Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder

Captain Bling and his merry crew set off to find treasure, but they get blown off course and end up at the North Pole. When they spy the elves carefully wrapping presents, the pirates think they have found the ultimate booty! They quickly steal the presents and make their way back to the ship. By the time Santa Claus catches up to them, the pirates are well on their way to escaping. But Santa has a surprise for Captain Bling and his crew!

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder will take readers on a swashbuckling adventure to the North Pole. The pirates’ plundering activities are told with humor, in rhyming couplets. The pirates attack Santa’s workshop, forcing Santa and the elves to fight, and “though Santa swung fast, the pirates swung faster, and a sack versus swords was a surefire disaster.” However, the gifts are saved because the pirates change their ways and help Santa on Christmas night.

The brightly colored illustrations show Santa’s magical land where pine trees are decorated, snowmen smile, and toys are stacked waiting for Christmas day. Young readers will love the illustrations’ fun details such as penguins watching the elves and pirates fight, and a shark happily waiting as Santa walks the plank. Each page has 1 to 3 rhyming sentences which include some advanced vocabulary. Even though Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder 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.

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder is a fun spinoff of The Night Before Christmas. Pirate-loving readers will enjoy seeing Santa and the pirates fight over the toys. Plus, the happy ending shows Santa and the pirates working together to deliver Christmas toys. If you’re looking for another humorous Christmas picture book, The Knights Before Christmas by Joan Holub is sure to make readers smile.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The pirates take Santa’s treasure, “so Santa gave chase, with his sack on his back, but the pirates were ready to face his attack.” The pirates capture Santa and “the pirates forced Santa to walk the gangplank.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

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The Green Ghost

It’s Christmas Eve, and Kaye’s family is on the way to her grandmother’s house in a swirling snowstorm. Suddenly the car hits a patch of ice, slides across the road and skids into a snow-filled ditch! Through the car window, Kaye spots a light in the woods. Its glow leads her and her parents through the blizzard. They find a warm cabin, a kindly old woman named Elsa, and a green ghost who needs Kaye’s help!  

A long time ago, when Elsa was three, her sister Lillian wanted a beautiful Christmas tree rather than the ugly Junipers that her father brough home every year. So, Lillian and Elsa go into the snowy woods to find a tree. However, when Lillian finds the tree, she is unable to cut it down. By the time Lillian gives up, Elsa is shivering cold. Lillian can’t carry Elsa home, so she wraps Elsa up in her jacket, crawls under the tree, and snuggles up to keep Elsa warm. While Elsa survives, Lillian dies.   

By the time Kaye meets Elsa, she is an old woman who lives by herself. Like Elsa’s sister, Kaye wants a beautiful Christmas tree, not the artificial tree her grandmother planned to get. Kaye’s story parallels Lillian’s story and, in the end, Kaye learns that having a beautiful Christmas tree isn’t what is important. Christmas isn’t about the tree or the decorations, it’s about spending time with the people you love.  

The Green Ghost is full of suspense which will keep young readers flipping the pages until the very end. Even though The Green Ghost is a ghost story, the ghost’s appearance isn’t frightening. Before Kaye realizes that Lillian is a ghost, Kaye follows her into the woods. Kaye wonders, “What if this girl was playing a trick on her? What if she was trying to get Kaye lost in the woods? Could she find her way back to Elsa’s alone if she had to?” While the story revolves around a ghost, the story has a happy ending. 

The Green Ghost’s format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and illustrations. The story goes back and forth between the early 1930s when Lillian was alive and the present. The two points of view are easy to follow because the chapters from Lillian’s time begin with the date and have a gray boarder around each page. This book is part of the Stepping Stones Series that is specifically written for beginning readers. The series allows readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics. 

If you’re looking for an engaging Christmas story with a positive message, The Green Ghost would be fun to read wrapped in a blanket on a cold night. If you want to add another Christmas-themed book with a positive message to your child’s reading list, check out Winter Wonders by Kate Hannigan. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Kaye and her family skid off the snowy road. “And they were sliding back across the road again. The car slid, and it turned, too . . . like some kind of carnival ride.” The car is stuck so they walk to a nearby house for help. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Blasted is used several times. For example, Kaye and her family are driving through a snowstorm. When Kaye starts asking her father questions, he snapped, “We’re in the middle of blasted nowhere.  

