Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins

Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A lemonade stand in winter? Yes, that’s exactly what Pauline and John-John intend to have, selling lemonade and limeade–and also lemon-limeade. With a catchy refrain (Lemon lemon LIME, Lemon LIMEADE! Lemon lemon LIME, Lemon LEMONADE!), plus simple math concepts throughout, here is a read-aloud that’s great for storytime and classroom use, and is sure to be a hit among the legions of Jenkins and Karas fans.

No one is ever too young to set up their first business.

Pauline and John-John were so determined to make their lemonade stand a success. I enjoyed watching them set up their stand and make all kinds of adjustments to it once they realized that there weren’t a lot of people wandering around who wanted to buy lemonade in the middle of the winter. It was also amusing to see them count their coins and figure out how many of them needed to be spent in order to buy necessary supplies like lemons.

There was a scene in this book that I found unsettling. It had to do with an unkind reaction an adult had when she realized that Pauline and John-John were selling lemonade on a cold winter day. It didn’t fit in with the rest of the storyline in general, and it also wasn’t a very nice way to respond to two kids who were working hard to earn some pocket money.

The ending was a little unusual for this genre. While I obviously can’t go into detail about it without giving away spoilers, I appreciated the fact that the author took her premise to its logical conclusion. It made for stronger writing and better storytelling because of how realistic it was. I’m glad Ms. Jenkins decided to end it this way.

Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money was a creative take on learning how to count money. It should be read by any family who is currently teaching this skill to one or more of their children.

Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book by Laura Krauss Melmed


Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book by Laura Krauss Melmed
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: Childrens, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Moishe’s Miracle author Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrator Elisabeth Schlossberg celebrate Hanukkahin joyful action rhymes, festive poems, and exuberant scenes of family life. From traditional holiday foods to the story of the Maccabees, they capture the warm sights, sounds, and tastes of this wintertime festival.

There’s a different special candle that needs to be lighted for every night of Hannukah, and that’s only the beginning of the festivities.

One of my favorite scenes showed what happened when the characters received some special visitors on one of the nights of Hannukah. Everyone looked so happy when that happened, especially the children. I smiled when I saw the joy on their faces in the illustration that was included in this section. They were clearly planning to have a wonderful time that night, and I looked forward to seeing what would happen to them next.

I would have liked to see longer explanations of why the characters were lighting the candles in that specific order and what the meanings were of certain rituals. This is the perfect age for children to begin learning basic facts about the holidays their families celebrate. These rhymes didn’t quite have enough details for my tastes.

With that being said, the rhymes were adorable and definitely a lot of fun to read. I loved the fact that they included so many references to active things young readers can do while listening to an adult read this book. It was a great choice for this age group. I wanted to sway to the music and bounce to the beat, too, while I was reading it.

Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book was a cute introduction to how this holiday is celebrated. I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a playful way to discuss that topic with their kids.

Bear’s First Christmas by Robert Kinerk


Bear’s First Christmas by Robert Kinerk
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

In the dark of winter, deep in the woods, a lone bear is awakened from his winter sleep by a soft and mysterious sound. Under the stars the bear finds his way step by step through the snowy forest, making friends along his route. Then the bear discovers a place in the woods that glows magically with something he and his friends could never have imagined — their first Christmas.

Robert Kinerk’s inspired story and Jim LaMarche’s glimmering illustrations combine in a picture book that captures the joy and spirit of Christmas. Come along with bear and his friends and see the magical light of Bear’s First Christmas.

Christmas isn’t only for people. Sometimes animals can enjoy it, too.

This book was beautifully written. It included poetry that told the audience what happened to the bear after he woke up early from his winter hibernation. I was impressed by how nicely the word flowed together and how much care was put into making the perfect rhymes. While this is technically meant for young children, I’d recommend it just as highly to adults because of how much care the author put into choosing exactly the right words to paint vivid pictures of the bear’s adventures.

Bear and his friends spent most of the plot acting pretty closely to how you’d expect wild animals to actually behave. I really liked that about them. It came as a surprise to me, then, to see them break this pattern at the end of the plot. While I can’t say much more about that part of the storyline without giving away spoilers, I was surprised by this change. This was a minor criticism of a story I otherwise enjoyed a lot. Had a little more been done to explain why they suddenly changed so much, I would have given it a higher rating.

