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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Holiday books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 33
1. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 25 – 2016 Transcendent Holiday Titles

31daysNote that I didn’t specify which holidays, of course.  These are just the books I think did a slam bang job of lauding their respective days of celebration.  Enjoy one and all!

2016 Transcendent Holiday Titles

Babushka: A Christmas Tale by Dawn Casey, ill. Amanda Hall


Oh, certainly this isn’t the first Babushka title you’ve ever encountered in your life . . . or is it?  It’s certainly the cheeriest I’ve seen.  And lovely too.

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. Anna Dewdney


Anna Dewdney left us in 2016.  One of the many losses we’ve had to swallow.  Be comforted then that she did a really stand up and cheer job on this old Margaret Wise Brown book.   A nice take on an old classic.

The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

christmasstoryFor you pop-up lovers.  Of course Sabuda got his start with a pop-up Christmas book (The Christmas Alphabet, if I’m not much mistaken).  This just makes sense as a natural companion.

Christmas for Greta and Gracie by Yasmeen Ismail


Okay.  Stand back.  I’m going to say it.

Most emotionally honest children’s book with a Christmas theme since The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

That is all.

Groundhog’s Runaway Shadow by David Biedrzycki


Lest you fear this is an entirely Christmas-related list (it’s alphabetical which skews it a little at the start).  I love Groundhog’s Day books and we get about one to two a year.  This one’s worth the price of admission.

Hanukkah Delight! By Leslea Newman, ill. Amy Husband


A board book and a bloody good one too.  And trust me, there’s a need.  Great Hanukkah board books aren’t exactly a dime a dozen.

Hanukkah with Uncle Reuben: Not Santa . . . (But Not Bad) by Mark Tuchman


The only mystery with this book is how it hasn’t been picked up by a major publisher yet.  Consider it your culturally sensitive alternative to Shmelf the Elf.

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story by Kallie George, ill. Stephanie Graegin


I’m not the kind of reader who goes in for cute little furry animals delivering lost Christmas presents on their own, but this book isn’t cloying.  It’s cute, but it comes by its adorableness honestly.  Kudos George & Graegin!

Maple and Willow’s Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols

maplewillowHeartfelt is hard.  Of all the Maple & Willow books, I like this one best.  Not hard to see why.

More Than Enough: A Passover Story by April Halprin Wayland


When Marjorie Ingall wrote up her The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2016 list (THE best list to go to each and every year for all things Jewish) she alerted me to this book.  I was able to locate it pretty quickly and I’m awfully glad I did.  Here’s what Marjorie had to say about it: “We see a young family shopping, preparing for and celebrating the holiday, announcing ‘dayenu’ regularly along the way. In an afterword, Wayland explains the meaning of the word, outlines the elements of the Seder, and notes that ‘dayenu’s message—being grateful for the blessings in each moment—goes beyond Passover. It’s a concept I hold in my heart when I’m on a beautiful hike, when I’m biking with my family, when I’m petting my kitty.’ A good reminder for all of us.”

The Nutcracker by Kate Davies, ill. Niroot Puttapipat

nutcrackerClearly I’m a pop-up sucker, but this really and truly is one of the best Nutcrackers you’ll ever buy.  I mean, just LOOK at that ending!

Potatoes at Turtle Rock by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman, ill. Alex Steele-Morgan


If you buy only one book by a tattooed female rabbi this year . . .

Refuge by Anne Booth, ill. Sam Usher


That this book isn’t better known is shocking to me.  It draws direct comparisons between refugees and a certain fleeing couple and their newborn babe. $1 from the sale of each book sold until October 2017 will go to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

A Teeny Tiny Halloween by Lauren L. Wohl, ill. Henry Cole


For all that Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, in a lot of ways, this was the only book that really did it for me in 2016.  A great rendition of a classic.

Yitzi and the Giant Menorah by Richard Ungar


Funny and smart.  And now, naturally, I have the Steven Universe song “Giant Woman” caught in my head, though now it’s with the words “Giant Menorah” instead.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


2 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 25 – 2016 Transcendent Holiday Titles, last added: 12/25/2016
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2. Writing a Children's Holiday Story


I know we just passed Valentine’s Day and have not yet reached St. Patrick’s Day, but holiday books have been on my mind.  Recently I read-and rejected-a Christmas story that had many of the red flags I hope not to find in a manuscript.  I feel bad for authors when I send rejections, as I know that their heart and soul are poured into their work. As I’m already thinking about the catalog for the fall and the publication schedule for next year,  now seems like a good time to share my thoughts-scattered as they may be-on writing holiday books for children.

