Holiday Books: Celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa

babies/tots

Merry Christmas, Red Truck

Merry Christmas, Red Truck By Kersten Hamilton

By Kersten Hamilton

Illustrated by Valerie Petrone

Viking, 2023, $8.99

Mom leaves her job at the hospital on Christmas Eve, only to have her car stall on a snowy street. Not to worry: Red Truck goes slowly to the rescue, “careful as a tippy-toe.” Relying not on speed and strength but on attentive driving and help from others, Red Truck brings Mom and her car home in time for Christmas, to the joy of her two children. Perfect for a cozy read-aloud, this rhyming board book prizes patience and kindness above the usual showy superhero traits.

Latke’s First Hanukkah

Latke’s First Hanukkah By Alan Silberberg

By Alan Silberberg

Viking, 2023, $7.99

Cheery Latke introduces little ones to the eight days of Hanukkah. He begins by lighting the menorah on the first night and then adding dreidels, gelt and presents on subsequent nights until “the whole house shines with light” and celebration. This bright board book and Latke’s lively doings are sure to elicit smiles.

ages 3 – 8

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh By Mo Willems

By Mo Willems

Union Square, 2023, $18.99

Pigeon may not be able drive a bus in the wildly popular “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” but surely the big guy in the red suit won’t mind if he tools this shiny sleigh around. Pigeon begs, argues and throws an epic temper tantrum before wondering how a vehicle that lacks a clutch and “steer-y thing” would actually go. He then gets a whiff of an annoyed reindeer and flees … only to return with a basket of Easter eggs and the blithe announcement of his new, important task. Youngsters will delight in Willems’ expressive illustrations and the surprise ending.

Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights

Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights By Bonnie Bader

By Bonnie Bader

Illustrated by Joanie Stone

Penguin Random House, 2020, $5.99

This Little Golden Book shares the traditions and history of Hanukkah in a story within a story. A contemporary Jewish family—mother, father, two children and grandmother—celebrate by lighting a menorah, spinning a dreidel and eating latkes. When the children ask about the significance of eight nights, the narrative shifts to the centuries-old story of the battle of the brave Maccabees to re-claim their temple and the miracle of the long-burning oil in the menorah. The book then returns to the family in the closing pages and their gratitude for the sustaining “warmth and love” of family, community and religion.

Elves Are the Worse

Elves Are the Worse By Alex Willan Simon & Schuster

By Alex Willan

Simon & Schuster, 2023, $18.99

According to Gilbert the Goblin, Santa’s elves hog all the holiday limelight. He’s determined to prove that goblins are every bit as hard-working and magical, so he infiltrates Santa’s workshop–only to loose a reindeer and mess up the Christmas wrapping. But the elves make him part of the team, and he soon discovers a unique way to contribute. This holiday tale will both tug at the heart and tickle the funny bone.

The Christmas Doll

The Christmas Doll By Amy Sparks

By Amy Sparks

Illustrated by Katie Hickey

Candlewick, 2023, $17.99

Evie and Great-Grandma Sue visit the Repair Shop to see if Sue’s age-ravaged doll can be fixed. Sue then tells the story of how she received the doll—a surprise Christmas gift– when she was sent as a child from London to the English countryside to help keep her safe during World War II. Young Sue had stayed with an older couple whose kindness quickly transformed them from strangers to beloved parent surrogates, and she has treasured the doll ever since. The ending honors family history and the skilled repair team widely known from the BBC television series “The Repair Shop.”

Rocket Says Speak Up!

Rocket Says Speak Up! By Nathan Fryon

By Nathan Fryon

Illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Random House, 2023, $18.99

When Rocket learns that her local library is closing due to lack of funds, she decides to speak up. Demonstrating the Kwanzaa principles of umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility) and nia (purpose), Rocket informs her school and neighborhood friends, organizes a peaceful protest outside the library and over time, helps to bring about positive change. Rosa Parks—a hero she has read about—would be proud of Rocket and her fellow library activists.

ages 9 – 13

Wrecker

Wrecker By Carl Hiaasen

By Carl Hiaasen

Knopf, 2023, $18.99

With “Wrecker,” Carl Hiaasen adds another intriguing mystery to his oeuvre of bestselling, eco adventures for young people. In tropical Key West, Florida, a young loner named Wrecker gets mixed up with smugglers, family secrets, a historic cemetery and an Iguana Tree in this page-turning, humorous novel.

Sharing a Musical Hug with the World

Grammy-nominated global artist Chandrika Tandon’s new album, Ammu’s Treasures, originated as a gift to her grandchildren. It is meant to be a monumental sharing of music among families, with a global focus. Ammu’s Treasures presents songs in multiple languages from French to Sanskrit, and visual animations to help all ages feel the love, light and laughter that are Tandon’s mantra. Featuring guest appearances by legends and world-class musicians such as Béla Fleck, the three-disc set includes brand-new, family-friendly renditions of folk staples, ’50s and ’60s classics and French chansons, as well as traditional, calming chants.