Book Lists

December Holiday Books for Middle-Grade Readers

The holidays are upon us, and reading about diverse December customs seems a great way to celebrate the season. Here are some middle-grade books you might want to check out for your vacation reading pleasure.

 

Winterfrost by Michelle Houts

An ordinary Danish Christmas turns extraordinary when a family overlooks an important folkloric tradition. Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost. When Bettina’s parents are called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia, Bettina neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse.

No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous, folk.

 

Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell, illus. by Majella Lue Sue

In this Hanukkah story, Penina finds that a glass of cold milk and a hot potato pancake go a long way. Penina Levine is the only member of her family who isn’t looking forward to Hanukkah. Not only is it another chance for her annoying sister to steal the spotlight, but her favorite teacher is taking a mysterious leave of absence, and her best friend is deserting her to go on a dream vacation to Aruba.

Then Penina discovers why Mrs. Brown must go away and hears that a snowstorm may ruin Zozo’s trip, and Penina knows she’s the one who must bring some holiday spirit to her friends. Readers of all backgrounds will relate to Penina as she turns a pile of problems into a Hanukkah to remember.

 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by Carolyn B. Otto

Over the course of seven days, African Americans, families and friends, come together to light the candles that symbolize their past and future—and their unity. They gather as a community to make music and to dance; to feast on harvest foods and the good things of the earth; and to exchange simple, often homemade, gifts. Readers are introduced to the symbols of the holiday, such as the mkeka (a special placemat), kinara (candleholder), and kikombe cha umoja (unity cup). Important concepts, like the seven principles, are explained. In addition, a note from the book’s consultant, aimed at parents and teachers, puts the holiday in its full cultural and historical perspective.

 

Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale by G. Neri

Young Truman Capote thought life in New York City was going to be perfect, but things didn’t work out as planned.

In fact, Tru is downright miserable. So he decides to run away to Monroeville, Alabama, and the only friend he’s ever had, Nelle Harper Lee. But things don’t go well there, either.

Bad things seem to happen wherever he goes. The only explanation: he must be cursed. Christmas is coming, and Tru’s only wish is to be happy. But it’ll take a miracle for that to come true. Luckily, a special feast brings the miracle he’s hoping for. Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale is based on the real life friendship of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

 

How I Saved Hanukkah by Amy Goldman Koss

Marla Feinstein, the only Jewish kid in her fourth-grade class, hates December.

While everyone else is decorating trees, she’ll be forgetting to light the candles and staring at a big plastic dreidel. The holidays couldn’t get much worse.

So Marla decides to find out what Hanukkah’s really about—and soon she and her family have made the Festival of Lights the biggest party in town!

 

 

Kiesha’s Kwanzaa by Jacqueline C. Grant

Kiesha doesn’t understand what is happening to her family. Papa hides behind the newspaper at dinner time. Her big brother Derrick is grumpy and gets into trouble all the time. And Mama just seems unhappy. If not for her precious library books, Kiesha would be unhappy too.

When she discovers a family celebration called Kwanzaa, Kiesha thinks she has found a way to help her family. She works hard to create a special family Kwanzaa celebration, but is it too late? Young readers will learn about how some families celebrate Kwanzaa, but Kiesha’s Kwanzaa is really about family and togetherness and the power of love.

 

Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas by R.L. Stine

Rick Scroogeman hates Christmas. He can’t stand the carols and the pageants. He can’t stand the lights and the mistletoe.

But what he hates the most is having to watch the old movie A Christmas Carol every year at school.

Since his name is Scroogeman, all of his classmates start calling him Scrooge. And he hates being called Scrooge. But everything starts to change when three ghosts visit him. At first, he thinks it’s a dream. But then he realizes that it might be a nightmare. A nightmare that could become real.

 

 

Dreidels on the Brain by Joel ben Izzy

One lousy miracle.  Is that too much to ask? Evidently so for Joel, as he tries to survive Hannukah, 1971 in the suburbs of Los Angeles (or, as he calls it, “The Land of Shriveled Dreams”). That’s no small task when you’re a “seriously funny-looking” twelve-year-old magician who dreams of being his own superhero: Normalman. And Joel’s a long way from that as the only Jew at Bixby School, where his attempts to make himself disappear fail spectacularly. Home is no better, with a family that’s not just mortifyingly embarrassing but flat-out broke. That’s why Joel’s betting everything on these eight nights, to see whether it’s worth believing in God or miracles or anything at all. Armed with his favorite jokes, some choice Yiddish words, and a suitcase full of magic tricks, he’s scrambling to come to terms with the world he lives in—from hospitals to Houdini to the Holocaust—before the last of the candles burns out. No wonder his head is spinning: He’s got dreidels on the brain. And little does he know that what’s actually about to happen to him and his family this Hanukkah will be worse than he’d feared . . . And better than he could have imagined.

