The Bookworm: Holiday books for children, teens ... even Grandma

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“A Tuba Christmas”
by Helen L. Wilbur, illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles
* 2018, Sleeping Bear Press              
* $16.99 / $21.99 Canada; 32 pages

“Construction Site on Christmas Night”
* by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Ag Ford
* 2018, Chronicle Kids
* $16.99 / $22.99 Canada; 40 pages

“Plum: How the Sugar Plum Fairy Got Her Wings”
* by Sean Hayes & Scott Icenogle, illustrated by Robin Thompson
* 2018, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers   
* $17.99 / $23.99 Canada;48 pages

You already know the story about Santa.

Three wonderful holiday-themed books for your children: "A Tuba Christmas"; "Construction Site on Christmas Night"; and "Plum: How the Sugar Plum Fairy got her Wings."

You know about his reindeer and his sleigh and the toys. You know about Frosty, and Rudolph, and the elves. But what about fairies, tubas, or construction equipment at Christmastime?  With these great picture books, you’ll learn fast…

Everyone in Ava’s family played some sort of musical instrument and so when it was time for Ava to decide what she wanted to play, she knew immediately that she wanted a tuba because nobody else was playing one. But in “A Tuba Christmas” by Helen L. Wilbur, illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles, Ava learns that big instruments come with big problems and she almost quits – until her music teacher, Rodney, makes a big announcement.

In a few days, it’ll be Christmas everywhere. In “Construction Site on Christmas Night” by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Ag Ford, dump trucks, mixers, bulldozers, excavators, and other equipment toil on a project that must be done by the end of the year. Each machine does its job perfectly and at the end of the night, there’s a reward: each finds a special holiday thank-you for their hard work.

Of all the kids at Mary Fitzgerald Orphanage, Plum was the smallest and the other kids never let her forget it. One night, she was sent to bed early for something she didn’t do, but Plum decided not to let her troubles spoil Christmas. After making presents for all the kids in the orphanage, she discovered a mysteriously wrapped gift with her name on the tag. In “Plum: How the Sugar Plum Fairy Got Her Wings” by Sean Hayes & Scott Icenogle, illustrated by Robin Thompson, that led to a sweet surprise.

If read-aloud time is important in your house, wouldn’t it be great to have a holiday theme for the next few days?  Of course it would, and one of these fun books might be just the thing to ho-ho-have.

With its Christmas concert theme, “A Tuba Christmas” is perfect for 4-to-7-year-olds who love music and performing. Be sure you’ve got your sound-effects voice warmed up, because this book will be doubly fun if you play along.

Because just about every 2-to-5-year-old likes big machines, “Construction Site on Christmas Night” takes the “Construction Site” books to a natural holiday level with a tale of hard work and giving. Here’s a hint: if your child is on Christmas overload and can’t sleep, this book makes a great bedtime story.

And finally, “Plum” is a just-right book for slightly older children (5-to-7 years old) who still crave holiday tradition in a read-aloud. It’s a cute story that, from an adult’s perspective, is perhaps a bit too contrived; to kids, though, it’s as fanciful and lovable as its ballet namesake.

For the child who wants a Christmas story but the same old tales need new sparkle, grab any of these three books. With their holiday themes and cute illustrations (but not a word about The Jolly Old Elf), you absolutely know your child will love them.


“The Noel Stranger”
*by Richard Paul Evans
* 2018, Simon & Schuster
* $19.99 / $26.99 Canada; 333 pages

You thought you knew what was inside the box.

Though it was wrapped, you could tell what it was. You shook it, upended it, and picked at the tape, absolutely positive that you knew what was inside that colorful paper – but as in the new novel “The Noel Stranger” by Richard Paul Evans, mistakes do happen at Christmastime.

On a freezing pre-Thanksgiving weekend, Maggie went to find a tree. And that’s where the holidays turned for her in Richard Paul Evans' "The Noel Stranger."

Maggie Walther was sure that everyone in Utah was staring at her.

It was for nothing she did, except to marry Clive all those years ago. Except to stand beside him, supporting him as he dived into politics, throwing fundraisers for him and playing hostess. Except to be the last to know that her husband had another wife and children in another state.

Stricken and ashamed, Maggie’d been staying home, away from crowds. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t run her business, could barely even get dressed and her assistant, Carina, was worried. Couldn’t Maggie at least manage to put up a Christmas tree?

And so, on a freezing pre-Thanksgiving weekend, Maggie went to find a tree. And that’s where the holidays turned for her.

He was handsome and funny, and helped her find an easy tree to care for. His name was Andrew, and he offered to deliver the goods when Maggie’s car turned out to be too small for tree-hauling. She offered him a cup of coffee. He offered to help decorate the tree. She made him dinner. They talked and laughed and compared divorce-survivor notes. And in two weeks’ time, they fell in love.

It seemed impossible, really, that her heart could leap so quickly after being hurt so much but Maggie was head-over-heels. Andrew was responsible, kind, understanding, he was everything she needed. Carina warned her to slow down, especially after Andrew invited Maggie to Cabo for a week, but Maggie couldn’t remember the last time she smiled as much as she did with Andrew around.

Yet, how much did she really know about him? 

Not much at all, as it turned out…

First, this: Fans of author Richard Paul Evans. Yes. Go ahead now, get this book. G’wan. Get outta here.

Now. If you’re new to Evans’ fiction, what you’ll get inside “The Noel Stranger” is a decent enough romancy-Christmassy tale in which someone has been hurt somehow, but meets someone else who heals them during the Holidays. As you will inside other Evans holiday books, you’ll find extremely well-crafted characters and deep details that make it all seem more real, plus a snowscape and an argument that throws the novel briefly off-course before Happily-Ever-After. That makes this story formulaic, yes, but it’s as traditional and beloved as bulbs on branches and star on treetop, and it’s going to put you in a good Christmas mood.

This is a book you can give to your teen and to Grandma without reservation. It’s a pretty fast read, and it pairs fairly well with cocoa and a warm blanket on a cold night. For you, or to give, “The Noel Stranger” has it in the box.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.