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December Book Picks!

By Danielle Mahoney on December 7, 2010

There is a buzz of seasonal celebration in the air! Get ready to plan for read-alouds and literacy activities that will match your students' holiday excitement. With so many great stories to share, this month's booklist has something for everybody. From Hanukkah to Christmas, we'll explore a wide range of holiday traditions, old and new. Take a look and gather new resources as you click on the links and find out more about these incredible authors and illustrators. Enjoy the wonders of the season!



Miss Mahoney's December Book Picks!



Books to Inspire New Holiday Traditions

Elfonashelf The Elf on the Shelf by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell

How will Santa know if your students have been naughty or nice? Tell them the Elf on the Shelf is watching! Start up a new tradition by adopting an elf into your classroom. Have your students come up with the perfect name for your elf and then do some persuasive writing. Visit the virtual schoolhouse for lesson plans across grade levels, and cook up some kid-friendly dishes from a virtual cookbook available for FREE on the Elf on the Shelf Web site!


Orangeforfrankie An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

I recently read this book for the first time and found myself reaching for a box of tissues. Patricia Polacco is an incredible writer who shares a family tradition with her readers as she tells the story of Frankie, a thoughtful young boy who anxiously awaits his father's arrival on Christmas Day. The family's efforts to "give back" to Frankie at the end of the story will have you running out to buy oranges to share with your own students.



Christmascookies Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

If you haven't seen Amy Krouse Rosenthal's short films 17 Things I Made and The Beckoning of Lovely, take a few minutes to observe the creative and thoughtful work of this special author. When you're finished, cue up Amy's TEDx conference "7 Notes on Life." You might be inspired to follow some of Amy's advice. In Christmas Cookies, she helps young readers understand words like anticipation, tradition, appreciative, prosperity, perseverance, lonely, and charitable, all through the context of baking. The delicious cookie recipe may inspire your students to bake up a batch and start sharing! 


Latkesandapplesauce Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story by Fran Manushkin

Don't put away the pots and pans just yet. Get inspired to cook up some latkes with your students! Learn about Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, as Rebecca and Ezra take on two stray animals who are hungry and left out in the cold. Although the family hardly has enough food for themselves, they take in the animals and hope for a miracle. Read the story to find out how the family finds more than enough food to celebrate the holidays.




Sevencandleskwanzaa Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Compare and contrast this African American festival with other holiday traditions. Be sure to check out Scholastic's Seven Candles for Kwanzaa discussion guide to help you introduce your students to the seven principles that are the heart of all Kwanzaa celebrations.



Holidaysaroundtheworld Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Christmas With Carols, Presents, and Peace by Deborah Heiligman

National Geographic is famous for the incredible photography featured in their magazines. The beautiful photos in this book capture the uniqueness of holiday traditions around the world. Did you know that in Hawaii Santa arrives on a boat!? (Makes sense, right?) Flip through the pages, and you'll learn how to make a memory book with your students.



GiftofnothingThe Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell

While your students are busy writing out their holiday wish lists, inspire them to think about the presents they can give to others that can't be bought in a fancy toy store. Follow the example set by Mooch as he searches for the perfect gift for his best friend, Earl. What's a better gift to receive than the gift of friendship? Link this book to Patrick McDonnell's Mutts comic strip to inspire your writers to create a comic strip of their own.



Christmasmakesmethink Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina

New Yorker Tony Medina writes about his experiences getting involved in his community as a young boy. Before reading the book, activate prior knowledge by asking your students what they think of when they hear the word Christmas. Then, read the book and have students come up with plans of action that involve giving back to the community in their own special way. Lee & Low Books offers lesson plans to get you started. 




Favorite Characters!

Madeline_s_ChristmasMadeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans

Everyone is sick, and Madeline is doing her best to take care of her eleven friends as well as Miss Clavel. Start off the holidays with some character work as your students use specific character traits and evidence from the text to describe Madeline. 





OliviaOlivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer

This book is full of the type of mischief and adventure you can expect from Olivia the pig. As you read it to your students, you might find yourself chuckling right along with them, as it is quite funny! It might be interesting to use this book as a mentor writing text this month, as Ian Falconer switches up font styles and sizes, inserts fold-out pages, uses lots of dialogue and ellipses. . . as well as long and short sentences. Have students combine real photographs with drawings in their student illustrations for the full effect! 




A Charlie Brown ChristmasA Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz

Teach your students how to examine character interactions as you read this classic story during Reading Workshop. The text is loaded with descriptive language and adjectives that can be lifted out of the book and into your students' writing. You can certainly use this book as a springboard for conversations on bullying and treating people with respect. 




Mrs-wishy-washy-s-christmasMrs. Wishy-Washy’s Christmas by Joy Cowley

If you teach kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade, you might already be familiar with good ol’ Mrs. Wishy-Washy. Your students will be reading along with you as the animals try to convince her NOT to give them baths on such a snowy day. Packed with lots of great verbs, your students can act out the various ways the animals sneak into the house to take a bath in the warm tub, instead.



Giggle Your Way Through the Holidays!

