Thursday, December 23, 2010

Season’s Readings 2010

A Message From Bigfoot:

It has been called the most wonderful time of the year. Almost from the time it’s over, you begin to count down the days til its return. I’m referring, of course, to winter break. It’s a magical time of sleeping in, alternating between playing video games and watching TV, and eating breakfast foods for lunch. But you let yourself forget what happens every year. After a day or two, you’re still happy to sleep in, but your hands have become claws from gripping a game controller for hours on end. The only thing on TV is the news, reruns of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, and a program about how to set paver stones in your garden. The dice are missing from the Monopoly box. Professor Plum and Miss Scarlett have absconded with the lead pipe. Dozens of pointless texts from your friends confirm what you hate to admit: You are going crazy with boredom.

What? You don’t believe me? “That won’t happen this year, Bigfoot. This is going to be the best break ever.” Yeah, yeah. Keep telling yourself that and maybe it’ll come true. Seriously, though. Before you know it, you’ll be more bored than a kangaroo at a pogo stick convention. Look. I understand. Nobody wants to believe disaster will strike. But isn’t it best to prepare for the worst? Trust your old pal Bigfoot. Get out of bed already and get yourself to the library. Wait. You can’t go out like that. How about a shower first? At least try to pull a comb through that rat’s nest you call your hair. That’s better. Now, get yourself to the library and stock up on some good books for when the inevitable boredom strikes. Okay, okay! Calm down. I’m sure this year will be different. How about following my advice on the astronomically improbable chance that you could possibly, at some point during this glorious era of freedom and frozen waffles, find yourself, for a few moments hardly worth mentioning really, bored to brink of insanity?

Good. Now. While you’re at the library, why not pile some of these wintry, Christmassy books onto your stack?




by Dr. Seuss


Random House, 1985 (1957)

You’ve seen the animated version a hundred and fourteen times. At least. But when was the last time you actually read the book? If you answered “never,” I demand that you drop that game controller this instant and run out to grab yourself a copy of this Dr. Seuss classic. (Pick up HORTON HEARS A WHO! while you’re at it.) HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! is a popular book this time of year, so there’s a good chance you’ll have to wrestle your library’s final copy away from a mom browsing in the picture book stacks. Don’t feel too bad about that. It just means you’re getting into the spirit of the book and embracing the Grinch’s way. Important: Do something nice after tackling that mom (like scratch a dog named Max behind the ears) to prevent your heart from shrinking two sizes.



by Barbara Robinson


HarperTrophy-HarperCollins, 2005 (1972)

The Herdmans have taken a break from terrorizing their classmates long enough to star in this year’s Christmas pageant. The ensuing hilarity is second only to the warm, fuzzy feeling you’ll get as the Herdman brothers, playing the parts of the Wise Men, bring a ham to the baby Jesus. Seriously. If you don’t get choked up by that, you may be an actual Grinch. In that case, have a triple helping of roast beast to warm the cockles of your shrunken heart.




by Amy S. Hansen,

illustrated by Robert C. Kray

[PICTURE BOOK, non-fiction]

Boyds Mills Press, 2010

My home planet, Zeenton, supports a diverse array of life forms. Among these life forms is a species of pestering creatures who buzz, sting, and have an abundance of legs (17 to 39, depending on the variety). Unlike many Earth insects, however, their primary mode of transportation isn’t flying; no Zeentonian species can fly without artificial assistance. Rather, they teleport by means which are too complicated to relate here. Furthermore, the smallest among them—the Zementiny—is as large as an Earth hamster. I imagine the novelty of teleportation makes these creatures as intriguing to you as your own common houseflies, ants, and crickets are to me.

Zeenton has neither insects nor snow. Therefore, when I came upon this particular book while visiting the library, I was compelled to borrow it. It explains the various ways insects survive the harsh drop in temperature associated with Earth winters. Some insects survive by means of migration, others hide deep in the ground where the icy cold can’t harm them. There are those who do not survive the winter months at all, but who lay eggs, nobly ensuring their progeny will carry on the line when they hatch in the spring. Most thrilling to me of all the techniques is the one employed by an insect who allows himself to be frozen until the season changes and the air warms again. This insect is the source of the amusing “Bugsicles” portion of the book’s title, that word having led me to originally believe this was an instructional book for making unusual summertime treats for children.

