Books about upcoming holidays provide anticipatory excitement and activities for children. These new releases will help kids weather December school days and look forward to holiday celebrations.
*"Santa, Please Bring Me a Gnome," by An Swerts; illustrations by Eline van Lindenhuizen; Clavis New York; 28 pages; $17.99
This homey, whimsical story, translated to English from Dutch, introduces young Tess, who just wants a gnome friend for Christmas. Grandma and Grandpa help her build dollhouse furniture and sew gnome clothing, and Tess leaves an orange slice out for him. But when Christmas morning comes, there isn’t a gnome downstairs. What Tess finds instead is a hamster alongside a letter from Santa explaining that Gerard the Gnome was packed and ready to go until he rescued a scared hamster that needed a home.
The story sweetly and lovingly depicts a child who doesn't get her wish but instead receives a real, living friend: a pet she can care for better than a gnome. Young children will enjoy the happy ending and the funny rounded illustrations.
*"Jingle Bells," by Susan Jeffers; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99
The classic song "Jingle Bells" has been sung time and time again. What makes Susan Jeffers' new picture book different is her lively winter scenes, large emboldened text, hidden animals and silent side stories on every page. A girl, a boy, a pony and a mischievous dog journey to Grandma's house, and the dog often jumps out of the sleigh to interact with hidden creatures. The group encounters reindeer, a wily fox and numerous other white animals hidden in the white brush and snow. And then they find Santa (Grandpa?), who pirouettes on ice with Grandma.
This "Jingle Bells" is a perfect, jolly holiday picture book with lots to gaze upon. It also includes a quiz about which animals to find.
*"Gift Boxes to Decorate and Make Christmas," by Sarah Walsh; Nosy Crow/Candlewick Press; 50 pages; $15.99
Engaging children in holiday preparations and decorations is a fun way for them to help. This big sturdy book of 24 uncolored cardstock boxes to cut out, fold and color lets kids be more involved in the giving aspect of Christmas. Sarah Walsh's artsy, folksy scenes feature gingerbread people, reindeer, ornaments, stockings, owls and other wintry, nonreligious but homey holiday images.
Youngsters will find pride in their gift-giving creations by personalizing the sparkling stickers and writing their name in the "Colored for you by ...” section on each box.
Also from Nosy Crow, "Make & Play Christmas" by Joey Chou includes colorful, very sturdy play pieces so children can make ornaments of angels, snowmen, trees, gingerbread people and other Christmas items. There are also songs and instructions for paper chains, snowball truffles and wrapping paper in this creative activity book.
*"Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas," by Pamela Ehrenberg; pictures by Anjan Sarkar; 32 pages; $14.99
"Making Indian food that my mom ate as a kid for a Jewish holiday that my dad grew up with -- that was a lucky combination," explains a boy with a mixed-race family and an overactive little sister as they prepare for Hanukkah. The only time little Sadie will stop climbing things is when her brother sings, "I had a little dosa; I made it out of dai" while their family cooks for the holiday.
This zesty, funny multicultural story has so many layers: sibling relationships, the smells and love of cooking together, a lovely look at ethnicities and the all-encompassing family joy of the holidays. "Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas" even adds a surprise twist at the end as Sadie's incessant climbing saves the day.
Recipes for dosas and sambar are included at the end of the book.
*"Bear's Merry Book of Hidden Things," by Gergely Dudas; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $14.99
Bear really loves Christmas but needs lots of help to get ready for his party. He needs help locating items within busy, colorful scenes of a market, a crowd of gingerbread cookies, a page of presents, holiday birds in hats, a poinsettia page and a penguin gaggle. Readers search the crowded pages for things needed -- a mug of hot cocoa among the penguins, a shy turtledove hiding among snowmen, a sparkly star in a group of festive foxes. The scenes aren't quite as small or busy as "Where's Waldo?" but are perfect for smaller kids and those who want to get to the funny finale: Bear exhausted on his bed.
"Bear's Merry Book of Hidden Things" is a laugh a minute.
Lee Littlewood's column, "Kids' Home Library," can be found at www.creators.com.