Tag Archives: Christmas books

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? – Christmas Classics – part 3

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

This is my third and final post of holiday books.  In Part 1, I shared my favorite Christmas  “classics” that I have loved for many years, Part 2 was looking at holiday versions of favorite or known characters and this week I will be sharing some of my more recently discovered and/or published holiday books.

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My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Be careful what you wish for!  is the message of this delightful book!  There are many things I love about this book.  The illustrations are cute, and the story very sweet, but my teacher side is always thinking about ways to use books for a lesson!   The story begins with young Joe in the process of writing a letter to Santa asking him for a Penguin for Christmas. In the past, Santa has misinterpreted his letters and often brought him the wrong gift (the “flashback” examples are VERY funny!)  so this year, Joe is VERY specific with what he wants.  Turns out Santa delivers this year – and Joe gets a brand new penguin.  But he soon discovers that having a penguin is a little different than what he expects!  This is a very funny book – a perfect read-aloud – and a great anchor book for letter writing and the importance of being specific and precise with your words.

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The Christmas Owl – Angela Muse

This beautifully illustrated book is filled with the wonderful message of kindness and gratitude.  On Christmas eve, an owl is injured and he has to rely on other animals to help him find shelter and food until he gets better.  At first, not all the animals are willing to help, especially his prey!  But in the end we witness each one opening their hearts and homes to help the owl.  When the owl is healed, he returns kindness to each of the animals who helped him.  This book is a GEM!

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A Wish to Be A Christmas Tree – Colleen Munroe

Oh, how I LOVE this book!  The illustrations are amazing – I could look at them for hours!  But the story itself is so beautiful!  A too tall fir tree is always overlooked each year at Christmas time.  He longs to be chosen by a family and taken home to be decorated and wonders why he is passed by year after year.  When he becomes so discouraged,  the animals from the woods begin to tell him all the things they like and appreciate about him.  In the end, the fir tree starts to truly believes in himself and his self-worth. This is a tender story with a wonderful message about valuing your strengths and also about the kindness of friends.

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Little SantaJon Agee

Have you ever wondered what Santa was like as a child? Did you know he is one of seven children?    Well this book tells you all about “Little Santa” and how he grew up and became the person everyone loves.  Along the way you learn the “why” behind elves, chimneys and reindeers.  This is a little gem of a Christmas story – cute but not sugary.  Delightful illustrations!

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The Deep and Snowy Wood – Elwyn Tate

 A deer, a mole and a squirrel are making their way through the deep and snowy wood.  They are heading somewhere, but you don’t know where they or going or why.  (I won’t spoil it for you – but a hint is that it has something to do with Christmas!)  This rhyming book is aimed at a younger audience (K-1) and would be perfect for questioning or predicting.  The art is lovely and rhyming text flows and never feels forced.  Because we are kept guessing until the last page, it makes for a very engaging read-aloud!

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Gifts of the Heart – Patricia Polacco   All I can say is that Patrica Polacco did it again.  She managed to write a Christmas story that is joyful and heartwarming.  In Gifts of the Heart, she shares the magic of Christmas through a delightful story that celebrates the joy of homemade gifts.  I made many connections to sitting around the kitchen table with my sisters making homemade gifts for relatives.  (And yes, I made my own boys make peanut butter – bird seed pine cones, too!)  This is a beautiful story of what truly matters at Christmas – not gifts that come from a store, but gifts that come from the heart.  Classic Polacco.

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The Christmas Magic – Lauren Thomas

Oh, how I adore this book!  It fills my heart with such joy and captures, to me, the magic of Christmas.  Santa feels the Christmas magic first with a twitch of his beard.  He then begins to make preparations to spread this magic to everyone.   Lauren Thomas’ text makes my heart smile and Jon Muth’s soothing watercolors are worth the price of admission.  Another gem to add to my collection.

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 The Smallest Gift – Peter H. Reynolds

Ever since The Dot and Ish – I have been a huge Peter H. Reynolds fan.  In his recent Christmas book, we meet Roland.  On Christmas morning, Roland discovers a very small present under the tree.  Disappointed, he wishes for something bigger and bigger and ends up flying to the moon in a rocket ship.  But his journey brings him back to where he started  – home – reminding him that what is under the tree is not as important as who you are with.

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Santa Claus – the World’s Number One Toy Expert – Marla Frazee

Any book by the great Marla Frazee is sure to bring a smile to everyone – this book is no exception.  Although it came out in 2005, I discovered it only a few weeks ago in my local library.   Have you ever wondered just how Santa knows how to match the exact right toy with the exact right kid every Christmas?  How?  He works HARD at it!  He researches for the ENTIRE YEAR, taking notes, thinking, testing, re-guessing, analyzing and compiling his research!  Finally, when he has it all figured out by Christmas morning – he brings magic to everyone!  This book is funny and tender with a rather surprising ending.  A classroom library is not complete without a Marla Frazee book – and it will be hard not to keep this one out until June!

