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Stories for the Holiday Season


Boy reading on yellow couch.
Photo © Veer

With visions of toys and games dancing in their heads, it's easy for children to miss the real significance of holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwaanza. Fortunately, there are plenty of enjoyable books for kids that teach the historical and cultural meanings of these and other winter celebrations. And unlike most other wrapped packages, books are gifts they can open again and again.

Christmas

Dream Snow

Dream Snow
by Eric Carle

This simple but visually enchanting tale (with trademark collage illustrations by the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear and other favorites) features a drowsy farmer who dreams of being covered in a blanket of new snow. When he wakes up, he finds that real snow--not dream snow--has fallen. Preschoolers will immediately recognize the white-bearded farmer when he bundles up in a suspiciously familiar red suit and black boots. (Ages 2-6)

The Polar Express

The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg

This Caldecott Award winning book follows a young boy as he climbs aboard the mysterious Polar Express train on its way to the North Pole. He returns home with a precious silver bell from the harness of Santa's reindeer to confirm that his trip was real. This one is for believers of all ages. (Ages 4-8)

Olive, The Other Reindeer

Olive, The Other Reindeer
by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Seibold

Thinking that "all of the other reindeer" she hears people singing about include her, Olive the dog reports to the North Pole to help Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. J. Otto Seibold's whimsical illustrations make this a modern classic. (Ages 5-8)

How Murray Saved Christmas

How Murray Saved Christmas
by Mike Reiss and David Catrow

When Santa's knocked out cold by a Jack-in-the-Boxer's walloping punch, deli owner Murray Kleiner reluctantly agrees to take his place. Authored by a writer for The Simpsons, this one has lots of irreverent wit to keep tired parents chuckling throughout the joyous season. (Ages 4-8)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
by Barbara Robinson

This favorite features the Herdmans, an unruly family of six who teach a whole church about the true meaning of the birth of Christ. None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale -- the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating -- has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year's pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever. (Ages 9-12)

The Last Holiday Concert

The Last Holiday Concert
by Andrew Clements

Life is usually easy for popular sixth grader Hart Evans, but when his music teacher puts him in charge of the holiday concert, Hart must use all of his leadership skills to unite the other students. By the author of Frindle, this book features a quick pace and accessible language that will appeal to even reluctant readers. (Ages 8-12)

Hanukkah

Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah

Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah
by Sylvia Rouss

In this selection from the popular Sammy series, Sammy watches longingly as Josh Shapiro lights another candle and receives a brightly-colored dreidel each night of Hanukkah. "Spiders don't spin dreidels, spiders spin webs!" Sammy's mother reminds him. Then on the last night, Sammy gets his own spinning surprise. (Ages 9-12)

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
by Eric Kimmel and Trina Schart Hyman

Can Hershel rid the village synagogue of goblins? He uses his wits to oust the eight creatures haunting the old synagogue and who are preventing the villagers from celebrating Hanukkah. Caldecott medalist Kimmel provides a humorous, entertaining and just slightly scary story for all young readers. (Ages 4-8)

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes
by Linda Glaser and Nancy Cote

Young Rachel finds an ingenuous way to include her elderly neighbor in her family's Hanukkah celebration. (Ages 4-8)

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming
by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown

The author of the Unfortunate Events series strikes again with this delightfully bizarre tale. Here the miraculous birth is of a potato pancake, which, unlike its less talkative literary cousin the Gingerbread Man, begins screaming the moment it gets cooked. Leaping out of the frying pan, the latke screams even louder as it tries in vain to explain itself and its role. (Ages 4-8)

Kwanzaa

Seven Spools of Thread

Seven Spools of Thread
by Angela Shelf Medearis and Daniel Minter

Using the Nguzo Saba, or "seven principles" of Kwanzaa, this well-beloved author has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community. The memorable woodcut illustrations bring this to life. (Ages 9-12)

Seven Days of Kwanzaa

Seven Days of Kwanzaa
by Melrose Cooper

On the fifth day of Kwanzaa, my people gave to me… Five festive friends! Children will sing along with the cheerful holiday rhyme as they learn the values of Kwanzaa. (Ages 4-8)

Las Posadas

The Night of Las Posadas

The Night of Las Posadas
by Tomie DePaola

Hispanic holiday customs take center stage in this story of a modern-day Las Posadas procession in Santa Fe, NM. Lupe and Roberto are to play Mary and Joseph in the Christmas pageant in their village, but their truck gives out in a snowstorm. A mysterious couple steps in at the last minute to take their places. (Ages 4-8)

Light the Farolito

Light the Farolito
by Jean Ciavonne

This picture book spotlights the Christmas Eve celebration of Las Pasadas, when neighbors act out the story of the peregrinos (wanderers) in search of shelter for Mary and Joseph. Carlos Castillo is a small boy who loves the tradition, including the mouthwatering foods, the Nativity crèche and the piñata. But what is Carlos to do when the Las Pasadas procession comes to his house and his grandfather isn't home yet? (Ages 4-8)

Diwali

Lighting a Lamp: A Diwali Story

Lighting a Lamp: A Diwali Story
by Jonny Zucker and Jan Cohen

This simple introduction to Diwali is suitable for even the youngest children. Follow a family as they make rangoli patterns, light diyas and watch a brilliant fireworks display to celebrate their festival of light. (Ages 4-8)

Lights For Gita

Lights For Gita
by Rachna Gilmore and Alice Priestly

Gita has recently moved to America from India, and she is looking forward to celebrating her favorite holiday with her family. She has invited some of her new friends from school to join in the festivities, but a winter storm puts a damper on her plans. Just as Gita decides she hates her new home, events take another turn. (Ages 4-8)

Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr

Fasting and Dates: A Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr Story

Fasting and Dates: A Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr Story
by Jonny Zucker and Jan Cohen

This simple but delightfully illustrated book relates the ritual fasting during the month of Ramadan, followed by the joyful celebration and feast of Eid-ul-Fitr. (Ages 3-7)

Ramadan

Ramadan
by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi

This is a kid's level account of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Beginning with an explanation of the lunar calendar, it describes historical and current Islam in terms of Christianity and Judaism, then follows a small boy through a day of fasting, prayers, and fellowship with his family and mosque. The borders and panels in traditional Islamic style are both handsome and evocative. (Ages 5-8)

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