While this may look like some kind of crazy, action hero version of the Hanukkah story, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Tilda Balsley does an amazing job of distilling the Hanukkah story for the 3 to 6 set. With rhyming text, we learn the story behind the Festival of Lights. Antiochus, Mattathias and his five sons, and the re-dedication of the temple are all part of the story. Though it does get a little hokey in places, this is the first story that I’ve seen that gives a good background to why Hanukkah is celebrated and the history behind it. Balsley’s approach and Harrington’s illustrations are less lesson or lecture style and much more storytelling.
Archive for Holiday books
This is quite possibly my #1 middle grade gift recommendation going into the holiday season. (Though I’ve got a lot of love for The Spindlers, too!)
Told from various perspectives, Splendors and Glooms is a Dickensian tale that pretty much has it all: magic, adventure, humor, plucky orphans, dastardly criminals, street urchins—the list goes on. Set mainly in Victorian London (though we take some notable detours), the story follows orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, assistants to the sinister puppeteer Gaspare Grisini.
In contrast to the shabby, hand-to-mouth existence of Lizzie and Parse, young Clara Wintermute lives in the lap of luxury. But even with her warm home and fancy toys, Clara’s life is clouded by sadness and guilt. When Grisini and company are hired to perform for Clara’s birthday party, Lizzie and Parse are immediately drawn to the strange, winsome little girl. But after the party, disaster strikes: Clara disappears, and Grisini is the main suspect.
Haunted by the birthday girl’s hesitant attempt at friendship, Lizzie and Parse set out to solve the mystery of her disappearance. What they find will astonish and amaze them. Don’t worry, readers with delicate constitutions! There’s a happy ending here—for everyone who deserves it, that is.
Baltimore librarian and Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz (her Victorian thriller A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is another of my favorites) dazzles with lush descriptions, hilarious dialogue, and an utterly engrossing setting. I didn’t want this book to end, and that’s saying something, since it’s almost 400 pages. But those pages flew by! All I wanted to do was curl up in a warm blanket, grab a mug of cocoa, and get lost in this brilliant read.
But don’t take my word for it—check out Cecilia’s glowing review here!
Read on, readers!
If you can’t tell by the absolutely gorgeous weather we’ve been experiencing, both Spring and Easter are definitely on the way! Here are a few books that center around traditional Easter themes:
Very First Easter by Paul Maier; $7.99; Concordia Publishing; Ages 7+
Focusing on Christ’s death and resurrection, this one is great for explaining the true meaning of Easter to school-age children. Scripture verses are used, which are helpful for memorization and helping children to remember the story throughout the year. The illustrations are beautiful and the content is simple enough for your kids to understand, yet complex enough for them to believe in the tragedy and miracle of Christ’s death and rebirth.
The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith;$20.00; Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; Ages 5+
A very simple telling of the Easter story, through the eyes of a donkey. This would make a lovely selection as a gift book or for a child to treasure in his collection forever! The paintings are gorgeous and the traditional nature of the story is perfect for this time of year.
First Prayers, A Celebration of Faith and Love by Troy Howell; $12.95; Sterling; Ages 4+
Such a lovely book, perfect for an Easter basket! Included are all sorts of traditional prayers and Psalms, intermixed with beautiful poetry. The illustrations are soft and light, perfect for Springtime, and the simple nature of the text is wonderful, even for your little ones.
The familiar story of the little red hen gets an Jewish twist in cute picture book. Little red hen is preparing to make her Matzah for Passover. She plants the grain; harvests the wheat; takes it to the mill so she can “quickly, quickly, quickly” make her Matzah. In each step of her preperations she askes for help from her friends lamb, horse and dog. Each time with the same result; the lazy no-goodniks refusing to help. Finally, the night of the Seder dinner arrives and who should come knocking on her door, but lamb, horse and dog with the chutzpah to want to come to dinner! Will little red hen turn them away for their refusal to help or will she be a good egg (a mensch) and forgive?
Not every bunny is an Easter bunny. In Linda Glaser’s delightful story, three generations of bunnys get together to celebrate Passover. Each one commenting what they love about the holiday: the first bite of Matzoh, singing songs, and being with family. Glasser’s story covers the basic rituals of the holiday from preparing the food, to reading the Haggadah to finding the Afikoman to opening the door for Elijah. Howarth’s illustrations are fun and colorful; adding to the story. A great book for anyone with young ones who are celebrating Passover or just want to know more about it.
The incorporation of a dinosaur with a Passover picture book is a stroke of genius! In rhyming text, the holiday, its elements and rituals are covered in brief:
“He helps me sing the questions/He knows that there are four. Tonight, why is there matzah and bitter herbs we call manor?”
This give just enough information about Passover with allowing some interactivity between reader and child to discuss the greater meaning of everything that Dino does. Almost every illustration includes a frog in a sometimes obvious place and sometimes not; creating a seek-and-find element. An excellent book for your younger ones who participate in the Passover festivities.
Similar to the DK Eyewitness books, this sticker book includes a short description of the background of Passover and its celebration at the top of each page. Within each page there outlines where you can place the 60 resuable stickers. Captions underneath the sticker further describe an element of Passover: the plagues, the parting of the waves, wine drops, etc. An additional interactive way to celebrate and learn about Passover.
