Archive for Holiday

How Santa Changed

Written by Karl Steam
Illustrated by Maksym Stasiuk

Do you think Santa Claus suddenly appeared one day just the way kids see him today? Is it possible he was once a skinny young man with a brown beard? Did he insist on making all the toys himself? Was his sleigh pulled by the largest moose, which fought for the privilege of pulling the sleigh? Was Mrs. Claus a terrible cook? Steam says all of this is possible in this charming, rhyming story. As Santa grew older, his beard whitened. As the world’s population grew, his sleigh got too heavy for one belligerent moose and the toys too numerous to make on Santa’s own. And Mrs. Claus learned to make delicious cookies as she read tips about baking, adding to Santa’s round belly.

Illustrated in rich colors, this is a wonderful read aloud for this time of the year, or actually for any time, as kids learn about working together and about how things become the way they are. Each spread shows details for kids to spot, such as a family portrait or the title of the book Mrs. Claus is reading. Steam’s website ( includes classroom resources.  

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  • how-santa-changedTitle: How Santa Changed                                   
  • Author: Karl Steam
  • Illustrator: Maksym Stasiuk
  • Published: Amazon Digital Services, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Kindle Edition, 38 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Christmas
  • ISBN: 978-163578-002-4
  • Extras: Classroom Resources (Discussion and Activities), Online Resources

Groundhog’s Day Off

Written by Robb Pearlman
Illustrated by Brett Helquist

Everyone deserves a day off. Especially when no one appreciates you personally. All they care about is the job you do for them. That’s exactly what Groundhog decides. He packs up all his stuff, including his shadow, and heads off to the spa.

Helquist’s illustrations perfectly capture the expressions experienced by all involved. Especially groundhog’s surprise at hearing the televised news broadcast report stating that while many other animals have applied for the job, none could fulfill groundhog’s role. It seems his audience does love and miss him.

All readers will giggle at the antics of other animals as they audition for the job.

Pearlman ends with a humorous, if expected twist about another disgruntled holiday mascot.

Literacy and social studies core curriculum standards, as related to holidays, will be supported by usage of this delightful book. Teachers and librarians may use it as a springboard for students to write notes of appreciation to oft overlooked caregivers and school employees so they feel appreciated and loved.

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  • Groundhogs Day OffTitle: Groundhog’s Day Off
  • Author: Robb Pearlman
  • Illustrator: Brett Helquist
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-61963-289-9
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Holiday
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

Cork & Fuzz Merry Merry Holly Holly

Written by Dori Chaconas
Illustrated by Lisa McCue

Special days are celebrated with good friends in a beautiful place. But sometimes it takes some searching to find the perfect spot. Someplace where birds aren’t squawking at you and squirrels aren’t throwing acorns down on your head.

This delightful book will have young listeners giggling and then singing along. Beautiful illustrations take readers along on the trip to find a quiet thinking tree and plant ideas about what it is making this day so special. The word Christmas is never used which makes the book universal for all winter holidays. Finding a tree with lights on it outside is unusual, but shouldn’t bother readers as there is a fence nearby suggesting a house nearby.

Teachers, librarians, and parents will want to add this wonderful book to the pile of winter holidays. Besides all the fun it offers, this book will also fulfill core curriculum standards in the area of literacy skills as teachers can use Cork and Fuzz as excellent examples of real life characters by listing their character traits. Understanding picture clues and predicting outcomes are also skills easily strengthened for grade one and grade two readers.  So fun!

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  • Cork & FuzzTitle:  Cork & Fuzz Merry Merry Holly Holly
  • Author:  Dori Chaconas
  • Illustrator:  Lisa McCue
  • Publisher:  Viking, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-451-47501-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 1

The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas

Written by Laura Murray
Illustrated by Mike Lowery

Good deeds and sweet treats for any neighbors you meet is the teacher’s plan. The gingerbread man, who is part of the class, sets out to do his own random deeds of kindness when the sudden snow storm sends the rest of the class back to school. The plot twist is fresh and unexpected. Characters are realistic and illustrations are detailed and entertaining.

Rhyming and rhythm, plus fun fonts and graphics will have grade two readers and grade one listeners wanting to start this new holiday book over and over again. Teachers, librarians and parents will enjoy this new holiday book capable of fulfilling literacy core curriculum standards while providing Gingerbread fun. Other books with the same main character are available: The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Firetruck, and The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School.

