Dreidels, Elves, and the Baby Jesus, Part 1: What's New in Kids Holiday Books

Every year new holiday kid's book titles get published around about October to get you ready for all the hullabaloo. (Just in case parties, made-for-TV movies, and gift catalogs aren't enough.) It's beginning to look a lot like .... I know, I know, Thanksgiving isn't even here yet, but it is that time of year, at least almost. Christmas starts "trending" (another one of those words that didn't exist ten years ago) as soon as Halloween kicks the can!

This week we're going to take a three-part look at what's new out there to help get you and your little ones in the holiday spirit. Today we'll look at secular Christmas books, and later this week at religious Christmas picture book titles, and then books about Hanukkah.

So, here we go ... Part 1!

Christmas Picture Books (Non-Religious)

Merry Christmas, Davy! by Brigitte Weninger and Eve Tharlet*

ages 4-7

This author/illustrator duo has written many quality stories about Davy, and this newest edition, which just hit the bookshelves, won't disappoint. NorthSouth publishers, which is focused on international picture books, is one of my particularly favorite kids book resources, too!

The Night Before Christmas by Barbara Reid

ages 4-7

I really like this brand new version of Clement C. Moore's classic! Reid is a Canadian artist working in claymation. The 3-D nature of her artwork shines in this gem of a book.

The Last Christmas Tree by Stephen Krensky and Pascal Campion

ages 4-8

Krensky is a well-respected picture book author with decades of experience. I have this soft place in my heart for books in which the Christmas tree is the central character. I'm a sucker for anthropomorphism, I guess. (SAT word, I know. My 11th grade English teacher would be so proud, even thought took me six attempts to spell it correctly!) And I'm a tree hugger/garden enthusiast, so double whammy. Anyway, this one is so warm and gentle, capturing the perfect tone for Christmas.

The Animal's Santa by Jan Brett*

ages 4-8

If you haven't heard of the amazing Jan Brett, it's time to fix that quick! My kids adore her folktale picture books. Something about all that snow, and cute animals, and the gorgeous, detailed frames she puts around each page spread. So many artistic details to tease out that kids are drawn repeatedly again and again. I love books that keep on giving by offering new details with each perusal.

Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda*

ages 4-forever

This is the title I am most excited to share with you on this list I reviewed Underwood and Rueda's first effort, which features the cleverest, funniest picture book cat I've met in a long time, here. It received about a bazillion starred reviews in the children's book review journals that we librarians live by. And the best thing about Underwood and Rueda's work? Their books are so droll that they appeal to both kids and adults. I LOVE picture books that embrace all audiences!

Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka and Chuck Groenink

ages 5-10

I am always on the lookout for new poetry picture books. Like wordless books, children's poetry collections have taken a hit since the advent of Accelerated Reader (grrrr), because you often can't take a multiple choice test on them. <Promises not to go off on over-testing in education here.> Ahem. Anyway, this is a collection of 25 short poems, (one for each day of the to-Christmas buildup), written by Santa. A really creative way to get kids to think about the holiday from a perspective other than their own! And did I mention, poetry? Enough said.

The Twelve Days of Christmas by LeUyen Pham

ages 4-9

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy do I love, love, love LeUyen Pham. She who illustrated about a few dozen amazing books, including Vampirina Ballerina, and the brand new early chapter book that everyone in book world is raving about, The Princess in Black. And Publisher's Weekly gave her brand new rendition of this beloved Christmas carol a starred review.

She is so totally cool! I will be buying this one for my personal collection! I think I have used enough exclamation points and it is time to move on! My caramel latte was a bit too venti this morning!

The Spirit of Christmas: A Giving Tradition by Nicky Benson and Jason Cockcroft

ages 5-9

A lesson book in which a boy learns that not everyone gets hundreds of dollars worth of presents for Christmas. I'm always ready to teach my kiddos to think of others during the holidays (and all year long), and what better way than through another child's story? This is where picture books become important tools for teaching love. This one is not subtle, but it is thought provoking.

Maisy's Christmas Tree by Lucy Cousins

ages 1-3

Maisy's been around since I first went to work as a children's library assistant after college. (This was in the dark ages when we only sent interoffice emails on a black-screened computer with bright green type. As my girls would say, 'round about 1940, in their estimation.) She's tried and true and this board book is ideal for the tiniest Christmas elves.

Llama Llama Jingle Bells by Anna Dewdney*

ages 1-3

What child does not love Llama, Llama? Dewdney is branching out to board books with even shorter wording for the youngest picture book aficionados. Llama is so endearing because Dewdney knows how to make an animal with facial expressions that expertly mimic preschoolers.

And Then Comes Christmas by Tom Brenner and Jana Christy

ages 4-7

This is one in a series of books by this author/illustrator pair that focus on the "if/when, then" type of storytelling. (We nerdy book people call this sequential storytelling.) Lots of warm, soft, loving scenery. From my all-time favorite children's book publisher, Candlewick.

'Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Sara Palacios 

ages 4-8

Yeah for a brand-new multicultural Christmas book! A visual and vocabulary-based look at a Latino holiday celebration. I am all about building global citizens and picture books like this one, which was strongly reviewed by all the major children's book journals, offer a sure-fire way to start. I consider this one a must-buy.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by by Robert L. May and Antonio Javier Caparo 

ages 5-8

If you're looking for the entire original Robert May poem, penned in 1939, in picture book format, you've found it! It's been 75 years since May penned Rudolph as an advertising gimmick for Macy's and I believe this is the only version of the poem in its entirely that is in print. What is modern Christmas without Rudolph, a pop icon who's managed to survive years of lesser Christmas gimmicks? May had a spark of genius when he decided to write a poem featuring the universal theme of overcoming personal limitation, and with a cute little reindeer to boot.

Okay, off to detox from the coffee. Come back in a few days if you'd like to share books about the birth of Christ with a reader in your life. I'll feature those next!

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