Friday, December 25, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 25: Legend of the Candy Cane

The Legend of the Candy Cane
by: Lori Walburg
Picture Book

Beautifully Told & Illustrated

This is one of my favorite Christmas books. Great artwork, a well-told story that incorporates the nativity, as well as a page at the back of the book that tells the history we do actually know of the candy cane.

The illustrations are true artwork, unlike a lot of what is in books for children. I was SO disappointed to learn that the text of this book was recently re-released with different illustrations! The illustrations by James Bernardin are far superior to the new release, so make sure you get the copy shown here!

There's really nothing to dislike about this book! Highly recommend.

5 stars

And with this, we have completed our #StorytimeChristmasCountdown! To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here. I hope you and yours have a lovely Christmas - I will see you in 2016!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 24: The Tale of Three Trees

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale
retold by: Angela Elwell Hunt
Picture Book

Provides a Springboard for Talking with Children

This legend is provides a nice springboard to talk about how what we want and what God wants for us may (sometimes) be the same thing, and yet look drastically different from what we imagined. The Tale of Three Trees is appropriate for Christmastime and Easter as it highlights both Jesus' birth and death. The book does not mention his resurrection (a rather important part of the story!) but as a parent you can verbally include that piece.

Overall, a nice book with well done illustrations.

Story: 3 stars
Illustrations: 4 stars
Average: 3.5 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown series, click here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 23: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker
retold by: Mark A. Taylor
Picture Book

Classic Tale with a Strange Ending

The tale of the Nutcracker is well known thanks to the ballet. This particular retelling is naturally severely abbreviated, as is appropriate for a picture book. The book follows along the truncated path with cute illustrations. Indeed, my only complaint is that at the very end - after Clara wakes up - this rendition has the Nutcracker smile and think! I wish the ending excluded this addition, as it is rather unnecessary.

4 stars.

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown collection, click here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 22: The Story of Christmas for Children

The Story of Christmas for Children
by Erv Gnat
Picture Book

Not accurate

The book is a nice concept of simply explaining the Christmas story to children, but it falls short. The explanation of gift giving falls short. It also makes assumptions about what Mary and Joseph were feeling and the actions of the shepherds that the Scriptures do not tell us. The magi arrive at the stable, instead of a few years later, which is an unfortunate but common mistake in the retelling of the story. The story is told in rhyme and the illustrations hearken back closer to the 50's, though with a slightly 80's flair.

It's not a bad book, it's just not an outstanding one.

3 stars.

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown collection, click here.

Monday, December 21, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 21: Ho-Ho-NOOO!

Ho-Ho-NOOO! (TJ and the Time Stumblers, Book 4)
by: Bill Myers
Chapter Book

Best One Yet in the Series!

These books are not my favorite, but once you get used to them they aren't too bad. This one is my favorite so far - mainly because instead of time going backwards so everything can be redone, TJ has to learn her lesson and live with the actual results. That seems a much better way to teach a lesson than to have gadgets to get you out of the mess you (and the Time Stumblers) created. 

The book is targeted to middle-schoolers. See series review here

4 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 20: Mortimer's Christmas Manger

Mortimer's Christmas Manger
by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

Picture Book

Cute Story

A unique telling of the Christmas story providing a nice springboard into discussing God's provision for us and why he came to earth. The illustrations are nicely done.

4 stars

This review appears as a part of the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown series.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 19: The Christmas Baby

The Christmas Baby
by: Marion Dane Bauer
Board Book

Makes Jesus just another Baby
This was a super disappointing book. Sure, shepherds and angles and kings appear at "the baby's" birth (never mentioned by name), but the rejoicing is simply that there was a baby born. Nothing salvivic or communicating the true nature of the Christmas story. Further, the "kings" weren't at the manger, but came later (though this is a common mistake in books). The book starts to get things right when it notes that this baby smiled with God's own smile, but it immediately continues by noting that since this birth every baby's  birth has been likewise celebrated by family and angles and that the babies have smiled with God's own smile. Yes, we are all made in the image of God, but it seems the book's purpose is to un-deify Jesus and make him just another baby.

The illustrations are alright, nothing special, but not bad - save for those of angels. Those are just strange.

