ages 3 – 7
Light the Menorah! by Jacqueline Jules illustrated by Kristina Swarner Kar-Ben, 2018, $18.99
Acclaimed author Jacqueline Jules creates a lovely Hanukkah guide that includes a poem for each of the eight nights, songs, stories and reflections. Kristina Swarner’s gentle palette and blurred lines create a timeless soft focus to pictures of both contemporary and historic scenes, in keeping with the traditional nature of the text. Kids can help with preparations, thanks to easy-to-follow recipes for potato latkes and jelly doughnuts and step-by-step craft instructions for cardboard menorahs and dreidel decorations. Sure to be a treasured family favorite.
The Girl with a Mind for Math by Julia Finley Mosca illustrated by Daniel Reiley Innovation Press, 2018, $17.99 Perfect for Kwanzaa is this lively, rhyming picture book biography of Raye Montague, who embodies the Kwanzaa principles of self-determination, purpose and creativity. Montague was a fiercely talented engineer and Navy ship designer who refused to let near-constant sexism and racism hold her back. Parents and educators will appreciate the informative back matter, with timeline and additional details. Readers will be inspired by the photo of Montague and her friendly note at the end, which emphasizes inner vision and work ethic: “If you have a dream like I did, study hard and stay focused! Always remember that just because someone says ‘you can’t,’ that doesn’t have to stop you.”
The Snowy Nap by Jan Brett G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018, $18.99 Each book by Jan Brett is a feast for the eyes, with detailed renderings of expressive animals, and this new tale is especially charming. Like a youngster who balks at bedtime, Hedgie, the hedgehog, fights his instinct to hibernate. He wants to stay up and see the icicles, frozen pond and snow described by the chickens, geese and sheep in his neighborhood. Lisa, the farm girl, finds him shivering and barely awake and brings him indoors where he can witness all the winter wonders from a warm perch by the window. Finally satisfied, Hedgie trundles back to his snuggly den, little dreaming of the funny surprise that the animals orchestrate for Lisa.
Little Whale by Jo Weaver Peachtree, 2018, $17.95 Looking for a gift that will connect with a child’s sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world? Pick up this exquisitely illustrated, lyrical tale of a whale calf’s journey with his mother, Gray Whale. The two swim alone from the “warm southern sea” to the “cool, rich waters of the North,” where they can rest and feed with their family. Along the way, Little Whale experiences coral reefs, shimmering fish, enormous cruise ships and starry “midnight skies.” He must contend with danger, including hungry orcas and his own tiredness, as he travels 12,400 miles on what “is believed to be the longest annual migration of any mammal.” With beautiful language and captivating facts, Weaver weaves a piece of narrative nonfiction that reads like a reassuring lullaby.
ages 8 – 12
My Father’s Words by Patricia MacLachlan HarperCollins, 2018, $15.99 The Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan is at the top of her game with this poignant, powerful novel about finding purpose and an outlet for grief at a shelter for animals. As they read to and befriend rescued dogs, the narrator and her younger brother share memories of their father, who has died in a recent car accident. Hopeful that he can find a way to reach a very withdrawn dog, the little boy sings his father’s favorite song – which leads to the small dog eventually rediscovering his true home. This story demonstrates how compassion and kindness ripple out and connect others in unimagined ways.