Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"The Snowy Day" and other holiday books for kids

The holidays are a special treat for children. The excitement comes not just from the expectations of holiday celebrations but the extended break from studies and, over everything, the promise of snow. Here is a short group of books with a winter theme from a post at BookBag, a site where I review children's books of special interest to young readers and offer parents' reading guides as well. The BookDads site has a selection of books about winter celebrations -- not just Christmas, but Kwanzaa and the winter solstice too. Look for copies of these classics using the Amazon search boxes here on BellemeadeBooks, and be sure to visit BookDads too, which always has interesting book ideas year-round.

Above: The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (Viking Juvenile) This classic picture book isn’t strictly a holiday book, but carries a timeless appeal for its depiction of the magic of winter. A young boy awakens to find that it has snowed during the night, and goes out to explore his city under its snowy white blanket. The story is told without text, making it ideal for pre-reading children, and is a trailblazer for its depiction of a young African-American child as the protagonist.

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, by Wendy Pfeffer (Dutton Juvenile). This book simply explains the phenomenon of the winter solstice, and how and why it came to be celebrated by peoples around the world. The solstice is described primarily in the context of the natural world, making this book widely appropriate for both freethinker and religious families of all denominations. Instructions for science activities and simple solstice celebrations are also included.

Tim and Sally's Year in Poems is a good starting place for young readers. It's a jaunty and colorful trip through the seasons and their celebrations, from the sighting of springtime robins to building winter's snowman. The joys of holidays from Independence Day to Halloween, and Easter to Christmas, are captured in original poems and illustrations. There's even a bit of pause for grown-ups in the onward rush of the year: "I meant to drive to work today" celebrates simply sitting on the porch and watching the passing parade of nature, even as the hours meant for work tick away. And children get their own summer daydreaming hour, too, with its important lesson of enjoying the seasons just for themselves. More information about the author, the illustrator, and the books themselves can be found at the Tim and Sally website: www.timandsally.com.

The Magic Tree House #29: Christmas in Camelot, by Mary Pope Osborne (Random House) Reading The Magic Tree House chapter books to children can be a wonderful way to introduce them both to the concept of longer stories and to the history of America and other cultures. For children already familiar with the Magic Tree House, it can be a special treat for them to experience a seasonal story set in the world of characters they know so well. In this tale, Jack and Annie must go on a journey at Christmastime to save Camelot from being forgotten forever.
Kwanzaa Kids, by Joan Holub and Ken Wilson-Max (Puffin) This lift-the-flap book is an excellent introduction to Kwanzaa for very young children. With its many Swahili terms and different traditions, Kwanzaa can be a bit challenging for children to learn about. This book cuts to the essentials, with each two-page spread giving a very short explanation about one of the Nguzo Saba – the seven Kwanzaa principles – and showing the corresponding candles on the kinara. The illustrations are bold and colorful, and help make learning about Kwanzaa easy and fun.

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