Children’s Literature Christmas Book Reviews
|Curious George: Sounds Like Christmas
By: H. A. Rey
Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung
Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat are preparing for the Christmas holidays. George and his friend ride home in a sleigh with a tree. Then, they bake cookies, decorate a gingerbread house, and wrap presents. George is not mischievous in this story; instead, he helps out with holiday preparations. This board book includes five sounds (battery-operated) on a panel alongside the story pages. The bell icon at the bottom of the page corresponds with a spot on the sound panel. Pressing one spot, the readers will hear sleigh bells ringing. Another spot has a bell on a kitchen timer or the crinkling of wrapping paper. The sounds will probably delight young children. In the end, lucky George gets a visit from Santa Claus. Adult guidance may be needed to support the careful handling of the plastic, electronic sound panel, which holds the button-type batteries. New fans of Curious George will probably also enjoy the other adventures involving this little monkey.
|Home by Another Way: a Christmas Story
By: Barbara Brown Taylor
Illustrated by: Melanie Cataldo
Reviewer: Joyce Rice
They were three noble, wise leaders who, each in their own country, saw a bright star in the heavens and traveled to a far country to find its source. The wise men knew the prophecy of the birth of a king and did not want to miss the opportunity to welcome this great leader and offer him gifts. Through their studies of other countries and other languages, even as they practiced rituals of different faiths, they each felt that something was missing. Before arriving at their Jerusalem destination, the three met on the road and shared their stories. They decided to travel together to Jerusalem to meet this new king. They would soon discover that the star was not leading to Jerusalem but to a much more humble place and that the king they would meet in Jerusalem would just be looking for trouble. It is not an easy task to find a new twist on the real Christmas story. We can always tell about another snowman, or another goes astray, but the story of the newborn baby in the stable is known to the youngest of children. Somehow, author Taylor has left the stable and gone to the wise men in the desert, traveling by camel to find the answer to the star in the heavens. The story is presented in simple, everyday language for children and adults alike, with sentences like if anyone in Jerusalem knew anything at all, they would be here instead of there and none of the wise men’s old maps worked anymore. They would have to find a new way home to tell us the story from the viewpoint of the wisemen. Illustrator Cataldo has given the reader faces filled with an expression of humility, playfulness, and awe, as well as images of a baby in the evening shadows and his mother’s arms. The artwork and the text are extraordinary, and this reviewer would rate this book at a five. It will find a place in preschool and early elementary collections and the shelves of families who have happily received this gift. It has already found a place on my giving list for next year.
|I Got the Christmas Spirit
By: Connie Schofield-Morrison
Illustrated by: Frank Morrison
Reviewer: Mary Lanni
The Christmas spirit is everywhere during the holiday season: one must simply be willing to see it. From the jingle jingle of the bells to the swish swish of ice skates, the world changes for one young girl when the holidays arrive. She loves what the Christmas season is all about, from the sights and sounds around her to the feelings she experiences within herself. She finds ways to help others and become more accepting and joyful in the spirit of the season, and she enjoys the delicious foods she eats and soulful songs she sings. This book echoes its companion I Got the Rhythm in many ways, specifically in the riveting, emotional images, and the short, descriptive text. However, it lacks the rhythmic motion of the first book in the series. Despite that, this is a lovely addition to the Christmas canon, especially for very young children. The oil on canvas medium makes the illustrations in this book rich and filled with color, vibrating with intensity. Each face exudes emotion, and the images immerse the reader in the story. The feelings of the holiday season are all accounted for, from joy to love to sharing, explained briefly in the text and more thoroughly through the illustrations. Readers of all ages will find themselves reminiscing over their own holiday experiences as they turn each page of this book. The tastes, sights, smells, and sounds of the holiday season are palpable throughout this beautifully illustrated text. Libraries would do well to include this within their collections of books about the Christmas season.
