If You Take A Mouse To The Movies

“If you take a mouse to the movies, he’ll ask you for some popcorn. If you give him the popcorn, he’ll want to string it all together. Then he’ll want to hang it on a Christmas tree.”

 If You Take A Mouse To The Movies shows one little boy’s adventure with his mouse. Each page gives a silly cause and effect, such as when the mouse and boy build a snowman, the mouse will then want to build a fort.

This simple story has one sentence on each page, which makes it a quick read. Each page’s illustration shows the mouse and the boy. Some of the illustrations are sweet, such as when the boy wraps the mouse up in a warm blanket. Other illustrations are silly, such as when the mouse, who is wearing candy cane shorts, sings into a microphone. The easy-to-read text and fun pictures make If You Take A Mouse To The Movies a favorite book for younger readers.

If You Take A Mouse To The Movies will delight younger readers and get them in the holiday spirit. However, if you read the story to your child, your child will likely want to grab the glitter and glue to make ornaments of their own.

 Sexual Content

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Supernatural

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One-Dog Sleigh

Harness bells jing-jing-jingle under branches frosted white, but is there enough room for everyone when a squirrel, owl, lynx, and other forest animals ask to play? On the ten-year anniversary of One-Dog Canoe, the author-illustrator team of Mary Casanova and Ard Hoyt have created a winter version of their popular picture book.

One-Dog Sleigh is a simple story that focuses on one girl’s sleigh ride with her dog. Around every corner, a forest animal jumps onto the sleigh to join the fun. However, the girl begins to cry when a little mouse hops on the sleigh and adds just enough weight that the sleigh can no longer move. With the help of the forest animals, the girl is able to free the sleigh from the snow. Then all the animals jump into the sleigh and race down a hill. The story highlights the importance of teamwork and shows how problems can be solved by working together.

The illustrations in One-Dog Sleigh are truly special. Each illustration is set against a wintery backdrop, which allows the red sleigh to catch the reader’s eye. The colorful illustrations are full of action. As each new animal joins the little girl and the dog in the sleigh, the girl’s worry and dismay are excellently portrayed with her facial expressions. The animal’s facial expressions are also expressive and add humor to the story. One-Dog Sleigh could start a wonderful conversation about reading people’s facial expressions.

One-Dog Sleigh is a picture book that uses repetition, rhyming, and context clues to help younger readers understand the story. However, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. The onomatopoeias and other keywords are printed in large blue text, which adds fun to the page. Each page has 2-3 sentences, which makes One-Dog Sleigh a perfect bedtime story.

One-Dog Sleigh would make an excellent addition to anyone’s winter library. Younger readers will want to read One Dog Sleigh over and over because the simple story and illustrations are so much fun. If you’re looking for other wonderful winter stories to cuddle up with, add A Loud Winter’s Nap by Katy Hudson and Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner to your reading list.

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Supernatural

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Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light

Bear is sad. All of the other animals are afraid of him because he’s so big. But his human friend, Coco, offers to help.

Coco shares her grandmother’s advice: “When life gets dark as winter’s night, share some kindness, bring some light.” They decide to bake cookies to “share some kindness” and make lanterns to “bring some light.” But when the cookies and lanterns don’t work, they must look for other ways to win over the other animals. And while they’re hard at work on their mission of friend-making, Coco and Bear just might discover kindness is a gift that only comes from the heart.

If you want a sweet story with a positive message, then Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light is the perfect picture book to add to your child’s winter reading list. Readers will love the whimsical illustrations full of interesting details. The forest is covered in a blanket of beautiful snow and the animals are snuggled up in their winter clothes. Both Bear and Coco have a splash of red that contrasts the winter wonderland. At first, the forest animals are afraid of Bear, and their fear is clearly illustrated in their facial expressions.

Even though Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 11 sentences that include some complex sentence structure. Despite this, most pages are not text heavy and younger readers will be engaged throughout the story.

When Coco first shares her grandmother’s advice, Bear is not sure what it means. However, when Bear and Coco find a baby deer stuck in the snow, they jump in to help because it’s the right thing to do. Through this experience, the two friends discover the meaning of kindness. Bear says, “I guess kindness is giving away love instead of gifts. It’s doing something nice without expecting anything in return.”

Sexual Content

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Supernatural

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Llama Llama Holiday Drama

If there’s one thing Llama Llama doesn’t like, it’s waiting. He and Mama Llama rush around, shopping for presents, baking cookies, decorating the tree…but how long is it until Christmas? Will it ever come? Finally, Llama Llama just can’t wait anymore! It takes a cuddle from Mama Llama to remind him that “Gifts are nice, but there’s another: The true gift is, we have each other.”

Llama and his Mama are rushing through the days, trying to get ready for Christmas. In all the hustle and bustle, Llama is frustrated by the wait. Younger readers will relate to Llama, who is in a hurry for Christmas to come so he can open his gifts. When Llama has a meltdown because of all of the holiday drama, Mama takes time to “take a rest and hold the ones we love best.” After a snuggle in Mama’s lap, Llama sleeps soundly on Christmas Eve.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama shows a typical story of getting ready for the holidays. Each page has colorful illustrations that feature Llama and his Mama completing traditional Christmas tasks, such as baking cookies. Each illustration shows Llama’s emotions in a funny way. Each page has 1-2 rhyming lines. Younger readers will enjoy the illustrations and the positive message; the story is bland. Llama Llama Holiday Drama would make a good story to read once, but it’s not one that readers will want to read again and again.

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Supernatural

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Winter Wonders

It’s Christmas time at Whispering Pines, and everyone is buzzing with excitement—especially since Cat and Mr. Henry are getting married! Delia and Willow have been appointed junior bridesmaids, and there’s a flurry of things to do.

The counts are whipping up a sweet feast of desserts, and they’re determined to top it all off with an extra-special gift for the couple. Meanwhile, Delia can’t wait to share Saugatuck’s festivities with Willow. But when the wedding treats go missing and a blizzard collapses the Food Pantry roof, can Willow and Delia keep Christmas from snowballing into a disaster?

Bake delicious recipes alongside Delia and Willow, as the entire Bumpus clan teams up to save the day in the final installment of this scrumptious series.

Delia and Willow want to give Cat and Mr. Henry the perfect gift, but they just can’t seem to agree on anything. Most of the story comes from this conflict, in addition to Willow being afraid to cook because of a previous disaster. While their family makes quick appearances, readers who have not read the previous books will not connect with them. Unfortunately, most of the family’s appearances do very little to move the plot forward.

Winter Wonders shows the importance of helping those who are less fortunate. Delia and Willow both help at a food pantry and are eager to make Christmas treats to share with those in need. However, their young age makes some of the events unbelievable. For example, the two girls make enough food for a hundred guests.

Cheerful black and white illustrations appear every 2 to 5 pages. While the illustrations focus on Delia and Willow, they also include many of the family members. One character uses several puns and Cat uses fun sayings such as, “I’ll be back, quick as a snowman on ice skates.”

Young readers who love to cook will find Winter Wonders interesting and will enjoy learning new recipes that celebrate winter. However, the slow pace and lack of conflict may cause readers to become quickly bored. If you’re looking for some winter fun, Diary of an Ice Princess by Christina Soontornvat will take you to a magical world while it teaches positive lessons.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • The girls wanted to make a lobster dinner for Cat and her fiancé, but when the lobsters arrive, the girls didn’t expect them to be alive. Willow’s dad explained, “They’re supposed to be alive before we cook them. Then when the pot is nice and hot, we drop them into the boiling water.” The girls decide not to cook the “creepy crawlers.”

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Supernatural

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Bear Stays Up for Christmas

Bear’s friends are determined to keep Bear awake for Christmas! So they wake Bear up and have him help them find a Christmas tree, bake cakes, hang up stockings, and sing Christmas songs. At first, Bear has a difficult time staying awake, but soon he’s so excited for Christmas day that he can’t sleep. When all of his friends fall asleep, Bear stays up and makes each one a Christmas gift. Bear is so busy making gifts that he doesn’t see Santa come. Bear and his friends share their gifts, and then Bear falls fast asleep.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas has adorably cute illustrations that feature many forest animals, including a rabbit, a badger, a crow, a mole, and a goffer. Each page has colorful illustrations. When Bear and his friends go outside, everything is wintery white as the snow falls. Inside Bear’s lair, the illustrations are completed in warm browns. Each picture has some fun details. For example in one illustration, the goffer and rabbit are playing jump rope with the mouse.

Bear and his friends are kind to each other, and they demonstrate what friendship looks like—caring for each other and spending time with one another. Each page of the story has 1-4 lines of text. The text repetition and rhyming make Bear Stays Up for Christmas a fun story to read aloud. Little readers will fall in love with Bear and his friends, who will inspire them to make gifts for their friends. Bear Stays Up for Christmas will entertain readers as well as teach the true meaning of Christmas.

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The Biggest, Best Snowman

Little Nell lives with BIG mama, BIG Sarah, and BIG Lizzy. They think she’s too small to do anything. So little Nell goes into the big, snowy woods to play with her friends Reindeer, Hare, and Bear Cub. They don’t think she’s too small at all. They think she can build a BIG snowman. And with their help, she does—the biggest, best snowman ever!

Little Nell would like to help with something, but her family thinks she’s too small to help. Nell goes into the snowy woods and plays with her animal friends. When Nell’s friends want her to make a snowman, she says she can’t because “I’m so small.” Bear asks, “How do you know unless you try?” With the help of her friends, Nell makes a gigantic snowman. When she shows her family the snowman, they realize that she isn’t too small to help.

The Biggest, Best Snowman will appeal to a wide range of readers—the story is set in a winter scene with cute forest animals. After Nell and her forest friends have a tea party, they all work to build a snowman. Nell starts by patting snow into a ball, and then each animal helps make the snowball larger. Even the birds help with the snowman by finding objects to make a face. The illustrations have pops of blue and green that help give the story a festive feeling. Nell’s BIG family is portrayed oddly. One sister has silly details, such as holly in her hair and Christmas ornament earrings. However, the other sister is obese, sulky, and ill-mannered.

