Holiday Roundup| Spring

A roundup of 13 holiday selections, featuring books about Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Pride Day, and more. 


Carle, Eric. Hugs and Kisses for the Grouchy Ladybug. illus. by Eric Carle. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Dec. 2018. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780062835680.
Toddler-PreS–Carle brings preschoolers another story about the beloved grouchy critter, first introduced 40 years ago. Readers will see that hugs and kisses make a green alligator smile, a blue seal clap, a brown kangaroo jump for joy, and a gray donkey kick up his heels. A host of other colorful animals react favorably to simple displays of affection. By the end of the story, even the ladybug is smiling after a hug and a kiss. The beautiful collage work is the star of the show as the text is minimal. In true Carle fashion, the book allows for the extension of parent/child discussion as young readers will have a chance to identify animals as well as colors. This is a charming tale that shows how love can move even the grumpiest among us. VERDICT A welcome addition to both the ever-popular Carle collection as well as books for Valentine’s Day.– Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Compestine, Ying Chang. D is for Dragon Dance. illus. by YongSheng Xuan. 32p. Holiday House. Nov. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823440290.
PreS-Gr 1–Simple text and large illustrations fill this Chinese New Year–themed alphabet book. Short explanatory sentences add context for young listeners, although some may prompt further questioning from children unfamiliar with the holiday (“D is for Dragon Dance/E is for Evil Spirits/F is for Firecrackers/Dragon dancers and firecrackers scare away evil spirits.”). Xuan’s bold, textured illustrations feature a family preparing and celebrating, with large Chinese characters in a range of calligraphy styles subtly incorporated into the background. One page of back matter offers slightly more information about the holiday, ideas on how to “ensure good fortune in the New Year” and an artist’s note. Unfortunately, while Xuan explains the calligraphy styles, no translation of the characters is given. Originally published in 2006, this new edition is bilingual, with all text appearing in English, simplified Chinese characters, and pinyin transliteration. The dumpling recipe in the original back matter has been moved online. VERDICT A solid choice for introducing the Chinese New Year to young children that will work well as a read-aloud in a group setting. –Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Eliot, Hannah. Lunar New Year. illus. by Alina Chau. 24p. (Celebrate the World). Little Simon. Dec. 2018. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781534433038.
PreS-Gr 1–A lively family of five and their relatives are the centerpiece of this new entry in the series. In this standout introduction to Lunar New Year, the holiday’s origins and the concept of the Chinese zodiac are explained. Then, it’s time for the family to cook, clean, and decorate in preparation for the festivities. Important traditions and symbols of the festival are presented, along with key themes of the holiday, such as luck and prosperity. The information is supplemented by Chau’s vibrant organic illustrations that brim with life. They deftly blend the look of traditional Chinese painting on pages showing ancient myths with more contemporary illustrations depicting modern New Year celebrations. The text is longer and more involved than is typically found in board book selections. VERDICT The bright, playful illustrations and descriptive text make Lunar New Year an outstanding introduction to the holiday for children.–Katherine Barr, Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, NC

Jian, Li. The Little Pigs and the Sweet Rice Cakes: A Story Told in English and Chinese. tr. from English by Yijin Wert. illus. by Li Jian. 42p. (Stories of the Chinese Zodiac). Better Link Pr. Oct. 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781602204539.
K-Gr 2–This bilingual picture book is successful both as a lighthearted folktale and an introduction to China’s Minor Spring Festival, preceding Lunar New Year. When the middle sibling wakes up from a dream in which an old man tells him to make sweet rice cakes, all three pigs wish they could taste such a delicacy. Imagine their surprise when they return home later in the day to find a plate of the cakes cooling on the table! Predictably, the pigs devour the treats, and despite their dishonesty when their mother asks if they are responsible for the cakes’ disappearance, they find satisfaction in making another batch of cakes. Throughout the story, English text is presented above Chinese text. A recipe for sweet rice cakes is included, along with a page of back matter with brief discussions of Lunar New Year, the Kitchen God, and the Chinese zodiac. The stylized illustrations fit the spare nature of the text, and astute readers will enjoy watching the pigs’ painting of the Kitchen God change from page to page. VERDICT The familiar moral structure of this tale and the bright illustrations will appeal to English- and Chinese-language readers alike. –Katherine Barr, Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, NC