 

A Very Special Kwanzaa by Debbi Chocolate

Charlie’s school is holding a Kwanzaa Festival, and he doesn’t want any part of it. Last year, he was chosen to stand in front of the entire class wearing a dashiki, beads, and sandals- in the middle of winter!

When the class jerk decided to crack jokes about Charlie’s outfit, he became the clown of the third grade. This year he just wants things to be normal.

But Charlie soon learns that Kwanzaa is a celebration of creativity and caring.

 

 

The Return of Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

The winter solstice, the day the “sun stands still,” marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year, and it comes either on December 20th or 21st. Celebrations honoring the winter solstice as a moment of transition and renewal date back thousands of years and occur among many peoples on every continent. The Return of the Light makes an ideal companion for everyone who carries on this tradition, no matter what their faith. Storyteller Carolyn McVickar Edwards retells twelve traditional tales-from North America, China, Scandinavia, India, Africa, South America, Europe, and Polynesia-that honor this magical moment. These are stories that will renew our wonder of the miracle of rebirth and the power of transition from darkness into light.

 

 

Every Christmas in the small town of Pine River, a tree appears in the town square–the Angel Tree. Some people tie wishes to the tree, while others make those wishes come true. Nobody’s ever known where the tree comes from, but the mystery has always been part of the tradition’s charm.

This year, however, four kids who have been helped–Lucy, Joe, Max, and Cami–are determined to solve the mystery and find out the true identity of the town’s guardian angel, so that Pine River can finally thank the person who brought the Angel Tree to their town.

This is a heartwarming Christmas mystery, full of friendship, discovery, and loads of holiday cheer!

 

 

Nutcracked by Susan Adrian

Georgie has waited for this moment her whole life—to dance the part of Clara in The Nutcracker ballet. And when she finally gets the part, it’s like a dream come true . . . Literally.
Every time Georgie dances with the Nutcracker doll, she leaves the ballet studio and enters a world where everything around her—the old wooden furniture, the Christmas tree, the carefully wrapped presents—is larger than life. It’s so magical, Georgie can’t wait to return again and again. Then the Nutcracker’s magic seeps into the real world, putting Georgie’s friend in danger. Everything is falling apart, and it’s almost Christmas! Can Georgie save her friend, the Nutcracker, and most of all, herself?

Spice Up Your Holidays: Cookbooks for Middle Graders to Celebrate

As the northern part of the Western Hemisphere is blanketed with snow and the December holidays approach, it’s a great time to celebrate by cooking some special recipes. From Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanzaa, kids can join in the fun by trying some of these recipes on their own. The scent of gingerbread baking, latkes frying in oil, or bacon and onion seasoning collard greens—traces of these delicious dishes linger in the air and on the tongue. What better time to connect with family and friends than by cooking special meals and treats together? These cookbooks may help to make your holiday celebrations more festive.

HANUKKAH (December 22–30, 2019)

 

 

The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen

By Joan Nathan

 

Cooking activities from around the world, includes various holiday dishes, both traditional and new.

 

 

Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen

By Miri Rotkovitz

A kosher cookbook of family recipes from spending time in the kitchen with grandma; includes holiday menus.

 

 

 

 

Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen

 

By Susie Fishbein

Simple, kid-friendly recipes and helpful tips that introduce young cooks to kosher techniques.

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS (December 25, 2019)

American Girl Holiday Baking

By Weldon Owen

Features photos and step-by-step instructions, along with holiday plans for festive celebrations.

 

 

 

A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World

By M.E. Furman

Make some tasty treats as you learn about how countries around the globe celebrate Santa.

 

 

The Ultimate Kids’ Baking Book: 60 Easy and Fun Dessert Recipes

for Every Holiday, Birthday, Milestone and More

By Tiffany Dahle

 

Master baking and decorating while preparing holidays treats.

 

 

 

 

KWANZAA (December 26–January 1, 2019)

 

 

Hello! 60 Kwanzaa Recipes: Best Kwanzaa Cookbook Ever for Beginners

By Mr. Holiday

Share a strong family bond and stay connected by working together to prepare these holiday meals.

 

 

 

Fruits of the Harvest: Recipes to Celebrate Kwanzaa

and Other Holidays

By Eric V. Copage

 

Treasured recipes from people of African descent all over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Kwanzaa Crafts: Gifts & Decorations for a Meaningful and Festive Celebration

By Marcia McNair

Stories, crafts, and recipes that introduce the seven principles and their symbolism.

 

 

Enjoy the holidays as you cook up some special foods together.

