Holiday Book Reviews: Season’s Readings!

When my book, The Great Holiday Cookie Swap, was released, I started looking at sales numbers on Amazon. I laughed about it because I knew I wasn’t about to release at the top of the best-seller list! The numbers are all a little surreal. Still, it amused me to look them up and see things like this:

Snapshot in time: in early November, my book was the 2,827th most popular Children’s Christmas book. Who knew there were even that many, right? Two weeks later, I now sit at 5,375 in that category. Publishing is fickle!

It was definitely humbling to look at those numbers, particularly to realize just how many books are out there– and in particular how many holiday books! Having a title that is at its most relevant only for a couple months of the year is a challenge– so today I am featuring some of those. Three of them are new releases for 2020, and the other two were out in the last two years. If you are looking for a good holiday gift book, you can’t go wrong with any of these..maybe paired with a copy of The Great Holiday Cookie Swap, of course!

Title: Santa Bruce
Author/Illustrator
: Ryan T. Higgins
Publisher/Date: 
Disney-Hyperion; Illustrated edition (September 4, 2018)
The “gist”:  Grumpy Bruce wants to be left alone (as usual), but when animals sight him in his red coat and hat, they think he is Santa and naturally, he is forced to oblige…
My favorite part:
 I love when Bruce is in the sled being pulled by the geese, but it turns out the sled is too heavy, so Bruce has to pull it. Poor Bruce!
My response as a reader: 
Ryan’s books are always so much fun– there is a simple timelessness about them but also a great clever playfulness, particularly in the art which always has little funny bits for the adults to notice. I can’t pick a favorite, but this one comes close!
My “take-away” as a writer: 
I will admit it is definitely a life-goal to have a book that is popular enough to have kids clamoring for a sequel.

Title: I’m going to give you a Polar Bear Hug!
Author
: Caroline B. Cooney
Illustrator: Tim Warnes
Publisher/Date: 
Zonderkidz; Illustrated edition (October 6, 2020)
The “gist”:  The story lists all the different ways in which the narrator will give you a hug– a tickly hug, a snowy hug, a shivery hug, etc.!
My favorite part:
The little girl wears a little “polar bear” hat throughout which is just adorable!
My response as a reader: 
There is pure joy on every page of this book — and right now when we can’t hug all of those people we would like to, even this book is like a warm hug!
My “take-away” as a writer: 
This is a concept book, since it doesn’t really have a storyline, it is just a litany of types of hugs, but it definitely holds your interest! I love the beautiful cadence of each line and the choice of such perfect descriptive vocabulary for each page!

Title: The Joyful Book
Author/Illustrator
: Todd Parr
Publisher/Date: 
Little, Brown BYR; Illustrated edition (October 6, 2020)
The “gist”:  There are many ways to be joyful — gathering with friends, lighting candles, opening presents, etc. no matter what your family traditions.
My favorite part:
The very last page contains a wonderful message from the author, Todd Parr, to the readers: “Holidays are a special time. No matter what traditions you celebrate, it is always joyful to be together with family and friends. Try to find joy every day and share it with others all year long!”
My response as a reader:
  I love that there are so many multicultural holidays represented here– I clearly see Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas, and there may be others, but they are simply illustrated as part of being joyful and that universality is great to see.
My “take-away” as a writer: 
I am biased of course, but it is nice to know that I have something in common with a New York Times Bestseling Author– this book is similar to mine in not focusing on any one holiday but on the importance of sharing and tradition. It would be a great companion book for someone wanting to give two books to a family — or a teacher reading two holiday books.

Title: Happy Llamakkah!
Author
: Laura Gehl
Illustrator: Lydia Nichols
Publisher/Date: 
Harry N. Abrams; Illustrated edition (October 13, 2020)
The “gist”:  Each page brings a new short rhyme with information about celebrations for Hanukkah, always ending with “Happy Llamakkah!”
My favorite part:
It’s llamas! What’s not to love? The illustrations are adorable!
My response as a reader: 
This would be such a great read aloud — I can totally imagine little kids loving to join in with the “Happy Llamakkah!” each time!
My “take-away” as a writer: 
Like my book, there is some good backmatter here, but there is also just a happy story about enjoying traditions.

Title: The Tree That’s Meant to Be
Author/Illustrator
: Yuval Zommer
Publisher/Date: 
Doubleday BYR; Illustrated edition (September 24, 2019)
The “gist”:  Little tree is a bit crooked and not perfect like all the others who are chosen for Christmas trees. But maybe that is ok!
My favorite part:
I love that this book feels so timeless– the illustrations of the trees and the brush stroke style remind me of books from my childhood!
My response as a reader: 
This book really made my heart full– I loved the idea that we are all the WE whom we are meant to be and that comes through here without being preachy.
My “take-away” as a writer: 
It can be hard to make first person stories work, especially with anthropomorphic main characters– this one does it really well, bringing into the tree’s lonely world and helping us feel the love at the end!

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