Merry Little Reading Time

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Snuggle up with your littles and one of these Christmas picture books.

So many merry and bright, warm and loving new holiday books! For your own collection, or for gift giving, these brand-new books for Baby and bigger tots are favorites in the 2016 holiday crop. Because we can’t help dreaming of a white Christmas, we also included a few new “snowy” titles here.

Ages 0 – 2

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Bears in the Snow
By Shirley Parenteau
Illustrated by David Walker
Candlewick Press, $15.99
Sometimes the best storybooks are the simplest. Here, little round bears in pastel shades romp in the snow with Big Brown Bear. The story zooms right in on a sledding outing, for which cooperation is very important. Walker’s illustrations in acrylic are adorable, starting with the oh-so-sweet faces of the small bears Floppy, Fuzzy, Calico and Yellow.

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The Hat
By Jan Brett
Putnam, $15.99
One of the favorites from the incomparable Jan Brett becomes an extra-large board book two decades after its first appearance. The rollicking story gets rolling when Hedgie the hedgehog sticks his head into Lisa’s wool sock, which becomes stuck to his quills, so he can’t pull his head out. Parents appreciate the gentle, delightful lesson about not messing with something that’s not yours.

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My Snow Globe
By Megan E. Bryant
Pictures by Melissa Iwai
Cartwheel/Scholastic, $7.99
Sturdy as can be, this peek-through storybook dotted with shimmery snowflakes is shaped like a snow globe. The cover’s clear acetate window invites toddlers to gaze inside for a taste of the festive die-cut pages to come. Ooh, there’s a raccoon, there’s an owl – and I spy two love birds in a Christmas tree! Bryant’s bouncy text will please one and all.

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Snow Friends
By M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Sky Pony Press, $9.99
Little Bear, Otter and Rabbit are so enchanted to find their world “covered in a thick white blanket” that they happily work together to make the best-ever snowman. Macnaughton’s artwork contains many small delights.

Ages 3 & older

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An Otis Christmas
By Loren Long
Philomel, $8.99
In this Christmas adventure, Otis saves the day by bravely chug-chugging his way — “snow up to his chin” — through thick, white woods to fetch the doctor. Long’s detailed storytelling and expressive illustrations translate nicely, giving this rendering more breadth and dramatic power than most board books.

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The ABCs of Christmas
By Jill Howarth
Running Press Kids, $7.95
“G” is for “geese with gumdrops stacked up tall,” alongside the “H” page that reminds all that “home is where we deck the halls.” Wordplay is simple but catchy, the glitter-dashed pages perky as can be. On the “B” page, Bunny rides a bike with wheels that look like red-and- white swirly peppermint candies.

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The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present
By Harriet Muncaster
Putnam, $16.99
Poor li’l Clementine! She is so tiny that she takes baths in a teacup and fits in the palm of her average-size mother’s hand. The presents Santa brings are always much too large for her to play with. Finally, someone thinks of the most perfect present in the world. Verdict: Give us many more stories featuring the industrious little Clementine, a modern-day Thumbelina.

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Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes
By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Random House, $17.99
A boisterous story about Babymouse trying to make cupcakes for Santa while Baby Brother screams “WAAAAAAHHHH” in the background. Can just one cupcake survive?

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Madeline’s Christmas
By Ludwig Bemelmans
Viking, $9.99
The “twelve little girls in two straight lines” have won hearts across the world since 1939. This Christmas story is set on Christmas Eve. All the little girls are sick with colds in bed — except Madeline, who answers the door to greet a merchant willing to sell 12 magic carpets. Bemelmans’ lyrical poetry is as lively and enchanting as his classic artwork.

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The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Peek-Through Picture Book
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Doubleday, $14.99
German author-illustrator Teckentrup has produced more than 70 children’s books. This time, she invites children to glimpse 12 days of gifts, page by page, through beautifully designed peek-through holes. So you don’t see the “seven swans a-swimming,” for example, until you get to the “seventh day of Christmas” page. A dazzling achievement.

Ages 4 – 8

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The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story
By Kallie George and Stephanie Graegin
Schwartz & Wade, $17.99
Just as Squirrel, Rabbit, Deer and Bird wave to Santa as he soars above them on Christmas Eve, one present falls from Santa’s sleigh. It bears a tag to “the New Baby at the Farm.” The four animals build a sleigh so they deliver the gift themselves, and the journey isn’t easy. The baby’s happiness turns out to be a warm reward for the foursome, but Santa also rewards them. How did Santa know what they did? “Santa always knows.” Graegin’s digitally colored pencil-and-ink washes ideally suit the precise and perfect text. This could become a holiday classic.

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The Nutcracker
Illustrated by Valeria Docampo
Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, $17.99
Every holiday brings more “Nutcracker” picture books, but this one’s leaps above the rest. It’s based on the version of the story that the great Balanchine set upon the New York City Ballet. The palette of deep colors lends to the magic and mystery of a fantasy dreamland. Docampo’s paintings seem alive with the grace, fluidity and poetry of ballet itself.

All ages

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The Night Before Christmas: Heirloom Edition
By C. Clement Moore
Illustrated by Charles Santore
Cider Mill Press, $24.95
Actor Jeff Bridges lends his rich voice to the yuletide classic. Santore’s richly atmospheric paintings includes a stunning four-panel pullout scene that’s about four feet long. For 2016, it’s been reissued to include Bridge’s telling of the tale, as well as a second CD with more than 20 traditional Christmas carols. The pouch contains a treat for the kids: a countdown-to-Christmas poster. Looking for a special something for a family on your list? This is it.

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