Leprechauns Never Lie

What am I thinking when I pull a holiday story from the stack of manuscripts waiting to be read? First, I hope that it won’t be written in rhyme. Too many people seem to think that stories for children must be written in rhyme. Rhyming is well and good if it suits the story, and the writer doesn’t try to force the rhyme. Yet I often find myself muttering, “Prose is a good thing. Give prose a chance.” as I go through manuscripts with an 8:2 rhyme to prose ratio.

Madison's Patriotic Project

I also hope that the story is about a holiday other than Christmas. Halloween is the second favorite for holiday stories, but Christmas holds a strong lead in the holiday stories submissions stakes. I’m quite fond of Christmas, but there are other holidays where new books would have a better chance of being noticed. 

Then there is the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Syndrome. That’s my phrase for when a writer uses a popular character in a story without researching if it is in public domain. Rudolph has an interesting copyright and trademark history. I won’t go into that here, but if you use a copyrighted/trademarked character in your story, two things happen. The words “copyright issues” come to my mind. I also immediately discard the manuscript.

Check out what holiday books are available. Think about what makes them work well. What ideas do you have that would appeal to readers?  Find out what the publisher chooses to publish.

Humbug Rabbit

Don’t include illustrations. Publishers have art directors who find professional illustrators for projects. 

Then send it to a publisher. We are always looking for the next holiday classic.

What holiday books has Star Bright Books published?

Visit www.starbrightbooks.com to see our holiday books.

0 Comments on Writing a Children's Holiday Story as of 2/22/2016 11:58:00 AM
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3. #823 – Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood & Claudia Rueda

Here Comes Valentine Cat Series: Here Comes Cat Written by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Claudia Rueda Dial Books for Young Readers    12/22/2015 978-0-525-42915-9 88 pages     Ages 3—5 Junior Library Guild Selection “Cat is no fan of VALENTINE’S DAY, especially when it brings a new dog to the neighborhood. “Ouch. I’m sorry, Cat. …

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4. Picture book Monday with a review of Here comes Valentine Cat AND The Valentine

Today I am doing something that I have never done before. I am offering you two reviews! The reason for this is that I could not make up my mind which Valentine's Day book I wanted to tell you about. They are both wonderful. So, you are getting two picture book reviews instead of one

Here comes Valentine Cat
Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2016, 978-0-525-42915-9
Cat does not like Valentine’s Day and has declared his territory a “No-Valentine’s Zone.” The reason for this is that Cat thinks Valentine’s Day is “all mushy.” Cat’s friend – who happens to be the person narrating the speaking part of this story – suggests that Cat should make a valentine for a friend. Cat suggests that he could make a valentine for Squiddy, his stuffed toy squid, but the narrator gently suggests that Cat should give a valentine to someone who “isn’t a stuffed animal.”
   There is a problem with this suggestion though. Cat cannot think of a single person he would give a valentine to, which is rather sad when you think about it. The narrator then suggests that Cat should give Dog, who is new to the neighborhood, a valentine. Cat then gets grumpy because Dog throws a bone over the fence, which hits cat on the head. Apparently Dog has does this many times. Dog then throws a ball over the fence, which also hits Cat on the head. Cat then gets an idea, and the narrator starts to worry. Cat is cranky, and when Cat gets cranky he does things that could backfire in a big way.
    This laugh-out-loud funny picture book brings back Cat, the sometimes cantankerous feline who does not really always understand how to get along with others. The good news is that Cat does have a companion, the narrator, who helps Cat figure out how to navigate the tricky world of friendship and how to make the right choices in life.
Cat does not like Valentine’s Day and has declared his territory a “No-Valentine’s Zone.” The reason for this is that Cat thinks Valentine’s Day is “all mushy.” Cat’s friend – who happens to be the person narrating the speaking part of this story – suggests that Cat should make a valentine for a friend. Cat suggests that he could make a valentine for Squiddy, his stuffed toy squid, but the narrator gently suggests that Cat should give a valentine to someone who “isn’t a stuffed animal.”
   There is a problem with this suggestion though. Cat cannot think of a single person he would give a valentine to, which is rather sad when you think about it. The narrator then suggests that Cat should give Dog, who is new to the neighborhood, a valentine. Cat then gets grumpy because Dog throws a bone over the fence, which hits cat on the head. Apparently Dog has does this many times. Dog then throws a ball over the fence, which also hits Cat on the head. Cat then gets an idea, and the narrator starts to worry. Cat is cranky, and when Cat gets cranky he does things that could backfire in a big way.
    This laugh-out-loud funny picture book brings back Cat, the sometimes cantankerous feline who does not really always understand how to get along with others. The good news is that Cat does have a companion, the narrator, who helps Cat figure out how to navigate the tricky world of friendship and how to make the right choices in life.