BUGS AND BUGSICLES has outstanding illustrations and, perhaps best of all, directions for several experiments to study what happens to water when it freezes. There’s nothing like a good experiment to give me that warm, content feeling frequently associated with the holidays.


by Jacqueline Briggs Martin,

illustrated by Mary Azarian

[PICTURE BOOK, non-fiction]

Houghton Mifflin, 1998

As I have mentioned, Zeenton does not experience the meteorological phenomenon of snow. On Zeenton, crystals form on vegetation during periods of extreme heat. If it were possible for one to gather enough of these crystals together to form a ball, and if, subsequently, one were to throw that ball in their friend’s face, the upset at the attendant searing off of facial features would be in stark contrast to the mirth exhibited by those participating in an Earth-style snowball fight.

Snow’s novelty, like that of insects, has rendered it a tremendous source of fascination for me. Had I not read SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY, I would have assumed that a man as enchanted by snow as I am had come from a place where no snow existed—if not from the planet Zeenton, then from some region of the Earth untouched by the chilly crystals. But no, Wilson Bentley was born in Vermont, in the United States of America, where snow is plentiful. Mr. Bentley became obsessed with finding a way to preserve the beauty of the snow crystals he studied; he wanted to share their beauty with the world. Through determination and ingenuity, he perfected a method to photograph snow crystals. I would very much have liked to have known Mr. Bentley. I feel certain he would have been able to help me crack the mystery of Bigfoot’s photography impediment.




(Original Text Version)

by Charles Dickens

Classical Comics, 2008

I love books with ghosts and supernatural stuff. In case you think ghost stories are just for Halloween, I want to recommend you read the classic story, A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. A CHRISTMAS CAROL has oodles of ghosts. Most people think there are just three ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. But they’re wrong. Other people think they are clever in remembering the ghost of Scrooge’s old partner, Jacob Marley, and they’ll tell you A CHRISTMAS CAROL has four ghosts in it. But they’re wrong, too. They’re forgetting the oodles of unhappy ghosts Scrooge sees when he looks out his window. (In case you didn’t know, “oodles” means at least five and as many as a zillion.) The ghosts are unhappy because they want to help the living, but they’re just ghosts, so they can’t. Being a useless ghost is their punishment for being mean people when they were alive. How terrifying is that? You can bet I’ll be sleeping with the night-light on Christmas Eve.

By the story’s end, Scrooge is determined to keep the Christmas spirit all year round. That’s why I say A CHRISTMAS CAROL is good to read not just at Christmastime, but whenever you’re in need of some good cheer. Or in the mood for a good scare.

You can read the original novel, but I like this graphic novel version a lot. It has the author’s original words along with some really great illustrations. At the beginning Scrooge looks mean and Scroogey, but at the end, after the ghosts help him with his attitude adjustment, he looks friendly as can be. I still can’t figure out how the artists managed that visual transformation. Maybe they had some ghostly help.

(For the record, I’m not so sure a kangaroo would be bored at a pogo stick convention. He’d probably have a good time jumping with all the pogo stick jumpers, don’t you think? Unless there are rules that attendees of the pogo stick convention are required to use pogo sticks. Artificially enhanced jumping has got to be a taboo in kangaroo culture. In that case, Bigfoot’s right. A kangaroo probably would be bored at a pogo stick convention—probably as bored as you during winter break before your trip to the library.)




by Maryrose Wood


Balzer & Bray-HarperCollins, 2010

Next to ghosty stories, I like books with some mystery in them, so my other seasonal recommendation for you is the first book in THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE series. It’s about a young woman named Penelope who gets her first job as a governess. She is hired to civilize the three children who Lord Fredrick has taken in. The children have been raised by wolves, so Penelope has her work cut out for her. She has a deadline, too. Lady Constance is planning a lavish Christmas party that the children must attend. Mysteries develop and Penelope starts to wonder if Lord Fredrick had sinister motives in taking in the children.

