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10 great holiday-season books to enjoy with your little ones
The season of all seasons is upon us. And these children's books about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and wintertime are just what we need to slow down, cuddle up and entertain and enlighten our little ones.
"Kugel for Hanukkah?" by Gretchen M. Everin; illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown (Kar-Ben)
A little girl celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah with her family, and each night brings a surprise -- although not the one she's hoping for. The tone is set early on: "I lit the shamash and the first candle. Grandma said the blessing. Then we feasted on crispy potato latkes with sweet applesauce." Her grandmother gets a gift of candied cranberries; the little girl, wanting a pet, instead gets a lamp. Each night the family lights another candle, eats more latkes (made with various ingredients and toppings), and the grandmother and girl each open a gift. At the end, the grandmother combines all her gifts to make the girl's favorite treat -- kugel (noodle casserole, traditionally eaten during Passover). Later, we see that each of the child's gifts relates to the surprise she receives on the last night: a new pet. Bright, cheerful illustrations pair with the sweet story.
"My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa," by Lisa Bullard; illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo (Lerner)
This festive, engaging book, organized into informational chapters, begins: "Hi! I'm Kevin. We're getting ready for Kwanzaa." From there, he explains how his family prepares for the holiday, followed by definitions of key terms, a history of the holiday and how the family celebrates. He says: "Somebody new lights the candles each night. I watch closely so I'm ready for my turn." Back pages provide further details, including components of the celebration and explanations, such as "Families celebrate Kwanzaa in many ways. Some families drink juice from a special unity cup." A question-and-answer page and glossary offer expanded learning.
"Barnyard Bubbe's Hanukkah," by Joni Klein-Higger and Barbara Sharf; illustrated by Monica Gutierrez (Kar-Ben)
This short board book combines Hanukkah, counting and guessing. For seven nights, a different animal knocks on Barnyard Bubbe's door, letting her know it left her an item. We see only the animals' foot as it knocks, and we see the word for the sound it makes. "KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK/On the first night of Hanukkah, what did Barnyard Bubbe see?/One sack of meal./ 'Oh, my. Who has left this for me?' " The next night, she receives two cups of oil, and so forth, until the eighth night, when she combines all the ingredients to make latkes. On the last two pages, she and each of the animals hold a plate with the latkes. It's a fun read-aloud, and little ones will enjoy guessing which animal makes each of the sounds.
"Grover's Hanukkah Party," by Joni Kibort Sussman; illustrated by Tom Leigh (Kar-Ben)
A smiling, familiar face from Sesame Street leads readers in counting the many parts of Hanukkah -- all of which add up to eight. "Hanukkah is the holiday of 8," reads a page, with the numbers one through eight brightly depicted underneath. Eight also refers to the number of items on Grover's grocery list, the time for the party to start, the number of friends and so on. Various Sesame Street characters make appearances in this short yet upbeat holiday book.