Mouse Book: The ValentineThe Valentine
Monique Felix
Wordless picture Book
For ages 4 and up
Creative Editions, 2013, 978-1-56846-247-9
A mouse is sitting, by itself, feeling lonely and bored. He starts picking at the paper he is sitting on and when the tear in the paper gets big enough, he peers through the hole it has created. There is something wonderful and amazing on the other side of the paper and the mouse jumps for joy.
   Quickly the mouse starts chewing at the tear and until he has created a little paper heart. Then he squeezes through the hole he has made and goes to the other side. Soon he is back and he stars chewing the paper again. Diligently he chews a big square and then smaller squares. Then he starts to fold and fold  until…
   In this delightful wordless book, one of Monique Felix’s little mice finds a wonderful surprise behind a piece of paper, a surprise that inspires the lovelorn mouse to get creative. 

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5. Merry Christmas 2015

  Merry Christmas, Everyone! I hope you have a wonderful week of holidays. It’s time for me to catch up on my reading.  I’ll be back after the holidays (1-2-2016). Until then . . . Read a few good books. Write something wonderful. Get ready for another year of Kid Lit Reviews.    It will be the 5th!Filed …

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6. Nutcracker Season Is Here!

It's only September, but ballet schools across the country are already holding auditions for the holiday favorite The Nutcracker. I finally convinced my 8-year-old and 10-year-old daughters to try out for a local production this year. Luckily, as with many recreational ballet schools, this one tries to cast everyone who auditions. The girls auditioned last Saturday, and we have just a few days left before we find out their parts!

While we're waiting, I thought I would do a little research to see what Nutcracker-themed picture books have just been published or will be coming out soon. As I expected, I found quite a few! Here are the four I'm most looking forward to reading...

Written in verse by Kristyn Crow with illustrations by Molly Idle, Zombelina Dances The Nutcracker is a follow-up to Zombelina, which introduced readers to a young Zombie who loves to dance. In the new book, Zombelina and her friend Lizzie need to figure out how to save The Nutcracker production they're supposed to dance in at the local opera house.

Rachel Isadora's Bea in The Nutcracker is another sequel -- to Bea at Ballet. The first book was a concept book, introducing young children to the components of a ballet class. Bea in The Nutcracker breaks down the components of a classical ballet, using The Nutcracker as an example.

I don't know too much about this version of The Nutcracker by Stephanie Spinner and Peter Malone, except that it comes with a CD of the Tchaikovsky score. But the cover really draws me in, and I'd love to see more of the illustrations!

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition also piqued by interested. Written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Cathy Gendron, this book tells the story of how The Nutcracker, which is a Russian ballet, became such a special tradition in the United States.

A few years ago I wrote a post on the blog Dance Advantage about some of my favorite Nutcracker books at that time. You can read the post here, in case you are looking for more dance books this holiday season.

Do you have a favorite Nutcracker picture book? Or do any of the new ones look interesting to you? I'd love to hear!

0 Comments on Nutcracker Season Is Here! as of 9/19/2015 7:17:00 PM
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7. Picture Book Monday with a review of Here Comes Santa Cat

Back in the spring Cat decided that he wanted to stand in for the Easter Bunny (you can read about his adventures in Here Comes Easter Cat). With Christmas just around the corner, Cat has now decided that he wants to be Santa. The thing is, being Santa is a lot harder than it seems.

Here comes Santa Cat
Here Comes Santa CatDeborah Underwood
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2014, 978-0-8037-4100-3
Cat is back and this time, wait for it…he is wearing a Santa suit. When he is asked why he is dressed up, Cat explains, using pictures, that he needs to be Santa so that he can give himself a present. Surely, Santa will do that. No. Apparently Cat does not think that Santa will be giving him anything this year because he has been naughty a lot of the time and nice only on a few occasions. Well, that makes sense.
   Okay, so Cat will be Santa, but does Cat know that he needs to come down chimneys, and does he happen to have some flying reindeer hanging around? It turns out that Cat does not much care for chimney climbing, and the jet pack he uses to fly is rather temperamental. Perhaps Cat would be better off giving up trying to be Santa. Instead, he can try being nice. You never know, Cat might even enjoy the experience.
   In this laugh-out-loud picture book Cat once again tries to take on the role of a holiday figurehead, only to discover that being such a character is not as easy as it seems. Readers will be delighted to see how the sometimes grouchy feline stumbles from one disaster to another, until, at long last, something happens that turns things around for Cat. Just in time.