Kirkfield, Vivian. Pippa’s Passover Plate. illus. by Jill Weber. 40p. Holiday House. Feb. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823441624.
PreS-Gr 1–This simple rhyming Passover story doesn’t include enough information for the uninitiated, but would make a useful read-aloud for those already familiar with the holiday. Pippa Mouse is missing her Seder plate. She braves asking a series of natural predators (cat, snake, owl) if they know where it might be—until at last she discovers it in the goldfish pond—and all of her newfound friends join her for the holiday meal. The only information about the holiday is the labeled image of the Seder plate on the final page, depicting its traditional items with the transliterated Hebrew words defined in English. The rhyming text is concise and repetitive, encouraging participation. As Pippa questions each animal, a refrain appears: “Quiver! Quaver!/Shiver! Shake!/[Cats] make Pippa cringe and quake.” While the predictability of the text would be effective in storytime, it is somewhat uninspired. The full-bleed, mixed-media illustrations, which were created with gouache, neocolor crayons, and some collage, are lush, brightly colored, and appealing. The art has a naive, childlike feel, and the large images and bright colors would carry well while reading to a group. VERDICT While not an essential purchase, libraries serving large Jewish populations will find this a pleasant addition for storytimes.–Amy Lilien-Harper, Greenwich Library, CT

Lawler, Janet. Mirabel’s Missing Valentines. illus. by Olivia Chin Mueller. 32p. Sterling. Dec. 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454927396.
PreS-Gr 1–Mirabel is a shy mouse with lots of determination. Despite her nervousness she makes Valentine’s Day cards for her classmates. In spite of her trepidation, she slowly makes her way to school on the fateful day. Unbeknownst to her, the cards have fallen from a hole in her bag and have brightened the day of each person (animal) who picked one up—a lonely lady, construction workers, a busy papa, a jogger, a garbage man. Arriving at school with an empty bag Mirabel cried, “I’ve lost my Valentines!!” Hearing her cry, smiling folks return her cards and thanking her for sharing them, if only for a little while. Emboldened by unintentionally making new friends, Mirabel joins in the fun at party time. As she skips home from school, her pals slip more valentines into her bag. Lawler’s rhyming text is a pleasure to read. Using muted colors and plenty of detail, Mueller’s digital illustrations are warm and cozy with a small town feel. The opening endpapers depict Mirabel’s path to school and the folks she’ll encounter while the back pages depict those same folks exchanging their own valentines. VERDICT This sweetly inspiring story of a timid mouse stepping outside her comfort zone is a winner. Great for Valentine’s or any day.–Catherine ­Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH

Lee, Vickie. 12 Lucky Animals: A Bilingual Baby Book. illus. by Joey Chou. 24p. Holt/Godwin Bks. Dec. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781250184245.
PreS-K –This charming bilingual board book introduces the Chinese zodiac and language in an accessible way regardless of the language ability of readers. Two pages are devoted to each zodiac animal. On the left-hand page is a picture of the friendly creature. The opposite page has the animal’s name in English; underneath is the Chinese character and its pronunciation. Also included is the way the word phonetically sounds in English. For example, Pig is Zhu and is pronounced “Zhoo.” Beneath is a picture of the pig is a description of its characteristics: “Happy, gentle, caring, loves being at home with family.” This title does an excellent job of introducing the Chinese culture to parents and other adults who may not be fluent in the language. It is written in a way that will instill confidence and set the stage for a positive reading experience. It may also encourage children to want to learn more. Illustrations are cute and friendly and the layout is attractive and easy to follow. VERDICT A first purchase for libraries and preschools, perfect for ushering in a new year.–Robin Sofge, Prince William Public Library System, VA

