Our Favorite Holiday Picture Books

Every December one of our favorite family traditions is to get a new holiday book to add to our collection. I love unpacking them every December and seeing the kids’ reactions to them. “Oh I remember this one!” “I forgot all about this book!” “I love this one!”

So today we give you three of our old favorites and a special new one for this year’s pick.

 

Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh Illustrated by J. Otto Seibold

This is one of my all time faves. I have had this book since I was a teacher in Los Angeles, and the story is warm and wonderful. Olive, the dog hears the Christmas Carol, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and thinks they are singing “Olive, the other reindeer,” instead of “All of the other reindeer.”

She goes on a super fun journey to join the reindeer team, and help Santa deliver gifts. We see it all in gorgeous, fun illustrations of Seibold.

 

 

 

Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

Oh! What a delightful book about a spoiled rotten girl, Sophie Kringle, her spoiled rotten, little brother, and her family who all live “High atop the luxurious Bing Cherry Hotel in New York City.” Sophie adores her eccentric aunt, Auntie Claus, but can’t figure out where she disappears to every year between Halloween and Valentine’s Day. This year Sophie stows away and follows her aunt all the way to the North Pole.

Mistaken for an elf, Sophie gets put to work, and working as an elf at Christmas time is hard. But the worst surprise of all for Sophie is that her brother’s name is on the Bad-Boys-and-Girls list, the list of kids who get NO presents.

Open the pages to this delightfully illustrated book and find out what Sophie decides to do. This book will wrap you in the special feeling of Christmas and the precious words of Auntie Claus, “It is far better to give than it is to receive!”

Auntie Clause has a few other fabulous adventures in more books too!

 

Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas: Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve by Walter Wick

This is Jasper’s favorite, actually my kids fight over this one. I know, I know, how lovely to say my kids fight over a Christmas book. Good parenting there, huh! It’s just so much fun to search and find on every page of holiday-themed photographs.

Along with a list on each page of hidden items, don’t forget to find the wooden elf doll who first appears on the title page. This book will give you hours of puzzle solving fun!

 

 

 

And this year’s beauty, drum roll please…Red and Lulu by author and illustrator, Matt Tavares!

Red and Lulu are a pair of cardinals who live “in the branches of a mighty evergreen.” For Red and Lulu, this is the perfect tree in the perfect location, especially at Christmastime when people sing to the tree. But one day when Red flies off in search of food, someone chops the tree down and takes it away, and with it, Lulu who’s tucked into its branches.

Red follows his tree and his love, Lulu all the way to New York City where he finds them in Rockefeller Center. The tree is beautifully decorated, people are singing to it, and Lulu is safe.

Red and Lulu make a new home in Central Park where they can see each year’s Christmas Tree, and sing along with the carolers. It’s such a sweet story, but it’s the AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS illustrations that bring this story to life. Sometimes the art tells more of the journey than the words. Treat yourself to this special book this year.

Happy Holidays!!!

Eleven All-Time Favorite Pictures Books!

This list is dedicated to our friend Barb Hummel. Barb is one of those gorgeous, special people you feel lucky to meet in your life. She just makes everyone around her feel important and unique and wonderful.

I met her through my sister and like many of my sister’s gems, I’m going to claim her as mine too! She reminds my sister and I of our mom, and that is pretty awesome in itself.

Barb asked us what some of our all-time favorite books are for kids ages 3-6. Naming our favorites was easy; narrowing that list down to something manageable for a blog post was nearly impossible!

Lily, Jasper and I agreed on eleven. They are not in any particular order, and we could probably come up with fifty more of our favorites, that’s how much we love picture books, and how many amazing ones there are floating around in the world.

But for now, here are some we’ve loved for a long time. And even though Lily and Jasper are moving on to chapter books, these eleven books are still on our shelf today!

Eleven All-Time Favorite Picture Books!

1. Listen to My Trumpet! by Mo Willems

Every single book by Mo Willems is awesome!! But Elephant & Piggy, the two main characters in this series of books, are so much fun! They are silly, charming, and seem to always end on a beautiful note about friendship.

In this book, Piggy tries to impress Gerald with her trumpet playing, but the noise is so bad, Gerald doesn’t know what to do because he doesn’t want to hurt Piggy’s feelings.

For kids this age who are becoming more engaged in books and learning how to read, these books are unique with their simple but awesome illustrations, huge fonts, and easy words & phrases on each page. It’s hard to say which one is our favorite, but Listen to My Trumpet makes Jasper laugh every time we read it.

 

2. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Pictures by Oliver Jeffers

This book and its sequel are so clever and witty with each color crayon writing letters to their owner, Duncan. Some of the colors are thankful for their life, some whine, some request new things to color, two of the colors are even fighting over who should really get to color the sun.

At the end there’s a gorgeous drawing done in colors you might not think of, like orange for a whale and black for a rainbow. The final illustration is full of joy and makes us think that it’s okay to do things differently, sometimes it’s even brilliant!

