Monthly Archives: December 2012

Themed Third Thursday: Ballet Edition

GirlChild is currently obsessed with all things ballet. Sure, she can’t walk across a room without bumping into something or tripping over her own feet (case in point: the self-proclaimed “wounds” on and under her nose from the face-plant she did on the sidewalk right before church Sunday morning!), but she has dreams of being gracefully en pointe before an audience of thousands (or so), and she will check out any book at the library with a ballerina on the front. Therefore, this month’s theme is ballet!

Invitation to Ballet: A Celebration of Dance and Degas

Invitation to Ballet: A Celebration of Dance and Degas, by Carolyn Vaughn, works of art by Edgar Degas, illustrations by Rachel Isadora: This nonfiction book introduces children to the basics of dance–from attire and classes to the various positions, steps, and jumps–using brief blocks of text and illustrations of children performing the discussed exercises. It also discusses performances and famous ballets and showcases the art of Edgar Degas. The final part of the book gives a brief history of ballet and selected biography of Degas. Includes an index and an appendix of the works of art included. A perfect book to share with any child who shows an interest in ballet, whether he or she has experience with classes or is just intrigued. (Read-aloud for early elementary, independent reading from middle to upper elementary. GirlChild–a preschooler–loves it read aloud in small doses with plenty of time to practice the exercises!) You can even buy the book with a tutu for dress-up or with a tutu and a ballerina doll from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (if you’ve got cash to spare!)!

Bea at Ballet

Bea at Ballet, by Rachel Isadora: Featuring Bea, a little dancer with a definite preschool physique, this book is a simple introduction to ballet for the very young. Bea and her classmates show off their dance attire, the different positions, poses, and the ways dancers use their feet. The characters–both male and female dancers–are drawn in black and white, but their clothing is painted in bright colors. An excellent primer for toddlers and preschoolers who might be attending their first dance classes. Rachel Isadora is a former dancer who turned to art professionally after an injury. She won a Caldecott Honor in 1980 for the book Ben’s Trumpet and has also written other books about ballet (such as Max, the story of a young baseball player who finds that dance helps him excel athletically).

Brontorina

Brontorina, by James Howe, illustrated by Randy Cecil: Brontorina is a ballerina at heart, and she dreams of dancing. While Madame Lucille has some reservations at first about a dinosaur dancing ballet, Brontorina–with the help of willing classmates and instructor–overcomes her obstacles and inspires Madame Lucille to open a dance academy with “room for everyone” (even dinosaurs…and cows). Fun for preschoolers to early elementary.

Little Ballet Star

Little Ballet Star, by Adèle Geras, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas: Tilly is a young ballet student whose aunt is performing in a production of The Sleeping Beauty and takes her backstage before the show as a special birthday treat. She gets to experience all the pre-production preparations–getting a little stage make-up and even her own dancing fairy costume–before joining her mother to watch the show. After the curtain falls, her aunt reappears on stage and invites Tilly up to perform a special birthday dance in front of the audience. The illustrations are detailed and cute, and they show many different ballet positions and steps. Ms. Geras has written other Tilly books (all about ballet) as well. A very cute series for any aspiring little ballerinas preschool to early elementary.

Belinda Begins Ballet

Belinda Begins Ballet, by Amy Young: This prequel to the Belinda the Ballerina books tells about how Belinda of the very large feet first became a dancer. Also check out Belinda, the Ballerina, Belinda in Paris, and Belinda and the Glass Slipper (reviewed in the Cinderella theme). Preschool to early elementary readers and listeners will enjoy hearing about Belinda! (You can read this title online at Belinda Begins Ballet – Read | We Give Books.)

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker, by Susan Jeffers: Susan Jeffers’ beautiful art makes this basic retelling of the Nutcracker ballet perfect for fans at Christmas (the setting of the story) or any time! She accepted this writing proposal so that she could preserve the integrity of the ballet as well as make the story accessible for young children. The paintings show a lot of dancing (not all ballet) and elaborate dress in smaller panes and full-spread images. Although it’s a good read-aloud for preschoolers through early elementary, early middle elementary readers and children who love picture-reading will enjoy it independently. If your child participates in the Nutcracker ballet at some point, this would make a great gift to commemorate the performance!

