JFIC Novels in Verse

Hello, jFIC fans,

April is National Poetry Month, so here’s a list of outstanding novels written in verse. All have received starred reviews, and several have also won awards.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (award winner)

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The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling (starred reviews)

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Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg (award winner)

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Love That Dog (award winner) and Moo (starred reviews) by Sharon Creech

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The Wild Book by Margarita Engle (starred reviews)

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Starfish by Lisa Fipps 2021 (starred reviews)

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Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes (starred reviews)

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Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington (starred reviews)

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Out of the Dust (award winner) and Witness (starred reviews) by Karen Hesse

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Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton (starred reviews)

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Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (award winner)

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The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park 2021 (starred reviews)

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The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkey (starred reviews)

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May B. by Caroline Starr Rose (award winner)

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The Moon Within by Aida Salazar (starred reviews)

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Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen (starred reviews)

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The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan (award winner)

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Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (award winner)

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Brown Girl Dreaming (award winner memoir) and Before the Ever After (award winner) by Jacqueline Woodson

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For a more extensive list of middle grade novels in verse, visit this excellent website: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/middle-grade-novels-in-verse/

Happy reading!

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea
.”
~T.S. Eliot

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For Women’s History Month

Hello, jFIC fans,

I’m adding six fairly recent novels to the list I posted on March 13, 2019 titled “Herstorical JFIC”:

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman (2020)*****

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (2020)*****

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons (2020)****

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park (2020)****

A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (2019)*****

Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson (2020) *****

Happy reading!

“I don’t drink coffee to wake up; I wake up to drink coffee.” ~ mug sentiment

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day and Black History Month

Hello, jFIC fans,

Let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day with a sweet jFIC love story:

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan

Louisa is not looking forward to spending another summer with her grandparents on the tiny island where they live. Her brother doesn’t mind, but she’s a writer, so even though she enjoys her grandparents’ company, she would rather be off having adventures with her ornithologist parents. This year, however, she discovers that the island has a lot to offer, and she meets George, a very special boy with whom she forms a very special friendship.

And for Black History Month, here are a few of my favorite historical novels by African American authors:

Finding Langston Trilogy (Finding Langston, Leaving Lymon, and Being Clem (coming in August, 2021) by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Elijah of Buxton and other awesome novels by Christopher Paul Curtis

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and other installments of The Logan Family Series by Mildred Taylor

Some Places More than Others by Renée Watson

One Crazy Summer Trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia

P.S. Be Eleven

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

Happy reading!

“Words cannot espresso how much you bean to me!” –unknown

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2020 Favorites

Hello, jFIC fans,

Happy New Year! Looking forward to a year full of awesome reads!

My favorite dozen from 2020:

Eva Evergreen (Semi Magical Witch Book 1) by Julie Abe (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7)

Eva Evergreen’s quest is to earn the rank of Novice Witch before her thirteenth birthday, for if she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic powers forever. The problem is that Eva only has “a pinch of magic” – or so she believes. This delightful fantasy novel reads like an anime movie. I look forward to the sequels!

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman (Ages 9-12; Grades 4-7)

After a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explodes, two rival fifth-grade girls from completely different backgrounds end up on a train on their way to stay with one of the girls’ estranged grandmother. A poignant multigenerational historical novel about the power of friendship.

Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 1) by Elizabeth C Bunce  (Ages 10-18; Grades 5-12) (some diversity)

Myrtle Hardcastle is a brilliant twelve-year-old girl obsessed with forensic science and detective work who persists in her investigations in spite of the social expectations of her time. The series has similarities to the award-winning Flavia de Luce Mystery Series by Alan Bradley, but it’s written for kids! Engaging and delightful!

The Sisters of Straygarden Place by Hayley Chewins (Ages 10-14; Grades 5-9)

A beautifully-written surreal fantasy about an enchanted house, menacing plants, bonds between sisters, and reality-bending revelations. I loved the little black dogs that squeeze inside their owners’ brains to help them sleep. Spooky and original!

Leaving Lymon (Finding Langston Trilogy Book 2) by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (BIPOC author)

The second installment of the Finding Langston Trilogy follows the story of the bully Lymon, and includes the reasons for his anger, his love of music, and his finding hope for a better future. A moving and inspiring historical fiction story told by an outstanding writer.

