Samurai Santa, A Very Ninja Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samurai Santa, A Very Ninja Christmas
by Rubin Pingk
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015

A super-active, tall tale for the holidays.

On Christmas Eve Yukio dressed for snow and decided the snowfall was perfect and he needed to have an EPIC snowball fight.  He checked with his other ninja friends, but they knew Santa was on his way and they had to remain good.  Yukio decided Santa must be chased away!

He set up an ambush.  When Santa appeared, Yukio banged the loudest gong and shouted “Intruder!”  The sleepy ninjas chased the bright red intruder, wondering who he was.  They looked everywhere but could not find him.  Suddenly an army of snowmen and a samurai yelled, “Banzai!” and the ninjas and snowmen clashed.  It was Epic!  But when the tired ninjas returned home, they blamed Yukio for chasing Santa away.  A wonderful surprise ending follows.

In black, white, red and grays, this barely looks like a traditional Christmas story, but super active—and especially ninja—youngsters will love the turns and twists in this tall tale.

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Countdown, 2979 Days to the Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countdown, 2979 Days to the Moon
by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishers, 2018

For readers interested in space, Countdown, documents the Apollo Project whose mission was to land a man on the moon and bring him back by the end of the 1960’s.  At the time is was an outrageous dream.  Two countries, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, dared to chase it.

The Apollo team had to design, build and test four new crafts: the command module, to carry the crew to the moon and back; the service module, to provide electricity, oxygen, and other supplies; the lunar module, that will land on the moon and provide a home there; and the Saturn rocket, to launch the entire mission into space.

Countdown, an oversized book filled with pictures of the dreamers, space and the technologies, captures the thrill, the tension, and the seemingly impossibility of the Apollo Project. It’s well written, well documented and may well inspire new astronauts and scientists.  A perfect gift for the holidays.

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Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog
by Lisa Papp
Peachtree Publishers

Madeline, of Madeline Finn and the Library Dog, learns about and visits an animal shelter.  She volunteers by rummaging their closet for old towels to donate. To help more, she collects towels from neighbors. But she wants to let the animals know they are loved and coordinates a “read to the shelter animals’ day”, like they have at the library.

An endearing story showing a child who made a difference in her world.

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Carter Reads the Newspaper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carter Reads the Newspaper
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree Publishers, 2018

Carter Reads the Newspaper documents the history of Black History Month, beginning with two unknown figures.  Oliver Jones, a coal miner, and Carter G. Woodson, a former miner and, later, historian.

Oliver opened his home to other miners and provided them books written by African-Americans and newspapers from all over the world.  One of the people visiting his home was Carter, who had had some education and knew how to read.  He soon began reading to others.  When others asked questions about the news, Carter researched them and found the answers. After three years in the mines, he returned to school, graduating at age 20, eventually earning his Ph.D. in history from Harvard.  In 1926 he established Negro History Week, which later expanded into Black History Month.

Well documented story, with illustrations inspiring pride. The book also includes illustrations of 43 Black leaders and a bit about them.

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Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh

Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh
by Uma Krishnaswami
Tu Books, 2017

Set in Yolo County California in the 1940s. The top story features Maria Singh, a girl from a mixed marriage (India/Mexico) who loves baseball, but woven into the story are multiple subplots.  The rich layers include: a heartfelt story on how the family and community made up of different cultures support each other during important challenges, even when they may not normally support each other; old laws where people not from America can’t purchase their own land; interracial marriages are not allowed; and baseball for girls. It includes insights on women working during World War II when men were on the battlefields.

I heard Uma Krishnaswami speak at a picture book bootcamp and she gave a talk like no other I have heard.  I felt empowered to write.  She detailed several of her journeys to publication, sharing how the stories started, evolved and ended.   Insightful and meaningful.

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With Love, Grandma XOXO

With Love, Grandma XOXO
by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Petra Brown
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018

Between receiving letters from Grandma and the allure of attending Camp Grandma, this story hooked and reeled me in.

Grandma goes away on her own adventure, but sends notes to her grandson each week.  Each letter has a new greeting, from “Snickerdoodle,” to “Ahoy, Matey!” Each letter is filled with love and familiar phrases, such as “shwashbuckling adventures,” jokes and rhymes.  Tucked in here and there is education, like the meaning of “plein air”.  Each page is filled with activities Grandma will do when she returns.  Love flows on each page in both words and illustrations.  Because each greeting and each adventure are so unique, readers can’t wait to hear what comes next.  Perfect for the youngest readers-to-be.

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Eat Pete!

Eat Pete!
by Michael Rex
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018

The illustrations and words in Eat Pete! dance together beautifully as readers follow a suspenseful path. We open with a monster with a one-track mind to “Eat Pete!”  When Pete meets the monster, he offers to play cars with him.  The monster really wants to eat Pete, but decides to play car because he never has before.  The moment they are done with cars, Pete suggests they play pirates. The monster had never played pirates before and agrees, though he’d much rather eat Pete. Pete stays one step ahead of the monster, until the monster does eat Pete!  The clever twist is that the monster is bored and spits Pete up, until he decides to….  You’ll have to read the surprise ending in this classic suspense.

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Rice from Heaven, The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rice from Heaven, The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans
by Tina Cho, illustrated by Keum Jin Song
Little Bee Books, 2018

A story based on a true event.

A group in South Korea organize to send balloons carrying rice across the border to South Korea in the hopes that the families will receive the rice.  The people in North Korea are starving and their government does nothing.  Some who help send the rice, are from South Korea and know starvation.  When some children cry, “They are the enemy,” the story’s hero declares the children are eating grass and bark for they have no food. Understanding, the opposing children join in the effort.  Launched under the cover of darkness, the rice must fly 118 miles and not be noticed by North Korean soldiers.  Six pages of backmatter introduces Korea and what is taking place there today. This book is ideal for discussion to supplement what children are hearing in today’s news.

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Holes in the Sky

Holes in the Sky
by Patricia Polacco
G.P.Putnam’s Sons

A story that will stay in the heart long after it’s read.

It opens with a Patricia, her brother, and their babushka laying in a field at night, staring up at the stars. Their grandmother knows her end is near and shares how the stars are holes in the sky where she can look down on them when she is gone.  Their babushka passes, the farm is sold and they move to California. There, Patricia looks for a sign that babushka is watching over her, but finds none. A new life begins, with new people, and new challenges, but she can’t see the sign that babushka is watching over her…until she does, and sees her babushka was there all along.

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Vincent Comes Home

Vincent Comes Home
by Jessixa Bagley, illustrated by Aaron Bagley
Roaring Book Press, 2018

Vincent, the ship’s cat, has a difficult time understanding this place everyone called ‘home’. The Captain and mates raved about it, but Vincent doesn’t understand.  After many months at sea, the ship arrives at home port and, for the first time in his life, Vincent went on land.  He followed his shipmates and learned what home meant and why it was so special.  But then he realized he didn’t have a home, until…

A heart-warming story ideal for new explorers, complete with illustrations of a ship’s galley, cargo, and ports of call.

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