One of my favorite gifts to give during the holidays isn’t the latest and greatest tech gadget or the biggest and boldest plastic toy on the store shelf. I love to give something sometimes overlooked as a gift: books.
I feel giddy giving books because of what awaits the recipients — cozy times snuggling on the sofa, reading a favorite story. Here are a few books that celebrate the holidays and are perfect for gift-giving.
Is It Hanukkah Yet? by Chris Barash, illustrated by Alessandra Psacharopulo (Dec. 6-Dec. 14)
How do we know Hanukkah is fast-approaching? From the first page of this sweet story, we see: Birds are snuggled in their nest, bunnies are frolicking in their den, and kids are playing in the snow. You can almost feel the wintry weather from these carefully and distinctly illustrated pages, but the gentle rhymes create a warmness about this time of year: When frosty winds blow and snow’s all around./And there’s there’s no sign of green on trees or the ground…/Hanukkah is on its way.
Once inside, the kids in this story create sparkly decorations and get a visit from relatives: When cousins come over to stir, fry, and bake/The applesauce, latkes, and cookies we’ll make…/Hanukkah is on it’s way.
Through lighting candles, saying blessings, singing songs, and playing with dreidels, this book captures the joy a family experiences during Hanukkah. It’s a story delightful enough to read each of the eight nights!
All I Want for Christmas Is You, By Mariah Carey, illustrated by Colleen Madden (Dec. 25)
What does every little boy or girl want for Christmas? Two hints: Woof, woof! This familiar wish is depicted in a new holiday picture book. Here, songstress Mariah Carey’s lyrics to her 1994 hit song, All I Want for Christmas Is You, are matched with charming illustrations to tell a heartfelt tale of a young girl hoping a furry friend will pop out of one of her bow-topped boxes.
The entire story is told through the song lyrics and it’s tough not to want to sing the words. But the book also works as a read-aloud, due to the catchy rhyme and rhythm of the song. At the start, a little girl (looking very much like Carey, with side-swept hair and wearing a parka, boots and mittens), walks by a puppy adoption center. She’s eyeing one pooch in particular and the text begins: I don’t want a lot for Christmas./There is just one thing I need.
The lush and detailed drawings on the brightly-colored pages give additional clues to what the little girl wants: While drawing, she colors a picture of a puppy; while baking, she creates dog-shaped cookies. She even builds a snowdog. Each illustration captures the child’s exuberance at the prospect of getting a puppy. Does Santa grant her wish? Your kids will have to keep reading to find out!
My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz (Dec. 26-Jan. 1)
The essence of Kwanzaa is explored in this bright and buoyant book for young children. A girl places seven candles in the kinara, explaining how each one represents a day with a unique meaning. Each of the days is featured on its own page. For each, the term is phonetically spelled, with the meaning included as well. Then a short description follows, such as on the page focusing on Ujima: On the third day of Kwanzaa, we plant flowers in the lot next door./We all work together to make our neighborhood pretty.
After each of the days is explained, the book focuses on additional family traditions, such as one that involves a grandparent: Grandma gives us zawadi (zah-WAH-dee), gifts for promises we have kept all year—a handmade doll for me and an African shaker gourd for my brother.
Little ones will gain a greater understanding of Kwanzaa and will like seeing the effervescent collaged drawings that complement the conversational text. The last page offers a wish for readers: Happy Kwanzaa!
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