Celebrate Christmas, a holiday that is now religious, cultural, and commercial, the history of Christmas celebrations is fascinating. If you were in the Middle Ages you might mistake Christmas for Mardi Gras as celebrations were boisterous and unruly. If you lived in Boston during the mid-1600s you would not have celebrated at all—the holiday was outlawed and law-breakers were fined five shillings. You may not have always had a Christmas tree either: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert introduced the German tradition to their Windsor Castle home in 1846, popularizing the tree in western culture.In the United States, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in 1870. Some traditions like eggnog are first thought to have been consumed by the settlers at Jamestown in 1607. Others, like the Rockefeller Center tree began later, in 1931. Not always depicted as a jolly old man in red, the legend of Santa Claus dates back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas, the original basis of this Christmas figure.

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Contributor: Emily Griffin

Alegria plena

Kate DiCamillo

Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Translated by Andrea Martínez de Wells

A heartwarming story mixes with serene scenes of winter in this simple Christmas tale. When an organ grinder and his monkey turn up on a street corner outside of Francisca’s downtown apartment, she expresses concern to her mother about where they stay during the cold snowy nights. Peeking down on them long after she was supposed to be asleep, Francisca discovers them sleeping on the street. The next day as her mother rushes the pretty blond girl along to their church’s Nativity play, in which she has a small speaking part, the caring Francisca drops some money in the monkey’s tin cup and invites the organ grinder and his companion to the church. When her turn to speak in the play arrives, Francisca is rendered mute-until she sees the organ grinder and his monkey arrive at the back of the sanctuary. She then exclaims great tidings of joy. Although the plot is simple, its seasonal goodwill should resonate with audiences of all ages. Soft, hazy illustrations set the time as the 1940s and evoke the simple joys of the holiday season. This book will should be a popular selection during Christmas time in both public and school libraries with Spanish speaking populations. 2012, Candlewick Press, Ages 4 to 8, $6.99. Reviewer: Ramirose Attebury (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780763658861

And to All a Good Night: Christmas Folklore

Bill Palmer

The origins and some of the customs associated with Christmas are recounted in this text. The solstice and birth date of the Roman god Mithra are related to placing of Christmas on December 25. The traditional Christmas story and the story of Saint Nicholas are also retold. Some of the animals relating to Christmas are the camel, lamb, reindeer, and goats. A Syrian story of a baby camel, a Middle Eastern story of a baby lamb, and a portion of “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” are given. The Santa Claus which we know today combines several traditional figures who give gifts. Plants associated with Christmas are the Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias. Christmas carols and Christmas cards help us celebrate this holiday. Each of the five chapters begins with definitions of key words in a green box. Added information such as how Joyce Hall and his brothers started Hallmark greeting cards, appears in gold colored boxes. This title is part of the series “North American Folklore for Youth.” Dr. Alan Jabbour is the consultant on folklore and wrote the introduction which states: “The word ‘folklore’ means the ways of thinking and acting that are learned and passed along by ordinary people.” Young people are given an overview of traditions which help to celebrate this holiday. 2013, Mason Crest/National Highlights, Ages 8 to 10, $19.95. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781422224878

Baby’s Christmas

Esther Wilkin

Mother carries Baby to see many presents. The barefoot, cuddly baby wears a blue trimmed shirt and diaper. Baby sees a decorated Christmas tree with baby Jesus under it asleep in the hay. Baby listens to a music box, holds a string of wooden beads, sees stuffed animals, and beats on a drum. There is also a kiddie car, ball, picture book, and rocking horse. Baby bounces in a bouncy seat, takes wooden milk bottles from a milk truck, and rides a rocking horse. At the end the “BIG SURPRISE” is a toy box for Baby to put toys in. As surprises go, that seems rather a let-down. Illustrations by this well-known artist show a plump, pink-cheeked baby with a tuft of red hair. This padded book will be enjoyed by mother and child as they talk about the toys in Baby’s world. 1987 (orig. 1959), Golden Baby/Golden Books/Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Ages 1 to 2, $6:99. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780375870583