Supernatural 

  • A ghost appears to Kaye. “A small, pale face appeared. . . a lighted face. . . The light—or face, whatever it was—called to her. Not with a voice. . . Still, the light called as clearly as if it had said, ‘Come.’” 
  • Lillian, the ghost, appears as a little girl and leads Kaye into the forest where she stops by a tree. Then, “Lillian stepped back toward the line of trees and disappeared. She simply vanished.” 
  • Elsa tells Kaye that the ghost is her sister who died. “When I was a girl, Lillian visited me every year, right around Christmas. . . And then she and I would walk out together to see this tree.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • Elsa tells Kaye and her family, “it was surely an angel who had brought them to her on this stormy night.” 

The Little Reindeer

On the night of Christmas Eve, a young girl named Ollie is awoken by a jingling outside her house. She hurries to her window but sees nothing out of the ordinary. With her reindeer pajamas and red sled, Ollie adventures into the snowy night to find the source of the sound.  

Stepping outside, she hears the sound again. She leaps onto her sled. Speeding down the hill outside her house, the sound becomes clearer. Eventually, Ollie traces the sound to the barren, dark woods outside of her neighborhood. Feeling brave, she runs into the darkness. There, she finds the source of the sound hanging from a tree branch. It is a red collar with silver bells. Ollie smiles and takes the collar but wonders who it belongs to.  

Just then, she hears a new sound –the sound of footsteps crunching through the snow. A real reindeer is approaching. He eyes the collar in Ollie’s hands, and Ollie understands that the collar belongs to him. Ollie kindly returns the collar to the reindeer, who gestures his new friend to climb onto his back. 

Suddenly, the two are soaring above the woods, over Ollie’s town, through the night sky. The reindeer softly lands in front of Ollie’s house. Ollie thanks her friend, but admits that she doesn’t want to say goodbye. However, she understands that this reindeer has a very special job to do tonight. Ollie goes back to her room, lies in bed, and pleasantly dreams of her adventure. Her reindeer friend jingles past her window once more, only this time, he is leading Santa’s sleigh. The next morning, Ollie is gifted a snow globe with a figurine of the reindeer inside. She smiles, knowing that she will always have something to remind her of that magical night and that she’ll see her friend next year. 

The Little Reindeer is a fast and fun read for the Christmas holiday, with one to four short sentences per page. Its illustrations are mostly drawn in black, white, and gray, with red being the only color to stand out. The backgrounds are typically entirely blank or black, with chalk-like dots of snow to enliven the winter spirit. Detail-driven readers can have fun searching for Ollie’s stuffed reindeer hiding in every page. 

Young readers who celebrate Christmas will relate to Ollie’s holiday spirit. However, all young readers will admire Ollie’s sense of adventure, her bravery, and her sparkling curiosity. Through Ollie’s journey, readers can learn that by following their bravery and curiosity, they can form their closest friendships and greatest memories.  

Sexual Content 

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Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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The Carpenter’s Gift

One Christmas night, Henry sits in his house and thinks blissfully back to a special day in 1931. He was a child then, growing up during the Great Depression. The historical downturn left a significant impact on his family. His family lived in a small house, and both of his parents were out of work. They struggled to afford coal for the stove or blankets for the beds. Henry kept an optimistic mind, and occupied himself with thoughts of warm, magical places.  

On Christmas Eve of that year, Henry was surprised to see his father arrive at the house in a big rental truck. He calls for Henry to come along, and the two happily drive to a nearby forest to cut down its evergreen trees and stack them onto the back of the truck. When Henry asks why, his father joyfully replies that they’re going to New York City to sell Christmas trees. 

The thought of being in a big city like New York excites Henry, and he is immediately fascinated by Midtown Manhattan. Henry’s father parks the truck beside a construction site and asks a worker if they can set up shop there. Acknowledging the pair’s situation, the worker agrees. What follows is a heartfelt story of generosity and hope in the hardest of times. 

