Funny, charming, poignant-these Christmas-themed books run the gamut! You’re sure to find one to suit your taste.Web links to additional information and activities about Christmas follow these reviews.

Contributor: Peg Glisson


Big Snow

Jonathan Bean

A “big snow” can’t arrive soon enough for a boy named David. Mom tries to keep him occupied with household tasks, but everything he does only makes him think about what’s happening outside (flour, bathroom cleaner suds, and white bed sheets all remind him of accumulation). When it’s clear that David’s help is actually creating more mess, Mom suggests a nap-and David, in turn, dreams that the snow has turned into a vengeful, invasive blizzard: “ild wind pushed flakes through window cracks…. t roared and blew open all the doors and piled drifts around the house.” Never mind being careful what you wish for-how are David and his mother going to clean up this huge mess? This is another terrific offering from Bean (Building Our House); his subtly rhythmic prose and elegant, astute watercolors hit just the right notes of comedy, suspense, and fantasy. The dream scene of Mom vacuuming the snow out of her drift-covered living room is at once deeply silly and a tribute to the indomitable will of mothers everywhere. 2013, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Ages 3-6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: *Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780374306960

Christmas in Norway

Jack Manning

All over the world people celebrate Christmas; however, the festivities, traditions, decorations, and cuisine will differ from country to county. In Norway, people start the holiday festivities sometimes as early as December 13th, a day known as Saint Lucia Day. For Norwegians, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve and Christmas decorations include such things as pinecones and branches. Norwegians even have their own special name for Santa Clause. With this early reader, a part of the “Christmas around the World” series, young children can learn more fun, interesting facts about Christmas in Norway. This nonfiction book presents information in an engaging format, with a minimal to moderate amount of large-font text on each page and accompanying photographs depicting some key aspect of the text. Christmas facts are scattered throughout, along with the definition of four vocabulary words. Pronunciations are also provided for Norwegian words. There is a fun craft activity provided at the back of the book, along with a glossary of terms and suggested resources for further study. Overall, this is an excellent supplemental resource for primary teachers who want to teach students about different cultures. It is also a great tool for creating comparative/contrasting activities.
2014, Capstone Press/Capstone, Ages 5 to 9, $24.65.

REVIEWER: Justina Engebretson (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780805087628

Christmas Mouse

Anne Mortimer

The small book size (approximately 7 ½ inches by 8 ½ inches) is simply perfect for this warm and cozy story. Each turn-of-the-page presents four lines of rhyming text that describe Mouse’s Christmas preparations. There are decorations to be hung, special treats to eat, and carols to be sung. Giving presents (one for the cat), and sharing with those in need (some gingerbread for a robin out in the snow) inform the reader that there is more to Christmas than simply getting presents. Of course Santa is seen arriving in his sleigh. He leaves a very special gift for Mouse. The reader is invited into the book by Mouse who is pictured on the title page in the middle of a brightly colored paper chain wearing a “Christmas Cracker” crown. This little mouse has personality plus, often looking out at the reader. Each page offers clear and simple watercolor illustrations with plenty of white space to allow the reader to focus on the delightful details. There is the gift tag on the present that Mouse leaves for the sleeping cat, Mouse’s favorite treats, and Mouse snuggling down after hanging up the stocking. The joy-filled text, extended by the whimsy of the traditional-style illustrations, is a treat for parents and children to share.
BIBLIO: 2013, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, Ages 2 to 6, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780062089281

The Christmas Tugboat: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City

George Matteson and Adele Ursone

Illustrated by James E. Ransome

A girl wakes on a November morning at dawn to accompany her mother and father-a New York Harbor tugboat captain-on a special excursion: to pick up a tow ship carrying the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and deliver it to New York City. Ransome’s smudgy acrylic scenes transition smoothly from panoramic views of the tug crossing in front of the Manhattan skyline to intimate moments, such as an image of the girl riding with her father in the inviting pilot house. Readers will be captivated by the vivid details of the journey (based on the authors’ experiences with their daughter), which help form a radiant Christmas story. 2012, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 5 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780618992157

The Christmas Wish

Lori Evert

Photographs by Per Breiehagen

Evert and Breiehagen’s first children’s book is a family affair, with the story built around photographs of their daughter, Anja. Set “in a place so far north that the mothers never pack away the wool hats or mittens,” the tale follows Anja as she ventures through ice and snow on skis and aided by several animals to find Santa Claus before Christmas. Dressed in a plaid jumper, Fair Isle sweater, and an elfin red cap, rosy-cheeked Anja looks like she’s stepped out of a fairy tale, and Breiehagen’s delicious (and, necessarily, digitally altered) photographs of her riding on the back of a polar bear and meeting Santa amid the snowy pines of the North Pole create the sense that magic is very real. 2013, Random House Children’s Books, Ages 4 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: *Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780449816813