Read BOOK I at now at Christmas and then BOOK II when it’s released on George Washington’s birthday, February 22, 2011.




by Adam Rex


Hyperion-Disney, 2007

Bigfoot asked me to recommend a book for you to read during your winter break. I picked THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. The gist of it is that aliens called the Boov invade Earth on Christmas Eve. They rename Earth Smekland after their leader, Captain Smek. Christmas is now Smekday. (The Boov are described as having “tiny frog arms” which is why I’ve already wrapped a copy of this book and put it under the Christmas tree from me to Morzant.)

The narrator of the story, a girl named Gratuity, tries to find her mother who was abducted by the Boov on Christmas Eve. Gratuity becomes friends with a Boov named J.Lo. Gratuity is a funny narrator and the story has plenty of action. Plus there are some hilarious comics mixed in. I hope that’s enough to convince you to read this book because, to tell you the truth, I’m starting to resent having to write a book report while you’re on vacation. In fact, when you finish reading this book, I expect you to turn in a two-page report. Typed. And don’t try that trick with the margins and large font.





by Patricia MacLachlan,

illustrated by Brian Floca


Atheneum-Simon & Schuster, 2009

Liam and his big sister Lily both love books, but Liam especially does. He brings thirty-seven books with him to read while he and Lily are visiting their grandparents during Christmas vacation. When they arrive at their grandparent’s farm, Liam notices that their cow looks lonely. Liam makes it his Christmas mission to find White Cow a friend. Lily worries that Liam will ruin their vacation, but he doesn’t. By giving up the books he loves, Liam finds a way to keep White Cow from ever being lonely again and gives the townspeople and his family a Christmas they’ll never forgot. I’ll bet my stocking stuffers you’ll remember it, too.


by Jane Monroe Donovan


Sleeping Bear Press-Thomson Gale, 2004

For those who are having Christmas fun and feeling Christmas joy, it’s hard to imagine how anybody can be sad this time of year. But a lot of us get sad during the holiday season because we’re missing somebody who isn’t with us any more. That’s what a WINTER’S GIFT is about. It’s a story about an old man who is sad on Christmas Eve morning because this will be his first Christmas without his wife. If she were still alive, they’d go out and cut down a tree to decorate. She had a star she always put on top of the Christmas tree. To her, a star was a symbol of hope. The old man doesn’t feel hope this year.

The old man isn’t the only one alone. A wild mare has gotten separated from her herd. She is cold and tired and falls asleep on the old man’s property. When he finds her, he takes her to the barn and cares for her.

There is a certain Bigfoot Reader who ought to get coal in her stocking for all the endings she’s given away. That reader is not me. I’ll just tell you that when the old man wakes up Christmas morning, he finds the mare has brought him a gift of hope.

Jane Monroe Donovan also wrote and illustrated the book SMALL, MEDIUM, & LARGE which is one of Oliver’s recommendations.




by Dick Gackenbach


Clarion-Houghton Mifflin, 1974

If you were to guess my favorite Christmas book, I bet you’d guess it was A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens because of its character who can predict Scrooge’s future. I do like that story and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, but the book I really love to read this time of year is CLAUDE THE DOG.

Claude is a well-loved dog who gets a nice pillow, blanket, and rubber mouse for Christmas. As he is enjoying his presents, his friend Bummer comes to visit. Bummer isn’t as lucky as Claude. He doesn’t have a warm place to sleep or a family to love him. Claude wants Bummer to have a merry Christmas, too, so he gives all three of his presents to Bummer. Claude isn’t a bit sad to have given his nice, new things away because what he is most glad to have is his family.



by Lauren Thompson,

illustrated by Jon J. Muth


Scholastic, 2009

I like this book about Santa and magic. It’s different than other Santa books. Santa wears a blue suit when he goes out in his sleigh and he wears bunny slippers at home. He has a small reindeer friend who follows him around everywhere. And instead of a big workshop, all the toys are kept in a special room in Santa’s house. His house must be magic, because it is a small house to hold so many toys.