Rufus the Scrub Does Not Wear a Tutu

Rufus the Scrub Does Not Wear a Tutu, by Jamie McEwan: Rufus is clumsy on the football field, and he finally takes his mom’s advice to join a ballet class to learn some grace on his feet. His teammates and even his coach tease him, but who’s laughing when Rufus’ new skills win a big game? Another sports-themed early chapter book by the author of Willy the Scrub and Whitewater Scrubs, this book was selected as a Gryphon Award Honor Book in 2008 by the Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois (my library school alma mater!).

Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance (Book 6)

Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance, by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall: This sixth installment in the Ivy and Bean series has the two second-grade girls caught in a promise to stick out the ballet classes they begged their parents for, only to realize that it wasn’t the crazy good time they had envisioned. Read-aloud for early elementary, independent reading for the intended age group and above.

My Ballet Book

My Ballet Book, by Kate Castle: Like most books by DK Publishing, My Ballet Book is absolutely packed full of photographs, illustrations, art reprints, and a huge amount of information about ballet. Written for middle elementary and up, this book is a treasure trove of ballet history and detailed information about the world of ballet that the casual ballet enthusiast might never know.

Angelfish

Angelfish, by Laurence Yep: This fiction book for upper elementary to middle school readers features a young, half Chinese ballet student who has just landed a role as Beauty in a recital when she accidentally breaks the window of a shop (when messing around with her friends from ballet class) and has to work for the grouchy Chinese owner who refers to her as “half a person” because of her mixed heritage in order to pay it off and keep from being grounded from the performance. Third in a series about the main character, Robin Lee, and her family; the series also includes Ribbons and The Cook’s Family (and both also feature ballet). Laurence Yep is probably best known for his Newbery Honor books Dragonwings and Dragon’s Gate.

BabyPro: Let's Dance & Tumble! Volume 3: Cheerleading - Dance - Gymnastics (2005)

Babypro, Volume 3: Let’s Dance & Tumble!: Both BoyChild and GirlChild loved watching this short video and dancing along. GirlChild particularly enjoyed watching the professionals perform (there are toddler, youth, and professional segments), and BoyChild loved when the little ones were playing. An excellent video to encourage movement and dance (instead of sitting like a lump)!

As a child, my sister and I danced  our own amateur version of ballet to classical records my parents bought at the grocery store, and despite my frequent need as an adult to tell my students (after I tipped off of a stool or tripped on my pants leg in the hallway) that there was a reason I was a teacher and not a ballerina, I understand GirlChild’s need to twirl! There are many, many more books on ballet available for children–just check your local library!

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(20)12 Reviews of Christmas Wrap-Up

Now that the (20)12 Reviews of Christmas are all done, it’s time for the wrap-up! Here you’ll find the list with links to all the reviews, a list of some additional titles you might want to give a try, and a link to last year’s wrap-up, too!

12. Christmas Is Here, by Lauren Castillo
11. That’s the Spirit, Claude, by Joan Lowery Nixon, pictures by Tracey Campbell Pearson
10. The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
9. Christmas Time, by Gail Gibbons
8. Dragon’s Merry Christmas, by Dav Pilkey
7. 10 Trim-the-Tree’ers: A Holiday Counting Book, by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Linda Davick
6. A Christmas like Helen’s, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, illustrated by Mary Azarian
5. Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve, by Janet Morgan Stoeke
4. Merry Christmas Everywhere!, by Arlene Erlbach with Herb Erlbach, illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm
3. Llama Llama Holiday Drama, by Anna Dewdney
2. A Newbery Christmas, selected by Martin H. Greenburg and Charles G. Waugh
1. Emily’s Christmas Gifts, by Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post, illustrated by Steve Björkman

Here’s the link to last year’s Christmas Wrap-Up.

Here are some other possibilities for your family to consider:

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

For small wordsmiths who also like things a little fancy:
Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas
, written by Jane O’Connor,
illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Fancy Nancy loves all things fancy (including fancy words–just like GirlChild!), and she and her grandfather deal with a disappointing mishap with calm and creativity.

For children who love to bake Christmas cookies and share:
The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Vip

Highly rated on Amazon as a book parents remember and want to share with their children, this is the new 2010 reprint of an old favorite.

