Holidays and Festivals
Chris Van Allsburg (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Theme: Christmas
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a wonderful classic children's book for the Christmas holiday. On Christmas Eve, a boy, narrator of the story, boards the Polar Express, a mysterious train that is headed for the North Pole. He finds the Polar Express is full of children who are having fun singing Christmas carols and eating candies. The children finally arrive at the North Pole, where Christmas toys are made. The boy is picked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas, and he asks for a silver bell from Santa's sleigh. Our narrator gets his wish and the Polar Express takes him home, but his bell is nowhere to be seen. To his great joy, the boy finds his lost bell under the tree on Christmas morning. Chris Van Allsburg's Caldecott Medal award-winning illustrations are soothing and enchanting; it gives a heart-warming feel to the Christmas tale. The Polar Express is a good picture book for children in kindergarten through third grade.
Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction - Fantasy Books; Book Theme: Christmas
Christmas in Camelot by Mary Pope Osborne, the 29th book of the popular Magic Tree House series, is a fast-paced and easy-to-read early chapter book that can serve as a good introduction to the fantasy genre. Jack and Annie, the two characters familiar to the readers of the Magic Tree House series, receive an invitation to spend Christmas in Camelot. After they get there, Morgan le Fay tells the children that there are no Christmas celebrations this year, as Camelot is under the evil spell of Dark Wizard Mordred. The Christmas Knight arrives to inform King Arthur that he needs to send people to the Otherworld to bring back the Water of Memory and Imagination to restore joy to Camelot. Jack and Annie embark on a magical quest that includes three rhymes for clues, a white stag, winged dancers, and fire-breathing Keepers of the Cauldron. Christmas in Camelot appeals to children in second grade and third grade.
Charles Dickens (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction; Book Theme: Christmas
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is a great classic Christmas story that has delighted readers for generations. The main character of this holiday classic is Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted and mean-spirited old man. Scrooge is such a stingy miser that he demands his clerk come in early the next day after reluctantly granting him Christmas Day off. When his nephew Fred comes to say Merry Christmas and invite him to a Christmas dinner, Scrooge replies with "Bah Humbug". He has absolutely no Christmas spirit, and even scares away a boy who sings him a Christmas carol. After returning to his apartment on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley, then by three Christmas spirits. The Ghost of Christmas Past leads Scrooge to revisit those Christmas days during his childhood and during his apprenticeship with Mr. Fezziwig. The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to the homes of his clerk Bob Crotchets and his nephew where they are having jolly Christmas celebrations. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him what a bleak future is in for him if he does not change his ways. By Christmas morning, Scrooge has undergone a dramatic change. He becomes kind, generous and eager to share his Christmas spirit with everyone, including Mr. Crotchets' disabled son Tiny Tim. Charles Dickens' Scrooge is one of the most memorable characters in English literature. "A Christmas Carol" appeals to teens and adults.
Linda Williams, Megan Lloyd (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Themes: Emotions and Feelings, Halloween
"The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything" by Linda Williams is a great Halloween story although it doesn't have the word Halloween anywhere in the texts. A brave old lady walks home through a dark forest. She comes across two big shoes, a pair of pants, a shirt, two gloves and a hat. Each time, the little old lady tells them she is not afraid of anything. Then after a scary orange pumpkin head appears, the old lady runs all way home. Once at home, she overcomes her fear and finds a happy solution. The items that have tried to scare her become a scarecrow in the little old lady's garden. The picture book makes good use of attention-grabbing sound words, such as "clomp clomp", "shake, shake" and "clap, clap". Megan Lloyd's lively and detailed illustrations show the old lady's emotions and complement the story well. It is a good picture book for read aloud to children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade.
Erica Silverman, S.D. Schindler (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Themes: Witches, Halloween, Pumpkin
"Big Pumpkin" by Erica Silverman is a funny Halloween story that will delight children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade. A witch wants to make pumpkin pie, so she plants a pumpkin seed. The pumpkin grows so big that the witch cannot yank it from the vine. Some traditional Halloween characters come to help, but neither the ghost, nor the vampire, nor the mummy can make it budge. Finally a bat comes up with a good idea. They line up and pull together. Off comes the big pumpkin. The colorful illustrations by S.D. Schindler is a little spooky but not scary. With predictable rhyming texts, the picture book is good for reading aloud. Kids can also see the value of cooperation and teamwork.
Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Historical Fiction; Book Themes: Pilgrims and Indians, Thanksgiving Stories
"Thanksgiving on Thursday" by Mary Pope Osborne is an easy-to-read chapter book that makes learning the history of thanksgiving fun and interesting. In their magic tree house, 8-year old Jack and 7-year-old Annie travel back to 1621, the year when pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the New Plymouth Colony. They meet early settlers such as Governor Bradford and Captain Standish, and Squanto, a Wampanoag Indian. The Pilgrim girl Priscilla Mullins takes them home and shows them how to cook a turkey. Their lack of understanding of some of the vocabulary words used by the early settlers makes for a few lighted-hearted moments. When the Thanksgiving feast is over, Jack and Annie return home in their magic tree house. After witnessing the pilgrims' life, they realize they have much to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving story appeals to children in second grade and third grade.
Lucy Cousins (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Themes: Animals, Christmas
"Maisy's Snowy Christmas Eve" is another delightful Maisy book by Lucy Cousins. It's snowing hard on Christmas Eve. Maisy the mouse invites her friends to come to her house for a Christmas celebration. Cyril comes on snowshoes, Charley and Tallulah by sled. Eddie the elephant walks and get stuck in the snow. Maisy and her friends go out to search for the elephant and pull him out of the snow. Then they sing Christmas carols and have a great Christmas Eve together. The bright illustrations by Lucy Cousins appeal to toddlers and preschoolers.
Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Themes: Animals, Witches, Halloween, Rhyming Stories
"Room on the Broom" by Julia Donaldson is a fun picture book to read aloud around Halloween time or any time of the year. A witch and a cat are flying on a broomstick. The wind blows and the witch loses her hat, then her bow, and then her wand. Each time, an animal picks up her lost item and asks if there is room on the broom for him. The generous witch always says yes. The added weight finally snaps the broom in two and the witch encounters a mean dragon. Her animal friends find a clever way to scare the dragon off and the rhyming story ends with the witch and the animals riding happily on a luxurious broom. Axel Scheffler's illustration is bright and lively. "Room on the Broom" appeals to children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade.
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