I loved the fact that bear and the other creatures in the woods weren’t at all concerned with receiving a big pile of presents. They weren’t human, after all, and had no use for such things. The glow of Christmas had nothing at all to do with what they owned or could find. The meaning of the holiday was explained in ways that a bear and his buddies could understand. I appreciated the creativity that went into translating a human holiday into something animals would enjoy as well.

Bear’s First Christmas was a truly heartwarming tale that made me smile. It should be read by anyone who is in the market for a Christmas story that has nothing at all to do with opening presents.

The Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett

The Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Historical
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

When Big Snowshoe tells Little Snow that the animals’ Santa is coming with presents for everyone, Little Snow wants to know who he is. The animals say they have never seen him. Maybe he’s a badger, a moose, a polar bear, or a wolf, they tell him. But this spunky little rabbit thinks they are just fooling him.

On Christmas Eve, Big Snowshoe finds a way to see the animals’ Santa when a Snowy Owl in a red cap swoops down with a pack full of presents. Never again will an excited Little Snow doubt that there is an animals’ Santa.

It’s hard to prove that someone exists or what they might look like if no one has ever seen them.

The characters spent the perfect amount of time thinking critically about what kind of animal Santa would be. They had a few important clues to work with, and they made sure to examine them from every angle to figure out who he really was. I enjoyed watching them work so hard to solve this riddle. It was especially interesting to see how they reacted to the fact that no one had ever seen what kinds of tracks Santa leaves in the snow.

There were way more characters than I’d typically find in a short story. While I soon figured out who everyone was, it did feel a little odd to keep switching perspectives as the animals debated the topic of which species Santa came from. With that being said, this was a minor criticism of a tale that I otherwise enjoyed quite a bit. It was an adorable read, and I do plan to go back and experience it again before the Christmas season ends.

The ending fit the tone of this tale very nicely. I especially liked the fact that it could be interpreted in more than one way. This was something the characters had been doing for the entire storyline, so it made a great deal of sense for the readers to be given our own chance to decide if we agreed with the characters’ theories about what Santa might look like or not.

The Animals’ Santa is a wonderful choice for any child who enjoys solving riddles.

Tractor Mac Saves Christmas by Billy Steers


Tractor Mac Saves Christmas by Billy Steers
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Children’s, Holiday, Historical
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Every year, the whole town looks forward to the Christmas tree lighting, but this year, a blizzard has struck. The snow starts to fall more and more heavily, and soon, Tractor Mac and his pals are snowed in at the barn. Farmer Bill and Sibley the horse are supposed to be on their way to the center of town with the tree, but when they get stuck in the blizzard and it looks like the ceremony will have to be called off, Tractor Mac saves them and the whole holiday celebration.

A little bit of snow can be festive over the holidays, but a full blizzard might be able to stop Christmas celebrations altogether.

The animals that lived on Farmer Bill’s farm made me giggle. They were very good at starting entertaining conversations and keeping Tractor Mac focused on doing his job by explaining what could go wrong if they didn’t start plowing right away. My favorite scenes were the ones that showed how Tractor Mac responded to them and what happened when the snow began to fall even faster. The more worried these animals became, the more amusing they were as well.

There was a plot hole that had to do with how the town filled up with people so quickly on such a snowy day. I would have liked to see explained better as it didn’t quite make sense when compared with what was happening in the earlier scenes. Had Tractor Mac or one of his friends told the audience how everyone ended up in town so quickly, I would have given this book a much higher rating as it was otherwise very well done.

All of the characters understood how important it was to work together to solve a problem. I enjoyed watching them figure out how to free Sibley the horse and what the best way was to get the tree to town before the big party started. Cooperation isn’t an easy skill to learn, but it is an important one for kids, adults, and tractors alike to master.

This is part of a series. It can be read on its own or out of order.

Tractor Mac Saves Christmas was a humorous holiday tale that I’d recommend to anyone who likes tractors and other farm equipment.