 

3. Wag! by Patrick McDonnell

Another favorite author! Patrick McDonnell is one of those writers who says so much with few words. It’s seriously hard to pick a favorite book of his because they are all so wonderful and precious.

But Wag is all about love, and how Earl shows his love by wagging his tail. This book is pure love, it’s a wonderful tribute to dogs, and it’s simply beautiful. If you or your kids are animal lovers, this one is a keeper and will make you feel warm and fuzzy every time you read it.

 

4. A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

Talk about special books that touch your heart!!!

A stranded abandoned bus appears in Stella’s front yard in her eclectic, busy, perhaps-not-so-safe neighborhood and brings Stella out of her shell.  She decides to keep the bus and clean it up. Her neighbors gather to help her, and together they all create a cool, fun hang-out place where everyone is welcome, no matter your gender, race, religion, age, even dogs are welcome!

But then the bus gets towed away!!!! NO!

Open up the pages of this precious and fun adventure to see what the neighborhood, and especially Stella does, and see whether or not they get Heaven back.

The sparrows nesting in the engine of the bus are my absolute favorite part, that and watching Stella kick butt in table soccer! Go Stella!

 

5. LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

We love the pictures and rhyming words in this gorgeous book!

LMNO Peas is hands down the best, silliest alphabet book I’ve ever read! When they were younger and learning their letters, this book could keep my kids entertained forever! And the tiny peas riding their bikes, knitting, gardening, skateboarding, doing every day things are super cute.

See if you can find the ladybug on each page. If you love this book, there’s an entire series starring the peas!

 

 

 6. The Scrambled States Of America by Laurie Keller

What a hilarious, clever adventure for the whole family – errr, I mean country.

You’d think the states would be perfectly content where they are, nestled in, fitting perfectly together like a puzzle. Wrong! Kansas is  sad and bored. Kansas wants adventure. So Kansas and her best friend, Nebraska, throw a party for all the states so they can all switch places.

Whoo – Wee!! Talk about a scrambled up mess. You might just giggle your butt off reading this book and discovering whether the states can ever put themselves back together or not. You’ll have so much fun, you might not even realize you’re learning! Again, there are more books and board games starring these goofy states.

Laurie Keller is awesome!!! I absolutely love a picture book that can entertain an adult as well as a child and Laurie Keller pulls it off!!

 

7. Lost & Found by Oliver Jeffers

We love everything by Oliver Jeffers. His words are gorgeous, but that’s nothing compared to his illustrations, which will knock you over with their beauty.

A penguin arrives on the boy’s doorstep and the boy thinks of everything he can to get the poor penguin back to his home at the South Pole Only, the penguin doesn’t want to go home, he wants companionship. The moment when the boy realizes this is both poignant and lovely.

And Holy Cow! My favorite page is the last one, the illustration of looking down through the water over the whales, stunning!

 

 

8. Cars & Trucks & Things That Go! By Richard Scarry

We had Richard Scarry books when I was a kid and they are still as fun as ever.

Follow all the animals on their adventures in cars, in trucks, in all kinds of vehicles that go, and while you’re at it, see if you can find the small, gold bug on each page.

It’s a book, and it’s a puzzle, and it is so much fun!

 

 

 

9. Otis by Loren Long

Otis, a sweet, old tractor, and a calf become friends on an idyllic farm only to be torn apart when a SHINY, NEW, HUGE tractor comes to the farm and the farmer puts Otis out to pasture.

With a broken heart, Otis becomes depressed and doesn’t know what to do, until one day his calf is stuck in the pond and the only one who can save her is Otis.

This is the first adventure for Otis, but he stars in many wonderful books, including one with a puppy, one with a tornado, and there’s even a Christmas adventure!

 

 

10. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

Iggy Peck, Architect is the first in a stupendous series about super smart, creative kids (BOYS & GIRLS) who color outside the lines, if you will.

Iggy Peck loves to build, and he’ll use any materials he can get his hands on to build amazing structures. That is until he enters second grade and his teacher won’t let him build.

What’s a child to do now that he’s bored silly in class? Things are not going well for Iggy, until the class gets into a situation where they might need his stupendous smarts.

The story, along with the gorgeous illustrations, is bound to become a favorite of yours too!

 

And no list in the Ohlin house of favorite books would be complete with at least one of Calvin & Hobbes adventures.

 

11. The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson’s comics are our favorite comics ever!

Calvin and Hobbes are hilarious, sarcastic, and full of life! Lily and Jasper love how Calvin uses big words and never wants to do his homework, and they love to see what schemes Hobbes comes up with to pounce on Calvin.

Any of the Calvin and Hobbes collections are wonderfully entertaining, and will provide you with hours of adventures with a little boy and his tiger.

 

We hope you enjoy our favorites and we’d love to know what yours are! Happy reading!

 

BOO! A Few Tricks & Treats for Your Halloween Library

October is the month for goblins and ghosts and all things creepy, including a few spooky Halloween books for your haunted house.

