Happy Holidays 2012! New Picture Books to Celebrate the Season… (and a Few Oldies but Goodies too)!!

November 15, 2012

Holiday Greetings, Picture Book Friends!

This month I am featuring some of the holiday books that have been newly released, plus a few old classics that my family has loved reading over the years.  I am making this a special “double edition”, since I know come December, I will be in the midst of holiday busy time, here at home and at the bookstore where I work!  So, I will not be posting a new blog edition until January 2013!  Along with that post will be my predictions of what will be named the winner of the Caldecott Medal for this year!

I am wishing you and your families a wonderful, blessed holiday season!  Until we meet again, happy reading!




Ella Ballerina and the Nutcracker

Written and Illustrated by James Mayhew  (2012)

Available in Hardcover

If you have not read and Ella Ballerina picture book yet, you are missing out!  If you are planning on seeing this production with your little ones this holiday season, this is a great introduction to the ballet.  The darling watercolor and ink illustrations are sure to put a smile on your face!  There are also editions for the ballets of Cinderella, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty!

Here is more information from Kirkus Reviews:

Sweet Ella Bella returns for her fourth appearance in a story based on a famous ballet, this time in a dreamlike interaction with the cast of The Nutcracker. As in Ella’s previous dancing adventures, the story begins in Madame Rosa’s ballet class in an old (possibly enchanted) theater, with theteacher introducing the music and plot of The Nutcracker. When the teacher and other students adjourn for a Christmas party, Ella creeps onto the stage of the theater, where she is magically swept into a performance of the ballet. She accompanies the characters of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince as the ballet continues, visiting the Land of Sweets and watching the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance. When the music fades, Ella returns to reality and rejoins Madame Rosa for the party, where there is one sugar mouse treat left just for Ella. The ballet’s plot is skillfully summarized, and the magical transitions unfold in a believable way. Delicate watercolor-and-ink illustrations capture the exciting battle scene and create an ethereal atmosphere for the Land of Sweets with backgrounds of pink blossoms and candies. An author’s note offers more information about the ballet. A lovely introduction for children preparing to see a performance of the classic holiday ballet. (Picture book. 3-6)


Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones; Illustrated by Alison Jay  (2012)

Available in Hardcover and e-Reader editions

This is a beautifully illustrated story of the birth of baby Jesus.  The illustrations are painted in softly muted tones.  The animals are excited about the impending birth and this story is one you will want to read every year during the Christmas season.

Kirkus Reviews:

A wide variety of animals from diverse environments feel the excitement of the impending event in Bethlehem, and many of them hurry along, crowding around the manger to welcome Baby Jesus. The poetic text focuses on the mysterious, powerful forces that created a feeling of anticipation in the natural world at the time of the first Christmas. Animals, flowers, the wind, the skies and the sea all know that something miraculous is about to happen. The brief story effectively emphasizes the excitement of the animals and the involvement of all the natural forces in the important event. However, from a theological viewpoint, some of the text surrounding the birth of Jesus is beyond the developmental level of the intended audience. (“The One who made us has come to live with us!”) Large-format illustrations in Jay’s striking, signature style are presented in alternating formats across two-page spreads, in half circles, rectangles and ovals, effectively varying the presentation. Her paintings use a crackled overglaze that impart a folk-art look, along with slightly exaggerated proportions and flattened perspective. The emotion-filled text conveys the excitement and wonder of the Nativity story, but Jay’s stunning illustrations are the volume’s best feature. (Picture book/religion. 3-6)

 BOOK 3 and BOOK 4:

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?




How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?

Written by Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Mark Teague  (2012)

Available in Hardcover

Perfectly fun stories to read to your little ones as you prepare for your holiday festivities!  Whether you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah, the little dinosaurs excitement can be felt as they await for their celebrations.  Sometimes, the merriment turns into a bit of hilarious misbehaving.  Parents and children alike will get a little giggle from Jane Yolen’s “dinosaurs” books!  Be sure to check them all out!

Publishers Weekly:

– Continuing to follow the successful blueprint of the long-running How Do Dinosaurs books, Yolen and Teague pose the possibility of dinosaurs wreaking merry havoc on Christmas Eve. Uproarious hypotheticals—do dinosaurs rip open presents, “shake up the tree,” or eat all the cookies left out for Santa?—give way to portraits of the dinos’ angelic behavior in the second half. Yolen’s characteristically wry verse is flawless in its rhyme and rhythm, and as in the earlier outings, the art’s buttoned-up 1950s fashions and furnishings provide a comical visual contrast to the outlandish, brightly colored dinosaurs. Simultaneously available: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? Up to age 4. (Sept.)

– Yolen and Teague score a winner with this playful Chanukah story brought to life with bright and engaging illustrations. Each page poses a question of how a dinosaur would behave during the eight days of Hanukkah with a cute rhyme like, “Does he peek at the presents stashed under Dad’s bed?/ Does he write his own name on each gift card instead?” Each possible mischievous behavior illustrates one aspect of the holiday, including playing dreidel, lighting candles, and sharing gelt. Children will appreciate the larger-than-life dinosaurs and their amusing antics and learn just how to behave during this fun holiday. Up to age 4. (Sept.)

 BOOK 5:

Annie and the Wild Animals

Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett  (2012)

Available in Hardcover

With more than thirty million books in print, Jan Brett delights us yet again, with a new story to share with our little ones.  My favorite aspects of Jan Brett’s books are her classic framing illustrations of each of the pages.  They are beautiful beyond belief!

