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dear mr. hemingway’s 2021 holiday books & pairings 

Elf on the Gingerbread Shelf

A Christmas gift next to a gingerbread house

The Finest Christmas Tree by John Hassett, Ann Hassett (Islandport Press)

This picture book tugged at my heart strings and put a big smile on my face.  The illustrations are timeless and the story is simple, yet powerful. Mr. Tuttle’s Christmas Tree Farm business is being threatened by fake plastic Christmas trees 😮.  If he doesn’t make enough money selling trees, he can’t buy Mrs. Tuttle her Christmas hat.  One day though, something changes….


Every year Farmer Tuttle loads his truck with Christmas trees fresh from his farm and drives down to the city to sell them. Then he picks out a special Christmas hat to bring home to Mrs. Tuttle. But one year, people stopped buying real Christmas trees. Fake ones were more convenient, they said. So Farmer Tuttle had to return home without a hat to give his wife. The Tuttles worried; if they couldn’t sell their trees anymore, what would they do? Just when they’re about to sell all their trees to a man from the sawmill, a mysterious letter arrives requesting Farmer Tuttle’s finest tree.”

P.S.  Pair this with a made in Maine wooden tractor.  I can assure you…this toy is timeless and will last FOREVER! I still have a few!

The Scrumptious Life of Azaleah Lane by Gloria Felix, Nikki Shannon Smith (Picture Window Books)

Oh, how I love Azaleah’s curious mind.  This is the perfect book for your elementary school kiddo.   It has fantastic illustrations peppered through the story and even a few “Big Kid” pages with no pictures at all.  The Scrumptious Life of Azaleah Lane is an awesome read-aloud or great for an independent reader.  Readers need to put on their sleuth hats and help Azaleah figure out why her chocolate chip cookies are not coming out correctly.  It is a wicked fun read with a bonus recipe in the back too.   


Mama and Daddy are heading out of town, which means Azaleah and her sisters get to spend the weekend at Auntie Sam’s. The girls can’t wait for their special weekend Azaleah even decides to bake cookies to surprise her parents when they return. After all, as Mama says, Cooking for someone is like giving them a gift. But the cookies are a disaster Azaleah is stumped. She’s sure she did everything right. Can Azaleah get to the bottom of the cookie catastrophe before Mama and Daddy get back?”

P.S. Azaleah fans are going to want to bake cookies just like her. This cookie mix in a jar is the PERFECT companion to this book! YUMMMM!

Jungle Night by Sandra Boynton, Yo-Yo Ma (Boynton on Board)(Workman Publishing Company)

Sandra Boynton always delivers the greatest picture books.  This board book for your wee one is overflowing with simple and bright illustrations and very easy text to read and repeat over and over again.  “HOOO” doesn’t love animal sounds.  Boynton teamed up with Cellist, Yo-Yo Ma for this creation and there is even a few free audio downloads with this book.    


Sandra Boynton and Yo-Yo Ma! Plus snoozing jungle animals!

Two celebrated artists come together for JUNGLE NIGHT, a soothing bedtime board book. (Okay, MOSTLY soothing.) The book guides us through the jungle to hear the distinctive, gentle snore of each animal: “Listen to the tiger: ZEEE-ZOOO-HAAA. Listen to the cheetah: CHEE-CHEE-TAAAH.” A free downloadable JUNGLE NIGHT recording offers a narration of the book, with each and every animal snore interpreted by the expressive, playful cello of Yo-Yo Ma. He even does the elephant’s stop-the-show snore—though admittedly that took Ma’s cello PLUS the classic horn salute of the James R. Barker steamship. (Seriously.) All of this fabulousness leads into the coolest lullaby ever: “Jungle Gymnopédie No. 1”, a polyrhythmic jungly arrangement by Boynton of Erik Satie’s renowned piece, with Yo-Yo Ma on cello, guitar played by Ron Block of Alison Krauss Union Station, and drums by Kevin MacLeod. “Yo-Yo and I chose this piece because it’s the most gorgeous and mesmerizing night song imaginable,” explains Boynton. “And there was surely nothing else that could get those animals back to sleep after that elephant blast.”

P.S Snuggle with Maude the elephant while listening to this book.  This combo is a bedtime treat!

Dear Mr. Hemingway’s 2021 Holiday Books & Pairings

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