There’s nothing like snuggling up with a good book and someone you love on Valentine’s Day! Here at Hooray for Books, we’ve picked out our favorite reads that celebrate love.
It’s puppy love at first sight! Rachael Hale is known for her adorable portraits of babies, and this title adds furry (and feathered) friends into the mix. Little ones will love the different animal hugs and kisses on display, and grown-ups will be enchanted by the unrelenting cuteness of Hale’s photography. I dare you not to crack a grin at this one!
This brightly colored fold out book features something we love on each spread. Surprises! Cupcakes! Family! You! Constructed out of sturdy cardboard, this fold out book is designed to withstand arduous playing and chewing. This is a great, hands-on choice for a little valentine!
Mr. Prickles is a porcupine who desperately wants to be included in the frolicking of his nocturnal neighbors. But no one is interested in being friends with such a sharply barbed animal! Poor Mr. Prickles is lonely and sad, until he notices Miss Pointypants, the beautiful porcupine who occupies the stump next door. Together, the two play and explore the nighttime woods to their hearts’ content, and even learn how porcupines hug (very carefully). Mr. Prickles discovers that, while it’s not much fun being alone, “it’s much nicer being alone with someone else.”
Kisses are all around! “Bye-bye kisses, fly-high kisses, eye-dry kisses, all my kisses.” With large, whimsical illustrations, this delightful read dives into the various kisses in the animal world, concluding that “the very best kiss…is a kiss from you!” This is a fantastic bedtime read to share with wiggly little ones on Valentine’s Day!
One day, it rained hearts, and Cornelia Augusta knew just what to do. She caught them and carefully crafted each unique heart into the perfect valentine for one of her friends. This thoughtful tale is a classic that simply must be shared with the next generation of valentine-makers!
Finally! A Valentine’s book for children and their pets! Poor Beastie is tormented by Paul and Judy, until one day he snaps and swallows them whole. After learning their lesson in the cavernous darkness of his belly, Beastie spits them out, and (voila!) they’re all friends again. The three spend their days playing games of hide and seek and dress up, followed by rigorous teeth brushing and snuggle time before bed. This quirky touchy-feely pop-up book has just the right amount of zany hilarity to keep your little monster laughing.
Amanda describes this title as: A story of finding love in the oddest of places, this one takes place in a 24-hour-period, following 17-year-old Hadley as she travels to London for her father’s second wedding. Though running incredibly late for this wedding she wants nothing to do with, Hadley manages to meet the perfect guy in the terminal, and he happens to be on the same plane. In the same row. A sweet and funny series of events ensue and the reader is given an adorable, cozy first love story. Did I mention the cute guy with the accent?
There are more Valentine’s books featured front and center at the store. Stop by and check them out!
With Turkey day just around the corner, it’s time to pick up some fabulous Thanksgiving stories at Hooray For Books!
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie. By Alison Jackson; Puffin Books, Ages 3-6.
Alison Jackson’s silly story I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie is the perfect book to read or sing aloud on Thanksgiving day! Her lyrical, rhythmic verse can be sung to the tune of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” In Jackson’s rendition, one very hungry old lady eats every Thanksgiving staple you can think of, and then some! After inhaling pie, cider, squash, salad, turkey and more, will this old lady ever be full? Find out in this delightful, hilarious story!
“Gobble-gobble.” Learn how to speak turkey in Steinberg’s funny story about a group of turkeys off to dance the night away at the Turkey Ball! Follow these party animals as they travel in the turkey bus, strut down the cranberry red carpet, and dance “till their feathers meet the morning light!” Steinberg’s goofy text accompanied by Liz Conrad’s bold, fun illustrations will have you enjoying this book all Thanksgiving night long!
For those of you looking for a Thanksgiving book rich in history, we highly recommend This Is The Feast. The rhyming prose, sometimes solemn and sometimes rollicking, carries the reader through the Pilgrims’ journey, from the struggle of a barren winter to the joyful relief of the harvest. The illustrations are as colorful and vivid as the prose: “These are the maples, in forests ablaze, where wild turkeys run and golden deer graze.” This book is also packed with historical details, gracefully woven into the writing: did you know that the pilgrims ate lobster at Thanksgiving? Great for a classroom read, or for any child curious about the origins of Thanksgiving.
Does your early reader have a fowl sense of humor? Then they’re sure to gobble up Turkey Riddles! Packed with groan-worthy puns, your beginning reader will love reading these goofy jokes to you. Why did the turkey stuffing go on strike? Because it wanted a higher celery, of course! Why did Tom Turkey climb into the vegetable bowl? Well, you’re just going to have to come in and find out!
Toulouse on the Loose by Kimberly Thompson. Little Pigeon Books.
Check out Hooray For Books’ previous blog about Toulouse here. A word of caution however, this loveable turkey may make you think twice about eating a certain type of bird this holiday season.
These are just a few of our favorites, but be sure to swing by the store to explore our full collection!