Christmas with the Mousekins

For kids who like to read and do:
Christmas with the Mousekins, by Maggie Smith

A mouse family prepares for Christmas in this book that is billed as “a story with crafts, recipes, poems, and more!”

The Animals' Christmas Eve (Little Golden Book)

For children to count (animals) and recount the story of Jesus’ birth:
The Animals’ Christmas Eve, by Gale Weirsum,
illustrated by Alex Steele Morgan

Rhyming verse is used first by one hen, then two doves, and so on, to tell about the birth of Jesus long ago.

Christmas Presents: Holiday Poetry (I Can Read Book 2)

For early readers who love poetry and presents:
Christmas Presents: Holiday Poetry, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins,
pictures by Melanie Hall

Includes twelve poems–both religious and secular–about Christmas for young readers and listeners.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?

For the dinosaur lover in your life:
How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

Typical of the “How Do Dinosaurs…?” series, rhetorical questions regarding dinosaur choices introduce poor choices then opt for the better behavior in the end. (Also available, How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?)

There are many, many other options out there–some good, some not so good–so you should check out your library’s catalog or holiday shelf for the best books for your family to share! As for me, I’ll go ahead and wish you all a merry Christmas and may God bless you richly this Christmas season!

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Christmas Is Here, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Day 12)

Christmas Is Here

Christmas Is Here: Words From the King James Bible,
illustrated by Lauren Castillo
(2010, Simon & Schuster)

A simple book with panoramic views and brief but meaningful text, this book is a perfect one to share with young children at Christmastime.

The book opens with full-spread illustrations showing a young family leaving their house to go for a walk together, and they see a sign announcing a live nativity. They approach the street corner creche and the older child peeps into the manger at the baby, but the next page opens with a scene of grazing sheep and the lines from Luke chapter two, verse eight from the King James Version of the Bible: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” The middle of the book features more of the Luke narration with illustrations of the shepherds and the angels and the trip of the shepherds into Bethlehem to see Jesus, and the final view of the shepherds at the stable from a distance is followed by a similar scene of the modern family and a crowd gathered around the live nativity again. As the next illustration shows a closer view of the scene, the Biblical text ends with the last line of the angels’ praise: “and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The last page shows a close-up of the smiling family surrounded by the father’s arms.

I really love this simple book for a number of reasons. One is that it shows a modern family doing something a family who reads the book could feasibly do with their young children: go to see a live nativity together. Another thing that I like about this book is the artwork. From page to page, the perspective changes–from up close and personal with the child peering into the manger to landscape scenes of the fields outside Bethlehem, and the hue and tone of the colors in different illustrations help set the mood for the story as well. The partial excerpt from Luke 2: 8-14 in the King James Version not only acquaints readers with an accurate version of the Christmas story, but I have personal nostalgia for the Luke 2 narrative because my brother, sister, and I memorized a longer section of that passage when I was about six, and I have been pondering having GirlChild learn it soon as well; this book and this short excerpt might be a good place to start! (My family also always reads the Luke 2 narrative on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning before opening any gifts, although we often use the NIV that we use for regular Bible reading or the full text of the KJV of Luke 2:1-16 at the end of Patricia A. Pingry’s The Christmas Story retelling.) I love the feeling that the family in this story has zoomed into the past and is experiencing the birth of the Christ child for themselves as they let themselves be surrounded by the spoken words at the live nativity and how this brings them together in a loving embrace as they become aware once again of their true surroundings.

GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions: Okay, so we tried reading this in the children’s department of a library where we don’t have borrowing privileges, so GirlChild was majorly distracted by their awesome Christmas tree and winter decorations, so she couldn’t focus long. However, when she saw the child peeking into the manger, she exclaimed, “It’s a real baby!” and was pretty excited. I’d love to take her to see a live nativity this year. BoyChild kept yelling, “Baa! Baa! Baaaaa!” on all the pages (and there are many!) featuring sheep. I really think this one will end up in my Amazon cart before the end of the week!

