Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Picks: Pete the Cat Saves Christmas

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Eric Litwin.  Illustrated by James Dean.  New York: Harper, 2012.

It's the day before Christmas, and Santa is sick!  Stuck in bed with a cold, will Christmas be cancelled?  Never!  Santa calls Pete the Cat to save the day.  Pete hops into his minibus for a "road trip" and delivers all the toys to boys and girls because you "give it your all, give it your all.  At Christmas we give, so give it your all."

This is another really cute book in the Pete the Cat series.  It's also a unique take on the "Night Before Christmas" story.  What makes it even better is the groovy song you can download from HarperCollins.  It makes reading the book aloud even better!  What is your favorite Pete the Cat book?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Picks: Funny Books for Grownups

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

I don't usually suggest adult books on this blog, but I'm making an exception this time.  I came across some Christmas books we have in our humor collection at the library, and I thought they would be fun to share with you.  You could use a laugh, right?

Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater
by Anne Marie Blackman and Brian Clark Howard
Philadelphia: Running Press, 2012

This hilarious book pays homage to the Christmas sweater.  Colorful, sometimes tacky and gaudy, you know you've seen some special ones.  Nowadays, many offices hold Ugly Christmas Sweater contests as part of their holiday celebrations.  This book is full of photographs complete with captions that will make you spit eggnog out of your mouth if you try to read this book while drinking.  I'm just saying, it could happen.  Funny stuff, this book.

Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland
by Denise Joyce and Nancy Watkins
New York: William Morrow, 2012

Up there with clowns on the terror factor for kids is...Santa!  Who knew?  This book is full of pictures of children in their full-blown "get me off the lap of this scary man" tantrum, while their parents click away with their cameras, capturing the "joy" for years to come.  The pictures say it all, but the captions make them funnier.  I love the variety of pictures through different generations.  The poor kids.  I shouldn't laugh, but I can't help myself.

Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets "Festive"
by Jen Yates
Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011

If you haven't heard about Cake Wrecks, you don't know what you are missing.  A popular website devoted to professional cakes that have gone wrong, wrong, wrong, it is funniness on a cake.  This book is a compilation of some of the author's favorite holiday cakes, starting with Thanksgiving and going through New Year's Day.  I love her captions.  They are spot-on, and I dare you to try not laughing when looking at some of these cake monstrosities.

What are some of your funniest holiday memories?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Picks: A Charlie Brown Christmas

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Dir. Bill Melendez.  Paramount, 2000.  DVD.

Originally broadcast on television in 1965, this heartwarming and funny cartoon written and created by Charles M. Schulz is the ultimate Christmas classic for me.  Featuring the gang from the Peanuts comic strip and a jazzy soundtrack composed and performed by Vince Guaraldi, it isn't Christmas until I've watched this cartoon.  Charlie Brown is having a predicament.  It's Christmas, and he's supposed to be happy, but he just isn't.  He feels the holiday is too commercial, and he doesn't know what the true meaning of it is.  Lucy decides if he directs the holiday play, that it will put him in the spirit of the season.  With the help of Linus, Charlie Brown and the gang remember what Christmas is all about.

I love, love, love this cartoon!  My favorite scene is Linus reciting the Christmas story from the Bible on stage.  I also love the little Christmas tree that Charlie Brown finds, and how the entire Peanuts gang helps decorate it for him.  And Snoopy.  Gotta love Snoopy and his antics.  This cartoon is a gem, and a must-see with your family.  Who is your favorite Peanuts character?

Holiday Picks: Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

By Robert Barry.  New York: A Doubleday Book for Young Readers, 2000.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree arrived by special delivery - it was fresh, it was full, and it was the biggest tree he'd ever seen.  Once it is put in the parlor, he realizes that it is too big - the top is bent!  So, the top is snipped off.  The top is presented to Miss Adelaide, the upstairs maid.  When she puts it on her table, it's too big, the top is bent, so she snips it off and puts it in the trash.  Timm, the gardener discovers it, and not wanting the little tree to be thrown out, takes it home.  But, his wife doesn't need to whole tree, so she cuts off the top and throws it out the window.  And so on, the top is snipped off until it's just right for a little family of mice.  "Oh, wasn't it grant to have a tree - exactly like Mr. Willowby?"

This adorable book is perfect to share with preschoolers.  They will love the repetition of the story line and seeing how the tree gets smaller and smaller, and how each family celebrates with their tree.  The illustrations are cute, and you can see the excitement when each character comes across the little tree.  What are some of your tree trimming traditions?

Holiday Picks: A Christmas Carol

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Charles Dickens.  Illustrated by Brett Helquist.  New York: Harper, 2009.

