A Very Mercy Christmas by Kate Dicamillo

A Very Mercy Christmas

Kate DiCamillo, Author

Chris Van Dusen, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction,  Sep. 27, 2022

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes: Holidays, Caroling, Kindness, Friendship

Opening: “Stella Endicott felt joyful. She felt like something miraculous might happen. She wanted to sing.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

When Stella Endicott gets the sudden idea to go caroling, she has a little trouble getting anyone to join her. Her brother, Frank, is not good at spontaneity. The Watstons are very involved in a precarious baking endeavor. Eugenia Linclon declines, a bit rudely, to accompany the singing on her accordion. And Horace Broom is too busy studying planetary movement.

Will Stella need to sing by herself, accompanied only by the cacophonous contributions of the pig, the cat, and the horse she pick up along the way? Or might there be a gentle miracle in store?

Why I love A Very Mercy Christmas:

This is a delightful holiday story for fans of  Kate DiCamillo’s early reader books the Tales from Deckawoo Drive. It will put  readers in the mood for the holidays. It is full of holiday joy, friendship, kindness compassion and a little bit of silliness. 

Stella is filled with the Christmas spirit and wants to go caroling, but her friends and neighbors aren’t interested or are too busy.  So her animal friends, Mercy the Pig, General Washington the cat and Maybelline the horse follow her.  Not deterred, Stella  begins singing “Joy to the World” by herself as she walks down the street. That’s when something magical happens. This heartwarming story  doesn’t have a strong religious tone — just Stella wanting to share the joy she feels bubbling up inside her. 

Chris Van Dusen’s eye-popping and colorful illustrations will delight readers. He really captures the holiday spirit, the rosy cheeks, the gorgeous winter scenery, a starry night, and the unique personalities of each character/ Readers will see their favorites in full-color. A must read for DiCamillo’s fans. There is a special surprise at the end of the book.

Resources: Go caroling, but make sure you have friends and an adult to join you. Make your own holiday cards for friends. Or gift your neighbors some cookies you helped bake. Offer to do a chore for a senior neighbor. Spread the cheer of the holidays.

Kate DiCamillo is the beloved author of many books for young readers. Her books Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux both received Newberry Medals. A former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, she lives in Minneapolis. Visit Mercy Watson for more about Mercy, and don’t miss a Piglet Named Mercy!

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.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur A. Levine

Hanukkah Celebrated Nightfall Dec. 10 – Dec. 18, 2020

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol

Arthur A. Levine, Author

Kevin Hawkes, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 8, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes: Hanukkah, Jewish holidays, Holiday hero, Myths, Immigrant families, Faith and Holiday joy

Opening: “Nate Gadol was a great big spirit who had eyes as shy as golden coins and a smile that was lantern-bright. In answer to people’s prayers, he made things last as long as they needed to.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Nate Gadol is a generous spirit whose magic can make things last exactly as long as they’re needed, like a tiny bit of oil that must stretch for eight days and nights and a flower that needs to stay fresh long after it should to cheer someone ailing. Perhaps there is a brother and a sister with only one piece of chocolate. Voilà! Nate will turn it into two pieces, or even three. And if a family is short one latke, or one candle — or needs a very long note to end a happy song.  Nate is there!

When the Glaser family immigrates to the United States in 1881, their first Hanukkah looks like it will be a meager one. And their neighbors are struggling too, with money scarce and Christmas around the corner. Even Santa’s spirits are running low because people are struggling and having trouble believing. Nate and Santa work behind the scenes together. Luckily, Nate Gadol has enough magic to make this a miraculous holiday for all.

Why I like this book:

Arthur A Levine creates a magical tale in Nate Gadol, “a new larger-than-life holiday hero who brings Hanukkah wonder and magic to all those in need.

Levine offers a mythical and magical tale about how Jewish families began to give gifts to their children during Hanukkah. This book will appeal to the many families who celebrate blended traditions that include presents, while honoring their faith and many beautiful Jewish traditions.

There is also a beautiful message of sharing between two immigrant families – one Jewish and the other Christian. The Glaser and O’Malley families help each other survive the bitter cold winter of 1881 by sharing food and selling items to purchase medicine for a sick baby. This is a story about families, friendship, faith and joy.

Children will be thrilled with the stunning illustrations. They are bold and magical with each page accented in shimmering gold. If you hold the illustrations just right in the light, you can see the golden gleam in Nate’s eyes. Magic!

Resource: Make you check out Arthur A. Levine’s “Author’s Note,” where he shares his own memories of Hanukkah and gives a lot of insight into why he wrote about the beginnings of a modern-day tradition. This is a wonderful discussion book for all families, no matter your tradition. Make homemade gifts for your family members. Donate to local food and holiday drives.

Arthur A. Levine has been a children’s publishing for more than thirty years. He is the author of many acclaimed picture books, including What a Beautiful Morning and The Very Beary Tooth Fairy. As a children’s book editor, has published may of the most exceptional children’s titles of all time, including the Harry Potter series, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, and Peggy Rathmann’s Officer Buckle and Gloria.

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.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Because Amelia Smiled

Because Amelia Smiled178344784Because Amelia Smiled

David Ezra Stein, author and illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction,  September 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4 -8

Theme:  A child’s smile inspires happiness, kindness and love

Opening/Synopsis“Because Amelia smiled, coming down the street…Mrs. Higgins smiled, too.  She thought of her grandson, Lionel, in Mexico and baked some cookies to send to him.”  Lionel shares the cookies with his class and teaches them an English song.  His act inspires a student in his class to film her kickboxing skills, who in turn inspires a ballet club in England.  These acts of kindness start a ripple effect that takes the reader to England, Israel,  Paris, Italy and back to New York City and Amelia.  It only takes one big smile from a little girl to ignite a chain reaction from people around the world.

Why I like this book:  Stein’s book shows children the power of how we are all connected to people we know and don’t know.  Everything thing we do has an impact on someone else.   And, with the internet and social media, our actions within our global family becomes even more important.   With Amelia her unknowing act of kindness spreads like wildfire around the world.  Too often we see the negative and it is an inspiring message to share with children and adults.  And Stein urges readers of his book to “Pass it on.”  The illustrations are very detailed and done with pencil, water-soluble crayons, and watercolor.  Stein is the author-illustrator of Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

Resources:  This picture book alone stands as a powerful tool for parents and teachers to encourage children to do acts of kindness at home, school,  and in their neighborhoods and communities. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a great resource for classroom activities.  Candlewick has a page about the story behind the book.

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