Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Book Advent

I can't believe we just have a few books left in this year's advent. Writing reviews of last year's books really helped me when it was time to check out books this year. I'd forgotten which ones were my favorites and almost wasted time getting some I hadn't really fallen in love with last year. Considering our city library has shelves and shelves and shelves of Christmas books ... I figure I can't waste time using the same good but not great books each year. 

Anyway, I thought I'd better review this year's books, and I'll follow the same categories from last year. I'll also place the books in order of least to most favorite, per each category. 

Image result for click clack moo christmas
We love Click, Clack, Moo, so I was really excited when I saw Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! at the library. However, Ben and I were both disappointed with this holiday sequel. Neither of the kids were begging to read it either.  

Image result for tractor mac saves christmas
I could say the same thing about Tractor Mac Saves Christmas. We read Mac's Harvest book last Thanksgiving and it was delightful. This Christmas version was just too wordy and clunky and not really easy to read. I'm not so sure the kids picked up on the story line until we'd read it several times through. 

As far as character books go, I'd have to put Fancy Nancy near the top of the list. This is the first Fancy Nancy book we've read (we're more of a Lady Bug Girl kind of family). I was impressed with the story line, artwork and natural introduction to vocabulary. Reid and Nell both enjoyed this book, and it didn't drive Ben or I bonkers. 

Image result for llama llama jingle bells
In addition to Llama Llama Holidays we checked out the simpler board book Llama Llama Jingle Bells. It was the perfect size for Coraline and the pictures are not exact duplicates of the larger Christmas book. I really like both and am glad we got this one for the baby in our family. 

Image result for merry christmas maisy book
We first met Maisy when we were reading back to school preschool books for Reid. I think it was his favorite of all the "going to preschool books", so I was happy to find this at the library. Merry Christmas Maisy was a delight for all of us. It is an intricate lift the flap book. Each page had several flaps and some pages had pull tabs. My kids loved looking for all the special surprises in this book and it is definitely one I'd recommend to others with young children. 

Image result for spot's first christmas
All of my children love the Spot books. Spot's first Christmas had the same simple peek-a-boo flaps many of the other Spot books have, and my kids had the whole thing memorized after just a couple of days. They never tired of finding Spot or giggling at his puppy behaviors. I love the sweetness of this family series and wouldn't mind adding Spot to our personal Christmas library. He covers such a wide age range, from infant to kindergartner. 

Christ Centered Books
For whatever reason, I feel like most the Christ centered books we read have really simple text. The First Night was no exception. The artwork here was beautiful, and each gorgeous picture had only one small sentence accompanying it. If you are looking for lots of books about the nativity, I would recommend this one for kids of all ages. Simple but still spiritually thought provoking. 

I loved the historical accuracy behind Only A Star. The title seemed weird, since the book is about all the different kinds of small mammals and bugs that would have been found in the stable. I'm not talking about the big mammals we usually think of when we picture the nativity. This book covers the specific breed of mice, dragonfly, spider, and beetle (and more) that would have been found near baby Jesus. The idea is that only a star decorated the Savior's birth, but the star reveals all the night time creatures that would have been hidden in the manger. 

If you are more interested in learning about the wild mammals that might have been near the stable, you should check out One Starry Night. Similar to Only A Star, this book has a page dedicated to Educating the reader on the historical accuracy of wild life in the Holy Land during the time of Christ's birth. My kids enjoyed trying to find all the different mammals that came out of the hills to see the new born babe. They seemed to catch on to the idea that though the animals looked like domesticated pets we have today, they were wild cats, dogs, donkeys, birds, etc at the time.   

A Christmad Goodnight reminded me a lot of the classic children's bedtime story, Goodnight Moon. The reader basically just says goodnight to each of the pieces in the nativity scene. It is perfect for young children, with a sweet central theme to remember that Christmas is about Christ. The story is read in a soft rhyming verse and definitely has the feeling of a bedtime lullaby to it. 

Some people amaze me. Every time I read B is for Bethlehem I just say in awe. These two authors, elementary school teachers, are brilliant. I really want to know how much time it took them to come up with this beautiful story -- which was first a (private religious) school program. The poetic story tells the nativity in chronological order, using the alphabet as it's guide. So not only is there a nativity item for each letter of the alphabet, it actually tells the story and rhymes! Seriously, blew my socks off. So grateful these two teachers decided to share their talent and publish this book. It is a must read. 

I had to read Olive the other Reindeer a couple times before I enjoyed the story. This was one of the longest books we checked out, and it didn't make it into our advent. The creators of the Simpson turned it into a short movie, starring Drew Barrymore. I popped some popcorn and let the kids watch it one day (on You Tube). Even as I read it I thought it felt more like a movie. We had a good chat about how the two versions were similar and different. I think the kids liked the book better; a valuable lesson to learn at such a young age! 

Man, pop up books are not what they use to be. The designer of Christmas is Coming must have a Doctoral degree in engineering. Very elaborate. Yet, my kids weren't as in love with it as I thought. Fun, but not highly requested.  

Reid brought the Christmas Cricket home from school during the first week of December (they pick a library book each Monday). It's a sweet story, and one that prompted some questioning from our sweet preschooler. Reid seemed a little confused by the story being told from the perspective of the cricket, but I think he understood the main message that the cricket found worth in singing like an angel on a cold Christmas night.

If you are familiar with Nancy Tillman, you'll know whether or not you will like The Spirit of Christmas. It's message is beautiful. As with all of her books, it is filled with love. It is also whimsical and way over my kids head. Maybe they'll enjoy it more when they are a bit older. 

My kids fell in love with The Nutcracker last Christmas when their beloved Daniel Tiger had an episode featuring the classic tale. They practiced and practiced the correct dance moves (Daniel Tiger's preschool friendly version, anyway) and often put on shows for Ben and I to watch. So when I was thumbing through our library's Holiday shelf I noticed about a billion different copies of The Nutcracker. Most looked way too wordy for my preschool aged kids, so I settled on the one with the shortest paragraphs and fewest sentences. Susan Jeffers illustrated version was the winner. I ended up purchasing it half off at Barnes and Noble at an after Christmas Sale. That's how much we loved it. Jeffers' version of this Christmas classic is perfect for young children.

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