November 23, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Holiday Cheer: New Titles To Help Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah

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A Christmas for Bear ( Becker) ©2017 by Kady McDonald DentonAdams, Alane. The Santa Thief. illus. by Lauren Gallegos. 32p. BookSparks/SparkPress. Nov. 2017. Tr $15. ISBN 9781940716862.

PreS-Gr 2–On the day before Christmas in 1929, Georgie and his papa go out to the woods to chop down a tree to decorate, but Georgie isn’t looking forward to the holiday the way he usually does. Papa has told him that times are tough and Santa might not be able to get him new ice skates to replace his old, too-small pair. Back at home, his mom gently reminds him that Christmas is about doing special things for other people—and he spends the whole night sewing a Santa suit and making a small gift for each of his parents. To top off the good feelings, he even receives a new pair of skates after all. The appealing illustrations glow with lamplight and provide many small details that ground this story in a Pennsylvania farmhouse in the 1920s, and Georgie’s dark eyebrows and freckles give him personality. VERDICT A pleasant, if slight, slice-of-life tale.–Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

Allen, Nancy. Down-Home Twelve Days of Christmas. illus. by Apryl Stott. 32p. Pelican. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781455622986.

K-Gr 2–Southern gal Cyndi Lou lives in a double-wide with her Memaw. It being the holiday season, her suitor Billy Ray sends her a possum in a sweet gum tree. And then two armadillos, three hunting dogs, and so on, including such Southern tropes as Walmart shoppers, NASCAR drivers, and Baptist preachers. All of the gifts accumulate with every additional day. The armadillos end up as roadkill (except for the one Memaw roasts and serves), Cyndi Lou marries a NASCAR driver, and Memaw is last seen leading a cavalcade of mismatched characters armed with 12 muzzle loaders in search of that dang Billy Ray. Cyndi Lou’s letters to Billy Ray, written in response to each day’s present, are written in an exaggerated Southern drawl as thick and sticky-sweet as molasses. The full-page illustrations are cluttered with dogs, possums, mockingbirds, and Southern stereotypes, all having a grand ole time. VERDICT This is an intriguing children’s holiday book, but there is something strangely compelling about its warm Southern wackiness.–Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

Becker, Bonny. A Christmas for Bear. illus. by Kady McDonald Denton. 48p. ­Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763649234.

PreS-Gr 1–Becker and Denton team up once again for a holiday episode that sweetly acknowledges how the friendship between Bear and Mouse has grown from their first meeting in A Visitor for Bear and the multiple titles since then. The watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations remain consistent, as does Bear’s and Mouse’s routines. Bear, committed to propriety and insistent that Christmas be all about poetry and pickles, is repeatedly foiled by the “small and gray and bright-eyed” Mouse and his ability to disappear from a room, this time to look for presents. He is as effervescent as ever and only subdued when Bear seems unlikely to waver from his oratory plans. However, Bear, doubling down on his curmudgeonly ways with comically pointed and increasingly louder hints to Mouse, makes the Christmas magic reveal even more of a surprise. VERDICT The warm and playful use of the familiar story structure and characters make for a read-aloud that will add smiles to the holiday.–Joanna Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

Bijsterbosch, Anita. This Way to Christmas. illus. by Anita Bijsterbosch. 32p. Clavis. Oct. 2017. Board $12.95. ISBN 9781605372792.

Toddler-PreS–Fluffy Raccoon has a Christmas star in his backpack. Silly Hare is carrying a flowerpot. Pretty birds are hanging a string of lights from their beaks. Where are they going? Bijsterbosch’s charming illustrations depict friendly animals, all bringing various Christmas decorations to Fox’s home. Though the writing is simple and the art is uncomplicated, there are as many as four different fonts on a page featuring 15 words. On the last page, “Owl arrives in time to celebrate Christmas,” but there is no mention in any of the previous text about Owl running late or the other animals being worried about his timely arrival. Still, toddlers will love the bright, cheerful illustrations, even if the story is slight. VERDICT A happy and festive choice for toddler lapsits, though a strictly additional purchase.–Jessica Ko, Los Angeles Public Library

Blabey, Aaron. Pig the Elf. illus. by Aaron Blabey. 24p. Scholastic. Sept. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781338221220.

K-Gr 3–Pig, introduced in Pig the Pug, is back again in all his selfish splendor. Christmas is coming, and the greedy little pug expects Santa to deliver each item on his lengthy list. Unlike Trevor, a well-behaved dachshund, he refuses to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. He’s wide awake when the “portly old gent” pays his visit and makes no bones about calling him out for the scanty pile of presents. “ ‘Hey!’ shouted Pig, sounding very unkind. Then he nipped poor old Santa’s big, rosy behind!” Santa flees to his sleigh with Pig clamped on tight, and as the reindeer team speeds off, he falls away through the sky. He is saved from utter destruction, miraculously, as the text points out, by landing atop a Christmas tree topped by an angel. Though the ending is rather abrupt, the final glimpse of Pig with wings and a halo is hilariously ironic, since readers can be pretty sure he is unrepentant. VERDICT Clever rhymes and engaging illustrations combine to make this a fun way to convey the message that greed is bad. Highly recommended.–Linda ­Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library

Booth, Anne. The Christmas Fairy. illus. by Rosalind Beardshaw. 32p. Nosy Crow. Sept. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763696290.

PreS-Gr 1–Little Clara is learning to be a “proper Christmas fairy.” She and her three smiling, round-headed classmates are all young girls with wings. Miss Petal, a grown woman who also has wings, instructs them to “stand like statues” while holding “a fairy pose” and maintaining silence. Since the rhyming tale begins by telling readers that Clara is a lively chatterbox, it is no surprise when she doesn’t live up to expectations. Just as she loses confidence, Santa asks her to save the Christmas show after the performers have all taken ill or had mishaps. With no preparation, she saves the show because she is so naturally special. Santa then explains that “not every Christmas fairy has to stand still on a tree.” Nevertheless, the story ends with Clara posing at the top of a tree with her presumably more suited-to-the-task classmates in the lower branches. The illustrations are bright and charming, the rhyme works well, and the layout is attractive and readable, yet the premise is troubling. Why do these young fairies aspire to be living ornaments? The conflict is of little consequence and the resolution far too convenient (and pointless). VERDICT A lovely piece of holiday fluff for those who desire effortless cuteness.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library

Border, Terry. Merry Christmas, Peanut! illus. by Terry Border. 32p. Philomel. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399176210.

