sugar and spice and a detective that’s nice…a list of five holiday easy readers

gus and grandpa and the christmas cookies cover imageGus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies, by Claudia Mills, pictures by Catherine Stock

Gus and Grandpa are good buddies. Today they’re in Grandpa’s charming old kitchen baking Christmas cookies together. It’s a quintessential holiday scene, with snowflakes sifting down outside and a warm batch of gingerbread stars and bells and reindeer inside. Mmmmm.

These two guys are putting out jazzy cookies like nobody’s business, when ding-dong! Grandpa’s neighbor is at the door delivering a large platter of her cookies. ReindeerCookies (1 of 1) from buddingbaketress dot comShe thinks that “a man alone would like some home baking.” A sweet gesture, though Grandpa has six dozen of his own confections covering his countertops. As the afternoon wears on, more neighbors arrive bearing more cookies. So kind, but Grandpa’s kitchen is now simply overflowing with goodies. Thanks to Gus’ warm heart, though, the two of them have a wonderful plan for easing the cookie congestion.

The Gus and Grandpa series is a more tender, thoughtful set of easy readers than most. Geared for perhaps a slightly older beginning reader, these are quiet stories about the dearest Grandpa on the planet and his pleasant, sensitive grandson. This story with its emphasis on the spirit of giving is a favorite of mine. Catherine Stock is also a favorite illustrator. Her graceful, friendly watercolors are full of warmth. In actual fact, I want Grandpa’s vintage kitchen in my house!

mr. putter and tabby bake the cake cover imageMr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Speaking of baking…it’s definitely a holiday theme!

Dear Mr. Putter loves to give Christmas presents, but it’s quite tricky to come up with the perfect gift for his best friend and neighbor,

Fruitcake is making Mr. Putter worried.

Fruitcake is making Mr. Putter worried.

Mrs.Teaberry. She has such unusual tastes. For one thing, she loves fruitcake. Simply gobbles the stuff every December. Mr. Putter thinks this is a bit concerning. He is a little suspicious of fruitcake, it seems. So, he decides to bake her an out-of-this-world, delectable cake. One that’s light and airy and delicious. Not heavy as a brick.

Of course, things do not always go as planned, and the hilarious misadventures of Mr. Putter’s baking project are one of those things! Happily, though, Mrs. Teaberry is as good a friend as anyone could hope for, and between the two of them, Christmas turns out very merry.

The Mr. Putter books are an A+ easy reader series which my kids devoured. Cynthia Rylant knows how to spin a story, and these characters she has created are as amiable as they come. Arthur Howard’s humorous, loving illustrations tango across the pages with jolly colors and energetic line. A sure fire hit!

zelda and ivy one christmas cover imageZelda and Ivy One Christmas, written and illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Well lookee here — the Fox sisters are also baking Christmas cookies! It’s positively epidemic!

Zelda and Ivy are baking with their delightful neighbor, Mrs. Brownlie. While they roll out dough and cut out shapes, they chat together about what the girls want for Christmas. Zelda spies a “dreamy velvet gown” in a catalog and declares that would be the ideal thing for a Christmas Ball.

This sets Mrs. Brownlie to reminiscing about the last time she and her dear zelda and ivy one christmas illustration laura kvasnoskyMr. B danced at just such a Ball. This is the first Christmas she’ll celebrate without him, and she and the Fox sisters all feel a pang of heartache as they think about that. Zelda and Ivy decide to make a special present for Mrs. Brownlie to cheer her up, even as they anticipate their own wishes coming true. When Christmas arrives, there are plenty of happy surprises for everyone.

Christmas Elves and the Amazing Zeldarina with her bath towel turban pop into this cheery, kind-hearted story which brushes up against the sadness which holidays bring to some while maintaining a vibrant, happy tone. Kvasnosky’s bright, snappy gouache resist artwork bubbles with enthusiasm as well. A nice, uncommon angle for a holiday story.

nate the great and the crunchy christmas cover imageNate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Craig Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont

Ah — no cookies this time. Instead, it’s potato pancakes and crunchy dog bones in this snowy puzzler from your favorite detective, Nate the Great.

It’s Annie’s large and somewhat-terrifying dog, Fang, who has lost something this time, and although Nate the Great doesn’t harbor a lot of warm feelings for Fang, he agrees to take the case in order to keep that outsized dog from undue unhappiness.nate the great and the crunchy christmas illustration marc simont For three-and-a-half hours Nate sleuths — examining clues, visiting the eccentric Rosamond and her odd cats, munching on potato pancakes to help himself think better, and finally — bingo! — he’s got it!

Nate is a cool detective, and armed with pancakes, he always gets his man. Marc Simont’s believable, personality-filled, watercolors are, as always, a treat. This particular edition is jam-packed with Fun Activities in addition to the story — recipes for potato pancakes, applesauce, and even dog biscuits; mini-lessons on snow, and directions for fun snow activities and greeting card making. Double the fun!

aunt eater's mystery christmas cover imageAunt Eater’s Mystery Christmas, written and illustrated by Doug Cushman

One last book, and those Christmas cookies are back again!

Aunt Eater, the mystery-solving anteater, is getting ready for Christmas and a visit from her sister, Eliza. Shopping, house cleaning, and cookie-delivering are what’s on her to-do list, but taking tea, searching for a new whodunit to read, and solving a series of mysteries also crowd their way into Aunt Eater’s day. Even at bedtime, strange noises crop up which need investigating. How exhausting!

Savvy Aunt Eater easily unravels all the mysterious happenings around her, but

No one in any of these stories eats scones and tea, which I would like best!

No one in any of these stories eats scones and tea, which I would like best!

she may need a little help sorting out the final tantalizing clues!

Aunt Eater is a friendly busybody and this series of easy readers offers pleasant detective stories with a different flavor than Nate the Great. Perhaps there’s a bit of Miss Marple in these lively plots for beginning readers, illustrated in cheerful, bright watercolors. Check it out, then look for the others in the series. 

There are lots and lots of Christmas books in the Marmalade Archives. Here are a few links to some of them:

God Jul!…five Swedish Christmas stories sprinkled with ginger cookies and tomtes

a list of…five tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago

a list of…five oh, christmas tree! stories

a list of…five merry christmas stories from around the world

a list of…five worthy versions of the nativity story

a list of…five glimpses of the Nativity Story

a list of…five more delectable Christmas stories!

a list of…five favorite Christmas stories

ho!ho!ho!…a list of…five jolly books about good ol’ St. Nick

a list of…five poetic versions of the Nativity

Find more in the Subject Index under Christmas or by searching the Marmalade Archives for December