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Book Reviews

Holiday Books

By Mary Quattlebaum

babies / tots

Under the Silver Moon

This sumptuous tribute to bedtime includes classic children’s poems, lullabies and songs. Pamela Dalton’s stylized cut-paper art is a lovely match for traditional rhymes such as “I See the Moon” and “Hush, Little Baby.” Dalton beautifully conveys the diversity and wonder of children as they gaze upon stars in “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or cross a dream-sea in “My Bed is a Boat.” The soothing rhythms and slightly old-fashioned diction set a quiet mood sure to ease little ones into dreamland. This exquisite book has broad appeal throughout the year.

ages 3 – 7

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas

Washington author Pamela Ehrenberg serves up a charming Hanukkah tale with a multicultural theme. The narrator is the older brother of a tot who loves to climb. Little Sadie scampers to the top of a pyramid of cans at the Indian market and clambers onto the kitchen counter as Dad and Mom prepare for Hanukkah. But when the family is accidentally locked out, Sadie and the narrator engineer a rescue and emerge as unexpected heroes. Different families may have different Hanukkah rituals, and this delightful book celebrates what they all have in common: love for one another and great respect for their religious traditions.

Finding Christmas

This tale of three friends embodies the generous spirit of Christmas. Hare, Squirrel and Mouse prepare for the holiday by baking cookies, trimming a little tree and wrapping presents for one another. But when Mouse finds a sick swallow, the friends discover that the gifts they prepared for one another are exactly what’s needed for their new, feathered friend. This gentle story by local author Lezlie Evans and illustrator Yee Von Chan is sure to be a Christmas read-aloud favorite for all members of the family.

An Artist’s Night Before Christmas

Maryland author and illustrator Joan C. Waites puts a fresh spin on the classic seasonal poem by Clement Moore. As he tries to paint a picture for a friend, a French mouse worries aloud: “The perspective is wrong, all the colors too bright. I never will finish this painting tonight.” As the mouse experiments with various artistic styles, young readers learn about techniques such as crosshatching and stippling and gaze upon portraits of Picasso, Degas and Van Gogh, all with rodent ears and teeth. An inspiring visit from jolly St. Nick helps the mouse to create a treasured gift from his heart. With its jewel-like colors, Waites’ artwork shines in this story of the importance of persistence and passion in the artistic process.

William’s Winter Nap

William has just settled down to sleep when a series of knocks at his front door heralds a variety of shivering creatures. Is there room for one more? The rollicking rhymes pair with the expressive illustrations to depict an increasingly crowded bed as first a chipmunk, then a porcupine and raccoon squeeze in beside William. When a cold, lonely bear appears, what are the friends to do? This cozy read-aloud begs for a hug and family snuggle at the end, especially when the winter wind howls outside.

ages 8 – 12

Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee

This year’s winner of the prestigious New Voices Award is a fascinating biography by Andrea Loney. In Lenox, Massachusetts in the early 1900s, young James VanDerZee saw his first camera and was immediately intrigued. He taught himself the art of photography, and at the age of 18, he left for New York City, where he eventually opened his own studio. In vivid prose, Loney describes VanDerZee’s drive to convey the energy and beauty of both celebrities – Marcus Garvey, Joe Lewis, Florence Mills – and the people of his Harlem neighborhood. VanDerZee exemplifies all seven Kwanzaa principles, especially Kuumba (creativity), Umoja (unity) and Kujichagulia (self-determination).

The Incredible Magic of Being

Nine-year-old Julian believes that magic is omnipresent, even when it can’t be seen, but his angry older sister and their two moms are more concerned with starting a new life in a small town in Maine. Talkative Julian has a serious heart condition, but that doesn’t stop him from embracing astronomy, sharing Facts and Random Thoughts (FARTs) about his surroundings and befriending a grumpy elderly neighbor. Julian also has the uncanny ability to sense information from the universe, which helps him to connect with this neighbor in ways no one would deem possible. National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine adds another engaging, thought-provoking novel to her list of highly acclaimed books.

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 25 award-winning children’s books, most recently “Hero Dogs,” a National Geographic nonfiction chapter book about amazing animal heroes. Mary is a popular school and conference