Spread Holiday Cheer with Great Children’s Books This Year!

The 2011 holidays are officially here! I can’t think of a better way to share and create special memories with your children than to read wonderful holiday stories with them. Good books provide opportunities to teach and explore, as well as share what the holidays mean to your family. Here are some of my all time favorite Christmas inspired books with a little background on why it makes the list. All of these books are perfect for kids 4 years and older and they make great gifts!

Olive the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh
Illustrated by J. Otto Seibold
When Olive the dog gets the idea that she’s actually a reindeer, she heads up to the North Pole to help Santa and goes on an amazing adventure. This book is super fun and J. Otto Seibold’s illustrations are bright, modern and interesting. Your kids will love this book! Every time I have read it to groups, as well as my own kids, I’ve had a captive audience.

The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson
Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
My youngest son and I recently discovered this book on a trip to the library and we love it. Beautifully illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Zen Shorts and Zen Ties), Lauren Thompson shares a sweet story of how Santa prepares for his famous midnight ride with some help from the special magic of Christmas.

Drummer Boy by Loren Long
In this story, a beloved little toy drummer boy gets lost and finds himself on a journey to get back where he belongs. In each of his encounters he gives his special gift of music and brings peace. When I’ve read this book, the kids become very concerned about the Drummer Boy, as if it is one of their own toys. Long’s wonderful illustrations pull you into the story with their detail and perspective.

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Breuhner
Illustrated by Mark Breuhner
A boy builds a snowman and starts to wonder what he does to celebrate Christmas. In this fun, companion story to the New York Times bestseller, Snowmen at Night, the snow people have a holiday celebration all their own and they definitely know how to have fun! Mark Breuhner’s detailed illustrations illuminate the nighttime scenes and the holiday lights seem to light up the page. Great book!

Home for Christmas by Jan Brett
New York Times bestselling author Jan Brett creates beautiful books with her signature illustrations and wonderful storytelling. Home for Christmas is no exception. In this story, a little troll learns a lesson about how special “home” truly is just in time for Christmas.

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
The fun, holiday spin on the award-winning book series; If You Take a Mouse to the Movies features a special little mouse with a lot of big ideas. This book is also available as a special Christmas Edition that includes recipes, activities, sheet music, author insights and a DVD. A nice gift!

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Diane Goode
One of my favorite children’s books of all time is Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. In Christmas in the Barn, Brown borrows from that wonderful story, but features the story of the birth of Jesus in its wonderful, lyrical verse.

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
In Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, Mr. Willowby receives “the biggest tree he has ever seen” and decides to trim it down a bit and share it with his tenant. She in turn does the same and the tree continues to be trimmed and pieces passed to families throughout the town, sharing the holiday spirit and bringing joy to others.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the classic Dr. Seuss story of the Grinch who hates Christmas and the Whos of Whoville that help him discover the true meaning of the holiday. If you like rhyme, this book is an absolute treat to read.

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
Share the story of the birth of Jesus from a mouse’s perspective. In Mortimer’s Christmas Manager, a little mouse starts out looking for cozy new place to sleep and learns why the place he found is so special. Written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman, best selling creators of Bear Snores On, this book is a wonderful addition to your holiday reading list.

The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman
Nancy Tillman has created a beautiful book to help celebrate the holiday with The Spirit of Christmas. Touching on everything that is special about this time of year, especially spending time with those we love, Tillman brings our hopes and dreams of Christmas to life. Detailed and interesting illustrations hide the spirit of Christmas on every page for your little ones to find.

And of course, the holiday wouldn’t be complete without The Night Before Christmas. The classic tale by Clement C. Moore has been illustrated by a number of artists. The version illustrated by Tom Browning and published in 2009 is really beautiful.

I hope you share some of these special stories with your family this year and create memories to treasure. Click here to download a printable list of these books to take with you on your next trip to the library.

Happy Holidays!


Small Saul

I recently made a bookstore trip to check out some new books that haven’t made it to our local library yet. While the one book I wanted wasn’t there, I found a really fun, unexpected pick: Small Saul by Ashley Spires.

Saul wanted to be a sailor for as long as he can remember. When he finally comes of age and learns that he’s too small to be accepted into the Navy, he turns to another seafaring career—pirate. Saul enrolls in Pirate College and quickly learns that he’s not quite like the other pirates. He brings his own special skills that the other pirate students don’t find too impressive.

“He did well in navigation, but lacked focus in Looting: The Basics. He was born to sing sea shanties, not to hold a sword.”

After Saul gets his Pirate Diploma and joins the crew of The Rusty Squid, his differences become even more of a challenge. At one point ending him overboard!

Saul stays true to who he is throughout the story – even when he tries, in his own special way, to fit in. He is a wonderful example of the importance of being confident in ourselves and what we each have to offer the world.  With so much talk about bullying going on with children of all ages, Saul’s story provides a good opportunity to ask your children about their experiences with other kids and reinforce all of the things that make them unique and special.