Even though The Biggest, Best Snowman is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page contains 1-8 sentences with some complex sentences. The pictures are beautiful and have some fun details. For example, when the animals roll the snowball, their tracks spell out snow. However, the story’s repetitious dialogue and the repetition of the word BIG may irritate some readers. Some might find the odd sisters and their behavior silly, but others might find it slightly disturbing. For example, the mom pulls the big sisters on a sled, up a hill, while the younger sister has to walk.

The Biggest, Best Snowman teaches that even little kids can do something big with the help of their friends. However, there are better winter books to read including, The Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner, Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, and A Loud Winter’s Nap by Katy Hudson.

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Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

Who’s knocking on Christmas Eve? Kyri is afraid that it’s the trolls that come every year and gobble up Kyri’s Christmas feast. Kyri hears someone knocking and when she peeks out the window, she sees a boy from Finnmark. Kyri lets the boy and his bear in, then quickly closes the door.

The next time Kyri hears knocking, she knows it’s the trolls. Kyri and the boy from Finnmark try to keep the trolls outside, but the trolls are able to sneak in. The hungry trolls chase Kyri and the boy outside. As the trolls eat Kyri’s Christmas dinner, Kyri wonders if anyone will be able to save it.

Beuer brings a Norwegian fairytale to life with her beautiful illustrations. Each picture is detailed and includes side panels, borders, and a lot of winter landscapes. The artwork is beautiful, but the trolls may be frightening for younger readers. In order to fully grasp the story’s illustrations, readers must look at the decorative side panels that focus on the different characters.

Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? is not a typical Christmas story. Although the story takes place in winter, the focus is on the mischievous trolls who want to gobble up dinner. Some readers may be frightened by both the trolls and the polar bear that chases them away. Even though Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? is a picture book, it is intended to be read aloud to a child rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has four or fewer lines of text. The complex sentences and detailed pictures will require readers to take their time to enjoy the story. Even though the story is not well-developed, readers will enjoy the pictures and the conclusion of Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

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The Other Side of the Wall

It’s Christmas break. Tess and Max are in London staying at the posh Sanborn House with their Aunt Evie. As they wait for their parents to arrive, there is an unusual snowstorm that makes the city seem as if it’s caught in a snow globe. It’s the perfect weather for an adventure in Hyde Park. But when Max, Tess, and Aunt Evie leave to search for a cab, they find a horse, carriage, and driver curiously waiting for them at the curb. And that’s just the beginning…

Soon Tess is charmed by a mysterious boy named Colin who lives at the hotel all year round—on the 8th floor. Max is sure the elevator only had 7 floors the day before. How come everyone at the hotel seems to ignore Colin? Things seem to get stranger and stranger. There’s a 1920s costume party in Colin’s parents’ apartment, a marble that seems to be more than it appears, and a shadow that passes mysteriously by Tess and Max’s hotel window.

Tess wants to figure out what’s going on, but she finds only more questions. Is it just a coincidence that Colin’s last name is Sanborn, the same as the hotel? Why does the cat’s-eye marble look eerily similar to the crystal at the top of their hotel room key? And, most importantly, what happened in that hotel one Christmas long, long ago?

Tess and Max are realistic characters who travel back in time. The world building is beautiful, but some readers will quickly become bored because the beginning of the story lacks action. When Tess and Max meet Colin, they are slow to realize that he is a danger. When Colin possesses Max, Tess begins calling him “the person who used to be Max.” This phrase was used too often, and the repetition is annoying. Despite this, Tess’s dedication and love for her brother is both realistic and enduring.

Unlike traditional Christmas stories, The Other Side of the Wall is both mysterious and creepy. The story takes the reader back in time and ends with the sad death of Colin. Readers who have not read the first two books in the series will be slightly confused. Even though the story hints that Tess sometimes sees things that are not really there, her behavior is never explained. The Other Side of the Wall ends abruptly leaving many unanswered questions.

Anyone who wants to add a little fright to their Christmas night will want to read The Other Side of the Wall. The unique story replaces jingle bells for spooky spirits. However, if you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure, you will want to leave The Other Side of the Wall on the library shelf. For those looking to put a little scare into the holiday season, you might want to ask Santa to put Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story by R.L. Stine into your stocking.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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Drugs and Alcohol

  • Tess and Max go into the hotel’s lobby. “There were two young men in the library (which also had a fully stocked serve-yourself bar in a small room adjacent to it).”
  • Tess’s aunt tells her that, “My friend Bobbie rang up and asked if I’d run down the road to a pub for a holiday drink.”

