Winter Picture Book Gifts

Okay, this one’s impossible to constrain, so I’ll be breaking it up into categories. First, if you want a great resource for finding some of the best picture books out there, check out Read Brightly. They generate some great lists.

Today, I’ll do a seasonal-style list … So, things related to Christmas, Hanukkah or the solstice for those who celebrate those days as well as some other wintery titles.

Some Favorite Hanukkah Tales

Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah?
Check out Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko!

Some Favorite Christmas Tales

(‘Twas) the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore is an obvious favorite, and there are so many wonderful versions out there. I just wanted to share ours, the one illustrated by Douglas W. Gorsline and the one illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Also, we haven’t read this one yet, but I have it on reserve and am excited to see it: ‘Twas Nochebuena by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Sara Palacios.

Other Winter Titles

These are some other favorite wintery tales.

Winter’s Solstice Books

And for a multicultural tour of winter holidays, check out Lights of Winter by Heather Conrad and DeForest Walker.

Board Book Gifts

I meant to start posting a gift idea a day after Thanksgiving, but, well, life.  So I have some catching up to do! I wanted to share some lovely and exciting kid lit books that I’ve encountered that would make wonderful gifts for any holiday, birthday, or purpose. We celebrate Christmas, but we love to give the gift of beautiful, inspiring or informative words and images year-round …

A note: I will post items from Amazon because the site has a handy Look Inside feature. That said, I encourage you to purchase books from brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as independent and used stores (b-a-m or online). One of my favorite online book spots is If you haven’t visited them, you should. Really.

So, first up, board books …

Most folks go for the classics by Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr., Margaret Wise Brown, Mem Fox, and Sandra Boynton, as well as popular new series titles like Chris Ferrie’s Baby University books, Irene Chan’s Baby Loves Science books, and interactive books like those by Herve Tullet. Not to mention Jon Stone and Mike Stollin’s The Monster at the End of This Book. Those are wonderful, but I wanted to toss out some great titles you might have missed.

In no particular order …

  • Whistle for Willie, by Ezra Jack Keats
    I’m gambling most of you have read The Snowy Day, also a classic. If you love its simple perfection as much as I do, then you’ll enjoy Whistle for Willie, too.
  • The Wheels on the Tuk-Tuk, by Kabir Sehgal, Surishtha Sehgal and Jess Golden
    A lovely and fun twist on the classic Wheels on the Bus that takes you through the streets of India.
  • Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, and Snow White, by Chloe Perkins and various amazing illustrators
    I am SO excited about these titles. I’m not a princess book sort of parent, but these are beautifully illustrated and endearingly written. If you love the princess fairy tales, please consider these.
  • All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee
    Just a lovely, hopeful poetic jaunt through the best of our world. Also available in larger picture book format.
  • Hush Little Baby and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, by Sylvia Long
    These have been favorite early reads for all three of my children. We still sing these versions of the lyrics, and Sylvia Long’s illustrations are enchanting.
  • You and Me, by Giovannia Manna
    One of my kids favorites. Are you a flower or a tree, a tower or a cave? Find out! This large board book is characteristic of the stunning illustration style of the Barefoot Books collection.
  • Haiku Baby and Haiku Night, by Betsy Snyder
    As toddler, my kids loved these illustrations, and I enjoyed reading the short, sweet but powerful haiku.
  • It’s a Firefly Night, by Dianne Ochiltree and Betsy Snyder
    I love this as much for its rhyming narrative as I do for its illustrations. Betsy Snyder has a standout style that my kids and I adore. (See her haiku books above.) And fireflies! Enough said.
  • Think Big, Little One and Dream Big, Little One, by Vashti Harrison
    There are lots of great new bio and lit board book sets out there as well as mighty girl titles. These two are probably my favorite.
  • Little Blue Truck, by Alex Schertle and Jill McElmurry
    If you haven’t found this one yet, you should. It’s another that I can recite because we’ve read it so much.
  • Bear on a Bike, by Stella Blackstone
    More from Barefoot Books! This one’s a favorite, colorful journey of ours, but we love all the Bear books by Stella Blackstone.
  • Grumpy Cat, by Britta Teckentrup
    He’s just too grumpy, but sweet, not to love. Britta Teckentrup has several great titles with her distinctive illustration style.
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapani
    Our favorite version of this delightful nursery rhyme/song.
  • Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann
    We wore this very-few-words title through. Everyone needs to meet this cheeky gorilla!
  • Don’t Push the Button!, by Bill Cotter
    Another interactive reminiscent of that lovable monster, Grover.
  • Black Cat & White Cat, by Claire Garralon
    Simple and wonderful.