Becoming a Ballerina: A Nutcracker Story, Starring the Dancers of Boston Ballet

Lise Friedman

Photographs by Mary Dowdle

Twelve-year-old Fiona has just begun to realize her dream of dancing Clara in Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker. Writing in Fiona’s voice, Friedman takes ballet-lovers through scary auditions, strenuous rehearsals, costume fittings, and then onstage to opening night when Fiona knows she will become a professional dancer. Boston’s version of Nutcracker uses many children each year, chosen from the school to play mice, sheep, toy soldiers, guests at the Christmas party, and the highly coveted roles of Clara and her little brother Fritz. With forty performances during the Christmas season, four Claras and an understudy are announced; Fiona will dance fourteen times. Dowdle’s outstanding color photos help neophytes understand Fiona’s excitement as she prepares for her début, taking readers into classrooms and studios, letting them meet Fiona’s friends Isabelle, Alexandra, Chelsea, and Farin (all sharing the part of Clara) and observe the adult professionals Fiona will dance with-mysterious Drosselmeier, for example, is danced by Sabi Varga, who spins her around in the party scene and acts like a big brother to Fiona. Since her sisters Bronwyn and Delia are also in the cast, Nutcracker takes over life at home, too, as Fiona strives to become Clara. Those familiar with the traditional Nutcracker will best understand what is going on, but for all readers, Fiona’s hard work and growth as a dancer will be apparent, exemplified beautifully by a striking photo of her in a white sweatshirt, completely absorbed in watching other dancers rehearse and a final shot of Fiona taking a bow, wearing Clara’s frilly nightgown and the crown of a ballerina. Note: dance-lovers will be interested to hear that Boston Ballet is preparing an entirely restaged version of Nutcracker for 2012-13 with Robert Perdziola’s new costumes and sets, which can be viewed on Boston’s fabulous website. 2012, Viking/Penguin, Ages 9 up, $18.99. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780670013920

Charlie and the Christmas Kitty

Ree Drummond

Illustrated by Diane deGroat

Marvelous water color illustrations bring Charlie the ranch dog to the heart of every reader. He is a most lovable basset hound and the star of several other charming adventures written by The Pioneer Woman. Her own ranch experiences bring Charlie’s world to life for all ages while introducing this newest little character. As told from Charlie’s bewildered perspective, a mysterious tree appears creating big work which temporarily diverts attention away from daily chores on their ranch. However, an energetic furry surprise shifts his viewpoint from curious to suspicious, and soon kitty wins him over in this hilarious Christmas tale. Before that happens, however, the King of the Ranch cannot lose his revered status nor shirk important duties. He must remain in charge. Children see him struggle a bit since Charlie’s thoughts are in distinctive brown font while facial expressions convey a range of emotions. Even as kitty is somewhat ignored at first, Charlie cannot deny his delight. Turns out kitty brings personal charm to the ranch for old and young alike as well as to the main pup. Also included is a most delicious holiday recipe for “Charlie’s Favorite Christmas Cookies.” 2012, HarperCollins, Ages 4 to 8, $17.99. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780061996573

The Christmas Quiet Book

Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Renata Liwska

Cute little stuffed animals act like children in this imaginative picture of quiet times. It is quiet as two rabbits in a ping-pong room search for presents. They sit dejectedly on a bench after getting caught. There is quiet when a Christmas tree ornament is shattered. A porcupine, owl, and rabbit are quiet while eating gingerbread. A lamb is quiet when a porcupine stands under the mistletoe. The text reads, “Mistletoe quiet.” A group is quiet as they walk past luminarias. When a little bear opens a Christmas present as the mother sits holding a baby, the text reads, “Early Christmas gift quiet.” Reading by the fire is quiet because the rabbits are asleep. The illustrations carry out the theme of the succinct text. It may take several readings for children to understand why it is quiet. 2012, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 2 to 4, $12.99. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780547558639

Christmas Wombat

Jackie French

Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

The appealing wombat star and co-star of Diary of a Wombat and Diary of a Baby Wombat here tells the tale of his daily pleasures: sleeping, scratching, and especially eating, especially carrots. He also tells the story of an adventure that he does not really understand, to the amusement of readers who do. As he pushes away “dangly things,” we see that they are Christmas tree ornaments. He finds that “strange creatures,” reindeer, are eating what he thinks are his carrots. He confronts them successfully, then feeling tired, takes a nap in what we see is Santa’s sleigh. He awakens to confront the “strange creatures” over more carrots. He needs help getting back up a chimney after finding still more carrots. They are all over! Finally home, he hopes the “strange creatures” will visit again. No longer hungry, he falls asleep under a carrot-filled Christmas stocking, unaware of the big event he has witnessed. Painted naturalistically in acrylics, the wombat is a lazy charmer that looks like a cuddly stuffed toy. The plump gray reindeer are fine foils; Santa appears only once; the carrots take on a major role. This adventure is fun for knowing readers. 2012 (orig. 2011), Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 4 to 8, $6.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780547868721

