More Than Enough: A Passover Story

by April Halprin Wayland
illustrated by Katie Kath

We were delighted to receive a copy of More Than Enough: A Passover Story for review, and from the first reading we were struck by the joyfulness of the story. We firmly believe any picture book can be a starting point for young readers to make new discoveries, but even adults can learn something new in this story. More Than Enough is presented in a way that readers who are not familiar with the traditions of Passover will gain an understanding of this spring holiday. 

"Deriving its name from the Passover seder song Dayenu which means, 'it would have been enough,' a Jewish family prepares their Passover seder, giving thanks for their everyday blessings. First the family visits the famers market for walnuts, lilacs, and honey (adopting a kitten along the way!). Than at Nana's house the children complete a treasure hunt of holiday traditions: chopping apples for charoset, opening the door for Elijah singing the verses of 'Chad Gadya,' and searching from the hidden afikomen. All the while, Dayenu remains the thankful refrain."

"The infectious, child-appealing watercolor artwork–with that adorable kitten!–will make readers smile. And once they understand the meaning of dayenu, they'll get into the spirit of gratitude as well." –Booklist

"Chopping apples for charoset – Dayenu.
Dashing though puddles on the way to Nan's house – Dayenu.
A delicious seder meal for the whole family to enjoy – Dayenu."


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Rechenka's Eggs

By Patricia Polacco

I was utterly captivated by Rechenka's Eggs from the very first page. The old world feel, the beautiful mystery of the friendship between Babushka and Rechenka, not to mention the exquisite illustrations of the decorated Easter eggs, all combine to make this one of my favorite books. Young readers are sure to love the thought of sharing breakfast with a goose, the wonder of the onion domes of the architecture, and the joy of a new friend who stays with Babushka forever. While the story takes place around Easter, it is such a beautiful tale of friendship that it would be lovely to read any time of the year. 

You Might Also Enjoy: The Easter Egg by Jan Brett

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Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka

By Tomie dePaola

While our own Irish roots are still being researched by the family genealogist, that has not diminished our enthusiasm in the celebration of St. Patrick's Day. We fill the house with the lyrical sounds of Irish music, the smells of soda bread, colcannon, and a new favorite this year, Irish grilled cheese (made with soda bread, Kerrygold Irish butter, and the yummy Kerrygold Irish cheese). We also enjoy reading an abundance of Irish folktales, then to cap off our celebration we have an annual viewing of the The Quiet Man (while this would not appeal to kids, you can't beat John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara!). All in all, a very fine celebration indeed.

To help inspire your own day of Irish celebration, we are featuring Tomie dePaola's Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka. In a whimsical folktale, based on Irish lore, the work-challenged Jamie O'Rourke learns a lesson from the mysterious pooka about the merits of hard work. Adding to the charm and imaginative appeal is learning that a pooka does not have a certain definitive form but can be any animal spirit. What fun to let the fun and whimsy of St. Patrick's Day inspire young readers to create a pooka of their own after enjoying this amusing book. 

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Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message

by Chief Jake Swamp
illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. 

While Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message is a beautiful book to read any time of year (and, indeed, thanks should be given every day and not only on one holiday), we thought this was a wonderful time to focus on a book that celebrates Native American culture. Full of rich and lyrical language and illustrations that live in harmony with the story, this book is a celebration of the beauty of our world and the life it gives us. 

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The Vanishing Pumpkin

by Tony Johnston
illustrated by Tomie dePaola

The Vanishing Pumpkin is cumulative story filled with interesting Halloween characters who all have a taste for pumpkin, if they could only discover where it went! Not at all scary, but full of Halloween magic and Tomie dePaola's folksy illustrations, this is a book the ghosts and goblins of all ages will enjoy for Halloweens to come. 

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A Basketful of Easter Activities

Dear friends, 

Happy spring and happy Easter! Peter Cottontail will be coming down the bunny trail in a just a few days so we thought we would round up our Easter activities in an easy guide. Celebrate Easter with some of these recipes or crafts, and enjoy the holiday with your family and young readers!

Dyeing eggs and watching the Easter Beagle are yearly traditions in our house. How do you celebrate Easter? Does your young reader have a favorite Easter book or activity? 

Easter Books

An Egg is Quiet

An Egg is Quiet is a magical, enchanting picture book that celebrates eggs of all kinds and the important role they have in our world. From tiny to giant, slimy to fossilized, readers are introduced to more than 60 types of eggs from a variety of creatures that swim in the sea, fly in the sky, or live on the land. Try the What's Under the Shell? science experiment, play in the mud with Build Your Own Bird's Nest, and make  delicious Eggs in a Nest Bread- perfect for your Easter feast. 

The Easter Egg

The Easter Egg is everything you could want from an Easter book. The story itself is engaging, heartwarming, and subtly teaches lessons about doing your best and not getting discouraged when faced with a challenge, made even better by the incomparable illustrations of Jan Brett. Check out two activities that help you use up your dyed eggs:  Deviled Egg Dip and Easter Eggshell Mosaics.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is probably the number one classic children's book. Although not an Easter book, the rabbit and garden theme makes it a popular choice for this time of year. Included is a recipe for healthy (and whole wheat) Coco Carrot Snack Cake, as well as Carrot and Parsley Salad, while aactivities include Peter Rabbit Book Play and Carrot Rabbit Stamps. Also check out The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson!


