Oskar and the Eight Blessings
Richard Simon and Tanya Simon
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Roaring Brook Press, 2015
From the dust jacket, “It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. Oskar, a refugee from the horrors of Nazi Europe, arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he’s never met. As he walks the length of Manhattan, he encounters the sights of the city at holiday time—and receives small acts of kindness from its people, each in its way welcoming him to the city and a life in the new world.
“Vividly capturing the atmosphere of New York, and referencing events that took place in the city in 1938, this timeless and heartwarming tale … celebrates the power of new beginnings and the uplifting spirit of the holiday season.”
While the story is important – as a means to begin a discussion of the Holocaust and man’s seemingly endless desire to destroy mankind – the illustrations are the real story. Honestly, the book could be with no words at all and the reader would still be moved. The deep, soulful expressions in not only Oskar’s eyes, but in all of the characters are powerful. Especially through Oskar’s eyes, so much emotion is communicated, the reader can feel the cold, the loneliness, the fear, and finally, the joy.
Rating 4 out of 5 paws – a beautiful book to be shared by Jew and non-Jew, whether during Hanukkah, or anytime you need to be reminded that in spite of the cruelty of man against man, there is the greater good of man blessing man and good will always triumph over evil.
Stowaway in a Sleigh
C. Roger Mader
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
From the dust jacket, “The cat’s out of the bag and adventure awaits! When Slipper finds Mr. Furry Boots in her house, she does what any cat would do and investigates. But curiosity gets the best of her when she finds herself on a trip she hadn’t planned on taking…
“Join Slippers as she discovers that the best journey is the one home – especially for the holidays.”
This book is beautifully illustrated and sparingly narrated. The pictures really don’t need words – the author could have gone completely wordless and the story wouldn’t have been any less enjoyable. A lovely, calming story to read to kittens, especially on Christmas Eve, in anticipation of Mr. Furry Boots’ arrival with toys, even for cats!
If you love beautiful books, put this one on your Christmas wish list – we did!
Rating 5 out of 5 paws for a heartwarming story with illustrations both gorgeous and dreamy.
Here Comes Santa Cat
Pictures by Claudia Rueda
Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin, 2014
From the dust jacket, “Ho, ho…who? Cat! Not again. the holidays are around the corner, and Cat knows what he has to do. But being nice…it doesn’t come naturally. Still, Christmas is a time of year for miracles and with a little luck, even Cat may find the holiday spirit—and a festive surprise of his own.”
Cat is one of LoC’s favorite recurring characters. I reviewed “Here Comes Easter Cat” and “Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat” earlier this year (click on the titles for those reviews) and I even have one more, but that one doesn’t come out until next year. Love, love, love “Here Come … Cat” books! His expressions are priceless! In the illustrations below you’ll see what I mean. The book is written to be read aloud – at least that’s the way I read it – I like to read it to my fursiblings so they can laugh, too.
In this book, Cat dresses up as Santa so he can give himself a Christmas gift – he doesn’t quite understand the process of giving just yet. But he learns and gets a very special treat in the end! Maybe this would be a good book for some naughty kittens out there so they can learn to be nice!! No negatives on these pages. Just wonderful, fabulous, laugh-out-loud-funny Cat!!!!
Rating 5 out of 5 paws – and we wouldn’t have it any other way!!!!
Christmas in the Barn
Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Diane Goode
HarperCollinsPublishers, 1952, 2004
From the dust jacket, “What child is this / Who is born here / Where the oxen / Stomp and peer … . When Christmas in the Barn was first published in 1952, it demonstrated all of Margaret Wise Brown’s mastery at skillfully fashioning a truly childlike interpretation of the Nativity story. For this larger, full-color edition, Caldecott Honor artist Diane Goode has created a new tableau of visitors to the barn that will please generations of new readers.”
In this interpretation of the Nativity, the setting is in winter, possibly a New England landscape with a modern couple lost (or wandering) the fields. The woman gives birth in a barn; the animals all stand around worshipfully while shepherds and wise men visit the newborn babe.
It’s a beautiful book and lovely story – the author lifted some of the phrases directly out of well-known Christmas carols (‘What child is this who is born’; ‘Away in a manger, no crib for his bed’) and combined them into a new rhyme that is soft and soothing in tone. Unfortunately, I found this sanitized version of Jesus’ birth to be too secularized. Yes, the story mimics the Bible story, but there is absolutely no mention of the Divine; so for me, it’s just a story about a man whose female companion gives birth in a barn. Without the inclusion of God in the story, it’s a bit empty and meaningless for a Christmas Story.
Rating 2 out of 5 paws because there’s no hint of the promise of a better world that even fully secular Christmas stories have.
Charlie and the Christmas Kitty
Illustrations by Diane deGroat
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2012
From the dust jacket: “Why is there a great big tree in the house?!? And why are all these boxes underneath it? Hey—what is that?!? Where did it come from? Uh oh. This isn’t good. … This isn’t good at all!
“In this hilarious follow-up to the New York Times bestselling picture book Charlie the Ranch Dog, Ree Drummond—the Pioneer Woman herself—delivers a story about getting into the holiday spirit and finding the good in all. Even though Charlie may not have put a kitty on his Christmas list, he learns that if you keep an open heart, new friends can come in unexpected packages.”
What a cute holiday story! Boy, is Charlie the basset hound surprised when he finds a kitten under the tree on Christmas morning! He’s so funny when he tries to ignore the kitten at first and then when he tries to scare him off with a big bark/howl. And then, poor guy, is surprised at the very end by another youngster! A very sweet and heartwarming story to read to your kittens during this season of cheer!
Rating 4 out of 5 paws for the sweet story and adorable illustrations.