Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Fairy Magic by Margaret McNamara -- ADVISABLE

McNamara, Margaret Christmas Fairy Magic (Fairy Bell Sisters #6), illustrated by Catharine Collingridge. 133 pgs. Balzer + Bray, 2014. $15.99. Content: G.

It's almost Christmas, but just as the Fairy Bell sisters are ready to begin their holiday preparations, they receive a cryptic message from Tinkerbell telling them to leave everything up to her. As the big day creeps ever closer, though, there's no sign of Tinkerbell -- or the tree, presents, and feast she promised. What was supposed to be their best Christmas yet may actually become their worst.

At a little over a hundred pages, this was a quick, charming chapter book that captures the Christmas spirit well. The question of whether or not Tinkerbell would show up kept my interest throughout most of the story, and the climax at the end made for a nice surprise. While this is part of a series, it stands on its own well, although the fairies' personalities were hard to distinguish from each other, especially since I hadn't "met" them in the previous books.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Mice! by Bethany Roberts -- ADVISABLE

Roberts, Bethany Christmas Mice! Illustrated by Doug Cushman. EARLY READER. Green Light Readers/HMH, 2000. $3.99. Content: G.

The holiday mice are preparing their home for Christmas, complete with a wreath, a tree, and lots of presents. But they receive one gift they didn't expect -- from the local cat, no less.

This quick, cute Christmas story is geared for early readers. It's a little awkward to read aloud in places where the rhyme scheme or rhythm are thrown off, but it's still festive and fun to share.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Kristen L. Depken -- ADVISABLE

Depken, Kristen L. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, illustrated by Linda Karl. EARLY READER. Square Fish/MacMillan, 2014. $3.99. Content: G.

This book retells the claymation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with a simplified text adapted for newer readers -- and, thank goodness, without the outdated sexist lines from the movie. The familiar story line, expressive illustrations, short sentences, and large font size will work well for children who are new to reading. Even nostalgic adults may enjoy flipping through the pages of this one.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

A Very Marley Christmas by John Grogan -- OPTIONAL

Grogan, John A Very Marley Christmas, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. PICTURE BOOK. HarperCollins Children's Books, 2008. $9.99. Content: G.

Marley the big yellow puppy is especially hyper from all the excitement around Christmas. No matter what his family does, he has to be involved, from playing tug-of-war with the tree to dragging around a whole string of colorful lights. All the while his family scolds, "Bad dog, Marley!" but it does no good at all. Christmas has a surprise in store, though -- one that will excite the entire family this time.

The main draw to this book seems to be that it is part of the popular Marley franchise. While the illustrations are colorful and interesting, the story itself brings nothing new to the already-extensive number of Christmas books out there, and the wordy text could be cut by ⅓ with no loss to the meaning or voice. Still, this could be fun for Marley fans, or for those who love dogs in general.

EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker by Mary Engelbreit -- ADVISABLE

Engelbreit, Mary Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker. PICTURE BOOK. HarperCollins Children's Books, 2011. $9.99. Content: G.

When Marie receives an ugly nutcracker for Christmas, she is delighted. But that night she learns the nutcracker is actually an enchanted prince who needs her help to fight the Mouse King who put him under the spell. Together they defeat the king, then set off to explore the prince's magical kingdom.

The story in this retelling is clear, and the illustrations are gorgeous; even the font itself has a special elegance. Because there are many retellings of the ballet, those who are considering purchasing it may want to check their collections first in order to avoid duplicates.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

The Snow Day Ballet by Robin Farley -- ADVISABLE

Farley, Robin Mia: The Snow Day Ballet. PICTURE BOOK. Harper Festival, 2014. $4.99. Content: G.

Mia has big plans to go into the city to watch a ballet, but a huge snowstorm makes it impossible to drive. Her creative parents are determined to alleviate her disappointment, though, and soon all three of them have made it a snow day to remember. Contains a sheet of stickers with directions for placing them on the last page.

The colorful illustrations and ballet-obsessed kitty will likely appeal to many girls, and it is fun to watch Mia learn to have a good day despite her thwarted plans. Some of her activities may even inspire children on their own snow days.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman –ADVISABLE

Himmelman, John Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny EARLY READER Henry Holt and Co, 2014. $13.99 Content: G
Isabel is a great at martial arts, so she is nicknamed Bunjitsu Bunny! This book is a set of short stories about her. Each little story features a dash of wisdom, reminiscent of Aesop’s fables with an eastern spin.
This was actually a great read! The little bits of advice were gently folded into some really fun little adventures which featured martial arts. My favorite is when a rock falls into her yard. At first she tries to get rid of it, but eventually starts a little rock collection around it. The lesson: “One rock is just one rock, many rocks make a garden.” Awesome! I think students will be drawn to the bright cover and the martial arts component but then find themselves learning something great, indirectly (aka sneakily).
EL(K-3) -ADVSIABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.