PreS-Gr 2–In this spirited tale from the creator of Peanut Butter and Cupcake and other photo-illustrated stories featuring tasty food items as characters, young Peanut is traveling to his grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner. He and his parents set off in the family car but soon encounter an obstacle—an accident involving a peanut baker whose giant jar of jelly has spilled all over the road. The baker is sad because now he cannot make his famous jelly donuts, so Peanut invites him to come along to Grandma’s house. Additional delays introduce more peanuts in distress. Peanut invites them, too, enthusiastically proclaiming, “Don’t be sad! I’ll cheer you up! I’m the Merry Christmas nut!” Grandmother is unfazed by the extra guests. There’s plenty of food, including a wagon full of mashed potatoes and gravy. Everyone stays the night, and the fun continues the next day with a rousing game of hockey atop an orange popsicle. VERDICT Kids will be mesmerized by Border’s clever photos, which imbue the peanuts with personality and a true sense of action. The message of kindness comes across with no overt religious references. Good nutty fun!–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library

Brennan-Nelson, Denise. Good Night, Reindeer. illus. by Marco Bucci. 32p. Sleeping Bear. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585363704.

PreS-Gr 1–In simple, patterned language reminiscent of the classic Goodnight Moon, Mr. and Mrs. Claus say good night to each of their reindeer, saving Rudolph for last. Bucci’s paintings are full of humorous details that give each reindeer a distinct personality. “Good night, Donner./Good night, day./Good night, Dasher./Good night, sleigh.” The repetition and lulling verse might be just the ticket to settle down excited revelers. VERDICT A good choice for secular Christmas storytimes.–Virginia ­Walter, UCLA Graduate School of ­Education and Information Studies

Butler, Christina. One Cozy Christmas. illus. by Tina Macnaughton. 32p. Tiger Tales. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781680100686.

PreS-Gr 1–Little Hedgehog and his animal friends can’t wait to celebrate Christmas morning together. Fox, Badger, Rabbit, and the Mice family are staying with Little Hedgehog in his tiny burrow. The friends joyfully spend their days getting ready for the celebration. But at bedtime, Hedgehog’s cramped quarters are a bit of a challenge. The friends quickly discover that their togetherness can be too much of a good thing. Can Little Hedgehog and his friends make it happily to Christmas day? This accessible plot focuses on holiday togetherness, with the minor mystery of disappearing items easily solved. The pastel artwork is detailed and bright, nicely presenting each animal’s frustrations and joys. But what sets this apart is the display of human emotions these animals share. VERDICT A simple Christmas tale with a strong focus on friendship and intimacy. Perfect for a holiday storytime.–Sada Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

Chung, Arree. Ninja Claus! illus. by Arree Chung. 40p. Holt. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627795524. POP

PreS-Gr 2–Aspiring ninja Maxwell vows to catch Santa Claus with a series of clever traps. Chung’s illustrations combine traditional picture book and comic book elements; add pitch-perfect comic characterization to the mix and you have a read-aloud that kids (and adults) will put on repeat. Maxwell leaves a letter for Santa with some weighty questions (“Are elves taller than kids? Can you read minds? Is your sleigh energy renewable?”), and falls asleep waiting. When crashing noises wake Maxwell, he grabs a flashlight and his dog Brutus to invesitgate, and discovers his terrified papa trapped by hula hoops and covered in cookie crumbs! All the while, Santa (a master ninja himself) hides behind the Christmas tree. As the family sleeps, he easily evades Maxwell’s traps. On Christmas morning, Maxwell finds a letter from Ninja Santa answering his previous questions and complimenting his engineering and ninja skills. He also leaves him some sneaky Santa shoes! Maxwell’s closing note, promising a “big SURPRISE!” next year, will inspire giggles as readers imagine the high jinks to come. VERDICT Hilarious, action-packed, read-aloud gold. Maxwell’s ninja traps will inspire young ones to engineer their own. An easy purchase for all libraries.–Shanna Kim, Los Angeles Public Library

Climo, Liz. Rory the Dinosaur Needs a Christmas Tree. illus. by Liz, Climo. 40p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316315234.

PreS-Gr 1–Rory the little dinosaur and his dad are back, this time on the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. When none of the trees on their island home proves to be a good fit, it seems like Rory’s Christmas might be ruined. But fun traditions with family and friends keep his spirits alive, and on Christmas day, he gets a special treat: Dad, wrapped in lights and topped with a star, stands in, becoming the “best tree ever!” Climo’s super-cute digital illustrations of round green dinosaurs and their island friends highlight this readable and engaging story. A good balance of humor and sincerity prevents the message about the true meaning of the holidays from feeling trite, and keeps the focus on the family. VERDICT An appealing read-aloud that will have fans of Rory and his dad celebrating.–Brooke Sheets, Los Angeles Public Library

Corderoy, Tracey. It’s Christmas! illus. by Tim Warnes. 32p. Tiger Tales. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781680100679.

PreS-Gr 1–Otto, a young rhinoceros, and his family are getting ready for Christmas. But nothing is “Christmassy enough” for Otto. In his effort to fix things, he wreaks havoc. Otto over decorates the cookies, knocks over the tree, and accidentally mixes up all the gift tags on the presents. Despite all the missteps, the family sets everything right, and they have the most “Christmassy Christmas ever!” While the story line is familiar, the illustrations are done in warm colors, so the emotions of the characters leap off the page. Readers will think the rhinoceros family is adorable and relate to Otto’s enthusiasm. VERDICT A great addition to any holiday collection.–Sara Rebman, Los Angeles Public Library

Courtney-Tickle, Jessica. The Nutcracker. illus. by Jessica Courtney-Tickle. 24p. glossary. Frances Lincoln. Oct. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781786030689.

Gr 1-4–Clearly meant to introduce the ballet based on Hoffmann’s classic story, this inviting adaptation instructs readers to press a musical note on each page in order to hear an enlivening snippet of Tchaikovsky’s music. While Clara impatiently awaits the arrival of her toymaker godfather, guests of varying ages and ethnicities, attired in 19th-century styles, are enjoying the festive Christmas party hosted by her parents. The vibrant illustrations are in a polished cartoon style reminiscent of early animated Disney films, with the text attractively set apart from the richly detailed visuals, encircled by colorful shapes, flowers, or wreath-like designs. Clara’s fantastical dreams never seem too busy or overcrowded, and are, again, populated with diverse figures. Back matter includes a brief overview of Tchaikovsky and a glossary of musical terms. Buttons for the 10 selections used throughout are together on the final page, along with orchestral information. Readers are encouraged to let the music inspire their own theatrical creativity. VERDICT Any disruption to the perceived tranquility of the library atmosphere due to the audio component of this book will be offset by the information gleaned and the jump-start it provides to the imagination of its readers.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library

Dougherty, Brandi. The Littlest Reindeer. illus. by Michelle Todd. 24p. Scholastic. Oct. 2017. pap. $3.99. ISBN 9781338157383.

PreS-K–Dot the reindeer is too little to help Santa pull the sleigh on Christmas, but she and her elf friend Oliver practice and practice because Dot really wants to have that special job. All of her family members try to share tips and are very supportive, but Dot is just too small. But then, just as Santa is leaving, Dot spots a tiny lost present, grabs it, and make a desperate leap into the sleigh. The soft, colorful illustrations have commercial appeal without being distinguished. Overall this is a sweet, positive story addressed to frustrated preschoolers who need reassurance that they will eventually succeed. VERDICT A cheerful, ephemeral addition to holiday collections.–Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library

Dudás, Gergely. Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things. illus. by Gergely Dudás. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780062570789.