Small Saul is sweet and clever, with a great lesson for kids and some fun references for us parent readers. Spires’ colorful and detail-oriented illustrations are fun and a perfect complement to the story.  The ones of Saul nurturing the gruff pirates with band aids and baked goods definitely made me smile.

Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires’ other books include Binky the Space Cat, Binky to the Rescue and Penguin and the Cupcake.

Great for boys and girls, ages 4 years and older.

The Paperboy

Some books have a way of completely immersing the reader in the story. The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey is one such book. A young boy and his dog on their Saturday morning paper route; as simple as the premise is, the story offers so much more. Set in the dark early morning hours, you go on a journey with the pair as they travel through their neighborhood while the world is asleep.

From the very first page when Pilkey describes the cold mornings, “even in the summer”, the book does a wonderful job of sharing the experience of the paperboy.

And on these cold mornings
the paperboy’s bed is still warm
and it is always hard to get out—even for his dog…
but they do.

The route they travel is so familiar that the boy doesn’t even need to think about where he is going; instead his mind wanders and daydreams. For his dog companion, the path is marked by encounters—the best trees for sniffing, squirrels for chasing and cats for barking at. The beautiful painted illustrations of the town under a night sky, and then the early morning sunrise, are magical. It becomes clear as the story progresses that, while it isn’t easy, he and his dog enjoy this special time together.

The Paperboy offers another important lesson. The young boy gets out of his warm bed, in the cold morning hours, when everyone is asleep because he has a job to do and he takes pride in it. Sharing his story provides a great way to introduce or reinforce responsibility and trust to young children.

David “Dav” Pilkey is a popular author and illustrator of children’s literature. He is best known as the author and illustrator of the Captain Underpants book series. The Paperboy won the Caldecott Honor in 1997.

Perfect for boys and girls ages 4 to 8.

Courage of the Blue Boy

Courage of the Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker does an amazing job of introducing the concept of diversity to even the youngest children in a way they can understand. By simply using color at first, and then building into slightly more complex ideas, Neubecker tells the story of how life can be more fulfilling when we embrace our differences. The Blue Boy lives in a world of blue and wonders if that is all there is. By leaving his home to learn the truth, he is gradually introduced to lands of pink, orange and then a sea of green that leads him to the big city — where all the colors and patterns live together. The Blue Boy loves the city, until he realizes that among all the colors and patterns, there is no blue. It is then that he makes his own blue mark on the world.

This book is a wonderful story of discovery.  We live in a world of diversity. As technology brings the far reaches of the globe as close as our own backyard, our children are increasingly exposed to experiences and knowledge unlike previous generations. Helping them understand and embrace cultural, language and even spiritual differences among us fosters curiosity, tolerance and an expanded world view. Courage of the Blue Boy is a valuable resource to share this important teaching.

Neubecker’s illustration style is modern and interesting. As the book uses color to frame the story, each page becomes more vibrant and detailed. My family loves this book and I know you will too.

Robert Neubecker is the award winning author and illustrator of I Got Two Dogs, Wow! City!, Beasty Bath, and other books. Neubecker is a graduate of Parsons School of Design and also illustrates for The New York Times and Slate.
Perfect for boys and girls, ages 3+.

The Foolish Tortoise

I love Eric Carle books and have read many of them to both my own kids and at story time. They are instantly identifiable, thanks to Carle’s unique and colorful artwork. The simplicity of his writing and repetition really draws young kids in to each of his stories. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

A few years ago, I came across an Eric Carle book that I hadn’t heard of before. The Foolish Tortoise is illustrated by Carle, but written by Richard Buckley. Buckley’s rhyming verse is wonderful as the story follows the tortoise on his journey of self discovery.

A tortoise, tired of being slow
Impatient to get up and go,
Took off his large and heavy shell
And left it lying where it fell.

“Hooray!” he cried. “Now I’ve been freed –
I’ll see the world at double speed!”

Thinking his life will be much better when he rids himself of his shell, he encounters a number of unexpected situations that help him realize exactly who he is and where he wants to be.

The Foolish Tortoise is a sweet story that provides a great opportunity to talk about how we feel when faced with unfamiliar situations. Carle’s beautiful art brings the story to life with an interesting complexity and depth that and is a treat for both kids and adults. When reading this book, I’ve noticed that younger children quickly relate to the tortoise. His new and unfamiliar experiences resonate with them and they seem to sympathize with how frightening the unknown can be. The story does a great job of illustrating how new and different isn’t always better. A great lesson for today’s world.

Acclaimed author and illustrator, Eric Carle, is the creator of more than 70 innovatively designed picture books for young children. His best-known work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into more than 50 languages and sold over 33 million copies. Since 1969, Eric Carle has sold more than than 110 million copies of his books around the world.  Richard Buckley also authored The Greedy Python with Carle, which was published in 1993.

Perfect for boys and girls, ages 4 to 8.