December is that special time when several holidays are shared. Use these titles to help your children learn, understand and appreciate the holidays of others.
"Bear's First Christmas," by Robert Kinerk (Ages birth to 5)
Under the stars, the bear finds his way step by step through the snowy forest, making friends along his route. Then the bear discovers a place in the woods that glows magically with something he and his friends could never have imagined their first Christmas.
"Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa," by Donna L. Washington (Ages birth to 5)
Inspired by Brer Rabbit, a trickster character from the African-American folklore tradition, the story of Li'l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa — coming together to help others.
"Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah," by Sylvia Rouss (Ages birth to 5)
Sammy watches longingly as Josh Shapiro lights another candle and receives a brightly-colored dreidel each night of Hanukkah. "Spiders don't spin dreidels, spiders spin webs," Sammy's mother reminds him. Then on the last night, Sammy gets his own spinning surprise.
"Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas," by Michael J. Rosen (Ages 5 to 7)
Religious understanding is wonderfully portrayed in this story about an elderly Christian barber and a Jewish child who befriends him. Michael and Elijah are friends, but when Elijah gives Michael one of his special carved angels, Michael doesn't know what to do. How can he possibly take home a Christmas angel, a forbidden graven image — especially on Hanukkah? Michael J. Rosen based this story on the real-life Elijah Pierce, a lay minister, barber and woodcarver from Columbus, Ohio, whose award-winning woodcarvings are now owned by the Columbus Museum of Art.
"Horrible Harry and the Holidaze," by Suzy Kline (Ages 5 to 7)
The holiday season is here, and the kids in Room 3B are learning about all the different ways people celebrate.
In addition to Christmas and Hanukkah, there's Kwanzaa, Three Kings' Day, Korean New Year, and more. All the talk about holidays has everyone feeling festive. Everyone, that is, except Harry. He doesn't seem to care about the holidays, the class pet or even the new student in class.
"There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein," by Susan Sussman (Ages 7 to 9)
This classic tells the story of a young Jewish girl at Christmastime. Robin loves Christmas trees but knows Jews do not celebrate Christmas. When a classmate tells her about a Hanukkah bush — "It's like a Christmas tree, but it's for Jews" — Robin rushes home to tell her family the great news. It takes a wise grandfather to explain to Robin the difference between celebrating something you believe in, and helping friends celebrate something they believe in.
"Holiday Miracles: A Christmas/Hanukkah Story," by Ellyn Bache (Ages 7 to 9)
Bache, a Willa Cather Prize recipient, tells the heartwarming story of a family in which the mother is Jewish and the father Christian. As the parents perform the annual negotiations of latkes and parties and wrapping paper (red or blue?), their 5-year-old son becomes seriously ill, making the entire family realize anew the central message of both Hanukkah and Christmas: Miracles are possible.
"Sam I Am," by Ilene Cooper (Ages 9 to 12)
Twelve-year-old Sam Goodman knows the holidays are going to be difficult when his dog knocks over the Hanukkah bush/Christmas tree. His Jewish father and Christian mother have never quite figured out how to celebrate both holidays, and when the tree goes down, their resentments, simmering for so long, boil over. His older sister and younger brother don't seem to have any solutions for the family's predicament, his best friend, Avi, seems to know who he is as he prepares for his bar mitzvah and his secret crush, Heather, knows who she is and who she wants to associate with.
"Have a Happy," by Mildred Pitts Walter (Ages 9 to 12)
It's Christmas time and Chris' 11th birthday. This year, with his father out of work, there probably won't be any presents either.
But Chris' family also observes another holiday. It's called Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration of black heritage. If it weren't for Kwanzaa, Chris might be spending all his time feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he's busy making some very special presents for the holiday celebration — a celebration that puts magic in the air, transforming it into a time of discovery. Chris and his family are about to find out that with the celebration of a great ancient heritage, they will find a future full of happy surprises.
Lesley Mason is children and teen librarian at Washington County Free Library.