6 Fabulous Children’s Picture Books for Gift-Giving

There are many, many wonderful picture books that would make fabulous gifts for children in the holiday season or anytime. To pick just six of the books that children will enjoy at any time of year was difficult, but each book will perfectly fit a need for young children in a range of ages and interests.

“ABC Dream” is an incredibly beautiful alphabet picture book by Kim Krans. Each page of illustrations is a work of art, and children will love finding and naming all the things in each letter’s page. Each page is thoughtful and lovely. Read the full review here. (Random House)

“Nanette’s Baguette” is by ever-popular, ever-clever author and illustrator Mo Willems. In this story, Nanette is finally allowed to go to the bakery and get the baguette. Willems is careful to describe baguettes (warm and wonderful-smelling). And the book is filled, completely filled, with rhymes for baguette and Nanette. For example, “Look! There’s Mr. Barnett with his pet, Antoinette! Nanette pets Antoinette. Did Nanette forget the baguette?” The story is sweet and appropriately predictable, and kids will want to hear it over and over again. (Hyperion Books for Children)

iwantmyhat“I Want My Hat Back” by Jon Klassen is a picture book that belongs in the library of every toddler or young child. Children from three and through third grade will enjoy this clever story on several levels. The youngest readers will simply enjoy the story of a bear who wants his hat back. Those who are ready to make inferences will greatly enjoy realizing that through the language in the dialogue, Klassen reveals what has really happened. There are two stories going on; one is the literal story and the other is what must be inferred. Read the full review here. (Candlewick Press)

A picture book about a floating cat named Papillon will enchant children. In “Papillon Goes to the Vet,” A. N. Kang persuades children that going to the vet (or doctor) is not a terrible experience. When Papillon swallows a toy, he feels sick and is unable to float. But an overnight at the vet’s cures Papillon and he’s good as new the next day. (Disney -Hyperion)

Children love rhyming books, and Corey Rosen Schwartz is an expert at creating fractured fairy tales with great rhythm. “Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale” is a book that she labored over for years. It’s about Cinderella and her twin sister, Twinderella. This imaginative fairy tale take-off is filled with fractions and math and twins galore. Unlike many fairy tales, in this one the main character loves to do math! Read the full review here. (Putnam Books)

And a picture book that will be appreciated by older picture book lovers is “7 Ate 9: The 7ate9Untold Story” by Tara Lazar and very cleverly illustrated by Ross MacDonald. The story is filled with double-entendres, homophones, and idioms. 7 is the “prime” suspect when 9 goes missing. During the course of the story, they visit the “pi” shop where the waitress, B, has the scoop. Finally, to the delight of readers, Private I puts two and two together to solve the mathematical mystery. It’s a story that can be read over and over to squeeze out every bit of cleverness. Read the full review here. (Disney-Hyperion)

Please note: This review was based on the final, hardcover picture books provided by the publishers for review purposes.

 

 

4 Children’s Picture Books With Messages for Young Readers

This holiday season, or any time of the year, it’s wonderful to find picture books that share  uplifting messages for young readers. Many picture books, fiction and nonfiction, allow young readers to think about issues such as fairness, inclusion, and just that it’s okay to be different. Here are some really thoughtful books that will open children’s horizons in wonderful ways.

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‘The Great Shelby Holmes Meets her Match’ by Elizabeth Eulberg Is the Second in the Clever Middle Grade Series

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Shelby Holmes was introduced to readers in “The Great Shelby Holmes,” the first book in the series by Elizabeth Eulberg. In the second book, “The Great Shelby Holmes Meets her Match,” narrator John Watson brings to life another mystery that he and Shelby solve, and in the process gives the reader another view at the complicated genius of Shelby Holmes.

She’s a pint-sized fourth grader who has skipped two grades. Watson is a newcomer to New York City, and in the first book, Shelby shows him around the neighborhood. In this book, Holmes and Watson start school.

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‘The Exact Location of Home’ by Kate Messner Is a Middle Grade Treasure

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Kate Messner has been writing lots of books with lots of heart, and her newest, “The Exact Location of Home,” is no different. This extremely touching story will cause readers to think about appearances and stereotypes, friendship and family.

In this story, Kirby “Zig” Zigonski is excited to finally get to see his dad after months of delays and excuses. He’s devastated when his dad yet again cancels their weekend together. While garage-sale shopping, he scores a box of electronics and finds a GPS unit. With it, he finds a new hobby — geocaching.

