Holiday Book-A-Day: Olivia Helps With Christmas

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

olivia helps with christmas Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer

This was the first Olivia book I ever read, and I was thoroughly charmed by it!  Olivia is excited about Christmas and wants to help with the preparations but (as with most children) the skill and good judgement just isn’t there.  For instance, she tries so hard to untangle the tree lights, but the result is…


Two-page spread from OLIVIA HELPS WITH CHRISTMAS. (Click to enlarge.)

She also feeds her baby brother (LOVE that page!), sets the table, sings Christmas carols, puts out milk and cookies, and tries to go to sleep so Santa can come.  It’s the illustrations that really shine in this amusing book, so if you’re sharing it with a group make sure everyone has a good view.

Olivia has her own webpage complete with activities, information about all the Olivia books, and more information about the author/illustrator.  You can also join the Olivia Fan Club!

You may want to download the Olivia Event Kit, although it’s not related to this particular book.


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Holiday Book-A-Day: Winter In White

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

winter in white Winter in White (a Pop-Up book) by Robert Sabuda

popup angel

A caroling angel from WINTER IN WHITE.

Simple yet complex, this marvel of paper engineering from the king of pop-up books is a delight.  Each page features a representation of the winter season crafted from white paper, most adorned with shining foil accents.  Intricate snowflakes, a jaunty snowman, a laughing sledder, and more — including my favorite, an ice skater who actually performs a spinning pirouette as the book is opened to its full width!

If you use this book as a read-aloud, you know your audience will want to follow it up by creating their own popups.  Here’s a list of links to tutorials from Children’s Engineering Educators you can use to create pop-up greeting books, cards, and dreidels.

So what does Robert himself think of the term “paper engineer” as a job description for what he does?  Watch this video to find out, and then head over to Reading Rockets for the rest of their interview with this talented artist!  (The segment titled “Paper is King” is a good one to share with kids who get frustrated with their own creations!)


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Holiday Book-A-Day: The Animals’ Santa

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

animals santaThe Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett

The thing I like best about Jan Brett is the way she manages to tell two intertwined stories in one book.  In this latest offering we see Little Snow wondering (with more than a touch of skepticism) who the animals’ Santa is, while the other forest animals and his older brother — Big Snowshoe — assure him that while no one has seen him, they’ve all received presents from him.


Artwork (before the text was added) from THE ANIMALS’ SANTA.

Meanwhile, on the outer edges of each page, we see the elf lemmings preparing gifts from nature for all the animals.  But who is the stealthy Santa who will deliver them?

Don’t miss Brett’s “Newsnotes” with extra info about about the animals in this book.  You can also print out Animals’ Santa bookmarks and/or Christmas cards.

And finally, visit Jan Brett’s studio and meet her pet rabbit (the model for Little Snow) and learn how to draw a snowshoe rabbit.


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Holiday Book-A-Day: An Otis Christmas

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

otis christmas An Otis Christmas by Loren Long

Long offers something for machine-lovers and something for horse-lovers in this seasonal offering as Otis helps provide a miracle for the farmer and his pregnant mare.

An_Otis_Christmas illustration

The book begins with the usual holiday festivities on the farm.  “On Christmas Eve, the farmer came to the barn and fed the animals their traditional Christmas meal of bran mash with chopped apples and brown sugar. Otis delighted in watching them dig in around the trough. He knew how much they loved the special treat.”  The farmer has a gift for Otis, too; one he wears proudly.  Little does anyone realize how important that gift will become as problems develop when the horse goes into labor, and the farm truck sent to fetch the vet gets stuck in the snow.

Visit Loren Long’s An Otis Christmas page for a video introducing Otis.

And visit the Otis the Tractor site for an online preview of the book.


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Holiday Book-A-Day: Snowmen At Christmas

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

snowmen at christmas Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner

The sequel to Snowmen at Night, this book explores how snowmen celebrate the Christmas season once the humans have all gone to bed.  It’s nice to find a rhyming story that flows so smoothly from one stanza to the next, but where this book really shines — and I mean that literally — is in its illustrations.

Illustration from SNOWMEN AT CHRISTMAS.

Illustration from SNOWMEN AT CHRISTMAS.

Mark Buehner is the Caravaggio of the picture book world with regards to his treatment of light, and his luminous art compels the reader to linger over each page.  (So does the note at the end of the book inviting readers to look for a cat, a rabbit, a Santa face, a T-Rex, and a little brown mouse hidden in each painting!)  After reading the book, you can test yourself with the Jeopardy-style Snowmen At Night Flipquiz game.


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Holiday Book-A-Day: I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

old lady dreidel I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz, illustrated by David Slonim

We are all familiar with the original “old lady” rhyme (There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly), and we are all familiar with at least one spin-off (There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed…Some Snow!, Some Leaves!, A Pie, A Bell!, etc) but this newest twist takes the concept to a whole new level!

The author kept the same progressive format while incorporating some traditional symbols of Hanukkah into the rhyme, and as a bonus the illustrator gives us a mini art history lesson on every page!

"I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel, A Chaunukah dreidel she thought was a bagel..."

“I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel, A Chaunukah dreidel she thought was a bagel…”

The parodies of famous artwork makes this a book that EVERYONE can enjoy, even non-Jewish readers who know nothing about Hanukkah customs.

Watch this book trailer for more details:

Visit David Slonim’s site to learn more about the art.

Make your own dreidel with the template on this Scholastic Story Corner worksheet

Then sing the dreidel song with the guys from The Learning Station:



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Holiday Book-A-Day: The Snowflake Sisters

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

snowflake sisters The Snowflake Sisters by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lisa Desimini

These two snowflake sisters don’t look exactly alike (no two snowflakes do, right?) but they both share an adventurous spirit!  In this rhyming story by former Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, we follow the sisters as they swirl and spin through the sky, enjoying the sights and sounds of winter.

Whether it’s watching the children outside at play, traveling with Santa as he rides on his sleigh, or romping with a snowman on a cold frosty day (okay, that was MY attempt at a rhyming review!) Desimini’s collage artwork gives a cozy feeling to even the snowiest scenes.

Lewis provides additional resources for the book at his Poetry Toolbox blog.

Today’s post is actually a two-fer, because I can’t talk about A snowflake book without mentioning THE snowflake book:

snowflake bentley Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian

This Caldecott Award-winner is not in any way a Christmas story, but this poignant look at Wilson Bentley, a man who felt his life’s purpose was fulfilled when he was able to share his miraculously detailed photos of snowflakes with the world, makes a nice companion book to The Snowflake Sisters.

Listen as Wilson Bentley expresses his feelings about snowflakes:


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