Christmas Picture Book Reviews

I will be posting some fun Christmas Picture Books throughout the season, plus a couple of Hanukkah and one for Kwanzaa! I hope you enjoy them – I had fun reading and reviewing them! Here’s a preview (in no particular order – except the Christmas ones are alphabetical!)


Familiar Motives

familiar motives

Familiar Motives
A Witch’s Cat Mystery, Book 3

Delia James
Berkley Prime Crime, 2017

From the back of the book, “After learning that she comes from a family of witches—and adopting a familiar named Alistair—artist Annabelle Briton has made beautiful Portsmouth, New Hampshire, her home. Together with her coven, this good witch is trying to put a stop to magic and murder most foul.

“When Anna takes Alistair to see local veterinarian Ramona Forsythe, they meet the most famous cat in town: Ruby the Attitude Cat, spokes-feline for a pet food brand. But then Ramona turns up dead and Ruby goes missing. It seems like the murderer used magical means, so it’s up to Anna and Alistair to catch a killer and cat-napper as only a canny cat can.”

I’m really enjoying this series of books. I don’t mind the witchcraft – its presence in the story is minimal and the witches are always working for good and not evil. The star of the story is of course, Alistair, a thoroughly magical cat that can appear and disappear at will (I would love to know how to do that!). He is very important in solving the mystery, despite Anna’s frustration that he won’t do things her way. He’s a cat, after all! The mystery is totally engaging and I didn’t guess the murderer at all! The only thing negative I have is, that like the other two books, as soon as the mystery is solved, everything jumps ahead several weeks as the author is wrapping up the book. It’s a little too fast for me – after the slower pace of the story, the rapidity of the wrap-up is just too much. Slow it down, Delia! Let me savor saying goodbye to Anna and Alistair until the next book!!! I’m going to miss them!

Rating 4 out of 5 paws – fun, page-turning, and riveting cozy mystery to read on cold winter nights!!




The Memory Cupboard

memory cupboard a

The Memory Cupboard
A Thanksgiving Story

Charlotte Herman
Paintings by Ben F. Stahl
Albert Whitman & Company, 2003

From the dust jacket, “For Katie, nothing compares to Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. There’s an overnight train ride to Grandma’s house. There are the aunts and uncles, whom Katie loves to see each year. Most of all, there is Grandma, who stays close to Katie though they live far apart.

“But a cherished object is broken at dinner, and Katie blames herself for spoiling the day. Then Grandma shows Katie her memory cupboard. And Katie realizes that though we grow attached to our possessions, it is people who really matter.”

For cats who are clumsy like me, it’s good to have a loving and forgiving mom! And that’s the crux of this story – as the publisher stated, felines are more important than things! I’ve broken a few things in my long life and mom may have initially been upset but she always remembers things can be replaced but I cannot.

This book is a good one for the whole family to read and although it takes place at Thanksgiving, the story is good all year ‘round. I love the interaction between Katie and Grandma – there’s lots of love between them and it feels good to read about.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws because of the warm fuzzies I got while reading it!

Reviewer: thanks-danaSimon


Thanksgiving Is…

thanksgiving is a

Thanksgiving Is…

Gail Gibbons
Holiday House, 2004

From the dust jacket: “Thanksgiving is turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. It is parades with giant balloons.  It is a holiday for remembering the Pilgrims and the Indians they met. Most of all, it is a time to share with family and friends, and a time to give thanks for many blessings.”

The author of this picture book gives the reader a nice overview of why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, both past and present. She also covers harvest festivals of the way, way back past – like ancient Egypt and Greece as well as the Middle Ages. The illustrations are nice watercolors of mostly the same face just in different clothing. There aren’t enough persons of color in the scenes, but like I said the paintings are nice.

Rating 3 out of 5 paws because the overall message of the book is to be thankful for our many blessings!

Reviewer:thanks-dana Simon


Ban This Book

ban this book

Ban This Book

Alan Gratz
Starscape, A Tom Doherty Associates Book, 2017

From the dust jacket, “It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read.

“Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned-books library out of her locker. As word spreads Amy Anne’s locker stash quickly grows into a school-wide sensation. Soon, she and her friends find themselves on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what kids can read.”

In the beginning of this wonderful book, Amy Anne is as quiet as a mouse. At nine-years-old she lives with 2 busy parents, 2 younger sisters and 2 Rottweilers – which equals a very chaotic house. She seeks solitary refuge in the school library and books. As the dust jacket blurb relates, the banning of her favorite book (a book about kids running away from home, which she dreams of doing) forces her outside herself to take action. The book is really about two things: one, the arbitrary banning of books; and, two, learning to stand up for what you believe in, even if it makes others (and you) uncomfortable.

This is well-written, thoughtful and a page-turner. It was good to read about Amy Anne struggle to transform herself from mouse to lion and succeed. She is an excellent role model for anyone who wants to do the same. And bravo to the author for including in Amy Anne’s locker library books that have been banned by various libraries across the country.

Rating 5 out of 5 paws for learning to stand-up for yourself and the freedom to read!



A sampling of banned books in Amy Anne’s locker library:

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

All the June B. Jones books by Barbara Park

All the Captain Underpants books by Dave Pilkey

All the Goosebumps books by R. L. Stine