Monthly Archives: December 2015

Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes













Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes
by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011

Daisy is eating breakfast one morning, when a giant purple rhino appears in her kitchen—and eats all the pancakes!

Daisy tells her parents, but they are so busy, they don’t hear her.  Typical!  She attempts several times, but they just don’t believe her.  In the meantime, chatting and playing games, Daisy makes friends with the rhino.  Then one day she decides they rhino should return to his home and she tries to figure out how to get him home.  In the meantime, her parents decide to take Daisy to the zoo so she can see what a real rhino looks like.  When they arrive, a sign is posted that the rhino is missing—and eats pancakes!  They now believe her.  They decide the rhino really needs to return to his home, not the zoo, and squeeze the rhino in the car and take him to the airport.  Daisy misses the rhino, but…a new visitor arrives!

A silly ‘what if’ story, paying tribute to the frustrations some kids have when their parents are so busy, they don’t listen to their kids.  All in good fun!

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Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein













Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein
by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer, illustrated by Christine Davenier
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2015

As you know from the title, this book is about a Jewish girl who writes a letter to Santa.

In this poignant tale, Young Rachel sees all the bright lights, decorated trees, and gifts on display to celebrate Christmas and wants to celebrate it “like everyone else does”.  But her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas and she must accept that.  The book has several worthy quotes, including,

“But when Christmas came to town, Rachel felt like a kid in a candy store with no mouth.”

She asks if they can put up lights.  No.  She asks if they can put up a tree, like another Jewish family.  No.  So that night, Rachel writes a letter to Santa asking him to come to her house.

“…I know that you are a fair person and will not mind that I am Jewish.  After all, so was                 Jesus, at least on his mother’s side.”

She visits Santa, to ask him in person.  And on the eve before Christmas, she makes cookies (out of latke’s) and decorates her house for Santa.  But, of course, he doesn’t come.  As is the family’s tradition, they go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, but this year she sees her friends, Lucy Deng, Mike Rashid and Amina Singh, who also don’t celebrate Christmas.  Learning about their holiday celebrations, she reasons, “why feel so bad about one little old day like Christmas?”

Truly a wonderful book about diversity!  An eye opener for those who celebrate Christmas, to remind them it is a religious holiday, not celebrated by everyone, and to be aware of cultural differences.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten












Yoon and the Christmas Mitten
by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Frances Foster Books, 2007

While this book is older and only available used or at a library, it’s worth seeking out.  It’s a poignant story about a young Korean girl, new to America, who doesn’t understand why she can’t celebrate Santa Claus.

In kindergarten, Yoon learns about Santa Claus.  She attempts to tell her parents about this wonderful man, but they say they live in a Korean house, not a Christmas house.  She learns about reindeer, makes popcorn balls and learns about Christmas stockings, but her parents stay solid on claiming they live in a Korean house, not a Christmas house.  Frustrated, Yoon points out, “But father, you have also told me that America is our home now.  Are we not both Korean and American?”  He contemplates her words and compliments her, “You are full of shining wisdom, little Yoon.”  On Christmas Day, she awakens to a piece of the North Pole in her mitten and a gift by her bed.

Beyond the main theme of immigrants having to make changes when they move to a new land, many additional components make this a wonderful story: the young child is ‘heard’ by her parents, the loose illustrations speak to the heart, and the charm of a red mitten in place of a stocking.  An endearing tale.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

Miracle on 133rd Street













Miracle on 133rd Street 
By Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Atheneum Books for Yong Readers, 2015

A young family immigrated from Puerto Rico feels cramped in their small apartment.  When they go to prepare their Christmas roast, the oven is too small.  The family decides to bake it at a pizza restaurant.  On their way there, neighbors in their apartment and in stores along the way all share their Christmas ‘stresses’.  When the roast arrives, it’s aromas relax everyone, and the young family invites them over to share their feast.  A wonderful story sharing all the usual holiday commotions and sharing love over food.  The loose colorful illustrations highlight the fun and frivolities of the holidays.  Sharing numerous snippets of Christmas, everyone is bound to find one familiar to their experience.

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Santa Claus and the Three Bears













Santa Claus and the Three Bears
by Maria Modugno, illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer
Harper, 2013

Based on the classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this delightful story stays true to the original story, adapting it perfectly to fit Santa and the Christmas holidays.  While the author weaves in a few fresh ideas, it feels like an original story, not an adaptation.  Rendered in watercolor and gouache, the characters draw in the readers into the humorous tension.

While I generally include a summary of the story, it did not seem necessary for this classic.  Children will delight in discovering the similarities and differences between the two storylines.  Santa Claus and the Three Bears is a book that deserves a place on the shelf with the family’s Christmas classics.

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Tucky Jo and Little Heart













Tucky Jo and Little Heart
by Patricia Polacco
Simon and Schuster, 2015

A heart-warming story of how a soldier befriends a young girl, providing her and her family with food to help them get through the war and how his kindness is returned many years later.

Johnnie Wallen, a young sharpshooter from Kentucky, convinces his parents to lie about his age, so he can use his skills in the war.  Fighting for 216 days straight, he wonders why all this shooting is going on; it just doesn’t seem right.  He accidentally comes upon and befriends a native girl who has a birthmark the shape of a little heart on her arm.  He calls her Little Heart and she learns to call him Tucky Jo.

As he would do for any neighbor back home in Kentucky, he provides her with some of his rations.  When he learns of what has happened to the family and that they are starving, he brings additional food to keep them alive.  Eventually he is able to help them escape, and that is the last he sees of them.

He thinks about Little Heart throughout his life.  When he becomes a senior, he needs medical care, but it is slow in coming through the Veterans Administration.  One day a new nurse shows up and needed health care services become available.  Looking at his medical file, the nurse studies his enlistment photo.  With tears rolling down her face, she tells him she will take care of Tucky Jo, like he took care of her many years ago.

Read more reviews at Amazon.

Job Wanted











Job Wanted
by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Chris Sheban
Holiday House, 2015

An old farm dog seeking food and shelter, asks a farmer if he needs a dog.  When told no, the dog asks if he had an opening for a cow.  “Sure,” said the farmer, “but you’re not a cow.”  The dog shows up the next day and herds the cows into place for milking.  Again, the farmer says no to the dog, but agrees he could use a horse.  While the farmer plows, the old farm dog dangles tasty carrots before the plow horse and work flies by.  No, the dog was not a horse, says the farmer, but he agrees he could use a chicken.  The dog cleans the chicken house and naps until the farmer came for the eggs.  A fox appears….  Well, you can guess how it ends.

With warm drawings, repetition, and a dog pretending to be what he is not, it’s a delightful story, allowing readers the opportunity to call out the humor in each scene.

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