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Look who’s starring in the year’s most entertaining Christmas (and Hanukkah) books for kids. Could it be Santa? Nope, the big guy is sidelined with a bad cold. Instead, Mrs. Claus, Pete the Cat and a gap-toothed pirate in a red suit are happily hogging the holiday spotlight in these adorable tales for wee ones. USA TODAY books editor Jocelyn McClurg has made her list of favorite holiday children’s picture books for 2018. Or check out more holiday gift guides.
1. “Pete the Cat’s 12 Groovy Days of Christmas”
By Kimberly and James Dean | Harper | ages 4-8
The story: It’s snowing, so Pete the Cat packs up his yellow bus for a California-dreamin’-style trip to the beach – stopping to pick up his critter pals along the way and giving them groovy gifts while singing a hilarious version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
What kids will like: A giggly chorus is likely to ring out as young readers follow Pete’s sing-along holiday adventure – especially when they get to “5 Onion Rings!”
Get “Pete the Cat’s 12 Groovy Days of Christmas” at Amazon for $9.00
2. “Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins”
By Sue Fliess; illustrated by Mark Chambers | Two Lions | ages 4-7
The story: Santa’s in bed with the sniffles, so presents might not get delivered. Oh no! But hold on. Mrs. Claus is ready to ride the rescue and “Save Christmas Day!”
What kids will like: This extremely cute exercise in feminist heroics delivers a subtle message through clever rhymes and good-natured humor. (The sleigh is leaking fuel, but Mrs. Claus stays in control, using ribbon to plug up the hole!)
Get “Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins” at Amazon for $10.99
3. “The Lost Christmas”
By B.B. Cronin | Viking | ages 3-7
The story: Granddad has invited the grandkids over to help decorate his tree on Christmas Eve. But there’s one big problem: Where are all the ornaments?
What kids will like: Curious kids will be kept quite busy Christmas morning as they go on a treasure hunt for the missing baubles hidden amid B.B. Cronin’s intricate, whimsical, candy-colored drawings.
Get “The Lost Christmas” at Amazon for $13.37
4. “If You Ever Want to Bring a Pirate to Meet Santa, Don’t!”
By Elise Parsley | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | ages 4-8
The story: It seems pls italicizelike a good idea to invite a pirate they meet at the mall to get in line for Santa, but these siblings soon discover their new friend is naughty indeed – after all, he is pls italicizea pirate.
What kids will like: Ahoy, matey! Our young mall-goers teach Mr. Pirate (whose red outfit and scraggly white beard look an awful lot like you-know-who’s) an amusing lesson when they put the scallywag in a “time-out” chair that just happens to belong to Santa.
Get “If You Ever Want to Bring a Pirate to Meet Santa, Don’t!” at Amazon for $15.30
5. “Oliver Elephant”
By Lou Peacock; illustrated by Helen Stephens | Nosy Crow | ages 2-5
The story: Mommy takes toddler Noah and baby Evie-May into town for some Christmas shopping. Noah and his blue toy elephant Oliver are having the best time. (Well, until careless Oliver knocks over a bowl of ornaments.) After a break for a yummy cinnamon bun, Ollie is missing. Where can he be?
What kids will like: Never fear, Oliver is here. This sweet tale has a happy holiday ending, natch. Everybody say “Aw.”
Get “Oliver Elephant” at Amazon for $6.98
6. “All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah”
By Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky | Schwartz Wade | ages 3-7
The story: On New York’s Lower East Side in 1912, a family of five girls is helping Mama prepare latkes for Hanukkah – all except in-the-way Gertie, 4, who’s banished to her bedroom after a tantrum. Things look up when Papa lures little Gertie from under her bed with a gingersnap.
What kids will like: This touching celebration of food and family (based on Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-King Family series from the 1950s) is flavored with dashes of history and love – a lovely recipe for any holiday.
Get “All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah” at Amazon for $12.32
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