The Carpenter’s Gift is a sweet holiday tale that spans several generations before arriving at the message that there is no better present than kindness. Henry searches time and again for the warm, magical moments he dreams of, and finds that these moments are produced not by magic but by simple acts of giving. 

The warm atmosphere of the book is strengthened by its lavish, impressionistic illustrations that are passionately drawn in the beautiful colors of each season. The illustrator makes several uses of double-page illustrations to portray the sheer scale and beauty of the evergreen trees. The story is told with simple, easy vocabulary, and readers can expect four to ten sentences on each page.  

The Carpenter’s Gift is guaranteed to satisfy all readers who celebrate Christmas and is a comforting read for those looking for a warm story this winter season. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language 

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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by Luke McClain 

Drummer Boy

In a wintery little town, a toy drummer boy appears mysteriously on a child’s doorstep. The child loves the little drummer boy, and the drummer boy loves the child. The drummer boy gives the child the only gift he can– He plays his drum– boom pum pum boom pum.

 But when he accidentally falls into the trash, the drummer boy is sent on a scary and snowy journey! Even so, as he is carried and flown, and almost buried in snow, the little drummer boy still gives the gift he can to a rat and a snowman and the nighttime stars.

Right from the start, young readers will be captivated by the drummer boy. When he falls into the trash, and is taken to the dump, the drummer boy begins a journey where he ends up in surprising places. Even when his circumstances seem dire, the drummer boy gives to others by playing his song. The ending is surprising and sweet and reminds readers that the reason for Christmas is because a little baby was born.

The snowy illustrations are in muted colors with beautiful details. The illustrations show the scale of the little drummer boy and how small he is compared to his surroundings. Even though Drummer Boy 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 2 to 9 sentences; however, some of the sentences are complex.

The story is surprisingly suspenseful, and readers will be curious to see where the drummer boy ends up next. If you’re looking for a holiday book to share with your family, Drummer Boy is an enchanting story that shows the importance of giving to others despite your circumstances.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

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Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

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Red and Lulu

Two cardinals, Red and Lulu, have made a nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree overlooking a family’s house. The shade from the tree’s branches keeps the birds cool during the hot months, while its needles keep them warm during the cold months. Red and Lulu’s favorite time of year is winter when the family decorates their tree and sings O Christmas Tree. One morning, as that special season is arriving, Red flies out to find breakfast while Lulu stays behind. When Red returns, he finds that their tree has been cut down, and is being driven away on a large truck. Red can hear Lulu singing from somewhere inside the tree. He calls out to tell her to stay where she is. 

Red flies towards the tree, but he can’t keep up with the truck, which leads Red into a chase through highways, across the George Washington Bridge, and through crowded city streets. Before long, Red realizes he has lost sight of the truck, and finds himself in a strange new place unlike anywhere he’s ever been before – New York City. Red spends days searching the city for Lulu. He searches outside of the New York Public Library, through Times Square, and over the Empire State Building. During Red’s search, he and Lulu’s special season finally arrives. As snow falls, Red hears the faint sound of O Christmas Tree being sung from a distance. He hurries towards the sound, finally tracing it to a crowd of people surrounding a familiar tree standing at Rockefeller Center. The tree is covered from top to bottom in colorful Christmas lights, but Red immediately recognizes it as his and Lulu’s tree. 

He flies over the happy carolers and into the tree’s branches, where he is joyously greeted by Lulu. The two reside happily in their tree and smile at the large crowds of people who seem to love it just as much as they do. One day, the same truck arrives and takes their tree once again. This time, Red and Lulu find a new tree in Central Park, where they make their new home. Every winter since, Red and Lulu take a trip to Rockefeller Center to visit their first tree and listen to the crowd of people sing their favorite song. 

Red and Lulu is a sweet and touching story and a visually engaging read from start to finish. The book is rich with beautiful illustrations that are carefully and passionately drawn to convey the beauty of winter, as well as that of every season in the book’s opening pages. The background of each illustration tends to have more muted colors, from beige and yellow autumns to gray and blue winters, which allows the bright red cardinals and glowing holiday decorations to stand out. The font of the narration is notably smaller on some pages, but the straightforward narration allows for an altogether easy read. However, beginning readers may need help understanding some of the difficult vocabulary such as “frantically” and “marveled.” There are one to eight sentences per page, but some pages rely on the illustrations to tell the story.  