Santa and the reindeer wait for the Christmas magic to come. Santa can feel it coming. When he gets the feeling that the magic is coming, he gets the reindeer ready and polishes the sleigh and the jingle bells and goes to the special toy room and picks out a special toy for everyone. He loads up the sleigh with the presents and puts the harness on the reindeer, except for the little reindeer who will ride in the sleigh with Santa. Then they wait together in the snow for the Christmas magic. When it comes, the reindeer can fly and they take off and Santa goes around the world to deliver toys.


by Jane Monroe Donovan


Sleeping Bear Press-Gale, 2010

A little girl writes a letter to Santa. She tells Santa she doesn’t need any toys. Those are the only words in the book until the very end when the little girl writes a thank you note to Santa for the presents he brought her.

On Christmas morning there are three presents under the tree for the little girl. Inside a small box is a cat. Inside a medium box is a dog. Inside a large box is a pony. Santa brought the little girl some friends.

The new friends have fun together playing in the snow. The pony pulls the others on a sled. Then the pony wants a ride, so the little girl tries to pull all three animals. Then they decide it’s more fun if they all go down a hill together.

It’s funny to see the pony, cat, and dog make a snow angel. I’m going to try that next time it snows. They even have a snowball fight. After they are done playing in the snow, they go inside and bake cookies. My favorite picture is when they cozy up together by the tree and the fireplace. My second favorite is at bedtime when they cuddle up together in bed. My third favorite is all the other pictures.

I would tell you more about this book, but I promised Bigfoot I would help him put ornaments on his tree. Good-bye.

Oliver also likes:


by Caralyn Buehner,

illustrated by Mark Bruehner


Dial-Penguin, 2005



by Ann Hassett,

illustrated by

John Hassett


Sandpiper-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

I’m a beagle. That means my nose is super-powered. One of my favorite smells is tree smell. That good smell must be why people put trees in their houses at Christmas. Then they put other good-smelling things on the trees, like popcorn and tinsel. (I bet you didn’t know tinsel has a smell. If you were a beagle like me, you would know these things. Don’t feel bad. I will tell you all there is to know about good-smelling things, and beagles, too.)

In THE FINEST CHRISTMAS TREE Farmer Tuttle isn’t selling many trees because lots of people are buying plastic trees instead. Poor Farmer Tuttle doesn’t earn enough money to buy his wife a Christmas hat like he does every year. But there is somebody who wants one of Mr. Tuttle’s real trees. Mr. Tuttle gets a letter from a boss who writes that his workers need a tree for their Christmas party. Later, Farmer Tuttle sees elves cutting down one of his trees and loading it into Santa’s sled. Then they leave a Christmas hat for Mrs. Tuttle. Mr. and Mrs. Tuttle are happy because Santa comes back every year for a pretty (and good-smelling) tree.


by Maureen Wright,

illustrated by Stephen Gilpin


Marshall Cavendish, 2010

This book is so funny. Sneezy is a snowman who is always cold. Being cold makes him sneeze. He tries to warm up with hot chocolate and melts. So the kids have to rebuild him. They have to rebuild him again after he melts in a hot tub and another time when he melts next to a campfire.

The kids try to help him keep warm without melting by giving him a hat and a scarf and a coat. It sort of works, except then he’s too warm. He wants to take off the clothes, but the kids won’t let him because they know he’ll be too cold again. So they come up with a good idea to cool him off and that good idea is to give him an ice cream cone to eat.

I like the rhymes in this book and I like the pictures. There are a couple of birds in the background doing funny things during the whole story.

I would tell you more about this book, but I have to go put the angel on top of Bigfoot’s Christmas tree. Good-bye.

Lenny also likes:


by Steve Light


Candlewick, 2010




by Julia Rawlinson,

illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke


Greenwillow-HarperCollins, 2010

There are lots of books about Fletcher. I like Fletcher. Fletcher is a fox. He’s a very nice fox. In the book FLETCHER AND THE FALLING LEAVES, Fletcher tries to help a tree by sticking leaves back on the tree because he doesn’t know leaves are supposed to fall off trees in autumn.

