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Holiday Books for Kids Put Santa in Slippers

December 21, 2009
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

NEW YORK (AP) - Hyper young Santa waiters, spinning dreidels and the special sounds of Kwanzaa await parents looking to freshen the holidays with new books for their kids this year.

Among them are noteworthy takes on classic scrooges, prancing reindeer and magical nutcrackers. There's also straight-up accounts of the birth of Jesus and the magnified science of snow.

Consider these:

Whatsit, a little dog with a big personality, is getting ready for Santa. So is his feisty little girl, Rita. Dog has a tree adorned with sausage, salami and bologna. Girl goes beyond the traditional Christmas stocking and hauls all her footwear out for treats. Pencil drawings on white with just a splash of holiday red.

Eccentric Mrs. Dowdel is back in a companion to "A Year Down Under" and "A Long Way from Chicago." In small-town, 1958 Illinois, a preacher and his family move in next door. "She was no church woman, and she didn't neighbor, and Christmas was just another day to her." But the Barnharts reap priceless gifts from the old lady who swats the Fuller Brush man off her sagging porch with a broom.

Zebra child Ollie (think stuffed animal come alive) and his dog Fred trim the tree and play Santa and reindeer in the bathtub. Among the things Ollie loves most about Christmas: making glitter stars and doing the dance of a joyful angel. A wonderful low-stress Christmas Eve. One in a series of simple "I Love" books from Walker.

Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the syndicated comic strip "Grand Avenue" shows Santa kicking back in straw hat and flower shirt on his top-secret vacation island. Little boy Sam stows away to see it for himself. Santa hangs 10 and the reindeer take oceanside spa treatments.

Based on the musical by Mills and Covert of Ralph's World fame. Fritz loses video game privileges for breaking his sister's nutcracker, then defies parental punishment and unlocks a magical world where a stinky cheese-spraying Mouse King is put in his place in a showdown over Toy Town. Nutcracker warrior is a girl!

The beloved - and universalist - little bear Corduroy in yarmulke, hosting a Hanukkah party for his friends. He lights the candles and serves latkes in a dreidel-pattern apron. This bear gets around. Books of years past have him celebrating Easter and Christmas.

Packaged in its own attached gift box for added fun and portability. Chanukah from applesauce and latkes to glowing menorahs and presents represented in simple question text. Christmas version also available.

"Come close, gather 'round. Listen to the sound of Kwanzaa," accompanies the turn of every page as the seven guiding principles of the seven-day celebration are explained. The colors of the candles lit each night and Swahili terminology included, along with Tokunbo's favorite karamu (feast) recipe for brownies to give away with a surprise for each recipient.

Deep in the snowy woods, in a cabin with a bright red door, lives Santa (seemingly single) and his reindeer. He's not the usual roly-poly Santa in red suit. He has serious eyes but wears bunny slippers as he prepares toys and polishes his sleigh for the magic of a holiday that sets his white whiskers tingling. Dreamy illustrations from Muth.

A nature photographer (Cassino) and a snow scientist (Nelson) team up to satisfy any young science geek's curiosity about ice crystals. The two begin at the beginning, explaining in text accompanied by fascinating magnified photography exactly how tiny particles of dirt, ash or salt form a speck that starts a snow crystal growing. Not for the uninterested.

The determined but not so bright Suzy sets out to capture a bright star in the sky for the top of the barnyard Christmas tree. Flying for it lands her splash in water and jumping from a log pile to grab it doesn't work, either. But nature takes over to great honks, hee-haws, moos and oinks of glee.

Traditionally told Christmas complete with God and mean innkeepers who have no room for the pregnant, donkey-riding Mary.

There are shepherds and kings and singing, haloed angels - and a huge party in the stable with talking animals to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and babies everywhere.

More retellings of Christmas classics:

Santa's got brown skin and snow white dreadlocks in this Africa-set version of the classic Clement C. Moore poem. Cut-paper work that pops.

Lovely, sophisticated story and pictures with text true to E.T.A. Hoffmann's original. Toddler warning: The mice are very realistic looking.

Not for the faint of heart adaptation of the new Robert Zemeckis movie.

Gorgeous illustrations with lots of big, smiling faces among the snarling pre-reborn Scrooge and his visiting ghosts.

Richly detailed art that includes two golden dolphins pulling Marie and the Nutcracker to the city of Sweetmeatburgh.

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