Happy Halloweensie (Again)!

Well, I decided to do another one! Please be sure to visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s website to read more Halloweensie stories. They’re super-spooky-silly-fun!

The Jack-o’-Cavernb713bb9c16acf569ad416e011204ddc4

Festus Flamel wants the biggest, roundest, screamiest pumpkin ever.

“My Monster-Gro potion should do the trick!”

A sprinkle a day, and his pumpkin grows … and grows … and grows. His pumpkin grows sooo monstrous that it squashes his house.


Festus tunnels through the gourd-gantuan beast.

“I can work with this.”

Festus digs out the stringy guts. He carves a gap-toothed maw beneath two moon-slit eyes. He stitches cobwebs across its bulbous ribs and lights a fire.

Then, he bakes.

When masked marauders come haunting, the Jack-o’cavern yawns.

For a scream, Festus serves the perfect Halloween treat—whole-brain pumpkin-bread.

Happy Halloweensie!

Wow! It’s been a year since I posted. Told you it’s not a blog! That said, I couldn’t resist the seasonal challenge from Susanna Leonard Hill this year. That’s right! It’s Halloweensie time! Be sure to check out the contest rules and join in the fun if your fingers are feeling spooky or silly or just otherwise inspired.

Here we go …

The Bone House

On Halloween night, when Mira goes looking for mischief, Moon slices a fresh trail into the woods.

“Sweet trick!”

Leaves flutter forward. Mira follows to a bent bone house, whose hollows glow warm and bright, and knocks.

Bones clickety-clack-open.

She steps inside.

Bones snickety-snatch-grab!


A fire pops, a cauldron bubbles, but the bare frame rattles.


Bones crickety-crack-sigh.

“I can fix that.”

Bones slickety-slack-let-go!

Mira gathers cobwebs to stir with memories and dreams. She paints the silky potion from joint to joint until every bone stretches and gleams.

The bone house stands.

“Wicked treat!”

It’s time to go haunting.

A Word, Please

I wrote this poem several years ago. It bears repeating.

A Word, Please

In January 1942, fifteen men sit in a room,
discussing the “final solution” to a question

disguised as a people.

They compete to sound off to make the bigger splash
as they plan the best way to test out and up

through extermination.

Today, a theater Holocaust puppet sits silently
perched in a café window on our souls
while two folk talk

business as usual.

Sallow eyes fully void of life watch.
He’s all wood and paint chipped thin to crack
as his gears and joints creak beneath their weighty worth.
The daily litany patrols back and forth,

casual absurd

without notice for the watcher
marked for vigil in felt and papier maché,
his only armor a yellow star,

a ghost light

that shines brighter than the sun setting
beyond brick glass and wire.

If I trace the life lines from his making
to his playing, I can see him rise
hear him speak to tell his story in a whisper
a secret faint as the smell of cold coffee,
but it’s just for show. A masquerade
that everyone has been told

and should know.

Though somehow they don’t. seem. to.

No, this boy, this metonymy in spare parts
needs others to speak in order to be heard—
and not just for him, not just for his, because

he owns us all.

He appears, like the tree in the forest, to strike a chord,
displacing air, making waves,

without a word.

Got Perspective?

I just made a general post on my personal FB page, and it occurs to me that it might be of use from the perspective of writing.

Here’s the original post: “Sometimes, it’s good to turn our preconceptions on their head. In case you need help with that, here’s an alternate perspective …” (with image below)


Now apply to your work. Take a story you’re struggling with, and turn it on its head. What assumptions are you making? What happens when you look at it a different way? You might find that you’re missing a unique and wonderful perspective. Perspective matters, in fiction and nonfiction. Take the time to examine your story–as well as someone’s else story, history, government, religion–from another angle.

After all, headstands, handstands and other inversions are GREAT for circulation. Really.

Just a thought.