Language

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Supernatural

  • Tess and Max go to a party where they meet a seer. She tells them, “I ask the question, or you do, but it’s the cards that tell me the answer. I’m not much more than a conduit.”
  • Tess and Max meet a boy named Colin. When Colin begins to go pale, “Max reached out to touch him, but it was as if his hand seemed to go right through Colin’s arm. As if he had become transparent or he wasn’t really there, as if. . .” When Max moves away, Colin “started to walk towards Max, purposefully, step by step, directly to him, almost as if Colin was playing chicken or else he wanted to whisper something to Max. . . But then there was the most startled look on Max’s face. . . as Colin walked directly into him and simply disappeared.” Colin takes over Max’s body.
  • Tess pets a terrier. The dog suddenly vanishes “and Adele the psychic was standing in front of her.” Tess wonders how the dog could transform into Adele.
  • Max walks “straight through the wall. . . and simply disappeared.” Frightened Tess runs out of the room and talks to a man. “But before she could finish the sentence, she saw the gentleman’s face begin to crack and tiny pieces start to break away, first his cheek and then part of his nose as if he was made of plaster.”
  • Tess follows Max into a dark hallway where orange vectors appear. As Max walks on the vectors, Tess follows.
  • Following Max, Tess jumps in a carriage. The horse, Comet, raced so quickly, “it was as if Comet was able to, levitate would be the right word, or simply fly just off the ground, carrying the carriage behind her through mid-air, cold air, spectacularly dotted with snow. . .”

Spiritual Content

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The Twelve Pets of Christmas

This Christmas, Quinn Cooper is combining the two things she loves the most—painting and animals—by making ornaments to raise money for her local pet shelter’s “12 Pets of Christmas” drive. The goal of the drive is to find forever homes for twelve cats and dogs before Christmas. With half the proceeds from her ornaments going to the shelter, Quinn plans to use the rest of the money she raises to buy a plane ticket to visit her best friend who moved away last summer.

As Christmas draws closer, the adopt-a-thon is going great… but Quinn’s favorite dog at the shelter, Buddy, is proving especially hard to place. Quinn finds the perfect home for the dog, but the family can’t afford to take on the financial responsibility of adopting him. Will the magic of Christmas help make sure that Quinn and all the pets have a very merry Christmas?

Quinn is a likable, relatable character who has a kind heart. When she tries to befriend Eliza, Quinn is afraid that Eliza has “blown her off.” Even though this conflict plays a part in the story, Quinn’s work at the animal shelter takes center stage. Quinn doesn’t only give her time to the animals at the shelter, she also helps with the shelter’s fundraiser. In the end, Quinn gives away something that is important to her in order to give Buddy a magical Christmas gift.

The Twelve Pets of Christmas highlights the needs of every animal to find a perfect forever home. Because of her work at the shelter, Quinn meets many adults. Even though none of the adults are well-developed, they are all portrayed in a positive manner. Quinn is surrounded by a warm, helping community that reaches out to help each other.

The Twelve Pets of Christmas is an easy-to-read story that focuses on helping animals. Animal lovers who enjoy character-driven stories will find The Twelve Pets of Christmas a sweetly satisfying story. Anyone looking for a little Christmas cheer should add The Twelve Pets of Christmas to their reading list.

Sexual Content

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Supernatural

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Ghosted

When Ellie entered junior high, she promised herself that she would never look weak. She became the smartest, prettiest, best-dressed, and most popular kid at Lincoln Heights Middle School. She is also the most feared. Ellie has figured out that the more horrible she is, the more people fear her, and the more they respect her. Ellie has perfected the ability to manipulate people through fear.

The night of her junior high winter dance, Ellie has a terrible accident. As she lays unconscious, a ghost takes Ellie on a trip to her own past, present, and future. Ellie is forced to relive her parents’ divorce, her struggles with school, and the loss of her best friend, Marley. Can what Ellie sees, inspire her to change her ways?

From the first chapter, the story focuses on Ellie’s mean, manipulating ways. While the reader comes to understand the events that lead Ellie to become such a horrible person, it is hard to relate to her. When Ellie’s parents first divorced, Ellie was surrounded by her best friend Marley and Marley’s two dads. Instead of being comforted by their supportive presence, Ellie focused on what she didn’t have and “let those feelings of hurt and sadness fester into something ugly.” For the reader, Ellie’s ugliness overshadows every other aspect of the story.

Margolis clearly shows the dangers of Ellie’s meanness – both for Ellie and the people she encounters. However, some of the events are unrealistic and portray preteens as sheep who follow the most popular person out of fear. None of Ellie’s peers have the strength of character to stand up to Ellie, even when Ellie makes them do outrageous things. In reality, parents and teachers would have stepped in and protected Ellie’s classmates from her cruelty.

Ghosted follows the same format as The Christmas Carol, and like Scrooge, Ellie changes her ways. Ellie learns and finally admits that “making other people feel bad and weak distracts me from my own pain. And it props me up.” Ellie chooses to own up to her mistakes and apologize; however, the conclusion has several plot holes that readers will notice. For example, while at school Ellie falls and is unconscious for 15 minutes; however, the students do not get a teacher, and they call off the ambulance because when Ellie comes to, she feels fine. In addition, the story glosses over the hurt and pain that Ellie caused others and hints that all will be forgiven.

The story moves at a fast pace. The ghost, who is sarcastic and mean herself, adds interest. Although the message is pertinent to middle school readers, Ellie’s cruelty makes it hard to root for her. Readers looking for another story inspired by the Christmas Carol should pick up Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story by R. L. Stine. On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for a Christmas story that will leave you with a warm glow and a positive message, add the Celebrate the Season series by Taylor Garland to your must-read list.