This classic holiday novel by Charles Dickens' is adapted to share with school-age children.  The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is shortened and beautifully illustrated, which makes it perfect for sharing with your family this holiday season.  Scrooge is all "Bah, Humbug!" about Christmas.  He is grouchy and grumbles about Christmas, and is very stingy with his money.  On Christmas Eve night, he is visited by the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future.  Seeing his life as it was and how it could be if he doesn't change his behavior, Scrooge receives a true insight into how his nature affects everyone around him.  Waking up Christmas morning, he is renewed with a joyful spirit and vows to make amends.  He becomes a better friend and master, and a better person because of it.

This beloved story is adapted quite well for a younger audience, giving them enough of the original story to make a great read aloud, without being too long to lose the attention of younger children.  The illustrations are vibrant, and full of beautiful details.  Kids will enjoy hearing this story.  Is this something you read each Christmas?

Holiday Picks: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Dir. Chuck Jones.  Warner Home Video, 2006.  DVD.

This is another one of my favorite holiday cartoons!  Originally broadcast on television in 1966 and based on the picture book, this is something I have to watch every December.  The Grinch is true to his name - grumpy, grouchy, and not a fan of Christmas.  He lives atop a mountain overlooking the town of Whoville, and every year has to endure their Christmas celebrations.  He decides to stop Christmas from coming and ruin the Who's Christmas by stealing their presents, decorations, candy and food for their Christmas dinner.  But, he discovers that Christmas is not all about presents and food.  It means a little bit more.  Be sure to share this classic with your family this Christmas season.  Do you have a favorite movie you "must" watch each Christmas?

Holiday Picks: Sad Santa

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

By Tad Carpenter.  New York: Sterling Children's Books, 2012.

It's December 26, and Santa has a case of the "ho-ho-hums."  He's sad because Christmas is over, and there are no more toys to make, or presents to wrap.  Everything is less cheery - the candy canes aren't as minty and the decorations aren't as twinkly.  The elves try to cheer up Santa, but nothing works, so they call in the boss - Mrs. Claus.  She decides a vacation is just the cure for the post-Christmas blues, but Santa still can't cheer up, until he receives a letter from a boy requesting things that would make his family happy next Christmas.  He remembers the real meaning of the holiday season is giving and caring, so vows to live each day like it is Christmas.

This is a worthwhile book to share with your children, especially if they are feeling some sadness that the holiday is over.  It's good to reiterate the real meaning of this holiday.  I love the illustrations!  They are done in red, aqua, brown and white, which stand out nicely against the grocery store brown paper that make up the pages.  Do you still celebrate Christmas after the holiday is over with?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Picks: Santa From Cincinnati

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Judi Barrett.  Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.  New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012.

This fun book tells the story of Baby Boy Claus born on December 25 in Cincinnati.  His parents named him Santa.  He was an only child, and grew up loving toys.  His father made all his toys in their basement workshop, and when Santa was older, he helped his father make toys (after his homework was done, of course).  Kids in the neighborhood put in requests for toys, and Santa and his father would make them.  One day, Santa realized he had more toys than he could ever play with, so on Christmas Eve he delivered a toy to each child in Cincinnati.  It was such a success, that when Santa got older, he decided to make it a full-time job.  He got married, found a nice workshop way up North, and hired some helpers to make toys.  Sound familiar?

This inventive tale is a clever take on the story of Santa Claus.  The illustrations have a nostalgic feel to them, full of soft edges.  Kids will love pouring over the details in the pictures.  They will also enjoy hearing the story of the boy who loved toys so much he decided to make a job giving them away to children.  Do you have a favorite Santa story?

Holiday Picks: Raffi's Christmas Album

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Raffi.  Rounder Records, 1983.  CD.

When it comes to children's music, artist Raffi is one of my go-tos, especially when looking for music for children's programs.  ("Shake My Sillies Out" is a storytime favorite.)  I just love his voice.  His Christmas album is delightful, and a perfect choice to share with your children.  Sick of the radio and it's repetitive holiday rotation?  Try some music CDs from the library, like this one.  Full of classic Christmas tunes like "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," it also includes less frequently played songs such as "Must Be Santa" (I love the repetition of this song, and how it builds with each verse) and "Petit Papa Noel."  I guarantee you'll be singing along to Raffi!  What is your favorite Christmas song?

Holiday Picks: Prep & Landing

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Dir. Kevin Deters.  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2011.  DVD.