One Time by Sharon Creech (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (some diversity)

With the help of a brilliant teacher and a boy with a generous smile, 11-year-old Gina Filomena and her classmates discover that their future is full of wonderful possibilities. An uplifting coming-of-age story that’s perfect for classroom reading groups.

The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher (Ages 9-12; Grades 4-7)

Thirteen-year-old Seren Rhys is an orphan hoping for a better life in her Godfather’s country mansion. But nothing turns out as she expects, and she ends up going on a fantastic journey to rescue the family’s young son who has been stolen by fairies. A mysterious and fast-paced fantasy with themes of resilience, courage, and belonging.

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7)

The Widdershins sisters discover that they’re under a generations-long curse that keeps them from leaving their island, so they set out to break the curse and save their lives with the help of three magical objects and a mysterious prisoner. An exciting fantasy adventure with excellent world-building and characterization.

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (bi-racial blended family)

A gorgeously-written, enchanting family story that follows the daily lives of 11-year-old Abi, her two stepbrothers, and her father and stepmother, as they adjust to a new family and a new home: a mysterious and possibly magical ivy-covered house. A suspenseful and heartwarming novel from a brilliant author. My favorite juvenile novel of the year!

Of Salt and Shore by Annet Schaap (Ages 10-12; Grades 5+)

Lampie, the lighthouse keeper’s 11-year-old daughter, makes a terrible mistake that results in punishments both for her and her alcoholic father. Hers is to be sent to live and work at the Admiral’s house, where a monster is said to live. A fantasy adventure with extraordinary characters and themes of courage, friendship, belonging, and self-worth.

The Monster Who Wasn’t (Monster Who Wasn’t Trilogy Book 1) by T. C. Shelley (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6)

Imp hatched in a monsters’ lair, but looks just like a human boy and is possibly something between fairy and monster. The gargoyles and their angel take him under their wings, but the king of ogres has sinister plans for him. A fantasy story of family, good vs evil, and seeking one’s place in the world. Exciting and heart-warming!

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Ages 8-12; Grades 5+)

The Great Depression forces 12-year-old Ellie’s family to leave their home in town and move to the untamed forests of Echo Mountain. There Ellie discovers a love of nature and is enjoying her new life until her father has an accident that leaves him in a coma. Ellie then decides to go to the reclusive “hag” of the mountain for help. A story about having the courage and persistence to become your own true self.

Happy reading!

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”

“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.

~ from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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Recent Reads

Hello, jFIC fans,

Whatever happened to April and May? Proof we’re living in sad and stressful times. Let me catch June before it whizzes by too!

Here are a few titles I’ve read recently along with my ratings. Most should be available as ebooks and/or audio ebooks.

The World’s Greatest Detective, Caroline Carlson 2017 ****

Mystery, 4th-6th grades

A whodunit story with an endearing main character, quirky secondary characters, and high stakes. The mystery itself is a bit simplistic (from an adult perspective), but interesting and entertaining, and will appeal to kids starting to become familiarized with the genre. (Early 20th century white community.)

https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-236827-0

We’re Not from Here, Geoff Rodkey 2019 *****

Science Fiction, 5th-7th grades

“A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony.” (Kirkus) A group of humans are granted refuge on another planet, but while making the trip there, the planet’s government changes, and their request is denied. Highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Loved the aliens, especially the highly intelligent, marshmallow-like Ororos. (Diversity is implied.)

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/geoff-rodkey/were-not-from-here/

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley, April Stevens 2018 ****

Fiction, 4th-6th grades

A moving, coming-of-age story about acceptance (of oneself and others), empathy, kindness, forgiveness, friendship, grieving, and growth. Loved the main character’s interest in nature and the impact that the wise and kind aging bus driver has on all the children. Great for gifted kids who feel misunderstood and isolated. (Universal messages, but minimal diversity.)

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/april-stevens/heart-and-mind-of-frances-pauley/

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan 2020

Fantasy (I question this classification),  4-6th grades *****

From the book’s blurb: “When eleven-year-old Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides it’s time to find out more about his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby.” A poignant commentary on the struggles of refugee immigrants and those who bravely choose to protect them. (Hispanic characters and Own Voices author.)

