Children’s Books

Stories for the season of family, love and light

CorrespondentNovember 23, 2013 

Brighten dark days with holiday stories for sharing like these recent titles.

These talented illustrators make classic songs and stories new again: Bagram Ibatoulline’s version of “The Snow Queen (HarperCollins, ages 6 and up); Susan Jeffers’ “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (HarperCollins, all ages); Holly Hobbie’s “The Night Before Christmas” (Little Brown, all ages) and Bemma Correll illustrates Laurie Loughlin’s silly, singable “HanuKCats” and “Catmas Carols” (Chronicle, ages 8 and up).

Children’s favorite characters celebrating this year include Loren Long’s tractor in “An Otis Christmas” (Philomel, ages 5-8) and Stephanie Greene’s exuberant chapter book heroine, “Princess Posey and the Christmas Magic.” (Puffin, ages 5-7).

View a new Santa in Jon Agee’s “Little Santa” (Dial, ages 4-6), a smiling North Pole boy who refuses to be influenced by his crabby Claus parents and six grouchy siblings. During a winter blizzard, he discovers a flying reindeer, fast-working elves and his future career. For Santa in action, there’s Rufus Butler Seder’s “Santa! A Scanimation” (Workman, ages 3-6).

To accent giving, enjoy:

Lauren Wohl’s “The Eight Menorah” (Whitman, ages 4-6) shows Sam gifting his homemade menorah, redundant at home, to people seeking traditions in his grandmother’s new retirement home.

Peter H. Reynold’s “The Smallest Gift of Christmas” (Candlewick, ages 4 and up) tracks Roland’s search for a big present. He even travels into space where he sees Earth as a speck growing smaller. When he wishes for this small gift, he lands happily at home.

Lori Evert’s “The Christmas Wish” (Random House, ages 4-6) has a Norweigan photographer’s beautiful illustrations that capture the journey of generous Anja who travels to become one of Santa’s elves in lands “so far north that mothers never pack away the wool hats or mittens.”

Patricia Polacco’s “Gifts of the Heart” (Putnam, ages 6-8) mixes family history and magic. Patricia and her brother mourn their grandmother, selling the farm and lack of money. Holiday redemption comes as Kay Lamity, who loves word play and children, teaches that “openin’ your heart … and givin’ what’s inside. That’s the greatest gift of all.”

December hosts many holidays and traditions; my favorites unite cultures.

Uri Shulevitz’s “Dusk” (FSG, ages 5-8) describes a grandfather and grandson lost in the mood of a quiet wintery dusk in the country. Everything changes as they approach a city of stressed, frenetic shoppers. The two retain their good spirits by observing how the combination of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa lights make the city “as light as day.”

Gretchen Griffith’s “When Christmas Feels Like Home” (Albert Whitman, ages 5-7) opens with Eduardo’s sadness at leaving his village. His aunt and uncle tell him that he will feel at home when mountains turn the color of the sun, pumpkins smile, trees “become like standing skeletons,” words “float like clouds from your mouth” and “trees ride on cars.” Eduardo answers “no se puedo” (not possible) to lyrically put situations. Then he sees each occur and finally feels at home opening the Nativity scene, El Nacimiento, he made with his Abuelo.


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