Red & Lulu, by Matt Tavares
Two cardinals, Red and Lulu, couldn’t be happier. They live together in a cozy nest in an evergreen tree beside a country house. They particularly love winter, when the family decorates their tree and people even sing about it: “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,/Thy leaves are so unchanging….” But one day, while Lulu is out gathering food, people chop down their tree — with Lulu still inside it — and haul it away. Lulu’s unyielding quest to find her friend presents a story that illustrates the bond between the two, as well as the good that can come with change. Gorgeous artwork, with multiple wordless-pages, advances the tale. Best of all, kids will cheer at the dramatic moment when Red finds Lulu.
The Christmas Fairy, by Anne Booth; illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Clara wants desperately to be a fairy standing atop a Christmas tree. She’s excited when her teacher at fairy school tells the class she’ll be showing them how to be a Christmas fairy, followed by a visit to a holiday show. But the teacher’s instructions — standing still, keeping quiet and not waving their wands — are opposite of how Clara typically behaves. Each time the teacher tells the class how to act, Clara just can’t seem to comply: “So Clara balanced on one leg,/but gave a little giggle…/which turned into a wobble and/became a great big wriggle.” Nonetheless, Clara is exuberant — until she discovers she’ll never become a Christmas fairy without the proper skills. An unexpected visitor, though, asks Clara for help with the Christmas show and her personality turns out to be just what is needed. Little ones will love the cheery rhymes and adorable illustrations.
Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm, by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Aleksandar Zolotic
Faigel, a woman living in Chelm — a village where silliness prevails — has forgotten her beloved latke recipe, in which she makes a latke for each neighbor at Hanukkah. Her husband, Shmuel, asks the wisest man they know — the rabbi — how to make the latkes. The rabbi says to use all the potatoes. Faigel is doubtful, but uses them all. Next, she needs to know how many eggs to use, so Shmuel asks the rabbi. “Use all the eggs you’ve got,” he tells him. The process continues with the onions, until… “Oy! We have too many latkes! If we eat all the latkes, we’ll get bellyaches up to our eyeballs,” says Faigel. It’s a fun story with an outlandish theme and a hint of wisdom perfect for a holiday read-aloud.
The Little Reindeer, by Nicola Killen
A little girl named Ollie, wearing reindeer pajamas, is awaked from sleep by a jingling sound, but finds instead … snow! Determined to find the source of the noise, she hops on her sled and into the woods. She finds a lost reindeer. “Ollie knew exactly what to do and climbed onto his back. She wondered if they would go for a ride through the forest, but to her surprise…/they soared up into the night sky, leaving the trees far below!” After delivering the child back to her house, the reindeer returns to where she is needed for the night’s work, and later makes an unseen visit to Ollie’s house. The sweet, whimsical tale and charming, atmospheric illustrations make this book one to read again and again.
The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story, by Renee Londner; illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk
After a dreidel-maker’s workshop is closed for the night, the letters that make up the four sides of a dreidel talk among themselves. The “nuns,” “heys” and “shins” aren’t happy because the “gimels” are always the ones the players want, because players who spin a gimel get all the winnings for that round. One of the letters suggests hiding the gimels so the dreidel-maker won’t be able to use them. The shopkeeper explains the history behind dreidels to his apprentice, who has suggested they not make any dreidels. He tells him: “Every Nun, Gimel, Hey, and Shin has an important job to do. We must find the missing Gimels!” The last double-page spread shows a family happily playing a game of dreidel — with all the letters intact.
Merry Christmas, Peanut, by Terry Border
A peanut tries to get to his grandmother’s house for Christmas in this punny story, packed with found-objects that are cleverly transformed. After getting past a “traffic jelly” and getting “unstuck,” Peanut meets a baker who is sad because his jelly spilled. To cheer him up, Peanut invites him on his trip. When a bridge is broken, a sailor helps and Peanut invites him along, too. Next they have to get though a forest (made up of evergreen-tree sugar cookies); a lumberjack lends a hand. When a snowstorm threatens the trip, everyone pitches in to help. Each page features details kids and parents will want to explore.
Sammy Spider’s Hanukkah Colors, by Sylvia A. Rouss; illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn
This board book, geared to younger children, continues the series in which Sammy Spider observes a family. This time, he notices the colors of Hanukkah-related items. “Sammy counts eight blue candles and the Shamash, the helper candle.” He also sees a yellow menorah, red jelly in a doughnut, and a purple dreidel. It’s a cute way to learn about colors at holiday time.
Good Night, Reindeer, by Denise Brennan-Nelson; illustrated by Marco Bucci
Lilting rhymes tell the story of Santa’s reindeer getting ready for bed before their big night. “Good night, Donner./Good night, day./Good night, Dasher./Good night, sleigh.” But there’s one reindeer who has to be reminded to “turn off your light.” Hmm, who might that be?
Mia Geiger is a writer in the Philadelphia area. You can find her at @MiaGeiger and miageiger.contently.com.