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/pam-munoz-ryan/mananaland/

Aggie Morton Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn 2020 ****

Mystery/Historical Fiction, 5th-7th grades

Twelve-year-old amateur detective and aspiring writer Aggie Morton investigates a murder by poison with the help of her Belgian friend Hector Perot. A well-crafted mystery inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child. The book’s one disappointment is Perot’s poorly-developed character and insubstantial role. (Also, no diversity.) Hopefully Perot’s characterization will improve as the series progresses. For fans of The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. 

https://www.publishersweekly.com/9780735265462

August Isle by Ali Standish 2019 ****

Realistic Fiction, 5-8th grades

A story about a 14-year-old girl uncovering a painful family secret. The pacing is a bit slow, but the lovely seaside setting, the endearing secondary characters, and the main character’s emotional journey hold your interest, plus the climax and resolution make the wait worthwhile. (White main character/family. Indian and biracial secondary characters.)

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ali-standish/august-isle/

Some Places More than Others by Renee Watson 2019 *****

Realistic Fiction, 4-6th grades

A lovely story about an 11-year-old girl’s longing to connect with her father’s side of the family and their history. It reads like a travel journal, but that’s the beauty of it: it takes the reader on a fascinating historical tour of New York. (Own Voices: African American main characters/family.)

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/renee-watson/some-places-more-than-others/

The Guggenheim Mystery: Sequel to The London Eye Mystery by Robin Stevens 2018 *****

Mystery, 4-7th grades

“Twelve-year-old Ted Stark, his sister, and cousin investigate the theft of a priceless work of art.” Robin Stevens captures the voices of the characters from the first installment of the series (The London Eye Mystery by the late Siobhan Dowd). The stakes are not as high as in the first book, but the plot and the setting hold your interest, and the writing—especially the characterization— is very good. (Diverse main and secondary characters. Main character/narrator has ASD.)

http://crimereview.co.uk/page.php/review/5179

And last but not least, an important book for the times we’re living in:

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi *****

Nonfiction, YA (Grade 7+)

“The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited. 

“Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.”

https://www.amazon.com/Stamped-Antiracism-National-Award-winning-Beginning/dp/0316453692/ref=sr_1_1?crid=XQIJCLLZT5NC&dchild=1&keywords=stamped+jason+reynolds&qid=1591019956&sprefix=Stamped%2Caps%2C209&sr=8-1

Stay safe and happy reading!

“Tea should be taken in solitude.” –C. S. Lewis

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Historical JFIC for Women's History Month

Hello, JFIC fans,

Reading is the perfect activity for these unprecedented times of social distancing. Many libraries and bookstores are closed, but you can still borrow or buy ebooks and audio ebooks or simply order books and audiobooks online (preferably from your favorite local bookstore).

On March of last year, I posted a list for Women’s History Month titled Herstorical JFIC. Here’s a list (alpha by title) of several books from that post that are probably available to borrow as ebooks and/or audio ebooks from your local library (they’re all available from mine: the Denver Public Library):

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Birchbark House (The) by Louise Erdrich

Breadwinner (The) by Deborah Ellis

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia (The) by Esther Hautzig

Esperanza Rising and Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (The) by Jacqueline Kelly

Full Cicada Moon by Larilyn Hinton

Green Glass Sea (The) by Ellen Klages

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff

Lions of Little Rock (The) by Kristin Levine

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Night Diary (The) by Veera Hiranandaani

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

One Crazy Summer and sequels by Rita Williams-Garcia

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

War That Saved My Life (The) and sequel by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Witch of Blackbird Pond (The) by Elizabeth George Speare

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Stay home and read, everyone! ❤️

“For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought to me about eleven, so much better. Tea should be taken in solitude.” ~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

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JFIC for Black History Month

Hello, jFIC fans,

It’s Black History Month, so let’s celebrate African American jFIC authors. Here’s a list of their awesome books :

The Crossover Series by Kwame Alexander

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

So Done by Paula Chase

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

New Kid (graphic novel) by Jerry Craft (Recent winner of the Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature)

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

Blended by Sharon Draper

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

Bird by Angela Johnson

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

The Season of Stix Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

Ghost and sequels by Jason Reynolds (current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature)

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

One Crazy Summer Trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi


And also, because it’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a sweet love story: Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan

Happy reading!