Big Snow by Jonathan Bean


Big Snow by Jonathan Bean
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Genre: Children’s, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

While “helping” his mother with holiday housecleaning, a boy keeps a watchful eye on the progress of a winter storm. He’s hoping for a big snow. A really big snow. Inside, he is underfoot, turning sheet-changing and tub-scrubbing into imaginary whiteouts. Outside, flakes are flying. But over the course of a long day (for Mom) the clouds seem slow on delivering a serious snowfall. Then comes a dreamy naptime adventure, marking just the beginning of high hopes coming true in this irresistible seasonal story.

What could be more exciting than getting a snowstorm at the beginning of a major holiday?

I appreciated the fact that the specific holiday that David and his family were celebrating was never mentioned. Many of the preparations are the same no matter which winter holiday a family is getting ready to observe, so this detail really didn’t matter in the end. Writing it so open-endedly also meant that this tale could be read by people from many different faiths and backgrounds. I really enjoyed the inclusiveness of that.

The only thing I didn’t like about this story was that it included scenes where the main character disobeyed his mother. She’d ask him to do something to help her, but he’d stop halfway through that chore to go do something else. While some of this was due to the fact that David was very young and had a short attention span, I’d still be cautious about reading it to any child who has the same habit.

With that being said, David had a warm and happy relationship with his parents in general. I enjoyed watching them distract him when he became restless as much as I did seeing how patiently they answered his newest questions about when it might snow even when he’d asked the same exact question multiple times that day. They clearly cared a lot about their son and it showed.

I’d recommend Big Snow to anyone who is impatiently waiting for the first snowstorm of the year.

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story by Kallie George


The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story by Kallie George
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

In this charming Christmas-themed picture book that feels like a classic, four animals deliver a lost package for Santa.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Bird, Rabbit, Deer, and Squirrel are eagerly waiting for Santa to fly overhead. When he does, a gift tumbles out of his sleigh, landing in the woods. The friends find the gift and read the tag: “For the new baby at the farm. Love, Santa.” And so, in spite of Squirrel’s grumbling—“It’s not our baby”—they set off on a long journey to deliver it. Sweet, poignant, and starring a cast of truly adorable characters, this is a story sure to be shared year after year at Christmastime.

Nobody’s perfect. Even Santa himself makes mistakes sometimes.

Bird, Rabbit, Deer, and Squirrel cooperated so nicely with each other. I liked seeing them work together to figure out what to do with the lost present. They were good at listening to each other and finding solution to their problems that worked for everyone even though they didn’t necessarily always agree when they first began discussing their options.

There was a plot hole in this tale that bothered me. It had to do with what happened after Santa accidentally dropped the present and the animals were deciding what to do with it. That scene was cute, but the solution the animals eventually came up with was way more complicated than it needed to be. I would have liked to see a better explanation given for why they thought they needed to go through all of those extra steps.

One of my favorite parts of this book were the funny moments that the animals shared as they figured out who the present belonged to and decided what to do with it. I wasn’t expecting to giggle when I read it, but there were a few times when the characters said or did things that made me smile. This was a lovely addition to the plot, and it would be the first thing to draw me back into this adventure if I ever decide to read it again.

I’d recommend The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story to anyone who is hoping to get into the Christmas spirit a little early this year.

Father Christmas on the Naughty Step by Mark Sperring and Tom Mclaughlin


Father Christmas on the Naughty Step by Mark Sperring and Tom Mclaughlin
Publisher: Puffin
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The naughty step is the place Sam has to sit when he has done something he knows he REALLY shouldn’t have. And Sam isn’t alone. Captain Buckleboots is sitting on the naughty step too and so is Father Christmas – uh-oh, oh no! What’s going to happen on Christmas Eve now?!

Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even Father Christmas.

What a clever take on learning how to correct your own mistakes and ask for forgiveness! The message of was an important one, of course, but what really drew up into it was the creative storytelling. I never would have imagined Father Christmas being sent to the naughty step, but I couldn’t wait to see how he behaved once he arrived there and what would happen to him and Sam next.

The big thing that was missing from this book was an explanation of why Sam was sent to the naughty step in the first place. After reading all about why Captain Buckleboots and Father Christmas had been banished there to think about what they did, I was surprised by that fact that Sam didn’t get the same opportunity. It would have been nice if there had been some kind of reference to that.