And there you have it – hopefully some new Christmas books for you to enjoy!  Which book will you add to your collection?

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading – Christmas Classics (part 2)

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

Last week, I shared some of my old favorites from my Christmas collection.  This week, I’m excited to share some “holiday versions” of some of my favorite characters and stories.

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It’s Christmas, David! – David Shannon.   David Shannon wrote a book when he was five using the only two words he knew how to spell:  “no” and “David”.  When his mother passed along his keepsake box when he was an adult, he discovered the book… and the rest, as they say,  is history!  In this holiday version of the popular “David” series, we follow David as he snitches Christmas cookies and peeks in closets, and as usual, has trouble staying out of trouble!  A delightful, funny read-aloud with lots of possibilities for “making connections”.

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Christmas Cookies – Bite Size Holiday Lessons – Amy Krouse Rosenthal   I adore anything that Amy Krouse Rosenthal writes.  I loved her original Cookies: Bite Sized Lessons so was thrilled when this book came out in time for the holidays a few years ago.  In these books, Rosenthal cleverly uses the analogy of making and eating cookies to define and illustrate important concepts such as respect, trustworthiness, patience, politeness, loyalty, etc.  The book reads a little like a dictionary – each page sharing a new word and example.  In the Christmas Cookies version, she includes holiday-related words like joy, patience, believe, celebrate, peace and tradition.  One of the things I love about Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s books is how simple they are – and this one is a perfect example – she  incorporates larger words that indirectly teaches children the meaning through the text.  This book is a perfect Christmas read-aloud in a classroom and would also make a wonderful holiday gift!  Adorable illustrations!

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The Christmas Quiet Book – Deborah Underwood   How many different kinds of quiet leading up to Christmas are there?  How about – “Searching for presents quiet,” “Getting caught quiet”, “Hoping for a snow day quiet” and the “shattered ornament quiet“.   I made connections to every page!   I loved the original The Loud Book and The Quiet Book so again, was excited to see the Christmas version.  The illustrations in this book are adorable – soft, gentle and quiet.  LOVE this book!

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Snowmen at Night – Carolyn and Mark Buehner  In this delightful follow-up to Snowmen at Night, we follow snowman on a Christmas adventure while the rest of the world is sleeping.  The illustrations are magical – every time I read the book I see something new!  A wonderful, fun read that would lead to great art and writing activities

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Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas – Melanie Watt   Christmas would not be complete without Scaredy Squirrel!  My students have grown to love his insecurities, his worries, his cheesy grin and all his fears.  This holiday safety guide is filled with practical tips and step by step instructions to help readers prepare for a perfect Christmas, Scaredy style! From making Christmas crafts to dressing “holiday style” to choosing the perfect tree – this witty, laugh out loud book will delight Scaredy fans everywhere!  I love using these books to teach students about text features – labels, maps, fact boxes!  Have your students create a “Scaredy Squirrel” version of instructions for their favorite holiday activity!

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Carl’s Christmas – Alexander Day   The “Carl” books were, for me, my first real experience with the wordless picture book genre.  The original Good Dog, Carl book was published in 1996.  The premise of the books is a Rottweiler named Carl who is left in charge of the baby while the parents go out.  Sounds ridiculous, I know, but somehow, it works.  Day’s illustrations require no words – they tell the story seamlessly.  In this book, Carl and baby prepare for Christmas, go shopping, do some Christmas baking and have a reindeer encounter!  My boys LOVED Carl books when they were younger.  If you have never read a Carl book – you are missing something special!

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Pete the Cat Saves Christmas – James Dean and Eric Litwin   Pete the Cat is cool!  He’s groovy!  He’s charming!  And in this book, he is saving Christmas by helping Santa, who has a bad cold and needs help delivering presents.  I love Pete – he is a character on the opposite end of the worry scale from Scaredy Squirrel and serves as a great role model for younger kids.   This book is a parody of Twas’ the Night Before Christmas and includes the classic free song download.  (the song isn’t my favorite but my students always want to sing along with Pete!)  This book is an uplifting message of “giving it your all” that is an important one to share with children.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas – Karen Wilson.   Bear’s friends wake him up from his hibernation to include him in the Christmas preparations.  Bear does and when his friends all fall asleep – he stays up to give his friends a special Christmas surprise.  I am not a huge fan of rhyming texts as I often feel that they are forced.  Karen Wilson manages to create rhyme in such a natural way that you don’t even notice it rhymes!  The story flows in a lovely, lyrical tempo that makes it such an enjoyable read-aloud.  I enjoyed many of her previous books featuring Bear – and this one includes the giving spirit of Christmas as well as friendship.

