeous, soft-hued illustrations are breathtaking in their detail and inspiration. Pride, fellowship, and diligence shine on the animals’ faces as they create a manger bed worthy of the baby Jesus. Realistic and traditional images of the stone stable, the shepherds and their flock blend poignantly with the depiction of the singing angels that could come from any diverse modern choir. The final illustration in which the animals and the shepherds gather around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in adoration reveals the promise and hope of the true meaning of Christmas.

Sure to become a favorite Christmas story to share year after year, The Gifts of the Animals would be a beloved addition to home bookshelves and a beautiful inclusion for library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701594

Discover more about Carole Gerber and her books on her website.

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

A Chat with Carole Gerber

IMG_1919-001(3)

Poet and author Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college news writing and factual writing at OSU.

Hi Carole! I’m excited to be sharing Christmas Eve with you and your Christmas classic. I’m sure readers would love to know what inspired you to write The Gifts of the Animals.

In my random travels around the Internet, I came across a site called “The Hymns and Carols of Christmas.” One post contained the words to a song called “The Friendly Beasts.” The notes said “This song originally hails from a 12th century Latin song,” which was later known in England as “The Animal Carol.” It began: “Jesus our brother kind and good/was humbly born in a stable rude/and the friendly beasts around him stood/Jesus our brother, kind and good.” Here’s one more verse: “I,” said the cow all white and red / “I gave Him my manger for His bed;/I gave him my hay to pillow his head.”/ “I,” said the cow all white and red.

The song also mentions a dove cooing Jesus to sleep, the sheep giving him a blanket. It ends: “Thus every beast by some good spell/in the stable dark was glad to tell/of the gift he gave Emmanuel/The gift he gave Emmanuel.” What I wrote sounds nothing like the original, but it gave me the idea that sparked my story. I then developed my story into a 32-page picture book by including Mary and Joseph, other animals with useful gifts, the angels announcing the birth, and the arrival of the shepherds.

“The Animal Carol” sounds lovely. Do you know if it’s still performed?

After the book went to press, I found that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had performed the exact words of the original song. There’s a YouTube video that lasts about six minutes. I had no idea that it was famous! A man named Brian Stokes Mitchell was the main singer. He and the choir actually tweet and baa, making some of the animal sounds.  

Such a feeling of peace and love flows through your book. How do you go about choosing words and phrasing and even the poetic form to create that mood?

I wrote and revised it many times, of course. But I never felt frustrated and truly did feel peaceful and loving as I wrote. The art director, David Miles, was great to work with. We brainstormed about other animals that would live in a stable and might contribute to preparing the manger. I came up with mice to carry the feathers from the birds perched on the rafters. Nothing appropriate rhymes with “manger” so I came up with “ox” to rhyme with “manger box.” A sweet result of involving more animals (besides getting enough pages to fill the book) was that they all worked cooperatively.

The Gifts of the Animals is absolutely gorgeous, from the glowing gold-embossed cover to the images of the gentle animals that are happily helping to the jubilant angels that mirror a modern choir. Can you tell me about Yumi Shimokawara and how she was chosen to illustrate your book?

David Miles met her at the Bologna Book Fair in 2017, and was absolutely blown away by her talent. She lives in Japan and had won many awards, including the grand prize at her art school. Yumi had written and illustrated several books published in Japan. My favorite title is Potsu, posu, potsu daijobu, which translates in English to Plip-plop, Plip-plop, Plip-plop, Are You All Right? The title makes me smile. Yumi is not fluent in English so she worked with a Japanese friend who helped her translate David’s emails containing art directions. She did the cover first and it is beautiful. But she had given the baby blond hair and pale skin. My comment was, “We can’t have Jesus looking Swedish!” David replied, “No worries. I will fix this with Photoshop.” He darkened the baby’s hair and skin a bit and directed Yumi as she worked on the interior pages, to make all the people more authentically Middle Eastern.

Each spread is so beautiful on its own, but do you have a favorite? What makes that illustration special to you?

I love how happy and expressive the animals are, especially in the last spread when the people and animals are gathered around the Holy Family. Jesus is not the only baby in that picture. Yumi put baby chicks in that spread, too, which makes it even more touching. I also smile at the inside cover page, which has at the bottom an adorable illustration of a small choir of mice and birds. One little mouse is clasping his paws as he sings his heart out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-gathered-around

Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

At the end of your story you include a condensed version of Chapter 2 from the Biblical book of Luke in the King James Version. How did you choose which version of the story to include?

I earned a King James Bible when I was about eight years old as a reward for attending Sunday School for 10 Sundays straight. Ever since, I have loved the grandeur of the language in the King James Bible. Compare the words between the King James and The New International Version.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The New International Version of the Bible states:

“and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

No guest room available? It sounds like what a desk clerk in a motel would say. Bah!

What is one of your favorite family Christmas traditions?

Every time I get a new book published, my husband makes a Christmas tree ornament of the cover. This started years ago when my daughter Jess was in middle school. She secretly used my husband’s power tools – EEEK! – to cut to size a small piece of plywood on which she glued a small photocopied cover of one of my first published books. She put a doll house size clothes hanger on the back to attach it to the tree. After that, every Christmas, the last things we put on our tree are the miniature covers of my books.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Carole-Gerber-ornament

What a sweet and supportive tradition! It’s such a nice idea to adapt with photos or drawings for any family wanting to celebrate achievements from the past year. Thanks so much for this chat, Carole! I wish you all the best with The Gifts of the Animals and a very Merry Christmas with your family.

Christmas Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-word-search-puzzle-with-graphics

Tell the Good News! Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the sixteen words about the first Christmas in this printable puzzle.

