Kids’ Book Corner: Holiday Books (and Cookbooks) for All Ages

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“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” — Emilie Buchwald

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

I hope your children will be sitting on your laps this holiday season while you share all sorts of books with them, books that will become their friends and yours. Here are books that will be fine reading or lovely gifts during this season of giving. Happy Winter! Happy Holidays! Happy Reading!

Toast to Counting by Sandra Gross and Leah Bush is a happy and deliciously clever little board book that introduces babies to counting, cooking and friendship all at the same time. The toast, eggs, butter and jelly in the photographs are made of glass and have a tactile appeal. 1 year and up.

Everyday Kitchen for Kids: 100 Amazing Savory and Sweet Recipes Kids Can Really Make by Jennifer Low is a collection of delicious and simple recipes for children that require no sharp knives, electric appliances or stovetop cooking. The book has two introductions, one that speaks directly to young chefs, the other to the adults who will work with them. Reluctant readers will find themselves studying the delicious recipes, glossary and organizing tips, without realizing that they are engrossed in reading. Kids of all ages will be inspired by the vibrant photographs to cook healthy and delicious food– for themselves and their families. I especially like the recipes for date pocket cookies, homemade hamburger muffins, feta focaccia, lettuce wraps and spinach and mushroom frittata. 8 and up (or younger with grown-up help).

Kwanzaa: Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson with illustrations by Christian Robinson is the beautiful story of an African American girl whose wonderful singing voice changed the world. As an international jazz singing star, Mills used her gifts to advance the careers of other African American performers and to speak up for racial equality: “Tho’ I’m of a darker hue/I’ve a heart the same as you . . ./ For love I’m dyin’, my heart is cryin’/ A wise old owl said keep on tryin’.” 3 years and up.

Hanukkah: Jewish Fairytale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple with illustrations by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin is a collection of stories and recipes for Jewish to treasure and to share. While the recipes are aimed at children, unlike Everyday Kitchen, these are traditional recipes that require knives, etc. and constant adult supervision.

Winter: Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed with lucid pen and ink drawings by Barbara McClintock. California kids will love Obed’s memoir of childhood winters in Maine and the time she and her siblings spent skating on all kinds of ice: invisible “black ice” on the lake, pond ice, field ice, stream ice, garden ice—and the homemade ice rink in her family’s back yard. I like the Dream Ice best: “We lifted off our skates into the sky to land on the back edges of clouds.” A memorable, dreamy beautiful little book. 6 and up.

Christmas/Hanukkah: Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko is a colorful and reassuring celebration of families that celebrate both holidays. Alko’s paintings enliven the story of a little girl whose parents observe Christmas and Hanukkah and share their traditions with family and neighbors. The book includes recipes for Cranberry Kugel and a simple dressing to go with your blended-holiday meal. 6 and up.

Winter: Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli with glittering and exciting illustrations by Marjorie Priceman is the story of what happens when the little town of Toby Mills gets icy cold. Icicles lengthen. Mittens are knitted. And the pastor preaches wearing earmuffs and an overcoat. The colder it is, the kinder and more generous the townspeople become—a perfect Christmas book without an overt mention of the holiday. The book includes a recipe for Sugar-On-Snow-Candy, which perhaps you can make with crushed ice instead of the real white stuff. 6 and up.

I’m a firm believer in sharing grown up books with kids. Judith Dern’s American Christmas: Recipes and Ideas to Inspire Holiday Traditions is a book you and your children can enjoy together year after year. The menus, projects and gift giving ideas are simple and lovely. I especially like the New England Cookie Exchange, the gift recipes for Tangerine Curd, Hazelnut Brittle and Candy Cones, and the simple but appealing recipes for holiday meals.

Diane Rossen Worthington’s Seriously Simple Parties. Inspired by this collection of recipes, older children will enjoy planning parties or special meals throughout the year. Shopping lists help with the menu planning and the recipes are streamlined but will wow family and friends.

One Year in Coal Harbor by the National Book Award winning Polly Horvath is the sequel to her beloved Newberry Honor Book, Everything on a Waffle. The sensitive, strong, and highly verbal Primrose Squarp returns for more adventures in her in this “companion” novel that will surprise, charm and move readers 9 years to adult. Interspersed with recipes, many featuring mini-marshmallows, this year in the life of two wise young people, one happily reunited with parents lost at sea, the other adrift in foster care, makes us think hard about love, loss, friendship, trees, silence, and justice: “Maybe we don’t live in a just universe. Maybe we live in a universe where all you have control over is your own kindness.”

Jo Perry has a Ph.D. in English, taught literature and writing, and worked as a college administrator and as a television writer and producer. She is a reviewer for and is an ongoing contributor to kidsLA Magazine for which she writes about the city, children’s books, and conducts interviews. For two years she wrote the Kids’ Book Club column for the L.A. Times’ Kids’ Reading Room page.


About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.