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

Here's a fun read-aloud that will have your students laughing out loud. (You will enjoy it, too.) Witness what happens when Olive the dog misunderstands Santa's special announcement asking "Olive, the Other Reindeer," to report to the North Pole for duty. After you read it to your students, have them sit back, relax, and watch the movie version of the book. (Drew Barrymore does a fantastic job as the voice of Olive.)




Oldladybell There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell! by Lucille Colandro

OH, yes, the Old Lady is back again, and this time you won't believe what she attempts to swallow! Your students will have lots of fun trying to remember the sequence of events as the Old Lady helps get Santa ready for his Christmas deliveries!





WheredidtheyhidemypresentsWhere Did They Hide My Presents? by Alan Katz

Combine Alan Katz's silly lyrics with David Catrow's hysterical illustrations and you've got one funny songbook.  As you sing these silly songs to the tunes of your old favorites, you’ll have students begging you to perform an encore! You're sure to get a kick out of “Something in My Brother’s Underpants,” sung to the tune of “Winter WOnderland.”

Don't take my word for it! Here's the first verse . . . give it a try!


Doorbell rings

Gee, who is it?

Party guests

Christmas visit

The mood is so swell

But what is that smell?

Something in my brother’s underpants.


Celebrate Winter Holidays!

Do you need clip art, printables, or lesson plan ideas for the special holiday activities taking shape in your classroom? Explore Scholastic.com's Celebrate Winter Holidays collection of amazing resources for all of your winter holiday needs. The article "December Celebrations" offers up additional titles and activities for you to share with your students.





Still on the lookout for December books? Visit Scholastic.com's "Holiday Picture Books for Preschoolers," well as THE AMAZING Beth Newingham's December top ten listBe sure to read #3 on her list for exciting activities you can work on while reading The Polar Express

With so many great books to read this month, I couldn't possibly list them all. What are some of your seasonal favorites?

Comments (7)

Karen! I got your email with the amazing photos of the work your students produced as well as the bulletin board inspired by, The Gift of Nothing. Thanks so much for sharing them with me. The kids did a terrific job- and their teacher is pretty amazing, too! It's true. . . some gifts can't be wrapped. =)

As far as respect goes. . . I'll see what I can recommend once I get back into my office. I'm currently working on a Martin Luther King Jr. project that might work well with your theme. It should be posted soon! Thanks again for taking the time to email me those great photos!! It was a real treat to see their work.

Hope you have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

=) Danielle

Hi Danielle, I just pulled my January files... my next character trait is Respect. oops! :) Thanks!

awwww, thanks Danielle. I am definitely going to check out your recommendations. My class teases me because there are so many books that get me teary... I'll see if I can muster up the courage to read The Faithful Elephant. :)

Speaking of courage... that is our January character trait. I focus on trying new things, facing a personal challenge, and being an "upstander" when others are teasing or being bystanders. I appreciate your willingness to help.

I will send you a picture of the bulletin board. I am just waiting for a few stragglers to finish up.

Again, thank you for all of your help, inspiration and great ideas!

Enjoy your well deserved holiday break.


Hi Karen!

Great hearing from you again! I don’t how that Polacco book escaped me as well! The ending was fantastic. The sight of Frankie’s orange on the last page did me in. This book is now one of my favorites.

Wow, the work you guys put into the character theme sounds amazing. . . It’s nice to hear that you share ideas and resources with your colleagues. I would love to see what the hallway bulletin boards look like! Can you take photos and email them to me!? =) Thanks! danielle@seedsoflovecares.com

Ok, as for compassion --- you HAVE to read The Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya. Oh my goodness, talk about CRYING?!? What a book.

And, you have to read, The Present by Bob Gill. It was actually my first Christmas present this year! It was given to me this weekend by a very good friend. I’ve invited myself into her classroom to read it to her students tomorrow. Love, love, love it.

I really do love picture books. . . What’s your character theme for January? I’ll start digging through my baskets now!

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love the feedback. Hearing about what is useful to you will really help me to plan for future posts.

I hope that you have a great holiday! Rest and enjoy some time off!

=) Danielle

Another great list! Thanks Danielle!

I have mentioned that my school focuses on different character traits each month. December's trait is compassion. I shared An Orange for Frankie with my class. I am a huge Paticia Polacco fan, but did not know this one. Of course, I had difficulty getting through the last page. But it tied in nicely with compassion. There were so many compassionate characters in the story.

I also used A Gift of Nothing. My kids LOVED the book. They thought the characters were so cute. From there, they wrote about a gift they can give someone this holiday season that cannot be wrapped, like friendship, kindness, love, etc. They did such a nice job. I shared it with my colleagues and we made a hallway bulletin board of it.

Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful ideas with us. I love your monthly book picks. I read to my class a couple of times a day and it's so wonderful to have such a helpful source. I know it's a lot of work, but keep them coming. :)

Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday and Happy New Year! ~Karen

Hey Josh! You know, I'm pretty sure that I saw that one in the Lucky Book Club catalog for November. I got so crazed with Thanksgiving that I never got around to placing the order. =( Looks like I'm going to have to go back and grab it!

Thank you! =) Danielle

I have a book (new to me) called Eight Crazy Nights. It's a comedic spin on what happens at Hannukah. My kiddos love it. :)


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