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!!!

Thanksgiving Gratitude

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, a busy week for so many. People are traveling. People are baking and cooking and shopping. People are grieving. People are surrounded by others. People are lonely.

And me, my writer’s mind is blank, sent into hibernation by all the wonderful and difficult things this holiday brings to my life.

But my heart is full of gratitude for all the gorgeous people I get to surround myself with this week.

I’m so lucky.

Lily and Jasper Hugging

A few days ago, the kids and I plodded along with our old mutt, Dizzy, on a walk, and Jasper asked me if I could have a superpower, what would it be. I said I would end world poverty. And he replied, “What’s poverty?”

My kids, my kids are so lucky.

They don’t know poverty; Jasper doesn’t even know what the word means. So we talked about it. And he started to make connections. He’s had classmates that have slept in their cars, others who are on free breakfast and lunch at school. Lily has classmates who get to take meals home over the long weekends. Thank goodness because otherwise those kids might not eat much until they get back to school each Monday.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP),

21% of children in the U.S. live in families that are considered officially poor. 

For many of those kids, I’m betting books are low on the totem pole of their belongings. Poverty and illiteracy often go hand in hand.

Instead of reviewing a magical book this week, we thought we share with you a few of our favorite book-related charities to donate to, in case you want to spread some gratitude and kindness of the reading variety. I’ve taken these quotes from each organization’s website. Go explore and see what kindness and gratitude awaits you!

Project Night Night

“Project Night Night donates over 25,000 Night Night Packages each year to homeless children 12 and under who need our childhood essentials to have a concrete and predictable source of security and an increased exposure to high-quality literacy materials during their time of upheaval. Each Night Night Package contains a new security blanket, an age- appropriate children’s book, and a stuffed animal — all nestled inside of a new canvas tote bag. By providing objects of reliable comfort, Project Night Night reduces trauma and advances the emotional and cognitive well-being of the children we serve.”

World Literacy Foundation

“The World Literacy Foundation is a global not-for-profit organisation working to lift young people out of poverty through the power of literacy. We believe that every child should be able to read and write so they can enjoy lifelong learning and empowerment. We are committed to building strong partnerships, providing assistance to grassroots literacy organisations and maximizing our impact through innovative solutions that bring quality education materials to classrooms across the world.”

Project Literacy

“Project Literacy is a global campaign founded and convened by Pearson, the world’s learning company. The aim is to bring the power of words to the world, by building partnerships and driving action. Project Literacy exists to bring the power of words to everyone. So that by 2030, every child born can grow up to be a literate adult.”

Room to Read

“Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.”

And an easy one for lots of moms and dads out there…


Do your kids bring home the Scholastic Book Order form from school? Mine do, and once in a while we order from it, because how cool is it to get your book orders in class!! Well, I don’t know why I never noticed it before, but the book club form, when you fill in your order you can also chose to donate to kids in need. LOVE this idea, because I’m already filling out the order form and paying for a few books for my kids, and it is so easy to add a donation to the BOOK TRUST box at the bottom of the order form.

“Book Trust is a nonprofit organization empowering children from low-income families across America to choose and own books of their very own at no cost to them. Even $1 Supports Literacy for Kids in Need!”

Happy Thanksgiving Week Everyone!!!



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!


The Magician’s Elephant

The Magician’s Elephant

Written by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka, Published by: Candlewick Press, 2009


This book!!!!!

I can hardly find words to describe how stunning this brilliant piece of art is. Of all of Kate DiCamillo’s wonderful, award-winning books, this one is my favorite.

Although only ten-years-old, Peter Augustus Duchene seems wiser than his years. He lives with his guardian, an old soldier, in a city called Baltese. This charming, old city makes one think of old-world Europe from a long time ago, Prague, Budapest, Paris.

A cold, bleak winter shrouds this city, one to put you in mind of a Dickens’ winter.

“The skies were filled with thick, lowering clouds that obscured the sun and condemned the city to a series of days that resembled nothing so much as a single, unending dusk.”

Cold, hungry and lonely, and trying hard to “be a soldier, honorable and true,” Peter has one wish in his heart. He longs to find out if his younger sister is still alive.

A fortune teller, a magician who calls an elephant out of nowhere, a city full of people longing for something, and the beauty of magic, are all sewn together to create one of the most graceful stories I’ve ever read. It makes me cry every time.

I read this book to the kids aloud, and, if possible its beauty grew. DiCamillo’s words hum like poetry that reaches in and tugs on your heart. Each word, each page, each scene, all are exquisitely drawn. Yoko Tanaka’s gorgeous illustrations add another layer to that mystical old-world feeling.