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8. Picture Book Monday with a review of Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies

Where I grew up, on the island of Cyprus, Halloween wasn't something that people celebrated. I had to wait until I moved to the States before I was finally able to enjoy Halloween. Mind you, it wasn't until we moved to Oregon that I really got into the spirit of things and started dressing up. Unlike poor Scaredy Squirrel, I love Halloween, though some of the costumes people around here wear are definitely scary.

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for ScarediesScaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies
Melanie Watt
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Kids Can Press, 2013, 978-1-894786-87-4
Scaredy Squirrel is the kind of creature who likes to be ready for every possible event. Really ready.  He loves “lists, plans and safety equipment,” and hates “danger and unpredictability.” Because of these loves and hates, Scaredy Squirrel has put together this guide to help people who are like him. As far as Scaredy is concerned Halloween decorations are “nerve-wracking” and Halloween itself makes him “pass out.” If you have a similar reaction to Halloween then this guide was written for you.  The guide is divided into eight chapters, and it is “designed to help you prepare for and survive Halloween, all in one piece!”
   In the first chapter Scaredy shows his readers how to get their living area ready for Halloween. Scaredy provides us with an illustration that shows us how to use garlic, a scarecrow, a blender, bug repellent, caution tape and a doghouse to make our home safe from werewolves, creepy crawlies, ghosts and goblins, black cats and witches, and vampires. Who knew that such everyday items could be so useful!
   Next, Scaredy tackles the subject of Halloween decorations. Scaredy appreciates that Halloween jitters might cause you to experience decorating problems, so he shows you how to carve a pumpkin safely, how to decorate your front door so that it is “inviting,” and how to make your living room “ghoulish” but “not too ghoulish.”
   Choosing a Halloween costume is not easy, but Scaredy’s ingenious ideas you are sure to help you to find something that suits your personality. He looks at costumes that are classics, some that are fun, and a few that will appeal to people of action. There are also hero and villain costumes, fairy tale and science fiction costumes. He considers the advantages of makeup versus masks, and he shows us how to make three do-it-yourself costumes.
   The next four chapters look at “Halloween trick-or-treating,” “Halloween candy,” “Halloween Notes,” and “Halloween Fun.” Then Scaredy wraps up with a chapter titled “If all else fails …” which does not need to be described as the title says it all.
   For readers who know Scaredy Squirrel already, this new title is sure to reinforce the connection that they have with this delightful little animal. For readers who have never met Scaredy before, this title will show them what they have been missing!

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9. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: December 11

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. There are 1769 subscribers. I send out the newsletter once every two weeks. 

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews, ranging from picture book through young adult. I also have one post with a literacy milestone from my daughter, and another sharing our latest literacy-themed game. I have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently.

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read one early reader, one young adult title, and two adult mysteries. I read:

  • Kallie George (ill. Geneviève Côté). Spark. Simply Read Books. Early Reader. My review.
  • Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando: Roomies. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Young Adult. Completed December 9, 2013, on digital ARC. Review to come. 
  • Janet Evanovich: Takedown Twenty (A Stephanie Plum Novel). Bantam. Adult Mystery. Completed December 2, 2013, on MP3.
  • Elizabeth George: Just One Evil Act (Inspector Lynley). Dutton. Adult Mystery. Completed December 4, 2013, on Kindle. I must say that this novel utterly consumed my thoughts for days. It's not exactly action-filled - there's a lot of description - but I kept thinking about the motivations of the characters, and wondering what they would do, or had done. Quite satisfying (though long and not for everyone).

I'm currently listening to Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy and have just started my annual holiday season re-read of Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. The first story, by Maureen Johnson, is my favorite of the three, so I may or may not actually read the entire book. 

Baby Bookworm has been continuing to enjoy the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans. We're also reading Christmas books, like The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska and The Berenstain Bears Old-Fashioned Christmas by Jan and Mike Berenstain. We're also enjoying A Very Fuddles Christmas by Frans Vischer (my review of the first Fuddles book). 

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season. I'll be back after Christmas with the next newsletter. Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Enjoy your holiday!

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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10. The Shepherd Girl of Bethlehem: A Nativity Story by Carey Morning

5 Stars The Shepherd Girl of Bethlehem: A Nativity Story Carey Morning Alan Marks 32 Pages     Ages: 4 + …………………….. Inside Jacket:  The shepherd’s young daughter helped with the sheep every single day. How she longed to help through the night as well; but her father said it was too dark and she needed sleep. [...]

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11. Books for Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day is... Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and I have reviewed some wonderful titles for younger readers that explain what this special day is all about and how it came into being. There are also some stories that have a Valentine's Day theme. You can view my reviews of these books on the Valentine's Day Feature Page.

