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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Holidays, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Sharks ahoy: fun with sharks for 1st & 2nd graders -- giving books & toys for lasting fun (ages 5-8)

There's no doubt about it: sharks are cool--especially great white sharks. They're fast, they're strong and they're big. Here are three books that spark a little kid's imagination and weave in fascinating facts. Combine them with a toy shark, and you're all set to go.

Fly Guy Presents: Sharks
by Tedd Arnold
Scholastic, 2014
Your local library
ages 5-8
Buzz and Fly Guy are two hugely popular characters with our beginning readers--so I was very excited to see this new blend of nonfiction and cartoons. In this book, Buzz visits his local aquarium and his best friend Fly Guy comes along.
"A shark uses its sharp teeth to rip prey. Then the shark swallows the meat whole--without even chewing." -- already an Emerson favorite!
My students love the combination of cartoon characters and dialog with clear nonfiction facts and color photographs. When the text explains that sharks don’t have any bones, and their cartilage helps them turn quickly, Fly Guy wonders, “NO BONEZ?”--adding just the right humor for young kids. Throughout, the sentences are short and clear, just right to read with kindergarteners or for 2nd graders to read by themselves.

Stink and the Shark Sleepover
by Megan McDonald
illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Candlewick, 2014
Google books preview
Your local library
ages 6-9
Stink and the Shark Sleepover also combines humor and facts, but this time with a longer chapter book that's great to read aloud with young kids. Our students love the whole Stink series--Judy Moody's little brother who has his own series. You really don't need to read the series in order, especially if you're reading it aloud together.

Stink’s parents win tickets for a family sleep over at the local aquarium, and Stink is thrilled! Right away, he runs up to get all his things to bring.
"What's all this junk?" Judy asked.
"It's for the sleepover. There's my shark sleeping bag and Leroy my stuffed tiger shark that I use for a pillow sometimes and my Big Mouth Book of Sharks."
"Is that all?" Judy teased.
"Oh. Yeah. I can't forget to wear my shark-tooth necklace... Check it out. Shark slippers."
"Check it out. Shark slippers."
Stink loves the sea-creature scavenger hunt, the jellyfish light show, and the sharks with their razor-sharp teeth. But will he and his friends really be able to fall asleep after hearing creepy stories?

McDonald clearly loves the science aspect and intersperses this fun story with high-interest facts. Reynold's illustrations help kids create those "movies in our minds" that help all readers--especially ones new to chapter books--build a sense of the story.
Safari Ltd. plastic shark
Melissa and Doug plush shark

Combine either of these with a toy shark, and you'll create hours of fun. I think 1st and 2nd graders would like either a realistic plastic shark or a soft stuffed animal shark. Check these out:

The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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2. Meet Derrick Collins from Julie Brannagh’s Holding Holly and Giveaway


Please give a warm welcome to Derrick Collins this morning!

I’m Derrick Collins. I have been playing football since my daddy put my brother and me into Pee-Wee. I currently play for the Seattle Sharks. When I’m not playing football, I spend time with my Holly.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Derrick Collins] Driven, passionate, fun-loving, happy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in your life?

[Derrick Collins] I get out of bed as late as possible before I have to be at practice. The other six months a year I get up as late as possible. Holly is awake (and happy about it) when the sun is up.

The rest of my day goes like this. I do some lifting, take care of whatever it is that needs to be done, and then I go home and spend some time with the women in my life – my wife, my mama and my grandma. My little bro is home from Afghanistan for good, so we play video games or do some work around Mama and Grandma’s place when he has some free time.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Holly?

[Derrick Collins] She’s caring, compassionate, and loving. She thinks about other people before she thinks of herself.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s her most appealing quality?

[Derrick Collins] She knows everything about me and loves me anyway. And that makes me the luckiest guy in the world.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What just drives you nuts about her?

[Derrick Collins] Did I mention she’s up when the sun is? I can’t be too mad, though. My beautiful wife is teaching me to love mornings.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Derrick Collins] I would have met Holly sooner.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Derrick Collins] My phone.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less

[Derrick Collins] Health, happiness, wealth, and Holly.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Holding Holly
Love and Football # 4.5

By: Julie Brannagh

Releasing December 2nd, 2014


Holly Reynolds has a secret. Make that two. The first involves upholding her grandmother’s hobby answering Dear Santa letters from dozens of local school children. The second…well, he just came strolling in the door.

For the last two years, Holly has not been able to stop thinking about gorgeous Seattle Shark Derrick Collins. His on-field exploits induce nightmares in quarterbacks across the NFL, but she knows he has a heart of gold.

Derrick has never met a woman he wants to bring home to meet his family, mostly because he keeps picking the wrong ones-until he runs into sweet, shy Holly Reynolds. Different than anyone he’s ever known, Derrick realizes she might just be everything he needs.

When he discovers her holiday letter writing, he is determined to play Santa too. And as the pair team up to bring joy to one little boy very much in need, they discover the most precious Christmas gift of all: love.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/10/holding-holly-love-and-football-45-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21805398-holding-holly?from_search=true

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Holly-Love-Football-Novella-ebook/dp/B00JDKBU0M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414528607&sr=8-1&keywords=Holding+holly

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/holding-holly-julie-brannagh/1119887866?ean=9780062363862

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/holding-holly/id852752781?mt=11

Author Info

Julie Brannagh has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She lives in a small town near Seattle, where she once served as a city council member and owned a yarn shop. She shares her home with a wonderful husband, two uncivilized Maine Coons and a rambunctious chocolate Lab.

When she’s not writing, she’s reading, or armchair-quarterbacking her favorite NFL team from the comfort of the family room couch. Julie is a Golden Heart finalist and the author of contemporary sports romances.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.juliebrannagh.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieBrannagh
Twitter: https://twitter.com/julieinduvall
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7127296.Julie_Brannagh

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Digital Set of LOVE & FOOTBALL Series Bks 1-4)

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The post Meet Derrick Collins from Julie Brannagh’s Holding Holly and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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3. HoHoDooDa 2014

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact, that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called fancy about him as any man in the City of London, even including — which is a bold word — the corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley, since his last mention of his seven-year’s dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change: not a knocker, but Marley’s face.
Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up upon its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot-air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part of its own expression. ~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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4. The Hula-Hoopin' Queen: terrific picture book + gift idea (ages 5-10)

Each holiday I love pairing books with toys that kids will enjoy. Kids love toys (duh!) and these pairings extend the experience of both book and toy by capturing their imagination. This week, I'll share posts each day with fun ideas.

The Hula-Hoopin' Queen would be a perfect grandma gift for a young reader -- especially from a grandma that's still young at heart. Pair it with a sparkly hula hoop and you're all set!
The Hula-Hoopin' Queen
by Thelma Lynne Godin
illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Lee & Low
, 2014
Your local library
ages 5-10
Kameeka loves hula hooping and is sure she can become the Hula-Hoopin’ Queen of 139th Street--but Mama reminds her that she has to help get ready for Miz Adeline’s birthday. After all, Miz Adeline took care of Mama and Kameeka when they each were babies. How will Kameeka ever get all these things done and get outside to beat her rival Jamara?
"Girl, don't you even think about it. You know today is Miz Adeline's birthday."
When Kameeka heads out to run an errand, she sees Jamara and just can't avoid stepping up to save her reputation. By the time she gets home, it's too late to make the birthday cake! I especially love the ending, as Miz Adeline lets Kameeka see how much she loved hula hooping when she was a kid.
"Neighborhood kids crowd around as Jamara and I hoop."
Godin's text has snap and is great fun to read aloud. Brantley-Newton's illustrations really appeal to my students, capturing the feel of our multicultural urban community.