Red and Lulu’s narrative does an excellent job of getting the reader to care about the relationship between its two title characters, making their eventual reunion feel just as special. Readers who celebrate Christmas are likely to enjoy the book’s Christmas setting, but the book can also be enjoyed by readers who live in New York City or who are familiar with the area. Readers who have moved homes or are preparing to move can also find this story particularly endearing, as they may relate to the overwhelming change felt by Red and Lulu, as well as the story’s message of the home being defined by the presence of loved ones rather than a specific place.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

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

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

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Christmas in Camelot

Jack and Annie are on their most exciting mission yet! It begins with a simple invitation to spend Christmas Eve in Camelot, a magical place that exists only in myth and fantasy. What Jack and Annie don’t know yet is that the invitation will send them on a quest to save Camelot itself—not just from destruction, but from being forgotten forever. Can they succeed, even though Camelot’s greatest knights have failed?

When Jack and Annie arrive at Arthur’s castle, they find the kingdom has been robbed of all joy. The Christmas Knight appears with a warning—someone must go on a quest to retrieve the Water of Memory and Imagination. Only Jack and Annie are willing to go on the quest. The Christmas Knight tells the kids a riddle, which will help them succeed. However, their journey is filled with danger and magic.

Readers will relate to Jack and Annie, who want to fight to save Camelot. Despite the characters’ young age, they work together to complete the quest. With a little imagination, a little magic, and a lot of bravery, the two kids are able to save Camelot. While the setting is in Camelot, King Arthur and his knights only appear at the very beginning and end of the story. However, readers will enjoy trying to solve the riddle and seeing how Jack and Annie persevere until the end.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Christmas in Camelot’s fast-paced plot. The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters and monsters to life. The author’s note includes the Celtic Myths that Christmas in Camelot was based on. The back of the book also includes fun Christmas craft activities that readers can enjoy.

Anyone who wants to add a little magic and mystery to the holidays will enjoy Christmas in Camelot. Even though the story is part of the Magic Tree House Series, the book can be read as a stand-alone. For more time travel and historical fiction, add the Imagination Station series by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Jack and Annie must fight the Keepers, four monsters that look similar to dragons. “The four Keepers hissed louder than before. Great balls of blue fire exploded from their mouths and nostrils! Jack and Annie slashed the air with their fiery weapons, jabbing at the Keepers. They fought fire with fire, blue flame with purple flame.” The monsters retreat back into their caves.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • King Arthur and his knights “were gnawing meat off bones and slurping wine from heavy goblets.”

Language

  • Darn is said once.

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie have a magic tree house that allows them to travel to the past. The two kids find an invitation in the tree house. When Jack holds the invitation and makes a wish, the magic works.
  • A “Dark Wizard” cast a spell over Camelot that “robbed Camelot of all its joy.”
  • In order to break the Dark Wizard’s spell, Jack and Annie must travel to the Otherworld, “an ancient, enchanted land beyond the edge of earth.” The two kids must bring back a cup of the Water of Memory and Imagination.
  • When King Arthur tries to stop Jack and Annie from going on a quest, the Christmas Knight “raised his gloved hand in the air. In an instant, the room fell deathly quiet.” Everyone was frozen in place.
  • The Christmas Knight gives Jack and Annie a cloak that makes them invisible.
  • Jack and Annie fight the monsters. The kids drink the Water of Memory and Imagination and the water gives Jack bravery.
  • Jack drops the cup of Water of Memory and Imagination. Then, “a golden cloud was rising from the cracks between all the stones of the floor. . . It soared across the dark room like a bright light, then swooped back out into the night.” The water unfreezes King Arthur and his knights. The water also brings laughter and celebration back to Camelot.
  • A white stag helps the kids on their journey. When they return to Camelot, the stag turns into “an old man with a long white beard.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

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.

 Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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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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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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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.

 Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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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

  • None

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.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger

Mortimer Mouse needs a new house—a house that’s not so cold, cramped, and dark. Where can he go?

