Monday, December 10, 2018

๐ŸŽ„A Christmas Picture Book Roundup ☃️

As my mother used to sing "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat." Well, I've never eaten goose and I probably never will, but I do have a nice roundup of Christmas picture books for your young readers who are eagerly awaiting the arrive of Saint Nick. My young readers loved them and I hope yours will, as well.
Last Stop On The Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck, 
illustrated by Karl James Mountford
Doubleday BFYR, 2018, 32 pages
Mia has made her grandfather a card in school, but her mother tells her it's too late to mail it to him in time for Christmas because he lives so far away. Disappointed, Mia decides to mail her card anyway, and takes it to a mailbox in the Christmas market, one that has a door instead of a slot and a sign that says "Turn knob three times to send parcel." Suddenly the door opens and inside is a magical room that houses the Reindeer Express. Taking a carrot from a cheerful lady, Mia heads out another door to find a reindeer ready to eat his carrot and take her on a magical journey to deliver her Christmas card to her grandfather. And to her surprise, when she returns to the Christmas market and her mom, Mia discovers no time has passed while she was visiting her grandfather. When a toy reindeer shows up in a present from her grandfather on Christmas morning, young readers will find themselves wondering what really happened in the Christmas market. My kids thought this book was a lot of fun, and they especially liked the lift-the-flap and die-cut pages that become something different when the page is turned. Mountford's colorful folk art pages add to the magical Chrismasy atmosphere that runs through this book. 

The Lost Christmas written and illustrated by B. B. Cronin
Viking BFYR, 2018, 40 pages
Kids who are already familiar with Brian Cronin's previous books The Lost House and The Lost Picnic are in for another treat. Kids who are not familiar with these books are in for a fun seek and find adventure all done in neon pinks, greens, oranges, and yellows. In this installment, Grandad's grandchildren have come over to help him decorate his Christmas tree. The only problem is that forgetful Grandad can't find all his decorations. And no wonder, his whole house is just massively cluttered with all kinds of stuff. In the running narrative at the bottom of each page, readers are invited to help Grandad and the kids find the decorations among the clutter. For example, one two page spread has Grandad and the kids standing outside looking at an array of snowman with the text: "The rest of the ornaments could be anywhere. But could any be outside? They don't see any - do you?" Naturally, my young readers and I searched each page with the help of a magnifying glass (kids love magnifying glasses). This was really a fun interactive book to spend time with - a lot of time. Finding those ornaments isn't easy, but once the kids are engaged, they don't give up easily.

Mrs. Clause Takes the Reins by Sue Fliess, 
illustrated by Mark Chambers
Two Lions, 2018, 32 pages
It's Christmas Eve Morning and Santa is really sick. Will Christmas have to be cancelled? No, it won't, thanks to Mrs. Claus. While Santa stays in bed sipping some nice hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows, Mrs. Claus and the elves get everything ready for what seems to be her maiden voyage. Dressed in a Christmas green coat, an aviator cap and googles, Mrs. Claus sets off on Christmas Eve and everything goes well until some turbulent weather hits followed by an incoming duck throwing the sleigh off track. Unlike Santa, who seems to have magic on his side for dealing with such things, Mrs. Claus uses her brain and figures out how to get herself back on course both times. In the end, Mrs. Claus finishes the job with ten minutes to spare and arrives home to a hero's celebration in her honor. Mrs. Claus saves Christmas without any help from her husband. This is a fun story, with a nice positive message for girls, told in the same rhyme as The Night Before Christmas. The colorful digital illustrations in happy Christmas colors adds to the fun. 

I Got The Christmas Spirit by Connie Schoefield-Morrison, 
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2018, 32 pages
A young city girl wakes up one morning really feeling the Christmas spirit and it just expands as she and her mother go through their day enjoying the holiday season. First stop, at a Salvation Army bell ringers kettle to donate what she has saved all year; then a stop to join some carolers; there are roasting chestnuts to enjoy; outdoor ice skating with mom, shop windows to admire; a Santa to cheer up with a big smile; a homeless mother and child to help out; and finally, a loving dad to greet by the community Christmas tree. In the end, young readers learn that while all these things spell Christmas spirit, the real spirit of Christmas - peace, good tidings, and cheer - comes from within and should be lived all year long. The book has such a positive message of giving and caring in a season that sometimes feels like it's just about getting that it is a refreshing look at the holidays. The oil painted illustrations really capture Christmas in the city and all things warm and wonderful to be found there during the holidays without forgetting those less fortunate. The big smile and happiness of this young protagonist is sure to bring the spirit of the season to readers both young and old.

Santa Claus Bruce written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
Disney-Hyperion, 2018, 40 pages
OK, I have to admit, my kids and I love all the Bruce books, and this is no exception. Curmudgeony bear Bruce is still living with his children - three mice and four geese - and trying to get some winter sleep. Unfortunately for him, the kids are full of holiday spirit, and from decorating the house to making eggnog, they are pretty determined that it's going to be a holiday filled with fun and cheer. Not so for Bruce, who now has to deal with being cold and grumpy. Wearing a red jacket and matching hat with white trim, a little forest creature mistakes him for Santa. Soon all the young forest animals arrive at Bruce's house wanting to see Santa, followed by their grateful parents. But can three mice and four geese convince Bruce to climb into their makeshift sled and delivered presents to the young forest animals? This book may have made me laugh even more than the kids, and they laughed plenty. Bruce is just as lovingly grumpy as ever, and his brood is just as energetic and enthusiastic. We read this so many times, I began to have it memorized, yet my kids never got tire of it. This is a nice addition to the Bruce oeuvre and one to enjoy all winter long.

Merry Christmas, Little Elliot  
written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Henry Holt, 2018, 40 pages
Little Elliot has the Christmas blues, he just can't find the holiday spirit. His best friend Mouse just wants to help, so first they go to see Santa, but when Elliot asks him for some Christmas spirit, Santa tells he has to find it within himself. Next, Elliot and Mouse see a Christmas ballet, but that doesn't help. Then, they visit the tree at Rockefeller Center, but still no spirit. Even sleigh riding in the park is a disappointment. But while sitting on a park bench, a gust of wind brings a red envelop addressed to Santa Elliot's way. When Elliot and Mouse try to deliver it, Macy's is closed. There's only one thing to do - open the letter and see if they can help the sender. Jump into a cab, they travel to a house in the suburbs, where a young girl opens the door. "Merry Christmas," they shout, "we are here to deliver your gift." As Elliot hugs her, readers see her letter to Santa: "Dear Santa, Merry Christmas. I would like some good friends. Love, Noelle." At last, Elliot has found the Christmas spirit, just as Santa said, within himself. This is the fifth book in the Little Elliot series, and, no doubt, his fans will love adding this to their collections. This sweet little polka dot elephant and his friend Mouse can find their way into the heart of even the staunchest Scrooge. Curato's pencil and digital soft focus illustrations have the same high quality, old fashioned feeling that one finds in the earlier Little Elliot books. I really liked the message of friendship at a time of the year that can be very lonely for some people. It sparked some good discussion with my young readers (who all Little Elliot fans).

My kids and I wish you

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