London, Jonathan. Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine. illus. by Andrew Joyner. 30p. Amazon/Two Lions. Dec. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781503900356.
K-Gr 2–When Duck realizes that she doesn’t have a valentine on Valentine’s Day, she devises a plan to bring all her friends together to celebrate. As she secretly delivers her anonymous party invitations, Hippo is hoping it is from Duck, Turtle is hoping it’s from Pig (and vice versa), and Elephant is wondering if it’s from Duck or Pig. As the time for the gathering draws near, each animal puts on their best outfit, gathers a treat to share, and heads to the park. They all arrive at exactly 4:00 p.m., but where is Duck? With a flourish she leaps from a bush and declares, “I’m the secret valentine!” and as she gives Hippo a rose she says, “The best valentines are friends” and all of the others heartily agree. Joyner’s digitally colored illustrations depict the affable pals in varied settings including house, pizza shop, pond, grocery, bathroom, and street as they get their invite, prepare, and rush off to the park. Plenty of detail, white space plus fun text type and placement make for a lively read. Observant readers will see telltale signs of sneaky Duck as she delivers her missives and spot the birds on every page. An added bonus is a lesson in analog time telling. On six occasions that the text mentions time, there is a clock face somewhere in the illustration (alarm clock, clock tower, timepiece, sundial, etc.) with a blue minute hand and red hour hand with matching numbers. VERDICT A friend-affirming Valentine story with a time-teaching element to boot. A good choice for storytime or one-on-one sharing.–Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH

McBeth, T. L. Robot in Love. illus. by T. L. McBeth. 40p. Holt/Godwin Bks. Dec. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250185938.
PreS-Gr 2–An adorable tale of love at first sight. The narrator, a dapper, bow-tie wearing robot, spots a striking stranger and is instantly smitten. Too shy to speak to her, the robot starts to malfunction and even has trouble entering sleep mode. Alas, the robot musters the courage and seeks out his shiny lady. Spoiler Alert: The robot’s shiny love interest is a toaster, and McBeth’s endpaper hearts morph into pieces of toast in illustrative perfection. The robot is an incredibly likable character. Additionally, its eyes have heart-shaped pupils when talking about his love, which add to his charm. The story itself is silly and chuckle-worthy. Big pink-laden pages contrast the black-and-silver robot, making the lively images pop. There is plenty of robot vocabulary, some of which might challenge some young readers, but the story and layout are easy to follow, and provide clues as to the robot’s love interest for the keen eye. Older readers will appreciate small, humorous details, such as the robot snoring in binary code or its meeting with the toaster on Electric Avenue. VERDICT A super-fun, sweet, and fast read-aloud for fans of robots, love, and toast.–Kaitlin Malixi, Kensington Health Sciences Academy, Philadelphia

McKissack, Patricia C. What Is Given from the Heart. illus. by April Harrison. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375836152.
K-Gr 3 –Although he and his mama are poor, James Otis struggles to find something he can give the Temple family, who have lost everything in a fire. After his daddy dies suddenly, the boy and his mom lose their farm and move into a “run-down shotgun house.” A flood further adds to their misery. Yet when Reverend Dennis announces the congregation will deliver “love boxes” to needy families for Valentine’s Day, the boy and his mother decide to provide gifts for the Temples. “Stitchin’ with a loving heart,” mama turns her one treasure, a tablecloth, into an apron for Mrs. Temple. Considering several of his possessions unsuitable, James Otis finally decides to make a book for Sarah Temple. The delighted Temples receive their box with the congregation looking on. Their hearts filled with joy at having given to others, James Otis and mama return home to discover a love box has been delivered to them. Textured backgrounds that bleed to the edges and often include spreads form the backdrop for the folk-art illustrations rendered in mixed media and found objects. All the figures are elongated, and the brightest colors appear in a striking scene of the close-knit African American community walking to church dressed in their Sunday best. There are depictions of the modest neighborhood and touching close-ups of the boy and his mom in loving embrace and Sarah clutching her treasured book to her chest. VERDICT This story of the joy of giving despite one’s own needs is a must-have for group discussions of empathy. A treasure from a marvelous storyteller.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

