May your holidays be filled with "sprinkles and twinkles," the joy of family and friends, and the peace of cozy times to snuggle and read with your little elves!
The Gingerbread Pirate by Kristin Kladstrup
After Jim and his mother bake pirate gingerbread men for Santa's snack, toothpick-legged Captain Cookie undertakes a daring rescue of his crew from the hungry-but understanding-Santa Claus, who works a magical transformation. When Jim awakes Christmas morning, he finds under the Christmas tree not only a magnificent toy pirate ship, but also a peg-legged captain and crew onboard. An exciting story and full-page, dramatically composed paintings depicting harrowing adventures with a mouse, a cat, and the crew imprisoned in a cookie jar make this a good holiday read-aloud.
How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky
If you think Santa Claus came into the world sporting a red suit and a white beard, think again. Santa wasn't always the jolly, overweight, gift-giving fellow that we now know and love. He tried his hand at all sorts of different jobs, including postal worker, zookeeper, circus performer, and even chimney sweep, but each of these presented a problem that got in his way. It wasn't until he was lucky enough to meet a friendly bunch of elves that Santa found his true calling...and the job of his dreams.
How Santa Lost His Job by Stephen Krensky
Santa has the best job he can think of -- bringing presents each Christmas to children all around the world. Every year he prepares for his trip: He trims his beard, takes a bath, gets dressed, and packs up his sleigh for the long night ahead. But there are always a few unexpected delays that make things a little hectic. Muckle, one of the elves who helps Santa, thinks he can come up with a more efficient way for delivering the toys -- a method that won't involve Santa at all.
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
Heedless of Mama's warnings, a Japanese boy cannot resist playing at an ice-cold pond ``filled with carp of bright colors.'' When he comes home, he is immediately treated for a cold, with a hot bath and rice gruel. His mother's attitude chills him more than the weather, though; he cannot understand why she seems to be ignoring him. Hearing a noise in the garden, the boy spies Mama digging up the pine tree that was planted when he was born. She brings it inside and decorates it with paper cranes and candles. It is a Christmas tree, the first for the boy, and the first in many years for his mother, who tells her son she comes from ``a warm place called Ca-li-for-ni-a.'' The story is a poignant one, illuminated with finely drawn illustrations reflecting the serenity of a Japanese home and the quiet love between mother and son.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard and Tanya Simon
On the seventh day of Hanukkah in 1938, which also happens to be Christmas Eve, a young refugee boy named Oskar arrives in New York City from the horrors of Nazi Europe with only a photograph and an address to find an aunt he has never meet. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his aunt's home in the north end of the city, he passes and encounters the city's many holiday sights and residents. Each person he meets offers Oskar a small act of kindness, such as the newsstand man who gives Oskar a Superman comic book. Each encounter is a reference to an event which took place in the city in 1938. A constant for Oskar is remembering his father's last words, "Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings."
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera
When Sophie stows away on her mysterious great-aunt's "annual business trip," she not only discovers that Auntie Claus is Santa Claus's sister, but she also learns a much-needed lesson about giving. With their imaginative details and interesting perspectives, the vibrant illustrations lend pizzazz to this holiday story, which offers a whimsical view of what goes on at the North Pole!
Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosentstein by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer
Christmas is coming, and no one is more excited than Rachel Rosenstein. All the houses on her block are putting up lights and decorations, but her house is bare, and she can't get the rest of her family excited. They are Jewish, and they have plenty of holidays of their own to celebrate. But as much as Rachel likes hunting for the afikomen on Passover and blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, she can't help but be jealous of her neighbors when Christmastime rolls around. She writes a letter to Santa and goes to see him in the mall, but will it be enough to convince him to come to her house on Christmas morning? And if he doesn't, how can she treat Christmas as just an ordinary day?
Little Santa by Jon Agee
When the cold, harsh environment of the North Pole becomes too much for the Clauses, they decide to move to Florida, though Little Santa will miss playing in the snow. The move is put on hold, however, when a sudden blizzard renders the family snowbound. Shimmying up the chimney to find help, Little Santa meets a friendly flying reindeer and a house full of elves, who merrily assist in the rescue. Having such handy, cheerful friends makes life a lot easier, but the family still heads for Florida the following winter. Little Santa stays behind and the rest is history!
Who Would Like a Christmas Tree? by Ellen Bryan Obed
Plenty of folks want Christmas trees in December, but in January or February? Cycling through the months of the year, this picture book looks at the wildlife on a Maine Christmas-tree farm. In January, black-capped chickadees perch on the trees looking for meals of spiderlings or seeds, then roost together in the branches at night. In February, field mice tunnel through the snow toward the trees, where they feed on the bark, safe under a roof of snow. Through the months, animals (deer, aphids, wild turkeys) and wildflowers emerge to tell their stories, and in December, a family comes to choose their Christmas tree.
(I did not include books for you mature readers because I know how busy you'll be!
I promise a couple of suggestions in January, and I'll include some titles for 4-5-6 graders, too.)