Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: Dress Your Gingerbread by Joanna Farrow

✰✰✰✰ Gingerbread cookies are a scrumptious Christmas holiday treat, but with Joanna Farrow's book, Dress Your Gingerbread: Bake Them! Dress Them! Eat Them!, you can enjoy them any time of the year. Farrow begins with a simple recipe that makes four cookies. The instructional chapters include step-by-step instructions with photos to illustrate the techniques. Each different cookie features ingredients, directions, and equipment needed to create it; plus, each has a large full-color photograph you can refer to.

The Bottom Line: Have fun with gingerbread any time of the year by choosing different costumes to dress your cookies in. This book is chock full of ideas for cookies the little ones will love to eat. Choose from insects, animals, fairy tale creatures, and traditional holiday themes (I'm partial to the cute dinosaur myself). Also, the book includes templates and a source list. My only suggestion is that the information on Useful Equipment should have been placed first so that bakers can gather all the necessary tools. Enthusiastically recommended for bakers with moderate to advanced experience because fondant can be tricky.

Details: Dress Your Gingerbread: Bake Them! Dress Them! Eat Them! by Joanna Farrow. Paperback published by Spruce in 2010. 128 p. ISBN: 978-1-84601-369-0

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: Olivia Claus by Kama Einhorn

✰✰✰ Olivia is back in her own Christmas story. It's the day before Christmas, when Olivia and Ian try to decide what they want from Santa. Ian wants a robot for his robot, but Olivia can't decide. Suddenly she discovers that her most treasured toy, Mathilda, is missing. They go searching, but can't find Mathilda anywhere. Along the way they discover that other things are missing as well.

Later that night Santa visits, but the items are still missing. Olivia imagines herself as Olivia Claus so she can return all the lost things to those who lost them. Will she ever find her beloved Mathilda? Read this cute Christmas tale to find out.

The Bottom Line: Olivia Claus is a cute holiday bedtime story for the little ones. I especially liked the feel of the colorful embossed pages. Recommended for kids ages 4 - 8.

Details: Olivia Claus by Kama Einhorn. Hardcover picture book published by Simon Spotlight in 2010. 24 p. ISBN: 978-1-4424-0662-9

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Review: It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon

✰✰✰✰ Christmas is on the way, but as many kids know it's so very hard to stay out of trouble. Everyone says 'No' to David as he fears being put on Santa's naughty list. There are so many rules to follow: no peeking, be patient, sit up straight, and so many more. When Christmas finally arrives, will Santa deliver presents to David or will he end up with a lump of coal? Read this quick holiday story and find out.

The Bottom Line: A very quick and fun story to read on Christmas Eve. Author David Shannon illustrates the angst lots of kids share as they try to avoid Santa's naughty list. Also, kids will enjoy the kid-like drawings and scribbles. Recommended for kids ages 4 - 6.

Details: It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon. Hardcover picture book published by The Blue Sky Press (an imprint of Scholastic Inc.) in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-545-14311-0

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review: Ten Christmas Wishes by Claire Freedman

✰✰✰✰ Your little one will love counting the Christmas wishing stars with Little Mouse and her friends. One by one each animal finds that wishes really do come true as each one shares their wishes of snow, family, trees, pies, presents, and more. Perhaps, there's even a Christmas wish for you.

The Bottom Line: Share the joy of wishing with this Christmas themed counting book. Charming, colorful illustrations follow the verses as rabbits, bears, squirrels, and more join in the Christmas fun. Recommended with enthusiasm for kids ages 2 - 5.

Details: Ten Christmas Wishes written by Claire Freedman & illustrated by Gail Yerrill. Hardcover published by Good Books in 2010. 24 p. ISBN: 978-1561486984

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Christmas Delicious by Lyn Loates

✰✰✰✰½ Two little mice named Raisin and Rice live in the storeroom of Zanzibar's Deli. With food galore, the two create a long list and plan a great feast. They mix and bake and brew and stew. Next they clean and polish until everything sparkles. They even trim a huge tree. Christmas morning arrives with fresh snow and quiet, but, alas, it seems that it's much too quiet. Something is not right. Something is missing, but what could it be? So they check their list and can't believe what's not there. How could they have missed it, the most important ingredient of all? Read this delightful book and discover for yourself what the missing ingredient is for a perfect Christmas celebration.

The Bottom Line: With catchy rhymes and festive, yummy illustrations, Christmas Delicious is sure to please even the grumpiest little readers. This picture book demonstrates the values of friendship and sharing. Also, a yummy recipe for Raisin and Rice Christmas Treats is included. Highly recommended for the young (kids in grades 1 - 4) and the young at heart.

Details: Christmas Delicious written by Lyn Loates and illustrated by Mark Jones. Hardcover published by Blue Apple Books in 2010. 40 p. ISBN: 978-1-60905-049-8

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: Silent Night by Juliet Groom

✰✰✰✰ Take a walk through the forest with a mama bear and her cub as they share a magical Christmas Eve together experiencing the joys of the forest. As they wait for dawn, the two stop to appreciate the flowers, mountains, and stars and learn about love along the way.

The Bottom Line: This charming picture book weaves a story around the classic German Christmas carol, "Silent Night." Author Juliet Groom does a lovely job emphasizing the themes of love and peace as the bears experience a night full of wonder and hope. Tim Warnes' beautiful watercolor illustrations in soft hues of blues, greens, and purples add to the magic of the story. This is a great book to read at bedtime to kids ages 3 - 6.