Con cariño, Amalia (originally Love, Amalia)

Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta

When sixth-grade Amalia learns her best friend, Martha, will have to move unexpectedly, she runs from her feelings of sadness by vowing to forget her friend and their friendship. Amalia informs her beloved grandmother that she sees no point in thinking about and caring for someone that can no longer participate in her life. But when Amalia also loses her grandmother suddenly, she embarks on a healing process that forces her to reconsider her position. As the funeral approaches and Amalia’s house swells with family that she barely knows, she realizes she is one of the few who had the opportunity to really know and love her grandmother. Given a box of Christmas cards and letters that her grandmother had saved for years, she comes to discover even more about her grandmother and their family. Amalia uses the content of the letters to begin correspondence with her far-away aunts, uncles, and cousins, sharing memories of her grandmother with everyone. In time, she also realizes that her friendship with Martha is worth saving in spite of the distance between them. This thoughtful piece of literature would make a popular addition to all public and middle school libraries.
2012, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Ages 8 to 12, $5.99.

REVIEWER: Ramirose Attebury (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781442424067

Deck the Walls! A Wacky Christmas Carol

Erin Dealey

Illustrated by Nick Ward

Five incorrigible children share Christmas dinner with cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents. The child-centered perspective is taken to the extreme as they deck the walls with mashed potatoes, make a tomato snowman, and play olive hockey and hope to “catch the dish before it crashes.” When dinner is over, everyone goes outside, and the children still have plenty of energy to sled and snowboard, and even throw snowballs. The illustrations are effused with the energy of these mischievous kids. Ward takes the simple lines of this parody and creates scenes of Christmas dinner gone wild. While the adults may occasionally show surprise, they generally accept or are oblivious to the children’s behavior, which, of course, adds to the humor. Little details add to the fun: you can’t help notice Mom’s reindeer slippers and the outdoor snowman with the tomato nose. Sure to elicit lots of laughter, be sure to sing boldly. It just might be the antidote for Christmas preparation tension. Included are a recipe for sugar cookies and the words and music for the original “Deck the Halls” carol. 2013, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 5 to 8, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781585368570

Dinosaur Christmas

Jerry Pallotta

Illustrated by Howard McWilliam

A girl writes Santa on a postcard and asks what pulled his sleigh before reindeer. Santa tells that in prehistoric time his sleigh was pulled by dinosaurs. “Triceratops were steady and ready…but a bit slow.” The picture shows one triceratops looking at a map while the other holds coffee in a plastic cup. When six Parasaurolophus pull the sleigh, they honk and squeak too loud. Pterosaurs flew too high. A Giganotosaurus was a mistake. He was seen chasing a squirrel while attached to the sleigh. Tyrannosaurus rex would not stop licking Santa. Maiasauras ate the presents. The text says “Bad dinosaurs! I’m telling your mother!” Stegosauruses are seen decorating their spikes with lights and their tails with Christmas balls. The long necked Apatosaurus is seen delivering a wrapped present to a cave while Santa waits in the sleigh. Now Santa uses reindeer. The end says, “But sometimes I miss the good old days. Merry Christmas!” The picture shows the girl in bed, with Santa and prehistoric animals looking in the window. Children in this age group will get a kick out of this humorous Christmas story.
BIBLIO: 2011, Cartwheel Books, Ages 4 to 6, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Carlee Hallman (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780545433600

The Dragon at the North Pole

Kate Klimo

Illustrated by John Shroades

Jesse and Daisy are children who have been entrusted as the Keepers of Emmy, a magical dragon. It is Christmastime and although Jesse and Daisy no longer believe in Santa, Emmy is convinced that he is real. Emmy runs off to find Santa and Jesse and Daisy chase after her. The children are astonished when they find Emmy at the North Pole, visiting with Santa and his elves. Jesse is amazed even more when he notices that Santa is dirty and greedy and that all of the elves stink. Even worse, Santa offers Jesse and Daisy toys in exchange for becoming the new Keeper of Emmy. Is this strange and unsavory man really Santa? If he is not Santa then who is he and why does he want a magical dragon? The mystery deepens as the children learn more about a legendary dragon slayer named Beowulf. Could Beowulf still be alive and masquerading as Santa? This interesting and suspenseful fantasy will keep readers on the edge of their seat as Jesse and Daisy uncover clues to find the truth. There is a single black-and-white illustration at the beginning of each chapter. This is book six in the “Dragon Keepers” series. 2013, Random House, Ages 8 to 12, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Denise Daley (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780375870668

