A short and sweet post for today, as the holiday school season is coming to a close!  I’m jumping on the I Teach TV Network tonight to share more details about these three books, but I thought I’d outline them here for you now.  So zip out to your local library or B&N (or hey, Amazon now delivers in an hour…) and add these to your holiday book collection.  They’re worth it!

  1. Oskar and the Eight Blessings
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From the Publisher: “A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world.

The illustrations in this books are absolutely stunning and worth purchasing it alone.  But Oskar’s journey through Manhattan in 1938 is just as heartwarming.  Each person that he meets, offers him kindness and generosity, not to mention that each event has a historical tie-in to real life events during the 1930’s.  For example, Oskar picks up an Action Comic Book and sees Superman inside (below).  Superman first premiered in action comics in June of 1938.  I could see a lot of historical tie-ins with this book, including timelines, geography, and immigration topics.  The publisher even included Oskars map of his travels in New York City that would be great to use in your classroom.

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Finally, the overall message of this book was one to Oskar from his father, and is appropriate to share with your students all year long: “Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.”

2. When Santa Was a Baby

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This is such a sweet story that gives the background of Santa’s life before he became “the guy”.  The authors do a wonderful job of integrating all of those things that we’ve come to love about Santa (reindeer, his big laugh, his love of chimneys) into his interests as a child.  Not to mention the illustrations are beautiful.

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In your classroom, I think it would be so interesting to have your students write back stories for all of their favorite holiday (or non-holiday) characters.  What happened in Frosty the Snowman’s childhood?  How did the Elf from the Shelf come to be?  Your Writers Workshop could be filled with these potential stories that your students imagine in a creative and fun way!

3. Dear Santa, Love Rachel Rosenstein

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When I was in the classroom, I always struggled to find stories for those children who celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas.  I did not want those students of other religions to feel left out as we so often focus on the Christian holidays during this time of year.  Actress, Amanda Peet, felt the same way so she co-wrote this story for not only those who may celebrate both holidays, but also for us to understand other cultures and religions during the holiday season.  Isn’t that fun?!  Typically, I try to shy away from stories written by actors (no offense!) but I thought this one was cleverly written and great for your students to identify with.

From the publisher: “Rachel Rosenstein is determined to celebrate Christmas this year—and the fact that her family is Jewish is not going to stop her. In a series of hilarious and heartwarming mishaps, Rachel writes a letter to Santa explaining her cause, pays him a visit at the mall, and covertly decorates her house on Christmas Eve (right down to latkes for Santa and his reindeer). And while Rachel may wrestle with her culture, customs, and love of sparkly Christmas ornaments, she also comes away with a brighter understanding of her own identity and of the gift of friends and family.”

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I think it can be common for those students who don’t celebrate Christmas to sometimes feel left out, but this story does a great job of tackling those emotions head on and celebrating everyone!  Plus in your classroom, I think you could tie in a friendly letter lesson or review or use this as your introduction for students to write their own letters to Santa or to their parents, etc.

So there you have it!  Some newly published holiday stories that are a great compliment to any classroom (or home) library!  Happy holidays!  Wishing you lots of relaxation and rest during this season and cheers to the new year!

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