Matula, Christina. The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival. illus. by Pearl Law. 32p. Charlesbridge. Jul. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781580897464.
PreS-Gr 2–In this title, a grandmother (aka Ah-ma) tells the story behind the Mid-Autumn Festival. Long ago, 10 suns became bored and decided not to shine individually but came out all at once, causing big problems on Earth. Hou Yi, a young archer, comes to the rescue by shooting down nine of the suns. He is rewarded for his efforts with a magic potion that will let him live forever in the sky. He and his wife, Chang’e, hide it to keep it safe. When a thief breaks in, Chang’e swallows it, and becomes the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. Sees her silhouette on the moon, Hou Yi realizes that his wife is now immortal. He is sad, but on the anniversary of when she became Spirit of the Lady in the Moon, he remembers her by putting out her favorite foods like small cakes. In addition to the story, there is more information about the Mid-Autumn Festival and a recipe for mooncakes with red-bean filling. The engaging story within a story is well written and may be relatable to many children. For example, the mooncakes are described as being “as small as my hand and as round as the moon.” The cartoon illustrations are colorful and modern, yet complement the timeless tale. VERDICT A good introduction to the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese culture, perfect for classroom use or one-on-one reading.–Robin Sofge, Prince William Public Library System, VA

Stevenson, Robin. Pride Colors. 26p. Orca. Mar. 2019. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781459820708.
Toddler-PreS–Stevenson’s first board book shares LGBTQIA+ Pride with the youngest readers in a joyful, accessible format. Rhyming verses cycle through the six colors of the traditional Pride flag, starting with red: “A bright red heart, a little star. /I love you just the way you are.” Full-page color photographs accompany the text’s journey, depicting gleeful children either wearing or interacting with the individual colors. Two children walking hand-in-hand appear next to text that reads “Be yourself./Love who you choose.” Several pages later, a child traverses a rainbow sidewalk. The message in the verse: “A whole wide world is here for you.” The final image—a toddler in rainbow tutu grasping a small rainbow flag—suggests attendance at a Pride parade or other celebration. The back matter provides a brief summary of Pride and the meaning behind each color of the flag (red, for example, signifies life). While all the images focus on children as their subject, two also depict caregivers who present as same-sex couples. The children are diverse in skin tone; the grown-ups all present as white. Books for this age group with realistic photos are few and far between—and more are sorely needed. Awash in messages (and images) of love and the celebration of individuality, this dual concept book highlights LGBTQIA+ families in a positive, glittery light. VERDICT A rare treat for both Pride Day and everyday sharing. Essential for all libraries serving young children and their caregivers.–Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR

Yim, Natasha. Mulan’s Lunar New Year. illus. by Sophie Li. 48p. Disney Pr. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781368023269.
PreS-Gr 2–In this oversize picture book, Disney’s Mulan is seven years old and eager to bring good luck to her family as the Lunar New Year approaches. Grandmother Fa shares many traditional Chinese beliefs as she reminds the girl that everything done during the New Year festival brings luck—good or bad. Mulan’s family joyfully woo happiness, prosperity, reunion, and longevity by picking fresh flowers; eating steamed buns, dumplings, and noodles; and hanging dragon-shaped lanterns. Good-hearted but clumsy, Mulan makes a mess of many of the preparations. Has she brought bad luck on the whole family? No matter the blunder, her father, mother, and grandmother support her good intentions. The story culminates with a parade full of loud noises meant to drive away evil spirits. The digital illustrations are aglow with deep reds and golds (good luck colors) contrasting with charcoal black, stone gray, and other earth tones. Brush strokes add texture and depth. However, the symbolism of each tradition is only briefly explained in the text, lacking the supporting details that could truly expand readers’ cultural knowledge. For instance, readers learn that eating noodles during Lunar New Year brings luck, but there’s no context as to how and why that belief came to be. VERDICT This simple introduction to Chinese traditions surrounding the Lunar New Year will be most appealing to Disney fans, with some additional interest during seasonally appropriate times.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

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