Tell the Good News! Word Search Puzzle | Tell the Good News! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-cover

You can find The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 15 – Get Ready for Christmas

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

About the Holiday

Sharing books and doing crafts and activities together is a fun way to get ready for Christmas, the whole holiday season, and beyond. From stories about the first Christmas to holiday traditions to Santa to baking together, these picture books will put you in the Christmas spirit! Click on the titles to be taken to the full review. And have fun with the printable activity sheets and holiday crafts below!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-advent-story-cover

A Christmas Advent Story

Written by Ivy Snow | Illustrated by Hannah Tolson

Ivy Snow invites children to enjoy a month of anticipation and preparations for Christmas day with her engaging story that hits all the highlights and wonder of the season. Along the way, prompts intrigue children to lift the twenty-five flaps, have fun counting the trees in at the Christmas tree farm, find beautiful ornaments on the tree, point out all the different cookies, and open presents under the tree.

Hannah Tolson’s smart, brightly colored illustrations brim with all the joy and warmth of Christmas and the Advent season. Young readers will eagerly follow the two children as they happily go about their holiday preparations with their dog in tow and look forward to opening each of the twenty-five flaps to reveal surprises that will make them smile. The children’s home, shop windows, the tree farm, and the winter wonderland outside are loaded with little details that will keep kids lingering over each page during multiple readings, They also offer opportunities to talk about traditions new and old. Images of the downtown, busy with shoppers and carolers, evoke the community bonding that the holidays bring, and the cozy illustrations of home will inspire kids to join in all the fun.

With a sparkly cover and sturdy pages, this lovely advent calendar in a book would make a much-loved gift as the Advent season starts on December 2 and a bright star in home libraries.

Ages 1 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681198514

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-cover

A Christmas Carol

Adapted by Brooke Jorden | Illustrated by David Miles

One of the world’s most recognizable novels, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has thrilled readers ever since it was published on December 19, 1843. The novel’s combination of spooky ghosts, a loving family, and a lost soul in need of redemption keeps readers and listeners enthralled no matter how many times they’ve read it. But why should adults and older kids have all the fun? Now, with this Lit for Little Hands board book, even the youngest readers can enjoy all the intrigue of A Christmas Carol.

Brooke Jorden’s nimble adaptation loses none of the snap of the original. Turn to the first page and there is Bob Cratchit toiling away under the gaze of a stern Ebenezer Scrooge who “was the meanest miser the world had ever known.” Quotations from Dickens’ original novel are sprinkled throughout the text, giving it the Old-World atmosphere that contributes so much to the effect of the story. With each visit of a ghost, Jorden includes a lesson that Scrooge learns or a memory he has of a recent time when he could have been generous or happy and chose not to, allowing young readers to understand how the ghosts affect Scrooge and how he changes in that night.

Using fresh tones of red and green, David Miles brings 1800’s England to life for kids. Bob Cratchit scratches away in his ledger with a quill pen and only a candle for light as thick snow falls outside the window. At home, Scrooge sits in a darkened room where the eerie, translucent ghost of Jacob Marley, wrapped in a chain, is sure to impress. Miles’ image of the feast surrounding the Ghost of Christmas Present contrasts sharply with the small turkey and plum pudding on the Cratchit’s table, a detail that will resonate with today’s children just as it did when the novel was first published. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is appropriately spooky, but not too frightening for young children. When Scrooge wakes up a changed man, the dark shades of Miles’ pages give way to bright pinks and cheery aqua, and the icy blizzard has ended.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701518

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-too-big-cover

A Christmas Too Big

By Colleen Madden

Whether you like to celebrate Christmas in big or small ways, Colleen Madden’s heartwarming story reflects the true spirit of the holiday as a day for family, friends, togetherness, and kindness. While Kerry’s parents and siblings believe in a bigger-is-better philosophy, when Kerry finds another way of celebrating with Mrs. Flores, she realizes that “big” doesn’t need to come with a huge tree, lots of lights, hundreds of cookies, or even a month of preparations, but can simply mean warm feelings inside their heart. Madden’s organic integration of Mrs. Flores’ conversation in Spanish is very welcome.

Madden’s straightforward, non-judgmental, inviting, and humorous storytelling welcomes kids all along the spectrum, from HUGE to tiny, to enjoy Christmas and its lead-in in the way that is most meaningful to them. The story can also spur talks within a family about the ways each member likes to celebrate and to incorporate those ideas into their yearly traditions.

Madden’s winning illustrations will keep kids riveted to the pages as Kerry’s family joyously retrieves the Christmas decorations and gets to work. Madden depicts their over-the-top love of the holiday in illustrations that are jam-packed, frenetic, and definite showstoppers that kids will love poring over—especially the title screens for seventeen comical Christmas specials, Mom’s “so close” renditions of holiday classic songs, and the cutaway of Kerry’s house, where they can search for the elves hidden in each room. 

In contrast, Mrs. Flores one-story house has no outdoor decorations and the inside is sparsely furnished, allowing the focus to be on her small tree. As you turn from pages where you don’t know where to look next to these simple spreads, you can almost hear yourself sigh as the frenzy fades and a calm, quiet simplicity takes over. Back home, there’s no denying the beauty of the family’s fully decorated tree, and readers (maybe the adults even more than the kids) will appreciate the matching candy cane-striped onesie pajamas they’re wearing. The final image of Kerry’s family sharing dinner with Mrs. Flores is cheerful and festive. Spanish labels name all of the food, decorations, and other items on and around the dinner table.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542028004

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-cat

The Christmas Cat

Written by Maryann Macdonald | Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Maryann Macdonald’s gentle story of the baby Jesus soothed by a kitten on the night he was born and saved by this same pet on his flight to Egypt will captivate young children. The focus on the child-animal bond will delight little ones with pets of their own and makes the Christmas story immediately accessible. Macdonald’s lyrical language beautifully portrays the emotion and setting of the story, and she establishes the danger faced by the family with age-appropriate suspense.