PreS-Gr 1–Bear has invited his animal friends over for a holiday party but has lost track of time and needs help finding everything required for the special celebration. There is still so much for Bear to find before his friends arrive. The items Bear is searching for in a “Where’s Waldo”–like fashion include a horn, jolly gingerbread man, an unwrapped box, a holiday card, a red Santa hat, his ice skate, a Christmas stocking, a wreath, a big red bow, holly leaves, a golden jingle bell, a pinecone, a sled, a turtledove, a mug of hot cocoa, a Christmas candle, a sparkly star, a holiday lollipop, a red glass ball for this tree, a Christmas drum, a candy cane, and a peppermint. The 22 items are hidden on separate busy layouts for viewers to peruse. Among his adorable woodland friends are hedgehogs, foxes, owls and penguins. Dudás, a Hungarian artist who is known for his online seek-and-find cartoons, has created an engaging title that hits the mark, providing a festive and age-appropriate take on Bear’s challenges. VERDICT Seek-and-find holiday collections will find the sweet colorful cartoon illustrations irresistible.–Diane Olivo-Posner, Los Angeles Public Library

Ehrenberg, Pamela. Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas. illus. by Anjan Sarkar. 40p. Farrar. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374304447.

PreS-Gr 1–Cultures merge in this holiday story about a boy with an Indian mother, a Jewish father, and a mischievous little sister named Sadie. Instead of traditional potato pancakes, this family celebrates Hanukkah by making dosas, a fried Indian pancake of rice and beans. From buying ingredients at the Indian market, to grinding the dal and rice and frying the batter in coconut oil, the process feels both different and familiar, and creates an opportunity for the author to explore the mingling of traditions. Unfortunately, the first-person narrative is bogged down by a contrived plot focusing on Sadie’s penchant for climbing on things and her brother’s random discovery that he can make her get down by singing a modified version of “I had a little dreidel,” which comes in handy when the family gets locked out of the house during their Hanukkah party. The colorful illustrations are festive and bright, including wonderful endpapers that highlight common ingredients used in Indian food, yet the visual appeal of this book does not compensate for the weakness of the text. Furthermore, references to the holiday itself at times seem offhanded: “Just like the Maccabees, my mom rubbed oil in a pan called a tawa, where we cook the dosas.” VERDICT An additional selection for large holiday collections.–Teri Markson, Los ­Angeles Public Library

Evans, Lezlie. Finding Christmas. illus. by Yee Von Chan. 32p. Albert Whitman. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807524336.

PreS-Gr 1–In a little burrow in the woods, three animal friends are preparing for Christmas. Mouse still needs to find a Christmas present for Hare, so she ventures outside and comes upon a sick swallow lying in the snow. Together the friends carry the bird back to their burrow and take care of her using the Christmas gifts they had intended for each other. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations in a pleasant wintry palette exude coziness; while the scale of the animals is somewhat puzzling (Swallow is far bigger than even Squirrel and Hare), this does not detract from the overall appeal. VERDICT A sweet holiday tale about caring and sharing.–Teri Markson, Los ­Angeles Public Library

Fliess, Sue. We Wish for a Monster Christmas. illus. by Claudia Ranucci. 32p. Sterling. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454918943.

Gr 1-3–This narrative poem is intended to be sung to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and it easily fits the familiar melody. Opening endpapers show various monsters as advertised in a catalog, with the one called Furzilla circled and accompanied by the words “This one! Love it!” A girl and her younger brother dream of all the fun they could have with their very own monster. When the suggestion is met with refusal from Dad, the siblings visit Santa, who assures them that since they’ve been good all year, it will be delivered. The promise is fulfilled, but of course, the monster wreaks havoc. The solution: put him outside. Furzilla adapts well to the backyard and even helps with some of the more arduous chores. Best of all, the kids still get to have fun with him. But that’s no reason to not start thinking of what they want next Christmas—closing endpapers give a glimpse of the future possibilities. VERDICT A fun departure from elves for those who prefer monsters and monkeys. A good purchase for large collections.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library

Friedman, Laurie. Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas! illus. by Kathryn Durst. 32p. Carolrhoda. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467792615.

K-Gr 2–Everyone loves Christmas, but when your last name is Christmas, you love it even more. The Christmas family’s celebrations diminish those of their neighbors, and this has begun to bother young Mary. She scorns the overabundance and wonders if there is “such thing as too much Christmas?” Mary seeks the advice of a wise mall Santa who opens her eyes to the true meaning of the day. This contemporary tale is timely and filled with relatable characters. The message that one person can bring about positive change, no matter the situation, is triumphant, and the idea that the holidays are for sharing is beautifully presented. Readers will root for Mary as she tries to shape her families’ spirit into something everyone can enjoy. The colorful illustrations add to the merriment. VERDICT A merry selection, just perfect for storytimes highlighting the true meaning of Christmas.–Sada Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

Furman, M.E. A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World. illus. by Susan Gal. 48p. HMH. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544226203.

K-Gr 3–All around the world, children wait for Santa Claus, Papai Noel, Father Christmas, or Grandfather Frost and leave sweet treats for him to enjoy. In Malawi, children thank Father Christmas with mbatata (sweet potato cookies). In France, children leave carrots, oats, or apples inside shoes for Gui, Père Noël’s donkey, and a slice of yule log with a glass of wine. And in the United States, children hang their stockings and leave a glass of milk and a cookie for Santa Claus. Each page depicts a Christmas scene and the holiday desserts in charming, brightly colored illustrations by Gal. Each page will leave readers hungry for cookies and curious to try new confections. An author’s note and nine recipes are appended. VERDICT A mouthwatering choice for classrooms and libraries.–Jessica Ko, Los Angeles Public Library

Glaser, Linda. Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm. illus. by Aleksandar Zolotic. 32p. Kar-Ben. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512420920; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781512420937.

K-Gr 2–Faigel, the best latke maker in the town of Chelm, has forgotten her recipe on the first night of Hanukkah, so her husband Shmuel goes to ask the wise rabbi for help. The rabbi is so hungry that he tells Shmuel Faigel should use everything—all the potatoes, all the eggs, all the onions—to make her perfect golden latkes. The predictable result is way too many latkes and not enough mouths to eat them, until the whole village is invited “to bring one mouth each. On Hanukkah, that’s what mouths are for.” In spite of a rather thin plot, the use of folkloric phrasing and humorous patter moves the story along, with a few typical Chelmish misunderstandings thrown in for good measure. Digital cartoon illustrations depict an Old World scene with big-eyed expressive characters. VERDICT This story has enough humor and appeal to find a place on most holiday shelves.–Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Grover, Lorie Ann. Bright Night. illus. by Jo Parry. 16p. Zonderkidz. Oct. 2017. Board $8.99. ISBN 9780310757368.

