Watch the mother elephant as her little elephant receives ALL the things outlined in the traditional Christmas carol.
- Humor Fans/Christmas Carol Fans/Elephant Lovers: This is "The 12 Days of Christmas" as if it really happened. And oh boy, am I glad I don't live in that house! A funny and very memorable illustrated version of the Christmas song.
Itsy Bitsy Christmas: You’re Never Too Little for His Love by Max Lucado, ill. by Bruno Merz
Itsy and Bitsy are two mice who live in Bethlehem. There's lots and lots of people coming into the small town to be counted, and they hear that one of the people is a king. A king coming to little ol' Bethlehem, it is hard to believe. They scramble around the village trying to find the king and almost miss him in their own stable home.
- Those Looking for Biblical-Related Christmas Stories/Cute Christmas Story Fans: A cute perspective on the Christmas story that provides a little of the Old Testament prophecies' sense of expectation and wonder about a king being born in Bethlehem.
Santa Rex by Molly Idle
The characters from Tea with Rex prepare for Christmas together. They make decorations, decorate the house, bake Christmas cookies, and go to sleep early on Christmas night anticipating the surprises in store on Christmas day, but also just enjoying their time together.
- Idle’s Rex Book Fans: Those who enjoy Rex’s other adventures at tea and the sea should enjoy watching Rex and gang get ready for Christmas.
- Christmas Decorating Mood/Christmas Activity Prep Fans: I like that all of the activities are things young readers could really do to help prepare for Christmas, from making paper chains to helping bake Christmas cookies and decorate a tree. A very fun holiday read for kids excited about preparing for Christmas.
- Fans of Books Where Illustrations + Text=More: Just read the text and imagine what is going on, and then look at the pictures. You might be surprised to see what the “helpful” dinosaurs are getting up to. This book definitely capitalizes on making the most of the comedy of the words plus the illustrations combined.
Zack and his family are excited about going back to spend Christmas on Earth in Vermont with extended family. In the meantime, they are marveling at the different ways Christmas is celebrated on Nebulon while finishing up their shopping and decorating their house. But when a huge storm heads to Nebulon, it looks like their Christmas is not going to be so great after all.
- Making the Best of Holiday Plans Gone Awry: Anyone who has grown up in an area with regular snow in the winter has probably at some time experienced messed up Christmas travel plans. It can be devastating to psyched up kids and make a lasting impression. But it is something I really haven't seen in that many books. I like that O'Ryan put such a situation in this book. The storm is a creative way to make it happen on a distant planet. And I liked the way Zack's family made the best of things.
- SciFi Fans/Friendship Story Fans: Galaxy Zack is an approachable scifi series for lower grades that has some fun ideas and good friendship experiences.
- Cross-Cultural Christmas Fun/TCKs: I liked the way Zack's family adopts a few Nebulon decorating ideas while also sharing what's important to them. It is a very realistic look at how expat kids would find Christmas in a foreign land. A fun Christmas story that many TCKs will identify with.
Santa Claude (Claude, #9) by Alex T. Smith
Claude and Sir Bobblysock helped PC Ann Cuffs out of a tricky situation during the day on Christmas Eve so she gave Claude a pair of handcuffs and now that their busy day of helping out around the city is done, Claude is inspired to curl up with a book on cops and robbers after his owners leave for a Christmas party. When Claude hears someone in the next room, he and Sir Bobblysock pluck up some courage and capture the invader, handcuffing him to a chair. When they turn on the lights to find out who snuck into the house on Christmas Eve night...they then realize they may have a bit of a problem on their hands, especially when Claude can't find the keys to the handcuffs.
- Humor Fans/Reluctant Readers/Dog Lovers: Claude’s antics are absolutely hilarious. The prevalence of illustrations and the imaginative adventures are sure to lure in even the most reluctant of readers with this wild Christmas tale.
With just days till Christmas, the Vanderbeekers' reclusive and grumpy landlord Mr. Beiderman has given them notice that he's not renewing their lease next year and they need to find a new home by January 1. The five Vanderbeeker children are heartbroken. They love their home, they know everyone in the neighborhood, and some of the other residents in their brownstone are more like family than just friends. How can they leave the place they've grown up in the past six years? Something must be done. So the kids start brainstorming how they can convince a man they really don't know and have practically never seen to let them stay.
- Feel Good Christmas Story Fans/Great Families in Lit Fans/Cozy Community Story Fans: This has all the makings of a feel good Christmas story. Glaser manages to develop all five of the kids' unique personalities as the story unfolds as well as show you how many ties they have in their little neighborhood. They aren't perfect, but they have clearly become an important part of the community from the way the littlest Vanderbeeker brings joy to the elderly couple upstairs on a daily basis, to how second youngest makes dog biscuits for the mailman to share around. The mystery of why Mr. Beiderman never leaves his apartment at the top of the house and why he wants the Vanderbeekers to leave slowly unfolds and was a definite part of the moving conclusion. A cozy holiday tale, with a heartwarming ending, and would make a fantastic family or class read aloud in December.