Another favorite holiday cartoon of mine, this was originally broadcast on ABC in 2009, which is where I first saw it.  I immediately fell in love with the concept, the characters, and the repeatable catchphrases.  Prep & Landing is the name of an elite unit of high-tech elves, who make sure homes around the world are "prepped" for Santa's "landing" on Christmas Eve.  Wayne has been doing this job for 227 years, and is a little tired of it.  Upset after not receiving a promotion to Director of the Naughty List intelligence team, he is partnered with rookie elf Lanny in order to train him.  Lanny is young, optimistic, and thinks everything is "sooo tinsel!"  During their mission, Wayne decides to slack off a bit, and in doing so, he and Lanny encounter challenges that test their skills, while also potentially ruining Christmas for children.  But, with a little teamwork, can they help "The Big Guy" bring Christmas to kids everywhere?

I guarantee you will love this cartoon!  Full of fun characters and a great plot, this will be a holiday favorite for your family.  In 2011, ABC aired a second Christmas TV special, Prep & Landing: Naughty Vs. Nice, which is another winner!  I'm sure they will be re-aired this holiday season on television.  If you haven't seen them, "oh, frostbite!"  Check them out!  What are some of your favorite holiday television specials?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Picks: The Count's Hanukkah Countdown

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer.  Illustrated by Tom Leigh.  Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012.

Tonight marks the fourth night of Hanukkah, so here is another book to share with your children.  Who doesn't love Sesame Street and the Muppets?  In this book, the Count is the main character.  He loves to count numbers, and is very excited about the eight nights of Hanukkah, because eight is the perfect number.  The Count and Grover are invited to celebrate Hanukkah with Brosh and Avigail, and Brosh's aunt, uncle, and cousins.  He learns about the menorah and candles, the story of Hanukkah, eats latkes and jelly doughnuts, plays the dreidel game, and counts chocolate gelt.  Latkes, jelly doughnuts, it just me, or is anyone else hungry?

This book features characters from Shalom Sesame, which gives children and families an introduction to Jewish life and Israel.  Our library owns the DVD series, so be sure to check those out!  Children are encouraged to count along with the Count as the numbers are boldly displayed on the pages.  The illustrations are brights and colorful, accurately representing the Muppets.  What is your favorite Muppet character?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Picks: Eight Winter Nights

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Laura Krauss Melmed.  Illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg.  San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010.

Tonight is the third night of Hanukkah.  Here's another picture book you can share with your family.  This book joyfully depicts a family celebrating the eight nights of Hanukkah.  They light the candles, sing songs and dance, play the dreidel game, visit with family, and eat lots of latkes!  The illustrations are done in warm colors, full of soft edges and features, which adds to the coziness of this family story.  The book is written in rhyming verses, which makes it great for sharing with younger children who love to listen to a good story!  It can also serve as a counting book, as each night of Hanukkah is described.  What are some of your family's Hanukkah traditions?

Holiday Picks: Jeremy's Dreidel

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Ellie Gellman.  Illustrated by Maria Mola.  Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012.

At a dreidel-making workshop at the local Jewish Community Center, Jeremy decides to make a dreidel as a surprise for someone.  As the other children are busily choosing recycled materials to make theirs, Jeremy chooses clay.  He rolls and molds it into the shape he wants.  The other children become curious after Jeremy molds tiny dots onto one side of his dreidel.  He tells them the dots are Braille, a way of reading for blind people, and that his surprise dreidel is for his dad, who is blind.

This is a great book to share with your kids during Hanukkah for several reasons.  First, the book discusses the history of the dreidel, how it is played with on Hanukkah, and the religious and historical significance of Hanukkah.  Second, it gives you craft ideas for how to make dreidels out of recycled materials.  It also includes instructions for the dreidel game and a fun project.  Who doesn't love crafts?  Lastly, it provides an accessible portrayal of blindness in a contemporary setting that kids can understand, from a kid's point of view.  I think it handles certain challenges well.  For instance, Jeremy gets impatient with all his friends' questions and assumptions about blindness.  He also gets upset when his art teacher wants to put his dreidel in a glass display case (she changes her mind once she sees how upset he is), because he wants his dad to be able to play with and touch the dreidel.  Overall, a positive book to share with children during Hanukkah.  Will you be playing the dreidel game? 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holiday Picks: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Jane Yolen.  Illustrated by Mark Teague.  New York: The Blue Sky Press, 2012.

Tonight marks the first night of Chanukah.  I'm looking forward to eating latkes.  Fried potato pancakes.  Need I say more?  I'm not Jewish, but I do have Irish heritage, and have never met a potato I didn't love.  But, I digress.  Here's a fun picture book to share with your kids.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague published two holiday books this year in their highly popular dinosaur series.  This one is about Chanukah.