Just Right for Christmas

Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw

This lovely version uses the folktale motif found in the song, Joseph’s Little Overcoat; cloth scraps from one sewing project get repurposed into a series of smaller items. In Black’s telling, the story is launched by a human king’s purchase of a beautiful piece of red cloth that he has made into a cloak for the princess; a mother uses the leftovers to make a jacket for her daughter. When the mother puts out the scraps there is enough left for a badger to get a hat, a squirrel to get gloves and finally a soft red scarf for Billy mouse. The text does a nice job of varying the strong pattern of the story by recounting the different ways the scraps become available for the next creature looking for something special for a loved one. Beardshaw’s full color illustrations do the same as each gift maker is shown at different stages of their gift making and then passing on the scraps. The book nicely makes the case that it is better to give than to receive-a point revisiting all year around, not just in the holidays. 2012, Nosy Crow, Ages 4-7 yrs, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Mary Hynes-Berry (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780763661748

100 Snowmen

Jen Arena

Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

From one to one hundred, these personable snowmen engage the reader in their fun and funny antics. What’s even more intriguing than their snowball fights and snow forts is the awesome way Arena provides on how to count to one hundred. She sets the stage with addition facts, adding consecutive numbers (1+2; 3+4; 5+6; etc) up to 9+10 and then back down again. The illustrations are large enough for primary grade students to count the individual snowmen for the aforementioned math facts. Their attire and activities beg for closer perusal. There is such irony in snowmen roasting marshmallows! The last page shows one hundred active snowmen. Readers will have fun finding their favorite from previous pages. Laughter in a math lesson? You bet! We all learn best when we are relaxed. Teachers looking for a new title for the Hundredth Day of school will find this irresistible.
2013, two lions/Amazon Publishing, Ages 5 to 8, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781477847039

One Special Christmas

M. Christina Butler

Illustrated by Tina Macnaughton

When Santa gets a cold, he leaves a sleigh full of presents outside Little Hedgehog’s home with a note: “Would you be able to deliver these Christmas presents for me?” Little Hedgehog is happy to assist, but his delivery plan literally unravels, and the gifts are thrown out of the sleigh. Luckily, his woodland friends step in to help save Christmas. Although readers may wonder why Santa doesn’t have a more substantial backup plan, Butler delivers a snug and cheery story about teamwork and improvisation in this touch-and-feel book, and Macnaughton’s endearing characters exude a tender, cooperative spirit. Touch-and-feel elements not seen by PW.013, Tiger Tales, 32 pp., $14.99. Ages 3-7.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9781589251458

A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas

Philip Yates

Illustrated by Sebastiá Serra

The crew from A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas sails through another Christmas-tide romp. A cabin boy is banished to swab the decks while his Scrooge-like cap’n (“Arrrgh-humbug!”) and mateys set off to “plunder wrecks.” But the boy’s dreams of “jolly ol’ Sir Peggedy” delivering doubloons are interrupted by the arrival of a parrot in a palm tree and other pirate booty, including five chests of gold and nine mermaids singin’. Finally “12 pirates cheerin'” let readers in on their secret (they sent the gifts). Serra’s digitally colored pen-and-ink compositions are filled with swashbuckling action and create a rollicking holiday mood. 2012, Sterling, Ages 3-6, $14.95.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9781402792250

Pull Down The Night: Book Two of The Suburban Strange

Nathan Kotecki

Having just moved with his family, Bruno will now attend Suburban High School with his brother Silvio. He and his brother are immediately adopted into the Rosary, a small group of four teenagers who dress in black and share intense interests in alternative music. Bruno falls in love with Celia, whom he met the first night he was in town, and he discovers that he is not like the others. Celia is an Ambassador, and she begins showing him his true powers. He can manipulate his environment through drawing maps. He is a Kind, one of a special group of people who use their amazing talents to fight the Unkind, talented individuals with evil intentions. Though she is in love with someone else, Celia must work with Bruno to stop the Unkind plaguing their school. Replete with music references to older punk and alternative bands, the plot moves along quickly. The main characters are well rounded, and the tension between Bruno and Celia, who can never date, is palpable. The mythology elements remain in the background, and the world is not so different than ours. Readers who enjoyed The Suburban Strange (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) will love to reconnect with the Rosary and see Celia and Bruno grow as they develop their powers together, and may find it hard waiting for the next installment to The Suburban Strange series. Fans of the Marked series will also appreciate the world Kotecki has built. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 352p., $17.99. Ages 12 to 18.

REVIEWER: Etienne Vallee (VOYA).