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12. Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Celebrate the Holidays

by Josalyn Moran

On Saturday November 19 we had the opportunity to visit the Swedish American Museum in the Chicago Andersonville neighborhood and to participate in their first Flick, Ricka, Dicka celebration.

The event was keynoted by readings throughout the day from the Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr series by Swedish author Maj Lindman.

Children delighted in having their pictures taken behind or with a life-size cut out of the literary triplets.

Delicious hot drinks were served from a hot chocolate bar complete with a tempting array of toppings.  Swedish holiday cookies were provided by the Swedish Bakery.

The craft room was abuzz with decoration making including felt ice skates and cone shaped Christmas trees.

Attendance at the event was free and open to the public.  Several merchants in the area, including Women and Children First Bookstore, Swedish American Museum Gift Store, The Wooden Spoon, and The Red Balloon Co. generously supported a raffle by donating delightful gifts.

Copies of the newly reissued Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka and The New Skates (complete with paper dolls) sold briskly at the gift shop.

A splendid time was had by all and we look forward to partnering with the museum on future events. A special thanks goes to Jessie Aucoin, education manager for the museum, for all her efforts in making the day so wonderful.

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13. Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Saint Francis of Assisi's
Canticle of the Creatures
Reimagined by Katherine Paterson
Illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Chronicle, 2011
$17.99, ages 4-8, 36 pages

A two-time Newbery Award winner adapts a beloved hymn into a children's prayer in this stunning book of paper-cut tapestries.

Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) rephrases the blessings of Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures as children today might recite them.

The changes are subtle, just enough to draw children closer to the spirit of the song, and reflect Paterson's deference to the original work. 

When Paterson writes of Sister Moon and her stars, she draws off Assisi's description of them as "precious and beautiful," and writes to God that the heavens "clothe the night with their beauty and, like you, watch over us while we sleep."

Sweet and spare, the verses echo familiar ways children describe nature: water "wells up" and a storm sounds like a lion.

"We praise you for our Brother Wind and every kind of weather, stormy or mild," she writes. "For when he roars he reminds us of your might, and when he comes as a cooling breeze, he tells us of your gentleness."

Paper-cut artist Dalton illustrates using a technique of Scherenschnitte or scissor cuts, cutting each spread from a continuous piece of paper, an amazing process detailed in a video below.

The paper cuts are then painted in earthy watercolors and set against a black backdrop. Like needlework samplers, each is a country scene with gently shaded layers of activity, in this case filled with children and animals living Assisi's message.

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14. From the Archives: The Scariest Children’s Book We’ve Ever Published

Oh, we’ve done plenty of Halloween books over the years, and we have a fine selection of them out this season and on our backlist. But the creepiest and most terrifying book our company has ever published isn’t a Halloween book at all.

It’s this book:

Published in 1945 with an exclusively black-and-white pallette, Time to Eat presents “correct ideas on a proper, balanced diet for children,” according to the flap copy. Clearly, though, the book does far more than kill all the fun of mealtimes, and must have been used as an instrument of terror.

Scroll down, and brace yourself. What follows are some of the most haunting images ever produced for children.

Yes, just “stew.”

I think the use of shadow in this one is especially effective.

Oh, no.

And now, the worst one of all:


Happy Halloween, everyone!

3 Comments on From the Archives: The Scariest Children’s Book We’ve Ever Published, last added: 10/31/2011

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15. Guest Post: Inside The Zombie Project!

by Anastasia Suen

Whenever I visit schools the children always ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s one of my most frequently asked questions. They always seem surprised when I say that ideas are everywhere. I find ideas at home, in school, and in books, magazines, and newspapers. I also find them on the television and the internet. There is always something interesting that can be used in a story. So what did I use in this story? The clues are on the cover….

I love how the cover of my first Boxcar Children Mystery tells the story at a glance. You see the four Aldens working together. It’s a classic Boxcar Children moment! That’s why I loved these books as a child. The Aldens don’t sit around worrying – they make things happen! What are they up to this time? The title is our first clue…this book is called The Zombie Project.


Why did I choose a zombie for this book? Zombies are scary, but not too scary. After all they walk slowly, so you can get away…usually! It’s the chance that you might not escape that makes it interesting. Furthermore, zombies are dead, but they’re not. They’re “undead.” Zombies used to be people like us, but now they’re trapped between life and death because of voodoo or some sort of nasty virus. So they look like us, but not quite. Instead, they’re all gory and disgusting, making them the perfect bad guy for a mystery. If you look closely at the cover, you can see the zombie walking past the river.

Things that go bump in the night

You can see a cabin in the woods on the book cover, too. It’s right behind the zombie. I’ve never seen a zombie up close, thank goodness, but I do know about camping and staying in cabins in the woods. It’s so nice to get away from the lights of the city and see all the stars at night. Oh, but those noises…those strange noises in the woods…they can keep you awake at night. Who is really out there?

