Humorous Valentine’s Day Reads

XO, OX A Love Story* is a hilarious story about an ox who is in love with a gazelle. It consists of a series of back and forth correspondence between the two characters, revealing Ox’s complete devotion and admiration of Gazelle and Gazelle’s gradual but undeniably growing fondness for Ox.

The story begins with Ox penning a letter to Gazelle declaring his love for her. Ox receives a standard response letter with his name hand written in. When he responds to that letter, he receives the exact same letter once again. Ox writes back pointing this out to Gazelle, which elicits a real response from Gazelle.

XO, OX is a hilarious picture book, which will have young readers laughing in no time!

 

Hug It Out!* by Louis Thomas is a must have for parents with two or more children. Woody and Annie are experts when it comes to fighting with one another. Mother grows tired of constantly reminding them to share or to be kind to one another, so she comes up with a new strategy, every time they argue, they will have to hug.

At first, Woody and Annie have a hard time remembering the punishment, but after hugging so many times they grow tired of hugging and want to avoid having to do it anymore.

The story along with the illustrations, which includes a sneaky cat, capture the tension that may arise in a typical sibling relationship on a daily basis.

XO, OX is a great book for kids ages 4-8. Click here to purchase a copy of XO, OX (affiliate link).

Hug it Out! is perfect for readers ages 3-7. Click here to purchase a copy of Hug it Out! (affiliate link).

*I received complimentary copies of XO, OX and Hug it Out! in exchange for my honest review.

 

Valentine’s Day Board Books

Hedgehugs and the Hattiepillar is the second board book about two hedgehog friends, Hattie and Horace. They love doing everything together from trying to catch the moon to playing hide and seek. They also spend time together, but each doing what they like independently. One day, they discover a caterpillar egg underneath a leaf.

Hattie and Horace witness a wriggly, stripy thing (also known as a caterpillar) emerge from the egg. They watch as it eats and eats and then goes to sleep. They are amazed when one day something beautiful emerges from the bed and flies away.

The friends begin to wonder, if they eat a lot and sleep in a special bed, will they also turn into something wonderful and colorful too?

 

 

Hedgehugs and the Hattiepillar is a fantastic board book about friendship and embracing a playful spirit. This book would be a terrific addition to any home library along with Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

This adorable board book is perfect for young readers ages 2-5. Lucy Tapper’s beautiful, colorful illustrations help get the reader thinking about spring and the changing of seasons.

Shiny Shapes: Love You Always by Roger Priddy reads either as a series of short four-line poems or as a complete story written in rhyme.

Each page is dedicated to a celebration of friendship or the love of family. The series of hearts cut out of the pages are captivating and help the reader get into the Valentine’s Day spirit.

Love You Always is the perfect book for the holiday, ideal for readers ages 2-5.

Click here to purchase a copy of Shiny Shapes: Love You Always and Hedgehugs and the Hattiepillar (affiliate links). 

*I received a complimentary copy of these books in exchange for my honest review.

 

Picture Books About Groundhog Day

Growing up in Southern California, Groundhog Day never had any real significance in our lives. What would the weather be like in February? The same as in January and November, mild and sunny, windy on a bad day. Groundhog Day could come and go, and quite frankly it made no difference to us.

Over a decade ago, I made the move the New York City, and all I can say is by the time Groundhog Day arrives I hope there is no shadow in sight for Staten Island Chuck. If I can’t watch the news live, I’ll keep refreshing my phone or computer hoping for word that spring is coming.

Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub is such a funny kid’s book. It begins with a rabbit watching the news in its pajamas on Groundhog Day. He finds out that it is spring, so he gets dressed accordingly and pokes his head out of his rabbit hole to discover that it is snowing. Distraught, he writes a letter to the Weather Groundhog advising him to recruit additional groundhogs so that they can report accurate weather forecasts for multiple locations. Weather Groundhog agrees, so he takes out an ad in the local paper. (See below).

The advertisement alone is bound to have young readers giggling. The rest of the story follows the class of groundhogs, and one distinct “exchange student” as they attend weather school and prepare for their first official Groundhog Day.

Throughout the story Joan Holub includes details about Groundhog Day, from the science behind changing of the seasons and shadows, it to famous Groundhogs around the country. The illustrations by Kristin Sorra are comical and make even the information rich pages interesting and easy to follow. The use of diagrams breaks it down in a clear way that makes it accessible to readers.

Groundhog Weather School is great for kids ages 5-9.

Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day! by Abby Levine is a very sweet story about a young, shy groundhog who is given the great responsibility of predicting the weather. For years and years, Great-Uncle Gus searched for his shadow, but now it’s time for him to retire and for Gretchen to take over. Gretchen is overwhelmed and decides that there is no way she will go out in front of the crowd.

It’s only when Hester, the town historian’s daughter, brings Gretchen a special box filled with letters from her groundhog predecessors also expressing their anxiety and nervousness leading up to their first Groundhog Day that she realizes that how she is feeling is normal and she works up the courage to face her fears.

Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day is a wonderful book because it also teaches an importance about overcoming obstacles. It provides an opportunity for young learners to talk about feelings and healthy ways to express them. This book is terrific for readers ages 5-8.

Click here to purchase copies of Groundhog Weather School and Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day! (affiliate links).

 

 

 

The Perfect Picture Book for Chinese New Year

The Nian Monster* by Andrea Wang is a delightful story about the Chinese New Year. Xingling and her grandmother PoPo are getting the family apartment ready for the annual celebrations. PoPo shares with Xingling the legend of the Nian Monster, who would eat whole villages each new year. The villagers learned that the Nian Monster had three weaknesses, loud sounds, fire, and the color red. From then on, people decorated their homes with red banners and lanterns, drums and gongs, and lit firecrackers to keep the monster away. 

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the Nian Monster appears, threatening to terrorize the city and devour its inhabitants. It’s up to Xingling to outsmart the monster and save Shanhai. Xingling is a strong and clever female protagonist, reminiscent of Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess.

The Nian Monster teaches young readers about the Chinese New Year. From the casserole that Xingling helps her grandmother prepare to the noodles eaten to represent long life, we learn about many of the culinary traditions of the New Year in a fun way.

Alina Chau’s illustrations are colorful and playful watercolors that add an element of comedy to the text, instead of making it intimidating or scary. The Nian Monster is adorable, with its warm color scales and large, round eyes.

The Nian Monster is not only a wonderful book for celebrating the Chinese New Year, but can be read year round as a picture book with a strong female character. This book is perfect for readers ages 4-8.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Nian Monster (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of The Nian Monster in exchange for my honest review.

Informational Picture Books About Kwanzaa

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Seven Candles for Kwanzaa provides a great introduction to Kwanzaa. Short paragraphs are accompanied by illustrations that support the text. Unfamiliar words are followed by the pronunciation in parenthesis. The reader learns about the origin of Kwanzaa, what people eat and drink during the days of celebration, what they wear, and some of the different traditions that go along with it. Each day of Kwanzaa is accompanied by a main principle from unity to determination. Examples of what that quality looks like in everyday life are also included to help the reader understand and relate to it.

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The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna Washington emphasizes the origin of Kwanzaa and it’s role in honoring the rich history of African Americans living in the United States today. It recognizes the many hardships faced and as groups of Africans were taken away from their families and homes and brought to America by force in our country’s early history. Kwanzaa was created to celebrate family and new traditions that have evolved over the years.

The Story of Kwanzaa has a more typical structure of a non-fiction book, with headings that make the text easy to navigate.

Either or both of these informational books about Kwanzaa are great for introducing the holiday. Before reading them, you can ask children what they already know about Kwanzaa, as well as what they want to know and begin to create a K-W-L chart (Know, Want to know, Learned). Then after reading you can update the chart, to reflect newly acquired information as well as new wonderings.

Click here to purchase a copy of Seven Candles for Kwanzaa and The Story of Kwanzaa (affiliate links).

A Picture Book About the Kindness of Strangers

Oskar and the Eight Blessings is a wonderful story about the kindness of strangers during the darkest of times. On the 7th day of Hanukkah, which also coincided with Christmas Eve, Oskar arrives in New York City. He is a refugee who escaped the horrors of Nazi Europe. Oskar carries with him an address and an outdated photo of his Aunt Esther. He makes his way from lower Manhattan to the north of the city encountering many acts of kindness and generosity from strangers along the way.

The illustrations, by Mark Siegel, are beautiful, organized into panels reminiscent of a comic book. They contribute to the pace of the story and bring the action to life.

His journey reminds him of his father’s words, “People can be good.” Just then he sees his Aunt Esther. They share a touching reunion filled with sadness and grief, but also a glimmer of hope.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings is a touching story that takes place during a horrendous time in history.  It teaches the reader that even in the darkest times people can help lift one another up. This book is perfect for kids ages 4-8.

Click here to purchase a copy of Oskar and the Eight Blessings (affiliate link).

The Trees of the Dancing Goats

Patricia Polacco is a phenomenal author. Her children’s picture books address important issues in a sophisticated way. She crafts strong characters who face real-life problems with courage and integrity. The Trees of the Dancing Goats is no exception.

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Based on a true childhood memory, Patricia Polacco wrote the story of young Trisha and her family preparing for the eight days of Hanukkah. Everyone is hard at work. Her cherished Babushka makes the candles and potato latkes. Her Grampa is hidden away carving marvelous animals as presents for the kids.

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Trisha’s mother sends her to the Kremmels’ house for cornmeal and she discovers that the family is quite ill. She learns that scarlet fever is affecting many of the families in the neighborhood. Her own family is one of the few not impacted by the epidemic. They try to continue preparing for the holidays as planned, but it just doesn’t feel right while so many of their friends and neighbors are unwell.