Cowboy Christmas

Rob Sanders

Illustrated by John Manders

Cowboys Dwight, Darryl, and Dub, out on the trail three days before Christmas, are bemoaning that “Santy Claus” will never find them out on the range. As each cowboy reminisces about a childhood Christmas memory, Cookie the Cook suggests they do that activity. The cowboys attempt to decorate a tree, but realize a cactus just isn’t the right thing. They burn the cookies that are decorated with beans because they have no sprinkles. They try to turn the cows into reindeer with twigs tied to their heads and cowbells around their necks. They work their normal day on Christmas and are amazed to see Santa at their camp when they return. Astute readers will recognize the similarities between Cookie, who has a day off, and Santa. The cartoon-style illustrations, with silly expressions on the cowboys and the cows and a charming little dachshund, are the perfect accompaniment to the comical story. Short sentences, descriptive cowboy phrases (such as “darn tootin’!”), and outlandish activities make this a fun read aloud. As parents and children are experiencing the tensions of the preparations for the approaching holiday, Cowboy Christmas might be just the antidote they need. Everyone can use a dose of silly and it can certainly be found here. 2012, Golden Books, Ages 4 to 8, $10.99. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780375869853

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama

Selina Alko

December becomes a complicated month for some children with families who celebrate different traditions. This little girl’s parents decided they would celebrate both traditions-Christian and Jewish-in their own special way. The reader hears about the holiday preparations, such as latkes and milk for Santa, gelt under the Christmas tree, and candy canes hung from the menorah. Family members from both sides of the family arrive for a festive meal on the last night of Hanukkah where food and stories from both traditions are shared by everyone. At the end of the book, the little girl and her parents are shown against a timeline of holidays they will celebrate all year long. There is a recipe for cranberry kugel dressing that they use to stuff their turkey. Alko’s illustrations are in gouache and colored pencil, with collage that adds significant interest. Note the papers used to create steam emanating from the turkey, the latkes, and a cup of coffee. The artwork creatively shows how both traditions joyfully come together in this house, from the busy days of decorating and food preparation, to the quiet relaxation of their Christmas morning. Children who celebrate both traditions will have fun identifying each and will be happy to see a story about a child like themselves. This could also be a fine introduction for children who celebrate only one of these traditions but have friends who celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. The upbeat, positive tone of the text and clever details in the drawings and collages broaden the audience for this title. 2012, Alfred A Knopf/Random House Children’s Books, Ages 3 to 7, $16.99. Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780375860935

Island Santa

Sheryl McFarlane

Illustrated by Sheena Lott

This dramatic story takes place off the coast of British Columbia. Sam’s younger sister, Sophie, is ill and is taken by water taxi, along with their father, to a hospital and recuperative facility named Janeece Place on Vancouver Island. Sam and his Gran gather with others to wave at the “Santa boat,” which delivers presents to children on the islands. The skipper offers to take Sam to see his sister, if he will help deliver presents along the way. Sam accepts, helps by sorting presents for each stop, and learns to make balloon animals. On their stops children line up to see Santa and to see Sam make balloon dogs. After visits to other islands, they spend the night on the boat. The next morning they awake to a gale. The illustrations show a tipping boat and seals watching from nearby stones. When the storm dies, they make up time with help from the strong tides and finally arrive at Sam’s destination. A taxi delivers him to Dad and Sophie at Jeneece Place where Sam gives Sophie a balloon dog. Beautiful watercolor illustrations add to the story. End notes tell of a young girl, Jeneece, who raised money to create Janeece Place and of Kaare Norgaard, who delivered gifts to coastal children. Christmas love is shown through courage and determination. 2012, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, Ages 5 to 8, $19.95. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780988053601

I See Winter

Charles Ghigna

Illustrated by Ag Jatkowska

This rhyming picture book for toddlers follows children as they engage in typical winter activities, such as skating on a frozen pond, and admire sights, such as snowflakes falling. The book ends with children receiving Christmas gifts. This book is well-crafted to appeal to toddlers. The language is in the first-person in present tense, which toddlers will be able to follow and involves daily activities and sights that they will be able to relate to. The vocabulary is simple and toddlers will know most of the words, and the rhyming text will help increase their language skills. Toddlers will also be drawn to the illustrations, which are drawn with simple lines and shapes and brightly colored. This is one of four books in the “I See” series. Recommended. 2012, Picture Window Books/Capstone, Ages 2 to 5, $15.99. Reviewer: Jeannine Stickle (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781404868502

It’s Holiday Time!