Additional titles:

The Reader

What Happens on Wednesdays

The Christmas Story (see my review from last year)

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That’s the Spirit, Claude, by Joan Lowery Nixon, pictures by Tracey Campbell Pearson (Day 11)

That's the Spirit, Claude (Picture Puffins)

That’s the Spirit, Claude, by Joan Lowery Nixon,
pictures by Tracey Campbell Pearson
(1992, Viking)

I try not to review too many Texas-themed books (although our library has them to spare!), but Joan Lowery Nixon is a well-known author, and the Texas setting of this book doesn’t spoil its potential for universal appeal!

This fun early chapter/picture book hybrid tells the story of Shirley (a tall, thin woman) and Claude (a short, stout man with a full gray beard) and their adopted children Tom (who is 10) and Deputy Sheriff Bessie (who is 8). In the first chapter, Bessie is knitting an enormous stocking which Claude says will certainly be too large for her to wear. When Bessie explains it’s to hang up for Sandy Claus, neither Shirley nor Claude has ever heard of him, so Tom and Bessie explain who he is. Claude is skeptical, saying that while “maybe Sandy Claus rides on his sleigh to some parts of the world, but…he’s never made his way to Texas.” Tom and Bessie are both disappointed, and “Shirley never could abide to disappoint a child” (a repeated line), so she started thinking about what to do. Claude, despite his gruff replies, has apparently been thinking, too, because he tells the children he’ll cut down a little pine tree for them to decorate. “That’s the spirit, Claude,” Shirley says to end the chapter (another repeated line). In the second chapter, Bessie decides to write Sandy Claus a letter to invite him to Texas, thinking that’s maybe why he’s never come. After the children go to bed, Claude and Shirley discuss what Claude is sure will be a disappointment, but Shirley has an idea: Claude can dress up in his red long johns, wear his red flannel nightcap, and put flour in his beard and pretend to be Sandy Claus. Claude protests, but he finally agrees…just as long as he doesn’t have to go down the chimney. “That’s the spirit, Claude!” Shirley responds. The third chapter begins on Christmas Eve when Bessie and Tom hang their stockings by the fireplace and announce that they hope to catch Sandy Claus in the act when they hear the reindeer on the roof. Once they’re in bed, Claude gets all dressed up and heads to the roof to make the noises to alert the children, but someone on the roof startles him, and they both fall off onto the ground. Claude is happy to abandon his costume after the real Sandy Claus says he came because he respects the law and Deputy Sheriff Bessie wrote him a letter to tell him to come! When they enter the house together, Shirley and the children (peeking from behind the door to their room) are surprised, and Sandy Claus is taken aback by Bessie’s enormous stocking (once again mistakenly believing it was the right size for the foot of the person who owned it). He fills the stockings, then asks them a favor: Deputy Sheriff Bessie had given him a list of names of other children in the area who needed a visit, but he is behind because of falling off the roof, and he wonders if they would help him out by delivering the toys for him. Claude agrees–just as long as Sandy Claus agrees to keep coming back to Texas each year. After Sandy Claus leaves, Claude calls for the children to come with him to “help out Sandy Claus and deliver some gifts.” Shirley smiles and gives Claude a hug with “all the warmth and love of Christmas in it” before she once again says, “That’s the spirit, Claude!”

Told using a sprinkling of old Texas vernacular, this story is set in a time when men and boys wore nightshirts to bed and women wore ankle-length skirts and sat by the fire with an embroidery hoop after their evening meal. The illustrations (watercolor, I believe) are bright and cheery and take up about half of each page, the rest of the page filled with text in paragraph form. There is a cat and an armadillo (in true Texas fashion, although I’ve only ever seen them stationary on the side of the road) that show up in each illustration for younger readers to seek out. Other details include the decorations and old-fashioned home features, like the punched tin pie safe and the corrugated tin roof. I felt like the illustrations were familiar even though this was my first experience with this book, but I found that it is part of a series, so that might be why!

GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild liked this book and was able to follow along because of the many pictures and the simple story line. I did have to prompt her to understand that Claude and Shirley had never heard of “Sandy Claus” (who she knew without asking was Santa Claus–guess she’s heard the Texas drawl enough not to be confused!) and the silliness of the people who thought Bessie’s stocking was meant to be worn (because our Christmas stockings were never meant to be put on feet!). Probably best for a read-aloud to preschool to first grade children and for independent reading for second and third graders because of the sly humor and dialect that make it a little trickier to read or understand without support.

