‘Tis the Season! These Holiday Picture Books Are True Gifts

BookendsLynn and Cindy: It’s going to be a great holiday season! Already we have the gift of some really lovely holiday books to add to the fun.

Lynn: I’m leading off with Eric Kimmel’s oh-so-lovely story Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale (2014). As young Simon leaves his family to immigrate to America, his mother realizes Hanukkah is near and sends a menorah, candles, matches, a dreidel and plenty of latkes along with him for the journey. After his ship hits an iceberg, Simon heroically gives up simonhis place in the lifeboat and jumps onto the iceberg as the big ship sinks. It is the first night of Hanukkah and as Simon lights the menorah he hopes for his own miracle. Miracles do arrive: a huge polar bear keeps Simon warm and brings him food, and sailors spot the light of the candles and reunite him with his family.

I loved Kimmel’s wonderful story. It reads with the rhythm and flavor of a folktale and celebrates not only the faith that observes Hanukkah but kindness and generosity to others. Matthew Trueman’s illustrations are such a treat, depicting the cold north in rich, deep blues accented with shimmering white snow and stars. The humans are drawn with a touch of humor that adds warmth to this tale. It belongs in every holiday collection!

Night Before ChristmasCindy: Mice are definitely stirring in this new edition of the classic Clement C. Moore poem, The Night Before Christmas (2014). Barbara Reid has imagined the poem as a family of mice awaiting Santa’s arrival. We know the story, but you’ll read this slowly so everyone can pour over the amazing illustrations done entirely in Reid’s Plasticine creations. The family home for these mice has a slyly familiar yule-log look—but wait until you see the detailed indoor scenes with woven rugs and baskets of yarn, dried maple-tree seed bunches hanging from the ceiling, and tiny sweat socks hung by the chimney with care! Four-poster beds made from silver nails and tiny baby beds crafted from walnut shells will have children looking for other “borrowed” household items in the cozy scenes, all of them created from Plasticene. Young crafters can watch videos, get directions, and find several Plasticene projects at Barbara Reid’s website. One of these projects would make a great makerspace activity for your library or classroom!

Night Before Christmas interior

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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