|A Mustache Baby Christmas
By: Bridget Heos
Illustrated by: Joy Ang
Reviewer: Mary Lanni
Mustache Baby is back for a Christmas adventure! Meet Baby Billy and a Baby Javier: two baby friends with an unusual trait in common: early facial hair. Baby Billy was born with a mustache, and his friend Baby Javier was born with a beard. On Christmas Eve, Baby Javier’s beard turns white, and he is immediately transformed into Santa’s number one helper. There is so much to do to prepare for the big night that Baby Javier becomes overwhelmed by responsibility. Baby Billy to the rescue! He puts on his elf hat and makes toys all day to help his friend. When he decides to keep them for himself, Baby Javier becomes angry, and Billy winds up on the naughty list! Will they repair their friendship in time for Santa’s visit? Fans of the “Mustache Baby” series will love this fun and engaging Christmas installment. Recognizable characters and illustrations place these two friends in the Christmas spirit, teaching important lessons about friendship and giving along the way. At a time of year that is a balance of giving and receiving, readers will recognize the tribulations Baby Billy and Baby Javier experience in this story. The text is a blend of some pages with a large number of sentences and others with only a few words. This keeps the pacing of the book constantly shifting and engaging for readers of all ages. Occasional jokes adults can appreciate ensure that the entire family will enjoy this story together. A textured, glittery cover coupled with vibrant, emotive images make this book stand out among others in its genre. Families with young children will love incorporating this book into their Christmas reading traditions.
|Santa’s Cookie is Missing
By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Ann Passchier
Reviewer: Greg Romaneck
It’s Christmas, and a cookie and milk have been set out for Santa. But, before he can arrive, his cookie has gone missing. Where could it be? Is it lost among the wrapped presents, accidentally hung on the tree, buried in a snowball, or floating in a cup of hot chocolate? Layer by layer, the mystery unfolds as each page takes the reader closer to finding out just where Santa’s missing cookie might be found. By the book’s end, it becomes clear that perhaps the family dog has something to do with the cookie’s disappearance, and lo and behold, maybe the family cat has taken too much of an interest in Santa’s milk as well. Charming in tone, this board book offers readers a simple holiday story that literally unfolds page by page. As the reader turns each page, he or she comes that much closer to not only solving a mystery but also reaching the core of the book. The author has cleverly presented a book featuring a kaleidoscope-type structure that draws the story further in as they move through it. This is a lovely holiday book that combines engaging illustrations, a fun story, and an engaging physical structure. This is a storybook that will be a fun read at the holidays or beyond.
|When Santa Was a Baby
By: Linda Bailey
Illustrated by: Genevieve Godbout
Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
Even as an infant, Santa seems to do his own thing. Instead of gurgling or cooing at his parents, Santa lets loose with the booming HO, HO, HO! that we all know is his form of laughter. His parents are surprised, but they accept it as part of their special boy. As a toddler learning colors, he demonstrates a strong preference for red. His parents accept this, too. When he wraps up his birthday presents to give to the children in the neighborhood, his parents are amazed by his generosity. Each time child Santa exhibits one of what will become his trademark characteristics–an affinity for reindeer, hooking animals up to pull a mock sleigh, chimneys, and more–his parents are caught off-guard but indulgent of their unusual child. At the same time, readers laugh more with each glimpse of a Santa trait in this cherubic blond tyke. Linda Bailey s childhood Santa is worthy of shelf space alongside other larger-than-life characters, including Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan. A must-read for the holiday season, this fun picture book is well-suited to public and school libraries.
|The Worst Christmas Ever
By: Kathleen Long Bostrom
Illustrated by: Guy Porfirio
Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer
Matthew is not happy with his family’s upcoming move to California. His only comfort is the presence of his dog Jasper nearby. California is even worse than Matthew expected. He does not like his new school, he doesn’t know the songs in church, and he finds it unsettling that trees do not change colors and drop leaves in the fall. Anticipating Christmas with no snow and a fake tree is depressing. When his family agrees to pose in the church’s outdoor nativity on Christmas Eve, Matthew is mortified. Then, the worst possible thing he can imagine happens. Jasper chases a squirrel in the park and gets lost. The family searches for hours. Nothing. They put up flyers and call the neighbors. There is no sign of Jasper. The three days before Christmas Eve are misery for Matthew. Then, when the family enters the nativity, a miracle happens. Realistic illustrations depict Matthew’s many strong emotions and the loving support he consistently receives from his father, mother, and younger sister.