Holiday Book Season

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Knowing the kids will be excited to hear holiday stories for the next couple of weeks, I spent some time this weekend looking at Christmas and Hanukkah picturebooks. I looked at the children’s favorites (The Polar Express) and the new book display at a local bookstore. While there will be lots of opportunities to read stories we all love, I decided to select one Hanukkah book and one Christmas book to read to each class.  Here’s what I chose:

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser. Published in 1997, this is still one of my all-time favorite holiday books. This story has a lovely message and brightly colored, warm illustrations by Nancy Cote. Rachel and her family are preparing for their holiday celebration and, of course, latkes are on the menu.  Rachel’s mother would like to ask Mrs. Greenberg, the elderly woman who lives next door, to join their party and sends her daughter to borrow some potatoes. Rachel succeeds in getting a few potatoes, but it takes a bit of strategizing to get Mrs. Greenberg  to the holiday table. This is one of those books that makes you want to go to the party in the pictures. They look like a group of people you’d want to join!

Christmas books – an embarrassment of riches!  So many wonderful books. So little time. I always find a way to read one of my own favorites –Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present by John Burningham – but I was in the mood for something new. The book I selected is a simple story but somehow it felt just right. In fact, the title of the book is Just Right for Christmas. Written by Birdie Black and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, Just Right for Christmas is the story of a king who finds a “huge role of beautiful bright-red cloth.” After deciding the piece of cloth is perfect for his princess, he purchases it and brings it back to the castle. After making a cloak for the princess, scraps of the cloth are left outside the palace door. In lively, well-paced action, the cloth results in making many others happy.

The story is not a new one. In fact, it reminds me of another story about holiday recycling- Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, the 1963 classic by Robert Barry. The sentiments are the same, but Just Right for Christmas is a fresh and lively take on a message that never gets old.

I’m sure a few others will make it onto our list, but I’m looking forward to reading these books with the kids this week.

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