Additional titles:

Beats Me, Claude (Picture Puffin books)

Here Comes McBroom: Three More Tall Tales(professional reviewers compared the humor in the Claude books to Sid Fleischman’s McBroom tall tale stories–for middle elementary)

 A Family Apart (Orphan Train Adventures)(upper elementary  historical fiction by the author)

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The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Day 10)

The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll

The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
(2007, Schwartz & Wade Books)

This book is partially based on a story told to the author by one of the women she interviewed for another project; despite the “staggering poverty” of her life growing up, the woman lit up when asked about how they celebrated Christmas, and the idea for this story was born.

“Christmas always came to our house, but Santy Claus only showed up once in a while.” As she and her two sisters strip the old newspaper from the walls and restuff the cracks, Nella dreams of owning the Baby Betty doll she sees advertised in the fresh paper’s pages. Her older and younger sister both agree that there’s no way she’ll ever get it, not during the Depression, but Nella persists in her dreams, even writing a letter to Santy Claus to tell him that Baby Betty is the only thing she’ll ever ask for. Nella and her sisters  wake on the morning of Christmas to the excitement of sacks of nuts, a stick of candy, an orange, and even a box of raisins each. When their daddy pulls a special package from behind his back and hands it to them, they are all amazed to find “a for-real, store-bought, brand-new Baby Betty doll, the color of chocolate, with rosy cheeks, black curly locks, and thick eyelashes.” All the girls admire how beautiful she is, and they begin to fight over her; after their daddy tells them how disappointed he is in them for fighting over a Christmas gift, their mother tells them to work it out, and the older and younger sisters reluctantly admit that Nella was the one who asked for and most wanted the doll and that she should be the one to have her. Nella triumphantly plays with the Baby Betty doll, excluding her sisters, so they go off to play together. She begins to realize the limitations of just a toy as she catches glimpses of her sisters playing outside and keeps expecting the doll to respond to her stories and play in the ways her sisters always did, the way that made play fun. Finally, her mother convinces her that her sisters probably miss her and that Baby Betty wouldn’t mind inviting them both to a tea party. When Nella promises each of them a special role in the tea party play, they join her again, and they spend the rest of the day all playing together and sharing, causing Nella to say, “Isn’t this just the best Christmas ever?”

Patricia C. McKissack and Jerry Pinkney have done several books together, and they are each renowned and prolific in their own fields. The pencil and watercolor pictures are detailed and realistic with the color and focus primarily on the characters rather than the backgrounds. I chose this book because I know that a lot of families are probably finding themselves in a similar situation these days–Christmas will come no matter what, but Santa Claus may not show up for many because of the lack of jobs. Those who are able to experience a generous Christmas with their families this year can still benefit from the reminder that things are never more important than family and may consider contributing to Angel Tree or other campaigns to help make Christmas a little more special for someone who is not as fortunate.

GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild had a little bit of a difficult time following this relatively long picture book (especially since she couldn’t really understand why Nella thought the baby doll should be able to do things most baby dolls can’t do), but she did get the idea that playing alone is no fun no matter what toy you have. (She often complains of this very thing, so it was a near and dear idea.) We’ve talked a lot lately about how family is more important than anything we might have (four years old seems to be a very greedy, entitled age even for a child as giving as GirlChild), and she often exclaims, “But I love my family more!” after she has proclaimed love for the color pink, elephants, Chick-fil-A, or her Max and Ruby show. (Comforting, no? To be an afterthought to Max and Ruby? But at least she remembers us! 😉 ) I would recommend this book for early elementary age children since it seemed a little above GirlChild’s preschool head, and it could easily be used with older children as well.

Additional titles:

Mirandy and Brother Wind (Dragonfly Books)(Caldecott Honor by the author and illustrator)

The Lion & the Mouse(Caldecott Medalist by the illustrator)

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story

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Christmas Time, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons (Day 9)

Christmas Time

Christmas Time, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons
(1982, Holiday House)

This very basic nonfiction book gives an overview of why and how we celebrate Christmas and the Christian explanation of various symbols of the season for young children.