 Sexual Content

  • Ellie takes a video of Marley, who is joking around. Marley pretends that she is boy crazy and says, “I have never kissed a boy, but sometimes at night I practice by kissing my old American Girl doll. I cut the hair off so she looks like a boy.”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • On Christmas Eve, Ellie and her mom have dinner with friends. Ellie’s mom drinks a glass of wine.

Language

  • Ellie thinks that her classmates have “marshmallows-for-brains” and are morons.
  • The ghost calls Ellie stupid and a dummy.
  • Ellie thinks the ghost and her dad are both jerks.
  • OMG is used as an exclamation three times.
  • My God is used as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • After a fall, a ghost shows Ellie her past, present, and future self. The ghost can also read Ellie’s mind.
  • The ghost drags Ellie “from place to place, year to year, shrinking you down to fit into the snow globe, changing your regular outfit into a bikini for the fish tank, only to go and transform you back into your regular size.”
  • The ghost takes Ellie to different places. One of the places is a mural that some classmates made. Another place Ellie is transported to is a tunnel in a loaf of bread.

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Christmasaurus

Once upon a time—long, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth—an egg rolled away from its mother and landed in the ocean, where it froze solid and stayed peacefully for thousands of years. Then, one day Santa and his elves discover the frozen egg, and Santa sits on it to see if it will hatch. But he would’ve never guessed what’s inside. . . . a dinosaur!

Meanwhile, a young boy named William Trundle has only ever wished for one thing for Christmas: a dinosaur! So, when Santa accidentally gives William the real Christmasaurus instead of a stuffed replica, it’s the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER! That is until Hunter, an evil man known, decides a dinosaur will be the perfect addition to his collection.

The story draws readers into the text by using large text for some of the sillier words, such as “big,” “astronomically,” “intergalactically,” and “outer spacey-wacey big!” The black and white illustrations have wonderful details and show the characters’ emotions. Although younger readers may be interested in the topic, the difficult vocabulary and long, descriptive passages may be hard for some readers to tackle.

The Christmasaurus tackles themes of loneliness, friendship, and seeing things from another person’s perspective. Both the Christmasaurus and William are lonely because they are different from others. However, unlike the Christmasaurus, William is the target of bullying. Through William’s experiences, the story shows how words are “the most powerful weapon of all.” Brenda uses nasty words that “infected the whole school,” making everyone avoid William. Soon William feels lonely and different. “Brenda had planted those awful words like rotten seeds in William’s brain, and they were beginning to grow into rotten thoughts.” However, in the end, William and Brenda both learn valuable lessons about kindness.