I’m a tiny bit scared to admit this, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween. Maybe it’s the introvert in me, maybe it’s the trauma from my childhood Halloween costumes, most of which I made myself, maybe it’s just all that black and orange, maybe I just don’t like to be spooked. Who knows! But Lily & Jasper love Halloween!!! They have forced me to engage, even when I just want to hide under the covers.

And, it turns out, we do have some spookily awesome books to share with you that fit deliciously into the trick or treat basket. Here are our 3 Favorite Spooky Halloween Books. We know there are more out there, but please don’t scare me anymore!

 

1. Creepy Carrots

Words by Aaron Reynolds, Illustrations by Peter Brown

This book has been one of our favorites for the last few years!

It’s a fun, silly adventure about a rabbit who’s afraid of carrots because they seem to be haunting him and following him everywhere! The rabbit’s name is Jasper which is an awesome characteristic about it for one particular kid in this house. And the creative, dark illustrations are by Peter Brown, who we adore!

Are the carrots really haunting Jasper Rabbit, or is he losing his mind? And what will he do to solve this frightening problem? Dive in to find out.

If you love this one, the amazing duo of Reynolds and Brown just came out with another adventure for Jasper Rabbit called, Creepy Pair of Underwear.

 

 

2. I Love You More Than the Smell of Swamp Gas

Words & Pictures by Kevan Atteberry


Okay, this book is AWESOME!! It’s hilarious, clever, spooky fun for all the little monsters in your life.

Are monsters allowed to be cute? Well these monsters certainly are. The pages in this book are full of super cute “scary” creatures. A parent monster and child monster creep through the forest meeting purple-horned skunks and bloodsucking ducks, creatures hidden and not, while the parent monster describes all the ways he loves the little one.

Come along through the swampy forest as they dance over toe biting stones, encounter mummified bass, and banter their love back and forth. And just try to resist a snuggle with those seriously adorable spiders!

It’s gross and sticky and stinky and so creative! Everything little kids love, including the safe, goodnight-tuck-into-bed at the end. And it’s our favorite Kevan Atteberry book ever!

“Do you love me as much

as the BUBBLING SLIME

that covers our feet

in a THICK GOOEY GRIME?”

“I treasure you more

than the SLOW OOZING MUCK

squished through our toes

as we pull them unstuck.”

 

4. Serafina and the Black Cloak

by Robert Beatty

This creepy book shrouded in mysteries might give me nightmares! Consider yourself warned. Lily and I discovered this book at the same time, and when she said she was reading it at school, and that I “had to read it!” I wondered if it might fit into our Halloween Spook Fest, and IT DOES!!!

12-year-old Serafina lives a hidden life in the basement of Biltmore Estate with her father. No one knows of her existence and her father insists she keep it this way. Nocturnal by nature, not afraid of the dark or long hidden hallways in the underbelly of this mansion, Serafina prides herself on being the CRC (Chief Rat Catcher) for Biltmore. Yes, she catches rats, ewwwwweeee!!! Remember, I said, nightmares are possible.

Like all young heroes and heroines, Serafina finds herself no longer content with her life the way it is. She wonders where she came from, what happened to her mother, why her father doesn’t want anyone to know about her, and her greatest wish is to be seen. When a freaky, disgusting creature in a black cloak starts “disappearing” children from the estate, in an eerie, spooky, nightmarish way, Serafina embarks on a journey into the forbidden forest, full of demons, to save the children and ultimately unravel the mystery of her own life.

Lily says, “There’s lots of spooky, creepy detail in this book so you feel like you are there, and it’s especially creepy when the man in the black cloak is devouring children, because there’s this rattling sound,” Yep, creep factor 1000!

Looking for a strong, unique, and clever heroine for a middle grade reader in your Frankenstein clan, Serafina is the girl for you. And I love that we just discovered her, and that it’s a series so we can read more about her in Serafina and the Twisted Staff, and Serafina and the Splintered Heart.

Have a safe, spooky, haunted Halloween everyone!

All the World

All the World

by Liz Garton Scanlon, Illustrated by Marla Frazee

2009 Beach Lane Books

 

This is one of my all-time favorite picture books, for so many reasons. The poetic words and luminous illustrations combine to form a dreamlike, special world where all of us belong.

A family enjoys a day at the beach, farmers gather at the market, a crowd rushes into a café to escape the rain, people play music and share meals. So much simple goodness.

Liz Garton Scanlon’s words read like poetry and express the most beautiful sentiments.

“Nest, bird, feather, fly

All the world has got its sky.”

And

“Nana’s, papa’s cousins, kin

Piano, harp and violin

Babies passed from neck to knee

All the world is you and me”

Every page bursts with Marla Frazee’s gorgeous illustrations from the ocean cliffs, to the pouring rain, and each brilliant phase of the night sky.

My favorite scene is the illustration of the sun setting and the words, “All the world can hold quite still.” When the words and the illustrations meet in perfect harmony like this, it casts its spell on you and makes one want to read it in a hushed reverent tone. It’s magical.

“Hope and peace and love and trust. All the world is all of us.”

This book makes me happy. It renews my faith in a world where all are welcome and loved and connected, and where the seemingly hardest things, like peace, are still possible.