New and old holiday favorites By Judy Belanger


It's hard to believe that another year is ending and that already the excitement of the December holidays is here. I have enjoyed reading some new holiday books as well as old favorites with new illustrations. Happy holidays.

A VERY MICE CHRISTMAS, by Wendy Wax, HarperCollins, $6.99; ages 2-6.

The mice are getting ready for Christmas. In this simple board book with touch and feel pages, very small children can learn about preparing for Christmas. Pine trees always smell so good, ribbon feels so smooth and best of all, it is fun to touch Santa's beard.

IT'S A MIRACLE! A HANUKKAH STORYBOOK, by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, Atheneum, $16.95; ages 4-8.

Owen is the O.C.L. (official candle lighter) for Hanukkah this year. Each night after he has finished his job and the festivities of the day's end, he is tucked into bed by his grandma-and she asks him if he is ready for a story. For the next eight nights, she tells him stories about family members, what they were like when they were children and how they grew up, including Grandma, who wanted to be a cowgirl. Grandma did become a cowgirl and bought herself a horse. She still wears her boots, which she kicks off each night before starting her stories. Owen learns from Grandma the importance of the holiday as well as family and tradition.

AMELIA BEDELIA AND THE CHRISTMAS LIST, by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynn Sweat, HarperCollins, $6.99; ages 4-8.

Amelia Bedelia is having a real hard time finding the items on her shopping list; she has trouble with those compound words every time. In her literal mind, why would someone want phones to put on their head or a board with snow on it? Each lift of the flap page reveals a sales clerk who will help Amelia make the right purchases. This is Amelia Bedelia's 40th birthday. Many children over the years have learned about taking words literally through Amelia's antics. Visit the Web site for more fun pages to accompany the books. Happy birthday Amelia and many more. CHRISTMAS COOKIES! A COOKBOOK WITH COOKIE CUTTERS, by Susan Devins, illustrated by Barbara Lehman, Candlewick Press, $12.99; ages 5-12.

Baking cookies has been a special event in our family for many years. As soon as our daughter could sit in her high chair, she had a small rolling pin and small cookie cutters to make her own pan of cookies. It was fun doing the same thing when the grandchildren were little. Each year now, I am invited to their house to help make cookies. Devins has included 17 different easy-to-follow recipes, including sugar cookies and gingerbread men-two holiday favorites. Also included with the book are three cookie cutters: star, tree and gingerbread man. It's a great book to read while waiting for the cookies to bake. Within the pages, you can find the origins of Christmas traditions. There are also frosting recipes for decorating. The pages are plastic coated, which makes for easy clean up after baking. Enjoy, and don't forget to save a few for Santa.

COOL YULE! A CREATIVE AND CRAFTY CHRISTMAS, by Debra Mostow Zakarin, illustrated by Debra Ziss, Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99; ages 9-12.

There are some cool ideas in this book for crafts, recipes and games. Most older children can do the projects themselves but the book cautions about adult supervision with hot glue guns. Some of the ideas, such as making bubble bath salts, would be a good group project for a Scout troop. There are also fun ideas for exchanging grab bag gifts. The emphasis is the enjoyment of the season with everyone being involved and helping. I found projects I want to try and I'll bet you will too. I just wish the book had an index; it would have been helpful.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Anita Lobel, Alfred A. Knopf, $8.95; all ages.

In 1822 Clement C. Moore wrote this classic poem for his two daughters, but it was 22 years before he claimed to be the author. Many versions have been illustrated over the years and Lobel's pictures have tried to capture 19th century New York City-how the city would have looked when the poem was written. The pictures depict the snow-covered rows of town houses and Santa's farewell over the Brooklyn Bridge. This is a smaller edition of her previously published book, just the right size to slip into a stocking.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Mary Engelbreit, HarperCollins, $16.99; all ages.

The artwork of Engelbreit is recognized by many from her books, greeting cards, household items and apparel. Her pictures bring a new delight to this traditional Christmas story. It's delightful to start the story behind the wall where the mouse is not stirring but fast asleep in his tea cup waiting for the arrival of Santa. While the elves put on the finishing touches, Santa reads the letters from the children before they are off to the next stop. You can tell the elves are having a good time as they help Santa do his job. This is a story one never gets tired of reading, especially with such delightful pictures.

LOOK-ALIKES CHRISTMAS: THE MORE YOU LOOK, THE MORE YOU SEE!, written and illustrated by Joan Steiner, Little Brown and Co., $14.95; all ages.

Take anything you can find around the house from acorns to zippers. Then look at the objects for a while and imagine what else they could look like. That is exactly what Steiner does in her picture books. At least 100 different objects are used in creating each scene. Dog biscuits become walls, ceilings, chimneys and pull toys. Steiner explains that the New Year's fireworks were a challenge. She designed them with pine needles, ornamental grasses and feathers. Nine holiday scenes with over 1,000 hidden objects are included. A list of the objects for each page appears in the back to help, in case you just happen to miss a few. Question and answer pages help you to understand what goes into the making of these pictures. Her two previous books are Look-Alikes and Look-Alikes Jr. These books are fun for the whole family.


Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.



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