Christmas books to read with the kids

by Sara Treat Chance, reading specialist, educator, and local mother of 3

Often in a good book, we either see glimpses of ourselves (a mirror), or lives foreign to ours (a window). Both are great for our children, and what better time of year to show our children a window than the holidays?

I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie books with my 4-year old daughter lately, and they’ve been a reminder to me of the power of a “window.” When we read that Ma was making socks, my daughter said, “Making socks?” Before I could respond, she reminded herself, “Oh yeah, because they didn’t have stores they could go to whenever they wanted.”

That concept has been one of the strangest to my children as we’ve read these, since we go to the store at least once a week. The Christmastime stories in these books are also worth seeking out. My kids’ eyes widen a little at the small list of simple gifts Laura and Mary gratefully received — a peppermint stick, mittens, a special cookie, a penny, an apple or

Growing up, I always received an apple or orange in my stocking, and I’ve tried to continue that tradition with my own children. Thinking of it in light of the Little House stories, it seems even important.

There are many ways to plant seeds of contentment and joy. Reading special stories with our kids is one. Here are a few books I share with mine:


1. The Laura Ingalls Wilder books (ages 4+; also a good first chapter book read-aloud): The Christmas chapters are easy to find in these books, or you could go crazy and read the whole book together. (With my 4-year old, I skip through parts where the books give detailed descriptions of machines and processes.)

december-book2-resized2. A Homemade Together Christmas, by Maryann Cocca-Leffler (picture book, ages 2-8): A pig family decides that they will make Christmas gifts for each other. The little boy pig has difficulty deciding what he can make but finds a perfect idea in the end. Very focused on giving from the heart and family togetherness with cute illustrations.

december-book1-resized3. The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco (ages 5+): Like Polacco’s other picture books, there is a lot of text here, so for younger ones reading aloud in two settings might work better. A Jewish family preparing their beloved Hanukkah traditions discovers that the neighbors have come down with scarlet fever. The family sacrifices their own special traditions to help their Christian friends celebrate Christmas. This book is what the world needs now!

december-book-4-resized4. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story, by Gloria Houston, illus. by Barbara Cooney (picture book; ages 4+): I haven’t attempted to read this one to my kids yet because likely I’ll do the ugly cry. A little girl’s dad is away at war; she and her mom are very poor, but it’s their turn to get the church Christmas tree. This also means the little girl is supposed to be the angel in the church Christmas play, but she needs a costume, and of course, there’s no money for mama to buy fabric for the costume. A beautiful story of love and sacrifice.

In this real-life house, we’ll still have fussing and fits (hopefully not too many of mine ;-) ). My children will still want all the toys and probably will make it known more than I’d like. Even I get over-focused on making them happy with “stuff” under the tree.  So we’ll share these stories and talk about what makes gifts special and how being together is what’s ultimately important. I’ll keep on giving them an apple or orange in their stockings and hope the seeds planted grow into real joy.

sara-bio-picSara Treat Chance is a reading specialist, college instructor, wife to an amazing middle school teacher named Andrew and currently a stay-at-home mother of 3 wonderful kids named Seth, Madeline and Joseph. She is passionate about creating lifelong readers and writers. Check out her blog at










What We’re Reading: Read these True Lit Festival-worthy books before the event!

whatreading FPL

By Hotspur Closser, teen librarian at the Fayetteville Public Library

The dog days of summer are fast approaching, and what better way to beat the heat than with a visit to the Fayetteville Public Library!  The Library is gearing up to host its fourth annual True Lit Fayetteville Literary Festival, to be held October 17 through 27, so now would be a terrific time to bone up on the works of this year’s featured authors.

For a full schedule of events, head over to

All highlighted titles are available for checkout at the Fayetteville Public Library.



By Louis Sachar

For the fourth consecutive year, FPL is privileged to host a Newbery Medal winner as its headliner for True Lit.  Perhaps the most prestigious award in children’s literature, the Newbery Medal is given each year to the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, and in 1999 it was awarded to acclaimed children’s author (and 2016 True Lit keynote speaker) Louis Sachar for his novel Holes, described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a dazzling blend of social commentary, tall tale and magical realism.”  Sachar is also well known for penning both the successful “Wayside School” and “Marvin Redpost” series as well as many other titles such as the beloved There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom.  Sachar’s most recent novel is Fuzzy Mud.



By Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine comes to True Lit courtesy of the University of Arkansas Creative Writing Distinguished Reader sponsorship.  An accomplished poet, playwright, and anthologist, Claudia is perhaps best known for her award-winning Citizen: An American Lyric, a poetic rumination exploring what it means to be black in “post-racial” America.  Her other work includes Nothing in Nature is Private, The End of the Alphabet, Plot, and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely:  An American Lyric.

holding on upside down

Holding On Upside Down

By Linda Leavell

Author Linda Leavell will be lending her writing prowess to the workshop “Narrative Nonfiction:  Turning Facts into Story,” and she is certainly no slouch when it comes to crafting nonfiction.  Her book Holding On Upside Down:  The Life and Work of Marianne Moore won both the Plutarch Award and PEN Award for Biography in 2013 and was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.



By William Bernhardt

Named “Oklahoma’s Renaissance Man” by OSU, William Bernhardt is not only a New York Times bestselling author who has penned more than forty books including the blockbuster Ben Kincaid mystery series, but he is also a traveler, adventurer, and even a “Jeopardy” champion.  Founder of the Red Sneaker Writing Center, Bernhardt will be hosting a “Fundamentals of Fiction” workshop at FPL.  His novel Nemesis:  The Final Case of Eliot Ness is in the works to be adapted into an NBC miniseries.

the improbable life of the arkansas democrat

The Improbable Life of the Arkansas Democrat

By Jerry McConnell

Local history buffs will be interested in checking out University of Arkansas Press Spotlight Author Jerry McConnell will be presenting his book, The Improbable Life of the Arkansas Democrat, which examines the history of the newspaper war between the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette.

less fortunate pirates

Less Fortunate Pirates

By Bryan Borland

Poet Bryan Borland will be leading a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Be Published)” workshop designed for poets looking to publish.  He has published two volumes of poetry:  My Life as Adam and Less Fortunate Pirates:  Poems From the First Year Without My Father.

black rat

Black Rat

By Cole Closser

Cartoonist Cole Closser will be leading graphic novel workshops for both teens and adults at this year’s event.  Closser was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2013 for his homage to early newspaper comic strips, Little Tommy Lost.  His most recent publication is the avant garde comics anthology Black Rat.

champion trees of arkansas

Champion Trees of Arkansas

By Linda Williams Palmer

Hot Springs fine artist Linda Williams Palmer will be leading a discussion and also showing sketches from her book Champion Trees of Arkansas:  An Artist’s Journey, soon to be published by the University of Arkansas Press.

nefertiti the spidernaut-1

Nefertiti, the Spidernaut

By Darcy Pattison

Children’s author and founder of Mim’s House Publishing, Darcy Pattison, will be presenting her soon-to-be published work Nefertiti, the Spidernaut.  Pattison is best known for creating the Novel Revision Retreat and for her “Kell” series of children’s books.

FPL LOGO WITH 100 YEARSAll these books are available for checkout at the Fayetteville Public Library, our What We’re Reading sponsor on nwaMotherlode. Click here to see more about the Fayetteville Public Library’s Summer Reading Program. Win prizes for doing what you love — reading!

What We’re Reading: Inspiring your children to chase new adventures!

whatreading FPL

By Devin Stanley, Youth Librarian at the Fayetteville Public Library

This summer at the Fayetteville Public Library, we’ll be promoting health and fitness as a part of our Summer Reading Club!

We are big believers in using books to inspire children of all ages to learn new activities and explore their surroundings. Each month we add new picture books to our already expansive collection. We picked a few to share with you today that will help get your kids up and moving!

Gator Dad by Brian Lies

“Come on—let’s go! Let’s squeeze the day!” roared Gator Dad to his three slumbering little gators. So starts an adventurous day with an abundant, though fried and fishy breakfast (what else would gators eat?). Throughout the day, Gator Dad will lead his little ones in supermarket competitions, wilderness explorations, and swing-set races to the moon.

This book not only celebrates the many recreational activities to be found outdoors, at home, and even while running errands, but it also celebrates a special figure in a child’s life: Dad. Gator Dad is a great example of showing how the little things in life are made special through time spent with loved ones, as he says, “I’ll be your raft on a sea of grass and a tree for you to climb.”

Brian Lies is the author and illustrator and his use of rich hues and subtle humor will be engaging for ages 2-4. With Father’s Day around the corner, this book is a perfect checkout!

gatordad, resized

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino

Tina is a cow but not any ordinary, run of the mill, only eat grass and moo kind of cow. No, Tina is an adventurous spirit, determined to make new discoveries and solve the mysteries of her world.

Unlike her normal (and slightly boring) sisters, Tina explores the outdoors daily, and, thanks to her adventuring spirit, she makes an unlikely friend: a red boot wearing, plant eating dragon. Together they make new and exciting discoveries that are depicted in beautiful watercolor shades of red, yellow, and blue that mix together to make all the shades of the rainbow.