Pair this fun book with a hula hoop set and maybe you'll inspire some intergenerational or neighborly contests of your own.

Illustrations copyright ©Vanessa Brantley-Newton, 2014, shared via Lee and Low site and Thelma Lynne Godin's site. The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Lee and Low Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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5. HoHoDooDa Day 13 (late)

o holey knight

Alright, I realize these moths would have to be iron and steel eating moths to put holes in armor… but hey, creative license.

Why not take a stroll on over here for links to see what the rest of the HoHoDooDa doodlers are doing.

Oh, and if you are wondering what the heck HoHoDooDa is, check this out.

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6. Holiday Buffet of Free Ebooks compliments of Musa Publishing…

Holiday season is upon us, and with it comes some wicked-awesome deals! Anyone who has an ereader or tablet will benefit from this wonderful opportunity to score 40 fabulous reads for the holidays. Musa Publishingis offering 13 Days of Free Ebooks starting December 13th—whoa that’s TODAY folks! Below is a list of ebooks and authors on board with this promotion, but you better act fast, as their ebooks are available for free download for only ONE day. BTW—I’m on the list too, and anyone who gets an ereader or tablet for Christmas will benefit from my free download day! Ho Ho Ho…

December 13th, 2014:
The Rhesus Factor by Sonny Whitelaw
Returnby Lynn Rae
Struckby Clarissa Johal

December 14th, 2014:
Tournament of Chance by S.G. Rogers
Obsessionby JoAnne Keltner

December 15th, 2014:
Bridge to Desire by Alice Cross
Saving Hope by Liese Sherwood-Fabre
The Grimm Legacy by Addie King

December 16th, 2014:
Spire City: Contagion by Daniel Ausema
Stained Glass Summer by Mindy Hardwick
Time Will Tell by Mary Palmer

December 17th, 2014:
Guarding His Heart by Carolyn Spear
An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale

December 18th, 2014:
Hunter’s Find by June Kramin
Five Golden Suitors by Jen Coffeen
First Frost by Liz DeJesus

December 19th, 2014:
The Reluctant Bridegroom by Arabella Sheraton
Persephoneby Kaitlin Bevis
The Glass Sealing by Andrew Leon Hudson

December 20th, 2014:
The Exile of Elindel by Carol Browne
Michaela’s Gift by Cordelia Dinsmore
Pantheonby Josh Strnad

December 21st, 2014:
Only a Hero Will Do by Susan Lodge
Prentice and Desiree by Brita Adams
The 13th Guest by Rebecca Royce

December 22nd, 2014:
Silhouette of Darkness by George Wilhite
Long Haul by Tom Olbert

December 23rd, 2014:
DEAD series by Lizzie T. Leaf
Looney Dunes by Anne Skalitza
Her Name by Alicia Joseph

December 24th, 2014:
Regarding Eliza by Viki Lyn
The Sun God’s Heir by Elliott Baker
Hard Pressed by Sharon Maria Bidwell

December 25th, 2014:
To Catch A Fish by Mary S. Palmer & David Wilton
She Dreamed of Dragons by Elizabeth Walker
Identity Crisis by Elizabeth Ashtree

I hope you take advantage of this wonderful offer from Musa Publishing. There’s a book for every taste on the list from romance, science fiction, horror, thrillers, paranormal, fantasy, speculative fiction, and young adult, so please help yourself to this buffet of ebooks! Wishing you, and your family, a safe and happy holiday season! Cheers and happy reading!

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7. A Festive Sharing - old holiday tradition revived

Yesterday my wife and I hosted our annual Festive Sharing, usually held a couple of weeks before Christmas. Here's how the invitation read:

"In the spirit of less stuff, bring a gift to share, not to give away, something you or someone else created--non-manufactured.

"Come experience all the shares, like: A story, poem, song, play, dance or artwork, written, spoken, sung, performed or simply exhibited. Drawn, painted, sewn, photoed, carved or crafted. Baked, steamed, brewed, homemade, self-portraited, recently read, or--your choice. 10-15 min to present your Share.

"Food, hot mexicanococoa, primo margaritas, beer, sangria and other liquids. Bring a favorite dish or drink to richen the communal meal. Dress code, tribal-informal. Wear your fave, faded, baggy, flabby whatevers. Drinks & eats followed by the Sharing. First-come, first to share."

Our event is a mix of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and others, although our home barely accommodates the couple of dozen guests. It looks like a holiday party. Until the Sharing starts

And a teenaged boy performs his dance. Or a young lady sings.
A guitarist does an original composition.
A writer, her prose.
A man reading his favorite poet.
A self-produced documentary on remote-control airplanes.
A pot of jambalaya, and the story behind it.
A handmade fishing rod.
A fire-dancer out on the lawn.

You can't imagine the variety because there's no limit to what interests people or what they're capable of creating.

For our few hours, there's no worry about buying gifts or getting to the sale or wrapping presents. No one expects you to give any thing, No exchange of purchased presents. You give of yourself, and everyone receives that.

I enjoy the Sharing for its non-consumerist, non-materialistic, non-commercial qualities. It reminds me that once upon a time, our much happier ancestors gathered in forests, around campfires, on grassy plains or in caves, and had fun sharing what they'd made with natural materials and their own hands. Or shared a rock crystal or a bird's colorful egg they'd discovered. Maybe we were more like children then. Open to discovering, exploring, enjoying and definitely sharing that, with little or no stress.

Today we are social animals who've lost our tribe, our largest, safe grouping. We may still have our other circles--our close support group of 5, 15 sympathetic friends, 50 close friends. But the approximate 150 who once constituted our tribe hardly exist anymore. Social media friends in the thousands doesn't fill the void. And we suffer the loneliness, the vulnerability, sense of helplessness and lack of power, things we didn't so much have when we were part of a tribe.

That why there's cholo gangs, community and cultural groups where people regularly meet and engage with large groups. That why there's Ferguson marches. They're attempts not only to protest, but also to reacquire the power of our tribe. When we gather together in one place, we approximate a tribe; attending a rally makes us feel more powerful, less helpless.

Our neighborhood barrios, ghettoes and communities were once our modern-day tribes. Real estate development, eminent domain, gentrification and segregationist dispersal of working class people have eaten away at our communities. Now, in many cases, we don't know our neighbors and wouldn't want to. We can't imagine their being a part of our circle, our tribe.

I believe all the dystopias facing us and our descendants will again provide an enclosed environment where tribes will naturally arise out of dire necessity. As society--the economy, joblessness, debt, climate, deteriorating public services, and institutional violence--gets worse, our social genetics will induce us to gather with those who live nearby, like tribal villages of old, to protect ourselves and survive. And to prosper, for that matter.

I don't expect to report next year that I'm now a member of a thriving tribe. I'm simply doing what I can. What my genetic make-up and mind tell me is true and required. Our Sharing event is a piece of that. Try one for yourself. You don't need published authors, gifted artists, politicians or rich patrons to make yours worthwhile. You simply need to invite whoever comes to mind. And realize that in times past, they were integral to how we survived blizzards and saber-toothed tigers and enemy attacks.

It use to take a village to raise a child. You were one of those children and may need to be again.

Having a great sharing season,
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia, Sharing host and author of fabulist mextasy tales

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8. Spotlight and Giveaway: A Newport Christmas Wedding by Shelly Noble

Sticking with the Christmas vibes, this morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Shelley Noble’s A Newport Christmas Wedding.  Enjoy!

A Newport Christmas Wedding:  A Breakwater Bay Novella

By: Shelley Noble

Releasing December 2nd, 2014

William Morrow Impulse

New York Times bestselling author Shelley Noble returns to Newport with this lovely Christmas tale featuring all the characters you fell in love with in BREAKWATER BAY.