ISBN: 9780547731148

Smudge and the Book of Mistakes: A Christmas Story

Gloria Whelan

Illustrated by Stephen Costanza

It was during a cold winter in Ireland in the Middle Ages that Cuthbert was sent to the monastery to live with the monks because his father could no longer tolerate his behavior of giving up. Cuthbert would not devote any time to practice of anything that he did not get right the first time. Cuthbert gave up on riding a horse because he fell off the first time he tried. He gave up on archery because on his first try his arrows missed the target. Cuthbert arrived at the monastery of St. Ambrose at the age of fifteen, a pale, skinny boy who was clumsy and ill-equipped to be of any help to the monks. However, the monks would not give up on him and they continued to find him a place in the kitchen or the choir or the sewing room. When they finally tried to provide Cuthbert a skill by putting him in the scriptorium where the lettering was done, Cuthbert was happy. He loved working with the letters and seeing the stories that letters could tell. Still, Cuthbert would not practice his letters and he was always getting smudges on the parchment. The monks began to call him Smudge. When the old Father Abbot decides to produce a manuscript of the Christmas story that would be praised far and wide because of the beautiful script and illustrations that the monks would provide, excitement abounds among the monks. The abbot has chosen the monastery’s Brother Gregory to provide the illustrations but the script will be done by Cuthbert, due to the faulty hearing and stubborn nature of the abbot. Cuthbert will finally learn that mistakes are the only the beginning of great learning and accomplishments. This is a delightful story that will impress young children with the character of perseverance and emphasize the need for self-confidence. The setting of the Middle Ages also serves as an introduction to the period and practices for the middle level reader. Although the title suggests this is a Christmas book, the story and descriptions have a much wider scope. 2012, Sleeping Bear Press, 48 pp., $17.95.

REVIEWER: Joyce Rice (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781585364831

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Budding ballerina Tallulah is over the moon when she learns that she will be a mouse in The Nutcracker. Even though there are 11 other mice in the production, and it’s not exactly glamorous to dress as a mouse, Tallulah takes her role seriously (she even misses out on selecting a Christmas tree because of rehearsal). But a mistake on opening night leaves Tallulah in tears until a few seasoned dancers offer their own stories of on-stage foibles. As in the previous Tallulah books, Boiger’s muted watercolors offer understated elegance, while Singer gingerly addresses how the wisdom of caring adults and role models can bring valuable perspective to a moment of humiliation. 2013, Clarion, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780547845579

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Jane Cabrera

Cabrera’s jaunty spin on this traditional tune begins when a boy presents his “true love” with a “party in a pear tree”-a rainbow of birds wearing hats and crowns while grooving under a disco ball and joining together in a conga line. In successive wintry scenes, readers meet seven squirrels skiing, 10 snowmen singing, and 12 penguins skating before Santa whisks the boy and girl aloft for a “sleigh ride home.” Creamy colors, rough-looking textures, and thick black outlines continue to be hallmarks of Cabrera’s energetic acrylic artwork. Full lyrics and musical notation are included. 2013, Holiday House, Ages 2 to 5, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780823428700

Twelve Kinds of Ice

Ellen Bryan Obed

Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

First ice, second ice, and third ice formed in the pails in the sheep barn: A thin skin that broke easily into shards, then a round window, and finally an impenetrable block. Then there was field ice, marking the first opportunity to don skates and glide along stream ice. There was also black ice and garden ice, and Bryan Gardens, the rink they built in the yard. Eventually, there is last ice, followed only by dream ice. Ellen Bryan Obed recalls the warmth of childhood winters full of families and friends, skating and nature’s gifts in this lyrical catalog of twelve kinds of ice that will resonate with any child today who loves the coldest season. Barbara McClintock’s delicate, detailed black-and-white illustrations in pen and ink are a perfect accompaniment to Obed’s writing, evoking the same sense of nostalgia and lively appreciation for having fun. 2012, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 5-10, $16.99.

REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices)

ISBN: 9780618891290

When I Love You at Christmas

David Bedford

Illustrated by Tamsin Anslie

What are some things you do at Christmas? This book shows a little girl wrapping presents, mixing cookie dough, decorating the Christmas tree, singing and dancing, having trouble sleeping, and waking up early excited to get and give Christmas presents. As the pictures show her doing each of these things, the words say “When you ____, I love you.” But, who is talking? Is it her parents? Is it a brother or sister? Is it a friend? It is only when we get to the last pages that we can see who it is and then we look back and see that the narrator was in each picture. That was very clever and I had to smile when I found out who it really was. Parents and children reading it can play a guessing game and see if anyone figures it out, or who is the first one to guess right. Then go back and look at the pictures again to find the speaker. 2011, Kane Miller, Ages 5 to 8, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Christine Cassello (Children’s Literature).

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9781610670395

Information and activities about Christmas can be found online at:

Updated 12/01/13

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