 

December New Releases

December is for holidays, hot chocolate, and a whole lot of great middle-grade books. So take a look and decide which ones you might want to put on your wish list!

 

Major Impossible (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #9) by Nathan Hale

This ninth book in the bestselling series tells the story of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed geologist who explored the Grand Canyon John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) always had the spirit of adventure in him. As a young man, he traveled all over the United States exploring. When the Civil War began, Powell went to fight for the Union, and even after he lost most of his right arm, he continued to fight until the war was over. In 1869 he embarked with the Colorado River Exploring Expedition, ten men in four boats, to float through Grand Canyon. Over the course of three months, the explorers lost their boats and supplies, nearly drowned, and were in peril on multiple occasions. Ten explorers went in, only six came out. Powell would come to be known as one of the most epic explorers in history! Equal parts gruesome and hilarious, this latest installment in the bestselling series takes readers on an action-packed adventure through American history.

 

Who Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Patricia Brennan Demuth, illus. Jake Murray

You’ve probably seen her on T-shirts, mugs, and even tattoos, well, now that famous face graces the cover of our latest Who Is? title. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for her stylish collars (called jabots) and her commanding dissents. This opera-loving New Yorker has always spoken her mind; as a young lawyer, RBG advocated for gender equality and women’s rights when few others did. She gained attention for the cases she won when arguing in front of the Supreme Court, before taking her place on the bench in 1993. Author Patricia Brennan Demuth answers all the questions about what makes RBG so notorious and irreplaceable.

 

Mac Cracks the Code (Mac B., Kid Spy) by Mac Barnett, illus. Mike Lowery

Mac B. and his arch-nemesis are facing off at the Video Game World Championships! But first, Mac B. needs to crack an unbreakable secret code. Can he solve it in time to defeat his enemy? Find out in this kid spy adventure from New York Times bestselling author, Mac Barnett! The Queen of England calls on Mac B. once again! This time, Mac must crack a secret code that has been recovered from a double agent. A series of clues leads Mac to France, and then to Japan, where he comes face-to-face with his arch-nemesis, the KGB man . . . and the world headquarters of Nintendo! Is the KGB Man secretly behind all of this? And are Mac’s video game skills good enough to face down his enemy at the Video Game World Championships? With Mike Lowery’s signature illustrations on every page, historical facts woven throughout, and of course intrigue, history, hilarity and more, catch the latest in this totally smart, wholly original, side-splittingly funny series.

 

Night of Dangers (Adventurer’s Guild, Book 3) by Zack Loran Clark, illus. Nick Eliopulos

After falling victim to a vile betrayal, Zed is cut off from Brock and their friends and unable to warn them about a dangerous enemy on the move. The Adventurers Guild may have defeated the evil that cast the elves from their home, but that doesn’t keep them in the Freestoners’ good graces for long. An ordinary day at the market comes to a fatal end when a rare Danger infiltrates the city, leaving over a dozen dead. Tensions come to a boil as the city is threatened by upheaval from within and becomes alight with terror. Brock finds himself frustratingly unable to utilize his underground contacts . . . though the mysterious Lady Grey may not be finished with him yet. To come together to save their city from a timeless evil looking to settle a score, the young adventurers must learn to trust in each other again and be willing to do whatever it takes to stop the tragedy of the Day of Dangers from happening again.

 

Bad Kitty Joins the Team by Nick Bruel

See Kitty as you’ve never seen her before: EXERCISING (reluctantly) in Bad Kitty Joins the Team, the latest installment of Nick Bruel’s phenomenally successful New York Times bestselling series. Kitty is terribly out of shape―she can barely torment Puppy without needing a break to huff and puff! When Kitty’s owner catches her wheezing, Kitty is told it’s time to EXERCISE. It takes some serious convincing, a high-stakes competition, and a little bit of trickery but eventually Kitty gets into the competitive spirit . . . albeit reluctantly. What did you expect? Will our favorite feline friend learn what it means to be a good sport? Find out in this hilarious addition to the Bad Kitty series.

 

 

Don’t Tell the Nazis by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

The year is 1941. Krystia lives in a small Ukrainian village under the cruel—sometimes violent— occupation of the Soviets. So when the Nazis march into town to liberate them, many of Krystia’s neighbors welcome the troops with celebrations, hoping for a better life. But conditions don’t improve as expected. Krystia’s friend Dolik and the other Jewish people in town warn that their new occupiers may only bring darker days. The worst begins to happen when the Nazis blame the Jews for murders they didn’t commit. As the Nazis force Jews into a ghetto, Krystia does what she can to help Dolik and his family. But what they really need is a place to hide. Faced with unimaginable tyranny and cruelty, will Krystia risk everything to protect her friends and neighbors?