It’s Christmas in Newport. The mansions are decorated and the streets are filled with excitement. Across the bay, preparations are in full swing for the wedding of Meri Hollis and Alden Corrigan. A year ago, Meri never imagined that she would marry her best friend, Alden, or become step mother to his two teenaged children, Nora and Lucas.

But as the wedding day draws near, tension and emotions run high and Meri’s happiness turns to uncertainty. Nora is suddenly acting sullen and withdrawn, Alden is preoccupied, and Meri wonders if marrying Alden will bring the family closer together or tear them apart.

It seems like this wedding might be doomed before it begins until a special Christmas surprise brings home the meaning of family and the joy of the holidays.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/10/a-newport-christmas-wedding-breakwater.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21546213-a-newport-christmas-wedding

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes |Publisher

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Newport-Christmas-Wedding-Novella-ebook/dp/B00J7Q6232/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414582948&sr=8-1&keywords=a+newport+christmas+wedding

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-newport-christmas-wedding-shelley-noble/1120204269?ean=9780062362940

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/pt/book/a-newport-christmas-wedding/id867228624?l=en&mt=11

Publisher: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062362940/a-newport-christmas-wedding


“For an old lady, you sure are naïve.”

“I’m not. I’m just not like you, genius.” And she was glad she wasn’t.

“So is that all? I’ve got to study for my finals.”

“What am I going to do?”

“Learn to cope. It’s pretty much a done deal. And if you’re lucky, they’ll get a divorce soon.”

“That’s terrible.”

“That’s fact. Almost forty percent of second marriages fail within the first five years.”

“Do you want them to fail?”

“I want to study for my test. I’ll be home in a few days. I’m getting a ride with a friend and his parents. Now I have to go.”

They hung up.

The kitchen? Why did her thirteen year old brother think about things like that when she hadn’t?

But what did he know? He was just a kid who looked up statistics. Maybe she should get a third opinion. Not Gran or Meri. They would say of course they wanted her, because they wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings. And she would feel like such a jerk because she was thinking about herself instead of the wedding and how happy her dad was these days.

She could ask Carlyn when they went into Newport for Meri’s surprise bridal shower.

Or she could ask the one person who would really know. She hesitated. Immediately got that familiar sick feeling. She keyed in the numbers and hoped no one would pick up.

Author Info

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer. She most recently worked on the films, Mona Lisa Smile and The Game Plan. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.shelleynoble.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShelleyFreydont
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/shelleynoble3
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5560617.Shelley_Noble

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Ten EBook Copies of A Newport Christmas Wedding)

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: A Newport Christmas Wedding by Shelly Noble appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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9. Catch That Cookie! by Hallie Durand and David Small -- a fun twist on a classic tale (ages 4-8)

Every year, our kindergarten classes read different variations of the Gingerbread Man folktale. This year, we're adding in a new twist to our collection: Catch That Cookie! by Hallie Durand and David Small. Our students loved the humor, twists and turns of this take on one of their favorite stories.
Catch That Cookie!
by Hallie Durand
illustrations by David Small
Dial Books / Penguin, 2014
Your local library
ages 4-8
Marshall's class has been reading Gingerbread Man stories all week, and he's sure these stories are just made up. Those gingerbread men can't run away--they're just cookies, after all. But when his class opens the oven to take out their gingerbread men, they've disappeared!
"But when they looked in the oven... there was nothing inside!"
The gingerbread men leave behind clues for the students to follow, and my students loved the suspense that these twists added to the story. Each clue is crafted with a rhyme, so that kids can take part in figuring out where the gingerbread men have gone.
"Too bad you didn't catch us,
'Cause we taste like candy.
Now we're on vacation
On a beach that's _________."
"Sandy!" my students shouted. While the rest of his class runs off to follow the clues, Marshall notices small details that his classmates don't see. He spots a raisin that might be from his gingerbread man's eye, and later notices a silver ball that was from the gingerbread man's belt.

"He turned the pot over and ... felt something soft and small. A raisin!"
My students definitely liked the way this story was more of a mystery than the traditional gingerbread man story -- they talked about how the original story is more a fun chase story, and here Marshall has to figure out what's happening. They also loved the ending, as Marshall discovers where the cookies are hiding.

This story will work best if kids know the gingerbread man story. I started by looking at Eric Kimmel's The Gingerbread Man, and asking students to retell the story just from the pictures. For more versions, check out the Padlet that terrific librarian Margie Culver put together.

Add some extra fun with your own gingerbread party or scavenger hunt! I'll be giving a bundle of gingerbread man stories to my nephews, along with some cookie cutters of their own.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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10. Happy Holidays

Metinseven.com wishes you Happy Holidays and a pleasant 2015!

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11. HoHoDooDa 2014

All right.
Everybody upstairs.
Get dressed.
We are going out to eat.
No! Not, “ra ra ra ra ra.” “La la la la la.”
Sing like this:
Try again.    Stop!
Sing something else.
No!       Stop!
Kitchen. Bring food. For customers.
Oh, I’m sorry.
It’s a beautiful duck.
It really is.
But you see…
It’s smiling at me.
That Christmas would live in our memories…
as the Christmas when we were introduced to Chinese turkey.

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12. Special delivery

We just received this lovely advent calendar — “Christmas in the Square” by Eve Tharlet — in the mail from publisher NorthSouth. What a nice surprise (and a good way to combat my case of the bah-humbugs). Thank you, NorthSouth!

northsouth advent calendar Special delivery

share save 171 16 Special delivery

The post Special delivery appeared first on The Horn Book.

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13. Guest Post and Giveaway: Maggie McGinnis, Author of A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise

Please give Maggie McGinnis a warm welcome as she shares what she loves about Christmas!

My Top 5 Favorite Things about Christmas by Maggie McGinnis

Thanks so much for hosting me today! I’m so excited to celebrate the release of A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise with you!

I love Christmas. Love the lights, love the busy stores, love the magic of the town I live in actually shutting down for one whole day. However, when I was asked to think of my five favorite things about the holiday, I had a hard time. Just five? Really? How could I possibly narrow it down?

Sigh. It turns out I couldn’t. But here are five of my favorites:

  1. Family. I really like mine, so it’s hard that we’re not all together at the holidays. Wherever we are on Christmas, though, the phone rings throughout the day, the laptop’s on the shelf with the Skype window up, and we do our best to make it feel like we’re not so far apart.

  2. The elves. On or about December 1, my children start threatening each other with the elves. The phrase “The elves are watching” used to be surprisingly effective, but last year, something changed. In a fit of inspiration, they turned those darn elves on me. Suddenly, the elves wanted Mommy to make cookies. They wanted me to let kids stay up late. They had apparently whispered that if I got my girls new American Girl dolls, I would get lots of elf-points.
    The elves and I clearly need to come to an understanding this year.

  3. The fireplace. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a woodstove, a big stone fireplace that takes up your entire log cabin wall, or a tiny little fake fireplace in your downtown apartment. There’s something about fire and the holidays (and I don’t mean the kind that has been known to erupt from my kitchen upon attempting to make fudge). It’s quiet and romantic and oh, so warm. Perfect for snuggling and reading and hot cocoa, three of my all-time favorite holiday things.

  4. Presents. I know that’s not a very PC thing to have on my top-five list, but seriously, I have children. It’s FUN to see them come running out to the living room on Christmas morning and see a pile of sparkly boxes waiting for them. It’s FUN to try to figure out THE perfect gift to put in that last big box way behind the tree. And in all honesty, it’s FUN to open a stocking full of little mysteries picked out by McTool-Guy. He is an excellent Santa.