PreS-K–While adoring birds, butterflies, and barnyard animals look on, Mary and Joseph make their way to a stable to welcome baby Jesus. When he arrives, he is greeted into the world by an angel, shepherds, wise men, and God who sends “Love from above” in the symbol of a shining star. The simple structure of this board book, with two or three rhyming words per illustration, makes it perfect for toddlers. It’s also lovely to look at, with its bright palette, soft edges, and gently rounded, cartoon figures. VERDICT A delightful Nativity story to show very little ones, not to mention a great stocking stuffer.–Rita Law, Los Angeles Public Library

Hart, Caryl. The Princess and the Christmas Rescue. illus. by Sarah Warburton. 32p. Nosy Crow. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763696320.

PreS-Gr 2–In a wintery land in the far north, Princess Eliza is forbidden to play in the dangerous wild, so she keeps herself busy creating Rube Goldberg–type inventions. Her parents think the hobby isn’t very “princess-y” and send her off to make a friend instead. Eventually Eliza finds a houseful of overwhelmed elves who are facing a Christmas backlog with flu-ridden Santa. Soon the clever princess has created a “speed-reading thing,” a “robotic gift-picking contraption,” and a “neat wind-up gift-wrapping machine.” Santa is happy, the newly modified sleigh makes quick work of gift giving, and Eliza tells Santa that all she wants is a friend. “ ‘Oh, Princess,’ said Santa. ‘I think you will find/you’ve made lots of friends just by being so kind.” Her parents sell off some art and jewels to build Eliza a workshop, where she and her new elf friends play and improve Christmas “with kindness and skill.” Bright mixed-media illustrations have a cartoonish charm and humorous details to enliven the leaden rhymed couplets of the girl-power princess story. VERDICT Fans of Frozen might be lured in, but they will not be satisfied.–Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library

Hoffmann, E.T.A. The Nutcracker. illus. by Roberto Innocenti. 136p. Creative Company. Aug. 2017. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781568463131.

Gr 3-5–A slim unabridged version of Hoffmann’s classic Christmas story that bears only traces of the plot enacted in the ballet by Tchaikovsky. Innocenti’s sumptuous paintings highlight the darker side of the tale, such as the hideous seven-headed Mouse King and the sad story of Princess Pirlipat. VERDICT Younger children looking for sugar plum fairies might be better served by one of the picture books that tells the story of the ballet itself.–Virginia Walter, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Idle, Molly. Santa Rex. illus. by Molly Idle. 40p. Viking. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780425290118.

PreS-Gr 1–Cordelia and her brother are back. This time they are celebrating Christmas with their dinosaur friends. There are a few accidents while making the holiday preparations: the triceratops breaks through the fireplace while trying to hang a stocking, T. rex knocks down the tree, and more. Despite the mishaps, the friends have a beautiful holiday, and they discover the true magic of Christmas is how it brings everyone together. The illustrations are done in pastel colors and are so adorable readers won’t be able to stop themselves from oohing and aahing. There is one vertical foldout page where T. rex takes the place of the Christmas tree he accidentally destroyed. Fans of the series will love this holiday edition. ­VERDICT This book is great for individual and small group sharing where everyone can see the beautiful illustrations.–Sara Rebman, Los Angeles Public Library

Jeffers, Susan. Jingle Bells. illus. by Susan Jeffers. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062360205.

PreS-Gr 1–Jeffers reimagines “Jingle Bells” in the wintry countryside. A little girl, her brother, and a mischievous Westie climb aboard their “one-horse open sleigh” to deliver a Christmas gift to their grandmother, and high jinks abound. As they dash through the snowy landscape, everyone tumbles out of the sleigh to the shock of nearby deer. The Westie takes off on a merry chase with a hare and a fox and the siblings encounter a myriad of curious animals (a picture glossary of the animals encountered is appended). Eventually the trio arrive at grandmother’s house—and in a clever twist, grandpa happens to be Santa. The family straps on their ice skates and glide joyfully across the frozen river. Jeffers’s signature watercolor-and-ink paintings capture the soft winter landscape, ensuring that readers will snuggle a little closer with loved ones. The song lyrics have been altered to fit the plot, but they are mostly intact and still very singable. VERDICT Perfect for one-on-one sharing or holiday storytime; the back matter encourages a second read to find all the critters missed the first time around.–Shanna Kim, Los Angeles Public Library

Jennings, Patrick. Naughty Claudine’s Christmas. illus. by Suzanne Kaufman. 32p. Random. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101937341.

PreS-Gr 1–Young Claudine is not fond of Santa’s snooping ways and his habit of breaking into homes, so she tries to figure out a way to keep him out. She writes him a polite letter asking that her presents be mailed to her and then decides to be as naughty as possible. When Claudine’s sister Maxine points out that Santa has to come down the chimney to deliver Maxine’s presents, Claudine lies in wait on Christmas Eve. She falls asleep—but luckily, Santa somehow got the message, because all the presents are waiting for the family in the front yard. The story is pretty weak—Claudine’s preference for having no presents at all rather than a visit from Santa is baffling, as is why she thinks that a nice letter won’t work but being naughty will, and the finale is anticlimactic. The cartoon illustrations are bright and charming, and blonde Claudine’s red-and-white-striped pajamas are echoed on the endpapers. VERDICT Light and mildly entertaining Christmas fare, especially for young contrarians.–Eva Mitnick, Los ­Angeles Public Library

Killen, Nicola. The Little Reindeer. illus. by Nicola Killen. 32p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781481486861.

PreS-Gr 1–A young girl dressed in reindeer onesie pajamas is awakened on Christmas Eve by the sound of ringing bells. She grabs her sled and her stuffed reindeer and follows the sound, only to discover one of Santa’s reindeer in the woods behind her house. The reindeer whisks her off into the sky and returns her home. The next morning she wakes up to the gift of a reindeer snow globe to remind her of her new friend, whom she hopes to see the following year. The simple story line is accompanied by mostly black-and-white illustrations, accented with the color red as well as silver foil inlay. Some pages have cutouts that allow the illustrations to seamlessly flow together as readers turn the pages. VERDICT An elegant book that has a calming effect; a perfect holiday bedtime story.–Sara Rebman, Los Angeles Public Library

Koffsky, Ann D. Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor. illus. by Talitha Shipman. 32p. Apples & Honey. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781681155227.

PreS-Gr 1–Judah Maccabee, the hero of Hanukkah, becomes a role model for bravery in this story about a boy who wants to be the best big brother ever. Young Judah has a baby sister, Hannah, who is a little too small to appreciate his efforts to engage with her. But when he receives a Maccabee shield for Hanukkah, he uses it to protect Hannah from getting too close to the stove and having snow fall on her head. A true challenge arises when the children go to the doctor for check-ups and Judah needs a vaccination. He is scared, but his father explains that the shot is like a shield and being vaccinated will protect not only him but also his baby sister. Unfortunately, the story ends up feeling more like a public health appeal than a holiday tale. VERDICT A visually appealing book that uses the character of Judah Maccabee to raise awareness about the importance of vaccines for children. As a holiday book, it is additional.–Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Koster, Gloria. Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale. illus. by Sue Eastland. 32p. Albert Whitman. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807546468.

