Friday, December 20, 2013

December Picks!

Here's what's new at our house this holiday season. You won't find these picture books under the tree, though. We've been enjoying them all month:

(Aren’t they gorgeous?)

I love traditional Christmas stories, but every now and then, it's nice to throw something different into the mix. These picture books were exactly what I was looking for. Let's take a closer look at each one:

The Christmas Tugboat:
How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York

Written by George Matteson and Adele Ursone
Paintings by James E. Ransome

Nothing says Christmas like a Christmas tree, and the Rockefeller Center tree in New York City has said it beautifully since 1931. But how does the tree get there? One year, the tugboat captain (and author) George Matteson, his wife, and their daughter traveled by tug to fetch the giant tree. This dramatic picture book tells the story of their real-life journey up the Hudson River, and James Ransome's striking paintings capture the excitement of the trip and the pride of the young girl who helped steer the tug into New York Harbor.

We read The Christmas Tugboat and then decorated our tree:

(Two more presents to wrap…)

I made this file folder game too:

(Click here for the link.)

And here's a picture book that I've wanted for a long time:

The Legend of the Poinsettia
Retold and Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside.

This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Beloved Newbery honor-winning author and Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas. His glorious paintings capture not only the brilliant colors of Mexico and its art, but also the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas and the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful.

When Lucida is unable to finish her gift for the Baby Jesus in time for the Christmas procession, a miracle enables her to offer the beautiful flower we now call the poinsettia.

(Click here for ordering information.)

Did you notice my poinsettia bookmark? ♥

I made it out of a clothespin, red and green construction paper, and a pearl button. Simply cut small petal shapes out of the construction paper and fold each one in half lengthwise for a realistic look. I love making these types of things for my writing journals too. I'll be sharing more about that in my next blog post, though.

This next holiday picture book is ideal for toddlers:

Merry Christmas, Merry Crow by Kathi Apphelt
Illustrations by John Goodell

A broken chain, a piece of string, a bottle cap . . . To most people, these things are useless trash. But to a clever crow, they're just what he needs to create a special surprise--a beautiful Christmas tree that everyone can treasure.Told in jaunty rhyme by Kathi Appelt and lavishly illustrated by Jon Goodell, this heartwarming story of people brought together by a very unexpected artist has all the makings of a Christmas classic.

For an outdoor follow-up activity, we went on a nature walk and collected a few treasures of our own:

(Lots of pinecones and sticks.  LOL!)

This next picture book is my personal favorite:

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

The Jolly Postman rides again with more real letters, and present, too, in his Christmas postbag.

This book was so adorable that I ordered two! I’m giving one of them to my grandson for Christmas. I love that it has so many activities for the reader to enjoy. Check out this spread:

Here’s another fun surprise:

I added a Gingerbread Man matching game:

(Click here for the link.)

I’m saving this last picture book for a day when our grandson starts to question the existence of Santa Claus:

Yes, Virginia
There is a Santa Claus by Chris Plehal
Illustrations by James Bernardin

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote the New York Sun to ask a simple question: Is there a Santa Claus? The editor's response was a stirring defense of hope, generosity, and the spirit of childhood. His essay has been reprinted countless times since, and the phrase "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" has become part of American Christmas lore. Based on these actual events, Yes, Virginia is the story of a little girl who taught a city to believe.

I think it's a story that every generation should hear.

Here's hoping Santa brings you lots of books to enjoy over the holidays.  They'd make great stocking stuffers too.  Merry Christmas!

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