Does a dinosaur misbehave on Chanukah nights when the holiday lights are being lit?  Does he fidget through the prayer?  Sneak a peek at presents hidden under the bed?  Gather up all the gelt, and squeeze the chocolate coins until they melt?  No, dinosaurs don't.  He takes turn playing with the dreidel, eats all his latkes, and helps clean up, like a good dinosaur.  Kids will love looking at all the pictures of the different types of dinosaurs and giggling at their naughty behaviors.  Hopefully, they won't act those out!  Happy Chanukah to all my Jewish friends!  How will you celebrate this year?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Picks: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Clement C. Moore.  Illustrated by Kat Whelan.  Wilton, CT: Tiger Tales, 2010.

The night before Christmas, everyone is asleep in bed, the children and parents.  Hearing noises on the front lawn, the father looks out and sees Santa riding through the air on the sled led by reindeer.  Santa lands on the roof, shimmies down the chimney, and distributes gifts.  When his work is finished, he goes back up the chimney to his sleigh and off into the air to the next house exclaiming "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

This classic Christmas poem gets a boost by the illustrations.  Instead of people, mice are the characters in this story, even Santa!  Thick pages full of glittery touches add a special feel to this timeless story.  Children will enjoy exploring the pictures for the glittery snow and looking at all the details.  Will you be reading this poem to your family this Christmas?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Picks: Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Dir. Jim Henson.  Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, 2001.  DVD.

Originally released in 1977, and based on the children's book by Russell and Lillian Hoban, this movie is a Christmas classic and a "must view" in my opinion.  This movie tells the story of Mrs. Otter and her son Emmet, who struggle to make ends meet.  They get by on money Ma makes from doing laundry, and from what Emmet makes doing odd jobs around their home of Frogtown Hollow.  Despite their hardships, their house is full of love and music.  This Christmas, they both dream of having enough money to buy each other a special gift.  Without the other knowing, Ma and Emmet enter a talent contest in hopes of winning the $50 prize.  For the contest, Emmet teams up with some of his friends to form the Frogtown Jubilee Jug Band, and Ma performs a solo, but they face tough competition from a hard rock band called the Riverbottom Nightmare Band.

Hands down, this is my all-time favorite Christmas movie.  I love it so, mainly for sentimental reasons and that it features Muppets!  I grew up on Fraggle Rock, and always had a fondness for movies featuring the Muppets.  I remember watching this as a kid, and loving the beautiful voice of Mrs. Otter and the earnestness of her son, Emmet.  I love the songs "There Ain't No Hole in the Washtub" and "Where the River Meets the Sea."  The story line is sweet, sincere, and perfect for sharing with your children.  What are some of your favorite classic holiday movies?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Picks: How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Jane Yolen.  Illustrated by Mark Teague.  New York: The Blue Sky Press, 2012.

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague's series of dinosaur books are a hit at my library, and their latest ones do not disappoint (more on the second book in another post)!  So, how does a dinosaur behave on Christmas Eve?  Does he refuse to go to bed?  Does he sneak a peek at what is under the tree?  Does he eat the cookies left out for Santa?  No, of course not!  This dinosaur is very well behaved, decorating the tree, helping to clean up dinner dishes, kissing his grandparents good night, and going right to sleep.  Full of humor, I think a lot of families can relate to some of the antics exhibited by those naughty dinosaurs.  But, at the end of the story, there is a gentle message about how great it is to be a good dinosaur.  This is a great choice to share with toddlers and preschoolers.  How will your little dinosaurs say Merry Christmas?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Picks: It's A SpongeBob Christmas!

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

SpongeBob SquarePants.  Nickelodeon, 2012.  DVD.

Channeling a Rankin-Bass production, this SpongeBob Christmas episode is done entirely in stop motion animation.  Patchy the Pirate is driving a mail truck along with his trusty sidekick Potty the Parrot when his mail truck gets stuck on a fork in the road, causing a flat tire, and their truck to break down.  (If you've seen the classic 1970 television special "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," you may notice the similarity to Fred Astaire's character Special Delivery "S.D." Kluger.)  So, Patchy decides to check in with Bikini Bottom and see what SpongeBob is up to for Christmas.

SpongeBob is so excited about Christmas, and he can't wait to  share his cheer with everyone.  Unfortunately, Plankton is his usual grouchy, evil self, because he always get coal from Santa.  He comes up with a way to ruin Christmas by lacing fruitcake with a new element, Jerktonium.  Anyone who eats the fruitcake will become a jerk.  He tries it out on SpongeBob, but it doesn't affect him.  So, Plankton creates an evil robot SpongeBob to ruin SpongeBob's good name.  SpongeBob feed the fruitcake to all of Bikini Bottom, not knowing its side effects, and everyone becomes a jerk.  Eventually, SpongeBob discovers the way to reverse the effects is to sing a song, "Don't Be a Jerk (It's Christmas)."