Every year an organization called Project Scrooge spends a year identifying a Scrooge, figuring out all the people in their lives that parallel the characters in Dickens’ story, and preparing for the Scrooge to have the full Christmas Carol experience on Christmas Eve. Holly Chase, daughter of a movie director and actress, was the Scrooge a few years ago. She laughed off all the warnings of Christmas Eve trying to get her to reform and melt her heart, and walked right into a car after going to yoga on Christmas morning. As a dead, failed Scrooge, Holly is now working as the Ghost of Christmas Past for Project Scrooge. She has a living body for the job, but it resets every day so she hasn't aged in the five years she's worked on the project. She does her job, but still doesn't get all the Merry Christmas stuff. But this year is a little different. Boz has given her an assistant this year, a girl named Stephanie who is bubbly and joyful. The chosen Scrooge is not your typical middle age guy, he's another seventeen year old, Ethan Winters III, and he is rather pleasing on the eyes. But instead of being a normal work assignment, Holly finds herself getting rather more invested in her work this year, even breaking some big rules to meet the Scrooge in person. Can Holly and Project Scrooge reform Ethan, or is he just as doomed as she was?
Note: Some kissing, deaths mentioned but nothing gory.
- Classic Rewrite Fans/Dickens Fans: I absolutely loved what Cynthia Hand did. She created a plot that honors Dickens and the heart of his story, but is also fresh and new. Dickens fans will love how the crew hunts for the various Christmas Carol characters. And will also likely find it amusing that Holly's boss, Boz, insists on giving everyone working at Project Scrooge a Dickens name. Holly is Havesham, Stephanie is Little Dorrit, etc. And there are Dickens quotes from multiple books all throughout.
- Light Fantasy Fans/Romance Fans/Feel Good Story Fans: Most of the story feels like a contemporary YA read and there are just fantasy elements occasionally. Holly grows on you through the book (you aren’t supposed to really like her at first). But she has a great supporting cast with plenty of other characters to entertain and enjoy until Holly gets more palatable. There is a little twist in the plot but there are some big hints so I think you're supposed to see it coming. It doesn't make it any less good. I really enjoyed this holiday read. Recommended to anyone who likes warm-hearted holiday stories, feel good stories, character growth stories, and contemporary romance with some light fantasy.
Saving Red by Sonya Sones
Molly is finishing up her freshman service hours by helping with the homeless count in Santa Monica when she first sees Red, a teenager sleeping on a bluff above the beach. Molly can't get Red out of her head, and during an amazing moment on the ferris wheel the next day when she meets Cristo (quite possibly the most amazing guy ever - and he seems to like her!) they see Red dancing in another car. Molly gets the idea that she should try to help Red get reconnected with her family for Christmas, and shares her plan with Cristo. He's 100% behind the plan, but off to New York City with his family that night for the holidays. So it's just Molly, and her faithful dog Pixel, to carry out Operation Red. The truth is, though, that Molly has other reasons she wants to - needs to - help Red, reasons she's not willing to admit to herself.
- Those Who Read to Build Empathy: This does a fantastic job of portraying homelessness and people with mental illness incredibly authentically and respectfully, and there are loads of further resources in the back of the book.
- Contemporary Fiction Fans/Novel in Verse Fans/Quick Read Fans: As a novel in verse this is a pretty quick read, but that doesn’t lessen the power of the read. It’s heartwarming. There’s also a sweet, clean little romance side plot for those who want a little Christmas love story.
Silent Days, Holy Night by Phyllis Clark Nichols
Julia is getting ready for a Christmas gala at a big mansion in West Virginia. And as she gets ready, she reminisces about how she came to this point. It all started 16 years ago when she was 10 and she first met the owner of this mansion. Mr. Lafferty was nothing more than a town legend when she met him. Rumors were he was an ogre who lived in a haunted house or something similar. So Julia is shocked to learn that her father is Mr. Lafferty II’s attorney, as her grandfather was attorney to Mr. Lafferty I. Julia does not meet an ogre when she has to accompany her father to the house because of the family’s car schedules. This girl with endless questions meets a man who is deaf and confined to a wheelchair but secretly has been the town’s greatest benefactor for years. Through Julia’s father he keeps tabs on who in town needs help and makes it happen, all anonymously. He also makes amazing bird sculptures and he is thrilled when Julia plays the piano because he can feel it if he touches the instrument. And it evidently brings back happy memories. Julia decides then and there she wants to get to know Mr. Lafferty more and find a way to thank him for all he has done for others without spilling the beans about his secret generosity. As older Julia continues to prepare for the party, she walks through memories about how that initial meeting with Mr. Lafferty, the months immediately following, and the first Christmas soon after changed many lives dramatically.