Despite William’s difficulties, William remains kind and his true desire is that his father finds happiness. The heartwarming story brings Santa’s magical world to life. However, The Christmasaurus is never predictable and has several surprising plot twists. In the end, The Christmasaurus is a sparkly story that teaches the importance of putting others first.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • In the past, a meteorite killed all of the dinosaurs. The rocks “smashed straight down like red-hot thunderbolts that exploded into thousands of fireballs as they hit the earth! Panic and chaos consumed the jungle.” The Momosaurus and Dadlodocus tried to save their egg, but it “rolled into the stampede, unharmed.” The egg eventually hatches.
  • William accidentally wheels over Brenda’s foot. “She jumped backward in pain, sending her tray of barely edible sludge flying up into the air. . .” Brenda’s food ends up in her hair. Then, “she pulled back her hand and launched the plate of green slop into William’s face at point-blank range. It hit him with such a wallop that it sent his wheelchair whizzing backward across the cafeteria, through the emergency exit, and out into the parking lot.”
  • Brenda bullies William and throws things at him. “She’d use her skill to hurl sticks like javelins from the far side of the playground straight into the spokes of William’s wheels. They’d jam the wheels so suddenly that his wheelchair would stop. . . but William wouldn’t.”
  • When the teacher leaves the room, “a shiny black stapler flew across the classroom, straight at William’s head. William tried to block it with his notebook, but the force of the throw was so strong that the book smacked him straight in the face, and the stapler stapled it to his forehead.”
  • While at the grocery store, someone throws “a tub of double-thick, extra-creamy whipped cream” at William. “The flying wave of dairy hit him with such force that it sent his wheelchair whooshing backward, slipping and sliding on the cream-covered floor of the cereal aisle, until he smashed into the shelves . . .” The sprinklers go off “transforming the supermarket into the world’s largest bowl of cereal.”
  • The Hunter is a villain that hunts animals. “He liked to hunt really ridiculously rare animals. . . He had the ears of a pandaroo, the gills of a horse-shark, the tail of a snailwhale. . .”
  • The Hunter wants to kill the Christmasaurus. “BANG! A bullet suddenly whizzed past, inches away from William and the Christmasaurus. It smashed the streetlight behind them, sending shards of glass showering onto the street below.” Both William and the Christmasaurus are able to run away.
  • Santa tells a story about a boy named Huxley, who takes a hunting knife and “began to hack at the reindeer’s antlers! The deer launched high into the air inside the stables, smashing through the roof!” The deer takes off, dragging the boy behind him. “The young boy was so scared as he clung to the dangling reins in the sky that, in his panic, he began to wish the deer couldn’t fly.” The boy takes a piece of the reindeer’s antlers.
  • The villain sets a trap. When William goes down this, he is trapped in a net. “He stopped fighting for a moment as he swung helplessly and took a glance around. . . Santa was lying in a large heap on the floor below him with his hands tied tightly behind his back so that he couldn’t move.” William’s father was also “tied up with thick rope in the corner of the room. . .”
  • William’s father, Mr. Trundle, tries to stop the Hunter from killing the Christmasaurus. “Bang! The gunshot rang out, deafening loud as it tore through the street.” Mr. Trundle is alright, but The Hunter shot the Christmasaurus. “There was only a shadowy heap, lying very still in the distance where the dinosaur had been.” The dinosaur is not injured.
  • The Christmasaurus ate the Hunter and “there was nothing left of that beastly evil man.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The story uses some name calling. For example, “Most bullies are stupid, jealous jellybrains.”
  • Santa calls someone a “repulsive, evil, maliciously rotten skinbag.”
  • When the Christmasaurus charged the Hunter, he says, “What the devil?”
  • The villain tells William, “Now, listen to me, you stupid, puny little child. I’m going to speak to you slowly so that your undersized brain can understand me. . .”
    Supernatural
  • Santa’s reindeer can fly because “millions of children believe that Santa’s reindeer can fly. They believe beyond any shadow of a doubt, and belief is the most powerful magic there is.”
  • Santa can learn things about anyone. Santa holds the person’s letter and “his sky-colored eyes closed and rolled back in his head, and after a few seconds, he knew everything there was to know about William Trundle.”
  • Santa can make magical toys. “He once made a rocking horse. . . which he enchanted so it came to life every Thursday night.” Another time he made a prince a “racing car so that it got smaller and smaller each time the young prince misbehaved!”
  • Santa is able to enter through a chimney by making everything big. “It was almost as if the entire world grew very large all of a sudden. . .”
  • The Christmasaurus is able to fly because William believes he can.
  • When the Christmasaurus gets to the North Pole, he disappears. William “put the candy cane in his mouth and bit off a chunk. POP! As he bit down, the most spectacularly magical thing happened. He didn’t disappear, as the Christmasaurus had. Quite the opposite, in fact: everything else appeared.”
  • Santa’s tears are the only thing strong enough to banish a person from the North Pole.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Home for the Holidays

Christmas is coming, but this year feels different for Alyssa Sing. Not only is she in Florida instead of the snowy Northeast, but Alyssa misses having good friends like she did in her knitting club at her old school. Things seem to look up at the Palm Meadows Holiday Festival when Alyssa meets Rachel, Elle, and Becca, who all show an interest in Alyssa’s homemade scarves. But trouble arises when Alyssa finds out her new friends used to be friends with each other. . . but aren’t anymore. While Alyssa is glad to have Dasher, a mysterious cat that appears in her backyard, to confide in as she navigates her new school, she can’t help but wonder: Will Florida ever feel like home?

Alyssa doesn’t mean to worry, but she does worry a lot. She especially worries about making new friends. When Alyssa first meets Elle and Rachel, she is excited to finally be on her way to having friends. And when Alyssa meets Becca, she’s hopeful that Elle and Rachel will be excited to include Becca in their friend group. When trouble starts, Alyssa gets good advice from both her mother and her brother. Alyssa’s family encourages her to talk to her new friends and let them know how she feels. Alyssa’s brother gives her good advice when he tells her, “Elle and Rachel can’t tell you not to be friends with someone. And if they do, then they’re not really your friends after all.”

Home for the Holidays is a cute story that is told from Alyssa’s point of view. Alyssa is a likable character who has a relatable conflict. The story has many positive aspects, including teaching important lessons about friendship and portraying Alyssa’s family in a positive light. The story illustrates the importance of communication and working through problems. In addition, when Alyssa finds a stray cat, Alyssa’s mom insists on taking the cat to the vet and seeing if the cat’s family can be found. Even though Alyssa has grown attached to the cat, she knows that the cat must be returned to its family.

Home for the Holidays is an easy-to-read Christmas story that focuses on friendship drama. Younger readers will understand Alyssa’s fear of telling others her feelings, and they will enjoy Alyssa’s family as they try to make a warm Florida Christmas memorable. Alyssa learns that snow and sugar cookies don’t make Christmas perfect. Being surrounded by friends and family are what truly makes the season special.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • OMG is used as an exclamation twice.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Hanukkah Moon

When Isobel is invited to Aunt Luisa’s for Hanukkah, she’s not sure what to expect. Aunt Luisa has recently arrived from Mexico. “At Aunt Luisa’s you’ll get to celebrate the Hanukkah Moon,” Isobel’s father promises. Isobel’s days at Aunt Luisa’s are filled with fun and surprises – a new camera, a dreidel piñata filled with sweets, and a mysterious late-night visit to welcome the luna nueva, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah.