K-Gr 2–An amusing twist on “Little Red Riding Hood” with a bit of “The Chanukah Guest” thrown in. Little Red Ruthie is off to her grandmother’s house to make latkes when she runs into a hungry wolf. Clever Ruthie convinces him not to eat her because she’ll be much more filling after Hanukkah. “When the holiday is over, I am sure to be as round as a pancake myself…why not eat me then?” The wolf is momentarily deterred, but not for long. He winds up at Bubbe (grandmother) Basha’s house where Ruthie prepares him plate after plate of latkes while relating the Hanukkah tale. Finally, the wolf is “full up to his eyeballs and very groggy, ” and as he heads for the door, Bubbe Basha hands him a jelly donut, the final blow to his sore tummy. Humorous illustrations invigorate the predictable plot, as does the lively language. VERDICT A welcome holiday offering for most collections.–Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

redstarMacKay, Elly. Waltz of the Snowflakes. illus. by Elly MacKay. 32p. Running Pr. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780762453382.

PreS-Gr 3–This wordless picture book opens with Christmas just days away, but the only sign of holiday cheer is Gran’s holly leaf print dress and her excitement at having tickets to The Nutcracker. Granddaughter is far less enthused at having to venture out into the cold wet night and walk to the theater wearing fancy clothes (except for the high-tops on her feet—a nice touch). The situation is not improved when the boy who teases her in the lobby ends up sitting next to her. But then wisps of color come from the orchestra. The act one scene where Clara receives a nutcracker prince from Uncle Drosselmeyer vibrantly leaps from the page, and both boy and girl are enthralled by the music and the action. Bright backlighting makes MacKay’s paper-cut artwork look tangible, as if readers could peel the figures from the book and bring them to life. The absence of text allows the expressive illustrations to tell a multilayered story: the granddaughter’s progress from sullen reluctance to joy, her and the boy’s relationship of initial animosity to friendship, and, of course, the ballet’s plot. Even the title serves dual purposes as a nod to a movement in the show and the spontaneous dance between grandmother and granddaughter through the gently falling snow at the end. VERDICT Theatrical, magical, and very much of the season as seeing The Nutcracker itself.–Joanna Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

McMorrow, T.E. The Nutcracker in Harlem. illus. by James Ransome. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061175985.

K-Gr 3–Marie, an African American child, gets a drummer nutcracker figure from her Uncle Cab for Christmas and dreams about toy soldiers coming to life and their battle with the army of mice. Set in Harlem in the 1920s, this version of the classic tale features black characters, and the music is jazz, not Tchaikovsky. Ransome’s watercolor illustrations enhance the story handsomely, and the author’s end note gives a brief background on the Harlem Renaissance. VERDICT This is a fine addition to the canon of retellings of the E.T.A. Hoffmann tale and the perennially favorite holiday ballet.–Virginia Walter, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Maruyama, Yoko. Little Santa. illus. by Yoko Maruyama. 40p. Minedition. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9789888341467.

PreS-Gr 2–Every year, a boy spends Christmas Eve alone because his father, Santa, is busy delivering presents. This year, the child makes a wish to spend Christmas Eve with his dad. When Santa injures his foot and is unable to deliver presents, his son volunteers to take on his father’s job. The magnitude of his task is captured by how loosely Santa’s uniform hangs on his son’s small frame. Young ones will delight in Little Santa’s first sleigh ride and marvel at a spread showing him steadfastly delivering presents to homes around town. Finally, the reindeer stop at a “small, shabby house—even though there were no more presents left.” Inside Little Santa finds a letter from Sara, a dancer, asking for snow on Christmas. Little Santa is downhearted until dad suddenly arrives with North Pole snow. On the way home, father and son discuss the two meanings of the word gift; a present, or better yet, a talent that lasts a lifetime (though a bit didactic, Santa’s point is well taken). The illustrations are softly textured, rendered in the understated colors of a Scandinavian winter. ­VERDICT While the text is occasionally stilted, young ones will enjoy seeing Little Santa step into his father’s hard-to-fill boots. –Shanna Kim, Los Angeles Public Library

Moore, Clement C. The Night Before Christmas. illus. by Antonio Javier Caparo. 40p. Little Simon. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534400856.

PreS-Gr 2–Moore’s beloved Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” receives new treatment from illustrator Caparo. The house is quiet and everyone sound asleep when the father of the family wakes to a commotion and runs to investigate. Lo and behold, St. Nick and his retinue of reindeer are on the roof. Santa pops down the chimney, stuffs stockings as he puffs on a pipe, and exits via chimney as quickly as he arrived, exclaiming, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” Caparo’s digital paintings capture the nighttime stillness of the house in plums and yellows; the winter landscape is rendered in icy blues and swirling snow. The action is driven by the father, agape with wonder, his bright-eyed Jack Russell terrier, and Santa, of course. St. Nick’s arrival with Blitzen et al. is the dramatic highlight, and Santa’s footwear gets an update with jaunty red high-tops. This is a solid, though not particularly inventive take, on a Christmas classic that has been reinterpreted ad infinitum. Young readers will appreciate the lush illustrations and Santa’s cheeky jollity. VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries in need of fresh holiday content.–Shanna Kim, Los Angeles Public Library

Nellist, Glenys. Snuggle Time Christmas Stories. illus. by Cee Biscoe. 26p. Zonderkidz. Oct. 2017. Board $9.99. ISBN 9780310761327.

PreS-Gr 2–A perfect book to cozy up to on a winter’s night. Thirteen two-stanza poems accompanied by Bible verses provide young readers with an overview of the Nativity. The text is sweet and evocative, as are the illustrations of cherubic characters and bright-eyed barnyard animals. Poems framing the story of Jesus’s birth gently remind children to give thanks to God for his most precious gift to the world. VERDICT Indeed, a very snuggle-worthy book to share with little ones at bedtime and a meaningful stocking stuffer.–Rita Law, Los Angeles Public Library

Nellist, Glenys. Twas the Evening of Christmas. illus. by Elena Selivanova. 32p. Zonderkidz. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780310745532.

PreS-Gr 1–The biblical story of Jesus’s birth is told in the style of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”: “And out in the fields, taking care of their sheep,/Some shepherds were just getting ready to sleep./When all of a sudden, they had such a fright,/As a whole choir of angels lit up the night.” Each of the baby’s visitors are included in the poem which faithfully follows the Book of Luke aside from Mary’s “Merry Christmas” at the end. Selivanova’s realistic digital art is rendered in jewel tones with soft edges. Light emanates from the baby Jesus, as well as the moon. The resulting illustrations, paired with the calm, rhyming text, have a peaceful effect, making this a perfect choice for bedtime. VERDICT A sweet take on a Christmas classic with a Nativity setting.–Jessica Ko, Los Angeles Public Library

Paquette, Ammi-Joan. Elf in the House. illus. by Adam Record. 32p. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763681326.