Well… there you have it!  Some favorite stories and characters  “dressed in holiday style”!  What are your favorite “holiday versions” of familiar stories?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading – Christmas Classics (part 1)

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

Today was the official start to the holiday season – December 1st.  A day when the excitement and anticipation of Christmas I felt as a child still lingers inside my heart and my home.  So today I happily went into to the basement storage and began to pull out the Christmas tubs –  the lights, the living room decorations, the Christmas mugs and plates, the wrap, the wreath, the Christmas cookie cutters, the advent calendars. It smelt like cinnamon and pine needles.  But my favorite tub of all is the tub that stores my Christmas books – my yuletide treasures.  These are the books that have been read through hundreds of times to my boys while they were growing up and to my students over the years.   I opened up the tub and greeted my books like old friends.  The collection has grown over the years but each book holds a special memory for me.  These books have brought me so much joy and are a gentle reminder that the only thing I ever really want for Christmas is my family, my dog and a good book.

This week I will be sharing my favorite old  Christmas “classics” … (next week some of my more recent favorites!)

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Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? – by Jan Brett (2002)   In her classic detailed Nordic style, Jan Brett tells a delightful tale of a young boy from Finland and his ice bear who help to scare away a group of trolls who are coming to gobble up a Christmas feast.  This book is a wonderful read-aloud, great for predicting and questioning.   My son would laugh every time I got to the line “Have a bit of sausage, kitty!”  These trolls certainly won’t be knocking again next Christmas!

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The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher – Robert Kraus (author of Leo the Late Bloomer)  This book was first published in 1969 and was one of my favorites when I was younger.  I sadly did not keep a copy of the book but was thrilled to see it re-issued.  This book is such a fun read-aloud.  Great rhyming patterns which sound rather “Grinch” like at times.  While the villagers are sleeping, the Cookie Sprinkler Snitcher comes and steals all the cookie sprinkles so the mothers cannot decorate their Christmas cookies in the morning!  Lots of great connections for those of us who love to decorate those Christmas cookies!

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Little Robin’s Christmas – by Jan Fearnly (first published 1998)  This book was first published under the title “Little Robin Red Vest” so I was a bit surprised to learn the title had been changed.  But regardless of the title – it is a sweet story of a generous robin who has a vest for every day of the week.  But leading up to Christmas, he gives away each one of his vests to different chilly friends who need something to keep warm. By the time Christmas arrives, poor Robin has no vest and begins to freeze on the rooftop… when a surprise visitor delivers a special gift.  I love this book – it is a tender story with a message of sharing and kindness.

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Harvey Slumfenberger’s Christmas Present – John Burningham   (first published 1993)  After arriving home early Christmas morning, a tired Santa discovers he has one present left in his sack – a present for Harvey Slumfenberger.  Santa knows this is the only present Harvey will get on Christmas morning, so he sets back out to deliver it.  Since his reindeer are already asleep, Santa sets out on foot.  He travels by foot, ski, helicopter, horse – everything he can do to deliver this present.  I adore this book – I adore the determination of Santa.  I adore John Burningham’s soft watercolor illustrations.  I adore the fact that we never find out just what the present was that Santa travelled so far to give to Harvey  The book ends with the line “I wonder what it was?” –  which has invited many wonderful discussions amongst my students over the years.  (My favorite answer is when someone says ” I think it was a book”! ( sigh! )

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Little Tree – e.e. Cummings (first published 1958)  “Little tree  little silent Christmas tree   you are so little   you are more like a flower  who found you in the green forest   and were you very sorry to come away”   This book is an illustrated version of e.e. cumming’s beautiful Christmas poem about a brother and a sister who find a tree in the streets and bring it home.  While they are walking home with it, they speak to the tree, asking it questions and comforting it.  This is a favorite of mine – the illustrations are soft and calming and the tenderness in which the children care for the tree is heartfelt.

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The Snowman – Raymond Briggs (published – 1978)  Long before “graphic novels” had made their debut, Raymond Briggs brought us this classic wordless picture book which is written in the style of a graphic novel.  This charming story depicts a young boy’s adventure with a snowman who comes to life one night in his dreams.  The book has been turned into a Christmas “wordless” cartoon set to music that is apparently as classic in the UK is as the Grinch is in North America.  This story is magical, whimsical, delightful.  I have a The Snowman stuffy that plays the music from the movie – that’s how much I love this book.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss. (first published in 1957 – and still going strong!)   No list of Christmas classics would be complete without the Grinch.  Every Who down in Whoville has memorized this amazing story of the true meaning of Christmas.  And in an age of outrageous consumerism – it’s a good one to revisit and remind ourselves that what is most important at Christmas is not an upgraded bamboozle or cardinker – but being “heart to heart and hand in hand” with those we love.  I read this story every year.  I watch the TV show every year.   I never will I tire of it.

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The Polar Express – Chris VanAlsburg  (1986 Caldecott winner) This book is a holiday tradition in our house, as I’m sure it is in many homes.  Every year, before my boys go to bed on Christmas eve, I read it aloud.  They are teenagers now, but still sit quietly on either side of me and listen to the magical words and savor the extraordinary illustrations.  After reading the last page, I take out a small bell from my pocket and ring it – making sure that we can all still hear the sweet sound.  I am all grown up but I can still hear the sound of the bell.  Can you?

What Christmas classics do you love to read at this time of year?

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Filed under Connect, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Picture Book