  5. The charity. Opening my mailbox in December often makes me feel overly helpless in the face of so much need. However, it provides a teachable dose of humility and generosity for the entire family, and for that I’m grateful. We let each kiddo choose a charity that speaks to her, and we donate what we can. One of my favorite holiday memories involves five crinkly dollar bills, a new red collar, and an eight-year old who skipped out of the Humane Society and said, “THAT’s what Christmas is.”

This season, we’ll be making lots of fires, throwing lots of snowballs, and warming our hands on big mugs of cocoa. We’ll be visiting family, sledding down ginormous hills, and making the most of school vacation. We’ll be feeling grateful for all we have, and immensely thankful for our health, our home, and our beautiful little family.

And we’ll be wishing the same for all of you.

How about you? What’s one of your favorite things about the holiday season?

PS: Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter below to win a fabulous gift card and Loveswept swag! And psst! I’m giving away sparkly prizes on my website (www.maggiemcginnis.com) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/Maggie-McGinnis-Author/498505866880467), so go check ’em out!

A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise

By: Maggie McGinnis

Releasing November 18th, 2014



In a captivating novel spiced with holiday magic—perfect for fans of Rachel Gibson, Susan Mallery, and Molly O’Keefe—a rugged Montana man mends a Northeast girl’s jaded heart.

Boston veterinarian Hayley Scampini tends the city’s pampered pets but dreams of the rural life of a country vet. She’s single and determined to stay that way, convinced that love isn’t permanent enough to trust. Then a vacation to the Whisper Creek dude ranch introduces her to Daniel McKee, a sexy single dad who runs the kind of veterinary practice she aspires to—and rattles her conviction to keep men at a distance.

Managing a thriving practice, coping with the loss of his wife, and fighting a custody battle with his in-laws over his twin daughters, Daniel couldn’t be more overwhelmed. Hayley is a godsend, accompanying him in the field and winning over his girls. It doesn’t take Daniel long to realize he’s falling for this woman, hard and fast. So before Hayley returns to Boston, he extracts a promise: that she will return to Whisper Creek for Christmas. It’s the perfect time and place to show Hayley that the promise of a beautiful life together is something she can believe in.

Praise for Maggie McGinnis

“Maggie McGinnis writes the kind of characters that keep you smiling long after you turn the page.”—USA Today bestselling author Katie Lane

“A writer with a talent for both humor and emotion.”—New York Times bestselling author Lori Handeland, aka Lori Austin

“McGinnis comes out of the chute with force, grabs your emotions, and gets a death hold on your attention to the last page, where you sigh and wish there was one more chapter.”—New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown

“Heartwarming and sweet, Maggie McGinnis is definitely an author to watch!”—USA Today bestselling author Tina Leonard

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/09/a-cowboys-christmas-promise-by-maggie.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22396054-a-cowboy-s-christmas-promise?from_search=true

Buy Links : Amazon | Barnes | iBooks | Kobo

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Cowboys-Christmas-Promise-Maggie-McGinnis-ebook/dp/B00KK0PJIS/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410218551&sr=1-1&keywords=a+cowboy%27s+christmas+promise

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-cowboys-christmas-promise-maggie-mcginnis/1120019678?ean=9780553394566

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/a-cowboys-christmas-promise/id882280448?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-cowboy-s-christmas-promise

Author Info

Maggie McGinnis is the author of Accidental Cowgirl and Driving Without a License, which was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award. A former high school English teacher, an accomplished musician, and a certified black belt, she lives in New England with her family.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.maggiemcginnis.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maggie-McGinnis-Author/498505866880467

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Maggie_McGinnis

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7067035.Maggie_McGinnis

Rafflecopter Giveaway ($25.00 eGift Card to choice Book Seller and Loveswept Mug and Tote )

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Maggie McGinnis, Author of A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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14. Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale, by Eric Kimmel (ages 5-9) -- a wonderful new holiday story

My students and I love sharing our favorite holiday stories, and this week we read a new Hanukkah story that's sure to become a favorite. I especially enjoyed our discussion afterward -- this story is rich with feeling and meaning, perfect for reading together.
Simon and the Bear
A Hanukkah Tale
by Eric Kimmel
illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Disney-Hyperion, 2014
Your local library
ages 5-9
Young Simon is bound for America, with just his rucksack, a bit of food his mother packed, and a lot of determination--like many who have left their homes in search of work and opportunity. He's lucky, getting the last ticket on a ship leaving for America.
Simon "managed to get the very last ticket for a ship bound for America."
But Simon's luck ends quickly when his ship strikes an iceberg--ooh, just like the Titanic, many of my students said. After generously giving up his place in a lifeboat, Simon leaps onto the iceberg. When a giant polar bear approaches, Simon shares his food and makes a new friend. Is it a Hanukkah miracle that brings a friendly polar bear to Simon, or is it his caring, generous nature?
"He crept over to the bear and snuggled against her fur."
My students loved the way Eric Kimmel crafts this story. They shared many ideas about how Simon found the strength to endure this hardship. All of them noticed his courage, but they also noticed Simon's empathy, thinking about the man to whom he gave his place on the lifeboat. We talked about how Simon thought about what the polar bear might want, sharing his food with the bear--at school, we talk about this as listening with our ears, eyes and heart.

Eric Kimmel is one of my favorite authors--it would be fascinating to compare Simon to Hershel from Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, a classic holiday story I love to read with students. Is Hershel brave and compassionate in the same way as Simon? If you like peering into how authors come up with their stories, check out Eric Kimmel's blog post he wrote just as he submitted Simon and the Bear to his editor.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Disney-Hyperion. All illustrations are copyright ©Matthew Trueman, 2014, and shared with permission of the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale, by Eric Kimmel (ages 5-9) -- a wonderful new holiday story as of 12/5/2014 1:15:00 AM
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15. SkADaMo 2014 or HoHoDooDay 2014

Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that…
I was not only perpetually four years old, but also a girl.
She just always gives you the nicest things, Ralphie.
Oh, isn’t that sweet?
Ralph, go upstairs and try it on you–
I don’t want to!
Go upstairs right now and try on that present!
Immediately my feet began to sweat as those two fluffy little bunnies… with the blue button eyes stared sappily up at me.
Come down here so I can see you better.
I just hoped Flick would never spot them…
as the word of this humiliation could easily make life… at Warren G. Harding School a veritable hell.
Isn’t that cute?
That is the most precious thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
Shut up, Randy.
He looks like a deranged Easter bunny.

