The Christmas Owl by Ellen Kalish and Gideon Sterer

The Christmas Owl

Ellen Kalish & Gideon Sterer, Authors

Ramona Kaulitzki, Illustrator

Little Brown and Company, Fiction, Oct. 5, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Owl, Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Rescue center 

Opening:  “Once in a little town, in a little front yard, lived a little owl, high in the branches of a very big tree.” 

Synopsis:

When Little Owl’s home is cut down by people saying it will make a beautiful Christmas tree, she’s not sure she wants anything to do with Christmas, whatever that means.  Hiding in its branches, the rope traps Little Owl.  The tree is loaded on a truck and she rides for hours until it reaches the Rockefeller Center.

A worker finds the owl her and calls a woman named Ellen at Ravensbeard Wildlife Center who takes Little Owl, who is hungry and dehydrated.  Ellen, whose house is merrily decorated for the holiday and filled with birds who need someone to care for them. Surrounded by kindness and helpful new friends, Little Owl begins to wonder if Christmas might not be such a bad thing after all…

Why I like this book:

A beautiful book that is based on a true story that captivated the country in November 2020. This charming story is cowritten by Ellen Kalish, caretaker of the real owl found inside the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. 

Told in the voice of Little Owl, children will enjoy hearing about his long journey on the truck to NYC, being discovered in its branches and his rehabilitation with Ellen. Ramona Kaulitzki’s illustrations are simply stunning. Just look at the cover!  They compliment the story and kids will have fun pouring over the gorgeous artwork and telling the story themselves.

There is so much compassion in this story. Make sure you check out the end pages. There is a special Note from Ellen Kalish about her work to rescue and rehabilitate her first love — birds.  There is a close up picture of the owl she named “Rocky.” On the opposite page is The Real Story of Rockefeller, with a photo of Ellen releasing Rocky back into the wild. And at the front of the book you can see a map of Rocky’s journey to NYC.

Resources:  Go for a walk in the woods with your parents and listen to all of the winter birds living there. You might just hear an owl hoot.  Visit a bird rehabilitation center near you.  Introduce your kids to the annual Christmas Bird Count December 14 – Jan. 5, 2021,  and The Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Visit the Audubon website for a list of count circles near you.  And visit the Sonoma Birding website and the eBird website to do your own bird count any day of the year and track your counts. 

Ellen Kalish is the executive director of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, a rehabilitation and educational center that focuses on rescue and release for wild birds. She served on the board for the New York State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and is the recipient of the William R. Ginsberg Stewardship Award from the Woodstock Land Conservancy. Ellen has released thousands of birds back into the wild, but every releas is special. She invites you to visit her online at Ravensbeard.

Gideon Sterer is the author of From Ed’s to Ned’s, Not Your Nest!, The Nigh Knights, and The Midnight Fair, among others. Gideon grew up in the woods of upstate New York, where his parents owned a little zoo i which he would run around after-hours and let the animals out. He now lives in the Hudson Valley and invites you to visit him online at his website and @gideonsterer

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

 

Jingle Bells by Susan Jeffers

Jingle Bells

Susan Jeffers, Artist/Illustrator

Harper Collins Children’s Books, Fiction, Sep. 26, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Sleigh Ride, Winter, Jingle Bells, Adventure, Ice Skating, Holiday Book

Opening: Jingle bells, jingle bells.

Synopsis: Ride along through a winter wonderland with a girl, a boy, and their pony — plus a mischievous dog! It’s a joyous adventure to Grandma’s house where a very special guest helps spread the yuletide cheer.

Why I like this story:

Artist Susan Jeffers’ takes children on an enchanted wintry journey set to lyrics of this beloved and joyful holiday song, Jingle Bells. Jeffers’ pastel illustrations are lavish and energetic. Each double-page spread captures the magnificent detail of the winter woodland scenes with romping furry critters, a playful dog bounding alongside the sleigh and a big adventure with a few bumps along the way. The ending is very clever.  This book is a lovely keepsake and gift.

Children will have fun searching for the many animals Jeffers has hidden among the trees and in the snowy bushes. There is a picture guide of the hidden winter critters at the end of the book.

Susan Jeffers, the Caldecott Honor and New York Times bestselling artist of The Nutcracker and The Twelve Days of Christmas. She won the ABBY Award from the American Booksellers Association and a Caldecott Honor from the American Library Association. Her work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. Her books have sold millions of copies and have been published around the world. Visit Jeffers at her website.