You've got to love SpongeBob!  He's so full of cheer and happiness, that he'll put you in a good mood.  And, the fact that the writers and producers made the episode a homage to classic Christmas specials is a plus.  You'll love the silly songs, and the message that it's not okay to be a jerk at Christmas.  What are some of your favorite holiday cartoons or specials?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Picks: Just Right for Christmas

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written by Birdie Black.  Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw.  Somerville, MA: Nosy Crow, 2011.

This book celebrates homemade gifts, and using what you can find.  On Christmas Eve, the king finds a big roll of beautiful red cloth that is "Christmassy" and "just right" for his daughter.  He commissions a beautiful cloak be made for her.  The scraps of extra cloth are put outside the door, where Jenny, the kitchen maid finds them.  She decides those scraps would be "just right" for a jacket for her ma.  After snipping and sewing, she made a pretty jacket, and put the leftover scraps outside her door.  Bertie Badger comes across the scraps and decides they would be "just right" for a hat for his pa.  After he snips and sews a hat together, he leaves the scraps outside where Samuel Squirrel finds them.  They would be "just right" for a pair of gloves for his wife.  The leftover scrap of fabric flies to the ground where Milly Mouse discovers it while out looking for a nut to give Billy.  But, the little scrap is "just right" for a warm scarf for Billy.  And, on Christmas morning, everyone opens their homemade present which is "so soft and red and Christmassy and felt just right...just how Christmas should feel."  Awww!  This is an adorable book about the love and care that goes into homemade gifts.  It's fun to see how each character uses what they find to create something meaningful for their loved one.  What kinds of homemade crafts will you make this season?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Picks: Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

Written and illustrated by Selina Alko.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Sometimes it's hard to remember this time of year is not all about Christmas.  Hanukkah is celebrated also, and this picture book is a great choice for families that celebrate both traditions.  Sadie is a mixture of two traditions, Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama.  This book joyfully describes how her family decorates for the holidays, sings songs, and cooks and bakes, while incorporating both of Mom and Dad's traditions into their planning.  The whole family gets together for a meal and to exchange presents, and talk about the meaning and significance of Christmas and Hanukkah.  What family traditions will you celebrate this year?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Picks: The Christmas Quiet Book

With snow in the forecast, temperatures dropping, and people digging out their mittens and hats, it's officially December!  Enjoy a holiday pick each day before Christmas.

By Deborah Underwood.  Illustrated by Renata Liwska.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012.

Christmas is a busy, and noisy, time of year.  With the music, shopping, cookies, visits from family and friends, presents, and did I mention cookies, it's a joyful and exciting time of year.  But, sometimes it's nice to stop, be still, and enjoy the quiet moments.  This beautiful picture book shows us some of those quiet moments - snuggling under warm blankets, enjoying a cup of cocoa, and marveling at the beauty of a tree full of lights.  The illustrations are done in warm, muted colors that fit perfectly with the quiet mood of the book.  This is a wonderful book to share one-on-one with your children during this holiday season.  What quiet moments will you enjoy this Christmas?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem

By Rosalyn Schanzer.  Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2011.

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I'd get into the spirit by reading a seasonal-themed book, and a non-fiction one at that!  Cue the scary music!  I know, non-fiction can seem scary, especially when a child has a choice between that or a Captain Underpants book.  But, there are some awesome non-fiction books available for kids, and they aren't boring, and they read like an awesome fiction book!  Shocking, I know.  In the past couple of weeks, I seem to be focused on our children's non-fiction collection and highlighting some great titles.  More about that later.  Let's talk about witches.

Most people have heard about the Salem Witch Trials.  But, did you know the details about how it started and what happened as a result?  This story takes place in 1692 in the small town of Salem Town, Massachusetts, which is made up of Puritan settlers.  One night, two young girls begin twitching and contorting their bodies and speaking in nonsense words.  A physician declares them "under an Evil Hand" and so begins the "witch hunt."  Very soon, accusers begin falsely blaming other members of the community of practicing witchcraft.  People were sent to jail, and officials began holding "trials" using no physical evidence, just solely taking the word of the accusers.  Soon after, many victims were sentenced to death and a mass hysteria had taken over the small town.  Eventually, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts put an end to the arrests and released people still in jail.  The trials were over.  But, would the community ever be the same?

This book reads like a thriller!  Its chronological pace allows the reader to become immediately interested in the story to its conclusion (I know I was...I read this book in a couple of hours because I was eager to find out what happened).  Even if you are aware of the Salem Witch Trials, you may not know the entire story and details, and this book provides them in a way where you don't realize you are learning vital information about this period in history.  You're just reading a great story!  I think that aspect will get kids excited and engaged in this book.

