It's time to make merry with a few of our favorite selections for the holiday season.
Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton (Little Simon/S&S, $14.99 hardcover, 9781442468139, 32p., ages 3-6, October 2, 2012)
An elephant drummer, "marching along with a BOOM-biddy/ BOOM-biddy/ steady and strong," leads a parade of Sandra Boynton's signature animals decked out in red and green, including chickens with silver bassoons and piggies with Christmas balloons. There's even a Santa Claus rhino! One little piggie stays inside for a twist of a surprise.
The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, illus. by Renata Liwska (Houghton Mifflin/HMH, $12.99 hardcover, 9780547558639, 32p., ages 4-8, October 16, 2012)
In this soothing and elegant holiday homage from the team behind The Loud Book and The Quiet Book, a cast of animal characters hit all the right notes, from "Searching for presents quiet" to "Trying to stay awake quiet." A breathtaking three-part sequence depicts a hedgehog putting the finishing touch on the Christmas tree ("Star on top quiet"), an aerial view ("Lights on quiet") and many pairs of eyes glittering in the dark ("Blown fuse quiet"). Just right for putting excited little ones in a bedtime mood.
Christmas at the Toy Museum by David Lucas (Candlewick, $15.99 hardcover, 9780763658687, 32p., ages 3-up, September 25, 2012)
David Lucas (Halibut Jackson) imagines what the toys do on Christmas Eve after all the visitors go home. He designs veritable stage sets of castles, bridges and cranes, and twirling tracks for railroad cars. But there are no presents under the tree for the toys. The old toy cat Bunting, sporting a tweed suit, suggests they "give one another ourselves." The wrapping and unwrapping scenes are worth the price of admission, and the angel ("a REAL angel") solves one unanticipated problem.
Christmas Wombat by Jackie French, illus. by Bruce Whatley (Clarion/HMH, $16.99 hardcover, 9780547868721, 32p., ages 4-8, October 16, 2012)
Who needs Santa's cookies when you can have his reindeer's carrots? The star of Diary of a Wombat doesn't know the source of his good fortune, but he smells carrots everywhere--all he has to do is battle the "strange creatures" that try to get at his supply. French and Whatley exploit the humor behind Wombat's ignorant bliss with their trademark deadpan humor.
Christmastime by Alison Jay (Dial/Penguin, $16.99 hardcover, 9780803738041, 32p., ages 3-up, November 8, 2012)
Alison Jay's (Picture This) classic picture book puzzles, with the look of crackled porcelain compositions, here give enchanting clues to famous Christmas songs ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," "Jingle Bells," etc.) while a larger story of a girl and boy who meet Santa connect the pieces.
Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black, illus. by Rosalind Beardshaw (Nosy Crow/Candlewick, $15.99 hardcover, 9780763661748, 32p., ages 3-up, September 11, 2012)
On Christmas Eve, a king buys a roll of beautiful bright-red cloth that does much more than provide a grand cloak for the princess, in this uplifting tale of a gift that keeps on giving. The castle's kitchen maid uses the discarded scraps for a jacket for her mother, and a badger, squirrel and mouse make warm vestments for their loved ones, too. Beardshaw balances warm interior scenes with brisk wintry landscapes, including a triumphant skate with everyone decked out in their presents.
Our Very Own Christmas by Annette Langen, illus. by Marije Tolman (NorthSouth, $17.95 hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780735840881, October 2012)
Young Kelly knows a thing or two about the Nativity. She likes to play Mary while her little brother, Franklin, plays Joseph. "Knock, knock! Do you have room for us?" says he. Tolman creates deceptively simple illustrations for this paper-over-board gem, in which Franklin needs a bit of prodding for his lines, and children who've witnessed or acted out the Nativity will thrill to the siblings' re-enactment.
The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett, illus. by Poly Bernatene (Peachtree, $15.95 hardcover, 9781561456703, 32p., ages 6-10, October 1, 2012)
Santa takes the high road in this perversely funny tale of Bradley Bartleby, who takes naughty to extremes with a scheme to hold up St. Nicholas for "every present he's got." Bernatene's tantalizingly slick and gloomy perspectives suggest a boy mad scientist's laboratory; children with a sense of poetic justice will enjoy watching Bradley's plans backfire, even as Santa exudes kindness--with a hint of humor.
Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum/S&S, $16.99 hardcover, 9781442409347, 40p., ages 4-8, October 2, 2012)
Poet and artist Ashley Bryan (Beautiful Blackbird) shifts the nativity story to a child's eye–view with this moving tale of a boy shepherd and carpenter who invites Mary and Joseph to take shelter in the stable he built. Tempura and acrylic illustrations resemble watercolors as they evoke the feeling of stained glass, and the characters' faces reflect the citizenry of Egypt and the Middle East through which the Holy Family traveled. Exquisite. --Jennifer M. Brown