Amy June Bates enhances the story with gorgeous traditional paintings of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the stable and its animals, and the nighttime journey to Egypt. Her watercolor, gauche, and pencil illustrations glow with warm ambers, greens, and midnight blues. The barn animals are sweetly gentle and earnest in their attempts to soothe the crying baby, and the realistic portraits of the family demonstrate their love for each other. Children will especially like the images of Jesus and his pet cat cuddling and playing together. The final illustration of Mary, Jesus, and their cat echoes the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci that accompanies the Author’s Note.

For pet owners and animal lovers, The Christmas Cat would make a meaningful addition to their holiday collection.

Ages 3 – 6

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803734982

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

Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-christmas-crumb-cover

The Christmas Crumb

Written by Lou Treleaven | Illustrated by Alex Willmore

Like the Christmas season itself, Lou Treleaven’s story of a treat that keeps on giving is full of charm, surprise, and cheer. Her set up of a royal giant family enjoying their holiday feast lends a magical plausibility to the idea of a crumb large enough to pass down and down and down again to feed multiple families—an idea that brings new delight each time a crumb escapes and finds a new home. Treleaven’s whimsical storyline soars on her jaunty rhyme scheme and her superb word choices that are humorous and heart-tugging at the same time.

Her deft messaging will appeal to children’s natural empathy as well as their awareness today of need in their communities as in each household the child apologizes for losing even a crumb. The adults’ repeated response, while providing a fun phrase for readers to join in on, can also lead to deeper discussions about the importance and rewards of giving.

Accompanying Lou Treleaven’s story are Alex Willmore’s hilarious and heartening illustrations that set the Christmas scene with fresh color tones and captivating details that show the impact the “crumb” has on each family. Spying a child hiding in the giants’ big bowl of potatoes will elicit giggles, and the characters’ facial expressions—from the princess’s delighted gasp at seeing the Yule log to the mother’s look of impending doom as the crumb barrels through her home—are priceless.

Willmore’s work with perspective is worthy of special note. Underlying Treleaven’s message that something’s worth is all in ones perspective, Willmore’s scenes employ close-up and distant views; commonly recognized items are juxtaposed to the giants, Pip and his mom, the mice, the ants, and finally the flea to show scale; and the runaway crumb becomes smaller and smaller but is always just the right size. Math-oriented kids will enjoy pointing these out, and some may like replicating scenes by physically arranging similar items. In a final spread, the princes, Pip, the mice, the ants, and even the barely perceptible flea line up with their crumbs in a meaningful demonstration of how something small to one person is big to another.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867765

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

Christmas in the Barn

Written by Margaret Wise Brown | Illustrated by Anna Dewdney

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

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

Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer 

By Jim Benton

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.

Ages 3 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043472

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-santa-stopped-believing-in-harold-cover

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold

Written by Maureen Fergus | Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

Maureen Fergus’s clever flip on believing in Santa proves that the magic of Christmas doesn’t lie in the presents we get but in that feeling of wonder that lives in hearts young and old. When Santa makes his confession to Mrs. Claus and justifies it to the elves and reindeer, there will be giggles all around as adults and older children appreciate the wry twist and younger “still believers” react to such ridiculous notions. Making inspired and humorous use of the waiting-up-to-see-Santa trope, Fergus creates suspense while setting up the climactic scene and the ingeniously worded line that one moment gives Santa his “proof” and the next dispels both Santa’s and Harold’s doubts. A relatable Santa, an elf with a twinkle of good-natured attitude,” skeptical reindeer, and a lovable child make this holiday reading at its best.

Cale Atkinson’s Santa, as rotund as a Christmas Tree ornament is sympathetic and funny as he gnaws anxiously on a finger before blurting out his worries to Mrs. Claus, argues his points with waving arms, and sulks like a petulant child. These early views make Santa’s glee at the end all the more emotional. While Santa stews, a dubious Harold is shown reading “Santa Enquirer,” and his wall sports the results of his investigation. Retro touches, humorous details, and plenty of red and green add to the holiday fun, while the jolly ending fulfills all dreams.

A fresh Christmas classic kids will ask for over and over, The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold is a must for adding to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1770498242

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fa-la-la-llama-cover

Fa-la-la Llama

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Allison Black

Get ready to giggle and “La-la-llaaamaaa” with your little ones in Joan Holub’s effervescent take on a favorite holiday song that also includes touch-and-feel elements that begin right on the front cover, where a shiny ribbed foil evergreen is about to be turned into a Christmas tree. Opening the cover, little ones find that a white Christmas is assured as textured glittery snowflakes fall on a cheerful, pink llama. Other enticing treats include a pink tulle tutu ice-skating skirt, a silver rippled foil-wrapped present, and a sparkly bowtie of netting, foil, and glitter. Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Ssanta, and he’s here too with a soft and wooly beard to tickle tykes’ fingertips—and fancy!

If you’re looking for a fun, infectious holiday story to share with your little one, you’ve found it! Joan Holub’s catchy rendition of “Deck the Halls” for the youngest readers is sure to have the whole family “Fa la la la la la la Llama-ing” as you decorate the tree, wrap gifts, bake cookies, and, of course, sing carols. Holub’s word choices make the verses easy for kids to remember, inviting them to read or sing (it’s impossible to resist singing!) along.

Allison Black’s adorable llamas decked out in winter’s most cozy hats, scarves, mittens, and sweaters can’t help but make you smile. Their enthusiasm for the season mirrors children’s own excitement, and their holiday activities will be familiar to kids as well. Black’s vibrant backgrounds, colorful fa-la-las, organically integrated touch-and-feel surprises, and sprinkling of humor make this a book little readers will want to put on repeat.

Ages 2 – 5

Cartwheel Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1338681475

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-cover

The Gifts of the Animals

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

The wonder of that first Christmas night glows in Carole Gerber’s beautiful story that follows the animals in the stable as they make a warm and soft bed for Jesus to sleep in. Young readers will be mesmerized by the gentle generosity of the ox, cow, sheep, birds, and mice as they all work together to provide for the baby to come. As the shepherds are visited by the angels and go to worship Jesus, Gerber uses the lyrical language and flowing cadence of the King James version of the biblical story to create a tender and glorious read aloud for the whole family. 

