The holidays are approaching, and you know what that means: school vacations, trips to visit the grandparents, long plane/car/bus rides…all opportunities to spend lots of quality time with the kids. Three new books offer holiday cheer and activity ideas; the fourth reminds us to be mindful of what’s most important. All four are gift-giving gold.
Marc Brown’s Finger Rhymes (Dutton, 2–5 years) came out in 1980, with a colorful cover and black-and-white illustrations. Now Brown has taken some of the rhymes from that and subsequent books and re-illustrated them in Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes: A Treasury for Families to Learn and Play Together. The book features many familiar rhymes and songs (“The Wheels on the Bus,” “I’m a Little Teapot”), along with a few lesser-known pleasures. Boxes alongside the lines of each rhyme illustrate the finger gestures. Brown’s gouache and colored-pencil illustrations jump with joyful energy, with lots of visual jokes for children to spot. (Little, Brown, 2–5 years)
The preschooler-friendly fare in Toddler Christmas includes such diversions as search-and-find and spot-the-difference pictures; alphabet, counting, color, and shape exercises; song lyrics; Clement C. Moore’s Christmas standard; and basic retellings of the Nativity story and The Nutcracker. Seasonal projects require adult help, a fact clearly indicated alongside the step-by-step directions. Katie Saunders’s sweetly childlike illustrations offer plenty for pre-readers to pore over on their own. (Barron’s, 2–5 years)
Perfect for cozy holiday story times, The Family Christmas Treasury: Tales of Anticipation, Celebration, and Joy includes such series-book favorites as Tacky the penguin, Lyle the crocodile, and Ollie the duckling as well as classics such as ’Twas the Night Before Christmas illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. Interspersed among the stories are eight songs from Curious George Christmas Carols, beautifully illustrated by H. A. Rey. A CD of holiday music rounds out this gift anthology. (Houghton, 3–7 years)
Katherine Paterson’s Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving spans centuries and cultures, from the Bible to Julian of Norwich to Emily Dickinson to the Dalai Lama. The collection is divided into thanks for food, life, spirit, and community; short autobiographical essays by Paterson introduce each section and give the volume a welcome personal touch. Pamela Dalton’s cut-paper silhouettes, occasionally embellished with watercolor, decorate the pages. (Chronicle/Handprint, 6 years and up)
From the November 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.