Elem. – The Legend of Christmas Witch

Murphy, Dan and Plaza Aubrey. The Legend of Christmas Witch. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-593-35080-5. 56 p. $18.99. Grades 2-5.

It’s been a while since a new holiday folklore book hit the shelves! Santa’s twin sister, Kristtōrn, was raised by a witch in the woods. Although it may sound familiar that her magic powers grew just as proficiently as her temper, the storyline leans into fear and persecution of the “other” that existed during the Salem witch trials and occurs in other fashions in the modern day.

THOUGHTS: This story is unusual and far from traditional, but makes space for another tale to be told about the Christmas season. The book is beautifully illustrated and appeals to natural aspects. The ending leaves a lot for the reader to interpret and would be a good project book for older readers. 

Picture Book          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – Archie Celebrates Diwali

Ruths, Mitali Banerjee. Archie Celebrates Diwali. Illustrated by Parwinder Singh. Charlesbridge, 2021. 978-1-623-54119-4. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

Archimena invites a few friends from school to celebrate her favorite holiday, one that many had not heard of before. Archie and her family prepare for the celebration with lights, decorations, and special recipes, but when all the guests arrive, a sudden storm knocks out the power. Archie worries the party will be ruined, but her friend’s question about the story of Diwali gives Archie a chance to explain the customs and traditions of the Hindu festival of lights. The text features descriptions of the delicacies and rituals common to the celebration and the brightly colored illustrations highlight the festive focus of the occasion. Also includes a glossary and directions to complete a Diwali craft. 

THOUGHTS: A good choice to highlight diverse cultures by sharing some of the details of a lesser known holiday. 

Picture Book          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Elem. – Little Red Sleigh

Guendelsberger, Erin. Little Red Sleigh. Sourcebooks Wonderland, 2020. $13.70. Unpaged. Grades K-3. 

The little red sleigh wishes to be something bigger, something stronger, something grander–Santa’s sleigh. Others tell her that this will never happen, but she is determined to make it to the North Pole and convince Santa that she can do the job. Along the tough journey, she is helped along by a beautiful, grand train and a bright yellow truck, who tell her that life happens one step at a time–she has the right spirit but must employ some patience, too. When a major snowfall hits, the sleigh stops in a village where she enjoys a wonderful day of sledding with a little girl. Ultimately, the little red sleigh decides that she must let her life happen one step at a time too, and she stays with the little girl (perhaps before going on to bigger things with Santa). An encouraging note from the big man in a red suit doesn’t hurt, either!

THOUGHTS: Elizaveta Tretyakova’s beautiful illustrations turn this basic but sweet holiday story into something bigger and more grand.

Picture Book            Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD