So many holiday books for children! Which ones to choose?
Ask a librarian.
Calls to Enoch Pratt Free Library branches in Baltimore and library branches in Baltimore and Howard counties produced an eclectic list to fill children's holiday reading times -- and stockings or gift boxes.
Or, you could just borrow a few, with the possibility that a visit to the library may turn up holiday activities or story sessions.
Recommended by more than one librarian were such Christmas classics as "Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg, various editions of " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss, and "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson.
Also on several lists were two books for preschoolers by Rosemary Wells: "Max's Christmas" and "Morris's Disappearing Bag."
Suggested holiday titles with particular to African-Americans were: "Chita's Christmas Tree" by Elizabeth Howard, a picture book about a child's Baltimore Christmas; and "Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters" by Patricia McKissack, a nonfiction title for grade school-age readers about Christmas preparations on an 1859 Virginia plantation.
The celebration of Kwanzaa is introduced to readers ages 4-8 in "Seven Candles for Kwanzaa" by Andrea Davis Pinkney, a nonfiction picture book about the celebration; and "My First Kwanzaa Book" by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate.
For Hanukkah, the most popular picks were: "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins" by Eric Kimmel, a Caldecott Honor book for ages 4-8 featuring a modern adaptation of a folk tale; "Chanukah in Chelm" by David Alder, a story about a hilarious search for a table for the menorah, for grade school-level readers; and "Pearl's Eight Days of Chanukah" by Jane Breskin Zalben, with stories and activities for each night of the holiday.
Librarians especially liked two books with multicultural themes: "Elijah's Angel" by Michael Rosen, about a Jewish boy's friendship with an African-American woodcarver; and "The Trees of the Dancing Goats" by Patricia Polacco, about a Jewish family and their Christian neighbors at Christmas. Selma Levi, who heads the Pratt central library's children's department, suggests "A Kwanzaa Celebration: Pop-Up Book" by Nancy Williams, designed by Robert Sabuda; and "McDuff's New Friend" by Rosemary Wells.
From Baltimore County's Pikesville Library children's staff: "Wild Christmas Reindeer" by Jan Brett; "Light the Lights! A Story about Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas" by Margaret Moorman; "My First Chanukah" by Tomie De Paola; "Hanukkah Lights, Hanukkah Nights" by Leslie Kimmelman; "The Story of Kwanzaa" by Donna L. Washington; and "It's Kwanzaa Time!" by Linda Goss.
The children's staff at Catonsville chimes in with: "What Could be Keeping Santa?" by Marilyn Janovitz; "The Christmas Bear" by Henrietta Strickland; "Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story" by Cynthia Rylant; "Poppa's Itchy Christmas" by Angela Shelf Mederaris; and "The Night After Christmas" by James Stevenson.
The Randallstown Library children's librarian Jenny Boyd Bull recommends: "Carol of the Brown King: Nativity Poems" by Langston Hughes; and "12 Bugs of Christmas" by David Carter.
At Essex, children's librarian Kathy Sladek offers: "I Spy Christmas" by Jean Marzollo; and "Addy's Surprise," part of the American Girls series, by Connie Rose Porter.
Jo Puckett, children's librarian at the Howard County Central Library, adds: "Red Ranger Came Calling," by Berkeley Breathed; "Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry; and "The Fir Tree" by Hans Christian Andersen.
Stories by phone
Baltimore County's library system provides more than book-lending services -- it offers children's stories by telephone.Today, callers to the story number (410-887-6116) can listen to "Don't Eat Too Much Turkey" or "Those Can Do Pigs." Tomorrow through Dec. 12, children can hear "Merry Christmas, Old Armadillo" or "The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes." From Dec. 13 through Dec. 26, check in on "The Worst Person's Christmas" or the classic " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas." From Dec. 27 to Jan 9, the offerings are "Snow Day" and "Imani's Gift at Kwanzaa."