Each page of this book features older Gail Gibbons artwork and a couple of sentences explaining some aspect of Christmas. It begins with a simple explanation of the Christmas story. (The retelling mentions three shepherds and three wise men and that the wise men also came to the stable; Matthew tells that the wise men came to a house in Bethlehem, and scholars suggest it may have been up to two years after Jesus’ birth as the star appeared at his birth and they would have had far to travel. The number of wise men and shepherds is also never mentioned in the Bible. Anyone who feels strongly about sharing the specifics can easily explain that to their kids themselves, though; this year, I chose to wait until GirlChild was a little older to discuss it.) The book tells about the use of evergreens, lights and candles, the star, carols, Christmas church services, and giving gifts. Santa Claus is explained, and so are his origins as Saint Nicholas, but the book is perfectly suitable for both children who believe and don’t believe in Santa, depending on the emphasis and explanation parents put with the text (so don’t worry about this book ruining your children’s Christmas if Santa is real to them!). It ends with the lines: “Christmas Day is a time for presents. . .and families. . .and for enjoying a tasty meal. Christmas Day is a time for love, joy and peace.”

GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild doesn’t really believe in Santa Claus (we try to keep the emphasis on Jesus, and she’s still excited about everything Christmas related!), but she is still at that age where she’s a little unsure about fantasy and fact, and the straightforward way Santa is discussed made her say, “I guess Santa really IS real!” (It might also have been the fact that Saint Nicholas is described right after Santa is introduced and the legends about him used to explain a few Christmas traditions without directly saying he was the first “Santa Claus,” so she was connecting the historical figure with the North Pole Santa the book went on to discuss; we’ve talked about how Saint Nicholas was a real person before.) If you purposefully leave Santa out of your Christmas celebrations entirely, you might consider reading My Merry Christmas: And the real reason for Christmas joy instead of this book to teach your small children about Christmas traditions because it does not address Santa at all. Good for preschool to early elementary children.

Additional titles:

Christmas Is...

Thanksgiving Is...

My Merry Christmas: And the Real Reason for Christmas Joy(This is a book with a similar premise but told in verse and with a strictly Christian focus; the book is also a board book and is sparkly with cut-outs (see my review from last year here).)

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Dragon’s Merry Christmas, by Dav Pilkey (Day 8)

Dragon's Merry Christmas

Dragon’s Merry Christmas, by Dav Pilkey
(1991, Orchard Books)

Probably best known for his somewhat outrageous Captain Underpants series for slightly older children, Dav (pronounced Dave, although variations don’t seem to bother him) Pilkey is also the author of the very fun Dragon books for early readers, and this is a great one for the Christmas season!

Written in four short chapters, Dragon’s Merry Christmas starts with Dragon searching to find the perfect Christmas tree…and deciding it is too perfect to cut down, so he just decorates it where it is and enjoys it through his window at home. Next, he makes a candy wreath, but he just can’t resist the sweet chocolate, so he eats up all the candy until he feels sick and decides that he will make next year’s wreath out of pinecones. In the third chapter, Dragon thinks he has found the solution for always losing his mittens: to attach them to his coat! Then he loses his coat. 😉 In the final chapter, Dragon makes a list of all the things he will buy himself for Christmas: lots of food, a new coat (because he lost his in chapter 3!), and a big birdhouse. On his way back home from making his purchases, he comes across others who need what he has bought more than he does. He arrives home with an empty sack, but he doesn’t feel sad that there are no presents left for him, and he sleeps sweetly and thinks he hears angels singing in the night (but it’s really the animals to whom he gave his gifts serenading him).

As silly as the Dragon books are (and they are very silly!), this one ends on a particularly sweet note (almost literally, because of the serenading) because he gave generously of what he had and enjoyed the peaceful contentment that comes with the joy of giving: a perfect reminder for children at Christmas! The Dragon books are written in simple language with many picture cues for readers to help understand the jokes and significance of the text. When reading aloud to younger children, it is important to do “think alouds” and ask questions to help with the inferences needed to really get the book, but preschoolers through early elementary will enjoy the stories either read aloud or for independent readers.

Additional titles:

Dragon's Fat Cat (Dragon Tales)

A Friend For Dragon (Dragons)

The New Captain Underpants Collection (Books 1-5)

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