Reviews for Just Right for Christmas

Booklist Reviews 2012 October #2
One Christmas Eve, a king purchases a bolt of cloth from an outdoor market: "That cloth is so red and soft and Christmassy!" Perfect, in fact, to make a cloak for the princess. What the king does not expect, though, is that the leftover scraps from the cloth, set outside the back door, hold an equal appeal for others. Before night falls, the castle's kitchen maid finds the scraps and sews a jacket for her ma; a badger makes a hat for his pa; a squirrel sews gloves for his wife; and a mouse creates a scarf for her son. With its catchy repetitive phrases, this book is perfect for the preschool child or emergent reader, who can anticipate what will come next. The endearing mixed-media illustrations, often arranged on the page within a simple sewing pattern, effectively capture the joy of the season. The warm message of the closeness of family pervades both text and pictures, and the final two-page spread brings all the inhabitants together, ice-skating in their brand-new finery--a lovely communal touch. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2012 December
'Round the Christmas tree

When our kids were little, one of the traditions of the Christmas season was unpacking the ornaments and books. Yes, books. These books were only for December and were as important to the season as the plastic icicles and handmade tree skirt from Aunt Dee Dee. We added new books every year and, if I still had little children living in my house, I would add several new ones from this year’s crop.

Those looking for books that reflect the biblical Christmas story will not be disappointed. Three veterans are back with their take on the Nativity.

Tomie dePaola’s tender, simple tale will delight young children with a bird’s-eye view of the big day in The Birds of Bethlehem. Talking among themselves, the birds tell of the unusual, strange, spectacular, awesome and miraculous event they see. These adjectives are unveiled as the story develops, building a sense of quiet drama. DePaola’s respectful but accessible illustrations add to the story, making this a book that will be enjoyed over and over again.

When he was bouncing along the roads in Africa, Ashley Bryan thought of Mary and Joseph on the road to Bethlehem and wrote a simple poem that examines the question of Who Built the Stable? Lushly illustrated in gouache and tempera paints, this special volume will encourage readers to imagine some of the lesser players in the story.

Poet Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrator Stephen Alcorn collaborate for the gentle Mary’s Song. On one hand, this is a love song to new motherhood and, on the other, it’s the familiar story of baby Jesus and his family. Alcorn’s oversized illustrations in cross-hatched mixed media set the perfect tone as the young mother Mary looks for quiet time with her baby boy. Ahh.


Christmas is also about presents and Santa and reindeer—and there are many new books that celebrate this part of the holiday, too!

One of the sweetest is Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. After finding a sumptuous bolt of red fabric, the king has a lovely cloak sewn for his daughter. The sewing maids leave the scra[Wed Aug 27 17:11:05 2014] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. ps outside on the steps where they are found by the kitchen maid, who uses the material to make a jacket for her mother. The scraps are passed on and on until the last little bit is used as a scarf for a mouse. This celebration of generosity and making things by hand feels “just right” for the holidays.

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague have a small cottage industry going with books about dinosaurs. Their two newest are sure to become family favorites: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? and How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? It’s fun to see how Yolen and Teague make connections between these two books (mom is knitting in both, the dinosaurs all kiss their grandparents, etc.) but still give each holiday’s traditions its own spotlight. As always, these dinosaur books are more humor than lesson and are the perfect way for little people to laugh at naughtiness.

Another fabulous dinosaur series is Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs., which pits a red dinosaur against such adversaries as “bedtime” and “the potty.” This time it’s Dinosaur vs. Santa. The dinosaur is like an energetic preschooler, just learning to control himself. It’s impossible to read this book without laughing. I mean, the dinosaur is wearing all varieties of Christmas sweaters and pajamas! But, of course, that’s not all. Dinosaur growls and roars his way through the joys and jobs of the season: writing to Santa, decorating the tree, being extra good and even going to bed on Christmas Eve. When Dinosaur sneaks downstairs to investigate the sounds of jingle bells, readers will worry right along with him: “Did Santa see you? Will he put you on the Naughty list?” The final reassuring turn of the page answers these important questions.


Santa from Cincinnati, written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, has the feel of a classic tale that could become a family favorite. Barrett (of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs fame) cleverly imagines the childhood of Santa Claus, told as a remembrance from Santa himself. In a scene from the hospital nursery, there is smiling baby Claus, wrapped in a bright red blanket, his nose round and red. Every page holds a treat for children who know the story of the grownup Santa. Here we see baby Santa playing with a reindeer and snowman mobile, and later we see family pictures celebrating his first words (“ho, ho, ho”), first steps (in dad’s big black boots) and favorite snack (cookies). It’s hard to imagine a Christmas-crazy kid not falling hard for this one . . . and imagining the childhoods of other holiday icons.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
A king asks his sewing maids to make a red cloak for the princess for Christmas. A kitchen maid makes her mother a jacket with scraps from the cloth. A badger uses leftovers to make his pa a hat, and the cycle continues as the fabric is used by tinier and tinier kingdom inhabitants. Black's story of thoughtful gift-giving is well paired with Beardshaw's jovial mixed-media art.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #1
A king buys a bolt of bright red cloth on the day before Christmas, setting off a chain of gift-making that spreads throughout his kingdom, from his daughter to a tiny mouse. The royal seamstresses work all morning to make a long cloak for the princess. They leave the fabric remnants at the back door of the castle, where a kitchen maid finds them. She takes the cloth home and sews a jacket for her mother. This pattern is repeated, with a badger making a hat for his father, a squirrel stitching gloves for his wife and a mouse using the last, tiny scrap as a scarf for her little son. Each gift-giver is pleased with his or her offering, and all the recipients are grateful for their warm, red gifts. The final spread shows all the pairs ice skating together, with each recipient wearing their red clothing. Charming illustrations in mixed media include cloth and paper pattern pieces, with lines of stitching and ribbons cleverly dividing pages with multiple spot illustrations. The succinct text has the satisfying feel of a folk tale, and it's the sort of story children will want to hear over and over—and the kind adults won't mind reading many times. Just right. (Picture book. 3-7) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #2

Cloth "so red and soft and Christmassy!" is the canvas for many holiday gifts in this warm and satisfying tale, reminiscent of the classic Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree. A king first purchases the luxurious cloth at market so his sewing maids can craft a cloak for his daughter. The leftover scraps are placed outside the back door, where the kitchen maid happens on them and makes a jacket for her mother. The subsequent fabric surpluses are passed along, becoming a hat for a badger, gloves for a squirrel, and a tiny mouse scarf in time for Christmas. Beardshaw's mixed-media art depicts snowy, friendly scenes of camaraderie and generosity. Ages 3-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

PreS-Gr 3--On Christmas Eve at the marketplace, a king finds a roll of cloth that is "red, soft, and Christmassy" and asks his sewing maids to make a cloak for his daughter. The kitchen maid finds the leftover bits of fabric outside the back door and uses them to make a red jacket for her mother, leaving even smaller scraps for Bertie Badger, Samuel Squirrel, and Milly Mouse to make their own gifts. This is a delightful tale with a nice rhyming cadence, a well-paced and clever buildup, and satisfying ending. The vibrant acrylic illustrations are charming and filled with action, fine for group storytime or bedtime sharing.--Maureen Wade, Los Angeles Public Library

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