Yumi Shimokawara’s gorgeous, soft-hued illustrations are breathtaking in their detail and inspiration. Pride, fellowship, and diligence shine on the animals’ faces as they create a manger bed worthy of the baby Jesus. Realistic and traditional images of the stone stable, the shepherds and their flock blend poignantly with the depiction of the singing angels that could come from any diverse modern choir. The final illustration in which the animals and the shepherds gather around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in adoration reveals the promise and hope of the true meaning of Christmas.

Sure to become a favorite Christmas story to share year after year, The Gifts of the Animals would be a beloved addition to home bookshelves and a beautiful inclusion for library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701594

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-christmas

Gingerbread Christmas

By Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s mischievously loveable Gingerbread Baby is back, wanting to participate in the Village Festival. With her signature storytelling that includes danger, mystery, and clever shenanigans surrounding Matti and his special gingerbread creations, Brett creates a holiday adventure that kids will love. Her well-known intricate illustrations, in a rich palette, offer vivid action as the Gingerbread Baby and instruments play onstage while the villagers dance below. Brett’s beautiful details and cozy settings make Gingerbread Christmas a feast for the eyes, and readers will also like to linger over the musical instruments in the margins of each page that reveal more snapshots of the story line. A dazzling fold-out Christmas tree, decorated from top to bottom will occupy and delight kids as they search for where the Gingerbread Baby is hiding.

For winter fun and especially those days when the house fills with the delicious aroma of baking cookies, Gingerbread Christmas is great book to have on hand.

Ages 4 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399170713

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

The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas

Written by Laura Murray | Illustrated by Mike Lowery

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

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | Illustrated by Frank Morrison

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-latkes-for-santa-claus-cover

Latkes for Santa Claus

Written by Janie Emaus | Illustrated by Bryan Langdo

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-moles-christmas-gift-cover

Little Mole’s Christmas Gift

Written by Glenys Nellist | Illustrated by Sally Garland

With an endearing protagonist, Glenys Nellist’s story about the true meaning of giving from the heart will appeal to little ones’ natural sense of generosity while strengthening the joy they feel in helping out at home or helping those in need. The three friends Little Mole encounters give children an opportunity to talk about what they would do in each situation and for adults to discuss ideas of kindness as well as gratitude as this one gift becomes many. Mama’s reaction to Little Mole’s gift will show kids that it’s not the size of a present that counts but the love and thought that goes into it. They’ll also see that a person’s actions, compassion, and consideration for others are gifts that cannot be matched.

Sally Garland’s textured illustrations focus on adorable Little Mole and his dreams of the perfect Christmas, allowing the youngest readers to fully appreciate Little Mole’s decisions to give up parts of the present for Mama that means so much to him. As Little Mole encounters Little Squirrel, Little Mouse, and Little Chipmunk, readers can clearly see the sadness and need of each of these friends as well as the positive difference Little Mole’s kindness makes in their day. Garland’s lovely aqua sky swirled with white snow and gauzy wind makes for a shivery winter scene, while Little Mole’s home is cozy and warm with a glittering Christmas tree and homemade treats and decorations.

A charming companion to Little Mole Finds Hope, Little Mole’s Christmas Gift makes for cozy story times that will inspire love, compassion, and kindness at Christmas and throughout the year. The book would be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506448756

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

The Little Reindeer

By Nicola Killen

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.

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pick-a-pine-tree-cover

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by Patricia Toht | Illustrated by Jarvis

Patricia Toht’s lively rhymes engage kids in one of the holiday season’s most fun activities—picking out and decorating the Christmas tree. Her step-by-step verses brim with the growing excitement of the day and encourage sharing the celebration with family and friends. As they read, kids will be caught up in the fun and memories of this favorite tradition.

Vivid, action-packed mixed-media illustrations in a rich color palette by Jarvis take readers to the Christmas tree lot with its rows and rows of different trees to choose from and back to the family’s cozy home—where a dog and cat are happy to help out. As friends and neighbors drop by for the decorating party, kids will love recounting their own experiences hanging the lights and pointing out ornaments that may look like their own. The fully decorated tree glows in a two-page vertical spread that will wow little readers.

A sweet family story full of smiles, eager anticipation, and a love of Christmas, Pick a Pine Tree is a magical read to add to holiday story times.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763695712

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

Pig the Elf

By Aaron Blabey

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, 2017 |ISBN 978-1338221220

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

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

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

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

Santa’s Secret

Written by Denise Brennan-Nelson | Illustrated by Deborah Melmon

Between trying to figure out which presents Santa will bring and wondering about the real Santa, most kids 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

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

Santa’s Story

By Will Hillenbrand

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-globe-wishes-cover

Snow Globe Wishes

Written by Erin Dealey | Illustrated by Claire Shorrock

Erin Dealey’s lovely ode to wishes for community and peace took me back to the winter of 2012 when a  nor’easter knocked out electricity in parts of my town for a week and families and businesses that did have power offered those who did not the comforts of home and other help. Every year, across the country and the world, communities deal with similar experiences, making Dealey’s story one that will resonate with readers. Her gentle verses capture the excitement kids feel during snow days and other surprise events and invite readers into a family’s cozy home for an evening of fun and togetherness. Children can easily imagine this peace extending to homes throughout the story’s town, to their own city, and to the world beyond. Dealey’s use of a snow globe to represent the world is inspired, and the beautiful metaphor continues as neighbors join hands and create a circle around the town’s decorated tree. Her call for all people to cease their busy lives for a moment and answer the snow’s beckoning is sure to inspire children and adults to take a snow globe day of their own.