I mentioned earlier our library's non-fiction collection for kids, and thinking of ways to promote it to our patrons.  This inspiration came from some recent workshops I attended about using informational texts to support the common core state standards.  I'm not a school librarian or a teacher, so I don't have to concern myself with using the common core in a classroom or library class.  But, as a public librarian, my job is to guide parents and children to great materials that are fun to read, while providing different sources of information.  My understanding of the common core is to give kids access to non-fiction with different perspectives, so this book would be great paired with another informational book, The Salem Witch Trials: an Unsolved Mystery From History by Jane Yolen.  And, you could give them one of the books in the Dear America series, I Walk in Dread: the Diary of Deliverance Trembley, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials by Lisa Rowe Fraustino.  These books will surely provide you with some great stories and facts.  Get in the Halloween spirit, and check these out today at the library!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Preschool Storytime: Monsters!

'Tis Halloween season, and at my library that means it's time for Monster Storytime!  I adore this theme for many reasons.  The main one being there are so many picture books to choose from, and each year I get to share new ones.  Another reason is I get to be sillier than I usually am, making funny monster noises and faces.  Can you believe I get paid for that?  So here is what I did today with my 3-6 year olds.  Check out these monster books, and many more, at the library today!

Your Pal Mo Willems Presents Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems.  New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2005.
Leonardo is a terrible monster - he can't seem to frighten anyone!  So, he comes up with a plan to find the perfect little boy and scare the tuna salad out of him!  Will he succeed?

If You're a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley; illustrated by Ed Emberley.  New York: Orchard Books, 2010.
Monsters sing their own version of this popular song that encourages everyone to express their happiness through singing and pretending you're a monster.

Monster Mash by David Catrow.  New York: Orchard Books, 2012.
In this illustrated version of the classic novelty song, a mad scientist's monster performs a new dance which becomes "the hit of the land" when the scientist throws a party for other monsters.

Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere.  New York: Henry Holt, 2012.
A hungry monster seeks a different type of bedtime snack.

Instead of reading the book, I showed the DVD version of Leonardo the Terrible Monster, and the kids loved it.  It's a good way to freshen up your storytime, and the kids always seem excited that we're watching a movie.  It is included on Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and more stories by Mo Willems, produced by Scholastic Storybook Treasures (if you aren't aware of this marvelous DVD series, check them out today).

Monster, Monster
(tune: "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear")
Monster, monster, turn around.
Monster, monster, touch the ground.
Monster, monster, reach up high.
Monster, monster, squint your eyes.
Monster, monster, show your teeth.
Monster, monster, stamp your feet.

Horns, Fangs, Knees, and Claws
(tune: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes")
Horns and fangs, knees and claws, knees and claws.
Horns and fangs, knees and claws, knees and claws.
Eyes and ears, and tail and paws.
Horns and fangs, knees and claws, knees and claws.
(source:  Youth Literature)

Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
The kids really enjoyed this!  Thankfully, I had enough pieces for everyone to "help" me tell the story.  They love putting the pieces on the felt board, and I feel like it makes it all the more interactive.  I found the template for making this at

We made Monster Masks.  This craft came from Sarah at Awesome Storytime.  The kids really enjoyed it, and I was grateful to find an easy craft that allowed kids to showcase their creativity and monster-rificness!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Itsy Mitsy Runs Away

By Elanna Allen.  New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.

"Have you met Itsy Mitsy?  She's the little girl who really, really, for real (I'm not even joking) doesn't like...BEDTIME!"

What kid loves it?  This is a cute story of a little girl who dislikes bedtime so much, she decides to run away.  As you can imagine, running away is a pretty big deal, and Itsy Mitsy soon discovers it isn't as easy as she thought.  With her Dad's help, she makes sure to pack her favorite pet, food for her pet, someone to guard her against the bedtime beasties, and a nightlight.  When her Dad suggests something to plug the light into, well, her entire house had to come, too.  She's all ready to go and Dad waves her off, reminder her to mow the lawn.  Mow the lawn?!  That's a grown-up job, so Itsy Mitsy packs up good old Dad, and off they go running away.  She finds a perfect spot where there is no bedtime ever and....falls asleep!

Kids will enjoy this illogical bedtime tale.  I mean, running away from bedtime?  That's an awesome concept.  I mean, that's bad (sorry, child in me is taking over the responsible adult part of me).  The illustrations are done in pencil with digital color, which gives a softness to the characters and setting.  Itsy Mitsy's facial expressions are very detailed, and you can see her determination to run away, and Dad's tactics to keep her home.  By the end of the story, Mitsy has everything she needs piled up on her wagon, and you can tell father and daughter had a fun adventure.  Check this out at the library today!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

By Mo Willems.  New York: Balzer + Bray, 2012.

"Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway."