This book is about being lost and found, longing and family, desire and hunger, darkness and light, grief and love, memories, despair and hope.

And most of all magic. Perhaps the magic of hope, or the hope of magic, that everything is somehow connected with a golden thread. The Magician’s Elephant overflows with magic, and not just the impossible, but the unique magic that lives in all of us, every person, every star. We are all of us stars, shining brightly.

For me the true meaning of this story can be found near the very end with the elephant.

“Sometimes, though, when she was walking through the tall grass or standing in the shade of the trees, Peter’s face would flash in front of her, and she was struck with a peculiar feeling of having been well and truly seen, of having at last been found, saved.”

We all want to be “well and truly seen” don’t we?

If you’re looking for a special book, find somewhere cozy to read, grab a copy of The Magician’s Elephant, and let Kate DiCamillo wave her magic wand over you. And here at Wild for Books, we feel this book is most magical when read aloud with someone you love.

Guest Post by Zoe Henry

Our friend, Zoe, age 9, from Bainbridge Island, Washington is here to write a guest post for Wild for Books on Raina Telgemeier’s awesome graphic novel, Ghosts.

First we want to tell you how crazy we are about Zoe (and her super parents, Shannin and Jason!)

Zoe at the Pumpkin Patch

Zoe was born 9 years ago with CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia) at Legacy Emanual Hospital in Portland, Oregon where doctors performed their medical mojo and saved her life.

Attached to a heart and lung bypass for the first two weeks of her life, Superhero Zoe has been smashing obstacles ever since. Surgeries, pneumonia, life flights, g-tubes, central lines, expensive medicines to keep her alive. No matter what this kid faces, she puts on her superhero cape and soars through life with passion, humor, intelligence, kindness and so much compassion!

Because Zoe’s lungs were unable to grow correctly she now has pulmonary hypertension, and boy are we hoping for a cure someday soon!!! (Find out how to donate to the Pulmonary Hypertension Foundation and other great resources at the end of the post!)

Lily and Zoe have been friends since they were babies and we miss her like crazy! And Lily loves Raina Telgemeier’s books too, so when we found out Zoe picked Ghosts for her fist ever book report, we invited her to share her review with Wild for Books. The character, Maya, has cystic fibrosis, and while it’s not the same as pulmonary hypertension, Zoe definitely can relate to a child who has trouble breathing.


By Raina Telgemeier

Review by Zoe Henry, Age 9

Maya and her sister Cat moved to a new town because Maya got sick. They met a boy named Carlos who does ghost walks. Then Maya got sick again from the ghosts taking her air. Then it was Halloween and Day of the Dead. They met the ghost of a little boy. They found out the ghosts are their ancestors’ family.

I like Ghosts because it’s about a girl who needs oxygen but is still strong and determined, and about Day of the Dead and Halloween night.


From Zoe’s mom, Shannin

She picked the book Ghosts because she loves that it is about a girl who has bad lungs and needs oxygen. We spent the last few weeks reading through the book together talking about how it feels to be sick, what traditions are, and how family is still with us even after they die, and different customs in different cultures. Heavy topics for a 9-year-old.

She then wrote this report by herself, we baked some Dia de los Muertos marigold and skull cupcakes and she’s bringing an oxygen canula to school to show her class after she recites her report. So freaking proud of this kid and her determination!

I love that Maya is a kid who isn’t scared. She looks for adventure and faces things with courage even when she doesn’t feel well. She’s a little girl having fun!

Dia de los Muertos Cupcakes


From Sara at Wild for Books

This graphic novel is such an enjoyable read, and the gorgeous pictures speak words of their own and draw you right into the scene. But it’s so much more than that. There are many heavy topics in this book, and Raina writes about them with such tenderness and compassion and insight. Cystic fibrosis, moving away to a new place and leaving all your friends behind, how siblings deal when they have a sick brother or sister, exploring different cultures, and ultimately, courage.

Currently there are no cures for cystic fibrosis or pulmonary hypertension. Both diseases have great foundations working towards finding cures if you’re interested in donating. I’ll share the links below as well as links to Make-A-Wish and Tiny Superheroes, two additional outstanding organizations for kids who are sick or have special needs.

Thanks for writing for us Zoe!! We miss you and love you!!

Here are 4 great places to donate if you’re interested!

Pulmonary Hypertension Association

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Make-A-Wish Foundation

Tiny Superheroes