“I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark — it must be dark — and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come.” —Toni Morrison

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JFIC Favorites 2019

Hello, jFIC fans,

Here are my favorite jFIC books of 2019:

The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas (Fantasy/Folklore)

Eleven-year-old Buddy goes on a dangerous quest to rescue his dad from a magical crime Lord. His weapons are a knife and his father’s magical Parsnit cards, and his sidekick is a spider-folk girl named Tally. A fantastic setting, page-turning danger and adventure, quirky characters, a creative game of cards, great messages about family and identity, and a fascinating metanarrative all work together to make this novel an outstanding read.

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo (Realistic Fiction)

This is the third book featuring characters from the world of Raymie Nightingale. I loved this tenderhearted, sensitive story about dealing with grief and hardship, and finding unlikely friends in the process. Lyrical, poignant, and simply wonderful.

A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (Historical Fiction)

A lovely novel, written in verse, about the Irish Land War (1881). Well done, suspenseful, and poignant. Excellent characterization.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt (Realistic Fiction / Humor)

Carter Jones is dealing with his first year in middle school, his father’s absence, his brother’s death, his distraught mother, helping to take care of his three younger sisters, and a surprise English butler who wants him to behave like a “proper gentleman” and learn to drink tea and play cricket. Well-written and both funny and heart-wrenching.

The Runaways by Ulf Stark (Realistic Fiction)

A young boy helps his dying grandfather to run away from the hospital for a couple of days, giving him the chance to prepare for his final good-bye. Well-written with delightful characters. An inter-generational adventure full of humor and heart. 

Happy reading!

“What’s this?” I said.

“Tea with milk and sugar,” said the Butler.

“I don’t drink tea,” I said.

“All civilized people drink tea, young Master Jones.”

“Then I guess I’m not civilized.”

“A claim you share with Vikings, Huns, assorted barbarian hordes, and marauders of all stripes. I have taken the liberty of adding more sugar than one might normally expect.”

I sipped at it. I sipped again. It was pretty good.

“It stinks,” I said.

— from Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

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JFIC Adventures 2019

Hello, jFIC fans,

Looking for a holiday gift for the preteen in your life? Here are seven jFIC adventure novels published in 2019 that I particularly enjoyed:

The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas

A fantastical river setting, unforgettable characters, and a terrific storyline.

The Stormkeeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

A beautifully-written high-stakes Irish fantasy. Fascinating!

The Storm Keeper’s Island (The Storm Keeper's Island Series) by [Doyle, Catherine]

The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horowitz

The daughter and heir of a Dark Lord saves the day. Witches, unicorns, quirky characters, and a positive message. Very entertaining!

Time Sight by Lynne Jonell

A suspenseful time-travel adventure in the Scottish highlands. A page-turner!

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

A fantastical quest in a wondrous island setting with endearing characters and a great message.

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell (British cover shown)

A group of talented children stand up to an evil conman. High stakes and a clever twist at the end.

The Good Thieves

Maximillian Fly by Angie Sage

A post-apocalyptic adventure where the main character is a human cockroach. Terrific!

Happy reading + happy holidays + happy new year!!!

“There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie”
–from “Sleigh Ride” by Billy Gilman

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Twelve Christmas Classics

Hello, jFIC fans,

Last year I posted a list of holiday books:

https://elsapla.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/holiday-books-2/

Here are 12 Christmas classics to add to the list:

Little Women by Louise May Alcott

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck (author) and Mark Buehner (illustrator)

A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories edited and assembled by Dr. Bettye Collier-Thomas

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Nueve Días para Navidad: Un Cuento de México by Marie Hall Ets (author, illustrator) and Aurora Labastida (author)

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Circle of Wonder: A Native American Christmas Story by N. Scott Momaday

The Taylor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas (author) and Trina Schart Hyman (illustrator)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (author) and P.J. Lynch (illustrator)

Joyous reading and happy holidays!

“It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.”
― 
Dylan Thomas (from A Child’s Christmas in Wales)

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