Children’s books about Hanukkah are so perfect to read during the Festival of Lights - we love reading one for each of the eight nights. Check these out!Read More
I love the holiday season, when the joy bubbling within festive homes spills out front doors and floods the streets outside. I love the smell of fir trees and fireplaces mingling in the air, colorful lights shimmering from roof tops and menorahs big and small glimmering from window sills.
There’s no doubt about it - the atmosphere in December is practically electric, tinged with hope and positivity. Kindness abounds, neighbors are merry, and the festive spirit soothes even the toughest of days. Though my childhood has long since passed, I still feel an extra skip in my step after Thanksgiving, knowing my family will soon light the menorah, stuff ourselves with latkes, and gather at friends’ homes to decorate their majestic Christmas trees with ornaments of silver and gold.
I’ve always found it magical to think that people worldwide spend the month of December preparing to celebrate, and then celebrating their own meaningful holidays, whether it’s Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Even more meaningful is the fact that I live in a community so open to learning about all religious and cultural traditions. No matter what you believe, holiday celebrations are our families’ steadfast foundations, infusing our lives with meaning, purpose, and love.
Though we celebrate Hanukkah, I truly enjoy exposing my boys to the traditions so significant to our friends and neighbors. And what better way to learn about the holiday season than with fabulous picture books we can share with our children? Here are some of our very favorite stories that celebrate the rich and meaningful holidays that bring such joy to our lives in December. Happy Holidays, friends!
1) A World of Cookies for Santa, by M.E. Furman and illustrated by Susan Gal: This fabulous book came out last year and details the varied ways in which children worldwide prepare themselves for Santa’s arrival. Santa doesn’t get milk and cookies in India. Instead, kids leave Christmas Baba (Father Christmas) a crispy fried treat called a kulkuls, together with a cup of spicy chai. And in South Africa, Kersvader arrives by donkey and children leave him hertzog cookies filled with apricot jam and topped with coconut meringue. Yum! This is a fascinating look at how Christmas is celebrated across the globe, filled with gorgeous illustrations to boot. Definitely a new favorite!
2) Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman: We love this story of clever Hershel who outwits the goblins that repeatedly attempt to ruin Hanukkah for everyone in a small village. How does he do so? With pickles and eggs and dreidels, of course! This a unique and creative adaptation of the ancient Hanukkah story in which the Syrians prohibited the Jews from worshiping as they desired, reminding all that miracles can happen even when the odds seem stacked against you.
3) The Broken Ornament, by Tony DiTerlizzi: More! More! More! Isn’t that what we all hear our children say all the time? Jack constantly wants more of everything, so when he breaks his mom’s old Christmas ornament, he doesn’t understand why she is so upset. Can’t they just buy more ornaments? Turns out, that dusty old ornament was his mother’s treasured heirloom, and Jack has much to learn about the true meaning of the holiday and Christmas spirit.
4) Chanukah Lights, by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda: This is a stunner of a pop-up book, following the Festival of Lights through place and time as the Jewish people search for a land to call home. For each of eight nights, the menorah is pictured in a different scene, and the intricate designs on each page are sure to thrill little readers. Equally gorgeous? Robert Sabuda’s The Christmas Story — another pop-up that captures the wonder of Christmas and the Nativity on every exquisite page.
5) The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg: You can’t celebrate Christmas without this marvelous classic, the story of a young boy who is welcomed aboard the Polar Express on Christmas Eve, right at a time he begins to question Santa’s existence. The boy’s magical journey to the North Pole reminds us that being a believer will keep us young at heart, and even as we age, the spirit of Christmas can continue to enchant.
6) The Little Reindeer, by Nicola Killen: Oh how I adore the illustrations in this book! This is one of those quiet, understated stories that breathes magic on every page. The story tells of a friendship between a little girl and a lost reindeer, and a Christmas eve the two will never forget. It’s a simple, sweet, and wondrous tale – complete with die cut pages and metallic ink – sure to become an enthralling family favorite.
7) Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale, by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Jason Cockcroft: This is a gorgeously illustrated book that tells the story of all the animals sharing the manger — animals who are typically foes but instead rest together in harmony. At the end, Joseph and Mary arrive and Mary gives birth to Jesus, who is welcomed by all. A heartwarming and simple story that celebrates Jesus’s arrival in a manner even toddlers can understand.
8) Meet the Latkes, by Alan Silberberg: Lucy Latke comes from a family of — you guessed it — latkes! And these potato pancakes are a little wacky. So when Grandpa Latke tells the story of Hanukkah to the family, complete with mighty Mega-bees who battle evil alien potatoes, things get a little off the rails. Laugh out loud funny for those looking for a creative and fun take on the Hanukkah story!
9) Together for Kwanzaa, by Juwanda G, Ford and illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger: Kayla loves celebrating Kwanzaa every year, but when her brother is trapped at school due to a snowstorm, Kayla fears Khari will miss their family celebrations completely. This is a lovely story that introduces young readers to the practices and traditions that make Kwanzaa a special December holiday.
10) Hanukkah Bear, by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka: This story never disappoints and is one of my absolute favorite Hanukkah tales. A retelling of The Hanukkah Guest, Hanukkah Bear tells of an old woman, nearly blind and deaf, who is known throughout her village for her fabulous latkes. When Hanukkah arrives, the woman invites the rabbi to dinner to celebrate Hanukkah and feast on latkes, but the aroma from her kitchen awakens an old bear who arrives at her home before the rabbi. Due to her failing eyes and ears, the story never fails to elicit giggles as the old lady mistakes the bear’s furry coat and happy growls for the rabbi’s beard and blessings.
11) Maccabee!: The Story of Hanukkah by Tilda Balsley and illustrated by David Harrington: Judah and his team of super-hero like Macabees fight to free Jerusalem from the cruel King Antiochus in this rhythmic, rhyming story that is perfect for reading aloud. The book tells of the miraculous oil that lasted for eight days and the Macabee’s determination to stand up for what they believed in, making this a perfect read to share with little ones curious about the real story behind the holiday.
12) Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington and illustrated by Shane Evans: When Li’l Rabbit’s grandma falls ill and is forced to miss out on the Kwanzaa feast, he seeks to find something else for his Grandma to enjoy. This story perfectly captures and celebrates several of the principles of Kwanzaa and illuminates the true meaning of the holiday – working together to help others.
13) The Dreidel that Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah, by Martha Seif Simpson and illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard: Oh, how I love this wonderful spin on Hanukkah miracles! What happens when a peddler gifts a toy-shop owner an exquisite dreidel? The owner sells it at a hefty-price, of course. But the wealthy purchaser and his daughter are distraught that the dreidel doesn’t spin, so they demand their money back. On and on it goes, with each spoiled customer returning the defective dreidel, until a poor man and his son enter the shop, content to simply peruse all the wonderful toys. And so it is that these two, the only patrons carrying the true spirit of Hanukkah within their hearts, are able to witness the small miracle of the dazzling dreidel.
14) The 12 Sleighs of Christmas, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Jake Parker: If your kids love Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, don’t walk, but run out to buy them The 12 Sleighs of Christmas. When Santa’s elves discover Santa’s sleigh is totaled just before Christmas, the elves split into a dozen teams and set out to build Santa Claus a cool new sleigh — and Santa himself will decide which one to use for his special day. A fun new read aloud that will have kids marveling at the coolest sleighs imaginable, inspired by big rigs, motorcycles and zeppelins, too! And make sure to check out their newest Christmas themed read, Construction Site on Christmas Night! Another gem!
15) Plum: How the Sugar Plum Fairy Got Her Wings: by Sean Hayes & Scott Icenogle, illustrated by Robin Thompson: Did you ever wonder how the Nutcracker’s Sugar Plum Fairy got her wings? Look no further than Plum, an utterly charming new story about one orphan whose sweet and pure heart earns her the most unexpected rewards. A sweet book featuring magic, fairies, and even two kings. What a joy!
What are your favorite holiday books? Let us know on our Facebook page! And don’t forget — if you liked this page, we think you will love these too: Favorite Books About Hanukkah, Favorite Books About Gratitude, Favorite Books About Love.
