Sunday, December 3, 2023

7 New Picture Books for Christmas 2023

Advent is here, and I am excited about new Christmas children's books! I have received 7 Christmasy review copies this year. 

Two are in board book format. 

Be My Reindeer
by Jeffrey Burton and Anna Hurley asks who will pull Santa's sleigh. Dinosaurs? Kittens? Robots? Each turn of the page reveals the face of a newly suggested character, and antlers glued onto the back cover appear to grow from each one's head. The silliness is perfect for the toddler age group, and I would have loved this for holiday story times at the library. We are sort of growing beyond the board book stage here, so I think Saint Nicholas is bringing everyone picture books this year, but we'll be sure to pass our copy along.

In the Holly Jolly North Pole by Joel Stern and Nancy Leschnikoff is a rhyming pop-up book designed in landscape format so that the book has to be turned sideways to be read. It's a pretty generic peek into life in Santa's workshop, but the fun pop-ups and cartoonish figures will appeal to little ones all the same.

The rest of these are picture books.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona
is a reprint of a 1986 Tomie dePaola favorite. During Advent, Strega Nona has so much to do to get ready for her annual feast, but while she depends on Big Anthony to help her, he schemes with the neighbors to find a way to give back to Strega Nona. I love that this book mentions the Advent wreath and Mass. I plan to give this one to my eight-year-old from St. Nicholas.

In We Disagree About This Tree housemates Bear and Mouse are getting along mostly fine until they get a Christmas tree. By turns,  they each decorate the tree the way they believe it should look, each irritating the other until the tree finally falls down. This book has a grammar error, in which a singular hypothetical referee that Bear believes would help mediate their disagreement is referred to as "they." The rhyme is also a little bit awkward in parts. Still, it's a funny odd-couple style story that will make kids laugh. St. Nicholas isn't bringing this one to anyone, I'll probably just sneak it into the stack at some point. 

The Christmas Doll by Amy Sparkes and Katie Hickey is based on an episode of a British television show I've never seen or heard of, The Repair Shop. Evie and great-grandma Sue bring an old doll named Lizzy to the Repair Shop. Great-grandma tells the history of the doll from her own childhood, and then the "Teddy Bear Ladies" restore her so that Evie can have the doll. It's a really sweet story, and my 6-year-old who shares the doll's name will receive this one from St. Nicholas. 

Dasher Can't Wait for Christmas by Matt Tavares is a sequel to Dasher from a few years ago. On the eve of  Christmas Eve, Dasher wanders off, takes flight and has a little adventure with a human friend, and then has the opportunity to bring gifts to that child on Christmas Eve. The appeal of this book is the beautiful use of light in the illustrations. It creates a similar magical feel to The Polar Express. My oldest daughter received Dasher when it was first released, so this one is going to her.

Finally, How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is a surprisingly sweet book from this duo. It explores all the various silly ways Santa might have of entering our homes on Christmas Eve. My 3-year-old daughter, who has been asking a lot of questions about how Santa gets into our house, will receive this one. 

Thank you to Candlewick Press and Simon & Schuster for the review copies!

Read-at-Home Mom Report: November 2023 Wrap-Up

November Favorites

I had a great reading month in November, and a lot of favorites. All of these were five-star books. 

Unleashed by Amber Kirkpatrick

My friend Amber wrote this fantasy romance, and I read the ebook from Hoopla before my paperback pre-order even shipped. I love the characters and the setting, and most especially the dialogue. There is some real sadness and brutality in the world of the story (many of the characters have superpowers and are persecuted for it), but the love story between grumpy, wounded Fen and bright, young Sara manages to be sweet and cozy even against such a backdrop. I also love the friendship between Fen and Marcel, and the fact that Marcel and his family are Catholic. I'm really excited for book two of the series! 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 

I already knew I loved Fredrik Backman's writing, and this book just further confirmed that opinion. This is such a hopeful story, despite how broken Ove is, and it points out the importance of community without becoming saccharine. 

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

This is a fascinating Catholic science fiction novel that I know I will need to read again to fully appreciate. I especially loved the first and last sections. 