0 Comments on SkADaMo 2014 or HoHoDooDay 2014 as of 12/2/2014 2:53:00 PM
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16. Holiday High Notes 2014

Joy to the world…it’s time for our annual selection 
of new holiday books, with reviews 
written by the Horn Book staff.

bemonster frankensteins fright before christmas Holiday High Notes 2014Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas
by Ludworst Bemonster; story by 
Rick Walton; illus. by Nathan Hale
Primary    Feiwel    32 pp.
10/14    978-0-312-55367-8    $16.99

The team behind Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody — a spoof of Madeline starring Frankenstein’s monster — here adds Clement Moore’s classic into the mix. Eleven of the twelve little monsters from the first book are “out of control.” And headless. But Christmas miracles do happen—even for badly behaved monsters and for “poor Miss Devel.” Frankenstein has an in with Santa’s Head Elf (get it? Head Elf?), and Santa delivers just what the monsters need. Hale’s green-tinted illustrations with seasonal red accents (plus four full-color spreads) extend the irreverent rhyming text with glee. KITTY FLYNN

brenner and then comes christmas Holiday High Notes 2014And Then Comes Christmas
by Tom Brenner; illus. by Jana Christy
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.
9/14    978-0-7636-5342-2    $15.99

In Brenner’s inviting story chilly weather, holiday decorations, delicious baked goods, and all the other trappings of Christmas act as guideposts for a brother and sister as they eagerly await Christmas morning. “When frost glistens on pastures and fence posts and icy grass crunches underfoot…Then fill the windows with paper snowflakes and frame the house with colored lights.” Soft-focus digital illustrations in vibrant hues reflect the season’s coziness and industry. Those looking for an accessible book about secular celebration of Christmas will enjoy this warm-hearted offering. SARA DANVER

brett animals santa Holiday High Notes 2014The Animals’ Santa
by Jan Brett; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Putnam    32 pp.
10/14    978-0-399-25784-1    $17.99    g

The animals find presents from their own Santa every Christmas, but no one has ever seen him. When Little Snow, a young white rabbit, asks all the forest animals for clues as to Santa’s identity, everyone has a different theory. Decorations on the borders of each spread hint at the answer, (wordlessly) extending the story. Brett’s clean, precise watercolors show animals dressed in cozy Nordic vests walking upright in a snowy woodland setting. This Santa may be elusive, but he is definitely real, making Little Snow’s ultimate discovery truly satisfying. LOLLY ROBINSON

child over the river and through the wood Holiday High Notes 2014Over the River and Through the Wood:
A Thanksgiving Poem

by Lydia Maria Child; 
illus. by Christopher Manson
Primary    NorthSouth    32 pp.
10/14    978-0-7358-4191-8    $14.95    g

In this reissue (1994), Manson’s vibrant, textured illustrations capture the verve and enthusiasm of Child’s well-known holiday poem, feeling as old-fashioned as the original 1844 verse and yet timelessly festive. Thick, black-lined woodcuts painted with watercolor in shades of brown and blue, touches of green, and plenty of snowy white create a pleasing wintry rural setting. Each framed spread serves as a snapshot of daily nineteenth-century work and play that complements the six verses included here. A brief note about the poem’s origin is on the copyright page, and sheet music appears on the back endpapers. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

fearing great thanksgiving escape Holiday High Notes 2014The Great Thanksgiving Escape
by Mark Fearing; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.
9/14    978-0-7636-6306-3    $15.99

“Sometimes you have to make your own fun,” says Gavin’s cousin Rhonda during Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. They ditch their drool-y baby cousins, then make their way outside past cheek-pinching aunts, “the Great Wall of Butts,” and a hoard of zombies (really video-game-playing teenagers) to the swing set…where Mother Nature throws them another curve. With their odd angles and unusual perspectives, the digital and pencil caricature illustrations (just this side of grotesque) capture the claustrophobia—and, 
for imaginative kids, the diverting 
possibilities—of a large family gathering. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

fischer latke the lucky dog Holiday High Notes 2014Latke, the Lucky Dog
by Ellen Fischer; 
illus. by Tiphanie Beeke
Preschool, Primary    Kar-Ben    24 pp.
9/14    978-0-7613-9038-1    $17.95Paper ed.  978-0-7613-9039-8    $7.95    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4677-4669-4    $7.95

On the first night of Hanukkah, a family adopts a little golden-brown dog and names it Latke. As the family celebrates the Festival of Lights, Latke joins in, thinking, “I am one lucky dog!” But he has a lot to learn about how to behave. This engaging romp follows Latke as he chews his way through the eight nights of Hanukkah. Told in Latke’s voice, the story highlights the holiday’s traditions as well as the love between the dog and his new family. Cheerful textured illustrations capture all of Latke’s mischief. JILL LEIBOWITZ

grun legend of saint nicholas Holiday High Notes 2014The Legend of Saint Nicholas
by Anselm Grün; illus. by 
Giuliano Ferri; trans. from the 
German by Laura Watkinson
Primary    Eerdmans    32 pp.
8/14    978-0-8028-5434-6    $16.99

This beautifully illustrated picture book, imported from Germany, tells of the kindness and generosity of the fourth-century Christian saint who became the model for the modern Santa Claus. The clear, engaging text highlights some of the better-known legends surrounding Nicholas of Myra—from throwing purses of gold through the window of a household whose daughters would otherwise have been sold into slavery to performing miracles in aid of sailors and starving people. Luminous paintings on full-bleed double-page spreads capture the saint’s humanity as well as the Greek-Turkish Mediterranean setting. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

guthrie honeyky hanukah Holiday High Notes 2014Honeyky Hanukah
by Woody Guthrie; 
illus. by Dave Horowitz
Preschool, Primary    Doubleday    24 pp.
9/14    978-0-385-37926-7    $17.99

Guthrie’s lively Hanukkah ditty exudes folksiness and warmth, and this jaunty picture-book treatment captures the homespun energy of the lyrics. Horowitz’s animated construction paper, charcoal, and colored-pencil art features a curly-haired, barefoot, guitar-playing boy who tells listeners about his loving family’s holiday traditions. “Latkes and goody things” in Bubbie’s kitchen, menorah candles, music- and merry-making, hugs and kisses, gifts — they’re all part of the celebration. An illustrator’s note offers insight into the genesis of Guthrie’s Jewish songs. The Klezmatics perform a rousing rendition of the song on the accompanying CD. Read the book, listen to the CD, and get into the Hanukkah mood. KITTY FLYNN

hendrix shooting at the stars Holiday High Notes 2014Shooting at the Stars:
The Christmas Truce of 1914

by John Hendrix; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Abrams    40 pp.
10/14    978-1-4197-1175-6    $18.95

Hendrix distills the now practically mythic story of the 1914 Christmas Truce into the fictional experience of one young English soldier writing to his mother from a trench in France. A brief introduction and an appended author’s note provide context, but the focus here is very much on young Charlie and his unlikely day of fellowship with his German adversaries: “Mother, it was such a beautiful day.” Hendrix’s Charlie is a ruddy-cheeked Everyboy who provides a sympathetic focus for the paintings of a desolate landscape of mud and barbed wire; while not shying away from war’s grim realities, the pictures go a long way toward conveying the hopeful light of Christmas, with trees twinkling in the night while the strains of “Stille Nacht” waft across No Man’s Land toward our homesick hero. ROGER SUTTON

hopkins manger Holiday High Notes 2014Manger
poems selected by Lee Bennett 
Hopkins; illus. by Helen Cann
Primary    Eerdmans    40 pp.
9/14    978-0-8028-5419-3    $16.00

Fourteen brief poems, each told from the perspective of an animal present at the birth of Jesus, are collected in this welcome anthology. From Jude Mandell’s cat (“What gifts have I / to give / this Child? // No gold, / no frankincense, / no myrrh, / only my quiet / soothing purr”) to X. J. Kennedy’s horse (“On Christmas Eve, the night unique, / they say we beasts find tongues to speak. // Yet at this crib I am so stirred / that, staring, I can say no word”), the poems convey both the majesty and intimacy of that night. Decorative mixed-media illustrations highlight each animal on its own double-page spread. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

houts winterfrost Holiday High Notes 2014Winterfrost
by Michelle Houts
Intermediate    Candlewick    261 pp.
9/14    978-0-7636-6565-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-7636-7424-3    $16.99

Bettina, mourning the loss of her beloved grandfather, is left in charge of the farm and her baby sister Pia when her parents are unexpectedly called away on Christmas Eve. When a mischievous nisse steals Pia (in retribution for the omission of his traditional bowl of rice pudding), Bettina must use all her courage, wit, and heart to get her sister back. In the process, her sadness over Farfar’s death is replaced by joy in their shared belief in the small folk. Although the novel’s outcome is never in doubt, readers will enjoy this benevolent Christmastime adventure inspired by Danish folklore. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

kimmel simon and the bear Holiday High Notes 2014Simon and the Bear:
A Hanukkah Tale

by Eric A. Kimmel; 
illus. by Matthew Trueman
Primary    Disney-Hyperion    40 pp.
9/14    978-1-4231-4355-0    $16.99