Elizabeth Bennett

Illustrated by Gladys Baccala

It’s Holiday Time! depicts a family of bears celebrating the holidays by shopping, gift-giving, baking, caroling, and spending time with friends and relatives. Bennett writes in a short and simple but rhythmic style. This book is “politically correct” in that it does not explain what the bear family is celebrating. Rather, Bennett focuses on the general traditions of spending time with family and giving presents to others. Baccala’s illustrations make this book. She includes brilliant depictions of the bear family and some of their other animal friends, all bundled up in colorful winter clothes. The characters are shown amidst brightly colored holiday decorations, with glitter added to the trees, candles, presents, wreaths, and stars to make the winter scenes sparkle. The last two pages are my favorite: Baccala depicts the bears and their friends outside on a clear winter night with colorful stars illuminating the sky like fireworks. This is a fun holiday board book that must be read while cuddling with your little one. 2012, Tiger Tales/ME Media, Ages 3 mo. to 3, $8.99. Reviewer: Kristen Kelley (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781589256408

Liberty’s Christmas

Randall Platt

Liberty Justice Jones lives in a small town in Texas in the middle of the great depression. Liberty has just been kicked out of high school for a prank, and is trying to figure out how to pay for college after her mom took all her college savings to pay the taxes on their home. Everything about Liberty’s life is an embarrassment from her frizzy red hair, huge glasses, dumpster clothes, and the fact that she lives on a Christmas tree farm in the middle of Texas. Right after Liberty’s family car gets repossessed she thinks that things can’t get any worse, until the notice comes that their home is going to be in foreclosure in a few weeks unless they can pay their mortgage. Trying to save the day Liberty comes up with a hair brained idea to enter the family’s Christmas tree in the state competition where the winner will receive $500; the only problem is that she has no entry fee and the competition is in Austin, a few hours away. Through her schemes Liberty meets a new friend named Rudy, a Mexican who lives on the rails, and together the two of them work to try and save her home. Readers will laugh at the situations that Liberty gets into. Platt does a fantastic job of writing a fictional, but very realistic and believable story. One unique feature of this novel is the glossary at the back of the book so readers can understand the 1930s interesting and amusing slang which is used throughout the book. This is an enjoyable and heartfelt read, especially perfect for the holiday season. 2012, Texas Tech University Press, Ages 14 up, $19.95. Reviewer: Alicia Jensefff (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780896727663

Mary’s Song

Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

In free verse as soft as a lullaby, Lee Bennett Hopkins limns the Nativity story from Jesus’s mother’s point of view. Mary yearns for time alone with her newborn, but murmuring shepherds, bleating sheep, braying donkeys, lowing cattle and squeaking mice keep making a gladsome noise. Finally, the barn empties and she can hum her “mother-song” and rock her babe to sleep. Stephen Alcorn’s mixed-media illustrations are a swirl of gentle pastels, as light as a halo, and reflect the quiet tone of the lyrical text. This homage to the spirit of Christmas is perfect for a family read-aloud. 2012, Eerdmans, Ages 3 to 9, $17.00. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780802853974