I know what you're thinking: wait a minute, I know this story!  But I don't remember any dinosaurs.  That's because this delightful picture book take a different approach to a classic fairy tale.  One day, these dinosaurs decide to make their beds, arrange their chairs, and cook three bowls of delicious chocolate pudding, for no particular reason.  Then, they decide to leave and go "someplace else" and while they are gone, they really hope no innocent child stops by their unlocked home while they are gone.  Wink, wink.  If you know the story, of course a little girl named Goldilocks happens upon the house of the dinosaurs.  She eats the chocolate pudding, and then tired and full, decides to take a nap.  But the chairs are too big, and so are the beds.  She exclaims "the bears that live here must be nuts!"  Then, she takes a closer look at her surroundings and realizes this isn't some bear's house, it's some dinosaur's house, and high tails it out of the back door just as the dinosaurs barge through the front door.  No yummy, chocolate filled little girl for the dinosaurs.  And the story ends with a moral: "if you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave."  As for the dinosaurs, the moral is "lock the back door!"

I am a huge fan of Mo Willems, and enjoy sharing his books at storytime.  This is another gem.  The illustrations are fantastic.  My favorite is the Norwegian dinosaur maniacally laughing.  Have your kids take a close look and they will see one of his famous characters in the pages.  But the real winner is the storyline.  I was laughing so much, which is a true sign of an awesome picture book, in my humble opinion.  Hey, if the adults love it, it makes sharing it all the better.  And if you're looking for ideas to use with the book, check out HarperCollins website for downloadable activities.  We just got this at our library, so check it out!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beach Feet

By Kiyomi Konagaya.  Illustrated by Masamitsu Saito.  New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2012.

One of the joys of summer is going to the beach.  No matter if you are young or old, the pull of water and sand just makes you happy, and this book is a beautiful representation of that.  A young boy visits the beach and quickly runs through the sand to get to the water, but "ouch" that sand is hot, so he kicks off his sandals. As he runs towards the ocean, his independence and joy are very evident.  With his floatie tube around his waist, he excitedly explores the beach and ocean with his feet, including shells on the ocean floor and the cool feel of the water and waves.  The illustrations are magnificent and they truly demonstrate the young boy's happiness at being at the beach.  The text also perfectly matches the age of the boy with simple statements that toddlers and preschoolers can relate to.  I can't think of a better book to share with someone this summer!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen

By Donna Gephart.  New York: Delacorte Press, 2012.

Twelve year old Olivia Bean loves trivia!  Her head is full of facts and tidbits.  It's not surprising that her favorite television show is Jeopardy! and she never misses an episode.  The only subject she struggles with is geography.  No matter how much she studies, she just can't remember names of cities and countries.  Even so, she has the opportunity to try out for Kids Week on Jeopardy! and she goes for it.  After interviews and a mock game, she finds out she's made the list of finalists.  The show is taped in California, which is where her dad has lived for the past two years since he left the family.  Will Olivia win Jeopardy! and will she re-connect with her dad?

At first glance, it appears that this book is all about trivia questions and game shows.  To a point, it is.  But, what I really appreciated about this story was the back story of what Olivia has been going through the past two years.  Her father is a gambler, and from snippets revealed in conversations Olivia has with him over the phone where is so eager to end the conversation so he can make it to the tables, he has quite the addiction.  But, to Olivia, he is dad and she loves and misses him and wishes he were home.  She doesn't understand why he left her, her little brother, and mom to run off with her best friend Nikki's mom and take Nikki with them.  She doesn't understand why her mom has a new live-in boyfriend Neil.  As Olivia struggles with her feelings about her new life situation, she comes to realize who is important in her life and what defines a family.  This is a wonderful book, especially for a reluctant reader, because the chapters are very short and begin with a question just like Jeopardy! which the reader should have the answer to at the end of each chapter.  Also, you learn some fun trivia, too!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak

It's a sad day for lovers of children's literature.  Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak died today at age 83.  He wrote one of my favorite books, Where The Wild Things Are, when read at storytimes inevitably causes children to break out into "a wild rumpus."  Read his obituary here.  He will be sorely missed.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Why We Broke Up

Written by Daniel Handler.  Illustrations by Maira Kalman.  New York:  Little, Brown and Company, 2011.

If you couldn't tell by the title, this is the story of a breakup.  It tells the story of Min Green, a teenager who is trying to recover from her first heartbreak.  The story is told through a long letter Min is writing to her ex-boyfriend Ed Slaterton listing the reasons why they broke up.  She is also on the way to Ed's house to deliver a box filled with mementos of their relationship.  Each book chapter (and section of the letter) focuses on a particular item in the box and how that item played a part in their relationship and subsequent break up.  Min loves old films and movie stars and Italian coffee shops.  Ed is the popular jock at school who secretly is really good at math.  Despite their differences, they are attracted to each other and begin a relationship.  Each item in the box chronicles their relationship, from the beer bottle tops at the party where they met, to a comb from the hotel where they stayed.  At the end of the story, Min will literally dump these items on Ed's doorstep, as a girlfriend is dumped.