Young immigrant Simon travels to America on a ship whose fate mirrors that of the Titanic, but this ship sinks on Hanukkah, a holiday that encourages faith in miracles. Simon gives another passenger his spot on a lifeboat and camps out on an iceberg. Sharing his latkes with a polar bear pays off in body heat and fish, and soon his Hanukkah candles bring about his rescue by catching the attention of a passing ship. Illustrations with frequent images of light in darkness combine with the recurring theme of miracles to evoke the Hanukkah spirit. SHOSHANA FLAX

koopmans three wise men Holiday High Notes 2014The Three Wise Men
by Loek Koopmans; 
illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Floris    32 pp.
10/14    978-1-78255-0135-0    $16.95

This picture-book retelling of the Three Wise Men’s journey imagines the three as enthusiastic astronomers (with telescopes, no less) who, seeing a new star, remember an “ancient story”: “a bright star would appear in the sky as a sign that a new king had been born.” Untroubled by any sign (or mention) of Herod, their journey takes them to a stable, where they give their gifts to the baby and hear “the distant sound of angels singing.” It’s all barely biblical, but the trajectory and tone are just right for the youngest audience, and the humble pictures, more sunny than starlit, depict the Magi as sweet old souls. ROGER SUTTON

krensky last christmas tree Holiday High Notes 2014The Last Christmas Tree
by Stephen Krensky, 
illus. by Pascal Campion
Preschool, Primary    Dial    32 pp.
10/14    978-0-8037-3757-0    $16.99    g

What had been an empty lot is now bursting with Christmas trees waiting to be bought by loving families. One tree — short, bowed over, scant on branches — doesn’t have the physical allure of its neighbors, and its unbridled enthusiasm isn’t enough to catch the attention of shoppers. Come Christmas Eve, the little guy is alone on the lot, its only ornament a sign reading “free.” Then comes a faint jingling sound…and before long the little tree finds a welcome home way up north. Campion’s bright digital illustrations imbue the skimpy tree with personality, while stark scenes of its isolation elicit empathy. Part underdog story, part affirmation of the true meaning of Christmas, this is a satisfying, hopeful holiday offering. KATRINA HEDEEN

mcghee star bright Holiday High Notes 2014Star Bright:
A Christmas Story

by Alison McGhee; 
illus. by Peter H. Reynolds
Preschool, Primary    Atheneum    40 pp.
9/14    978-1-4169-5858-1    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-7714-8    $10.99

The “newest angel” ponders what to give a soon-to-be-born baby. She finally strikes upon “the best gift of all” — she can provide a comforting “light in the darkness” by becoming a star (the Star of Bethlehem, in fact). McGhee conflates the Christmas and Epiphany stories, with the Magi already in attendance at Jesus’ birth. But those willing to overlook that detail will still take enjoyment from the sweet text and Reynolds’s endearing pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations, rendered in a soothing blue and violet palette with plentiful white space. KATIE BIRCHER

moore night before christmas Holiday High Notes 2014The Night Before Christmas
by Clement C. Moore; 
illus. by Roger Duvoisin
Preschool, Primary    Knopf    40 pp.
9/14    978-0-385-75459-0    $16.99
Library ed.  978-0-385-75460-6    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-385-75461-3    $10.99

First published in 1954, this is a wholly pleasing version of the classic Christmas poem, with all of Caldecott Medalist Duvoisin’s gifts for color and composition in evidence. The book’s tall, narrow shape makes it ideal for vertical-chimney, steep-rooftop, and reindeer-flight scenes. Full-color spreads alternate with one-color (red plus black and white) spreads, giving the book additional pacing and rhythm (and the red—for the chimney, the curtains, Santa’s suit and cheeks — adds an appropriate and welcome warmth). Everything here is exactly as it should be: jolly, homey, unpretentious, and full of good cheer. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

perkins my true love gave to me Holiday High Notes 2014My True Love Gave to Me:
Twelve Holiday Stories

edited by Stephanie Perkins
High School    St. Martin’s Griffin    323 pp.
10/14    978-1-250-05930-7    $18.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4668-6389-7    $9.99

Holiday romance is the connecting link for the twelve tales included in this highly enjoyable anthology by a dozen well-known young adult authors, including Rainbow Rowell, Matt de la Peña, David Levithan, Gayle Forman, Laini Taylor, and Stephanie Perkins. 
The short stories feature teen protagonists of different races, sexual identities, and ethnicities confronting various obstacles and insecurities in their pursuit of new love amidst celebrations of Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, and even Krampuslauf. And in keeping with the spirit of the season, the eclectic collection of stories — some fantastical, some realistic — all end with hopeful, if not always happy, endings. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

pham twelve days of christmas Holiday High Notes 2014The Twelve Days of Christmas
illus. by LeUyen Pham
Preschool, Primary    Doubleday    40 pp.
9/14    978-0-385-37413-2    $17.99

What starts as a classic Victorian setting for this cumulative song ends by showing lots of diversity — the eight ladies dancing, for example, wear traditional dress from eight different cultures, including Japanese and Dutch, and the eleven pipers piping appear to be Scottish, Peruvian, and colonial American, among others. Pham’s watercolor and ink illustrations capture the burgeoning cast with grace and a bit of humor — watch those hens and turtledoves. The palette is Christmassy with lots of red, green, and gold. Music and an author’s note appear at the end of the book. LOLLY ROBINSON

pinkwater beautiful yettas hanukkah kitten Holiday High Notes 2014Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten
by Daniel Pinkwater; 
illus. by Jill Pinkwater
Preschool, Primary    Feiwel    32 pp.
10/14    978-0-312-62134-6    $17.99

In this sequel to Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken (rev. 7/10), the Brooklyn-based Jewish-mama hen and her Spanish-speaking parrot pals find a cold, lost kitten during Hanukkah. The parrots are trepidatious (“Can it fly up to our nest?”), but Yetta knows just what to do: “We will take her to the old grandmother!” Kitten and Bubbie find companionship — and the birds all benefit from some homemade potato latkes. The breezy speech-bubble text is in English and, depending on who’s talking, Spanish or Yiddish (including, for both foreign languages, phonetic pronunciation). Energetic marker, brush pen, and pen-and-ink illustrations in a limited palette — parrot green, hen white-and-red, kitten orange, and Hanukkah blue — fly off the pages. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

raczka santa clauses Holiday High Notes 2014Santa Clauses:
Short Poems from the North Pole

by Bob Raczka, 
illus. by Chuck Groenink
Primary    Carolrhoda    40 pp.
9/14    978-1-4677-1805-9    $16.95
e-book ed.  978-1-4677-4621-2    $17.32

Readers are offered a day-by-day “glimpse of life at the North Pole” in twenty-five festive haiku “penned” by Santa himself. The poems are rich with tender emotions (“Mrs. Claus making / an angel, becoming a / little girl again”) and crisp imagery (“Sprinkling sand on my / snow-covered steps, thinking of / nutmeg on eggnog”), all reflected affectionately and vividly in Groenink’s art: a smiling, rosy-cheeked, bundled-up missus makes snow angels while textured grains of sand are strewn over the icy cottage stairs beside her. A warm seasonal collection notable for its clever, gently comical visual details (note St. Nick’s adult beverage as he relaxes in an armchair on December 26th). KATRINA HEDEEN

stark yule tomte and the little rabbits Holiday High Notes 2014The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits
by Ulf Stark; illus. by Eva Eriksson; trans. from the Swedish by 
Susan Beard
Primary, Intermediate    Floris    101 pp.
10/14    978-1-78250-136-7    $24.95