PreS-Gr 1–The sound of jingle bells on Christmas Eve wakes a little girl who finds a mysterious cookie thief has left a trail of crumbs from the snack intended for Santa. Readers fall in line as she follows the trail, joining a mouse, an elf, and a reindeer along the way before discovering the cookie-munching Santa. Despite his presence on the cover, the titular elf plays a minor role in this breezy chain tale, where page turns invite readers to guess who and what waits just around the corner. The rhyming text doesn’t always scan, and the digitally created illustrations are friendly but unremarkable. VERDICT “Elf on the Shelf” fans will be disappointed, but this title might work for larger collections looking for fast read-alouds. Strictly additional.–Brooke Sheets, Los Angeles Public Library

Pizzoli, Greg. The 12 Days of Christmas. illus. by Greg Pizzoli. 56p. Disney-Hyperion. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484750315.

PreS-Gr 2–The traditional lyrics of the popular yuletide song are brought to life by Pizzoli’s signature art of adorable animal characters engaging in progressively zany antics. A little elephant wearing a Santa hat brings a multitude of presents that require a great deal of care, much to the dismay of the little elephant recipient’s parent. By the 12th day, the cacophony of various types of fowl, milkmaid mice, dancing cats, leaping frogs, musical rabbits, and drum-banging pigs has the elder elephant glaring with scorn and finally giving way to tears. The crowd falls silent, and the young elephants offer comfort. A pear and a hug are enough to bring a hesitant smile to the adult’s face. All is well, and the closing page shows the partridge in the pear tree in front of a lit fireplace with 76 stockings waiting to be filled. VERDICT Loads of fun for a small group sing-along or simply perusing for details.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library

Randall, Emma. The Twelve Days of Christmas. illus. by Emma Randall. 32p. Penguin Workshop. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780515157635.

PreS-Gr 2–Those looking for a new, visual representation of the popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” have come to the right place. The lyrics are simple but the illustrations are lovingly painted and absolutely charming. Each spread features delicate borders of holly, drums, flowers, bows, and other decorative flourishes, and the diverse cast of characters and animals are drawn with sweet, smiley expressions. Artistically inclined children will appreciate details such as the designs on the ladies’ dresses, the lords’ outfits, and the pipers’ uniforms, as well as the escapades of a certain goose with a maid’s milk bucket. At the end of the story, the boy who is the true love of the little brown-haired girl emerges and they smile at each other, bringing many days of bounteous gift-giving to an end. VERDICT Not a must-buy since so many editions of the text exist, but this is an appealing stocking stuffer and an adequate addition to most libraries.–Rita Law, Los Angeles Public Library

Rinker, Sherri Duskey. The 12 Sleighs of Christmas. illus. by Jake Parker. 40p. Chronicle. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452145143.

PreS-Gr 2–After discovering Santa’s sleigh is in a terrible state, the elves propose having a build-off to create a new and better sleigh in the two weeks before Christmas. Santa will select the winner. The endpapers show the various sleigh designs on green graph paper as a hint to what is coming. Rhyming text introduces the building teams’ final designs, including a dragster sleigh with gliders instead of wheels; a tricked-out semi-truck that flies; a floating ship with 50 sails; a blimp–hot-air balloon hybrid; a motorcycle-sleigh; and “flying saucers, trucks with wings, all sorts of clever, crazy things.” On Christmas Eve, Santa is amused and proud of all the elves’ inventions, but nothing seems exactly right. The smallest elf crew member knows what to do, he has secretly been working on a backup plan—surprise! Santa’s sleigh, restored. The 500-year-old classic ride wins the build-off. The colorful illustrations, created in brush pen and rendered digitally, are a perfect fit for sleigh creations reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s imaginative vehicles. VERDICT A splendid choice for any holiday read-aloud collection wishing to incorporate STEM concepts.–Diane Olivo-Posner, Los Angeles Public Library

Rylant, Cynthia. Nativity. illus. by Cynthia Rylant. 40p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481470414.

K-Gr 2–As she did in the 2016 companion book, Creation, here Rylant distills chapters of the King James Version of the Holy Bible into a gentle and accessible narrative for young readers. It is truly a silent night when the angel of the Lord appears to shepherds as they watch their flock, and the textured but subdued brushstrokes of acrylic paint emphasize the atmosphere’s stillness. Even when the multitude fills the night sky, the spare figures of the painted angels in the same white color of the sheep contribute to the soft, ethereal, but majestic tone that remains present in the humble manger where the babe is born. Swiftly but not jarringly, the narrative jumps to Jesus as a grown man, preaching the Sermon on the Mount and closing the book with the beatitudes. Thus, this title is not just about his birth, but also the beginnings of a message that still reaches people today. VERDICT More than appropriate for religious collections, this title adds to Rylant’s past works and can be shared beyond Christmastime.–Joanna Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

Scillian, Devin. Missile Toe: A Very Confused Christmas. illus. by Marty Kelley. 32p. Sleeping Bear. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585363711.

Gr 2-4–This collection of ridiculous poems inspired by images in traditional Christmas lore and misinterpreted carol lyrics opens with a young bespectacled boy musing, “I know Jesus and Santa and Rudolph’s nose./I know about Frosty when he came unfroze./I know Dasher and Dancer, Comet and Cupid./But sometimes I feel like I’m Christmas stupid…” The 12 selections are by turns clever, nonsensical, completely unrelated to the holiday, and downright irreverent. The most successful offering is “Beth the Ham,” about a girl cast as a lamb with no lines in the annual pageant who steals the show with jokes, dancing, and juggling. The most-likely-to-offend selection is “Round John Verjun,” centered on a portly man who stumbles into the manger scene of “Silent Night” looking for a snack. There’s no wrap-up musing to tie it all together, and though Kelley’s illustrations are skillful and amusing, Scillian’s attempt to channel a child’s befuddled imagination seems somewhat forced. VERDICT Purchase for fans of Scillian’s other books or for sophisticated kids who appreciate MAD Magazine–style satire.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library

Swerts, An. Santa, Please Bring Me a Gnome. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Eline Van Lindenhuizen. 32p. Clavis. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781605372754; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781605373898.

PreS-Gr 1–The only thing Tess wants for Christmas is a real gnome—a tiny friend with whom she can go to school, play on the swings, and read books. She shares her wish with her grandparents, who outfit a small house to her specifications with little wooden furniture and a teeny quilt. On Christmas day, she wakes up to a hamster instead, but the accompanying letter from Santa offers a more than satisfactory explanation. This may not be a surprise to any child who has taken a look at the cover art, which depicts a hamster riding in Tess’s backpack, but the story is sweet and appealing, as are the cartoon illustrations of Tess and her round-faced, smiling family. ­VERDICT This is a good choice for libraries seeking heartwarming Christmas picture books that don’t feature wisecracking elves, animal-filled barns, or too much treacle.–Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

Tavares, Matt. Red and Lulu. illus. by Matt Tavares. 40p. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763677336.