Working perfectly in tandem with Dealey’s vision, Claire Shorrock depicts the snow-covered town and the family’s home in calming hues of yellows, grays, and blues punctuated with earthy oranges. The family’s heartwarming love for each other glows in the candlelight, fire, and lantern that light the family’s picnic dinner and story time. As the little girl happily gazes into her snow globe while her family sleeps, the globe is surrounded by a magical glow of stars that mirror the starlight in the sky visible in the window. Shorrock depicts the circular motif throughout her illustrations from the paving stones on the town square and the fat, fluffy snowflakes swirling in the air to the cat curled up on the chair and the family’s home décor to the snowballs, snowmen, and even a snow globe the townspeople make on the morning after the storm. The image of the neighbors holding hands around the tree is uplifting and hopeful. On the final page this spontaneous camaraderie appears inside the snow globe, leading readers to wish that such togetherness can be preserved for all.

An enchanting read aloud for winter story times (or any time of the year), Snow Globe Wishes would be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves to inspire individual acts of kindness and promote universal peace.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110311

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-star-in-the-christmas-play-cover

The Star in the Christmas Play

Written by Lynne Marie | Illustrated by Lorna Hussey

Lynne Marie’s sweet story of a little giraffe trying to find his place is endearing through and through. Children will empathize with his wish to be included in the Christmas play and his worries about his size. Raffi’s loving mother offers encouragement and snuggles, and their trusting relationship in which Raffi feels comfortable revealing his doubts is a highlight of the story. By allowing Raffi to create an important part for himself, Marie also empowers readers to find their own perseverance, creativity, and voice. Raffi’s beaming smile as he sits straight and tall while playing the Christmas star, shows children that they should always be proud of who they are and their important role in the world. Marie includes many opportunities for kids and adults to discuss various emotions and aspects of friendship—from celebrating others’ accomplishments to feeling left out of the fun—making the book an excellent choice at any time of the year.

Lorna Hussey’s savannah animal children are adorable as they demonstrate why they’d be perfect for their preferred roles in the play. Kids will enjoy studying the clues and guessing which part each animal wants to play. Contrasting their exuberance with Raffi’s bent neck, droopy ears, and sad expression, readers can clearly see how Raffi’s worries weigh on him. The tender love between sunny-spotted Raffi and his mother will touch readers. The final spread of the Nativity play is lovely and uplifting, and children will love lingering over this page to point out all the details.

A heartening and layered story for Christmas and throughout the year, The Star in the Christmas Play is highly recommended for making every child feel like the star they are. The book would be charming addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1506438139

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

A Tuba Christmas

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

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.

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

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

When Santa Was a Baby

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout

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.

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)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

The Worst Christmas Ever

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Porfirio

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s emotional Christmas story captures feelings of loss and sadness children feel when life changes or unexpected misfortunes occur. Framed by Christmas, a time of magic, good memories, and miracles, Bostrom’s story offers hope for new perspectives and rediscovered happiness. Through Matthew and his younger sister, Lucy, Bostrom creates realistic portraits of children that will resonate with readers. Her detailed storytelling, rich with dialogue and sprinkled with humor, will charm kids. Matthew’s friendship with Jasper is a highlight, and Jasper’s running off sets up suspense and the joyful ending. The story has particular resonance this year when beloved traditions may change, families may not gather as usual, and the holidays may take on a different feel. Reading the book with children can help them discuss their feelings and find new ways to share the Christmas spirit.

Guy Porfirio’s vivid illustrations shine with realistic action and are especially effective in depicting Matthew’s and Lucy’s emotions and different reactions to moving, a warm-weather Christmas, and looking for the Christmas miracle. Matthew’s close relationship with his dog is sweetly portrayed, and his sadness is evident even as he goes about the traditional Christmas Eve activities. Alert readers may notice the hint of Jasper’s black-and-white tail mixed in with the hay as the family walks across the church lawn to take their places in the stable, letting them experience the giddy excitement of Christmas Eve discovery and also rejoice with Matthew when Jasper is found.

A poignant story that inspires children to look for the promise of Christmas in surprising places and all year long, The Worst Christmas Ever would be a favorite seasonal read aloud that would be asked for throughout the year as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Flyaway Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1947888098

Christmas Activities

Activity Sheets

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-man-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-Find-the-Perfect-Pine-Tree-maze

Can you help the kids sled their way to find the evergreen tree in this printable maze?

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze | Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snowflake-matching-puzzle

If you’re wishing for a white Christmas, you’ll enjoy finding the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle.

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

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

Match up the two-reindeer teams so they can start having holiday fun!

Reindeer Team Match-Up

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-santa-letter-page

It’s time to write a letter to Santa! Have fun coloring this printable template then use it for your letter or your Christmas wish list!

Santa Letter Template

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-sack-maze-puzzle

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-word-search-puzzle-with-graphics

Find the sixteen words about the first Christmas in this printable Tell the Good News word search puzzle.

Tell the Good News! Word Search Puzzle | Tell the Good News! Word Search Solution

Crafts

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcake-wrapper-tree-craft

Cupcake Wrapper Holiday Tree

With festive wrappers from a favorite snack, you can make all kinds of holiday trees. Try mixing colors and or patterns too!

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!

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

Gingerbread Kids Foam Craft

With these foam gingerbread kids, you can make decorations or ornaments that look good enough to eat!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

Write your own Christmas story, create a holiday scrapbook, or make a gift for a family member or friend with this mini accordion book.

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

Nail Polish-Dipped Ornaments

These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make pretty decorations for you tree. Make some to give to friends too!

celebrate=picture-books-picture-book-review-shaving-cream-wrapping-paper-gifts

Shaving Cream Wrapping Paper

Kids will have a blast giving a present wrapped in paper they’ve made themselves! It’s easy and fun and with a combination of food coloring they can make their paper traditional red and green or any festive colors!

December 8 – National Christmas Tree Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-advent-story-cover

About the Holiday

Do you have your tree yet? If not, then why not celebrate today’s holiday by gathering the family and heading out to your favorite Christmas tree farm or lot to choose the perfect tree to glow with lights, display your ornaments, and, of course, give Santa the perfect place to unpack his presents. Counting down to that special day is one of the joys of the season, and today’s book can make the time even more fun! 

Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing a copy of A Christmas Advent Story with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

A Christmas Advent Story

Written by Ivy Snow | Illustrated by Hannah Tolson

 

The weather has turned frosty and the decorations are going up. “It’s nearly Christmastime, and the countdown has begun” in this delightful, eye-catching book, which can be used to mark each passing day or as a fun lift-the-flap read for any day during the season. A boy and a girl pull on their winter coats and boots to get ready for an outdoor adventure. At the door behind flap number 1 waits their dog, dressed in a jaunty scarf and wearing festive reindeer antlers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-advent-story-tree-farm

Image copyright Hannah Tolson, 2017, text copyright Ivy Snow, 2017. Courtesy of hannatolson.com. (Page shown without flaps.)

A sled ride down a snowy hill takes the kids past a frozen pond where skaters twirl and a deer hides behind flap number 5. The downtown shops look warm and inviting with colorful displays and glowing lights inside. The kids point out the toys they like—a ship, a dollhouse, a castle. But what could be wrapped in the box with the purple bow? Lift the flap to see!

Soon it’s time to choose the perfect Christmas tree at the cut-your-own lot. “Christmas trees are all around. Big ones and bushy ones, tall ones and thin ones, decorated with colorful twinkling lights.” Which one will they pick? Carolers ring the town square as snow drifts down and “the stars are sparkling in the sky.” The lucky dog now gets a ride on the sled through the snow-filled streets. Does he see the cat? Do you?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-advent-story-tree-decorating

Image copyright Hannah Tolson, 2017, text copyright Ivy Snow, 2017. Courtesy of hannatolson.com. (Page shown without flaps.)

In the house on the hill, putting up and decorating the tree is such fun! The cat naps on the rug near the fire and the dog wraps himself in gold garland. The boy and girl are hanging the last of the ornaments. But what will go on the tree top? Find out under flap 13! Now it’s time to wrap some presents. Can you help the little girl with her special present before baking cookies? Now let’s head to the kitchen to “make different kinds of cookie shapes. How many can you see? / Ice them and eat them, / wrap them and give them, or hang them on the tree.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-advent-story-cookies

Image copyright Hannah Tolson, 2017, text copyright Ivy Snow, 2017. Courtesy of hannatolson.com. (Page shown without flaps.)

At last it’s Christmas Eve and time to go to sleep. The girl reads one more page in her book before turning out the light, while the boy snuggles under his blanket cozy and warm—not seeing that special traveler passing by his window far away. The boy and girl wake to a bright sun and a fire in the fireplace. “Hooray! It’s Christmas day! What has Santa brought you? What wilL you find under the tree?” Even the dog has gotten a new toy. Help him unwrap it under flap 22! After the presents have all been opened, join the kids outside making snowmen and snow angels, sledding and playing, and enjoying the day. “Merry Christmas!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-advent-story-caroling

Image copyright Hannah Tolson, 2017, text copyright Ivy Snow, 2017. Courtesy of hannatolson.com. (Page shown without flaps.)

Ivy Snow invites children to enjoy a month of anticipation and preparations for Christmas day with her engaging story that hits all the highlights and wonder of the season. Along the way, prompts intrigue children to lift the twenty-five flaps, have fun counting the trees in at the Christmas tree farm, find beautiful ornaments on the tree, point out all the different cookies, and open presents under the tree.

Hannah Tolson’s smart, brightly colored illustrations brim with all the joy and warmth of Christmas and the Advent season. Young readers will eagerly follow the two children as they happily go about their holiday preparations with their dog in tow and look forward to opening each of the twenty-five flaps to reveal surprises that will make them smile. The children’s home, shop windows, the tree farm, and the winter wonderland outside are loaded with little details that will keep kids lingering over each page during multiple readings, They also offer opportunities to talk about traditions new and old. Images of the downtown, busy with shoppers and carolers, evoke the community bonding that the holidays bring, and the cozy illustrations of home will inspire kids to join in all the fun.

With a sparkly cover and sturdy pages and fun flaps to open, the lovely A Christmas Advent Story would make a much-loved addition to Christmas preparations and counting down the days. 

Ages 1 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681198514

To learn more about Hannah Tolson, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Christmas Tree Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcake-wrapper-tree-craft

Cupcake Wrapper Christmas Tree

 

Today’s paper cupcake cups are so pretty that it’s a shame they just get thrown away. Here’s a way to use cupcake liners to make an attractive winter decoration. You can use various sizes of cones to create a multi-tree decoration.

Supplies

  • Styrofoam or cardboard cone, available from craft stores
  • Cupcake wrappers with a winter or favorite design
  • Glue dots, or small clear mounting squares (for either Styrofoam or cardboard cones). Alternately or for older children, use Straight pins for Styrofoam cones
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Cut the bottoms out of the cupcake wrappers
  2. Using the ribbed sides of the cupcake wrappers, start from the bottom of the cone and attach the cup to the cone with the straight pins, glue dots, or mounting squares, putting them along the top rim of the wrapper
  3. You may need to use two or more wrappers to cover the cone. Fill in gaps by overlapping with smaller cuts from the cupcake wrappers
  4. Overlap the first row of cupcake papers a bit with the second row of cupcake papers. Attach at the top rim
  5. Continue moving up the cone, overlapping and attaching cupcake wrappers
  6. At the top, overlap the sides of the wrapper to cover the tip of the cone and make a sharp point. Glue seam together if needed
  7. Attach the top wrapper to the layer below near the bottom of the wrapper

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-advent-story-cover

You can find A Christmas Advent Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 9 – Celebrating National Book Lovers Day with Carole Gerber

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-carole-gerber-headshot

Poet and author Carole Gerber has written nearly two dozen picture books, early readers, and chapter books as well as more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. She has also worked as a high school and middle school English teacher, an adjunct professor of journalism at Ohio State, a marketing director, editor of a company magazine, a member of creative teams at an ad agency and a hospital, a contributing editor to a computer magazine, and – finally! – as a freelance writer of elementary textbooks, magazine articles, speeches, annual reports, and patient education materials. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college news writing and factual writing at OSU. Some of her picture books include When You’re Scary and You Know It, The Gifts of the Animals, A Band of Babies, and 10 Busy Brooms. You can learn more about Carole Gerber, her books, and her work on her website.