There’s something about Those Shoes, written by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones, that calls to me every November. And so each year, the week before Thanksgiving hits, this is the book I pull out to read to every single one of my elementary school classes. And each time, without fail, when my students see me pull the book out from behind me, they clap and cheer. Those Shoes is beloved by our school, and it fills me with such joy to see student reactions to this story.
Jeremy wants nothing more than the same pair of shoes that the rest of the kids at school wear. But, according to his grandma, Jeremy’s “wants” are not nearly as important as his “needs.” When his shoes fall apart at school, Jeremy is both ashamed and embarrassed that he has to wear babyish sneakers given to him by the school guidance counselor. So when his grandma takes him to the thrift stores, Jeremy is in heaven when he finds a pair of THOSE SHOES- and he buys them with his own money even though they are too small and destroy his feet. Leave it to grandma, though, to sneak a new pair of warm snow boots into Jeremy’s closet. What happens when Jeremy’s friend, Antonio, the only boy who didn’t laugh at Jeremy’s babyish shoes, comes to school with taped up sneakers, and his feet are noticeably smaller than Jeremy’s?
Those Shoes is an honest and poignant story. Before I begin reading this with students, I always start with a discussion of the differences between wants and needs- it provides such an amazing entryway into the book. After we read, the maturity and depth of conversation usually skyrockets. Why? Because the book so beautifully conveys that the things Jeremy has - family, new snow boots to protect his feet, and the opportunity to help someone in distress - truly are more valuable than holding on to something he wants because it’s “cool.” Often times, the things we so desperately “want” don’t bring us nearly as much fulfillment as the things we need. You can practically see the wheels spinning in the kids’ heads after they read this book! Those Shoes offers a perfect segue into a discussion of gratitude and the countless things we have to be thankful for. It also reminds us that there are so many ways we can help others less fortunate during the holiday season and all year round.
Want to #gettrunky* with it? Here’s an easy and quick idea. If you are an educator, use the Padlet app (it’s free!) and create a Gratitude Wall. I used a simple prompt- “what is one thing you are thankful for and why?” I made sure to limit student responses so they would have to think more deeply - thus, they were not allowed to answer with “family,” “friends” or “food.” Using their school devices, the students could write, draw, photograph or video their responses. The result? A beautiful, interactive bulletin board, showcasing the things our students value most, from backpacks (because they hold tools used to create!) to names of teachers (because they teach us and help us learn every single day), to the ability to dance (because dancing is a way to express myself). The results will both astonish and surprise you.
*What on earth does it mean to #gettrunky? Click here to find out!
Want the book? Get it here! Those Shoes, by by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. *This is an affiliate link.
Children’s Books About Gratitude are important to read not just during Thanksgiving season, but all year round. These are some of our favorite kids books about gratitude that teach appreciation and generosity.Read More
Want me to be flat out honest with you? I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. I hated walking around school as a teenager, with lanky legs and frizzy hair and a mouth full of braces, while the so-called “pretty” girls were practically human flower shops, complete with pink and red heart balloons blowing in the air atop bouquets of roses and carnations. I’ve always hated that there’s a holiday forcing us to say I love you, when it really should be said to those we care about every day. But now, thanks to Carter Higgins and Lucy Ruth Cummins' new book, This is Not a Valentine, I kinda fell in love with it. Because this book... oh man. This book is everything.
This is Not a Valentine is such a tender story of a little boy navigating his first crush. It’s not about the trite things kids (or adults, for that matter!) think they should give someone to show their love- but instead those precious, unique things children do that, when viewed through a little one's eyes, become magical and meaningful. And, oh, the denial! That sweet, innocent denial, when kids try so hard to vocalize how they don't feel — but their actions tell the entire world a wholly different story!
This heartfelt book is so accessible to children, illustrating that love is composed of those tiny actions we take to show someone we care about how much they brighten our world. This is Not a Valentine is such a sweet exploration of the childlike ways kids may show their admiration for one another - and the thing that makes it extraordinarily special is the beautiful manner in which it coveys how meaningful it is to give others the little things we know will make them the happiest. This is Not a Valentine is picture book perfection, in every sense of the word. In short? It exudes love and tenderness, hands down. Two trunks up for this gem!
