December 2021

Every month, I check out 31 recently published picture books and share their first lines.

This month is all holiday/winter books. I include the first line and the structure/hook of the book.

Fave Five Titles This Month

The Snowflake

Red and Green and Blue and White

Santa Jaws

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah

Cold Turkey

Grand Jete and Me

by Allegra Kent, art by Robin Preiss Glassner


First line: I'm going to visit my grandmother.

Structure: a girl visits her grandmother, a former ballerina, and together they go on an outing, always moving as ballerinas.

The Animals Speak: A Christmas Eve Legend

by Marion Dane Bauer, art by Brittany Baugus


First line: Long and long the story has been told...of a young woman, her husband, a donkey, the faithful donkey, carrying them to their ancestral land.

Structure: a lyrical retelling of the legend of the animals at the nativity being given the power to speak.

The Snowflake

by Benji Davies


First line: High in the sky, one winter's night, a snowflake was made.

Structure: a story of one snowflake finding a place to land, from the POV of that snowflake.

Red and Green and Blue and White

by Paul O'Zelinsky


First line: On a block dressed up in Red and Green, one house shone Blue and White.

Structure: the true story of a girl whose family celebrates Christmas putting up a picture of a menorah in support of a Jewish family whose window was broken when they put up their menorah. Her simple action inspired her whole community to stand by their Jewish neighbors.

Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White

by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, art by Eva Campbell


First line: On a GRAY afternoon in December, Ma and I walk home from school.

Structure: a child is entranced by the snow; her mama can only think of the palm trees where they used to live. But the child's excitement becomes a magical lens for her mama.

The Wheels on the Bus at Christmas

art by Sarah Kieley


First line: Let's ride on the bus at Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve.

Structure: Familiar tune but with Christmas-themed lyrics.

Santa in the City

by Tiffany D. Jackson, art by Reggie Brown


First line: Every year, Deja counted down the days, hours, minutes, seconds, until Christmas.

Structure: a girl wants to believe in Santa but peppers her mom with questions about the logistics of Santa coming to the city. And her mom has all the right answers.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

by Alexandra Alessandri, art by Addy Rivera Sonda


First line: The day before New Year's Eve, Ava Gabriela stood with Mama and Papa in Abuelita's finca.

Structure: story with Spanish vocab about a shy girl finding her place in the family's new year festivities.

Carla and the Christmas Cornbread

by Carla Hall, art by Cherise Harris


First line: It's Christmas Eve, one of my favorite days of the year.

Structure: the story of a girl and her family's tradition of staying overnight with her grandparents Christmas Eve and the delicious food they enjoy, including cornbread.

Everybody's Tree

by Barbara Joose, art by Renee Graef


First line: I dig a hole for my little spruce tree, then tuck in the roots of my little spruce tree.

Structure: story of a tree that is cared for by multiple generations of one family and is selected to stand in a city's central square for its holiday celebration.

Who Will Pull
Santa's Sleigh?

by Russ Willms


First Line: It was Santa's first Christmas delivering presents to boys and girls around the world and he wanted everything to be perfect.

Structure: Santa auditions different animals for the role of sleigh puller.

Santa Jaws

by Bridget Heos, art by Galia Bernstein


First line: While kids write notes to Santa Claus, Sharks line up for Santa Jaws.

Structure: what it would look like if there were a Santa for sharks.

How to Catch a Gingerbread Man

by Adam Wallace & Andy Elkerton


First line: Once upon a Story Time at the bookstore down the street, some friends come in to have some fun--they're in for quite a treat!

Structure: in the vein of all the other How to Catch books by the same authors, a gingerbread man jumps off the page of the storybook and escapes all the storybook character-themed traps the children set for him.

The Little Owl &
The Big Tree

by Jonah Winter, art by Jeanette Winter


First line: There once was an owl who lived in a tree.

Structure: the true story of the Northern Saw-whet owl discovered in the 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The Ninth Night of

by Erica S. Perl, art by Shahar Kober


First line: On the first night of Hanukkah, Mom couldn't find the menorah.

