Minerva Louise is an oldie but certainly a goodie, so I am writing to keep her going a little longer. For those familiar with Minerva, you know that as a very naïve chicken, she is often confused by the world around her, making assumptions that are often wrong, and humorous as well. In this story, Minerva Louise mistakes Christmas lights for fireflies and Santa for a farmer in a red hat. And what is the farmer doing on top of the roof? She warns him that it is slippery, but he falls down the chimney anyway! She tries to tell the farmer in the red hat to take the stuff out of her farmer’s socks and wonders about the tree that must have come inside to get out of the cold – and someone has been laying the most beautiful “eggs” on its branches! Young children will love to correct the reader (and Minerva Louise), because they know what Minerva does not about Christmas. This is still a wonderful read-aloud, and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Posted by: Mary
It started as a family Christmas card photo by photographer Per Breiehagen and his wife Lori Evert. In 2007, the Minnesota resident’s family dressed their adorable three year-old daughter Anja in traditional Norwegian clothing such as Stakk dress from Ål, where Breiehagen was raised, reindeer shoes from the Sami people in Northern Norway, and an elf hat and took a series of photos that would change their lives forever. Based on overwhelming positive feedback from friends and family who received the Christmas card, Breiehagen expanded the project. His vision was to stage scenes the evoked the traditional folklore of Norway that he had grown up listening to. In addition to Anja’s captivating costume, Breiehagen attempted to make the photos as authentic as possible. He took Anja to beautiful outdoor winter landscapes in both Minnesota and Norway. Anja posed with actual reindeer in Norway and held traditional Telemark skis from 1840 the Breiehagen had sought out to use as photo props. As the scope of the photos became more fantastic, Breiehagen incorporated digital compositing to create scenes of the “little elf” meeting a polar bear in Antarctica and other fanciful imagery that could not be created without digital enhancements. The photos continued to gain popularity and were featured in several holiday advertisement campaigns, including one for Chicco, a popular baby product brand.
The photos took on a new life this year when Breiehagen and Evert created the picture book, The Christmas Wish. The book tells the story of a little girl who lives “in a place so far north that the mothers never pack away the wool hats or mittens.” The girl longs to be one of Santa’s elves. One day, she sets out on a journey through the great Northern wild to find Santa. Along the way she is helped by several animals including a cardinal, reindeer, polar bear, horse and musk ox. She also has a chance to see the Northern Lights. Eventually, she does find the man in the red suit and he flies her home on his sleigh. The true charm and magic of this book are the stunning photographs. Some of my favorites include one of Anja placing a note on the door of the Norwegian Sauna announcing her departure to find Santa, the three year old girl curled up next to a polar bear napping, and Santa’s sleigh flying over snow covered hills taking Anja home. With careful staging and digital enhancement, the winter scenes are stunning, the animals are beautiful and the young girl in the traditional Norwegian garb is irresistibly cute. This story is one that is sure to captivate the imagination of children this holiday season and leave parents a bit awe struck as well.
Posted by: Kelly
It’s a cold winter’s night, and Rabbit smells snow coming. That means it’s time to find food, and Rabbit is lucky to find not one, but two turnips! It occurs to Rabbit that maybe Donkey hasn’t found enough food, so he decides to leave his extra turnip by Donkey’s door. Donkey, in turn, decides to leave the turnip for Goat. Goat has the same idea, and so does Deer when a mysterious turnip appears at his door. Rabbit’s gift is passed from friend to friend, and ultimately ends up bringing all four friends together to share a cozy turnip meal.
The author’s note tells us that the story is based on a folktale traced back to China, but that similar folktales have been told around the world. Laura Dronzek’s paintings are soft and clear, and perfectly evoke a snowy winter’s night. Chinese characters for each of the four animals are included in the illustrations, with a glossary accompanying the author’s note.
