SALT LAKE CITY — We all have our favorite holiday books: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Polar Express" or maybe Ezra Jack Keats' winter-themed "The Snowy Day." This year brings with it a new stack of contenders, if not to replace old favorites, to at least join the group. Here are seven that we found from this year's lineup that caught our eye.
"THE LOST CHRISTMAS: A Seek and Find Book," by B.B. Cronin, Viking Books for Young Readers, 40 pages
This is the Christmas book that little readers — and their bigger friends — will not be able to take their eyes off of. B.B. Cronin continues his "Lost" series, after "The Lost House" and "The Lost Picnic," with this whimsically illustrated book about two children who help their granddad find his missing Christmas tree ornaments. The fun of this seek and find book is looking through the book's brightly colored, packed pages to find Granddad's ornaments and discovering what else is hidden throughout the pages. The result is a sort of old-fashioned "Where's Waldo?"
"THE BROKEN ORNAMENT," by Tony DiTerlizzi, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 48 pages
Tony DiTerlizzi's "The Broken Ornament" achieves a difficult feat: adding a new, charming and thoughtful story to the Christmas tale canon. Jack wants to make this year's Christmas the best ever: a bigger tree, bigger decorations — anything to make this holiday stand out. When he accidentally breaks an old ornament of his mom's, unwittingly summoning a Christmas fairy to the house, it seems he has gotten his wish, only to later discover that the broken ornament meant far more to his mom than just a holiday decoration. The tender ending of this lovely book will appeal to any age.
"PLUM: How the Sugar Plum Fairy Got Her Wings," by Sean Hayes and Scott Icenogle, illustrated by Robin Thompson, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 48 pages
Who knew that the Sugar Plum Fairy got her start in the Mary Fitzgerald Orphanage? This book tells the tale of little Plum, an orphan who eats a magical piece of cake on Christmas Eve and finds herself in the Land of Sweets. But don't expect a "Nutcracker" retelling with this story, written by "Will and Grace" star Sean Hayes and producer Scott Icenogle. It's something altogether new as Plum helps take the sour out of candy land and finds a family of her own.
"ALL ABOARD! The Christmas Train," by Nichole Mara, illustrated by Andrew Kolb, Harry N. Abrams, 10 pages (Preschool and up)
Anyone who has read a picture book to a child 3 and under knows that they are far more interested in finding things in the pictures than they are a narrative story. With that idea in mind, writer Nichole Mara and illustrator Andrew Kolb have created the ideal book for these little ones, which is also charming enough to appeal to older kids. Each page has a lift-up flap that reveals a colorful hodgepodge of characters and Christmas-themed fun, with text that encourages readers to do things like "find two snowflakes that match." The pictures have just enough going on that young eyes will love scouring the pages.
"IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING A PIRATE TO MEET SANTA, DON'T!," by Elise Parsley, Little, Brown and Company, 40 pages
Elise Parsley continues her "If You Ever" series with some sage advice for little ones going to meet Santa: Don't bring along a pirate. Why, they may ask? Well, pirates aren't great about sharing or singing holiday appropriate songs, and there's always the chance that if their meeting with the man in red doesn't go well, those scurvy pirates might force Santa to walk the plank. Little ones will love this silly story and grown-ups will get the chance to practice their best pirate voice when reading the book aloud.
"LAST STOP ON THE REINDEER EXPRESS," by Maudie Powell-Tuck, illustrated by Karl James Mountford, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 32 pages
This is as beautiful and charming a love note to Christmas cards as a child or grown-up could want. With die-cuts and hidden lift-the-flap doors and windows, Karl James Mountford's illustrations feature onion-domed buildings, geometric trees and a blue reindeer to help tell Maudie Powell-Tuck's touching story. Reminding us of the power of handwritten correspondence and the joy of being remembered, the story follows a brave red-haired little girl named Mia who goes on an exciting adventure to ensure that her grandpa knows she is thinking of him and gets his Christmas card in time for the holiday.
"THE CHRISTMAS TREE WHO LOVED TRAINS," by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Paola Zakimi, HarperCollins, 32 pages (4-8 years old)
Another Christmas book for train lovers, this sweet story is beautifully illustrated in greens and reds by Argentinian illustrator Paola Zakimi. Annie Silvestro's simple story follows a little pine tree who loves to watch the passing trains from her home in the tree farm. After a little boy and his dad take the little tree home for the holidays, she misses her trains, but, of course, Santa always knows what to get good trees (and girls and boys). This book has an old-fashioned sensibility without feeling self-consciously nostalgic, and children will love the bright pops of red in the otherwise muted pages. This is one that already feels like a Christmas classic.