Thinking about the meaning of Hanukkah and the miracle of the light that it celebrates, Trisha’s family decides to make the holidays special for their neighbors as well. Even if they celebrate different ones.

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They cut down parts of trees to make small Christmas trees and decorate them with their own wooden carvings. Though Trisha is initially sad that she will not be able to enjoy the beautifully carved figures her Grampa made, she knows it’s the right thing to do. They pack baskets with chickens and latkes and her Babushka even puts one homemade Hanukkah candle in each and they deliver them to their ailing neighbors.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats is a fantastic picture book with a powerful message. It teaches the importance of friendship and making personal sacrifices for the happiness of others. It also recognizes one commonality between Hanukkah and Christmas, the coming together of friends and families to celebrate their traditions and histories.

In a classroom setting, this would be a wonderful mentor text for a memoir writing unit.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Trees of the Dancing Goats (affiliate link).

 

Funny Christmas Picture Books

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The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett is a hilarious picture book that is for those less enthusiastic about the holidays. Bradley Bartleby is an ungrateful, spoiled brat. He gets everything he wants because everyone around him, including his parents, is scared of him.

Every year for Christmas Bradley gets mountains of toys and gifts, but from Santa he only gets a pair of new socks. Fed up with Santa, Bradley sets up the ultimate Santa trap. It takes him an entire year to devise the various booby traps that will surely capture Saint Nick. From dynamite to guillotines, Bradley plans on taking all of Santa’s gifts for himself.

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The Santa Trap is the Home Alone of picture books, where the main character plays the role of the Sticky Bandits and Santa is Kevin. This is the perfect picture book for kids ages 7-10.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Santa Trap (affiliate link).

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is another funny Christmas-themed picture book. The Herdmans were the worst kids in the history of the world. Their favorite pastimes are things most kids are warned against from a very young age, striking matches, lying and stealing. Just take a moment to look at the illustration below, it speaks for itself!

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One day, the six Herdman children show up at Sunday school and somehow they take over the annual Christmas pageant. They take all the main roles for themselves and they question the most important parts of the story. For example, instead of the Wise Men bringing gifts of oils, they want to bring pizza.

When it’s time for the pageant, everyone turns up to see the Herdman’s interpretation of the birth of the baby Jesus and the visitation of the Three Wise Men. In the end, their reenactment has its own unique spin, with small details that add an extra layer of humanity and realism to the very well-known scenes.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (affiliate link).

My First Kwanzaa Picture Books

img_3884Kwanzaa is the Swahili word meaning the first fruits of the harvest. Kwanzaa is an African American celebration that takes place at the end of each year to honor the coming together of families. It’s a time of year to celebrate community, history and it marks the beginning of a new planting season. Kwanzaa begins December 26 and lasts for 7 nights, finishing on January 1 with a large celebration.

My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz is the perfect picture book for young ones to learn about Kwanzaa. It teaches of the seven days of Kwanzaa and the principle that is the focus of each day, from working together to unity. The author includes a real-life example of each that young readers can relate to.

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My First Kwanzaa is a terrific book to introduce a new or different culture. The illustrations are colorful and captivating. It is perfect for kids ages 3-6.

My First Kwanzaa Book by Deobrah Newton Chocolate is another wonderful picture book that introduces Kwanzaa. The text is simple and the illustrations are large and colorful, adding details that complement the words. Together, they emphasize the importance of family and community during this time of year. My First Kwanzaa Book features a glossary of common symbols and words associated with Kwanzaa.

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Click here to purchase a copy of Karen Katz’s My First Kwanzaa (affiliate link).

Click here to purchase a copy of Deborah Newton Chocolate’s My First Kwanzaa Book (affiliate link).

 

 

 

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

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The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold* is a fantastic picture book to get kids into the Christmas spirit. Instead of a child declaring that he/she no longer believes in Santa, this story begins with Santa declaring that he no longer believes in one little boy named Harold. Santa is sulking. He accuses Mrs. Claus of being in on the lie, insisting that Harold is a real person. His evidence? Harold’s letters to Santa are too neat and there is no way that Harold could life the heavy milk carton that is always left for Santa in Harold’s house all by himself. Santa then does what kids typically do, he goes around and asks everyone what they think. From the elves to the reindeer, Santa wants the 411 on Harold. His conspiracy theory goes so far, he accuses Harold’s parents of creating the myth of Harold so that they can keep all of his presents for themselves!

At the same time Harold is questioning the existence of Santa! He decides he needs proof, so on Christmas Eve he hides behind the armchair in his living room and waits for Santa.

It’s hard to tell who is more excited to verify the existence of the other. The father spitting out his coffee in the background of this illustration is just one more hilarious detail. The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold is an awesome book about believing. It’s great for kids ages 5-9.

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*I received a complimentary copy of The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold in exchange for my honest review.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold (affiliate link).