A very sweet tale, “William’s Winter Nap” by Linda Ashman and Chuck Groenink, will warm the hearts of animal lovers everywhere. Told in a lovely rhyming cadence, the reader meets William, who has finished his hot cocoa, climbed into bed, and readied himself for a long winter’s nap. But as soon as he gets settled, there is a tap on his window. A chipmunk is cold and seeking shelter, and William welcomes him into the snuggly bed. But a knock on the door brings a porcupine begging for “a smidge of space.” Soon, more animals (who do actually hibernate) come to the door, but the last animal is a surprise. Can a bear fit into the bed with the other five? This is a sweet tale of friendship and helping animals in need. Children will love seeing how they all manage to fit. In this day of children having their own bedroom and sleeping alone, it’s fun to imagine sleeping with a posse of friends. (Disney-Hyperion Books)
“Blue Corn Soup” by Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Teri Weidner is another sweet animal tale. In this story, Mouse decides that on a snowy day a pot of blue corn soup would hit the spot.She works and works grinding corn and tasting the soup. Adding ingredients like pine nuts, pepper and onion fills the neighborhood the smell of tasty sopa. When Chipmunk, Rabbit and Old Bear show up, Mouse knows her tiny pot of bubbling soup won’t feed everyone. But just as in the tale “Stone Soup,” Mouse knows how to make soup go far. Everyone brings something, and instead of corn sopa, the friends enjoy a stew that they give an appropriate name — Friendship Stew. The story is written in a pleasant rhyming cadence and will entice readers to make their own corn soups to keep them warm on a cold, wintry day. (Sleeping Bear Press)
A true holiday story is “The Nutcracker in Harlem” by T.E. McMorrow and illustrated by James Ransome. This story takes place in Harlem in the 1920s, during the Harlem Renaissance. Marie, the main character, doesn’t want to sing during a Christmas party. Her uncle Cab and Miss Addie are singing, playing and dancing to celebrate Christmas. Cab gives Marie a nutcracker that plays the drums. When Marie falls asleep, she dreams that the nutcracker comes alive. But in this reenactment of the ballet’s story, Marie saves the day. The two adults who are featured in the story are based on real people who lived and performed during the Harlem Renaissance – Cab Calloway and Adelaide Hall. (Harper Books)
“Jingle Bells” by Susan Jeffers is simply set to the song. The illustrations are beautiful and worthy of examination. The cover illustration shows the girl and boy with their mischievous white dog as they travel through the snow on their sleigh pulled by a beautiful white horse. The falling snow sparkles on the cover. The two children and their dog leave their cozy farm, bringing gifts to Santa and his wife. On the way, they pass (and their dog chases) all kinds of winter animals, including chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, foxes, a snowy owl, a swan and more. The illustrations cleverly hide some of the animals and kids will enjoy looking for – and finding – the hidden creatures. (Harper)
A book that consists of finding the hidden items would be a perfect solution for a bored child on winter break. “Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things” by Gergely Dudás will keep kids busy looking for pine wreaths, musical instruments, a Christmas drum, a holiday lollipop, and a sparkly star, among other items. More fun than “Where’s Waldo?” and definitely a challenge for young readers. (Harper)
Another picture book that illustrates a holiday song is “The 12 Days of Christmas” by Greg Pizzoli. Elephant is pleased to receive the gifts from the song, a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves and three french hens. But as the gifts — and the animals — pile up, things get a bit snug. What is her despairing dad to do? Fans of Pizzoli will enjoy watching the expressions on Dad’s face change as more and more gifts appear in this sweet Christmas song/story. (Disney-Hyperion Books)
And last, fans of Syd Hoff and his “Danny and the Dinosaur” books will love “Danny and the Dinosaur: A Very Fine Dino Christmas.” The first “Danny and the Dinosaur” book by Syd Hoff was published in 1958, and in this book, Bruce Hale writes the story and Charles Grosvenor illustrates in the style of “Danny and the Dinosaur”‘s creator. Danny teaches the dinosaur about Christmas, but when they visit the local museum, there are no holiday decorations to be seen. The clever duo decide to use props in the museum to decorate. The head of the museum isn’t happy, but when some visitors are charmed by the holiday decor and spread the word, Danny and the dinosaur’s work is much appreciated. Kids will especially love the inclusion in this paperback picture book of holiday cards and stickers. (Harper Festival)
Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by the publishers for review purposes.