This is a lovely picture book that would make a wonderful read-aloud for the holiday season (and a great pick if you are looking for a book that is not actually about a holiday). Rabbit’s Gift quietly celebrates generosity, thankfulness, and soft snowy nights with friends.
Posted by: Parry
Like it or not, it is cold outside. We can’t change the weather, but what we can do is change our outlook on the weather we are given. Twelve Kinds of Ice is a lovely little book that just might help you warm up to the cold weather.
The book provides a peek inside the author’s memories of her childhood winters in Maine by describing ice at different points of the season. The first ice is so thin and fragile that it breaks upon the first touch. As the days and nights continue to grow colder, however, the ice freezes more deeply eventually creating “perfect ice,” flawless and smooth and just right for skating. Skating parties, ice shows and hockey games are all enjoyed on different kinds of ice throughout the winter until, eventually, the warmer air brings with it “the last ice” or “punk ice” leaving only “dream ice” until the next winter.
Obed does a wonderful job pulling the reader into her childhood world in twenty very short vignettes. Even without the charming line drawings, it would be easy to imagine each kind of ice, but the illustrations add a charming extra layer to Obed’s words. This book would make for such a sweet addition to any family’s winter traditions. It would be a great book to share together by the fire with some gingerbread and hot cocoa, perhaps after an afternoon of skating or sledding. Or grab the audio and listen while you decorate or bake for the holidays.
Posted by: Staci
Some days it seems that everything just goes wrong. That is exactly what happened one Thanksgiving for the Tappleton family. Like many families, the Tappletons look forward to a special turkey dinner with all the trimmings that they enjoy sharing with other relatives.
Unfortunately, the meal preparation doesn’t go as planned. First thing in the morning the turkey slides out the back door and plops into the pond – so no turkey! Next, the bakery runs out of pies – so no dessert! The salad vegetables have all been taken and fed to the classroom rabbits and a blender mishap ends with the mashed potatoes splattered all over the kitchen. So no trimmings! Dinner is a disaster with a capital D!
What will the Tappletons serve their hungry relatives? It could it be they discover that Thanksgiving is a whole lot more than just the traditional foods we eat.
This humorous, yet heartwarming, book is sure to be a family favorite year after year.
Posted by: Wendy
Are you looking for a rollicking adventure? If you are, the of COURSE you’re looking for a book about pirates. And wouldn’t it be better if the book were full of fun characters, subtle humor, and almost Lewis Caroll-esque absurdism? If you agree with me, this is the book you want.
Hilary has only ever wanted one thing: to be a pirate. But when she sends in her application to The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, not only do they reject her because she’s a girl, but they recommend her for Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies! The horror! Hilary won’t stand for that, and, with her trusty gargoyle at her side, she sets off to make her name working for a “freelance” pirate, who is looking for a treasure that he, rather frustratingly, won’t describe.
But what’s this? Hilary’s governess is after her? And what’s that? Her father, the Admiral of the royal navy, is hunting her down? And worst of all, even Miss Pimm is acting bizarre? Hilary has her work cut out for her in this delightful, semi-epistolary novel, where letters between ship and shore are faithfully delivered, gargoyles want hats, and magic can be located in table spoons.
Even better than the satisfying conclusion is the revelation that this is just the first book in a series. Avast, me hearties! Is that a second book on the horizon?
Posted by: Sarah
This is one of my older son’s favorite books right now. When we went to read it the other day, he said “Oh, I love that one!” It is good book to share with children with new siblings in the house. Unfortunately, they can relate to parents being busy with the new little one. In this story, Ruby finds ways to stay amused while mom is busy with the baby. Eventually, she gets tired of waiting and starts dreaming up ways to make her little brother disappear. Either by selling him at a yard sale or hiding him in the cabbages at the grocery store, she is determined to find a new home for him. Eventually, mom has time to play with Ruby and her new brother. Then Ruby decides that he is not so bad to have around after all. The sweet illustrations make the story even more enjoyable.
Posted by: Liz