May B.: A Novel

Caroline Starr Rose

Twelve-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, May B. for short, is the “dispensable one,” sent 15 miles away by her cash-stripped parents to tend house for Mr. Oblinger and his young bride. “Why not Hiram? I think, / but I already know: / boys are necessary.” Fearful of being away from her family for the first time, of living in such close quarters with strangers, and of losing time at school where she struggles with reading, she has no choice but to go and is understandably bitter. Only “till Christmas,” Pa promises before leaving her at Oblinger’s small home. Mr. Oblinger is friendly enough, but Mrs. Oblinger is clearly ill at ease in her new prairie surroundings and is coldly remote. May’s there only a few weeks before Mrs. Oblinger runs away and Mr. Oblinger leaves in pursuit, giving nary a thought to May B. Isolated and alone, May is determined to survive until her father returns; but as her food supply dwindles and the weather turns, she is tormented by hunger, wolves, and the solitude–and by her struggles as she works on her reading. As time is running out on her ability to survive, May B. is forced to make some critical decisions that lead to a harrowing survival tale. Hauntingly told in spare free verse, Rose nails the time and place while beautifully developing May B. Rose acknowledges her own love of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s prairie stories; this is an excellent choice for older readers who also loved those books, as well as for those who like historical fiction or coming of age tales. May’s reading difficulties most likely would be diagnosed as dyslexia today; her attempts to master reading were yet another way of demonstrating her brave, stubborn nature which ultimately allowed her to survive. Memorable, powerful, and highly recommended! 2012, Schwartz & Wade/Random House, Ages 9 to 14, $15.99. Reviewer: Peg Glisson (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781582463933

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas

Eric Litwin

Illustrated by James Dean

On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus has a fever and does not feel well enough to deliver the toys to the children. He sends an urgent call for help to Pete the Cat who is enjoying the sun and surf in Key West. Pete responds to Santa’s request and drives his van to the North Pole where the presents wait to be packed. With the reindeer ready to tow the van, Pete makes the deliveries at each and every house in time for Christmas. In the repeated words of Pete, “Give it your all, give it your all. At Christmas we give, so give it your all.” Children who are familiar with the “Pete the Cat” stories will probably join in on the repeated lines. The illustrations are eye-catching with the rich, bright colors. Check the publisher, author, and illustrator’s web sites for additional information. Dean is the creator of “Pete the Cat.” There are YouTube uploads of the “Pete the Cat” story and music. 2012, Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 4 to 8, $17.99. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780062110626

Quentin Blake’s A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens

Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake originally illustrated this Dickens’ classic in 1997 and this reissue comes just in time for the holidays. An unabridged version of A Christmas Carol, it includes a table of contents, forward from Blake, and brief biographies about Dickens and Blake. The font is large and amply spaced, and the sketch illustrations are proportionally large, a very appealing aspect for younger readers. A minor setback is that the chapters are labeled as “staves,”-a term Dickens’ used for stanzas or verses-but the term is never explained. Blake’s loose and energetic sketches, here in both color and black-and-white, offer a unique twist on often traditional interpretations of this famous holiday tale. His illustrations of the darker scenes and characters have a heavier tone but are not scary, as can often be found in editions geared toward older readers. This would be a delightful holiday gift, fitting for new readers of chapter books, fans of Blake’s illustrations, or for those looking for a family read-aloud. 2012 (orig. 1997), Pavilion Children’s Books/Anova Books Ltd, Ages 7 up, $16.99. Reviewer: Emily Griffin (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781843651659

Santa from Cincinnati

Judi Barrett

Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Add this to the legends about Santa Claus. Our narrator explains how he came to be named Santa Claus and how, as he grew “jolly and roly-poly,” he became obsessed with toys, particularly stuffed reindeer, carrying them around everywhere in a pillowcase. Early on he began to wear a fake beard to be more like his dad, with whom he helps make toys requested by those on lists. When he realizes that he has too many toys, he decides to deliver one to every child in his hometown of Cincinnati on Christmas Eve. As our hero grows up, the annual gift giving grows as well. His development into the Santa we know follows logically from there. He is soon set up far in the north with Mrs. Claus and his helpers. Now with his jet-propelled sleigh and GPS, “Life just couldn’t be merrier!” Hawkes uses acrylics and colored pencils to create detailed, naturalistic double-page scenes to amplify the brief, imaginative, and humorous text. The pages, overloaded with all sorts of toys: stuffed animals, mechanical vehicles, games, etc.-“thousands too many,” show why he begins to give them away. The final shot offers Santa, Mrs. C., the helpers, and reindeer in a happy holiday salute. 2012, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781442429932