Our family has had some interesting experiences camping in the woods. One night in the middle of a thunderstorm, we heard a loud cracking sound. It was a massive lightning strike, one that shut off the cabin’s power for hours. As Snoopy would say, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Another night we heard a noise outside the cabin and when we looked out the window, it was a bear! A young bear was wandering around knocking over trash cans looking for something to eat. There was nothing to eat in our trash can, so it moved on.


On the book cover you can also see Henry holding a fishing pole and a bucket. The Aldens aren’t just fishing for clues; they’re fishing in the water. This is something that our family always does whenever we go camping in the woods. Fishing is a must.

My father taught me to fish when I was Benny’s age. I learned how to fish in the river, just like the Alden children do in this book. When my children were young, we taught them how to fish, too. It can be hard to sit there quietly and wait, but when you feel that tug on your pole, ah, sweet reward.

A campfire

There’s nothing like eating a freshly caught fish cooked over a campfire. Yum! Cooking over an open flame makes the food so tasty. Later, as the fire dwindles down, it’s time for campfire stories. The sun has set, so the woods all around you are dark…and then someone tells a scary story. It’s a campfire tradition.

It is by the campfire that Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny find out more about the Legend of the Winding River Zombie. They know the story isn’t true, it can’t be. Everyone knows that zombies aren’t real.

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16. The 12 Days of Christmas Book Blog

My new book blog is finally ready... after waiting for the appropriate holiday shopping weather to arrive. The book is titled 'The 12 Days of Christmas in Washington' and it's from Sterling Books.

Residents of Washington state will recognize many of the local landmarks right off. This colorful book is full of fun scenes in Pike Place Market, Mt. Rainier, Downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, Leavenworth and Spokane.

Although I myself have never been to the Space Needle, I understand it's quite a popular destination. I have often looked up at it from Seattle Center to marvel at it's modern character, alongside the EMP.  These Seattle landmarks are richly featured on several spreads of this new book. I did learn in making this book that the Space Needle is way more difficult to draw than the Eiffel Tower. (I haven't been there either.)

Other familiar sights are listed in the 'The places visited' tab of my new book blog. I have been to ALL the above mentioned locations and happily can testify to the authenticity and delights that they hold.


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17. 2010 Holiday Book Recommendations for Children

Buy children books for the holidays!

2010 Holiday High Notes (The Horn Book)
2009 Holiday High Notes (The Horn Book)
2008 Holiday High Notes (The Horn Book)
2010 December Holiday Books (School Library Journal)
2010 Holiday Roundup (Kids Reads)
2009 Holiday Roundup (Kids Reads)
2008 Holiday Roundup (Kids Reads)
Kids’ Christmas Books, 2010: For the Naughty & Nice (The Children’s Book Review)
Christmas Picture Books (Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews)
Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights (KidsReads)

Winter Trees, Christmas Trees (WRR, December 2008)
Poetry Book Reviews: Under the Kisseltoe & Hanukkah Haiku (WRR, December 2008)
Poetry for Christmas (WRR, December 2007)
Picture Book Review: The Best Christmas Ever (WRR, December 2007)
Christmas Books in Verse (WRR, December 2007)
Picture Book Review: Christmas Magic (WRR, December 2007)
More Poetry for Christmas from Wild Rose Reader (WRR, December 2007)
Magic & Monsters: Picture Books for Hanukkah (WRR, November 2007)
Poetry for Hanukkah (WRR, November 2007)
Hanukkah Lights, Hanukkah Books (WRR, November 2007)
Winter Lights & Christmas Trees (BRG, December 2006)
Christmas Stories in Verse (BRG, December 2006)
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18. Guest Post: How Gabi Greenberg Came To Be

by Michelle Edwards

My three daughters, Meera, Flory, and Lelia, are close in age. Often during their early years, we snuggled together on our old beige corduroy couch and worked our way through piles of picture books. Before they went to sleep, my husband, Rody, and I read to them. And sometimes, when they were a bit older and he was away, I read aloud in the hall between all their rooms, camp style.

In those happy golden years of our shared reading, we would inevitably hit upon a part of a book that made us collectively take pause—later I dubbed this the “aha” moment. That’s when we discovered Madeline, Babar, and even Harry Potter celebrated Christmas. And being Jewish, we didn’t.

This started me writing about a character who later became Gabi Greenberg. In my book The Hanukkah Trike, Gabi lights the menorah, eats latkes, and helps tell the story of the Maccabee army’s miraculous victory. The next day, after falling off her new trike—a Hanukkah gift—her spunk and determination get her back in the saddle again. Remembering the story of the Maccabees, Gabi musters her courage, and with a skinned knee and a pebble-studded hand, she pushes those pedals again and again, until she takes off down the street.