Structure: a Jewish family has just moved when Hanukkah begins, and the children are disappointed when each night, something they need to properly celebrate is missing.

Little Mole's Christmas Gift

by Glenys Nellist, art by Sally Garland


First line: It was going to be the best Christmas ever.

Structure: Mole finds the perfect gift for mama but on his way home, he comes across animals who could use part of the gift.

The Real Santa

by Nancy Redd, art by Charnelle Pinkney Barlos


First line: I love, love, love Santa.

Structure: one little boy is determined to find out who the real Santa is amongst all the santas the family has in their home.

My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa

by Lisa Bullard, art by Constanza Basaluzzo


First page: Hi! I'm Kevin. We're getting ready for Kwanzaa.

Structure: one boy tells how his family celebrates Kwanzaa.

Our Favorite Day
of the Year

by A.E. Ali, art by Rahele Jomepour Bell


First two lines: On Musa's very first day of kindergarten, his teacher, Ms. Gupta, said, "Look around the room. You don't know them now, but these faces will become your closest friends this year."

Structure: Over the course of a year, a kindergarten class learns about four different holidays, from the POV of four classmates.

5 More Sleeps 'til

by Jimmy Fallon, art by Rich Deas


First line: Just FIVE more sleeps 'til Christmas.

Structure: a rhyming countdown til Christmas from the POV of a boy who's too excited to sleep.

We Want Snow!
A Wintry Chant

by Jamie A. Swenson, art by Emilie Boon


First line: Not a flake

Not a flake Not a flip-flop flake.

Structure: rhyming story anticipating all the fun activities a group of friends will enjoy once it snows.

The Eight Knights
of Hanukkah

by Leslie Kimmelman, art by Galia Bernstein


First line: Lady Sadie called the Eight Knights of Hanukkah together.

Structure: on the last night of Hanukkah, eight knights are tasked with taming a dragon with acts of kindness and bravery.


by Lynne Rae Perkins


First line: Where can it be? Thought Thomas.

Structure: an animal can't find the dried fruit for his special wintercake, so his friend sets off to find the thief. She discovers she has made assumptions, and she and the baker vow to make amends.

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol

by Arthur A. Levine, art by Kevin Hawkes


First line: Nate Gadol was a great big spirit who had eyes as shiny as golden coins and a smile that was lantern-bright.

Structure: the spirit who made the Hanukkah oil last for 8 nights continues to help families.


by Matt Tavares


First line: Life was not easy for the reindeer family of J.P. Finnegan's Traveling Circus and Menagerie.

Structure: how Dasher met Santa and how she and her parents and five brothers and sisters became his sleigh pullers.

There Was a Young Rabbi
A Hanukkah Tale

by Suzanne Wolfe, art by Jeffrey Ebbeler


First line: There was a young rabbi who read from the Torah.

Structure: a cumulative story about celebrating Hanukkah with a female rabbi as MC.

The Christmas Feast

by Nathalie Dargent, art by Magali Le Huche


First line: One year, the wolf, the fox, and the weasel decided to treat themselves to a Christmas feast.

Structure: a clever turkey keeps a fox , wolf and weasel from eating her for their Christmas feast.

The Three Latkes

by Eric A. Kimmel, art by Fernonia Parker-Thomas


First line: Once upon a time, there were three latkes.

Structure: a red potato latke, yellow latke, and gold latke argue about who is tastier.

Grumpy Monkey
Oh, No! Christmas

by Suzanne Lang, art by Max Lang


First line: It was a grizzly, drizzly December day, just like it had been all week.

Structure: a monkey is tired of the rain and in no mood to be festive, despite the cheer of the other animals. Until an act of kindness opens his eyes to the beauty around him.

Cold Turkey

by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call, art by Chad Otis


First line: Turkey woke up c-c-cold.

Structure: Rhyming story of a cold turkey who bundles up only to be faced with other cold farm animal friends.