Details: Silent Night by Juliet Groom and Tim Warnes. Hardcover published by Good Books in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-56148-697-7

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: The Christmas Eve Ghost by Shirley Hughes

✰✰✰½ Not long after their Da dies in an accident, Bronwen, Dylan, and their Mam move to Liverpool in the 1930s. Mam must take in other people's laundry to support the two children. As the little family adjusts to life in the city, they keep mostly to themselves. Although Mam tries hard not to leave the children alone, sometimes she must go out without them. One of these times just happens to be Christmas Eve. The unattended children hear a frightful and ghostly noise coming from the washhouse. Too scared to investigate, they run outside and into their neighbor, Mrs. O'Riley. With some neighborly help, the family learns to overlook differences and appreciate the friendship and kindness offered.

The Bottom Line: This charming picture book highlights the themes of friendship and being neighborly in a time of adversity. This heartwarming tale is beautifully illustrated in ink and soft watercolors. Enthusiastically recommended for kids in grades 2 - 4.

Details: The Christmas Eve Ghost written & illustrated by Shirley Hughes. Hardcover published by Candlewick Press in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-4472-7

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: Christmas Kitten, Home at Last by Robin Pulver

✰✰✰✰✰ All the presents have been delivered and Santa has returned to the North Pole with a surprise for Mrs. Claus, an adorable homeless kitten named Cookie. But, alas, Santa is allergic to cats, so Mrs. Claus searches through letters from children who want kittens. She finds the perfect match, but there's a glitch. Santa needs permission from parents to give pets as Christmas presents. What is he to do? When Cookie discovers an unopened letter, Santa may have found the answer to his problem.

The Bottom Line: Kids will love this Christmas tale of how Cookie the kitten finds a home. Christmas Kitten, Home at Last is the sequel to Christmas for a Kitten, but can be read as a stand alone book. The artwork in this picture book is beautifully painted in oils. Highly recommended for kids ages 5 - 9 and for anyone who loves a great Christmas animal story.

Details: Christmas Kitten, Home at Last written by Robin Pulver & illustrated by Layne Johnson. Hardcover published by Albert Whitman & Company in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-8075-1157-2

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: Christmas Trees by Kathryn Stevens

✰✰✰ Christmas trees have been a part of our holiday celebrations for a long time, but what do we really know about the tradition? This slim book introduces kids to basic information about Christmas trees. Kids get a brief introduction on everything from choosing a Christmas tree to decorating one. The book is illustrated with full color photographs and even includes a glossary and resources for further reading. Call-out boxes in the shape of Christmas gift tags draw attention to related information.

The Bottom Line: Christmas Trees is part of the "Our Holiday Symbols" series which includes Thanksgiving Turkeys, Fourth of July Fireworks, Easter Bunnies, and more. It is a fun introduction to information about a favorite holiday tradition. Recommended for kids in grades K - 2. Also, recommended for school or public libraries with holiday collections.

Details: Christmas Trees by Kathryn Stevens. Hardcover published in 2010 by The Child's World. 24 p. ISBN: 978-1602533325

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Review: When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho! by Laura Rader

✰✰✰ Now and then everyone gets a mild case of the holiday blues, but when Santa Claus looses his Ho! Ho! Ho!, the whole world is concerned. With Christmas just a few days away, people everywhere, including the elves and Mrs. Claus, try to help Santa, but to no avail. Nothing makes Santa laugh. Then while helping Santa catch up with his mail, Mrs. Claus has an idea, but is it too late before Christmas?

The Bottom Line: Filled with cute and colorful pen and ink cartoons, this picture book is fun holiday reading any time of the year for kids in grades 1 - 3.

Details: When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho! written and illustrated by Laura Rader. Hardcover published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2008. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-114139-3

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: Small, Medium and Large by Jane Monroe Donovan

✰✰✰½ In this wordless picture book, a Christmas wish unfolds through beautiful illustrations when a little girl writes a letter to Santa. As we follow along, we discover whether her Christmas wish is granted. When three special presents are left under the tree, the snowy adventure begins.

The Bottom Line: This picture book tells a story by using only illustrations, which encourages the viewer to follow along and discuss the actions in the pictures. The book is full of beautiful artwork. Also, there is an interesting note "From the Author" about the animals featured in the story. Recommended for kids ages 5 - 7 who enjoy animal stories.

Details: Small, Medium and Large written and illustrated by Jane Monroe Donovan. Hardcover published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-58536-447-3

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Book Review: Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas by Douglas Rees

✰✰✰½ When Santa gets sick on Christmas Eve, his spunky daughter, Jeannette, decides to deliver the presents. Despite Santa's misgivings and warnings about rebellious reindeer, Jeannette loads up the sleigh and takes off anyway. The presents get delivered lickety-split; just when it looks like they may be finished early, the reindeer fly away led by that troublemaker Dasher. Clever Jeannette doesn't let that get her down; with the help of an alley full of cats and dogs, she comes up with a clever plan to save Christmas.

The Bottom Line: Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas features bold print and colorful eye-catching pencil illustrations that were rendered in Photoshop. The glitter on the cover caught my eye immediately. This is a Santa story with a modern twist that kids in grades K - 2 will adore. A delightful story that is enthusiastically recommended for holiday fun any time of the year.

Details: Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas written by Douglas Rees and illustrated by Olivier Latyk. Hardcover published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-4169-2686-3

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Christmas in July" Book Reviews for 2011

Believe it or not, but it's that time of year again when we at Mini Book Bytes Book Reviews spend a month reading Christmas books. For me Summer is the best time to read winter holiday books because I'm not running around trying to buy and wrap presents. For the month of July we'll be looking at books with winter themes and especially Christmas picture books for the little ones. So settle in with a candy cane and your favorite hot chocolate and enjoy some holiday fun.