Mortimer sees a huge tree covered with twinkling lights. And next to the tree, a mouse-sized house. And inside the house, a wee wooden manger just Mortimer’s size. But statue people already seem to live there! One by one, Mortimer lugs and tugs the statues out of the house—only to find them all put back in their place each evening! What is Mortimer to do?

It’s not until he overhears a very special story that Mortimer realizes whose house he is sharing and where Mortimer himself belongs. It is the story of Christmas and the night the baby Jesus was born that warms Mortimer’s heart in this magical holiday story.

Readers will enjoy following Mortimer as he leaves his dark, dirty home and searches for a new home. While Mortimer doesn’t understand the significance of the decorations or the manger, younger readers who celebrate Christmas will recognize the common holiday decorations. Suspense is created as Mortimer sneaks into the living room, climbs the Christmas tree, and moves the people out of the nativity. While Mortimer doesn’t know how the people get back into the house, the reader will see a little boy gently placing the people back into the house.

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger introduces the story of baby Jesus. The detailed full-page illustrations use Christmas colors and show Mortimer’s viewpoint. While most of the illustrations do not show Mortimer’s emotions, the words will help readers understand Mortimer’s hopes and feelings. Even though the story is a picture book, parents will need to read the story to their younger children. Some of the pages are text-heavy and many of the sentences are complex. The amount of text will make Mortimer’s Christmas Manger a longer story to read and children may have questions about the Christmas story.

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger is a beautiful story about Mortimer learning the Christmas story and coming to understand the significance of the nativity scene. The conclusion shows how God answers prayers and provides for his people.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The story of baby Jesus’s birth is retold.
  • Mortimer says a prayer, “Jesus, you were born to save the world. Perhaps you could also bring me a home?”
  • After Mortimer’s prayer, he sees a gingerbread house and moves into it. Mortimer prays, “Thank you, Jesus. You’ve made room for me, too.”

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.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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?

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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

  • None

Violence

  • None

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

  • None

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

  • None

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

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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

Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story

Rick Scroogeman hates Christmas. He can’t stand the carols or the pageants. He doesn’t like the lights or the mistletoe. But the worst part about the season is having to watch the old movie version of A Christmas Carol, especially since all of his classmates have started calling him Scrooge.

When Rick finds out that he didn’t get a part in the school play, he’s determined to get revenge. When Rick’s terrible prank successfully ruins Christmas for his classmates, he feels victorious. But when three ghosts appear, Rick realizes what he thought was just a nightmare might become real. Can anyone teach Rick the true meaning of Christmas?

Rick is truly a terrible boy. He thinks being mean is funny. He enjoys stomping on people’s feet, taking his brother’s jelly beans, and getting revenge. Rick bullies his way through life and doesn’t understand why so many people don’t understand his humor. When the Christmas ghosts appear, Rick learns how it feels to be bullied. Even though Rick learns how it feels to be bullied, the ending is ambiguous enough to make the reader wonder if Rick will change his horrid ways.

In Young Scrooge, Rick tells his own story. His snarky comments and ungrateful attitude show he is completely unaware of others’ feelings. When the ghosts take him to different realities, Rick is put on the receiving end of a bully. Yet for the majority of the story, Rick is more concerned with getting home and getting his Christmas gifts. Even though Young Scrooge is based on A Christmas Carol, the ending won’t give the readers a warm fuzzy feeling.