More Recipes and Activities for Easter

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Olivia Helps with Christmas

Dear Friends,

I have many talents. I can lasso a horse, make an excellent grilled cheese, and dance in high heels, but I CANNOT SING. Can't carry a tune in a bucket. But do I let this stop me? NO. Especially at Christmas. The more I can belt out a chorus (Think "Angels We Have Heard on High) the louder and more joyfully I share my non-gift with world. This talent started at the tender age of 3, when I earned quite the reputation for putting my feet on the table and singing through the entirety of every family meal. This would be about the same time that I decided on my lifelong career of being a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. C'est la vie! 

After learning this interesting fact about me, you will understand why Olivia Helps with Christmas is a book that is dear to my heart. Enjoy!


Olivia Helps with Christmas

by Ian Falconer

In true Olivia fashion, our favorite little pig’s enthusiasm for life and all things Christmas creates laugh out loud entertainment for readers while exhausting her family with her helpful attitude.
Olivia Helps With Christmas - Off the Shelf
Ian Falconer is obviously very familiar with young children, as his books resonate with adults who have an Olivia of their own or who perhaps were an Olivia themselves once upon a time. The story is highly entertaining but told with heart in a beautifully understated manner that allows the characters to shine.
Olivia Helps With Christmas - Off the Shelf
Smiles and giggles are guaranteed for both grownups and children as we follow Olivia through her family’s Christmas preparations. From helping to set the table to leading the Santa watch, Olivia Helps With Christmas is a true joy.

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A Cornucopia of Thanksgiving Fun

Dear Friends, 

We know that these days leading up to Thanksgiving can be busy, so this week we are doing something a little different. In this issue you will find a round up of our Thanksgiving books, plus additional crafts and recipes that easily apply to the holiday. Whether you are seeking some quiet time with your young reader or looking for ways to keep a houseful of little hands busy, you are sure to find something in this collection to pique the interest of readers both young and old. 

Best wishes for a week of eating, reading, and laughter. Happy Thanksgiving from Off the Shelf!


Thanksgiving Books

It's Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving - Off the Shelf

It's Thanksgiving is a collection of 12 funny poems by Jack Prelutsky, and illustrated by Marilyn Hafner, about everything including the gathering of family, the favorite childhood crafts to make, watching the parade, the delicious food, and the history of the day itself. Check out our recipe for Thanksgiving Stuffing Loaf, and make a Stuffed Turkey craft. 


Bear Says Thanks

Bear Says Thanks - Off the Shelf

From the popular Bear series by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, Bear Says Thanks is the perfect Thanksgiving installment that celebrates friendship and sharing one's unique talents. Check out our recipes for Wheat Muffins and Warm Honey Nuts, plus a fun creative movement prompt!


A Turkey for Thanksgiving

A Turkey for Thanksgiving - Off the Shelf

By Eve Bunting and illustrated by Diane deGroat, A Turkey for Thanksgiving puts a twist on the usual centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table. Young readers will love this clever story, as well as making Tie-Dye Turkeys and an edible Turkey Puzzle!


More Recipes


More Activities

A collection of activities that embody the spirit of the day:

It's Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

 Thanksgiving is almost here, and we can feel the excitement building! There is an air of bustling busyness as we prepare for a day that celebrates food, family, and fun, and there's also the anticipation of the festivities that December brings. 

Jack Prelutsky has summed up all feelings that go with this holiday, from the very first Thanksgiving to dreading the turkey leftovers. If you thoroughly enjoy It's Thanksgiving (and we are sure you will), this amazing children's poet has also written It's Halloween, It's Christmas!, and It's Valentine's Day. Despite being labeled as a leveled reader, these books are appropriate for ages 3 to 93. We highly recommend them all!

It's Thanksgiving

by Jack Prelutsky

illustrated by Marilyn Hafner

No matter what you enjoy most about Thanksgiving, be it the gathering of family, the favorite childhood crafts to make, watching the parade, the delicious food, or the history of the day itself, this offering by the first children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky has poem for you. The book contains 12 poems filled with delightful rhymes and clever humor that are simply fun to read aloud.

Humorous illustrations by Marylin Hafner echo the clever appeal of Prelutsky’s work and are the perfect compliment to poems both children and adults will equally enjoy. Originally published in 1982, it has (thankfully) been reprinted by HarperCollins to continue finding a treasured spot on holiday bookshelves and being part of Thanksgiving celebrations for years to come.


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Old Black Witch

Dear Friends,

There are certain books that just stay with you forever. For us, Old Black Witch is one of those books. Old Black Witch is so embedded in our family's Halloween traditions that Nicky, his mother, and Old Black Witch herself seem like members of the family that come visiting every year. While not specifically a Halloween book, it was always packed away with the Halloween decorations, so bringing it out at the beginning of October was a much anticipated occasion. 

You might know Wende and Harry Devlin from the Cranberry books, including Cranberry Thanksgiving and Cranberry Valentine. This husband and wife team's books are charming and comforting; although considered vintage books, they have a modern feel that appeals to longtime fans as well as young readers discovering them for the first time. 

Happy Halloween to you and your young readers!


Old Black Witch

By Wende and Harry Devlin

Illustrated by Harry Devlin 

“Bats! Crickets! And snakes’ knees!” That endearing phrase is only one of many the unlikely heroine of Old Black Witch mutters throughout the timeless Halloween classic. Originally published in 1963, Old Black Witch! is the story of how Nicky and his other buy the perfect old house to turn into the Jug and Muffin Tea Room and then discover the house comes with a tiny resident witch who enjoys zooming around on her dilapidated broom and causing all sorts of mischief. Entertaining and fun to read, Old Black Witch is more charming than spooky but has just enough spine tingling antics to make it lots of Halloween fun.

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