Publishers Weekly:

When Annie’s cat disappears, she attempts friendship with a variety of unsuitable woodland animals. The borders of the pages foretell the emergence of spring and the birth of kittens. “The pictures hold countless surprises. Indisputably, this is a work of wonder that deserves highest honors.” — Publishers Weekly


Christmas Parade

Written and Illustrated by Sandra Boynton  (2012)

Available in Hardcover

Who doesn’t love a parade?  This is newest, lively book is in classic “Boynton” style, with all the noise and jive as her other fun books!  This is a smaller sized picture book, so it’s perfect for little hands.

Kirkus Reviews:

Boynton’s droll animal characters march through this small volume with their usual deadpan humor, set off by her minimalist rhyming text. A little pig watches the parade out his window, starting with a fierce-looking elephant drum major. There are chickens with bassoons, pigs with balloons, hippos with drums, and on and on, down to a tiny bird with a huge sousaphone. When the parade is over, the narrator pig is surprised by a knock on the door, followed by cheery Christmas greetings from the entire band. The text has a strong rhythm befitting a musical theme, and special sound effects are indicated by larger display type. The animals naturally have the signature hilarious expressions that Boynton does so well, and they wear a variety of snappy band uniforms. Santa appears in the parade, of course, as a rhino in a furry, red costume playing a tiny trumpet. Younger children will learn the names of the instruments the animals play, and any adult readers who are marching-band alums will enjoy pointing out their favorite musical instruments. Boynton’s buoyant text and comical characters march to their own inimitable drummer. (Picture book. 2-5)


Together at Christmas

Written by Eileen Spinelli; Illustrated by Bin Lee  (2012)

Available in Hardcover

This is a sweet tale of the importance of being with family and friends during the holidays and will touch your heart.

Publishers Weekly:

Lee’s luminous paintings set the scene for Spinelli’s (The Perfect Christmas) graceful poem about 10 mice trying to stave off the cold on Christmas Eve. Hushed rhymed verse counts down as, one by one, the mice find warmth in such refuges as an abandoned nest, a milkweed pod, and an acorn shell. But “somehow it doesn’t feel quite right/ to be without one’s friends this night,” a dilemma the mice solve by “Singing carols in the snow./ Giggling under mistletoe,” and finding a spot big enough for all of them. The glow of moonlight is almost tangible, as it illuminates the snowy landscape dramatically. A cozy holiday book for icy nights. Ages 4–7. (Sept.)

 BOOK 8:

Mary’s Song

Written by Lee Bennett Hopkins; Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn  (2012)

Available in Hardcover

This is my NEW FAVORITE picture book for the Christmas season!!

The review by Kirkus Reviews and the book trailer say it all:

Hopkins, the noted poet and anthologizer of children’s poetry, offers an original free-verse poem, a Christmas Eve musing about her newborn son in Mary’s first-person voice. Mary looks back at the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel told her of her forthcoming child, and at her journey on the donkey into Bethlehem. The noise and hubbub from visitors began with the shepherds and continued with the animals in the stable, leaving Mary longing for quiet time with her baby. She rocks the child, hums a special song and wonders what will become of him. Striking illustrations in mixed media on ivory backgrounds show the lines of oil pastels and pencils, with watercolor shading. The overall effect is muted, ethereal and filled with golden light that suggests the mysterious power of the event. The book’s huge trim size and use of double-page spreads allow the art to shine, and the generous size will ensure that even larger groups will be able to see. Though both the text and illustrations are notable, the mother’s perspective may be of more interest to older children and adults than to the traditional picture-book audience. A lyrical, unusual viewpoint for the Nativity story, seamlessly matched with gorgeous illustrations that are unlike other interpretations of the Christ Child’s birth. (Picture book/religion. 5 & up)

AND NOW A FEW OF MY FAVORITE CLASSICS CHRISTMAS STORIES FOR YOUR HOLIDAY ENJOYMENT:  (I listed these without reviews… I know that I reviewed some of them in past blog editions and just wanted to share a few others of my mine and my children’s favorites!)

 BOOK 9:

The Sweet Smell of Christmas

Written by Patricia M. Scarry; Illustrated by J.P. Miller  (1970)



BOOK 10:

Little One, We Knew You’d Come

Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones; Illustrated by Jackie Morris  (2006)



BOOK 11:

The Night Before Christmas

Written by Clement Clarke Moore

Illustrated by Tasha Tudor  (2002 – 10th Anniversary Edition)


BOOK 12:

Christmas Cookies

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Illustrated by Jane Dyer  (2008)


BOOK 13:

The Christmas Alphabet (Pop-Up Book)(Deluxe Anniversary Edition)

Written and Illustrated by Robert Sabuda  (2004)


About picturebooklook

Hello picture book enthusiasts! I am the mother of 3 twenty-something children and became a grandmother for the first time in early 2012. I have had an affection for picture books for almost as long as I can remember. I have acquired a treasured collection from when my children were young. I have never lost my fondness for them! I have worked in the Children's department of my local Barnes & Noble for the last 10 years. Each month I hope to feature a new picture book review, along with a classic picture book. The fact is, these books are true works of art! The stories are simple, sweet lines, that often stay with us into our adult lives. This blog is dedicated to Danielle Catherine and all of my future grandchildren, and also to all of you who love the beauty of picture books as much as I do!
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4 Responses to Happy Holidays 2012! New Picture Books to Celebrate the Season… (and a Few Oldies but Goodies too)!!

  1. Caitlin says:

    Ooh that is my favorite Night Before Christmas book!

  2. Judi says:

    Lisa, I love the book “How Dinaosaurs Say Happy Channukah”, I am going to get one for Danielle and and one for David…..

  3. Oh it’s really a cute book Judi! I know they would both love it!

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