Bad Kitty: Searching For Santa (Nick Bruel)

Hello, friends! Christmas is only days away – time to celebrate with some awesome Christmas titles! Our book today was Bad Kitty: Searching For Santa by Nick Bruel, the latest holiday adventure for the cantankerous cat.

Bad Kitty may not have been 100% good this year, but she thinks Santa will understand. After writing her letter to him, she insists that she must deliver it in person rather than by mail, so the narrator and reader follow along as she makes a journey to the store to get some facetime with the jolly old elf. Along the way, however, she sees lots and lots of Santas – a diverse mix of skintones, genders, and even species – imploring passersby to donate to charity with red buckets and “GIVE” signs. Bad Kitty doesn’t like this much, finding it confusing and overwhelming to have so many Santas, all of whom are clearly not the REAL Santa. When she finally makes her way to the store, she is crushed to find it closed. Stomping on her letter, she decides she does not like Santa anymore. But in the midst of a disappointing Christmas morning, Bad Kitty may just have her faith in Mr. Claus restored…

Bad Kitty can be an acquired taste at times – her capricious and occasionally naughty behavior can be a turn-off to some parents, but a hilarious joke to kids (though I do appreciate that the character is female, as boys are often given the lions share of “rebel” characters). It can also lead to some mixed messages, such as the idea that those seeking charitable donations are somehow trying to “trick” Kitty (though admittedly, the narrator refutes this). The main lesson here seems to be that Santa loves us all, even if we’re a little bad from time to time – it’s not a bad one, but I might have liked to see Bad Kitty donate to charity or show some measure of holiday spirit to earn Santa’s gift. However, JJ thought it was hilarious, and the illustrations are truly charming and expressive, including a lifelike octopus Santa that even inspired a laugh from me. So I would suggest giving this one a look and deciding if it’s right for you – and maybe adding that there’s nothing wrong with charity during the holidays. 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’s Story (Will Hillenbrand)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Santa’s Story by Will Hillenbrand, a delightful Christmas tale.

It’s the most important night of the year, and Santa is ready for his big flight… but his reindeer are nowhere to be found! Turns out, they’re all off doing their own thing: Dasher’s running a race with some rabbit pals, Dancer’s practicing his jig, Prancer’s prancing with excitement, and so on. Wanting to get on the road (sky?), Santa tries various methods of calling the reindeer together, but to no avail. Then he realizes the one thing he forgot! A special Christmas Eve tradition to get everyone in the holiday spirit…

Absolutely adorable. From the introduction of all eight reindeer (sorry, Rudolph fans, but he’s absent this time around) using clever plays on their names to the charming resolution, this is a sweet Christmas tale that feels fresh enough to be new, yet is timeless and entertaining enough to come back to each year. The art is a real treat, giving Santa, the reindeer, and all their North-Pole animal pals a friendly and cheerful look, offset nicely by a backdrop of soothing, twilight snowy forests and hills. The length is perfect for a bedtime story, and JJ really liked it. A warm and cozy tale of Christmas traditions to kick off the holiday season, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Night Before Christmas, written by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by Lindsay Dale-Scott!

A festive board book brings the classic holiday story to life, with a few surprises along the way. You know how it goes: “‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…”. A trimmed and decorated home, little ones fast asleep and dreaming of treats, even the mice tucked in and silent for the night. It’s Dad who wakes up at the sound of jingling bells and prancing hooves, and happens upon Santa as the jolly old elf goes about his work.

Practically everyone of a certain age who celebrates Christmas has heard Clement’s classic rhyme; the abridged version used here is a perfect length for the youngest of bookworms, including the most recognizable phrases and themes. Dale-Scott’s illustrations are bright, gentle, and colorful; crisp lines around familiar holiday shapes and characters are eye-catching but not overstimulating. The main draw of this version is the integrated lights on the last page, which use a switch-operated battery pack to toggle five twinkling stars in the sky. It’s cute but, to be honest, slightly underwhelming – I flicked the switch beforehand as instructed, expecting a light show and receiving five yellow LEDs that flickered occasionally at the end. Still, it would certainly make for a cozy Christmas Eve read together, and the LEDs and battery pack are secure enough that the book can be safely explored by toddlers and up throughout the year. Overall, a fun holiday treat, and it’s 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 Bruce (Ryan T. Higgins)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, a festive adventure with the perennially grouchy bear Bruce and his unusual family of geese children and mouse roommates.

The geese and mice have decked the halls and trimmed the tree – much to Bruce’s irritation. The put-upon bear only wants to hibernate for Christmas, but his family wants to celebrate, so the old grump does what he must. He even shovels snow in his bright red coat and hat – and that’s where the trouble starts. Once again, Bruce becomes a victim of mistaken identity… but this time that identity is SANTA! Soon, young critters are lined up at the door to tell “Santa” their Christmas wishes. Quickly latching on to the opportunity for merrymaking, the mice and geese play along, even promising that Bruce will hand-deliver presents to all the kids for Christmas morning. Bruce just wants to sleep! Will he find it in him to spread some holiday cheer?

Another hilarious and wonderful Bruce & family tale. Bruce’s perpetual gruffness – and reluctant yet genuine affection for his family – is made for a Christmas story, and Higgin’s brand of deadpan humor and physical comedy pulls it off perfectly. The art is charming as always, especially Bruce’s doe-eyed young admirers and the bear’s hilarious body language. The length is great, and JJ and I loved it. A wonderful seasonal addition to the series, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Mrs. Claus Takes The Reins (Sue Fliess)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mrs. Claus Takes The Reins, written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Mark Chambers, a cheerful girl-powered Christmas adventure.

Santa Claus has come down with a nasty cold! There’s no way he can fly around the world delivering presents tonight, so Christmas is cancelled! But that simply won’t do for Mrs. Claus – organizing the reindeer and elves, she volunteers to take up Santa’s position. She and the team load the sleigh, traverse the globe, and ensure smiling faces on Christmas morning, handling all sorts of problems that crop up with aplomb. Soon, the very last present is delivered, and Mrs. Claus is given a hero’s welcome for her return.

This was so much fun! In addition to a fast-paced, exciting story for little readers, there’s a wonderful girl-power subtext – no one questions if Mrs. Claus is up to the task, and she problem-solves with quick thinking and grace (“I may not have magic, but I’ve got a brain!”). The illustrations are colorful, lively, and appropriately festive, and the bouncy rhymes are a delight to read aloud. The length was great, and JJ loved it. A lovely holiday reminder that girls are capable and clever – including the one who happens to be married to Old Saint Nick. Baby Bookworm approved!

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