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  • Gingerbread ManTitle: The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas
  • Author: Laura Murray
  • Illustrator: Mike Lowery
  • Publisher: G.P.Putnam’s Sons, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-16866-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: 2

The Best Parts of Christmas

Written and Illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Remember when you enjoyed the family Christmas tree so much that you hated to see the tree leave? Even when it had lost all the needles and turned into a fire hazard? This is the premise for this fun new book. The author follows Fritz and his dog as he and his parents select a tree at a farm. Fritz is a little confused, since rule #5 of the house rules is “No branches, sticks, or twigs allowed indoors.” But he doesn’t bring it up. He is in charge of the ornaments. The usual ornaments must be places close together so they can be close to their friends. Quickly, he notices anything can be an ornament, so the tree ends up beautifully decorated. And the decorating continues with cookies, candy canes, and many gifts. Fritz loves the tree so much, he wishes for it to always stay. Of course, it can’t stay, but Fritz can decorate one branch in his room. And that way, he can remember. The illustrations add to the fun by showing the personalities of Fritz, his dog, and his parents.

First graders can practice their literacy skills while learning about holiday traditions.

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  • Best Parts of ChristmasTitle: The Best Parts of Christmas
  • Author/Illustrator: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, Holidays, Family
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7556-1


Christmas Wombat

Written by Jackie French

Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

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What’s more fun than a small, furry animal, especially one that is a bit feisty and confronts animals much larger than it is? It’s doubtful that many first graders in the U.S. have heard of wombats, so this is their opportunity to learn a little about them.

Apparently, wombats sleep, scratch, and eat grass and carrots. This particular wombat has never heard of Christmas, nor encountered a reindeer, and he must compete with the reindeer for his carrots. He takes a nap on Santa’s sleigh and thus ends up traveling with the jolly man and eight not so tiny reindeer. It’s not a problem as long as the carrots keep coming, though. Carrots are everywhere and easy to find with the reindeer’s help. Even the snowman has a carrot – for a nose. And the toucan’s nose – or bill – at least looks like a carrot.

Many of the illustrations are laugh out loud funny. The cover picture, a wombat with a red clown nose and antlers, standing amid gifts and a bag is perfect. The wombat thinks a chimney is a wombat hole and enters eagerly. Then, he needs help getting back up. The picture of the wombat standing nose-to-nose with a polar bear is priceless.

The publisher’s website,, has many resources for parents and educators. The author’s website,, has sections called “how to get kids reading” and “farming with wild animals,” both of which could be very helpful for developing reading activities. There’s no doubt a book this funny and easy to follow can increase a reader’s comprehension.


  • Christmas WombatTitle: Christmas Wombat
  • Author: Jackie French
  • Illustrator: Bruce Whatley
  • Publisher: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-86872-1
  • Genre: Picture book, Holiday, Humor, Australia, Animals
  • Lexile Score: 240L

We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt

Written by Susan Pearson

Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

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A refreshing and entertaining new ghost story is available at a first grade reading level. Four children go outside on a clear evening for a ghost hunt. They are determined to find a ghost no matter what stands in their way. With each obstacle, the kids make the encounter into a game. When they finally find a ghost at the graveyard, the kids are understandably frightened, but they make it back to their bed all in one piece. Naturally, they must occupy only one bed. But, of course, they’re ready to go on another hunt the next day.

With insistent repetition, the author increases the young reader’s comprehension. Especially charming are the bits of onomatopoeia: “squish squash squaash in the murky swamp, rustle rustle rat-a-tattle through the cornfield, splash splash splash in the swishy, fishy river, creeeeak squeak eeeeeeek at the graveyard gate”, and so forth.

The illustrations are delightful and very much in keeping with the feel of the text. The kids skip across the yard and through the river. They help each other on the race back to the house. The kids themselves are adorable and are images with which other children can identify. The scenes are realistic and have a you-are-there feel. The details, such as the young boy’s teddy bear and the small animals seen along the way, add to the fun. Readers could make spotting the small critters into a reading activity: How many frogs in the swamp? How many fish in the river?

The authors’ website,, has plenty of information about the book and the author. The illustrator’s website,, is similarly useful.


  • Ghost HuntTitle: We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt
  • Written By: Susan Pearson
  • Illustrated By: S. D. Schindler
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard cover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761463078
  • Genre: Picture book, Halloween, ghosts
  • Lexile Score: 60