Santa Retires

David Biedrzycki

Santa’s retirement is introduced on the jacket, where he and Mrs. Claus lead a smiling Conga line of reindeer clad in brightly colored shirts across a beach. Santa begins the story relating how, although he still enjoys making toys, delivering them is getting more and more difficult. So after Christmas, he and Mrs. Claus take off for a break on tropical Mistletoe Island. They enjoy the pool, play tennis, try yoga and dance lessons. They even contemplate making their new home there. But when the reindeer arrive ready to party, they are not pleased with that idea. After they leave, Santa is no longer happy. The news from the North Pole is not good either, so he and Mrs. Claus fly back. They manage to fix everything in time for Christmas, but promise to take a vacation every year. Photoshop creates exaggerated comic characters, including an anthropomorphic mouse that joins uninvited in most of the antics. Even the line at the airport is designed for fun. 2012, Charlesbridge Publishing, Ages 4 to 7, $16.95. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781580892940

Tallie’s Christmas Lights Surprise: A Holiday Whodunit

Elaine Pease

Illustrated by Anna-Maria L. Crum

Tallie has decorated her playhouse with her favorite Christmas decorations, including her string of red and white striped candy cane lights. Now, she can just sit back and enjoy her playhouse but as she is stringing popcorn to add to her decorations, Tallie hears a strange crunching sound outside. As Tallie rushes out to see where the sound is coming from, she almost steps on a Christmas light that has fallen from the edge of the roof and smashed to bits. Now, what could have caused that to happen, Tallie begins to wonder until she sees that all of her favorite candy cane lights are gone. Now, who would take Tallie’s lights and who could have done it so quickly that even Tallie did not hear or see them. This is a mystery that requires investigation and Tallie dons her spy uniform to begin the search. Dressed in her pink sparkly sunglasses, candy cane striped hat, wrapped up in her spy blanket that makes her invisible and picking up her magnifying glass for locating clues, Tallie is ready to solve the mystery. Her first stop is in the kitchen, where she grabs a gingerbread cookie for energy and her mom doesn’t even see her…proof that her disguise works. Her next stop was with the mailman, then with her dog Fuego and then back to her playhouse. If Tallie’s thief wanted her candy cane lights, perhaps they would return for more lights, so Tallie hangs another string of lights on her playhouse. Sure enough, soon she hears the rustle of activity outside and when she opens the door, there is Mr. Squirrel scampering away from the playhouse with the second string of lights. Now that Tallie has solved her mystery, she sets out to make friends with Mr. Squirrel and helps him to have a happy Christmas. This simple story will teach young readers intuitive thinking while also teaching them about sharing and caring for others. This Christmas story will make a great gift for young readers and an excellent read aloud for classrooms or anywhere that young readers gather. 2012, Pelican Publishing, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99. Reviewer: Joyce Rice (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781455615865

Together at Christmas

Eileen Spinelli

Illustrated by Bin Lee

Does it feel right to be alone on Christmas Eve? Spinelli’s holiday picture book conveys the importance of being with friends and family for Christmas. In the book, ten little mice are huddled in the snowy cold on Christmas Eve. One by one the mice leave the group to find their own warm and cozy places. They may be safe and snug, but reconvene in their loneliness to sing carols and giggle under mistletoe until one mouse is able to find a perfect hollow log with berries and room for everyone. Although the majority of the book is spent describing the various warm locations that each individual mouse is able to find, the ending message is heartfelt. The tender illustrations paired with the sequential nature of the plot and the calming rhythm and rhyme of the text make this book perfect for reading aloud during the holidays. Recommended for libraries and homes with children ages five to seven. 2012, Albert Whitman & Company, Ages 5 to 7, $15.99. Reviewer: Jennifer Greene (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780807580103

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Dan Andreasen

Bestselling illustrator Dan Andreasen re-imagines a popular English folk song with a rambunctious menagerie sure to appeal to little ones. The song itself is rife with the rhythm, repetition and counting motifs that enrich the pre-literacy experience for tots, and Andreasen’s images enhance the text’s inherent whimsy. The book opens with one contented partridge atop a pear-studded tree. With the successive newcomers, though-two turtle doves, three French hens-the plump bird is soon bumped from his perch and finds himself wandering amongst the other giddy gifts. Kids will have a great time trying to locate the befuddled partridge amidst the dancing bunny ladies, leaping frog lords and piping crocodiles as well as picking out differences between the spotlighted critters in each double-page spread (for example, the pipers are arrayed in a variety of shirts and eyewear). 2012, Sleeping Bear, Ages 1 to 3, $14.99. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781585368341

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