Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter Holiday Wonders (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Although Hanukkah arrives early this year, these holiday stories are enduring and endearing.  They are books families want to return to again and again as the seasons revolve, reminding us of time together.  Choose from among these long-lasting books to help make your winter holidays memorable.

Below are several strategies to increase your child’s involvement in stories and books:
·      Talk about the author and the illustrator.  You might ask, can you think of other books we know by this author/this illustrator?

·      As you re-read a favorite story together, leave a gap for your child to fill in missing words.  This works especially well with rhyming books, because your child can often guess the last word.  You and your child might try other rhyming words, even if they don’t make sense because it’s fun to play with language!

·      Ask your child, what do you think the character is feeling?  This can help to foster compassion in your child as they talk about their own feelings and try to imagine how someone else might feel.

·      When your child has new experiences, choose a book to read together that features a related experience.  Not only does this provide you and your child time to talk about the book, it can often help the child to ask questions about their own experience.  Discussing the unfamiliar eases the way toward familiarity and comfort.

The Eighth Menorah 
by Lauren L. Wohl
illustrated by Laura Hughes  
Albert Whitman, $16.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level:  Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:
A treasure hunt in nature helps Sam and his classmates at Hebrew school find decorations to each create their own Hanukkah menorah.  Sam decides to place the glowing silvery rock he found just below his clay menorah’s curved hill shape.
But Sam’s family already has seven menorahs!  Each one has a special story.  What will he do with the one he just created?
During Sam’s phone conversations with his modern dressed Granny, he discovers that the condominium, where she just moved, doesn’t allow candles for safety reasons -- except in the community room where there is already an electric menorah.  Keeping his menorah a secret gives Sam a chance to solve his problem.
Cheery illustrations match this gentle story.  They accent the relationships at school, in the family and among the neighbors in the condo.  At the end are instructions on how to play the dreidl game.

When Christmas Feels Like Home 
by Gretchen Griffith
illustrated by Carolina Farias 
Albert Whitman, $16.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:
Luminous illustrations accompany the lyrical text of this immigrant story.  Young Eduardo leaves an unnamed Latin American country village with his family for a town in the US. 
It doesn’t feel like home. Even his familiar futbol (soccer ball) is shaped differently from the ball he and his new friends in the neighborhood use to play football with.
Family members offer support.  “Some things take time,” says Tio Miguel.  It will feel like home when the mountain turns the “color of the sun,” “pumpkins will smile,” trees will become “standing skeletons,” and words will “float like clouds from your mouth.”
Spanish words and phrases enhance this reassuring tale, with repetition in
English or use in illustrations or context.  Comforting autumn colors match the narrative.  Just before Christmas, when it’s time to set out the hand-carved Nativity set Eduardo made with his grandfather, the predictions have come true. 

The 12 Days of Christmas 
by Jane Cabrera  
Holiday House, $16.95 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:
This new version of a favorite carol appeals to children of all ages.  Beginning with a “party in a pear tree,” this chipper adaptation includes two drumming dogs, three cute cats, and four magic mice. 
The warmly dressed boy and girl (true loves!) gather with the animals around an outdoor tree, lit by five shining stars.  Sunny acrylic illustrations feature animated animals (except for the “6 bears a-snoozin”!). 
Following are seven squirrels skiing, eight elves a-baking, nine foxes sledding, ten snowmen singing, eleven reindeer dancing, and twelve penguins skating.  Each is doing something familiar.
Santa arrives by sleigh to take the children home. Easy to sing lyrics, with music notation, are at the end.

Hanukkah Bear 
by Eric Kimmel, 
illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.   
Holiday House, $16.95 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2  
 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:
It’s the first night of Hanukkah.  Old Bear is wakened from his winter sleep by the delicious smells of Bubba Brayna’s potato latkes.  Although ninety-seven years old, she’s not able to “hear or see as well as she used to.”  Still, Bubba Brayna’s latkes are the village’s best. 
Everything is ready for the rabbi’s visit when she opens the door to Old Bear.  Making him welcome as the rabbi, she lights the menorah.  They play dreidel with nuts, and together they eat latkes. She even wraps a red knitted scarf around Old Bear’s neck. She wishes the “Rabbi” a Happy Hanukkah before he leaves.
Candlelit acrylic illustrations create a cozy kitchen scene.  While a crescent moon and starlit snowy night sky emphasize the outdoor contrast with the warmth inside. 
When the real rabbi shows up, it’s the village children who discover the bear’s tracks. All her friends help in making more latkes to eat together. 
Well-known for his retelling of folktales and legends, award-winning author Kimmel has revised this well-loved holiday story (The Chanukkah Guest).  With new illustrations, it is a slightly shortened version of a timeless tale.  A latke recipe is included at the end.

More great holiday choices:

Princess Posey and the Christmas Magic 
by Stephanie Greene
llustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson.  
Penguin, $4.99 (paperback) $13.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level:  Kindergarten – Grade 2  
 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:  86 pages, ten chapters.

Hanukkah in Alaska 
by Barbara Brown
illustrated by Stacey Schuett 
Henry Holt, $$16.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level:  Kindergarten – Grade 2   
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

The Smallest Gift of Christmas 
by Peter H. Reynolds
 Candlewick, $14.00 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2   
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

The Christmas Cat 
by Maryann Macdonald
illustrated by Amy June Bates.   
Dial, $16.99 (hardcover)  
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2  
 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

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