“In Swedish tradition it is a tomte…who brings Christmas presents to children,” according to the brief note that begins this entertaining Advent book. Our tomte is named Grump, and the tidy, precise illustrations (some spot art, some full pages neatly contained within red frames) show a little gnomelike man with a white beard, a red hat, and a perma-scowl. First, Grump grudgingly saves a bumblebee from a spider web. Next, his hat blows away. Two little bunnies, Binny and Barty, find the hat, and with the help of their extended family and the woodland creatures, they try to entice the tomte to their burrow for Christmas. Brief chapters relate the rabbits’ efforts and the tomte’s gradual change of heart. It’s an old-fashioned type of illustrated story (with a picture-book trim size) that doesn’t feel the least bit dated or sentimental. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

thong twas nochebuena Holiday High Notes 2014’Twas Nochebuena
by Roseanne Greenfield Thong; 
illus. by Sara Palacios
Preschool, Primary    Viking    40 pp.
10/14    978-0-670-01634-1    $16.99    g

Peppered with Spanish words, this reimagining of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” relates the Christmas Eve celebrations of a young girl’s Latino family: making tamales, decorating 
their home with tree and crèche, caroling, swinging at a piñata, attending midnight Mass, and more. Thong’s humorous verse follows Clement Moore’s strong rhythm without 
faltering — despite the metrical challenges of working in two languages at once. Palacios’s warm, earth-toned illustrations of a happy multigenerational family invite readers into the festivities, whether these tradiciones are familiar or new to them. A glossary and author’s note are appended. KATIE BIRCHER

underwood here comes santa cat Holiday High Notes 2014Here Comes Santa Cat
by Deborah Underwood; 
illus. by Claudia Rueda
Preschool    Dial    88 pp.
10/14    978-0-8037-4100-3    $16.99    g

Cat was jealous of the Easter Bunny’s job in Here Comes the Easter Cat (rev. 3/14). Now the naughty feline figures that if he dresses up as Santa Claus, he can give himself a present. But he quickly abandons the idea when he realizes Santa’s job entails not only getting sooty but also delivering gifts to others. After a few failed last-ditch attempts at good deeds to get on the nice list, Cat discovers the true Christmas spirit just in time to receive a special present from Santa. Once again the humorous banter between an offstage narrator, who addresses Cat directly, and the silent-yet-expressive Cat, who lets his illustrated signs do the talking, will keep kids giggling. Underwood and Rueda’s spot-on use of comedic timing, page turns, white space, and layout creates another holiday winner. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

yacowitz i know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel Holiday High Notes 2014I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel
by Caryn Yacowitz; 
illus. by David Slonim
Primary    Levine/Scholastic    32 pp.
9/14    978-0-439-91530-4    $17.99

The American Gothic parody on the 
first wordless spread — showing Ma 
and Pa, a boy, a cat…and a menorah — previews this freewheeling volume, part warm family holiday story, part art appreciation book, and part cumulative rhyme. Yacowitz’s clever Hanukkah-themed text lists the items swallowed by the bubbie: latkes, gelt, candles, dreidel (“Perhaps it’s fatal” is the refrain). Slonim’s humorous cartoony illustrations — a well-designed mix of spreads and panels—tell their own story, courtesy of the old masters. Bubbie stands in for the Mona Lisa, the figure in The Scream, and Rodin’s Thinker; homages to Warhol, Rockwell, van Gogh, Wyeth, Hopper (“Mel’s All-Night Latkes” diner), and others make cameo appearances. An artist’s note is appended. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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17. Crankypants Monday

badsanta1 620x330 Crankypants MondayInteresting discussion about holiday library programming over at SLJ. I have two questions.

First, as is so often true when we are talking “on behalf” of children, I want to know if Santa-in-the-library is genuinely offensive to non-Santa people, or is this a case of one party being offended in advance on behalf of another? Without even asking.

Second, where would you draw the line? Some conservative Christians, for example, have taken exception to Harry Potter. Does that mean no Harry Potter programming? Taking into account cultures and/or parents that frown on dating (let alone pre-marital sex), do we decide to forgo booklists or reading club discussion of YA romances? And you might as well jettison any and all folk material from story hour for fear of offending animal rights people, animals-don’t-talk people, anti-princess people, and purist people who want to make sure LRRH ends up in the wolf’s belly. Commenters over at SLJ have pointed out that the American holiday that does not piss somebody off simply doesn’t exist, and I would add that if you decide to decorate for nothing more than the seasonal changes you are still opening yourself up to accusations of paganism, Darwinism and/or climate change denial/hysteria. Because this is America and this is how Americans are these days.

None of this is to justify your Christmas decorations on the grounds of “majority.” Because this is a library, where we say fuck the majority and try to do the best we can for as many people as possible. So celebrate everything: better the risk of your bulletin boards and story hours going over the top than the deadly peace of guaranteed non-offence.


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18. Thankful Thoughts 2014

tumblr inline mwvu8aymsJ1s8c70q Thankful Thoughts 2014

Best to all for a happy peaceful holiday. I’m thankful this year for a healthy family, good friends, cute cats, and a great job in the industry filled with the best people on earth. And I’m incredibly thankful for everyone reading this, especially the readers who have followed me from the original Beat through many different urls. And I’m super thankful for the Beat crew that helped make this a great year.

Photo via the Peanuts blog

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19. Novella Review: Can’t Wait by Jennifer Ryan

May Contain Spoilers


Kicking off the holiday reading season, I picked up Can’t Wait by Jennifer Ryan because I liked the cover and because it has one of my favorite tropes.  I can’t get enough stories with the heroine falling for her brother’s best friend.  The setting didn’t hurt either; all of the action takes place on a ranch in Montana.  While Montana would not be my first choice if I were to ever relocate (the winters last forever!), the whole ranch thing is so appealing to me that it makes me giddy.  Working with and around horses all day long seems so much better than herding IT professionals on a daily basis.

Summer has fallen so hard for her brother’s best friend that she’s had to move out of the main house and into the smaller cabin on the ranch by herself because being so close to him is driving her crazy.  The flirting and longing looks she casts in Caleb’s direction should be clear for everyone to see.  Everyone but Caleb, it seems.  He’s not taking the bait, no matter how hard she casts her lures.  She’s at her wits end and decides to take a different route; to heck with the subtle approach, she’s going to let him know exactly how she feels.

Caleb is far from indifferent to Summer, but because he owes so much to Jack, he can’t go after his best friend’s sister.  Jack kept him sane and alive during his stint in the military, and now Caleb is helping Jack run his ranch. He has too much to lose if things don’t work out with Summer, but the temptation is driving him to distraction.  But being a man of honor, he can’t allow himself to show his interest in her.

I really liked Summer because she is a woman who knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it.  She knows that they would be good together, if Caleb would only give her a chance.  Summer isn’t just working against Caleb’s sense of honor, she’s also battling his PTSD.  Both Caleb and Jack saw and did terrible things while overseas, and they are both haunted by the experience.  Caleb’s distress is so severe he can’t sleep at night, but once he opens his feelings to Summer, she gives him a sense of peace he had been lacking.  She becomes his anchor, something that he desperately needed.

