Holiday Stories to Warm Your Heart

This month, warm up with a hot beverage and a good book! These holiday reads available at Montgomery County Public Libraries will put you in the spirit of the season—no matter what you celebrate.

Picture books

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“Little Red Ruthie: a Hanukkah Tale” by Gloria Koster, illustrated by Sue Eastland
A hungry wolf wants to eat Little Red Ruthie! But why not wait until she’s full from eight days of eating Bubbe Basha’s latkes? And why not sample some latkes himself? A little girl who’s brave like the Maccabees fools a greedy wolf in this Hanukkah take on Little Red Riding Hood.

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“A Sled for Gabo”
by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez
In a sea of pale blue-and-white winter books, “A Sled for Gabo” glows warm and bright. Like in Ezra Jack Keats’ “Snowy Day,” the red-orange city sky and colorful houses provide a cheerful backdrop to a boy exploring his neighborhood-turned-winter-wonderland. Kind English-and-Spanish speaking family and neighbors help Gabo navigate his winter adventure with bags over sneakers for boots, Dad’s hat, an unexpected sled and multiple paths for a boy feeling shy to make a friend.

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“A Big Bed for Little Snow” by Grace Lin
The look on Mommy’s face says it all. She’s telling Little Snow, “This bed is for sleeping, not jumping,” but she knows what’s going to happen. A snowflake pajama-clad little boy jumps and jumps and jumps to an end that is as predicted, but still surprising.

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“The Christmas Cat” by Maryann Macdonald, illustrated by Amy June Bates
“Jesus was beautiful, like all babies. And like all babies, he cried.”
Have you ever seen an illustration of the nativity story where Mary and Joseph are at all ruffled at the demands of having a newborn? They are in this book. You just want to hug them. They are trying so hard. But it takes an irrepressible kitten bounding onto Mary’s lap to stop the baby’s tears—and kindle first friendship. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings featuring the Madonna of the Cat.

Early elementary

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“The People Remember” by Ibi Zoboi, illustrated by Loveis Wise
Read this book aloud. It traces the story of the African diaspora in verse, each epoch illustrating a different principal of Kwanzaa. There’s a note at the back about lighting the kinara and what people do on each of the seven days of Kwanzaa. But this book’s strength is in bringing to light the rich, difficult and beautiful history of why this holiday is celebrated. Well beyond December, this is a great selection for Black History Month, Poetry Month or nightly bedtime reading.

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“The Christmas Mitzvah” by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Michelle Laurentia Agatha
“A mitzvah. A good deed. But also a commandment. What God wants.”
Can you love a holiday you don’t celebrate? Al Rosen loved Christmas but celebrated Hannukah. In 1969, he offered to work for anyone who wanted to spend Christmas with their families and kicked off several decades of doing this for strangers, inspiring others of all faiths to help their friends and neighbors of different religions—sometimes with hilarious results.

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“Petals” by Gustavo Borges and Cris Peter
In this Brazilian import, a stranger comes to town, faced with a spreading coughing illness and bad news on the radio—sound familiar? Oddly prescient for a book written in 2018. The stranger spreads fun and healing with magic tricks and the petals of a mysterious flower. But when the visitor falls sick himself, a young boy looks for a way to return his love and kindness. This (almost) wordless graphic novel features anthropomorphic animals against a snowy woodland backdrop for a sentimental, bittersweet wintery journey.

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“Weird but True! Christmas: 300 Festive Facts to Light Up the Holidays by National Geographic Kids
Did you know you could buy gingerbread-scented dog shampoo? Or that hot chocolate was once used as medication? Or that the amount of ribbon used to wrap presents every Christmas is enough to tie a bow around the whole planet? This colorful, engaging book filled to the brim with fascinating tidbits is handy for holiday conversation starters.

Middle Grade

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“Dog Driven” by Terry Lynn Johnson
McKenna has the chance to race her sled dogs over a historic dogsled mail route to raise awareness for Stargardt disease, which has caused her younger sister to lose her vision and her parents to become overprotective. What her parents don’t know is that McKenna, too, is starting to lose her vision from the same disease. Historic letters punctuate a girl’s struggle to lead her dogsled team to victory over snow and ice and show her family, and herself, what she’s capable of.

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“The Forgotten Girl” by India Hill Brown
When Iris and Daniel sneak out to make snow angels one night, they don’t worry about Suga’s snow spirits—they’re superstitions, right? Then they find the forgotten grave of Avery, a girl that starts haunting Iris’ dreams and forging a jealous, demanding friendship with her. Research for a school project reveals that Avery’s grave is part of a neglected African American cemetery and Iris wants to help. Experiences at school have led her to feel forgotten, too. But how far will Avery go to be remembered? Will Daniel and his grandmother be able to save his best friend before it’s too late? Ghost stories and history meld for a gripping winter read.

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“A Boy Called Christmas” by Matthew Haig
Stay with evil Aunt Carlotta, or find the father who left on a quest to prove the existence of elves? Thus begins the journey of Niklaus—nicknamed Christmas—a poor boy who can only remember receiving two Christmas presents his entire life and who only has a mouse and a reindeer for friends. Good thing he believes in magic and has a good heart to help him when he falls afoul of the head of the elf council—whose members staunchly oppose outsiders in his domain. He’ll need all the help he can get. A wryly funny Santa origin story with exploding troll heads, mischievous reindeer and a search for one’s life purpose that should appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and How to Train Your Dragon. Now a Netflix film.

Teen

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“Grand Theft Horse” by G. Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin
Gail Ruffo always wanted a horse for Christmas. She just never thought she would be stealing hers back from her racing partners late one Christmas Eve night. Author G. Neri recounts the true story of his cousin: how she made a business deal with an unscrupulous lawyer to purchase her first racehorse, how that lawyer and his partners subjected her horse to harsh training methods and drugs and how she spent years dodging poverty, police and private investigators, fighting a corrupt system that values cash over horses’ wellbeing. This graphic novel blends court drama, horse sense and a call to activism to protect the animals whose bones line “the path of human progress.”

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“One Way or Another” by Kara McDowell
Paige is paralyzed by decision-making. In her mind, every choice she makes has the power to ruin her life. When she must choose between the trip of a lifetime to New York City with her mom or a cozy getaway with her best friend/unwitting crush for Christmas, there’s no way to pick—except to use a Magic 8 Ball app and split her existence into two separate universes so we the readers can follow the consequences of each option. This fuzzy rom-com book bends the possibilities of fiction and explores life through the lens of anxiety.

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“Bad Call” by Stephen Wallenfels
Four guys escape boarding school for an epic camping trip to Yosemite. What can go wrong? First, one boy pulls out. Another brings along a strange girl. There’s a forest fire at their campsite—and a snow storm. Bad decision piles on bad decision, and when one boy doesn’t return to the tent, everyone must determine for themselves who can be trusted. A slow start with plenty of backstory makes for an exciting conclusion that invests the reader in each character’s outcome and explores the possible consequences of a few bad choices.

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