 

The Winterhouse Mysteries by Ben Guterson, illus. Chloe Bristol

Danger, intrigue, and the power of family combine in The Winterhouse Mysteries, the fast-paced conclusion to Ben Guterson and Chloe Bristol’s illustrated, enchanting Winterhouse middle grade trilogy. It’s springtime at Winterhouse and Elizabeth is settling into the joyful chaos of her new home. But it isn’t long before she and Freddy are drawn into an ominous new mystery. Guests at the hotel start behaving oddly, and Elizabeth’s powers manifest in thrilling―sometimes frightening―new ways. As unnatural tremors shake the foundations of Winterhouse, Elizabeth hears cries for help from Gracella Winters, a villain she’d thought dead and gone for good. Elizabeth’s discovery of a rare book containing secrets of an ancient ritual leads to a tragic realization: someone at the hotel is trying to help Gracella rise again. Can Elizabeth and Freddy banish these threats and protect the future of Winterhouse once and for all?

 

Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson

From the author of Ice Dogs comes a riveting adventure about a musher who sets out to prove her impaired vision won’t hold her back from competing in a rigorous sled race through the Canadian wilderness. Perfect for fans of Gary Paulsen. McKenna Barney is trying to hide her worsening eyesight and has been isolating herself for the last year. But at the request of her little sister, she signs up for a commemorative mail run race in the Canadian wilderness—a race she doesn’t know if she can even see to run. Winning would mean getting her disease—and her sister’s—national media coverage, but it would also pit McKenna and her team of eight sled dogs against racers from across the globe for three days of shifting lake ice, sudden owl attacks, snow squalls, and bitterly cold nights. A page-turning adventure about living with disability and surviving the wilderness, Dog Driven is the story of one girl’s self-determination and the courage it takes to trust in others.

 

Sisterland by Salla Simukka, translator, Owen Frederick Witesman

Fall under the spell of this contemporary fairy tale that’s perfect for fans of Emily Winfield Martin’s Snow & Rose and the Chronicles of Narnia series. Alice thought it was unusual to see a dragonfly in the middle of winter. But she followed it until she fell down-down-down, and woke up in a world unlike any other. Welcome to Sisterland, a fantastical world where it is always summer. The most enchanting magic of all, though, is Alice’s new friend Marissa. But as the girls explore the strange land, they learn Sisterland’s endless summer comes at a price. Back on Earth, their homes are freezing over. To save their families, Alice and Marissa must outwit the powerful Queen Lili. But the deeper they go into Sisterland, the less Alice and Marissa remember about their homes, their lives before, and what they are fighting for. This is a wondrous tale about heroism, loyalty, and friendship from one of the most celebrated Finnish children’s authors.

 

What Were the Negro Leagues? by Varian Johnson, illus. Stephen Marchesi

This baseball league that was made up of African American players and run by African American owners ushered in the biggest change in the history of baseball. In America during the early twentieth century, no part was safe from segregation, not even the country’s national pastime, baseball. Despite their exodus from the Major Leagues because of the color of their skin, African American men still found a way to participate in the sport they loved. Author Varian Johnson shines a spotlight on the players, coaches, owners, and teams that dominated the Negro Leagues during the 1930s and 40s. Readers will learn about how phenomenal players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and of course, Jackie Robinson greatly changed the sport of baseball.

 

The Love Pug: A Wish Novel by J.J. Howard

J.J. Howard, author of Pugs and Kisses and Pugs in a Blanket, delivers more puppy love and friendship mix-ups. Emma’s pug, Cupid, has a hidden talent: He is a master at matchmaking! Her pet seems to have a nose for spotting which two people belong together. With the big school dance coming up, Emma decides to use Cupid’s powers to find her best friend, Hallie, a date. But as Emma tries to navigate crushes and secrets, she finds that things are a lot more complicated than they seem. And what if Cupid also has a surprising match in mind . . . for Emma herself?

 

 

 

My Survival: A Girl on Schindler’s List by Joshua M. Greene and Rena Finder

Rena Finder was only eleven when the Nazis forced her and her family—along with all the other Jewish families—into the ghetto in Krakow, Poland. Rena worked as a slave laborer with scarcely any food and watched as friends and family were sent away. Then Rena and her mother ended up working for Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who employed Jewish prisoners in his factory and kept them fed and healthy. But Rena’s nightmares were not over. She and her mother were deported to the concentration camp Auschwitz. With great cunning, it was Schindler who set out to help them escape. Here in her own words is Rena’s gripping story of survival, perseverance, tragedy, and hope. Including pictures from Rena’s personal collection and from the time period, this unforgettable memoir introduces young readers to an astounding and necessary piece of history.