Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: 'Gingerbread Friends' by Jan Brett

✰✰✰✰✰ The Gingerbread Baby is sassy, plucky, and oh so lonely. One day he sets out to find friends like himself. He ends up in a bakery where the cookies only stare straight ahead. There's not a friendly face in sight. The Gingerbread Baby only has thoughts of home as he is chased from the bakery by a mama mouse, a cat, and the baker. Along the way more animals join in the chase. After a close call, the Gingerbread Baby arrives home just in time to find a delicious surprise waiting for him.

The Bottom Line: Scrumptious illustrations in pastel colors make for a tasty treat for readers. A recipe for gingerbread boys and girls is included in the margins of the book which concludes with a colorful giant foldout page. Perfect for storytime; this lyrical and clever take on the classic Gingerbread Boy will delight kids and adults alike.

Details: Gingerbread Friends written & illustrated by Jan Brett. Hardcover picture book published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 2008. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-399-25161-0

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review: 'One Winter's Night' by John Herman

✰✰✰✰✰ On a cold winter's night, a young cow named Martha is alone and lost. As she braves the frozen fields and bitter winds, she knows she must find shelter and people to help her. Martha's baby is due very soon. At long last she finds a farm, but it is dark and abandoned. She continues her search following a bright star. Eventually Martha comes upon a shed with a donkey, hay, and a young couple. As the woman delivers her own baby, Martha's calf arrives too on a very special winter's night.

The Bottom Line: John Herman's gentle tale of a lost cow about to give birth parallels the story of the birth of Jesus. The illustrators chose to depict the story of Mary and Joseph's journey in black and white, while the cow's journey is depicted in color with a focus on shades of blue. The illustrations and the text merge together beautifully in the end. Highly recommended picture book for kids in grades K - 3. This is a beautiful book you will want to read again and again with your children.

Details: One Winter's Night story by John Herman & illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. Hardcover picture book published by Philomel Books in 2003. ISBN: 0-399-23418-7

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: 'Cobweb Christmas' by Shirley Climo

✰✰✰✰ Christmas at Tante's was special. Every year she cleaned and baked in preparation. Then all the children and animals were invited to see Tante's beautiful Christmas tree. Only the spiders were turned away. 

As always Tante wished to experience a little bit of Christmas magic for herself where animals might speak or bees hum carols at midnight. However, Tante always fell fast asleep. Then one Christmas a mysterious visitor left Tante's door open just a crack. The curious spiders finally had a chance to experience Tante's beautiful tree and in return they leave behind a little bit of magic that has become legend. 

The Bottom Line: This version of the German folktale is set in the Bavarian forests. Both the story and the illustrations have an Old World charm and will appeal to children in grades 1 - 3. Kids will delight in the magical story of the tradition of tinsel.

Details: Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel written by Shirley Climo & illustrated by Jane Manning. Hardcover picture book published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2001. 32 p. ISBN; 0-06-029034-X

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: 'The Attic Christmas' by B. G. Hennessy

✰✰✰✰ At Lily's house Christmas doesn't last a single day; it is a whole season. Every year Lily's treasured ornaments look forward to the day they are brought down from the attic and hung in the tree. But this year is different. The house is quiet and no one comes to get them. There are no more Christmases for Lily. Feeling sad, the ornaments try to salvage the season with their own Christmas celebration, but it isn't the same. Just when they have about given up, there are noises coming from downstairs. Will the ornaments be remembered? Read this nostalgic story and find out what happens to the ornaments. 

The Bottom Line: For families with Christmas traditions of their own, this is a gentle story of remembering the past and keeping tradition alive. Children will enjoy Andreasen's illustrations which are reminiscent of a time gone by. Recommended holiday reading for families. 

Details: The Attic Christmas written by B. G. Hennessy & illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Hardcover picture book published by G.P. Putnam 's Sons in 2004. ISBN: 0-399-23497-7

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: 'Oh, What A Christmas!' by Michael Garland

✰✰✰✰✰ Christmas gets off to a magical start until the harness breaks and Santa's reindeer fly off without him. In fact, Santa is in for a bumpy ride until he crashes into a barn. What is Santa to do? Instead of eight reindeer, Santa has an assortment of farm animals and one very old dog to help him. With children waiting all over the world, Santa has an idea. With a snap of his fingers and a wiggle of his nose, Santa's Christmas magic and eight ordinary animals get the job done.

The Bottom Line: Clever Santa has a rollicking adventure in this fun and humorous tale. Garland's bright and colorful illustrations brought a smile to my face. Kids in preschool and up will love the action and the fantastic pictures. Highly recommended for bedtime reading or storytime. It's jolly good fun.

Details: Oh, What A Christmas! written & illustrated by Michael Garland. Hardcover picture book published by Scholastic Press in 2011. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-545-24210-3

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Book Review: 'The Last Straw' by Fredrick Thury

✰✰✰✰✰ Hoshmakaka, an old prideful camel, was chosen to deliver the gifts of the three wise men to the baby Jesus. When the frankincense, myrrh, and gold were placed upon his back, Hoshmakaka foolishly boasted that he was as strong as ten horses. And so as the caravan traveled to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus, more and more gifts were added to Hoshmakaka's burden. Just when Hoshmakaka reached his limit, a child asked the old camel to take his little gift too. Will a single piece of straw bring down the great camel? Check out the book to learn how Hoshmakaka's burden is lifted.