When Isobel goes to visit her aunt, she experiences the Hanukkah Moon for the first time. Aunt Luisa explains how Rosh Chodesh is traditionally celebrated with each noon moon. The holiday honors the women who, unlike the males Israelites, refused to contribute gold to a golden calf. The special holiday illustrates the little-known tradition of the Latin-Jewish community. However, Isobel doesn’t just learn about the Hanukkah Moon, she also enjoys getting to know her aunt, who teaches photography at a college.

As the characters talk about some of the holiday traditions, the illustrations bring the story to life. Using soft yellow and purples, the illustrations are uniquely beautiful. Readers will want to look carefully at the picture’s details so they don’t miss anything. When Isobel and Aunt Luisa go outside, readers will need to look for the animals that are hiding in the shadows. Even though Hanukkah Moon is a picture book, younger readers will need help with the text-heavy pages and the unfamiliar words.

The author’s note appears, which is easy to miss, appears in small print on the first page of the story. However, readers will want to take the time to read the author’s note, which explains the Spanish Jew’s connection to the story. The end of the book also has a glossary that will help readers understand the traditions.

Hanukkah Moon isn’t necessarily an amazing story; however, the story focuses on the multicultural aspects of the celebration, which allows the reader to understand the tradition behind the Hanukkah Moon. Anyone who wants to learn more about the Jewish holiday should read Hanukkah Moon, which highlights the importance of creativity and kindness.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Let It Snow!

Chloe can’t wait to spend the weekend before Christmas in a snowy lodge. However, she’s a little nervous to meet her dad’s new girlfriend and her daughter, Sandy. Chloe has always wanted a sister and she’s hoping she and Sandy will become best friends. But when Chloe’s dog and Sandy’s cat begin to fight, everyone knows that a storm of trouble might be right around the corner.

Unlike Chloe, Sandy isn’t happy about meeting her mother’s new boyfriend. Sandy struggles with her parents’ divorce and secretly hopes her parents will get back together. To make matters worse, an incoming blizzard makes the roads impassable. Now, Sandy won’t be able to see her dad on Christmas. With a swirl of emotions, Sandy just might ruin the holiday trip for everyone.

Chloe tries to understand Sandy’s quickly changing moods. However, “She didn’t understand why Sandy would be having a hard time. After all, she’d [Sandy] had three years to get used to it.” Chloe is trying to be patient, but she wonders, “Why are her [Sandy’s] feelings more important than everybody else’s?” Despite this, Chloe goes out of her way to show Sandy kindness. She even uses her holiday spending money to buy Sandy a gift.

Let It Snow! has relatable characters, relationship drama, and a positive message. However, Chloe isn’t the only person to show kindness. When the group is snowed in, the resort management wants them to move out of their pet-friendly cabin and into the hotel. While waiting to check-in, a couple overhears the conflict, and they offer to give up their cabin. The woman tells them, “We don’t mind giving up a cabin so your poor little fur babies have a nice warm place to stay.”

When Chloe’s father and Sandy’s mother discover why Sandy is so upset about being snowed in, they invite Sandy’s father to join them for Christmas dinner. Even though Chloe’s and Sandy’s families are not traditional two-parent families, the story shows how families change – sometimes in unexpected ways – but that doesn’t mean a “family was ruined or broken. It was just different. Bigger.”

Anyone who needs a cup of Christmas cheer should add Let It Snow! to their reading list. The entertaining story highlights the importance of kindness. So grab a cup of hot cocoa, curl up next to holiday lights, and get ready to read about some snowy fun.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

A Loud Winter’s Nap

Tortoise is set in his ways. He doesn’t like winter. He’s been planning his long winter nap, and now he’s ready to find a peaceful place to snuggle up. Tortoise has his pillow, his teddy bear, and his ear plugs. But what will tortoise do when the robins create a ruckus with their winter singing class?

Readers will giggle as Tortoise tries successfully to find a peaceful sleeping spot. But every time he snuggles down to sleep, a different forest animal wakes him up – from the playful squirrel who invites him to a snowball fight to the beaver who chops down the tree he’s sleeping in. Tortoise just doesn’t understand winter fun. All he knows is that “tortoises just don’t like winter!”

A Loud Winter’s Nap is a beautifully illustrated picture book that explores the joy of winter. Rabbit noisily creates an ice sculpture. Squirrel starts a snowball fight with the sleeping tortoise. Colorful illustrations add little details that will delight readers. Each animal is adorably cute and has expressive facial expressions. Readers will enjoy finding Tortoise’s teddy bear in each picture.

The text includes onomatopoeia words and repetition that will capture young readers’ attention. With four or fewer sentences per page, A Loud Winter’s Nap would be a fun story to read aloud. Readers will want to grab a blanket, a teddy bear, and curl up with this fun book. A Loud Winter’s Nap will become many children’s favorite winter book.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Kitten Nobody Wanted

When Mia loses her beloved cat, Sandy, she can’t ever imagine having a cat again. Sandy was the best cat in the world, and Mia never wants to forget him.