Crowns anthology edited by Brittany Eden and Brigitte Cromey

I have a story in this collection, which is full of unique voices and beautiful prose, poetry and artwork. It's an honor to be included. 

Essays of E.B. White 

I listened to this essay collection, and I was just blown away by White's writing. It was interesting to view the issues of the day (1950s to 1970s) from his point of view, and also to hear his reflections on nature, farm life, and New York City, as well as on William Strunk. 

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

This was on my winter TBR, but I didn't pick it up until mid-November. I listened to the audiobook and read along in the hardcover, marking all my favorite passages with post-its and book darts. It was like taking a creative writing class, and made me feel inspired for my own writing.


Times Three by Phyllis McGinley 

I found this Pulitzer prize winning vintage collection of light verse by Catholic housewife Phyllis McGinley at the used bookstore, and it turned out to be such a gem. I love the author's wit, and her poems about saints were among my favorites.

Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey

This was my first Christmas romance of the season, and it was delightful! Just like this author's Very Sincerely Yours, this felt like it was written just for me. I laughed out loud multiple times listening to the audiobook, and I fell in love with the characters. I really want to own a copy of this one. 

Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers 

I read this with the Literary Life podcast, and I loved the way Sayers thinks about the creative life in light of Christianity. This is one I would like to read again and annotate next time.

Read-Aloud and Homeschool 

  • The Ancient Near Eastern World by Amanda H. Podany (4 stars)
  • Mist on the Mountain by Jane Flory (4 stars)
  • Bread and Butter Journey by Anne Colver (3 stars)

Series Books

  • Fourth Wing  (The Empyrean Book 1) by Rebecca Yarros (4 stars)
  • The Parfit Knight (Rockliffe Book 1) by Stella Riley (4 stars)
  • The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia Book 5) by C.S. Lewis (4 stars)
  • The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia Book 6) by C.S. Lewis (5 stars)
  • The Firm (The Firm Book 1) by John Grishman (4 stars)

Stand-Alone Books

  • Awake, Not Woke by Noelle Mering (5 stars)
  • A Slipping-Down Life by Anne Tyler (4 stars)
  • Hey, Hun by Emily Lynn Paulson (4 stars)
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders (5 stars)
  • And So This is Christmas by Brian Bilston (5 stars)
  • The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass (5 stars)


  • Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros
    I just couldn't sign on for more of this series. The book was so long, and I couldn't handle all the sexual content. 

Family Reading Lists 

M. (girl, age 10)

  • My Family and Other Skaters by Fiorella De Maria
  • Staying Nine by Pam Conrad
  • Journey of the Eldest Son by J. G. Fyson
  • Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson
  • The Lost Queen of Egypt by Lucile Morrison
  • Fog Magic by Julia Sauer
  • Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones

C. (girl, 8 years, 2 months)

  • My Family and Other Skaters by Fiorella De Maria
  • This New Land by G.Wisler
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
  • Ghost Light in the Attic by Pat Thomson
  • The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster 
  • The Puritan Revolution by C. Walter Hodges
  • Witch Dog by John and Patricia Beatty 

E. (girl, 6 years, 1 month)

  • Hickory by Palmer Brown 
  • Beyond the Paw Paw Trees by Palmer Brown
  • The Silver Nutmeg by Palmer Brown
  • Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne 
  • Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary
  • Carbonel, The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh

R. (boy, 3 years, 8 months)

*R has started sounding out words and has begun reading the Hooked on Phonics readers.

  • Rag by Barney Saltzburg 
  • Dad and Sam by Leslie McGuire 
  • The Animals' Santa by Jan Brett 
  • All About Alfie by Shirley Hughes
  • I Love You, Little Shark by Jeffrey Burton 
  • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • Truckery Rhymes by Jon Scieszka 

A. (girl, 3 years, 8 months)

  • All About Alfie by Shirley Hughes 
  • Truckery Rhymes by Jon Scieszka

My husband

  • Mist on the Mountain by Jane Flory 
  • Heartsease by Peter Dickinson 
  • The Blood-Red Crescent by Henry Garnett 
  • The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry (read aloud)
  • The Winged Cat and Other Tales of Ancient Civilizations by Deborah Nourse Lattimore