How can you resist Richard Scarry? He was a staple of my childhood – Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat and the rest of the gang in Busytown…and this collection of Christmas stories will keep your children delighted and (perhaps, more importantly) occupied for hours while you try to finish that last-minute wrapping! It’s wonderful for reading aloud on Christmas Eve or for nestling in on the couch by the fire with your little ones. With so many stories to choose from, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick your favorite. My children adore this book and I love that I have my own memories of it too…
Best Holiday Books: The Holly Joliday
At first, my two sons couldn’t be bothered with reading a Judy Moody book because, as they put it, “There are girls in it.” But once Judy’s little brother, Stink, made an appearance, they couldn’t get enough of Megan McDonald’s fabulous chapter books. Enter The Holly Joliday, McDonald’s Christmas book starring this cool brother and sister duo. Judy has a long list of presents she’d like to see under the Christmas tree this year, but all Stink wants is for it to snow. An unlikely occurrence, until their new mailman comes onto the scene. His name is — wait for it — Jack Frost and he’s awfully magical for a mailman. Beginning readers will love that fact that they can read this chapter book themselves, and you’ll love listening to the story unfold.
Best Holiday Books: Dream Snow
We all know Eric Carle for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Quiet Cricket. But for those of you who have missed his Christmas tale Dream Snow, it is truly a must-have for any bookshelf. In it, a farmer (with a rather familiar white beard) dreams of snow falling on each of his animals (conveniently named 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Special plastic pages printed with snowflakes hide which animal is covered with snow until the child lifts it and exposes each animal’s slumbering shape. When the farmer wakes up, he realizes he has some last-minute preparations to make and dons his red cap, coat and boots. Children will delight in this simple story, with the added surprise of a special push-button Christmas tune that plays at the end.
Best Holiday Books: It’s a Miracle! A Hanukkah Storybook
There really are a great number of wonderful Hanukkah books available for children, like Naomi Hawland’s Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat or Joan Holub’s Light the Candles: A Hanukkah Lift-the-Flap Book. And I can’t help but sing the highest praises for Stephanie Spinner and Jill McElmurry’s It’s a Miracle! – my new absolutely favorite Hanukkah book for kids. In it, little Owen Block (just six and a half) has been deemed the Official Candle Lighter (or O.C.L.) – a true responsibility that he takes very seriously. Each night after the candles have been lit, Owen’s fabulously spry grandma Karen weaves a tale of Hanukkah for her beloved grandson. Her stories vary from aliens to soldiers to dentists – each one more intriguing and entertaining than the last. Not only is the storytelling fantastic, but this lovely book includes a great summary of the Hanukkah story, a list of traditional blessings and even a glossary of Hebrew terminology. This book is, by far, the most comprehensively delightful Hanukkah book on the market today. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Best Holiday Books: Cookie Count – A Tasty Pop-up
For a paper nut like me, Robert Sabuda is just about the most wonderful guy in the world. His pop-up books are phenomenal and create entire worlds of whimsy and imagination. My favorite is Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-up, which features a countdown of the most fantastical baked goods around! Your children will marvel at the details behind each beautiful morsel. My sons particularly love the fact that the chefs are mice in tiny little toques. Sabuda has written and designed many pop-up books, but this one is, by far, the most delicious.
Best Holiday Books: A Christmas Carol (A Babylit Colors Primer)
A few months ago, I reviewed one of the unbelievably charming books in the BabyLit series – Romeo and Juliet: A Babylit Counting Primer (click here for the review). And now they’ve gone and done it again. The amazing literary team that is writer Jennifer Adams and illustrator Alison Oliver has created yet another instant classic in their holiday book A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit Colors Primer. This utterly adorable board book will keep your little drooling darlings delighted with its lovable drawings, all while learning their colors! Scrooge never looked so good, and the added bonus of a hidden mouse throughout the pages will keep even the most discerning baby literati on their toes. Now, I’m an old English major dork so the thought of board books based on classic literature is just about the most wonderful thing to happen. But you don’t have to be an Austen aficionado or a Dickens dilettante to appreciate the brains behind these beautiful books. If I were you, I’d buy all the babies in my life the full set of these. Adams and Oliver have covered many of the most beloved books, from Sense and Sensibility to Moby Dick, all the way to my personal favorite, Jane Eyre. (I always was a sucker for Rochester…) Honestly, I can’t think of anything better than these wee little books – perfect for your wee little bookworm.
Best Holiday Books: It’s Christmas, David!
You remember David don’t you? Nightmarish kid…bald head…vampire-like teeth? David Shannon’s wicked character is back in “It’s Christmas, David!” and this time he’s on the hunt for hidden presents. David steals cookies…he pees in the snow…he shows his little fanny to the world…and, still, you’ll be begging for more. Shannon’s “David” books are all-time favorites of my boys and I find myself laughing right along with them not only for the delightfully naughty things David does, but for the fantastically brilliant illustrations that perfectly capture his every prank. A must-read for the holidays…fanny optional.
Best Holiday Books: Christmas with Rita and Whatsit
First of all, hats off to any children’s book author who names their main character Rita. There are far too few Rita’s in literature these days and I applaud any writer who brings Rita to life. Thankfully Roald Dahl made use of my favorite girl’s name in the world, Matilda, but Rita definitely runs a close second. Perhaps the best Rita of all is small little mousy haired girl in the red dress in one of my favorite holiday books, Christmas with Rita and Whatsit. This adorable book by French writer Jean Philippe Arrou-Vignod (say that ten times fast) and pen-and-ink illustrator Oliver Tallec is a little holiday treasure. Tallec’s illustrations are just divine – simple, elegant and quirky – and Arrou-Vignod’s text is the perfect anecdote to your run-of-the-mill holiday tome. In this fun book, Rita and her pet…um…dog (?) Whatsit are eagerly preparing for Christmas. Decorating the tree (with sausages, of course) and singing Christmas carols (or, rather, howling them)..and making lists a mile long of every gift they would like to have Santa bring down the chimney this year. But will Whats-it’s incessant barking scare Jolly Ole St. Nick away? Find out in this utterly charming book. (And, here’s a little hint. If you love Rita as much as I do, look for Arrou-Vignod and Tallec’s other Rita books while you’re at it!)
Best Holiday Books: A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas
Alright, ladies and gentleman…it’s December 1st and that means our annual countdown of the best holiday books for your little ones! First off, for those of you tired of the same-old ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, fear not! Philip Yates’ A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas is just the thing. This hilarious spoof on Clement C. Moore’s holiday classic will have your children giggling all the way down to their wooden leg. Imagine everything children love about pirates – treasure maps, eye patches, missing limbs, scurvy landlubbers – this book has them in spades. And with Sebastia Serra’s gorgeously whimsical illustrations, this books is a must-have this holiday season. I mean, who could resist a book that begins with ”Twas the night before Christmas aboard the Black Sark./Not a creature was stirrin’, not even a shark!” I know my sons can’t. And, secretly, neither can I. A perfect holiday gift for your little landlubber or scallywag. Check back tomorrow for our next recommendation!
Starting tomorrow, My Mama’s Goodnight will be posting a holiday children’s book recommendation every day until Christmas! Consider it my little gift to you…the best Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and all-around holiday books to tuck into with your little ones this season…See you tomorrow!