The Hanukkah Trike is a quiet little story for young children. It could be any child’s story of perseverance.

Each one of my daughters helped me create Gabi. Each one gave me reason to write The Hanukkah Trike. And our years of reading together made me want a spirited character like them. Presenting Gabi Greenberg, lover of latkes and all things Hanukkah. Brave like the Maccabees.

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19. A SMALL MIRACLE, by Peter Collington

by Peter Collington


From the Ingram wholesale website:
"Back in print by booksellers' popular demand, this wonderfully satisfying contemporary parable features the wooden figures in a church's Christmas Nativity scene that miraculously come to life to save a starving old woman who has done a good turn for them."

Back at Halfway Down the Stairs, we liked to claim credit for bringing this sweetheart back into print a few years ago. Ok, probably we weren't the only booksellers who adored it enough to beg for a reprint in Publisher's Weekly's Cuffie awards year after year, but still. Like Mo Willems's Pigeon, we have dreams, you know.

Anyhow, I could hardly walk a customer through this story without stifling snivels and snurps. Once the nativity figures come peeping out of the church to help the gypsy lady, I was mostly reduced to pointing and grunts. Which actually works remarkably well as a sales pitch, because this is a wordless picturebook. COMPLETELY wordless. Go on and see if you can make your way to the end without letting it slay you. I triple-dog-dare you.

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20. Favorite Holiday Titles

Every year I coordinate School Library Journal's round-up of December holiday book reviews, and I'm telling you, it's hard to concentrate on Santa, latkes, and kinara candles when it's a perfect beach day in July.
There have been some awful years when all the publishers seemed hellbent on publishing whatever hideous holiday manuscripts were submitted to them, but 2008 was not so bad.

Here is the entire list of our holiday reviews (written by me and lots of colleagues and friends), and here are my favorites:

Millie in the Snow by Alexander Steffensmeier (Walker, 2008) - funny and sweet, with Millie the cow!

Harvest of Light by Alison Ofanansky (Kar-Ben, 2008) - different take on the holiday - a family gathers olive oil from an orchard in Israel.

Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard? by Laura Krauss Melmed and ill. by Jane Dyer (Chronicle, 2008) - anachronistic and slightly puzzling, but little kids will adore the illustrations of cute animals.

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21. Celebrate Earth Day with these children's books

Happy Earth Day! Did you know Earth Day is a Birthday? Just as we celebrate birthdays for people, Earth day is a day to celebrate the Earth. Earth Day was born on April 22, 1970, in San Francisco, California. Every year, America and over 100 different countries join together in the celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd. Earth Day is the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide. What better time to teach kids about our planet and how to care for it? It's important to teach children good habits, now, so they'll maintain them as they get older. Here are some Earth Day Children's Books for ages 4-8 you can read to encourage your kids to go green during Earth Day.

50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earthby Earth Works Group

The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books) by Alison Inches, Pete Whitehead

The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales (One World, One Planet) by Dawn Casey

A Clean Sky: The Global Warming Story by Robyn C. Friend: Judith L. Cohen, Lee Rathbone, David A. Katz

Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon

The Earth and I by Frank Asch

Earth Book for Kids: Activities to Help Heal the Environment by Linda Schwartz

Earth Day: An Alphabet Book by Gary Kowalski

Earth Day Birthday (Sharing Nature With Children Book) by Pattie L. Schnetzler

Earth Day--Hooray! (MathStart 3)by Stuart J. Murphy, Renee Andriani

Easy to Be Green: Simple Activities You Can Do to Save the Earth (Little Green Books) by Ellie O'Ryan, Ivanke & Lola

The Garbage Monster by Joni Sensel

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry

I Can Save the Earth!: One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (Little Green Books) by Alison Inches, Viviana Garofoli

It's Earth Day! (Little Critter) by Mercer Mayer

Lets Celebrate Earth Day by Peter Roop

The Lorax (Classic Seuss) by Dr. Seuss

Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel, Alexandra Colombo

Michael Recycle Meets Litterbug Doug by Ellie Bethel

The Polar Bears' Home: A Story About Global Warming (Little Green Books) by Lara Bergen, Vincent Nguyen

Recycle!: A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons

This Is My Planet: The Kids' Guide to Global Warming by Jan Thornhill

The Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle (What Do You Know About? Books) by Nuria Roca, Rosa M. Curto

Uno's Garden by Graeme Base

Water by Frank Asch

What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?: A Green Activity Book About Reuse by Ann Alter