PreS-Gr 2–Surrounded by lights and singing, Christmas is by far the favorite season for Red and Lulu, a pair of cardinals living year-round in a big beautiful evergreen tree. Tragedy strikes late one autumn when the tree is cut down and hauled away with Lulu in it. Red chases the truck as far as he can, ending up lost and alone in New York City. When snow starts to fall, he seeks shelter by following the sound of a familiar song, “O Christmas Tree.” He finds Lulu and his tree illuminated in Rockefeller Center, surrounded by a sea of happy people. A brief history of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition, which started in 1931, is explained in an afterword. Tavares’s detailed watercolor-and-gouache illustrations expertly capture the seasonal atmosphere, including the tension one feels as Red and Lulu are separated from each other. The happy reunion and resolution (including the fact that the tree is recycled and used to build homes for families in need and that the avian couple moves to Central Park) should reassure even the most sensitive of readers. VERDICT A lovely New York story for most holiday collections.–Madeline J Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library

Thompson, Kim. Santa’s Countdown to Christmas: 24 Days of Stories. illus. by Élodie Duhameau. 56p. Crackboom. Oct. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9782924786055.

PreS-Gr 2–This book aims to serve as an Advent calendar, with one story for each day in the countdown to Christmas. All of the entries take place at the North Pole, where Santa and his elves are frantically trying to get ready for the big event. Much of the humor and appeal is a little too adult for the intended audience, with references to typical workplace situations and Santa’s workouts that are intended to get him in shape for lifting heavy bags of toys. The colorful cartoon illustrations are more child-friendly than the text. VERDICT Not an essential library purchase.–Virginia Walter, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Tibi, Marie. The Bear Who Didn’t Want To Miss Christmas. illus. by Fabian O. Lampert. 40p. Book House/Scribblers Bks. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781912006854.

PreS-Gr 2–Less than a month away from Christmas, a group of woodland animals are walking through Four Seasons Woods discussing what they hope Santa will bring them. Sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows, they share with each other what they plan to eat and how they plan to decorate their nests, caves, and burrows. All, that is, except for Little Bear, who tells the others “Christmas isn’t for me; I’ll be going to bed soon for my long winter’s sleep, and once again I’ll miss this magical time….” After he leaves, Billy the Badger suggests that the friends celebrate Christmas with Little Bear before he goes to hibernate—an Almost Christmas. The next morning, Big Deer invites Little Bear for a walk, and the other animal friends rush to Little Bear’s cave to decorate for the party. When Little Bear returns, he is surprised and happy to celebrate his first Christmas with all his special friends. The illustrations of the adorable animals are reminiscent of the work by Little Golden Book illustrators Gustaf Tenggren and Richard Scarry. VERDICT This simple story of friendship and giving is a sweet choice for any holiday read-aloud collection. The warm illustrations make this great for sharing during storytimes.–Diane Olivo-Posner, Los Angeles Public Library

Toht, Patricia. Pick a Pine Tree. illus. by Jarvis. 32p. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763695712.

PreS-Gr 2–A family visits a pine tree lot to pick out the perfect tree. Rhyming, instructional text accompanies the family as they transport the tree, set it up, unpack decorations, and find friends to help decorate it. For example, on how to decorate the tree: “Stretch along some/twinkling lights,/a colored mix/or simply white…Start up top/or near the base;/wrap around/and tuck in place.” Finally, when the tree is crowned with a star, the tree skirt is laden with presents, and the lights are plugged in: “LOOK! It’s not a pine tree/anymore. It’s a…CHRISTMAS TREE!” Friends and family members gaze at it, awestruck, on a dazzling spread that requires a vertical orientation for added drama. The final scene is a view of the family’s house after nightfall, twinkling with starlight and strung lights, and a wish for a “Merry CHRISTMAS, one and all!” The pencil, chalk, paint, and digitally colored paintings are brimming with holiday cheer and warmth. VERDICT Share with little ones prior to decorating a tree or as secular Christmas fare for holiday storytimes.–Shanna Kim, Los Angeles Public Library

Waites, Joan C. An Artist’s Night Before Christmas. illus. by Joan C. Waites. 32p. glossary. Pelican. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781455622054.

K-Gr 2–On the night before Christmas, le petit artiste Henri DuPaul is frustrated while trying to finish a gift for his friend. The mouse’s work is disturbed by Santa, who takes time to advise him: “No matter which way you create your fine art,/a true friend will value a gift from the heart.” Inspired, Henri paints a portrait of his friend Pierre, a cat. A glossary explains art terms and the few French words included in the rhymed couplets. VERDICT For those in need of a Christmas-themed, art-related story. Otherwise, librarians can skip this title.–Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library

Wallace, Adam. Only YOU Can Save Christmas!: A Help-the-Elf Adventure. illus. by Garth Bruner. 32p. Sourcebooks. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492641360.

PreS-Gr 2–It’s the day before Christmas, and head elf Wink Silverbells is thrown into a panic when he discovers what he thinks is a list of presents that Santa wants to give his wife. Wink begins gathering the gifts, starting with a partridge in a pear tree, and occasionally improvising, as with five donuts standing in for five golden rings. Wink addresses readers directly with directions to yodel or dance in order to attract the appropriate items on the list. Wink gathers everything, only to be told gently by Santa that this is in fact a song, not a gift list. Wink seems satisfied, but readers may feel a sense of forced jollity as they are exhorted to keep partying with the dancing ladies and leaping lords. Cartoon illustrations and speech bubbles against a white background depict a host of North Pole and Christmas carol denizens, only a very few of whom are people of color. VERDICT This book—like the elf—tries too hard to drum up enthusiasm, with ­lackluster results.–Eva Mitnick, Los ­Angeles Public Library

Woodward, Antonia. The Extra Special Baby: The Story of the Christmas Promise. illus. by Antonia Woodward. 32p. Lion Bks. Aug. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780745976990.

PreS-Gr 2–Told in simple yet poignant language, this British import provides readers with an intimate peek into the lives of people affected by the arrival of Jesus. First, there are three clever men who decide to follow the star that will lead them to someone “so extra special” that he will change life on Earth forever. Then, while Mary is daydreaming about her wedding to Joseph, an angel visits and tells her she will have a baby who is God’s son. Shepherds visit to worship Jesus after he is born, as do the clever men from before, though the latter arrive much later. Woodward portrays an adorable toddler Jesus smiling at the gift bearers. The story continues with an angel telling Joseph to keep the child safe and that when Jesus becomes a man, he will bring blessings to everyone. The softly drawn characters with their warm expressions, in addition to the sparkling text, make this book very appropriate for young children; it is sure to invite comfort as well as wonder at the original Christmas miracle. VERDICT A sweet, pleasing Nativity selection for lapsits and storytimes.–Rita Law, Los Angeles Public Library

Middle Grade

Addington, Sarah. The Boy Who Lived In Pudding Lane. illus. by Gertrude A. Kay. 112p. Grafton & Scratch. Sept. 2017. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781927979266.