Mia’s best friend, Emily, is thrilled when her cat, Snowball, has kittens. Emily desperately wants Mia to see the kittens, but for a long time Mia can’t bring herself to. Mia finally visits and falls in love with a small, shy kitten that she names Whiskers. Everyone can see that Mia and Whiskers are perfect for each other, but is Mia ready to give him a home?

In The Kitten Nobody Wanted, Mia struggles with the loss of her cat. She doesn’t want to ever forget him. When Emily’s cat has kittens, Mia’s refusal to see the kittens upsets Emily. The two friends talk about the problem and try to understand each other’s point of view. The girls’ friendship is sweet and the girls clearly care about each other. Mia’s parents, grandmother, and Emily’s mother all try to help Mia feel better about losing her cat.

While most of the story is told from Mia’s point of view, the ending of the story incorporates Whiskers’ point of view, which allows the reader to understand that Mia and Whiskers belong to each other. While the story revolves around Mia’s grief, each person in Mia’s life is portrayed in a positive manner.

The Kitten Nobody Wanted is a sweet story that will appeal to any animal lover. Black and white illustrations appear every one to four pages, which helps break up the text. Even though the story is appropriate for young readers, the vocabulary and sentence structure is more advanced. However, the story would be a good choice for parents to read aloud to their children. The Kitten Nobody Wanted is realistic fiction that is entertaining and shows positive relationships, while teaching the importance of giving pets a good home.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Secret Snowflake

Riley has been looking forward to the English class’ Secret Snowflake project all year. As part of the assignment, the students are having an anonymous gift exchange. Riley is even more excited when she gets to be the Secret Snowflake for her crush, Marcus Anderson. Based on a smile, Riley is convinced that Marcus might be her Secret Snowflake too!

Riley wants to make the gifts extra special. She uses her crafty nature to make homemade gifts. Riley’s best friend thinks Marcus might think homemade gifts are lame. Trying to find the perfect gift, Riley begins paying extra attention to Marcus. Soon, she wonders if her secret crush is really as wonderful as she imagined.

When Riley starts receiving gifts, she knows that her Secret Snowflake has paid extra attention to her. All of Riley’s gifts are sparkly and perfect. Is Marcus really Riley’s Secret Snowflake. . . or will Riley be crushed when her Secret Snowflake’s identity is revealed?

Riley’s excitement and enthusiasm for Christmas make Secret Snowflake a sparkly read. Middle school readers will empathize with Riley, who is experiencing her first crush. However, Riley’s crush doesn’t take over the story. Instead, Secret Snowflake is a story of friendship, family, and bringing Christmas cheer to others. Riley is a relatable character with positive qualities. She is kind to her brother, is part of a choir that sings in a nursing home, and helps her best friend reach out to a new girl.

In the end, Riley learns that her secret crush “focused an awful lot on things that Riley didn’t really care about. . . Sure she could be interested in someone who loved sports—but not someone who measured worth in dollars and cents. And definitely not someone who would throw a handmade gift in the trash like it was garbage.” When Riley’s crush says mean things about his Secret Snowflake’s gifts, Riley is hurt and cries in the school bathroom. However, she doesn’t mope for long. Instead, she joins the festivities and realizes that a boy is worthy when he is kind, caring, and thinks of others.

Secret Snowflake will get readers into the gift-giving holiday spirit. The engaging story shows how simple things like baking cookies and making ornaments are what the season is all about. There’s a lot to like about Secret Snowflake. Riley is a good friend, her family is portrayed in a positive light, and the story shows the importance of thinking about others. Young girls will fall in love with Riley and be motivated to create their own crafty gifts. Anyone looking for a fun, positive holiday story should put Secret Snowflake at the top of their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Riley thinks her Secret Snowflake might think her homemade Christmas ornament is “dumb or babyish,” her brother says, “Then he sounds like a jerk!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Hoppy Hanukkah!

Violet and Simon, two small bunnies, are excited about Hanukkah. Simon is ready to light all the candles and then blow them right out! But Mama and Papa explain how to celebrate Hanukkah by lighting one candle each night at sunset and placing the menorah in the window for all to see. Grandma and Grandpa come over too, and there are latkes, presents, and a dreidel game.

Violet and Simon’s excitement is perfectly portrayed. The two bunnies are introduced to the traditions of Hanukkah as the family talk about what makes it feel like Hanukkah. Even though the story shows Hanukkah traditions, the book does not explain their significance. The cute conclusion has the mother bunny tucking the kids into bed as she says, “My little bunnies! You know what really makes it feel like Hanukkah? You!”

Hoppy Hanukkah illustrates the cute rabbit family in brightly colored pictures. Several of the pictures use thought bubbles so readers can see what the little rabbits are thinking. The illustrations show the importance of family and the Hanukkah traditions. The story has 1-5 sentences on each page, which makes Hoppy Hanukkah a good story to read aloud. Hoppy Hanukkah would be an excellent book to introduce Jewish customs without going into the history of the traditions.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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