I received an ARC of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
- Anyone…No Really, Anyone: I’m not even sure whether to call it an adult novel or middle grade novel. About 3/4 of the story is told from 10 year old Julia’s perspective and the other ¼ is told from 26 year old Julia’s perspective. 10 year old Julia is quite smart and precocious though, so adults shouldn’t find her sections childish. And adult Julia is not so mature or adult-ish to preclude middle grade readers from finding her parts accessible and relatable. We’ll call it an any age story. Which seems fitting since the book is about a 10 year old befriending a kind but lonely 50 year old. It is truly an intergenerational novel.
- Feel Good Christmas Story Fans/Non-Romantic Christmas Story Fans: This isn’t a romance at all. It is a story about love and kindness changing lives. Mr. Lafferty teaches Julia how to be still and calm (a minor miracle to her parents) in addition to sign language and wood carving. And by his actions he teaches her about giving to be kind and loving without wanting anything out of it, to focus on the good rather than the bad, and unconditional kindness and forgiveness. Julia teaches Mr. Lafferty to laugh and smile again, brings vibrancy and friendship to his life…and, well, I can’t spoil her Christmas surprise for him, but it is a very, very good one. And to see where they both end up 16 years after they first met is very touching (and cleverly done because the author lets us see both of them in the present without spoiling any of the reveals of how that Christmas affected their futures until she wants us to know). This one is sadly still on order for our library, but if you can find it where you are it is a great read and I couldn't resist sharing about it.
Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul
On the out of the way Sage Street, two co-workers who have never talked before bump into each other at a small book store. Unbeknownst to either one, each of them gets a ticket to the Wizards Ball with their purchase. Cora is wary of this ball and is determined not to go. Simon would definitely not be going, except his beloved sister Sandy sees the ticket and gets it in her mind that they are going. Sandy has Down syndrome and is very special to her brother, so now Simon has to find another ticket. But there's no information on the Ball's website about where to get more tickets. In fact, there's not much information of any kind about the ball except for pictures of past events. If that weren't strange enough, the next day Simon can't even find the street the bookstore was on, let alone the book store. The answer to his dilemma comes in the form of a car accident for Cora and a mixed up phone call. Simon ends up getting the call that Cora's car is ready at the shop, and he gives her a ride there. In the process they get talking about the ball and Cora offers him her ticket for Sandy. Cora also ends up being the answer for Simon's second Sandy dilemma. Sandy's gotten it in her head that all she wants for Christmas is a kitten. It just so happens that Cora's cat surprises her with a litter of kittens. Once Sandy meets Cora, they hit it off so well she decides that Cora should go to the ball with them. Cora is well-trained by her trying family in resisting manipulation, but she finds herself wanting to spend more time with Simon, and Sandy too. With the help of some interesting dress-makers, they find a third ticket and all is set for the three of them to go to the ball. But then Cora's sister Zee sweeps into town and threatens to disrupt the ball plans and whatever might be building between Cora and Simon.
- Cinderella Re-Write Fans: There are definite parallels to Cinderella in this story, though the fantasy is kept very, very light (and able to be explained away if you so desire). It didn't feel overly done. The story is its own, just with a touch of Cinderella sprinkles on top.
- Down Syndrome Character Fans: In my opinion, Sandy absolutely stole the show here. She was adorable and I loved every moment of page time with her.
- Clean Christmas Romance Fans/Christian Fiction Fans: This is a light, fairly quick, sweet Christian Christmas read. It is always one of the most checked out Christmas reads in our library.
Christmas Poems selected and edited by John Hollander & J.D. McCarthy
A collection of poems including Christmas carols, humorous Christmas poems, and more contemplative Christmas poems.
- Busy Readers/Poetry Fans/Christmas Carol Fans: If you just have time for a little bit of reading between your holiday activities or if you like more sophisticated Christmas reading, this poetry collection may be just the ticket.
Truce: the Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy
Jim Murphy presents a rather different focus on WWI from the norm. He looks at how the war was potentially avoidable, but pride and other things got in the way of peace. He then outlines some of the initial battles, but focuses on how slow and futile much of the battle tactics and fighting in this war were. This leads up to the Christmas of 1914. The men were tired of the fruitless battles and life in the trenches, and little tendrils of peaceful actions between the fighting forces leading up to Christmas day led to numerous regiments disregarding orders and declaring a truce for the holiday, mingling with the "enemy" and celebrating together.
Note: Some historic violence related.
- Peacemakers/Holiday History Buffs/WWI Buffs: Beyond being a little slice of Christmas history, it really makes you stop and wonder if WWI could have been avoided and/or settled peacefully. Obviously, there were people on both sides willing to find common ground and see the other side as real people and potential friends. I picked this up for a non-fiction Christmassy read, and it is a powerful example of peace being enacted on Earth. It brings up some very heavy but important things to think through.