The story takes place in the run up to Christmas, and Summer’s holiday traditions are seamlessly incorporated into the action.  Who wouldn’t want to go on a snowy trail ride in search of the perfect Christmas tree?  The snowball fight I could have lived without, but only because of my aversion to being cold and wet.  I was definitely in the holiday mood by the time I finished reading Can’t Wait.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Originally appeared in the e-book anthology All I Want for Christmas Is a Cowboy.

Jennifer Ryan, author of the New York Times bestselling The Hunted Series and the upcoming Montana Men Series, takes us to the very beginning in this Christmas prequel about two people who finally receive the one thing they’ve always wanted … each other.

Though she is the woman of his dreams, Caleb Bowden knows his best friend’s sister, Summer Turner, is off-limits. He won’t cross that line. Summer shares a connection with Caleb she’s never felt with anyone else, but the stubborn man refuses to turn their flirtatious friendship into something more. Summer will have to take matters into her own hands if she wants her cowboy for Christmas.

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20. Books to Celebrate and Teach about Adoption

Adoption image

National Adoption Day this November 22 and National Adoption Month this November afford a time to share experiences and reflect on families. Whether you have students who have been adopted or are part of a family considering adopting a child into your home, all children can benefit from learning about adoption. Children are very curious about each other’s families, quick to categorize into groups, and intent to define what makes a family, well, a family.

Picture books provide a medium to discuss, celebrate, and learn about adoption and exploring the definition of “family.”

Book recommendations:

Bringing Asha Home

Journey Home

The Best Thing

Chinatown Adventure

Discussion Questions during and after reading:

  • What does “family” mean to you? How might the word mean something different to people?
  • What does it mean to be adopted? What might be some challenges for a family with an adopted child or for a child who is adopted? What might be some benefits for a family who adopt a child or for a child who is adopted?
  • How is this character’s family similar to and different from your own family?
  • How do this character and family share and have fun together? What do you enjoy doing with your siblings and family members?
  • How does the character feel at the beginning, middle, and end of the story? How does the main character change from the beginning to the end of the story?
  • How would you describe this character’s relationship with his/her parent in the story?


  • Learn more about the country from which the character is adopted. On which continent is the country located? What countries border this country? What language is spoken there? How many people live in that country? Who are some famous people from that country? Find a recipeof a food from this country to make.
  • Share and reflect on this list of famous adoptees or adopters from TeacherVision by Beth Rowen.
  • Draw a family portrait of your own family.
  • Write a paragraph describing what makes your family unique and why you are proud of your family.

Further reading about adoption:

Jill EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, Holidays and Celebrations Tagged: Adoption, children's books, diversity, Educators, holidays, multicultural books, Multiracial, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, Transracial adoption

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21. Weekend Webcomics: Michael DeForge’s “Winter Break” will make you want to eat turkey

hol02 Weekend Webcomics: Michael DeForges Winter Break will make you want to eat turkey

Here’s a little holiday jam to get you in the mood for next week’s Turkey Marathon.

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22. Excited about holidays?

This is me as a four-year-old in Los Angeles, California*

Thanksgiving is only a few days away here in the U.S. plus, as I'm writing this, my Dad is in the hospital. So I won't be visiting blogs today. My apologies.

And I may take a few weeks off from blogging after that to get ready for Christmas. Yeah, I know, I should have done that in August when the stores began stocking holiday wrapping and lights and candy. Grrr. Doesn't it seem that all of the holidays, whatever you celebrate, get rolled into one giant commercial? They skip right over Thanksgiving because it's not commercial enough. But it's one of my favorite holidays.

And despite my Dad being very ill, I have a lot to be thankful for right now. Here are just three reasons:

1) My older son has been cancer-free for five years. This is a huge relief for all of us.

2) I finally finished the rough draft of my fourth novel. Yay! Only took me a year.

3) Excited to announce that two of my short fiction pieces will appear in the print version of Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2014, available for purchase starting December 1.

Hope your holidays are sweet and I wish you the best for 2015.

*I live in Pennsylvania, but we visited my grandparents for Christmas that year and I was thrilled to receive this Disney Sleeping Beauty doll. It must have been my favorite movie that year.

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23. Holiday mode engage!

ThanksCovs11 Holiday mode engage!

I’m hitting the road for Thanksgiving frolic, so we’re shifting into exciting HOLIDAY mode at the Beat! Oh there will be some news stories, and some GIft Guide suggestions, but also a lot of art and comics recommendations that I’ve been stockpiling for no good reason. Also, Beat contribours will be along with their own gift guide suggestions.

I’m also rounding up Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, so ping me with those.

Also if you have any suggestions for webcomics to read, gifts to buy, or cranberry sauce recipes, feel free to share in the comments!

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24. Novella Review: Sweet Cowboy Christmas by Candis Terry


May Contain Spoilers


I have been struggling with this review, and I don’t know why.  I thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Cowboy Christmas, but I just can’t seem to put my thoughts down in any coherent manner, so I will instead give you my Top 5 reasons why you should read it

1.  This romance will put you in the mood for the holidays.  I read it last week, and afterwards, I was geeked for the holiday season.  Christmas plays a big part in the story, because Chase lost his father on Christmas years ago.  He’s still not over his loss, and he dreads the holidays, because he certainly doesn’t share in the holiday cheer that surrounds him.  Faith loves Christmas and giving to others, so she wants to help Chase regain his love for the holidays

2.  Both Chase and Faith are running unsuccessfully from their pasts.  Chase can’t get over the loss of his father, and now he’s just had a health scare himself.  He’s not sure who he is anymore, because he’s been told he has to give up his fast-paced, stressful life or he’s not going to be around much longer.  Faith is still smarting from a romance gone bad.  Her ex belittled her and she still hasn’t recovered her confidence after his contemptuous treatment of her.

3.  Chase is a caring guy, who realizes a good thing when he sees it.  When he learns that Faith’s confidence is still suffering from her past disastrous relationship, he isn’t shy about letting her know how special she is.

4.  The interactions between Chase and Faith are humorous, sweet, and romantic.  The ranch setting is the perfect backdrop for their budding romance.  How can galloping across a field and then sharing a kiss not be romantic?

5.  Sweet Cowboy Christmas is a novella, so you don’t have to invest a lot of time to reach the happy ending.  This is a great choice if you have some free time in between your own holiday preparations.  Who knows?  It may even get you in the mood to put out some extra Christmas decorations.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Mistletoe, holly, and cowboys, oh my! Christmas in Texas has never been sweeter.

Years ago, Chase Morgan traded in his dusty cowboy boots for the shimmering lights of New York City and a fast track up the corporate ladder. But when his shiny life is turned on end just in time for Christmas, Chase knows he needs to reevaluate—even if that means going home to Texas to endure his least favorite holiday.

When Mr. Tall, Dark, and Smoking-Hot walks through her door at the Magic Box Guest Ranch, Faith Walker sees just another handsome, rich exec looking to play cowboy for a week—at her expense. She’s sure the grumpy-but-sexy-as-hell Scrooge will put a crimp in her holly jolly plans. Until a sizzling kiss has her seeing him in a new light.

Chase is haunted by secrets, and even though it goes entirely against her “hands off the guests” rule, Faith is tempted to help him leave the past behind. As the magic of the season swirls around them, she is determined to succeed, because now she is certain one sweet cowboy Christmas will never be enough.

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25. Link: The best round-up of Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving parodies

rockwell thanksgiving parody 09 Link: The best round up of Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving parodiesAt this time of year if there is one thing as certain as dressing and leftovers it’s parody verions of Norman Rockwell’s famed “Freedom From Want.” And I finally found the best round-up of parodies including the Justice Society one. A little of these goes a long way so here are a mere three.

rockwell thanksgiving parody 16 Link: The best round up of Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving parodies rockwell thanksgiving parody 14 Link: The best round up of Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving parodies

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