Want the book? Get it here! This is Not a Valentine, by Carter Higgins. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are our own.
It's almost #FathersDay! And what better way for your kids to celebrate their love for their dads then with some phenomenal new books? I didn't even post for Father's Day last year because I truly was at a loss for favorite picture books to share. But this year I am so excited to suggest two new releases that I just adore. If you like poetry, we are loving My Daddy Rules the World, with poems both written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. At once tender, funny and powerful, this poetry collection is a sentimental celebration of fathers by a Coretta Scott King honor winning poet. If you also love sweet stories about the lengths a dad will go to to protect his child, then you must check out Daddy Long Legs, written by Nadine Brun-Cosme and illustrated by Aurelia Guillerey. Reminiscent of The Runaway Bunny, a particular favorite of mine from childhood, Daddy Long Legs is a French import that describes one father's valiant efforts to assuage his son's concerns about the challenges that might prevent dad from picking him up at kindergarten. It melts my heart with each and every read, and we love it's whimsical illustrations, too. These are the perfect two books for your child to give Dad on Father's Day, and we hope you love them as much as our family does!
Want the books? Get them here! My Daddy Rules the World, by Hope Anita Smith and Daddy Long Legs, by Nadine Brun-Cosme. * These are affiliate links. HEE received review copies of the foregoing titles, but all opinions are our own.
It's almost Valentine's Day! As your world turns various shades of posy pink and radiant red, why not celebrate by sharing some heart-filled books with your little ones? Here are our top ten favorite books about love -- the huggy kind, the kissy kind, the self-love kind, and -- my personal favorite -- the love is love is love kind. Enjoy!
Worm Loves Worm, by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato: What happens when two worms fall in love and want to get married? Which worm will wear the dress and which will wear the tuxedo? On second thought, if worm loves worm -- why should anything else matter? This fabulous story is without a doubt Happily Ever Elephants' favorite book about love.
Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane: A little girl learns what it means to love as she cares for a duckling, hugs him closely, and then learns to let go. A tender beauty.
XO, OX: A Love Story, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Scott Campbell: An awkward ox falls in love with a gorgeous (albeit conceited) gazelle, and he takes to writing her one love letter after another. Though his overtures are sharply rebuffed, the ox nevertheless persists and eventually causes the gazelle to have a change of heart.
When an Elephant Falls in Love, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Alice Lotti: When an elephant falls in love, he experiences many of the same emotions as the rest of us: he's giddy with joy and weak with anticipation. He's left feeling equal parts shy and bold, and sometimes a little bit foolish too. There's nothing like first love!
I Heart You, by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright: A beautiful tribute to the incomparable connection between a parent and child, this is a lyrical and tender exploration of the ways in which a parent's love can both encourage and reassure. A perfect gift for expecting parents!
What do You Love About You, by Karen Lechelt: We are all individuals, and as each and every one of us has our own unique attributes, we all have something to celebrate! This book is a perfect reminder that each of us is special in our own way, and it encourages kids to ask themselves "what do I love about me?!"
Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell: The title says it all -- no one can resist the hug machine! He's really good at hugging. So good, in fact, that you will be amazed at all the little things we never think to hug but really enjoy a good dose of affection. Pure joy!
Hedgehugs, by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper: Hoarce and Hattie do everything together. Well, almost everything. Hard as they try, the hedgehogs just can't find a way to hug - their sharp spikes always get in the way! The two set off on a mission to figure out how to hug - and it will undoubtedly make your little ones giggle with glee.
All Kinds of Kisses, by Heather Swain, illustrated by Steven Henry: How do giraffes kiss? What about hummingbirds? If your little ones love hitting you up for smooches, they will love reading this book with you -- and trying to imitate the animals' actions.
Love Monster, by Rachel Bright: Poor googly-eyed love monster just can't find a way to fit in with all the cuddly folks of Cutesville. This causes Love Monster to set out on a journey in search of someone to love him just the way he is. Reminding even the most jaded that love happens when you least expect it, this book is sure to leave you with a smile... and an open heart.