Children's Corner: New books tell Hanukkah, Christmas tales for children


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Celebrate the season with these great books for kids about Hanukkah and Christmas:

HANUKKAH BOOKS

* Sam is worried when his Hebrew school teacher tells the students that they will be making their own menorahs to celebrate Hanukkah. Sam likes the idea of the project, but his family already has seven menorahs and hardly needs another one. But, in "The Eighth Menorah" (Albert Whitman, $16.99, ages 4-7), author Lauren L. Wohl shows how Sam's lovingly created menorah finds the perfect home at his grandmother's new apartment building. The colorful illustrations by Laura Hughes add a playful touch.

* Bubba Brayna has trouble seeing and hearing, so when a bear shows up at her house one evening, she thinks it is the rabbi she's invited for dinner. The bear is quite happy to eat latkes, and he and Bubba have a grand time together. It's only after the bear has gone home that Bubba discovers her mistake. Veteran author Eric Kimmel tells a pleasing tale in "Hanukkah Bear" (Holiday House, $16.95, ages 4-7), and Mike Wohnoutka's illustrations, done in bright acrylics, further broaden the humor.

* Author/illustrator Dara Goldman bridges two holidays in the delightful "Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift" (Sleeping Bear Press, $15.99, ages 4-7). Echoing author O. Henry's classic story "The Gift of the Magi," Ms. Goldman's story details how two bears named Boris and Stella each sell something dear to buy the other a gift. Her breezily written text is perfectly matched with her pencil and watercolor illustrations. Note: also check out a new edition of "The Gift of the Magi" (Minedition, $17.99, ages 7 up), featuring evocative artwork by Sonja Danowski.

CHRISTMAS BOOKS

* In "Everything Goes: Santa Goes Everywhere!" (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $7.99, ages birth-3), author/illustration Brian Biggs brings the youngest readers an irresistible combination of Santa and vehicles. This colorful board book couldn't be simpler, with each two-page spread showing an illustration of Santa on a different vehicle, from a canoe to a sailboat, yet it's sure to be a hit with babies and toddlers.

* If you buy only one Christmas book this year, make it "Little Santa" (Dial, $17.99, ages 3-7), written and illustrated by Jon Agee. In this clever, engaging tale, enhanced by his whimsical artwork, Mr. Agee reveals how Santa got his start as a child.

* Numerous "lift-the-flaps" allow toddlers and preschoolers to help "read" "Christmas Eve With Mrs. Claus" (Sterling, $12.95, ages 2-4). The text by M.P. Hueston asks readers to find cookie ingredients, a bowl of popcorn and other things by lifting the flap, cozily camouflaged in the illustrations by Teri Weidner.

* For silly holiday fun, try "A Very Fuddles Christmas" (Aladdin, $18.99, ages 4-7). Written and illustrated by Frans Vischer, this book hilariously details what happens when pampered cat Fuddles, normally happily spoiled by his human family, is unceremoniously whisked outdoors when he makes a mess of the holiday decorations and tries to eat the turkey dinner.

* In her fourth adventure, "Tallulah's Nutcracker" (Clarion, $16.99, ages 4-7), the eager young dancer named Tallulah has dreams of becoming a big star until disaster strikes. Author Marilyn Singer's story will immediately ring true to young readers, who will gasp when Tallulah -- playing a mouse in "The Nutcracker" -- trips on another mouse's tail and brings the production to a brief halt. Fortunately, older dancers are sympathetic, bringing a smile to Tallulah's face when they tell her of their own dance mishaps. The illustrations by Alexandra Boiger nicely underline Tallulah's emotions.

* Author/illustration Peter Reynolds brings his own entertaining take to the adage that "good things come in small packages" in "The Smallest Gift of Christmas" (Candlewick Press, $14, ages 3-7). His story revolves around Roland, a spoiled boy who is indignant at his tiny Christmas gift. Mr. Reynolds' deft writing ensures that his story is never preachy.

* Curious George, Lyle the Crocodile and Strega Nona are just a few of those favorite characters gathered together in "The Family Christmas Treasury" (Houghton Mifflin $18.99, ages 3-8). This keepsake volume includes a CD with Christmas carols (the lyrics are printed in the book itself).

* Four holiday books update classic tales:

1. In "The 12 Days of Christmas" (Holiday House, $16.95, ages 3-7), illustrator Jane Cabrera brings a fresh new eye to the traditional song.

2. Illustrator Holly Hobbie offers readers an updated look at author Clement Moore's timeless holiday poem in "The Night Before Christmas" (Little, Brown, $18, ages 3 up).

3. Young readers will enjoy the way author Maria Modugno reworks a well-known story in "Santa Claus and the Three Bears" (Harper, $17.99, ages 4-8). Readers also will revel in the charming illustrations by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer.

4. Dylan Thomas' lyrical tale "A Child's Christmas in Wales" (Candlewick Press, $9.99, ages 5 up) is beautifully illustrated by Chris Raschka.


Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.

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