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.


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:



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:


Holiday Book-A-Day: Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert

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

Santa Claus Toy Expert Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee

Can I just gush for a moment about how much I enjoy Marla Frazee’s artwork?  From her delightful romp A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever (my personal favorite) to the charming All the World (written by Liz Garton Scanlon) to the triumphant Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages to her new wordless book The Farmer and the Clown to her spunky drawings for Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine books, I’m just a HUGE fan of her illustrations!

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, I can talk about this book.

Have you ever thought about how much preparation goes into choosing and wrapping toys for ALL the good boys and girls in the world?  Frazee takes us behind the scenes as Santa prepares throughout the year for the Big Day by meeting children, testing toys, and selecting the perfect gifts for everyone on his list.  (It involves lots of sticky notes and cocoa!  You can see both in the excerpt below.)  She even includes one final surprise on the back cover — don’t miss it!



Learn more by watching this video:

Download a free I’M A TOY EXPERT TOO! writing worksheet based on the book.


Holiday Book-A-Day: Here Comes Santa Cat

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

here comes santa cat Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

I just got this book Tuesday, and it’s already a favorite! The text and the illustrations of Cat (who communicates by holding up signs) work together perfectly.  I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a more expressive cat in a picture book — Rueda just nails it on every page!  (I know, I’m gushing again.)

In this sequel to Here Comes the Easter Cat, Cat is worried that he’s been too naughty to get a present from Santa.



After being convinced that dressing as Santa and giving himself a gift is not the solution, Cat tries a few last-minute efforts at being nice.  Unfortunately, gift-giving doesn’t come naturally to Cat, and it isn’t until Santa himself steps in that Cat discovers the true meaning of the season.

There aren’t a lot of activities for this book floating around on the internet yet, but two ideas that come to mind are:

  • having children make their own pie charts to show where they stand on the “naughty or nice” issue
  • using the book as a basis for a Reader’s Theater activity, with the kids making the signs that Cat uses in the story

Enjoy the book trailer!


Holiday Book Countdown – Christmas Day in the Morning

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

christmas day in the morning Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner

No holly jolly frills today; just a sweet story of lasting family love.  I bought this book for my husband and son ten years ago, and the story still touches me today.

It’s December, and Rob overhears a conversation between his parents that makes him realize — for the first time in all his 15 years — that his father loves him.  Life on the farm is busy and no one has time for expressing sentimental thoughts, but now that Rob is aware of his father’s true feelings, he’s determined to show his love in return.  And what better place to acknowledge a Father’s love than in the stable?



You can read the text of Christmas Day in the Morning online, but you don’t want to miss the illustrations!  I mentioned Mark Buehner’s Snowmen at Christmas book in an earlier post, and while his trademark bright colors have been toned down for this story, his magical way with light still shines here.  The book includes a forward by Buehner explaining how Buck’s tender story, originally published in 1955, influenced his own family forty years later.

Wishing you all love and joy this season!


Holiday Book Countdown – 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…



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.