Monday, December 6, 2010

Winning Kids: Little Nippers Top 10 (Holiday)

Little Nippers Top 10
by Michelle Berg

Tis the season! There are many children’s books that I love to read this time of year. Books such as The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are stories that I could hear again and again, each time with the same thrill and anticipation I had as a child. However, December is a month of multicultural holiday celebrations. As a mother of two and a preschool teacher I try to find books that will teach about the many different holidays and festivities around the world. I don’t believe we can appreciate the true spirit of the season until we can understand the meaning of celebrations from cultures that are different from our own. The following list is a mere sample of the great literature available, I hope you enjoy.

10.  The Night Before Christmas
Written by Clement C. Moore. Illustrated by Tom Newsom. Ages 4-8.
This hardcover edition of The Night Before Christmas was given to me last Christmas Eve. It is a unique book which combines the classic poem with beautiful illustrations and secret surprises on each page. There are envelopes to open, cards to unfold and pop-ups all filled with Christmas trivia such as; Santa’s Favorite Recipe, the origins of the original story, ideas for Christmas activities and the legend behind that famous reindeer! This is a book for children and grown-ups. If you love The Night Before Christmas, buy this book. It is simply a treasure.
9. My First Kwanzaa Book
Written by Deborah Newton Chocolate. Illustrated by Cal Massey. Ages 4-8.

This book is ideal for Toddlers and Preschoolers. It begins with an informative introduction and ends with simplified definitions to the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa (including a guide for pronunciation). Here, in this spectacularly illustrated book, a young boy celebrates his first Kwanzaa and discovers something valuable about his heritage.
8. Fasting and Dates: A Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr Story
Written by Jonny Zucker. Illustrated by Jan Barger. Ages 4-8.

Even though Ramadan isn’t in December this year, I wanted to include this book because it introduces the meaning behind Ramadan and describes the customs and traditions that go along with it. Also, a brief summary is included at the end that explains the Five Pillars of Islam, the Qur’an and Eid-ul-Fitr. This book is a great teaching tool!
7. Hurray for Three Kings Day!
Written by Lori Marie Carlson. Illustrated by Ed Martinez. Ages 4-8.

Technically, Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6th but the meaning behind it is so closely related to Christmas that I thought it should be included. Follow Anita and her brothers as they remember the journey of the Three Wise Men who followed a star that brought them to the birthplace of a very special child! In this warm, uplifting story you will not only learn about the many customs observed on this special holiday but a host of new Spanish words as well!
6. The Tie Man’s Miracle: A Chanukah Tale
Written by Steven Schnur. Illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson. Ages 4-8.

This is a powerful story whose theme is not only Chanukah but of loss and the war; of kindness and warmth; and of miracles. Mr. Hoffman, the tie man, comes to visit Seth’s house on the last night of Chanukah in hopes of selling his colorful ties. As the old man has dinner with Seth’s family, Seth learns of his sad past and about a certain Chanukah miracle. Steven Johnson’s watercolor paintings are breathtakingly beautiful. This is truly a unique story, worthy of attention.
5. The Legend of Old Befana
Written and Illustrated by Tomie de Paola. Ages 9-12.

Being of Italian decent, I took particular interest in the legend of Befana, who every year apparently flies across the sky on January 6th (during the Feast of the Three Kings) searching for the Christ child. It is said that Old Befana visits all the children of Italy leaving them candies, cookies and gifts in hopes that one might be the Baby King of Bethlehem. Tomie de Paola’s retelling of this old tale is unique because of the detail in his illustrations. The story is carried out with pages are of biblical imagery. For example, throughout the book there are many pictures of a six-pointed star which represents the star of creation. Also shown with the three kings is a panther which is a symbol of the way all ‘true believers’ are drawn to Christ and an oak tree which is the symbol of strength. For all the teachers out there, this book could be read to your class with a follow up cooking lesson for Pizelle cookies!
4. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
Written by Eric Kimmel. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Ages 4-8.
There are goblins that haunt the old synagogue at the top of the hill and they are quite the nuisance! They blow out the candles on the menorah; they throw potato latkes on the floor and basically make it impossible for the village people to celebrate Chanukah. In this delightfully original Chanukah tale, you just can’t help but giggle as Hershel of Ostropol outwits those nasty goblins and rids the village people of them once and for all. This book is a pleasure to read! My kids truly enjoyed it, all while learning a few things about Chanukah!
3. A Baby Born in Bethlehem
Written by Martha Whitmore Hickman. Illustrations by Giuliano Ferri. Ages 4-8.

If you asked my children to define Christmas they would probably say “When Mommy and Daddy give me lots of presents!” While this response is not uncommon it is troublesome. This is why I searched for a book such as A Baby Born in Bethlehem. Here, Martha Whitmore Hickman explains the Nativity story with a simple, yet compelling narrative. This story is filled with all the love and joy that only this season can bring.
2. Seven Spools of Thread; A Kwanzaa Story
Written by Angela Shelf Medearis. Illustrated by Daniel Minter. Ages 4-8.

Using the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa (or the Nguzo Saba) Angela Shelf Medearis illustrates a captivating story about how 7 brothers must work together to resolve their differences and solve the problem their recently deceased father left for them. All of the principles of Nguzo Saba are hidden within the story. This inspirational book is a great teaching tool, not only in regards to Kwanzaa but it also teaches concepts such as unity, purpose and self-determination which are important life lessons for us all.
1. A Great Miracle Happened There
Written by Karla Kuskin. Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Ages 4-8.

This book is told from a young boy’s perspective of trying to explain Chanukah to a friend who is unfamiliar with Jewish beliefs. His friend is invited to join this young man and his family as they celebrate the first night of Chanukah. During this special night the young friend learns of the historic events that started this beautiful celebration for thousands of years. I highly recommend this book. It really takes the time to explain the meaning of the holiday in a truly inspired and engaging way.
Michelle Berg is a Pre-School Teacher and author of children's book, Miss Mandy Manners. Please visit her website:

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