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December Books: Christmas is Here!

By on December 2, 2014

Sponsored by The Children’s Trust


As the holidays approach, we note the longer nights and shorter days. The season of the celebration of light can be a time to remember and reflect on family customs. It can also be an opportunity to create new traditions. Reading holiday books together can become more than a routine. Especially is this true when these kinds of rituals are combined with terrific stories and wonderful memories. Take time during this busy season to enjoy each other’s company reading out loud together.

by Meribeth C. Shank

Night Tree

by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Rand

nighttreeA young boy and his family decorate their favorite tree in the quiet moonlit forest. They have prepared popcorn strings, sunflower seed balls, apples, and tangerines to hang from the branches. They scatter nuts and breadcrumbs underneath. Lovely watercolor paintings are accented with chalk and grease pencil. This emphasis on the shadowy night contrasts with the lantern’s light, and a dusky sky filled with star shine. A deer is caught in the flashlight’s beam. An owl’s voice and face deepen the sense of secrets in the forest darkness. Together, the family sings songs and drinks hot chocolate. As this picture book unfolds, an annual tradition emerges as an important way to share. It’s become an occasion to give each other a gift. But it’s also an event created for the forest creatures. Perhaps after reading this enchanting story, your family will decide to adopt this or another similar yearly tradition. Harcourt Brace & Company, $7. (paperback) Interest Level: K–Grade 2 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Branch, West Dade Regional. Also may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)


selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrations by Helen Cann

Manger An ancient legend describes how, at midnight on Christmas Eve, animals are able to speak. In this cheerful collection, featuring 15 talented poets, readers hear from rooster, sheep, horse, cat, mouse, dog, cow, wren, owl, fish, spider, llama and goat. Hopkins sets the scene in his introductory poem. The concluding rhyme is a verse from the traditional carol, “The Friendly Beasts,” describing the donkey. Poems from Joan Bransfield Graham, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, X.J.Kennedy, Jude Mandell, and others are included. Watercolor and collage beautifully illustrate each poem in glowing colors. The moonlit starry pages flash with movement and luster. Expressive animal faces populate the pages and endpapers. A blazing comet appears on several pages, highlighting the not-so-silent night. Eerdmans, $16. (hardcover) Interest Level: Junior K–Grade 3 (This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

This is the Stable

by Cynthia Cotton, illustrated by Delana Bettoli

stableThis beautiful picture book, combined with gradually building text, tells the Nativity story. Added to the familiar rhythm of “This is the house that Jack built” is a refrain, “the quiet stable, dusty and brown.” Pairing these two produces a gentle, musical rhyme pattern. Mixed media paintings of animals, angels, shepherds, wise men, the newborn baby, parents, and the star also feature bright patterned borders. Bettoli’s earth tones establish a sense of the desert. Primary colors give life to expressive animal faces. And skillful use of pastels reveals ethnic variety in the people. This version of the visitors to the stable can also be sung to the melody of “The Friendly Beasts,” a traditional carol. Simply told and well paced, this tale is a favorite of both children and the adults who enjoy it with them. Henry Holt, $6.99 (paperback) Interest Level: Pre-K–Grade1 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Edison Branch. Also may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)


(All four of these books may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by Sara Palacios. Viking, $16.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Junior K–Grade 2

Christmas Wish for Corduroy based on the characters created by Don Freeman, story by B. G. Hennessy, pictures by Jody Wheeler. Viking, $16.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Pre-K–Grade 2

The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Anselm Grun, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. Eerdmans, $16. (hardcover) Interest Level: K–Grade 3

And Then Comes Christmas by Tom Brenner, illustrations by Jana Christy. Candlewick Press, $15.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Junior K–Grade 2

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, teaches classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web:


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