Why Are the Ice Caps Melting?: The Dangers of Global Warming (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Anne Rockwell, Paul Meisel

Where Does the Garbage Go?: Revised Edition (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Paul Showers, Randy Chewning

Why Should I Protect Nature? (Why Should I?) by Jen Green, Mike Gordon

Why Should I Recycle? (Why Should I?) by Jen Green, Mike Gordon

Why Should I Save Energy? (Why Should I?) by Jen Green, Mike Gordon

Why Should I Save Water? (Why Should I?) by Jen Green, Mike Gordon

Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warmingby Jean Davies Okimoto


10 Ways to celebrate Earth Day with kids...

1. Plant a Tree: purchase trees through the National Arbor Day Foundation to be planted in honor of each child in your class. Print up a letter/document for each child telling them about the tree that was purchased on their behalf and how it will help our earth.

2. Clean Up and Beautify: Organize a project to clean up or beautify some area in your town. It could be at your school, or some other place.

3. Visit a local zoo or aquarium.

4. De-clutter your house and bring your old items to a donation center.

5. Go on a nature scavenger hunt.

6. Take a trip to your local farmer's market.

7. Reuse items for a craft project.

8. Feed the birds.

9. Garden.

10. Go car-free: walk or bike to school.

Visit these websites for great Earth Day ideas, crafts, games, etc...:

Kaboose-Find Earth day crafts, games, and fun of all types.

Earth Hour - A world-wide initiative to have households, businesses, and schools turn off their electricity for at least one hour to reduce the impact on global climate changes on Earth.

Earth's Birthday Project - Butterfly and Moth Activity teaching kit, adopt and acre of rainforest, and read about Earth's Birthday with the Zwibble Dibbles.

Earth Day Groceries Project - Increase awareness of Earth Day by making special Earth Day grocery bags for your supermarket. Good school project.

Teachers.net has an Earth Day discussion board where folks are posting ideas.

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22. Religious Diversity in relation to End-of-Year Celebrations

religious_diversityThe new issue of PaperTigers, focusing on Religious Diversity in relation to End-of-Year Celebrations, is now live.

The end of the year, when so many holy and secular days are observed and celebrated, reminds us of the importance of understanding and being respectful of how others in our communities engage with and
express their beliefs. Books play an essential role in helping children learn about differences (for instance, why some people celebrate different holidays, or the same holidays in different ways, while others don’t celebrate anything): but more than anything, books can help them realize that, while our individualities do matter, our common humanity matters even more.

We hope you will enjoy our new features, which focus on celebrating diversity while striving for a more encompassing and tolerant world for all our children, families and communities.

We will also be talking about religious diversity and end-of-year celebrations here on the blog this month, so we hope you will share your favorite books and experiences with us!

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23. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou

Amazing Peace: A Christmas PoemContinuing our exploration of respect in relation to end-of-year celebrations and inspired by Marjorie’s beautiful post on The Christmas Menorahs, today I highlight Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem (Schwartz & Wade, 2008).

Although written in a Christmas spirit, the poem’s resonance is far more broad, as it encourages one and all to “Come away from rancor. Come the way of friendship.” A sound piece of advice to humanity in this day and age when wars and conflicts still happen in the name of religion.

As seen in the excerpted verses below, her poem is a call for peace and unity:

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

These words go straight into the heart, don’t they?

Do you know of other books for children that speak of people from different faiths coming together during the holidays? Would you recommend them? Please do share so we can all learn about how others have “come the way of friendship.”

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24. Saint Patrick's Day Books

I grew up on an island in the Mediterranean where there were very few Irish people, or people of Irish decent for that matter, so (alas and alack) I did not really get to enjoy a St. Patrick's Day while I was growing up. After I left university I spent a summer in Dublin and grew very fond of the Irish people, their beautiful country, and their interesting history. I did not grow to love the damp Irish weather however. Then, when I moved to the U.S. I finally got to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, getting into the swing of things by donning green clothes, drinking green beer, and even baking Irish soda bread.

Since I started reviewing books I have come across a wonderful variety of children's books about Ireland and about St. Patrick's Day. You can look at the books I have reviewed in the Through the Looking Glass Saint Patrick's Day feature.  There are a variety of books in the collection for readers of all kinds. One in particular that I enjoyed was S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet. This is one of several alphabet books published by Sleeping Bear Press. It is the kind of book readers of almost any age - except the very young perhaps - can enjoy. Children (and adults) who read this book will find out many things about Ireland and about the Irish people.

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25. Happy Passover

Happy Passover and best wishes from Through the Looking Glass Book Review

You can view the books I have reviewed about Passover on the Through the Looking Glass Passover feature page.

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