Gr 2-5–Pudding Lane is in the enchanted kingdom of Old King Cole. Mother Goose and her creations all joyously live and work alongside one another. Mr. and Mrs. Claus and their young son Santa live there and run a well-loved bakery. Santa is known throughout the village for his generous spirit and love of toymaking. Readers will enjoy following Santa’s adventures that ultimately lead him to the North Pole. While a few details of Santa’s beginnings are not exactly convincing, this mash-up is a pure delight. Even those unfamiliar with Mother Goose’s timeless rhymes will be amused by the cast of characters that play a role in Santa’s formation. No surprise that some ideas are old-fashioned and a tad dated, such as Mother Goose telling an overwhelmed Mrs. Claus how wonderful it is for Santa to have five younger siblings. “It’s nice to have a lot of children. Look at the Old Woman Who lives in a Shoe. She has so many children she doesn’t know what to do but she wouldn’t know what to do if she didn’t have them, because she told me so.” The writing is witty and the colorful illustrations add to the timeless appeal. VERDICT A unusual yet engaging take on the works of Mother Goose and the origins of Santa Claus.–Sada Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

Blitt, Natalie. Carols and Crushes. 256p. Scholastic. Oct. 2017. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781338166484.

Gr 4-7–A holiday-themed book filled with lessons on the meaning of friendship. Charlie Dickens loves everything about Christmas. She is most excited about the holiday concert that her school performs every year, and this year she is hoping to get a solo. Catastrophe occurs when Mrs. Hamilton, the music teacher, goes on maternity leave, and there is fear that the holiday concert will be cancelled. Charlie teams up with Renee, her best friend; Eric, her crush; and Matthew, the most popular guy in school, to make sure that they have perfect harmony when they get a chance to perform. Charlie begins to worry when she notices some changes happening with her friends and family. Will Charlie’s family come to her concert? Does Renee have a crush on Eric? Or does Charlie now have a crush on Matthew after finding out what he is really like? VERDICT Though the plot is fairly predictable, middle schoolers looking for a holiday-set story will enjoy the themes about friendship.–Adrienne ­Sayban, ­Peoria Public Library, AZ

Brockenbrough, Martha. Love, Santa. illus. by Lee White. 32p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545700306.

Gr 2-4–A young girl named Lucy has been exchanging letters with Santa every Christmas since she was five. As she grows older, she begins to have questions. Why does his writing look like her mom’s? How does he visit every house? She begins to put the pieces together, and she writes her mom a letter asking if she is Santa. Her mom writes her back that she is not Santa, that Santa teaches us to believe, and that he has help getting down all those chimneys by those whose hearts he has filled with joy. While Lucy is saddened by this coming-of-age moment, she is also inspired to carry on the spirit of Santa. The watercolor and mixed-media artwork is sweet and cheerful and sets just the right tone for the sensitive conversations. The letters that Lucy writes to Santa are contained in envelopes inside the book, which unfortunately are likely to get lost in a library setting. The story pulls at the heartstrings and provides the perfect words that many parents struggle to find. VERDICT Great for one-on-one sharing between parents and their children when it is time to discover the true meaning of Christmas.–Sara Rebman, Los Angeles Public Library

Haig, Matt. The Girl Who Saved Christmas. illus. by Chris Mould. 320p. Knopf. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524700447.

Gr 4-6–Eight-year-old Amelia toils as a destitute chimney sweep in 1840’s London, desperately hoping for a miracle that can heal her sick mother and save her family. It turns out that magic and hope alone are what makes Christmas happen, and Amelia’s unconditional belief empowers Father Christmas enough to perform his first Christmas. Two years later, Father Christmas’s kingdom has been destroyed by giant trolls and the orphaned Amelia is a prisoner in a horrible workhouse. She no longer believes in magic—without her, Father Christmas cannot continue, so he loads his sleigh and heads off to London to find her. The story is fast-paced and playful, peopled with interesting characters and unique details such as the “Barometer of Hope” and the invention of the “Tell-Elf-Home,” but what sets this story apart are the genuine emotions exhibited by all—loss, fear, sadness, and, ultimately, love. VERDICT An inventive Christmas-themed origin tale that is a pure holiday treat.–Sada Mozer, Los ­Angeles Public Library

Huett, Caleb Zane. Top Elf. 288p. Scholastic. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338052121.

Gr 3-5–A charming story starring elves from the North Pole. Ollie Gnome and Celia Pixie are entering into the first-ever Next Santa competition, where they will brave many holiday-themed challenges in an effort to replace the current iteration of Santa Claus. Members of the Claus clan—including one of Santa’s children, Klaus Claus—and many elves are competing for the top spot. Huett has crafted a vibrant and lovable lead character in Ollie. The story is fast-paced with lots of action to counteract the sweetness. Numerous Christmas puns pepper the text throughout, adding humor. The messages of friendship and teamwork are admirable. VERDICT A light and funny read, perfect for children who celebrate Santa Claus’s arrival each December and are interested in a can-do protagonist.–Chad Lane, Tulip Grove Elementary School, MD

Kladstrup, Kristin. The Nutcracker Mice. illus. by Brett Helquist. 336p. Candlewick. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763685195.

Gr 3-5–A warm and fuzzy seasonal tale. It’s 1892 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In the famed Mariinsky Theater, the ballet practices for their newest program, The Nutcracker, while the secret Russian Mice Ballet Company is training for their very own performance below the stage. Esmerelda is a young adult mouse who wants nothing more than to be Clara in their performance, but she can’t seem to get her tail in proper ballet position. When food shortages, audience skepticism, and a prima ballerina’s broken foot threaten to ruin the show, Esmerelda saves the day. This is a well-written, steadily paced book that begs to be read by candlelight during the first snows of winter. Readers familiar with the classic ballet will hear the music as they read, and dance enthusiasts will appreciate the jargon, though prior knowledge of either one is not necessary. There is even a light romance between Esmerelda and a Maksim, a mouse from outside the Mariinsky who helps Esmerelda find her strength and courage. Helquist’s jubilant illustrations greatly enhance the book’s appeal. The human cast is homogenous, though the mice are described with differences in appearance and nationality. VERDICT Not revolutionary, but a very sweet and enjoyable Christmas read; recommended as a general purchase.–Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

Neri, G. Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale. 336p. HMH. Nov. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781328685988.

Gr 4-7 –As in Neri’s first book about the real-life Truman Capote and Harper Lee, middle grade readers will laugh, cry, and be surprised by the many unlikely situations these preteens seem to find for themselves and their families. Neri uses real events from the Christmas seasons of 1935, 1937, and 1956 to weave his tales. In 1935, Tru is given the choice to stay in Monroeville, AL, or return to New York with his mother. Two years after choosing the latter, Tru finds himself running away from military school to return to his relatives in Monroeville, only to find their house in flames. Tru and his friends have a run-in with a bully over a Christmas tree and watch a murder trial unfold that could end in a lynching by the Ku Klux Klan. They ultimately celebrate the holidays in jail with the men convicted of murder. By 1957, Truman and Nelle, now adults, are both living in New York City. With the Great Depression as a backdrop, this title will be most enjoyed by readers of historical fiction. VERDICT A definite purchase for fans of the first book.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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