I’m the Scariest Thing in the Castle by Kevin Sherry; Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Group; 2011; baby – 3; $6.99
By the author of I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, this latest entry is perfect for the the littlest ones at Halloween. Little Bat is scarier than the ghosts, skeletons and witches of the castle, but when the lights go out who’s going to be the scared one?
Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas; Harper; 2011; 3-6
Jan Thomas’ hapless trio of Duck, Pig and Mouse are back in this Halloween tale. Duck has found the perfect perfect pumpkin for Jack O’Lantern carving. As he starts emptying out the seeds, he slips and gets his head stuck in the pumpkin. No problem, he’ll just walk over to his friends to get some help, but Pig and Mouse are too busy running from the scary, web-footed pumpkin monster to offer any assistance. Great for those who have enjoyed Rhyming Dust Bunnies, Birthday for Cow, or any other silly book.
The Haunted Hamburger by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Paul Meisel; Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, Inc.; 2011; 3-6
Two little ghost children are unwilling to go to bed until they hear a story — a scary story. Father Ghost tells them the story of Uncle Ned, who had a bad encounter with a baby. Not scary enough. So, Father Ghost tells the story of their boastful cousin Nell and her competition with a haunted hamburger to see who was the best. Still not scary enough. So, Father Ghost tells them the scariest story of all. The story of the Big, Bad Granny with her red lips that are just perfect for kissing you all over your face. Eeeek!
You and your young one will enjoy this book set to the words of the familiar holiday song. The letters on the dreidel are incorporated into the colorful illustrations. The end of the book includes a pop-up surprise: three children playing with a dreidel that spins as you open and close the book.
Count the lights of the menorah with this colorful and informative counting book. Each page shows one more candle through the stenciled pages with Hebrew and Yiddish translations of the numbers. Candles are displayed in order from right to left. Opposite pages include images of jelly doughnuts, elephants, Maccabees and other Hanukkah fair. At the end of the book is the story of Hanukkah. Great for the littlest celebrators with lots to look at and sturdy pages. Great for those who are a little older and more aware of the tradition.
As Hanukkah approaches, a family prepares by pulling out and polishing the menorah. As each Hanukkah night goes by, they light the candles. One night they play dreidel; another they sing; another they are waiting for relatives to visit; all told in ryhming verse:
It’s so hard to wait
’til the cousins arrive
to help light the candles
on night number five
Pastel illustrations add to the text and the end of the book includes the story of Hanukkah and an explanation of some Hanukkah symbols. An awesome book to add to your Hanukkah collection.
Though the weather was hot, hot, hot, children of all ages and families of all kinds let their thoughts turn to snowmen, Christmas bells and snowflakes–all cookie shapes being sold at the Firehook Bakery on Union Street in Alexandria for Christmas in July. In addition to Santa’s favorite holiday treat, the crowd enjoyed some favorite holiday stories courtesy of Hooray For Books! Children’s Bookstore storytellers. Children were entranced by Bear fighting sleepy eyes and stifling yawns during the holidays in Bear Stays Up for Christmas; a duck who had been nice all year, until he eats all of irresistible cookies that he left out for Santa in Have you been Naughty or Nice?; and a certain someone with a heart two sizes too small in the perennial favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With such good stories, good cheer and good cookies, the mood was anything but grinchy, resembling more the festive mood of the Whos as they awaken on Christmas Day.
One little blonde-haired girl demonstrated that she would have no problem counting the days until Christmas, as she counted candy canes, presents, Christmas trees and other holiday objects in A Christmas Present for Me. She’d be adept at picking Santa out of a crowd — she was the first to spot him in the background of an illustration in Bear Stays Up for Christmas.
While the weather called didn’t call for any type of precipitation, the revelers were treated to something spectacular falling from the sky as they exited Firehook–bubbles! Next door to Firehook, Ben & Jerry’s window bubble machine was in full operation, helping to add a touch of magic to the afternoon. And just in case you want to know, as of Sunday, July 18, there are only 159 days left until Christmas!
For more information or to order any of the books mentioned here, contact Hooray For Books! Children’s Bookstore, 703-548-4092, email@example.com. For those who missed these particular storytime readings, take heart, Hooray for Books! Children’s Bookstore does regular storytime readings which are just as magical no matter what the time of year. Visit www.hooray4books.com for complete information.
Looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift? Give Dad the gift of quality time with his favorite kids–everyone loves a good story!
Daddy Calls Me Doodlebug by J.D. Lester, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
This book shows all the imaginative ways Daddy and his little one play together. Father and child are transformed into different animals in this rhyming adventure. This is a charming book for ages infant to three.
Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea
Daddies can be so silly sometimes! Their smart kids sometimes need to remind them how to get dressed, sit in the car, eat carrots, and water flowers. These colorful illustrations are humorous and light-hearted, sure to be a hit with Dad this year. Kids three to six will enjoy it, too.
My Father is Taller Than a Tree by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
This sweet, lyrical picture book is a perfect gift for Father’s Day. The illustrations, which have a wonderful classic feel, show all kinds of different dads and their special gifts. Kids three to six will appreciate this gem, and fathers will be touched to receive this book.
We have lots of other Father’s Day books and gifts, so stop by the store and we’ll help you pick out something great for your Dad!