Readers who want to put a little horror into the holidays will find this ghost spooky but not scary. The story’s short chapters and easy vocabulary make the story easy to read. Even though the story shows the harmful effects of bullying, the story is never preachy. Although parents might find Young Scrooge lacking, younger readers will enjoy the fresh twist on A Christmas Carol. Young Scrooge will never become a Christmas classic, but it will entertain readers and would be a great conversation starter on bad behavior.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Rick splashes water on Davey. Rick thinks it’s funny because “everyone will see the dark spot on the front of his pants and think he had an accident.” When Davey gets mad, Rick slaps “him hard on the back. He goes sprawling into the yellow tile wall.”
  • When Jeremy asks Rick, “What do you want, Scrooge?”, it makes Rick angry so he tromps “down on the top of his sneaker as hard as I can with the heel of my shoe. . . That must hurt. He starts to hop up and down on one foot.”
  • When Rick walks into one of his classes, he sees Lucy. “First, I take my thumbs and smear the lenses on her glasses. Then I take both hands and ruffle her hair as hard as I can.”
  • Rick makes fun of a boy that stutters, then, “[he picks] him up by his waist and lifted him into his locker. And then [Rick] closed the locker door with him inside.”
  • While walking to the front of the class, Rick “tromped really hard on Josh Cratchit’s foot as I passed by him. I couldn’t believe how loud he screamed.” When Rick returns to his seat, he “gave it another good hard stomp as I passed.”
  • Josh sees Billy O’Brian, who is fat. Instead of calling Billy by his name, Rick calls him Belly O’Beast. Rick likes “to grab his big belly with both hands, jiggle it up and down, and shout, “‘Earthquake!’ especially when there are girls watching. Belly’s fat face always turns bright red.”
  • When Rick finds out that the kids did not want him to be in the play, Rick puts ants in their costumes. “Some kids sprawled on their backs, scratching. Others were frantically pulling off their costumes. I saw ants scurry out of the clothes and over the stage. Ants crawled all over Belly’s cheeks and forehead.”
  • When Rick gets home, he sees his brother Charlie. “I dropped my backpack on the floor. Then I grabbed both of his ears and tugged them as hard as I could.”
  • When Christmas carolers come to Rick’s house, he throws snowballs at them.
  • Rick is taken to a school in the past. A kid “raised his big boot and tromped his heel down as hard as he could on top of my right sneaker. . . pain shot up my leg, up my entire body. . . The pain was unbearable.”
  • When a girl laughs at Rick, he “grabbed the back of her hair and gave it a tug. You know. Playful. Not too hard.” The girl then dumps ink on Rick’s head.
  • A boy “stuck his foot out and tripped [Rick]. [Rick] stumbled into the big globe. Landed on top of it. And the globe and [Rick] rolled across the floor.”
  • While building snowmen with Ashley, Rick “grabbed up a big handful of snow and molded it into a snowball. . . and smashed it into Ashley’s face. [Rick] held it there, rubbing it over her cheeks and eyes.”
  • While in the future, Rick is taken to his grave. When he peers in it, he sees some of the kids from Dead Middle School. “They were huddled in my grave—and I could see right through them! They were transparent, all in shades of gray. No color. And now they raised their arms. All at once, they shot their arms up out of the hole. Hands wrapped around my feet. Two guys floated up and wrapped their arms around my waist.” Rick is able to pull himself free, but “One of the arms holding my waist fell off. The arm ripped off at the shoulder and fell to the dirt.” The scene is described over five pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Rick thinks most of the kids in his school are losers.
  • Mr. Pickwick didn’t give Rick a part in the play. Rick thinks it is because the teacher is a jerk.
  • When a girl dumps ink over Rick’s head, the other students laugh. Rick thinks, “I felt like a total jerk.”
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Rick to his friends’ Christmas party. Rick overhears the kids saying he was a “total jerk.”

Supernatural

  • Rick sneaks into his attic looking for his Christmas presents. The attic door closes and the lights go out. Then, Rick sees “an eerie green-yellow mist swirling at the other end of the closet. . .It curled up on itself like a snake. [Rick] stared without breathing, without moving as the mist curled and uncurled, up to the closet ceiling, then down again.” The mist is replaced by a man. “His nose came to a sharp point. His eyes glowed red like burning coals.” The man is the ghost of Marly. The ghost discovers that he is in the wrong house and leaves.
  • After the ghost of Marly disappears, another one appears. “His long gray robe reached the floor, covering his whole body. It billowed like drapes at an open window, and I heard a sound like rushing wind. . . He turned toward me and I could see into the hood. I saw only blackness in there. No face. No face at all.” The ghost is the ghost of Christmas Past.
  • The ghost of Christmas Past touches Rick, then “The wind picked up again. . . [Rick] covered both of [his] ears with [his] hands as the blast sent [him] flying off the floor. Flying into a deep blackness.” When Rick opens his eyes, he is in the past.
  • After being in the past, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears and transports Rick to his time. “We plunged down, then started to slow. Colors swirled up in the gray, bright flashes of green and blue and red. So bright, I shut my eyes.” When he appears, Rick discovers he is now part of a different family.
  • While trying to leave his new family, two snowmen stop him. “I lowered my head and tried to swerve around it. But it moved quickly, silently gliding over the snow, staying close, pushing its big bulk in front of me. . . I pulled my arm back and shot my fist as hard as I could into my snowman’s frozen head” When another snowman comes near, Rick hits it as well. “The snowman didn’t seem to feel it. I tugged myself back—but now both hands were stuck in its icy grip. I pulled and pulled again, leaning as far back as I could, but I couldn’t free them.” One of the snowmen transforms into the Ghost of Christmas Present.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Future appears in the form of a robot and takes Rick to “Dead Middle School” where everyone is dead.
  • Rick hides in a closet. “And then I felt a puff of cold wind. I opened my eyes in time to see the closet fill with a purple light. . . The closet began to shake. The shelves rattled.” Rick is transported home.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Dragon’s Merry Christmas