Cannot recommend.

Text: 1 star
Illustrations: 2 stars
Average: 1.5 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 18: Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
by: Robert Barry
Picture Book

Every bit of Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree gets used in this tale for children as it's always just a tad too tall. But, given the illustrations, the tree ought to have been the right height quite some time before it was! Those who are expecting something like Jim Henson's made-for-TV movie (starring Robert Downing, Jr., no less) of the same name will find the similarities betwixt these scarce. Most of the people/animals who get a piece of the tree are left out of that rendition (with owls added in) and there is no further story about a Christmas party, or Baxter or Adelaide the maid.

While the book provides a cute story, I had to recheck it out of the library to remember anything beyond what I knew from the film. Turns out, there isn't much to remember.

Story: 2 stars
Illustrations: 3 stars
Average: 2.5 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 17: The Legend of the Christmas Rose

The Legend of the Christmas Rose
by: William H. Hooks
Picture Book

Not a Personal Library "Must-Have"
When I picked up this book, I was expecting the legend of poinsettia - I had actually never heard of this legend before! My only issue from this story is not in the retelling of it, but with the legend itself. The idea of an angel causing flowers to bloom for a little girl to have something to bring Jesus rubs me the wrong way. The retelling is done beautifully, and the illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the text. In fact, the illustrations are my favorite part of the book! Engagingly and simply told.

Retelling of the Legend: 5 stars
Legend Itself: 1 star
Illustrations: 5 stars
Average: 3.5 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 16: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
by: Dr. Seuss
Picture Book

Rightfully a Considered a Classic
This tale is truly a classic, while not religious its intent is to show that THINGS aren't what make Christmas, and that we can choose to be happy even when we lack things we may want. The text is charmingly written in rhyme, and the illustrations are black pen drawings with some red accents. Those familiar with the Christmas special of the same name will notice that all of the illustrations are included in the special, but in full color.

Definitely a book worthy of personal library inclusion.

5 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 15: The Mitten (Tresselt)

The Mitten
by: Alvin Tresselt
Picture Book

A Keeper

This is one library book we ended up adding to our home library.

A classic Ukrainian folktale told to children. I love how the author states this unlikely tale as fact because his grandfather told him it happened - and at the very last says his grandfather never knew what happened to his mitten! Even children understand this technique! The illustrations are both rich and simple. The pages are not busy, but the animals seeking refuge are all clad in traditional Ukrainian garb, and speak civilly to each other.

A charming story with pictures that suit. Recommend.

4 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 14: Pine and the Winter Sparrow

Pine and the Winter Sparrow
retold by: Alexis York Lumbard
Picture Book

Short and Sweet

Beautiful, double page spread illustrations and a simple retelling of an old Cherokee folk tale this is a sweet tale that teaches the value of kindness. My only complaint is the short nature of the book, but it's about average if you think of it as a picture book - not a book for children a little older (which is what I expected).

4 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 13: The Donkey's Dream

The Donkey's Dream
by: Barbara Helen Berger
Picture Book

Open to Interpretation

A donkey dreams he is carrying, in turn, a city, a ship, a rose, and a fountain on his back. The author's note explains how these symbols are connected with the virgin, Mary. This is the Catholic view. A Protestant could read this book & see all the symbols as representing Jesus. But a pagan could read the story & see it representing mother earth! Until the author's note at the end there is nothing to necessarily connect this story to that of Christmastime, & (as noted) the meaning is open to interpretation. If an explanatory note is needed (& it is) it seems like a poor story. A story should be understood without the need for the author to include the interpretation - especially a book designed for children.

The story is actually pretty strange and disconnected. The explanatory note makes it a little less so, but I still don't recommend it, especially for the very young.

Story: 1 star
Illustrations: 3 stars
Average: 2 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 12: The Mitten (Brett)

The Mitten 
by: Jan Brett
Board Book

Story: Just alright, Artwork: Top notch

The illustrations are detailed and beautiful - I keep noticing more things every time I look at this board book with my child! Top notch job there. The story ... meh. I have read many reviews with complaints that the animals are bullied into being let inside the mitten, maybe that's the case in a different version, but that's not true for the board book. The animals do force their way in, but nothing is noted about any creature being scared of another. No young child is going to care that the story doesn't make any sense with being able to fit so many creatures in one mitten - they will think its very silly. The way the story is told is nothing special, though. I love the book just for the charming illustrations. Story aside, the artwork is sure to delight all ages.