The funny dialogue made me want to keep reading until I’d finished the final page. I especially liked the section that included Father Christmas using some festive words once he realized what he should do to apologize for his bad deeds. It was exactly the kind of stuff I’d expect him to say because of who he is and what a caring reputation he has, so I smiled when he said it.

This is part of a series, but it can be read on its own or out of order.

Father Christmas on the Naughty Step kept me giggling until the end. It’s a treat for preschoolers and adults alike.

The Very Stuffed Turkey by Katharine Kenah


The Very Stuffed Turkey by Katharine Kenah
Publisher: Cartwheel Books
Genre: Children’s, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (36 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A Thanksgiving story featuring a large turkey with a big problem…

…he’s been invited to EVERYONE’S home for dinner!

With five homes to visit — Horse’s, Pig’s, Sheep and Goat’s, Cow’s, and Mouse’s –Turkey knows there’ll be a ton of food to eat. But there’ll also be friends and their families who can’t wait to celebrate the holiday with Turkey! Can this very plump bird make it through every meal without bursting?

A silly, read-aloud story featuring food, friends, and one hilarious turkey!

Turkey’s eyes are much bigger than his stomach. How will he ever be able to eat five Thanksgiving dinners in one day?

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this tale was that the menu at every friend’s house depended on what kind of animal they were. For example, the horses served foods like oat cakes and carrots because those are things that real horses eat. It was a lot of fun to see what each animal’s version of Thanksgiving dinner would be. Some of the dishes they served were pretty creative, and it made me grin to think of them baking such special meals for themselves and for Turkey.

I would have liked to see the main character feel able to say no to more food when he was completely full. He ate to the point where it was physically uncomfortable for him. While I’m all for enjoying good food over the holidays, I also think kids should be encouraged to listen to their bodies and wait before they eat more if their stomachs begin to hurt. There will always be leftovers on holidays like this one!

The friendships between all of the animals were so sweet and supportive. I especially liked seeing the kinds of games they played after one meal ended but before the next one began. Everyone played very nicely together and were great role models for the audience. This is something I really like finding in stories for preschoolers and young children.

I’d recommend The Very Stuffed Turkey to anyone who is looking forward to Thanksgiving this year.

Which is p and Which is q? by Gita V. Reddy


Which is p and Which is q? by Gita V. Reddy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Grandpa brings a box of wooden letters for Minki to practice her ABCs. He spells out words and Minki picks out the letters from the set. She enjoys doing this except that she isn’t able to tell p and q apart. So when Grandpa spells out p-i-g, she picks q, i, and g. For q-u-e-e-n she picks p,u,e,e,n and for q-u-i-l-t, she takes out the letters p,u,i,l,t.

Because Minki has so much trouble with p and q, she throws them out of the window. Angry and hurt, p and q stomp away to Word Fairy and announce they are never going back.

With p and q missing, many words become meaningless. Now nobody can say ‘please’ because it has turned into ‘lease.’ The police station and the post office can’t function and the queen must go into hiding!

Which is p and Which is q? is a fun story about an important issue.

Children between the ages 3 to 7 make occasional letter reversals while reading or writing. This is more likely to happen with letters that are mirror images of each other – like p and q, b and d, n and u. It doesn’t mean the child is dyslexic or has a learning ability. With practice and some clues, as the letter shapes become more familiar, children get over the confusion.

Learning the letters of the alphabet isn’t always easy.

My favorite scenes happened after the letters p and q ran away to go live with Word Fairy. They were so determined to stay with her forever that I couldn’t wait to see how the fairy would respond to them once she realized that they never wanted to go back to Earth. This was a very creative spin on the topic, and it made me smile.

Minka mentioned some letters other than p and q that are easy to mix up. I would have liked to see her either spend more time talking about how to tell the difference between those other letter or save them for a sequel. Talking about them without going into detail seemed like it could be confusing for young readers. With that being said, exploring those letters would be a very good place to begin with a sequel if the author is hoping turn this into a series.

The memory trick that Minka’s grandfather shared at the end of this story to help her remember the difference between these two letters was a smart one. He made it easy to remember by turning that trick into something a kid can easily imagine happening. It’s not something I’d ever heard of before, but it made a lot of sense.

Which Is p and Which Is q? is an adorable picture book that I’d recommend to anyone who has a young child in their life who needs help remembering the differences between similar letters like these.