A Christmas Too Big (Colleen Madden)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Christmas Too Big by Colleen Madden, a heartwarming look at what makes the holidays special.

The day after Thanksgiving, Kerry’s family goes into mega-Christmas-mode. Dad is obsessed with lights, Mom turns into a Christmas-song-jukebox, grandma becomes a cookie-baking tornado, and her little brother hides elves in every corner of the house. The whole neighborhood seems to be overtaken by this oversized, flashing, jingling, headache-inducing version of Christmas… except Mrs. Flores. After assisting her elder neighbor, Kerry is invited in for cocoa and learns about some of Mrs. Flores’s holiday traditions from Mexico The two make crafts, sing songs, and talk of faraway family. As a thank you, Kerry helps Mrs. Flores set up a tablet to video chat with her son’s family in Mexico. While walking home, Kerry decides that it’s fun to explore different kinds of Christmas, and brings home her lessons from Mrs. Flores to share with her own familia.

Wonderful. This sweet holiday story starts with humor and ends with heart, all the while incorporating lovely lessons in kindness, friendship, and cultural appreciation. The story is sure to note that, while Kerry’s family can be overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong with their enthusiasm for Christmas; it only suggests that there are lots of ways to celebrate, and all of them can be special. The Spanish/Spanglish dialogue is another treat, especially for bilingual readers; context clues keep monolingual English speakers from getting lost, and some moments – such as when Mrs. Flores and her son weep tears of joy upon seeing each other over video chat – are universal enough to not need translation. The artwork is perfect, visually reflecting the chaos of the initial scenes, the calm and exuberance of Mrs. Flores’s house, and the festive balance of the two in the final act; details are numerous and often hilarious. Backmatter includes instructions on making the flores de Navidad featured in the story and a very cool visual Spanish vocabulary page. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I loved it. This is a great read to start off the holiday season, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Our Favorite Day of the Year (A. E. Ali)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Our Favorite Day of the Year, written by A. E. Ali and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, a lovely tale of friendship and diversity.

On the first day of kindergarten, Ms. Gupta tells the class that by the end of the year, they will become close friends with their classmates – but Musa isn’t so sure. As a way to learn about their classmates, Ms. Gupta encourages them each to share their favorite day of the year. Discussing his own favorite, Eid, with his tablemates, Musa is surprised to find that they don’t celebrate Eid as well. As the year passes, each student shares their favorite day and how it is celebrated: Musa shares the many foods he eats during Eid from the members of his multicultural mosque; Mo shares the sweet treats of Rosh Hashanah; Moisés wishes “Feliz Navidad!” as he explains Las Posadas; Kevin recounts what his family learned on the science-centric Pi Day. By the end of the year, the class has learned about lots of different favorite days – and about their new best friends.

Wonderful. This rich look at cultural, religious, and racial diversity does a splendid job of introducing, through four highlighted holidays, the beauty and fun of immersing oneself in other cultures, as well as the friendships and respect for others it can build. In addition to the four holidays highlighted, many more are depicted in the warm and lovely artwork, as are other forms of diversity (Mo’s family is blended and LGBTQ+, Kevin’s ponytail and pink scrunchie suggest he is gender-nonconforming). So while the story on its own is a brief yet enriching read, these details encourage repeat readings and further research (the backmatter only features descriptions of the four holidays covered in the story). A fantastic tale of friendship, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Halloween Boy And The Christmas Kid (Daniel Jude Miller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Halloween Boy And The Christmas Kid by Daniel Jude Miller, a delightfully unique tale of friendship.

Two baby boys are born on the same day in November and from that moment on, they share a special bond. Coming together six years later in kindergarten, they become fast friends, despite not technically having anything in common other than their day of birth. One boy loves EVERYTHING Halloween: the spooky, the creepy, the strange and scary. The other is crazy for Christmas: tinsel, evergreen, presents and Santa. Whatever season or time of year, each boy’s chosen holiday is practically all they can think about! But somehow, this suits their friendship fine – they even once tried to be like the other, but it wasn’t for them. That is, until the day find themselves in a debate over the superior holiday. Can this friendship stand the test of competing holiday cheer?

If there’s one word for this book, it is definitely “unique”! Based on a true story (a photo of two similarly holiday-decked-out boys is shown on the last page with no other explanation), Miller provides a personal twist on a timeless lesson of friendship. The boys ultimately find that despite having almost nothing in common, they can still enjoy each other’s company and encourage the other’s interests, and that’s really all friendship requires. The text is really well-constructed, using clever alliterations and paired rhyming words that make it a delight to read aloud. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and full of silly antics and hilarious Easter eggs. The final conflict resolves a bit abruptly with too little explanation, but other than that, this was great fun. The length was fine, JJ had fun with it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

When It Snows (Richard Collingridge)

Merry Christmas, friends! We are celebrating with the last book in our holiday countdown, When It Snows by Richard Collingridge. This gorgeous fable tells the story of the journeys a young boy makes into a world of magic each snowfall.

Whenever the snow falls, the little boy and his faithful teddy bear begin their journey. They walk past the frozen cars and trains, following the footprints to the beautiful open fields, crisp and white with snow and filled with joyful children. They travel past the land of snowmen, on into the dark night and through the shadowy forest, led by a single floating light by which to see. They are greeted by the queen of the forest and hundreds of elves, who take them to see a very special friend, a familiar figure in a jolly red suit…

AMAZING. We were blown away by Collingridge’s Lionheart last year, so we couldn’t wait to read When It Snows, and it was even better than we had imagined. Spare, lyrical text invites the reader along on a magical winter adventure, brought to life through the jaw-droppingly enchanting illustrations, leading to a final page so unexpected and perfect that it made me gasp with delight as we read. The length is great, and JJ and I both adored it. This is a stunning book, both in art and story, and would be a wonderful addition to any child’s library. We highly recommend it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Bear Stays Up For Christmas (Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman)

Hello, friends! Well, it’s the penultimate book in the holiday countdown, and we’ve picked a great one for Christmas Eve: Bear Stays Up For Christmas, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman. This sweet story follows Wilson and Chapman’s popular Bear and his friends as they prepare for Christmas Day.

Bear’s friends have made decision: this year, they are going to wake their friend Bear from hibernation so that he can enjoy the Christmas holiday with them. And while it’s tough to wake a hibernating bear (and even tougher to keep him awake!), the friends are insitent – Christmas is a time to be together, and they don’t want for Bear to be left out. As the day goes by, the friends prepare for Christmas in all the usual ways: getting and decorating a tree, making yummy goodies, singing carols. As the day wanes, the friends all begin to stretch and yawn themselves – they’re so sleepy from all their work! One by one, they nod off until… only Bear is left awake. Grinning, Bear is delighted – now he can work on presents for all his friends, and perhaps have a very special visitor…

I have yet to read one of the Bear books that isn’t an absolute delight, and this one keeps the tradition alive. Sweet, kind, whimsical and wondrous, Bear and his friends are as cheerful and dedicated as always, and their adventures here are a festive treat that explores the Christmas theme of togetherness and friendship. Chapman’s illustrations are wonderful, using lifelike critter models and imbuing them with loads of personality and movement. The length is perfect, and JJ and I always love reading about Bear and company together. A wonderful Christmas story for a beloved cast of characters, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!