3 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 11: A Christmas ABC

A Christmas ABC
by: Alice Gold
Board Book

Best of All Worlds!

So many Christmas books for children focus on Santa or misrepresent Christmas in some way. This is surprisingly accurate for a board book. The author did a fantastic job of telling the story of Christmas through the alphabet ... and all in a well written rhyme! Even "X" & "Z" are cutely included. The illustrations are a great companion to the words. Easy to read, accurate and simple telling, educational for teaching the alphabet, excellent non complex rhyme, all in a sturdy board book. What's not to love?

5 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 10: The Story of Santa Claus

The Story of Santa Claus
by: Joseph McCullough

Wouldn't Give this to My Child

The main reason I cannot recommend this book is because everything - all the legends, stories, and details - are treated as fact. If the information in the book was presented merely as "this is what some people say" and "here's another story later on" or "this is why people connect Santa and St. Nick" I wouldn't have issue with it. It would be a history of a legend.

Instead the book present all the tales as factual, when actually very little is known about St. Nicholas. All tales are presented as fact, even to the point of St. Nicholas ACTUALLY being Santa Claus who ACTUALLY lives at the North Pole. This "history" is more like a treatise to convince children that Santa Claus is real, instead of helping us understand the man behind the legend.

This is useful as a guide to the myths, but given the book's apparent purpose as an apologetic for Santa Claus, I cannot recommend it wholesale.

3 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 9: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
by: Susan Wojciechowski 
Picture Book

Wonderful Illustrations are the Perfect Complement to this Unusual Christmas Story

This is not a religious Christmas book, nor is it without tragedy (though there is a happy ending). The story does feel real, though, and is beautifully - almost lyrically told. The illustrations are top notch and really bring the story to life of the gloomy woodcarver and the boy who helped his spirit heal.

4 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 8: The King's Christmas List

The King's Christmas List
by: Eldon Johnson
Picture Book

A Nice Story (that's One Big Advertisement)

I liked the message to children that Christmas is not about getting gifts, and I liked how it emphasized that whatever you do to the least of these is a gift to Jesus. I thought it fell short in that it never mentioned Gods gift to us (salvation) and how that is the best gift ever. The book also felt a little cheapened by feeling like an advertisement at the end where it leads into two organizations you can give to to help others in need. Not that I have a problem with the organizations (I've given to World Vision before) but it felt a little gimmicky. Overall, though, still a good reminder/lesson for all of us.

3 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 7: Danger on a Silent Night

Danger on a Silent Night (an Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station book)
by: Marianne Hering and Nancy I. Sanders
Chapter Book

Good Retelling with an Important Message

I was quite nervous going into this book as I was unimpressed with Showdown with the Shepherd - the other retold Bible story for AIO Imagination Station series. In that story I felt that too many liberties had been taken & was concerned about what might be done to the birth of Jesus.

The book doesn't actually take place when Jesus is born (as the title seems to imply) but when the wise men arrive a little later.

I was very pleased with how the story was handled and that giving to the poor and your family are noted as acceptable & commendable ways to celebrate Jesus & share his love.

To my surprise, this is one of the best books in the series.

The larger than usual font, nice margins, simple language, and oversized illustrations make this book (& series) perfect for young readers. Recommend.

4 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 6: The Christmas Cat

The Christmas Cat
by: MaryAnn Macdonald
Picture Book

Imaginative Retelling

An imaginative telling of a cat that became Jesus' pet the day he was born in the stable through his family's escape to Egypt. The author notes she was inspired to write the book from da Vinci's "La Madonna del Gatto" paintings. This telling is simple and short with good illustrations.

I love the way the book opens, "Jesus was beautiful, like all babies. And like all babies, he cried." For some reason there's this popular idea that since Jesus was perfect (sinless) that means he never cried & there were silent nights all around. I like that this book just states the simple truth.

