February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

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Whether they’re classic tales or the newest stories, holiday books are always popular with kids, and the following new selections from the editors at Junior Library Guild are sure to please. From Chinese New Year to Halloween and Christmas to Nochebuena, holiday-themed books can support diversity in culture while providing readers with a chance to see themselves in the pages of a book. A mixture of formats―picture book, chapter book, haiku, and verse—offers variety as well.

Spooky SeasonHAAS, Jessie. Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season. Bk. 3. illus. by Alison Friend. 56p. Candlewick. 2014. ISBN 9780763664503. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Maggie and her horse, Bramble, are back for another adventure, just in time for Halloween. When a scarecrow makes Bramble jumpy, a bad fall leaves Maggie nervous, and she has a difficult time riding. Though the two are still uneasy on Halloween night, their friendship gives them the power to face even the scariest of surprises.

Bringing her love of horses to the printed page, the author has penned another delightful story aimed at independent readers. On Haas’s website, kids will learn all about Haas, including that she’s married to author Michael J. Daley. The couple lives in a Vermont cabin the size of Henry David Thoreau’s―complete with outdoor plumbing! A curriculum guide with discussion questions is available. The Candlewick website provides an inside look, as well as a listing of awards and reviews.

Shooting at the starsHENDRIX, John. Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914. illus. by author. 40p. Abrams. 2014. ISBN 9781419711756. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Only once does recorded history cite an account of joint holiday celebration on the battlefield. On Christmas Day in 1914, German soldiers left the trenches to call, “Merry Christmas” to the British soldiers. Nervous at first, the soldiers stepped onto the battlefield to exchange greetings and small gifts and to help bury their dead. The miraculous event never repeated itself.

Delighted about his second book, Hendrix has posted interior spreads on his blog. Fans can follow him on Twitter, where he’s bound to retweet “wonderfully complimentary” reviews. Learn more about the Christmas Truce of 1914 at History.com through informational text and video. On the centenary website for the 1914 truce, there are letters and events to commemorate this single celebratory event in history of war. The New York Times wrote about the unofficial incident in 2005, while the New York Tribune chronicled the day in January 1915.

Santa ClausesRACZKA, Bob. Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole. illus. by Chuck Groenink. 32p. Carolrhoda. 2014. ISBN 9781467718059. JLG Level: E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

What does Santa do during the month of December? Does he just work to meet his ever-nearing deadline? Using haiku, Raczka tells the behind-the-scenes story of life at the North Pole.

How do you pronounce Raczka? TeachingBooks.net has almost 2,000 free author and illustration pronunciations. Learn about more of the author’s books on his website. Illustrator Groenink includes samples of his beautiful images on his website. Kids can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Use this title to introduce haiku poems. ReadWriteThink,  Scholastic, and Wonderopolis have great lesson plans.

NochebuenaTHONG, Roseanne Greenfield. ’Twas the Nochebuena. illus. by Sara Palacios. 32p. Viking. 2014. ISBN 9780670016341. JLG Level: P+ : Primary (Grades K–1).

’Twas Nochebuena/ and all through our casa,/ every creature was kneading tamale masa./ For one of holiday tradiciones,/ is making tamales―not one, but montones!

In the style of Clement Clarke Moore’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, this brightly illustrated book bursts with the magic, love, and tradition of the Latino celebration. Learn about the food, games, and customs of the culture. The merriment is contagious as readers follow families from the kitchen, through the streets, to the church, and back to their houses for a feast on Navidad.

Thong’s bilingual text is supported by a glossary and author note. Be sure to visit the author’s website for resources on multicultural titles. View Palacios’s artwork on her website or blog. Follow her on Facebook and Tumblr.

I know an old ladyYACOWITZ, Caryn. I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel. illus. by David Slonim. 32p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2014. ISBN 9780439915304. JLG Level: HE : Humor Elementary (Grades 2-6).

Everyone knows what happens when an old lady swallows a fly, but what happens when she swallows a dreidel that she thought was a bagel? Poor grandma is just trying to celebrate Chanukah, when the cat drops the toy in the cream cheese. From applesauce to a 20-ton brisket, the title character’s unbelievable “meals” take readers on a hilarious romp through the folksong. The illustrations add even more humor as they are delightful parodies of classic artwork.

Slonim’s artist notes reference the original works of art. Children can visit his website to learn more about the masterpieces. Click on the titles to visit the art museums. Follow him on Twitter. On the author’s website, kids can learn that Yacowitz not only writes books but plays as well. If readers want to make their own latkes, they can try out a recipe at JewishKids.org, where they’ll find other information and activities for Chanukah.

Goldy LuckYIM, Natasha. Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas.  illus. by Grace Zong. 32p. Charlesbridge. 2014. ISBN 9781580896528. JLG Level: CE : City Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Goldy Luck hasn’t lived up to her name very well. It seems she has nothing but bad luck. On Chinese New Year, her mother sends the young girl next door to deliver turnip cakes. It’s her chance to start again by being nice. A quick trip sends the cakes tumbling to the floor. Three bowls of congee distract Goldy from cleaning up her mess―the last bowl tastes just right. The Chans, a family of pandas, find her napping in the wake of the disaster she has caused. “I didn’t mean to,” she cries, running away. Can she ever change her luck?

Text and illustrations combine for a colorful story about the Chinese holiday. Visit the Yim’s website for biographical information and a book trailer. For information about Chinese New Year, check out the celebration on Infoplease.com. And don’t miss the author notes and the turnip cake recipe at the end of the book.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in a new JLG Booktalks to Go: Fall 2014 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. Check out our award-winning Spring 2014 LiveBinder which organizes resources for spring releases. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)






Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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