Thank you for helping me celebrate Book Lover’s Day, Carole! You have such a beautiful way with words, and your books always reflect your love for children and the way they play, learn, and celebrate all the changes and fun a year brings. You’ve really followed your love of writing throughout your career. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What was your journey to publication?

My high school English teacher, John Engle, inspired me to be a writer. He invited me to join his creative writing class when I was a senior and did his best to help me whip my writing into publishable shape. John was a widely published poet and short story writer and he was what was known back in the day as a stern taskmaster. His favorite comments were: “Your first thought is not your best thought” and “Revise, revise, revise.”

I—and some others in his class—got their poems and stories published (and paid for!) in some magazines for high school students. However, as far as I know, I am the only student he ever had who became a professional writer.

I majored in English in college and followed in his footsteps by becoming an English teacher. I lasted a year in a tough Columbus, Ohio high school. I transferred the following year to an equally tough middle school. Although I liked my students, I found the discipline issues exhausting. I applied to the master’s in journalism program at Ohio State and enrolled the following year. Luckily, I received an assistantship that paid my full tuition and a small salary in return for writing two feature articles a week for their hometown papers about students enrolled in the OSU honors program. I was thrilled to have my first by-lines and got valuable experience in conducting interviews.

 Before beginning a career as a freelancer, I worked as an in-house magazine editor, a marketing director, an adjunct professor of journalism at OSU, and as a copywriter for an advertising agency. As a freelancer, I was a contributing editor to a computer magazine, wrote ad copy for McGraw-Hill texts, and traveled abroad with OSU faculty to cover conferences and write publications. I also wrote dozens of short work-for-hire elementary reading and science books for McGraw-Hill and other publishers.

This spurred me, about 15 years ago, to begin writing picture books that were not done by assignment. Although I have had a couple of dozen manuscripts published, I have dozens more that were not. Here’s the difference:  When I did “work for hire” textbooks, I was paid a flat fee to write on a well-defined topic with frequent feedback to help me produce exactly what was wanted.

No such guidance is given when you choose to write and then submit —or have an agent submit —your manuscript. And it can sometimes take years to get accepted, even for experienced authors. Many of those were sold by agents to “big name publishers” who never accepted another. It is definitely a “buyers’ market.”

I have three bits of advice for writers eager to break into the picture book market:  1. Research publishers to learn what types of picture books they seek; 2. Read dozens, even hundreds, of picture books to figure out pace, plot, and structure; and 3. Revise, revise, revise!

I understand you also have two more picture books coming out in 2022. Can you tell readers a little about them?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-you-came-to-be-cover

How You Came to Be, beautifully illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, is scheduled for April 2022 from Penguin Random House. It’s about a mother’s love for her unborn child and how the baby develops month-by-month in the womb. It’s a love letter, really, for mothers to share with their young children. 

In November, 2022, I have P Is for Purr, A Cat Alphabet coming from Familius. This gorgeous book, illustrated by Susanna Covelli, is filled with little-known facts about cats – some I didn’t know myself! I dedicated it to my own cat, Simon – a sweet boy who has definitely purred his way into my heart. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-p-is-for-purr-Simon-headshot

What a varied and fascinating career you’ve had! I love the support and inspiration you received from your high school English teacher. That must have been an amazing class and experience. I’m sure readers will agree when I say I’m so glad your writing journey has brought you to picture books and other books for children! 

Two Holiday Picture Books by Carole Gerber

Little book lovers can’t wait to celebrate all the special occasions during the year with stories. Here are two books by Carole Gerber that will get your kids excited about upcoming holidays.

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-if-you're-scary-and-you-know-it-cover

If You’re Scary and You Know It!

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Noël Ill

 

As the warm days of summer cool into the crisp days of fall, can Halloween be far behind? Kids will have a blast preparing for the big night of chills and thrills while they decide on the most pressing question: What will I be? Carole Gerber and Noël Ill know exactly how that feels and their book, a rollicking adaptation of the participatory favorite “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” will keep readers moving and giggling all month long—and beyond.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you're-scary-and-you-know-it-scare-trick-or-treatcelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you're-scary-and-you-know-it-scare-trick-or-treat

Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Kids and adults alike will fully get into the spirit of Halloween with Carole Gerber’s clever and enticingly impish rhymes that will have them moving their feet, yowling ghoulishly, and laughing together. Gerber’s rich language and detailed action-packed storytelling are a joy to sing or read aloud and give kids plenty to imitate as they listen. Children will love joining in on the repeated phrases, and older kids will learn the jaunty verses in no time.

In her delightful, spritely illustrations, Noël Ill replicates the eerie autumn atmosphere that adds to the thrill of Halloween while also clearly depicting motions that children can perform with each verse. Ill’s diverse kids float, dance, growl, screech, and shake with the same enthusiasm as little readers. The final two-page spreads invite children to that nighttime world of magic and treats.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701464

You can buy If You’re Scary and You Know It! on the Familius website.