As much as I love how the book opens, I don't like how it closes, "For of all the cats and children everywhere, they [Jesus and the cat] were meant for each other ... from the very first Christmas night, in the bright starlight." I just have a problem saying that the Savior of mankind was "meant for" a cat. It just rubs me the wrong way - especially since the story would have been nicely concluded without the inclusion of the quoted line.

Four stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 5: The Message of the Birds

The Message of the Birds 
by: Kate Westerlund
Picture Book


I was disappointed with this book. I know its a picture book (& the pictures are definitely the highlight of the work) but it seemed short to me. I was also disappointed in the message of the birds - for the peace on earth, goodwill to men is a message from God to man. Its a message of hope, of redemption. This story totally misses that & makes it about world peace. Yes, a parent can add to the story, but if people don't already know the Christmas story they will be mislead by its retelling here.

Story: 2 stars
Illustrations: 4 stars
Average: 3 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 4: The Crippled Lamb

The Crippled Lamb
by: Max Lucado
Board Book


Unlike others who give this book a low rating, my complaint isn't that the title calls the lamb "crippled" While I understand their concerns, it is a descriptive (accurate) word - it may not be ideal, but its also not a surprise since it's in the title.

Instead, my complaint is that this story seems a stretch - even for an imaginative retelling of the nativity. Mary & Joseph (I doubt) would talk of their son as the new king, nor would they say that he came from heaven to teach a lamb no less! My biggest complaint, though, is that Mary tells the lamb that God heard the lamb's prayer & that the baby Jesus was the answer. Lambs don't pray!

I don't have a problem with making animals talk, but that just goes too far. Especially as the conclusion of the story is basically the lamb kept Jesus warm and that was the "special purpose" of his LIFE. I know its a child's board book, but that's just too simplistic for me & isn't what I want my children believing.

Obviously, many don't have a problem with the content, but I thought I'd voice my concerns in case there were others who with they had known this information before acquiring the book.

The accompanying illustrations are well done.

2 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 3: Baby's First Nativity

Baby's First Nativity
by: Muff Singer
Board Book

Surprisingly Accurate

The story isn't precisely accurate, but well done considering its for children in rhyme - I'm impressed they (accurately) have the wise men coming later & not at the stable. The cutout pages are only for the first few (not the whole book). There are "activities" on the bottom of the pages for your child to do, but nothing most parents probably wouldn't think of anyway (e.g. pretend to pack, pretend to look for a star, etc)

All in all this is a great book & introduction to the nativity story for children. Recommend.

4 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 2: Merry Creature Christmas!

Merry Creature Christmas!
by: Dandi Daley Mackall
Board Book

Content Disappointing

I was excited when I saw this book as I love Mackall's Backyard HorsesWinnie the Horse Gentler series. Unfortunately, this book didn't live up to expectations.

My big disappointment is that the colt disobeys his mom & a does not get punished - instead she is proud of him! That is not a lesson I want my children to learn, and unfortunately it is key to the story.

Minor quibble: what is "Creature Christmas"? The animals sing praises to God & are celebrating Jesus' birth, isn't that just Christmas? Why add a word in front?

The illustrations are fine, and the rhyme cute, but because of the aforestated disappointment I cannot recommend this book.

I have not listened to the accompanying CD.

3 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#StorytimeChristmasCountdown Day 1: Room for a Little One

by: Martin Waddell
Picture Book

Average Tale

This "Christmas Tale" is very simple & focuses on the animals in the stable on the night of Jesus' birth. Not that children would know, but the stable would have been overrun with animals during the census, where this story indicates only 5 animals with plenty of room to spare. There is nothing remarkable in the telling of the story - I think the book is popular not for the words it contains, but the pictures.

The pictures are certainly the highlight of the book. The detail and feeling captured in these full-page illustrations is commendable. My complaint here is that each page looks like confetti was dumped on it, or some sort if weird light play. Why the illustrator decided to put colorful dots all over his otherwise fine work I do not know, but it is regrettably distracting.

All in all its a decent Christmas story for young children that can provide a springboard into discussing the truth of Christmas, but its not a personal library "must have."

Story: 3 stars
Illustrations: 4 stars
Average: 3.5 stars

To see other books in the #StorytimeChristmasCountdown Collection, click here.