In FLETCHER AND THE SNOWFLAKE CHRISTMAS, Fletcher is worried again. This time he is worried that Santa won’t be able to find his rabbit friends’ new burrow. Because Fletcher is so nice, he wants to help Santa find the way to the burrow so that his friends won’t miss out on getting their presents. Fletcher gets all his friends to help him put sticks on the ground. The sticks are a trail to show Santa how to get to the rabbits’ burrow.

But do you know what happens? After all that work, it snows and the sticks get buried under the snow. Fletcher comes up with a plan. He and the other friends will stay up so that when Santa visits their homes, they can tell Santa how to get to the rabbits’ burrow. It’s a really good idea. But do you know what happens? Fletcher and all the others fall asleep!

They all feel bad, so they rush to the rabbits’ burrow in the morning to bring presents to the rabbits. But do you know what? The rabbits already have presents because of course Santa knew just how to find them all on his own.

So Fletcher and the rabbits and all the other friends have a nice Christmas time together eating Christmas goodies around the rabbits’ pretty tree.



by Marla Frazee


Harcourt, 2005

Of course Santa knows where everybody in the world lives, even if they just moved to a new place. Do you know what else Santa knows all about? Toys! Santa knows everything there is to know about toys and that’s why he is the number one toy expert. He tests them out and gets them ready for all the children of the world. I hope he brings toys to puppies, too, because I asked for a stuffed rabbit with extra floppy ears and also a felty green ball that squeaks and also a second stuffed rabbit with extra floppy ears so that the other stuffed rabbit with extra floppy ears won’t get lonely.

This book is so much fun to look at because there is so much to look at.

Santa doesn’t wear his red suit all year. That’s just for when he’s delivering toys. The rest of the year he wears shorts and each pair has a different pattern and one of those patterns is stars and another is snowflakes. He also has shorts with clouds and stripes and shramrocks and flowers and polka dots and suns and leaves and spiral-swirlies and Xs & Os and lightning bolts and moons. He has a lot of shorts.

When Santa’s not delivering toys he’s busy testing toys to make sure that they are fun. There are lots of funny pictures of Santa playing with hula hoops and yo-yos and ukeleles and puppets. He even does a flip on a trampoline. Santa is fun.

My favorite part is when Santa reads to the stuffed animals. Maybe he’s reading to my two rabbits with extra floppy ears right now.

Santa has to pick the right present for everybody. He has shelves full of balls and dolls and wagons and bikes and boats and games and all the kinds of toys there are. Then Santa has to wrap all the presents. He has rolls and rolls and rolls of different wrapping paper to choose from. Then Santa has to deliver all the presents. There’s a page in the book that shows lots of kids on Christmas morning playing with their new toys. Santa loves toys so much that he even gives himself a toy. You’ll have to read the book to see what toy he gets.

I love Santa and I love this book about Santa and I love Christmas and I love stuffed rabbits with extra floppy ears.


by Patricia Hubbell,

illustrated by Hiroe Nakata


Tricycle Press-Random House, 2010

Guess what else I love? I love snow! It makes me happy to play in snow. When I’m not playing in snow, I love to read about playing in snow and I’m so happy when I read SNOW HAPPY! because everybody in this book is having fun playing in the snow. There are lots of kids and dogs playing in the snow because kids and dogs love snow. There is one special dog. He is the main dog in the book. And that dog is a beagle like me!

The kids and dogs play in the snow and there are some funny squirrels, too, who make snow angels and throw snowballs. The colors in the book are pretty. The snow is white but there are colorful mittens and hats and scarves and berries and cardinals.

At the end of the day the kids and the beagle go inside to warm up with some hot chocolate and to cuddle up by the fireplace for a nap together. Even the squirrel is snug in his tree, ready to take a nap.

I have to go now. I’m going caroling with Mortimer. Good-bye.

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