Holidays are a time to savor traditions and surprises. New books provide opportunities for both.
Adults savor yearly cards from friends; children are cheered by new books starring favorite characters. Familiar friends appear in Jennifer Sattler’s “Chick and Pug Christmas” (Bloomsbury, ages 4-6); Lucy Cousins’ “Maisy’s Christmas Tree” (Candlewick, ages 11/2-3); Alice Shertle’s “Little Blue Truck’s Christmas” (HMH, ages 2-5); B.G. Hennessy’s “A Christmas Wish for Corduroy” (Viking, ages 2-5); Deborah Underwood’s “ Here Comes Santa Cat” (Dial, ages 5-8); David Soman and Jacky Davis’ “Happy Holidays Ladybug Girl Gift Set” (Grosset & Dunlap, ages 4-8).
Well-known YA author Stephanie Perkins edits “My True Love Gave to Me: 12 Holiday Stories” (St. Martin’s, ages 13 and up). This collection, written by a dozen of YA’s greatest authors, has engaging characters and involving plots with myriad holidays, diverse settings, unusual characters and intriguing themes. David Leviathan’s comedic tale, for example, portrays a young gay Jewish teen whose lover asks him to pose as Santa Claus to fool his kid sister. Holly Black’s wit and intensity give a fantastical view of a little-known holiday in “Krampuslauf.”
Karen Katz introduces holiday customs with bold, bright images and fun flaps as a toddler hunts down gifts in “Where Is Baby’s Christmas Present?” (Little Simon, ages 1-3).
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Clement C. Moore’s classic “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” has been reprinted with Jessie Willcox Smith’s 1912 color illustrations (HMH, all ages). Roseanne Greenfield Thong re-imagines this classic as a family prepares for Navidad in “’Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish” (Viking, ages 4-8).
Caryn Yacowitz’s “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel” (Scholastic, ages 5 and up), a humorous version of the familiar song begins “I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel, A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel … perhaps it’s fatal.”
John Hendrix’s “Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914” (Abrams, ages 8 and up) pictures a young boy writing his mother on Christmas, his hopes of World War I’s end fading. The story, based on a true event, remembers German and English troops leaving rat-infested, muddy trenches for a peaceful celebration. Large illustrations show the bleak setting and the warmth of the miraculous moment.
Two original tales will please readers. Jan Brett’s “The Animals’ Santa” (Putnam, ages 4-6) stars a rabbit, Little Snow, who waits for his first visit from the animals’ Santa. Other animals’ descriptions of Santa increase Little Snow’s puzzlement. Who can deliver gifts in the snow without noise or tracks? The ending and Brett’s lavish illustrations bring full satisfaction.
In Eric Kimmel’s “Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale” (Hyperion, ages 5-8), Simon sets off on a ship bound for America “with three hundred other people packed together like herring in a barrel.” His mother sends him with a menorah, candles, matches, a dreidel and plenty of latkes because he “may need a miracle on his long journey.” Indeed, he has eight miracles, including surviving a sinking boat and living with a polar bear on an iceberg.