Gemma Merino is the author and illustrator. This book is appropriate for ages 3-5 and will inspire readers to independent thinking and outdoor exploration.

cow who climbed a tree, resized

Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook

“High on the clotheslines/ the clues swing and sway/ who uses these things/ for the sports that they play?” Rhyming riddles catch the reader’s attention as they learn about baseball, soccer, tennis, fencing, basketball, football, and archery.

With so many sports to introduce your young child to, this book is a perfect read aloud to start the conversation and encourage them to try something new.

This book is illustrated by Andy Robert Davies. His use of bright colors with simple, clean edges is perfect for ages 2-5.

clothesline sports, resized

Devin headshot, croppedDevin Stanley has been a youth services librarian at the Fayetteville Public Library for four years. She designs and leads programs for all ages including story time for toddlers and babies, as well as STEM oriented workshops for elementary and teen students.

  She develops three juvenile collections – parenting, easy reader, and world languages; assists in developing picture books, juvenile film, and the read aloud section; coordinates the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, facilitates the introductory volunteer program called 7Ups!, and runs the Homework Helpers afterschool tutoring program.

Devin has worked at the Fayetteville Public Library since the age of 14 and considers the library her second home. She shelved recently returned books and worked the circulation desk for six years before moving to the youth services department and obtaining her Master’s in Library Science and Information Studies.

Event: Summer reading program to kick off at the Fayetteville Public Library!


The Fayetteville Public Library’s Summer Reading Club kick-off party will be Saturday, June 4!

This gonna be FUN! Drop in anytime between 10 am and 1 pm and help FPL kick off the annual summer reading program. Enjoy bounce houses, a photo booth, face painting, balloons, temporary airbrush tattoos, snow cones and more!

FPL ad, Summer Camp GuideOf course, while you’re there, be sure to sign up for the Summer Reading Club. The SRC is for:

If you read more books, there are more chances to win small — and big — prizes! Of course, reading is its own reward, but it never hurts to have a little incentive, right?

What We’re Reading: Best Fairy Tales with a little Twist

whatreading FPL

By Alyson Low, Youth Services, Fayetteville Public Library

Hello, readers. Today, I thought we could have some Fractured Fairy Tale Fun…

Once upon a time, a merry band of authors resolved to take up the charge of turning traditional fairy tales on their heads, accomplishing the feat to very jolly effect. Dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses were delighted with the stories and clamored for more. The warriors of the written word dedicated themselves to answering this call, and all was well in every kingdom across the land…

In Beware of the Bears, Mama, Papa, and Baby Bear attempt to turn the tables on the intrusive Goldilocks by letting themselves into what they believe is her home and creating comedic chaos. They are quite pleased with themselves until she has some unexpected news for them upon her return. Kids will love that the parents behave badly, flinging cereal across the room and jumping on the couch!

beware-of-the-bears use

Waking Beauty is the story of a bumbling Prince Charming who, despite very obvious clues from the three fairies, cannot figure out how to wake Sleeping Beauty. His efforts are hilarious flops, and when he does get it right, he’s “rewarded” in an unexpected way. This is a great book for reading aloud as kiddos will quickly pick up on the repetition of “kiss” and say it with greater exasperation each time the prince fails to grasp what he must do to rouse the drowsy girl.


Falling for Rapunzel is also about missing the point, but this time, it’s the damsel in distress who is clueless. Not quite hearing what her handsome suitor is asking, Rapunzel tosses down everything except for her golden tresses – underwear, socks, a pig, a cantaloupe, etc. Kids will love the silly illustrations, especially the horse wearing a pair of frilly bloomers on its head, and there is some clever wordplay adults will enjoy.


With all things princess still trending, these books will be popular at bedtime and work well for a story time at themed birthday parties and sleepovers, also. They promise gales of giggles from little ladies – and little lords, too!

More of Alyson’s recommended fractured fairy tales:

  • Goldilocks and the Three Martians
  • Ninja Red Riding Hood
  • The Princess and the Pizza
  • The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig

Alyson, croppedABOUT ALYSON: Alyson Low has been a youth services librarian at the Fayetteville Public Library for nine years. She designs and leads story times for toddlers and preschoolers; develops four juvenile collections –nonfiction, graphic novels, easy readers, and read-alongs; writes book reviews for School Library Journal; coordinates Sit Stay Read – FPL’s reading program with therapy dogs, and teaches after-school and summer writing classes for 3rd-12th grades. Prior to working at FPL, she was an eighth grade English teacher for nine years.