 

You can also find If You’re Scary and You Know It! at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-cover

The Gifts of the Animals

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

The wonder of that first Christmas night glows in Carole Gerber’s beautiful story that follows the animals in the stable as they make a warm and soft bed for Jesus to sleep in. Young readers will be mesmerized by the gentle generosity of the ox, cow, sheep, birds, and mice as they all work together to provide for the baby to come. As the shepherds are visited by the angels and go to worship Jesus, Gerber uses the lyrical language and flowing cadence of the King James version of the biblical story to create a tender and glorious read aloud for the whole family. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gifts-of-the-animals-mary-and-joseph

Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Yumi Shimokawara’s gorgeous, soft-hued illustrations are breathtaking in their detail and inspiration. Pride, fellowship, and diligence shine on the animals’ faces as they create a manger bed worthy of the baby Jesus. Realistic and traditional images of the stone stable, the shepherds and their flock blend poignantly with the depiction of the singing angels that could come from any diverse modern choir. The final illustration in which the animals and the shepherds gather around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in adoration reveals the promise and hope of the true meaning of Christmas.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701594

You can buy The Gifts of the Animals on the Familius website.

 

You can also find The Gifts of the Animals at these booksellers

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

 

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Picture Book Review

December 8 – Comet the Unstoppable Reindeer Book Tour Stop

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

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-comet-the-unstoppable-reindeer-toys-left

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.’”

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

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 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

 

November 20 – Get Ready for Christmas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing better to get kids in the spirit of Christmas than by sharing holiday stories both old and new. Packed with all the excitement and anticipation of the season, Christmas books offer humor, tradition, inspiration, and new perspectives on this favorite holiday. Stuff your stockings with pre-Christmas reads, and don’t forget that books make the perfect present for all ages!

Thank you to Flyaway Books for sending me a copy of The Worst Christmas Ever for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

The Worst Christmas Ever

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Porfirio

 

One spring day Matthew and Lucy’s dad came home from work and announced that the family would be moving to California. Lucy was excited, but her big brother was less than enthusiastic. Their mom thought it would be an adventure. That night in bed, Matthew’s dog Jasper licked his tears away. Before they knew it, spring had turned to fall and the moving van was being loaded up. “Matthew watched his life being packed away.”

In California everything was different, from school to church to nature—where the leaves stayed green and flowers bloomed even in the winter. He missed the fun he and Jasper used to have playing in the autumn leaves. Soon, even though it didn’t feel like it, it was almost Christmas and time to get the tree. Mom thought that would get them all in the spirit of the holiday.

But “Matthew muttered, ‘No snow. Worst Christmas ever. It’ll take a miracle to make it feel like Christmas.’” Lucy wanted to know what a miracle was. Matthew told her but was sure they wouldn’t find one there. “‘Oh, yes, I will!’ said Lucy. ‘I’ll find the miracle!’” At the Christmas tree lot—which was a far cry from the tree farm Matthew loved—there were plenty of trees to choose from, but they felt “prickly and dry,” and some were colored pink, purple, or blue with fake snow. Lucy wanted a pink one, but Dad stuck with green.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-tree-shopping

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Back home, Lucy dived under her bed. She was looking for a miracle, she said. Matthew was skeptical, but “he smiled, just a little.” On the Sunday before Christmas, the pastor at church asked for a volunteer family to play the holy family in the outdoor nativity. Dad raised his hand and “Lucy jumped up and down” and offered her doll Gabriela to play baby Jesus. Matthew tried to hide behind the hymn book.

Three days before Christmas Eve, while Matthew and Jasper were at the park, Jasper chased after a squirrel and then seemed to vanish. Matthew rushed home, sobbing. Although the family searched for hours, they couldn’t find Jasper. The next day they handed out flyers and called the shelters, but no one had seen him. On Christmas Eve, Matthew couldn’t get excited about decorating the tree, and Lucy’s constant singing of “Away in a Manger” didn’t help either.

As he participated in the Christmas Eve service, Matthew’s “heart ached for Jasper, lost somewhere in that terribly silent night.” During the last song, Matthew and his family slipped out, put on their costumes and walked to the stable on the church lawn. Lucy put her doll in the manger. As the congregation sang carols in the misty night, Matthew thought he could almost feel the snow he’d left behind.

Suddenly, Lucy shouted, “‘Look!’” The pile of hay was moving! Lucy thought Gabriela had come to life. “‘It’s the Christmas miracle!’” she said. Matthew “lifted the wriggling blanket in the manger and gasped.” It was Jasper, who’d been sleeping deep in the hay. “‘It is a miracle! You found your way…home,’” Matthew exclaimed. And with that he looked around and realized that this was home and this was the “‘best Christmas ever’” because it “had come, right in the middle of Matthew’s feeling lost in the world. Just as it had come that first Christmas, long ago. Ready or not.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-singing

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s emotional Christmas story captures feelings of loss and sadness children feel when life changes or unexpected misfortunes occur. Framed by Christmas, a time of magic, good memories, and miracles, Bostrom’s story offers hope for new perspectives and rediscovered happiness. Through Matthew and his younger sister, Lucy, Bostrom creates realistic portraits of children that will resonate with readers. Her detailed storytelling, rich with dialogue and sprinkled with humor, will charm kids. Matthew’s friendship with Jasper is a highlight, and Jasper’s running off sets up suspense and the joyful ending. The story has particular resonance this year when beloved traditions may change, families may not gather as usual, and the holidays may take on a different feel. Reading the book with children can help them discuss their feelings and find new ways to share the Christmas spirit.

Guy Porfirio’s vivid illustrations shine with realistic action and are especially effective in depicting Matthew’s and Lucy’s emotions and different reactions to moving, a warm-weather Christmas, and looking for the Christmas miracle. Matthew’s close relationship with his dog is sweetly portrayed, and his sadness is evident even as he goes about the traditional Christmas Eve activities. Alert readers may notice the hint of Jasper’s black-and-white tail mixed in with the hay as the family walks across the church lawn to take their places in the stable, letting them experience the giddy excitement of Christmas Eve discovery and also rejoice with Matthew when Jasper is found.

A poignant story that inspires children to look for the promise of Christmas in surprising places and all year long, The Worst Christmas Ever would be a favorite seasonal read aloud that would be asked for throughout the year as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Flyaway Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1947888098

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

You can connect with Guy Porfirio on Twitter.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

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

IMG_7695

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-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

You can find The Worst Christmas Ever 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!

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

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.