The Bottom Line: The traditional Christmas story is told in an unusual way...through the point of view of a camel. This is a gentle story about humility and pride. Beautiful watercolors illustrate the camel's plight. Highly recommended reading for the holidays for kids in grade school.

Details: The Last Straw written by Fredrick H. Thury & illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen. Hardcover picture book published by Charlesbridge in 2009. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-88106-360-8

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Book Review: 'The Christmas Visitors' by Karel Hayes.

✰✰✰✰✰ No sooner did the summer visitors leave the cottage behind, than the winter visitors moved in. While the bear family begins to prepare for the Christmas holiday, the human family decides on a whim to return to the cottage for the holidays. When the human family arrives without any presents, decorations, or food, the bear family decides to save the holidays in a spectacular, secret way. Check out this charming holiday treat featuring a tale of two very different, yet similar, families.

The Bottom Line: This is the third book in Hayes's Visitor series, but you do not have to read them in order. Hayes's beautiful watercolors illustrate this simple, heartfelt story. Instead of rushing through this picture book, you'll want to spend time looking at all the details in the pictures. This holiday tale of family and sharing is perfect for children ages 4 and up.

Details: The Christmas Visitors written & illustrated by Karel Hayes. Hardcover picture book published by Down East Books in 2013. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-60893-248-1

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Review: 'Nightmare Before Christmas: The 13 Days of Christmas' by Steven Davison & Carolyn Gardner

✰✰✰ The twelve days of Christmastide dictate which gifts to bestow upon your beloved. However, things are just a little bit different in Halloween Town. It seems Jack Skellington and his frightful chums have a different idea of what are acceptable gifts to celebrate the thirteen days of Christmas. Readers will be surprised and delighted with the ghoulish and spooky substitutions.

The Bottom Line: Fans of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will adore this take on the Christmas classic, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Recommended for kids and adults who enjoy something just a tiny bit spooky during the holiday season. The colorful ghoulish illustrations feature your favorite characters from the original story.

Details: Nightmare Before Christmas: The 13 Days of Christmas (Tim Burton's the Nightmare Before Christmas) by Steven Davison & Carolyn Gardner with artwork by Tim Wollweber & Sherri Lundberg. Hardcover picture book published by Disney Press in 2009. ISBN: 978-142311804-6 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Book Review: 'A Magical Christmas' by Claire Freedman

✰✰✰✰ Christmas is coming, and there's plenty of excitement in the air. As the mice scamper about and get ready for the big day, Little Mouse wonders about the magic of Christmas. Is it the smell of spices in the air? Is it about throwing snowballs or sledding downhill? How about presents or decorating the tree? Little Mouse discovers the secret on Christmas Day with a little help from his mommy, and you will, too, when you read this book.

The Bottom Line: Soft watercolor illustrations and glitter add to the magic of this story celebrating the warmth of the season. I enjoyed the added textures of the book as well; however, some of the raised areas may peel off with frequent use. This charming book is perfect bedtime reading for little ones who can't wait for Christmas.

Details: A Magical Christmas written by Claire Freedman and illustrated by Gail Yerrill. Hardcover picture book published by Tiger Tales in 2007. ISBN: 9781589258280 

"Christmas in July" Book Reviews for 2015

With the unusually cool weather we've been experiencing, I can't believe it's time for Christmas in July book reviews already. This year we'll be taking a look at holiday picture books with an emphasis on animals. Hopefully by the time the last review for this month rolls out, we'll be enjoying warmer temperatures, lemonade, and popsicles. Enjoy!

P.S. The free holiday clip art comes from The Clipart Library.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: 'Shirley, I Jest!' by Cindy Williams

✰✰✰½ As a well-known actress and comedian, Cindy Williams has entertained generations of fans. While she is most notably known for her roles of Shirley Feeney in the hit TV series Laverne & Shirley and Laurie Henderson in the classic film, American Graffiti, Williams has had many other adventures in Hollywood. In her autobiography, Williams shares her journey from humble beginnings to stardom. Along the way she waited tables at the Whiskey a Go Go, traveled to Spain, and became a mother. Filled with humorous anecdotes, Williams takes the reader on a fun ride. 

The Bottom Line: Williams is charming, candid, and gracious as she shares stories filled with laughter and a few tears. Her personality shines through in the writing which is approachable and easy to read. While you won't find anything scandalous or outwardly negative in Williams' book, fans will find plenty of interesting tidbits and trivia.

This quick read is perfect for the beach. It's fun weekend reading for anyone interested in acting, comedy, and television. More stories and more information about Williams' personal life would have made this fun read even better. Includes several pages of black and white glossy photos.

Details: Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life by Cindy Williams. Hardcover published by Taylor Trade Publishing in 2015. 200 p. ISBN: 978-1-63076-012-0 NOTE: I received a free advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.