As Christmas nears, Dragon is excited to decorate. First, Dragon looks for the perfect Christmas tree. Then, he makes a candy wreath, but Dragon keeps eating the sweet chocolates. Eventually, all of the candy is gone and Dragon has a stomachache. Eating too much candy isn’t Dragon’s only problem. He has also lost his mittens. Dragon comes up with a creative solution, but then he loses his coat. Finally, Dragon shops for presents for himself. As he walks home, Dragon ends up giving all of his gifts to others.

Dragon’s Merry Christmas is divided into four short stories, and the first three have surprise endings. Young readers will enjoy Dragon’s adventure and the unexpected endings. In the final story, Dragon shows compassion when he sees others who are in need. For example, Dragon sees “some raccoons singing in the street. The raccoons had no food to eat. They looked hungry.” Dragon doesn’t think twice about giving the raccoons “his big basket of food.” By the time Dragon makes it back home, his bag is empty. “There were no presents left for him. But Dragon did not feel sad.”

Readers will relate to Dragon as he struggles not to eat too much candy and loses his mittens. The four short stories have entertaining, yet simple plots. Each page has 1-4 easy-to-read sentences and large illustrations. Dragon’s Merry Christmas is intended for children who are learning to read. With simple text, humor, and full-color illustrations on every page, Dragon’s Merry Christmas will help readers build confidence and fluency. If you’re ready to dig out Christmas tree lights and decorate for the season, Dragon’s Merry Christmas will help get you into the holiday spirit.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Knights Before Christmas

‘Twas December 24th, and three brave knights were just settling in for the night when out on the drawbridge, there arose such a clatter! The knights try everything to get rid of this unknown invader (Santa Claus!), a red and white knight with a fleet of dragons . . .

The Knights Before Christmas is a delightful parody of Clement Clarke Moore’s well-known poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The Knights Before Christmas is a perfect read-aloud book because each page contains four rhyming lines that detail the knights’ plight. In addition to the poem, some pages contain speech bubbles that take famous Christmas songs and give them a humorous twist. For example, one knight thinks, “I’m dreaming of a white javelin, just like the one I used to throw. . .”

Readers will laugh at the words and appreciate the adorable pictures of the knights trying to keep Santa Claus out of the castle. The picture book contains colorful, cartoonish pictures that bring detail to the knights’ activities. Younger readers may not understand all of the humor. For example, the knights “consult the king’s book on what good knights should do.” The illustration shows the king’s book, which says, “draw the bridge.” The next page shows a knight creating a drawing of a bridge. Even if readers do not understand all of the story’s humor, they will still want to read the book again and again.

The Knights Before Christmas is a festive, fun story that readers will want to pull out every Christmas season. The story contains elements that the young and the old will both enjoy.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • To prepare to chase Santa Claus away, the “Silent Knight duked it out with a many-armed coat.” The illustration shows the knight boxing a coat.
  • Trying to deliver his gifts to the knights, Santa Claus uses a catapult to throw sugarplums. While the knights hide, “dozens of sugarplums rained down on their heads. . . Three shields came in camouflage. Mint spears hit the gate, as Santa stormed that castle with his fierce dragon eight.”  Santa continues to throw the gifts, including gingerbread men, into the castle.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

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

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