Resources: Take a walk outside in the fresh snow and identify animal footprints. Look for signs of their burrows.  Sing Jingle Bells. Go sledding.

Happy holidays everyone!

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Favorite Holiday Books

Tis the season… I wanted to share some of my favorite holiday books that have found a permanent home on my bookshelf! Warmest wishes to all of my followers for a joyful holiday season! I will return January 6 with a Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

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Oskar and the Eight Blessings

Richard and Tanya Simon, Authors, and Mark Siegel, Illustrator, 2015

Oskar’s mother and father believed in the power of blessings. So did Oskar…until the Night of Broken Glass. His parents put him on a ship to America. He had nothing but an address and a photo of a woman he didn’t know — “It’s your Aunt Esther.” — and his father’s last words to him: “Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” Follow Oskar as he makes his long walk through New York City to his aunt’s home.

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The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale About The Rockefeller Center Tree

 David Rubel, Author, and Jim LaMarche, Illustrator, 2011

Henry’s father comes up with an idea to make money the day before Christmas. He borrows a truck, and he and Henry head for a grove of spruce trees.  They cut them down and drive to New York City to sell them as Christmas trees.  They find the perfect spot near the Rockefeller construction site in Manhattan.  The workers help them unload the trees.  Before heading home, his father decides to give the last trees to Frank and his construction workers.  Frank takes the tallest tree and the men decorate it with cranberries, pinecones and tin cans — the first Rockefeller Christmas tree.  Henry makes a star out of newspaper.  Before he hangs it on a tree, Henry makes a special wish.  He takes a pine cone from the tree to remember that magical day.

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The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved the Day

 Michael Keane, Author and Michael Garland, Illustrator, 2012

Twas the night before Christmas at NORAD’s home base/ Not an airman was stirring, each one was in place/Ready and waiting for the very first sight/Of good old St. Nick on his Christmas Eve flight.”  Every year the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa as he delivers gifts to children worldwide.  But, Santa and his reindeer get lost in a blizzard.  He disappears from their radar.  Will NORAD be able to find Santa with their high-tech equipment and help Santa deliver presents to the children in the world? Children will love the suspense and can go to the NORAD Santa’s Tracker site on December 24 to join in the fun this year.

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Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish

Roseanne Greenfield Thong, Author and Sara Palacios, Illustrator, 2014

‘Twas Nochebuena / and all through our casa, / every creature was kneading tamale masa. / For one of our holiday tradiciones, / is making tamales — / not one, but montones!”

It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laugher; love and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate).  After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”

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The Smallest Gift of Christmas

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator, 2013

When Christmas morning arrives, Roland races to the living room and finds the smallest gift ever with his name on it.  He closes his eyes and wishes for a bigger gift.  Not happy, he wishes again and again. Larger gifts magically appear, but they don’t satisfy Roland.  Frustrated, this feisty and determined boy sets off in a rocket to search the universe for the biggest gift. Looking back at earth, Roland realizes what he wants most.

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The Christmas Wish

Lori Evert, Author and Per Breiehagen, Photographer, 2013

Anja, who lives in the arctic region, dreams of being one of Santa’s elves. She watches the position of the North Star at night and memorizes the great map  at school as she prepares for her trip. Leaving behind presents and a note for her family, she bundles in Nordic clothing and straps on her skis so she can travel through the deep snow. Along the way, a bird, a horse, a musk ox, a polar bear and a reindeer help Anja on her journey to find Santa Claus at the North Pole.

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Oh, What a Christmas

Michael Garland, Author and Illustrator, 2011

Everything started off the same magical way Christmas always does.  Santa and his reindeer took off from the North Pole, loaded with presents for all the boys and girls around the world.  Santa called out to his reindeer as the sleigh raced across the starry sky.  Then POP! RIP! S-T-R-E-T-C-H!  The harness that attached the reindeer to Santa’s sleigh was tearing.  With one final BOING! it snapped in two!  Ho! Ho! –oh, no!” The reindeer fly off into the night.  Santa and his sleigh full of toys plummet to the earth and crash into the side of a barn.  A sleepy sheep peers from the barn…along with  a pig, a goat, two cows,  a horse and a hound dog.  Santa’s eyes twinkle as he surveys the barnyard animals.  Maybe he has found a solution so the children of the world won’t be disappointed.

May you be filled with the peace of the season and have a blessed New Year!

Patricia