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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas for Greta and Gracie, written and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail. Nosy Crow, Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $22.00 ages 4 and up

"Anyway, coloring is boring. Let's go outside." So Greta and Gracie put on their jackets and went to help decorate the big tree in the village. "Do you think Santa Claus decorates his Christmas tree?" "I don't think so. He has elves to do things like that. Did you know there are 597 elves at the North Pole? Or maybe it's 598."

Two rabbit sisters are very excited about Christmas! They are as different from one another as they can be, in both personality and in the way they choose to approach each new experience. Greta is older, and expects to be in charge. She talks endlessly, likes to make any decisions that need making, and enjoys being the center of everyone's attention ... especially Gracie's. Gracie prefers to spend her time in quiet pursuits. She is tentative, and ever courteous.

"Greta was chitty-chatty and Gracie was quiet.
That was just fine because
Greta loved talking to Gracie,
and Gracie loved listening.

Most of the time."

The text is straightforward, sharing with readers the joys and anticipation that all children feel at this special time of year. The fun unfolds in speech bubble dialog between the two sisters. Laugh-out-loud funny at times and such fun to read out loud, listeners will be glued to their seats no matter how many times you share it in the coming month.

Greta jabbers on, Gracie follows up with pertinent questions. When asked about Santa, Greta has this to say:

"Oh, Santa is WONDERFUL!
He is the best and nicest man,
and he has a sleigh and reindeer,
and he gives presents to good little
girls and boys, and he has a HAT
and a red coat and a big white bushy
beard, and he eats COOKIES! ... "

And Gracie answers:

"He is magic."

Imagine the courage it takes for Gracie to leave their shared bedroom when she hears a noise on Christmas Eve, and wonders if it might be Santa. Quietly she moves through the house and peeks into the living room. What a surprise, and what a helper she proves herself to be! The tables turn, and we leave the two with hopeful hearts that we will soon see them again.

The digitally created illustrations are wonderful - bright colors, warm and engaging characters, and plenty of white space to keep our attention on the sisters and the many activities they love as the days move quickly toward Christmas and Santa's visit. The differently colored speech bubbles make for a perfect shared reading.

This is MAGIC, indeed!

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