I enjoyed the format of this book.  The letter writing style gives the reader an intimate look into Min and Ed's relationship, and also Min's thoughts and feelings.  The inclusion of the items really involved me in the story, because I wanted to find out what went wrong.  When I did find out, all I can say is, I was one angry girl.  I really felt for Min and her infatuation, and her heartbreak as she discovers her first love is not meant to be.  This book was a Honor Book for the 2012 Printz Award, and well deserving.  Check this one out!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Crafty Chloe

Written by Kelly DiPucchio.  Illustrations by Heather Ross.  New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Chloe doesn't enjoy sports, video games, or ballet.  What she does enjoy are crafts!  She loves creating things and she's really good at sewing.  While out shopping for a present for her best friend Emma, Chloe comes across the perfect doll for her.  The problem is London, Chloe's unkind classmate, has also purchased the same doll for Emma.  So what can Chloe do?  She decides to make something for Emma.  But what?  The doll was the perfect gift.  After much thinking, Chloe gets some ideas, and works late into the night making something special for her best friend, but she worries whether Emma will like it.  The next day as she is walking to Emma's house, Chloe sees London trip and fall, spilling the doll into the mud.  London's dog decides to play tug of war with the doll's clothes, and it rips.  Chloe shares the present she made for Emma - a beautiful purple dress for her new doll - with London, and the girls enjoy the rest of the party.  Oh, and Emma absolutely loves Chloe's homemade present - a bed for her new doll.

Any child who loves making things will enjoy this book.  It's such a sweet story of being true to yourself and sharing your talents with others.  I adore the illustrations.  They are colorful, and full of expressive details.  One of my favorites is of Chloe's mother, bleary-eyed, looking for coffee filters to make coffee, only to discover Chloe is wearing them on her head, because she used all of them to make a hat.  Children will surely find some craft ideas of their own in this book.  And, if they want to learn how to make the crafts in this book, visit for details.  Share this book with your crafty kids today!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Another Brother

By Matthew Cordell.  New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2012.

Let's face it: when you're an only child, you get lots of attention from mom and dad.  What happens when a little brother or sister comes along?  You don't get the undivided attention you are used to.  That's Davy the sheep's story.  He had mom and dad all to himself for four years.  Then, his brother Petey arrived.  Suddenly, things aren't the way they used to be.  And, to make matters worse, Davy gets 11 more brothers: Mike, Stu, Mickey, Carl, Pip, Ralph, Tate, Lenny, Gil, Ned, and Bob.  And what do younger siblings do?  They love to copy you!  Isn't being a big brother the best?  After a while, his brothers stop copying his every movement, and Davy misses the attention and being all alone.  One day, though, Davy lets out a big yawn, and hears a yawn from the other room.  Then, he sings a song and hears another voice singing the same song.  Is it another brother?  No, a sister!

This book is great to share with big brothers or sisters who are learning to cope with having a new sibling.  It's also downright funny!  The illustrations are very detailed yet simple enough for a child to point out details.  I love, love, love the facial expressions of the sheep.  And the suffering Davy endures as his brothers copy his every movement reminded me of growing up as the oldest child with my sister wanting to do everything I did.  This is a wonderful story to share with your kids.  Be sure to check it out!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

One Cool Friend

By Toni Buzzeo.  Illustrations by David Small.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Young Elliot is a very proper, well-mannered boy.  He wears a suit complete with bow tie.  He says "please" and "thank you."  One day while at the zoo with his father, he visits the penguin exhibit.  He is very taken with these animals, so he asks his father if he may have one.  Thinking Elliot means a stuffed animal, his father agrees and gives him some money.  Elliot takes a small penguin and puts it in his backpack.  He names it Magellan (after the explorer), and sets up his room to take care of him.  He even goes to the library to do research on Magellan.  All is going well, and his father doesn't suspect a thing, until Elliot draws a bath for Magellan, and his father decides to take a soak at the same time!  Thankfully, his father knows a thing or two about unusual pets, since he has Captain Cook.  You'll have to read this story to find out who Captain Cook is.

This is a wonderful, hilarious story about finding the right pet.  David Small's pen and ink illustrations show great details in facial expressions and give the story such depth.  One of my favorite details is the little girl running out of the Hands-on Tide Pool Exhibit with a crab attached to her finger.  Small details such as that make this a great story for sharing with children.  Early on, visual clues will help children guess what animal Elliot's father loves.  This is one cool story.  Check it out today!