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So Happy Together

Do you have any special holiday books that you read every year? Here are some of my favorites, a lovely blend of new and old books to share with your children. Some honor the spirit of giving, while others tell traditional religious stories from a child’s perspective. All celebrate the warmth, love and togetherness we feel during this time of year.

Just Right for Christmas, by Birdie Black, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Candlewick, 32 pp., $15.99, ages 3–8)
Celebrating the joy of giving, this lovely picture book follows a piece of cloth “so red and soft and Christmassy” that the king uses it to make a gift for his daughter. Forest creatures discover the leftover pieces and make their own perfect gifts for their loved ones, right down to the last teeny bit of cloth, perfect for a mouse’s scarf.

The Birds of Bethlehem, by Tomie dePaola (Penguin, 40 pp., $16.99, ages 3–7)
This quiet, beautiful book shares the Nativity story as pairs of birds notice unusual happenings in Bethlehem. Children will love the quiet pacing and lovely soft paintings as they piece together elements of the familiar story from the birds’ observations.
The Christmas Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska (Houghton Mifflin, 32 pp., $12.99, ages 2-6)
San Francisco author Underwood teams again with Liwska to celebrate quiet, small moments, focusing on the many emotions that come with the holidays. “Reading by the fire quiet” and “listening for sleigh bells quiet” will bring readers back to those special moments we remember year-round.

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa, by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (HarperCollins, 32 pp., $12.99, ages 3-7)
L’il Rabbit searches for the perfect Kwanzaa gift for his grandmother when she is sick, but he just can’t decide what he should give her. He asks all her forest friends and ends up bringing together the community for the “the best Karamu ever.”

Shall I Knit You a Hat? A Christmas Yarn, by Kate Klise and Sarah Klise (Macmillan/Square Fish, 32 pp., $7.99, ages 3–6)
Berkeley artist Sarah Klise illustrates this adorable picture book written by her sister Kate Klise. As a snowstorm approaches, Little Rabbit and his mother make an assortment of unusual hats for their friends. A lovely celebration of the joy of making gifts for friends.
Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem, by Ashley Bryan (Simon & Schuster, 40 pp., $16.99, ages 4–8)
Award-winning artist Bryan combines colorful, vibrant illustrations in strong, bold strokes with a touching poem about the Nativity story from a child’s point of view. The rhyming text follows a young shepherd who builds a stable for his animals and then invites Mary and Joseph to stay on this fateful night.

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat, by Naomi Howland (Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin, 32 pp., $5.95, ages 4-8)
Sadie generously helps an old woman, and in return the old woman gives Sadie a magic frying pan that will cook as many latkes as Sadie wants—such a wonderful Hanukkah treat! But when Sadie’s brothers try to make the pan cook latkes, they cannot remember the magic words to make it stop. Chaos ensues as latkes fill their little home, spilling out into the streets.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama, by Selina Alko (Random House/Knopf, 32 pp., $16.99, ages 4-8)
Many families will relate to the way Sadie’s family blends different holiday traditions. They scatter Hanukkah gelt underneath the Christmas tree and hang candy canes from the menorah on the mantelpiece, focusing on the joy of spending time together.

Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins, by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday House, 32 pp., $7.95, ages 5–9)
Herschel outwits the demons that have been preventing villagers from celebrating Hanukkah. Children will delight in Hyman’s dark illustrations full of malevolent goblins, but warmth and humor prevail throughout as Herschel proves he can outwit the tricksters.

Grandma’s Gift, by Eric Velasquez (Walker/Bloomsbury, 32 pp., $17.89, ages 5–9)
In this touching autobiographical picture book, Velasquez recalls a special Christmas vacation with his grandmother in New York City’s El Barrio, preparing pasteles and then taking a special trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His grandmother’s gift of a sketchpad and pencils, as well as this trip to the museum, inspired Eric Velasquez’s lifelong pursuit of art.

Mary Ann Scheuer is the librarian at Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley. Find more books to share with your children at her blog, Great Kid Books (http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com)

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