Deer Santa (Hannah Eliot)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Deer Santa, written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Kathryn Selbert, a sweet animal pun-themed Christmas board book.

As Christmas creeps closer, a gaggle of animal pals are writing their holiday wishlists and notes for Santa! Deer wants some sparkly lights, Skunk wants some perfume, Mouse is hoping for a tasty piece of cheese. And while all the animals are hoping for their wishes to be granted, they know what matters most: Christmas spirit and friendship.

Very cute! The interactive element of this little title is the most engaging part: pull-tab notes featuring puns using the species of animal on each page, like “Bear-y Christmas” and “Joy to the squirrel!”. The cheerful rhyming text and charming, festive woodland illustrations support this clever conceit very well, and make for a very enjoyable read for young bookworms. It’s a good length for a toddler-aged storytime, and JJ loved the little pull-out notes. A great stocking-stuffer for very young readers, and we liked it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Santa Jaws (Bridget Heos)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Santa Jaws, written by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Galia Bernstein, a fin-tastic holiday title that combines the Christmas holiday with the awesomeness of sharks.

While kids are preparing for Santa Claus up on dry land, the toothy titans of the deep are excited for their own seasonal visitor: Santa Jaws! Elfin sharks help make toys from shells and coral, cookiecutter sharks are baking up crispy and sweet treats. And on Christmas night, Santa Jaws will board his underwater sled (pulled by hammerheads), check his list, and leave gifts for all the good little shark pups – only taking a nibble of them for himself (to test them out, of course).

Jawesome, festive, fishy fun. For the bookworm who is SUPER into sharks – and we all know at least one kid who is – this is the perfect mix of holiday silliness and marine biology education. While the premise and story are a product of the imagination, the book still introduces eight different real-life species of shark, drawn cartoonishly but with anatomical accuracy; backmatter provides brief information about each one. The artwork is delightful, mixing a natural marine palette of blues, greens, and sandy whites with touches of coral and Christmas cheer. The length is perfect for a storytime, the rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and JJ really enjoyed this one. A great mix of genres that balances learning and entertainment, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

How Many Sleeps ‘Til Christmas? (Joff Brown & Gabriele Tafuni)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How Many Sleeps ‘Til Christmas? by Joff Brown and Gabriele Tafuni, a delightful holiday board book to help readers countdown to Christmas.

It’s that time of year again, the time when so many of us are asking: how many sleeps ‘til Christmas? Still, while we wait for the magic day, there’s plenty of holiday fun and festivities to partake in – shopping for presents, making gingerbread houses, making paper chains, decorating the tree… and maybe a few extra-magical holiday moments as well! Before you know it, the countdown will be over, and Christmas will be here!

Happy, cheerful holiday fun. This festive little title celebrates the Christmas holiday in all the ways kids love, from family activities like wrapping gifts and playing in snow to more enchanted and silly moments like snowmen having dance parties and reindeer practicing their flight patterns, all leading up to Christmas Day. Even better, the cozy, colorful illustrations feature a wonderfully diverse cast of families: multigenerational, LGBTQ+, single-parent, mixed-race, and in wonderful mix of skintones and body types. One child wears hearing aids, though this does result in the only hiccup of the book – a page in which Santa is sneaking around the hearing-impaired child’s room that features the line “if you listen closely”. A cringey oversight, but otherwise this was a treat to read aloud. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the bouncy rhymes and holiday theming. A wonderful way to celebrate the countdown to Christmas, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Little Owl & The Big Tree: A Christmas Story (Jonah Winter & Jeanette Winter)

Hello friends! Our book today is The Little Owl & The Big Tree: A Christmas Story by Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter, the true tale of a little owl and a big adventure.

Once upon a time, there was a little owl – a northern saw-whet owl, to be exact – living in a small hole near the top of a very tall tree. She didn’t have a name, as wild things rarely do, but she was happy and peaceful in her quiet woodland home. That is, until the day the voices and noises came. Suddenly, the little owl found her tree felled, wrapped up, and driving for many hours on busy highways. Where is she headed? When will she get there? And will she find her way back to the wild?

A complicated story covered with delicate grace. Based on the true-life story of Rockefeller the owl, who was discovered during the preparation of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020, this sweet story of nature and man colliding takes an interesting direction on its subject. The gentle and easy-to-read text tells the owl’s story with fondness yet pragmatism. Humans are not portrayed as monsters for messing with Rockefeller’s natural habitat, nor as heroes for rehabilitating and releasing her after her ordeal. Rockefeller is never overly personified or anthropomorphized, and the audience is repeatedly reminded that she is a wild creature and is meant to be returned to nature (which she is, though not to her home). It’s an oddly bittersweet tone that actually works perfectly for the story itself, encouraging readers to consider how humans impact the wilderness, for better or worse. The artwork is well done, using color and energy to reflect the owl’s moods rather than facial expressions, keeping with the story’s themes. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed the soft illustrations and adorable owl. A complex book, and one definitely worth checking out. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Paperscapes: The Nutcracker (Lauren Holowaty & Margarida Esteves)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Paperscapes: The Nutcracker, retold by Lauren Holowaty and illustrated by Margarida Esteves, an early-reader version of the classic Christmas tale with an interactive spin.

A new retelling of the beloved ballet adaptation, this edition follows the familiar tale of Clara and the Nutcracker, their journey to the Land of Sweets, and their battle against the Mouse King and his army. Part of the Paperscapes series, readers can even make the story come alive with pop-out paper dolls of some of the main characters.

Better in theory than in practice. The adaptation of the story itself isn’t a bad one; Holowaty does a commendable job of condensing the classic ballet down to a five-chapter early-reader book with engaging text. Esteves’s illustrations are colorful and graceful, and fit the tone well. However, what should be the main draw of the book – the pop-out paper dolls – are actually to its detriment. While the book does conveniently provide an envelope on the back cover to store the dolls, removing them from the book still leaves gaping holes in the pages that display the next or previous spread’s text, making rereading confusing for young bookworms. There is also the matter of representation: the majority of the characters present white, with the main exception being the performers of the “festival of dance” – characters in ethnically-inspired ballet outfits. Holowaty and Esteves do their best to handle this part of ballet delicately, but it still has the uncomfortable taste of appropriation. Otherwise, the length is fine for elementary readers, and JJ did enjoy the paper dolls for a bit. This would make a nice activity near Christmas – just don’t expect it to be a repeat tradition. Not our favorite version of this tale, but still worth a look for fans. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)