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‘I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups’ by Chris Harris and Lane Smith

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There’s a new poet in town, and he’s going to give Jack Prelutsky a run for his money. Chris Harris’s “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups” is filled with many poems and other miscellaneous nonsense (like a “How-are-these-two-pictures-different?” puzzle where — spoiler alert! — both pictures are the same!).

The poems are all filled with humor and are deftly illustrated by Lane Smith. Two pages are filled with the beginnings of poems and a running commentary by Smith about how the poems are too ridiculous and would Harris please try writing a different poem instead. After four no-gos, Smith suggests that Harris write a poem about a monster under the bed, which Harris writes, and which is fabulous (and illustrated).

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‘Terrific’ Is a Heck of a Terrific Picture Book by Jon Agee

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Like most of Jon Agee’s picture books, “Terrific” will be one of those books that kids want to hear again and again. The story is of a cynical man whose response to everything that happens to him — good and bad — is to say “Terrific.”

He’s a cynical man. When, at the start of the book, he wins an all-expense-paid trip to Bermuda, he says, “Terrific. I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” Well, he ends up marooned on a desert island with only a parrot for company.

“Terrific,” said Eugene. “What good is a parrot?”
“You’d be surprised,” said the parrot.
Eugene was surprised.

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‘Bow Wow: A Bowser and Birdie Novel’ by Spencer Quinn is the 3rd in this Dog-Narrated Series for Children

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Young readers love books about dogs and Spencer Quinn’s series about Bowser and Birdie is no exception. “Bow Wow” is the third book in the series that began with “Woof” and continued with “Arf.” Adults might be familiar with Quinn’s series about Chet and Bernie, which features the fabulous detective dog Chet, whose narrative sounds suspiciously like that of Bowser.

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‘Invasion of the Scorp-Lions! A Monstertown Mystery’ by Bruce Hale Is a Fun-Filled Fantasy

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With the third book in the Monstertown Mystery series, “Invasion of the Scorp-Lions,” author Bruce Hale shows that he can write a series in which each book brings something new to the plate.

At first, this episode appears to be like the two previous books with the main characters, narrator Carlos and his friend Benny, learning that something strange is going on in the basement of the school. They think it’s a ghost, and because of the kids and teacher who encountered the creature and are now in comas, they know it’s dangerous.

But here the story gets interesting because Hale brings in an additional character, Esme, whose mother creates monsters, and whose family comes from a long line of monster-creators. Their last name is Ygorre (pronounced Igor).

A character from the previous book, Tina, also known as Karate Girl, joins the boys on their monster-hunting adventure, and Esme gives a hand, too. At the end of the book, there is an event that explains why there will be lots and lots of monstery sequels to these books.

While the subject of the books —  monsters — and the clever, catchy lenticular, 3D-ish cover make the books look like light reading material, Hale includes a quite serious secondary plot in each book. In this book, Carlos is worried about his parents divorcing.

Also, Hale’s use of figurative language and imagery throughout the books should thrill teachers as they use excerpts from the book when teaching narrative or descriptive writing. “The mechanical room was as comfy and inviting as a concrete crypt at midnight. Mr. Boo had thoughtfully stacked five folding chairs and a card table in the middle of the room, for that homey touch.” Imagery and a touch of sarcasm in two very funny sentences.

While many readers (this one included) might take offense at Hale’s characterization of Barry Manilow’s music as “A scorp-lion’s worst nightmare” and “soppy strings and drippy vocals,” he does have Carlos admit to humming along with one of the songs after a while. Hale also gives Benny some humorous lines when he mixes up words. A teacher thinks the monster smell is from feral cats, so Benny asks, “What are Will Ferrell’s pets doing here?”

This series is a perfect choice for reluctant readers and adventure lovers from third grade through middle school. Humor and horror – a great combination. Also an excellent choice for teachers looking for a read aloud that will teach kids about imagery.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion Books, for review purposes.

‘Wild Bird’ by Wendelin Van Draanen Is the Emotional Story of a Young Girl Out of Control

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Wendelin Van Draanen knows how to write a story that packs a punch. She did it in “Running Dream,” a story about a high school runner who tragically loses her leg in a crash, and how she learns not just how to walk with a prosthetic, but how to really see others in spite of physical differences. In “Wild Bird,” Van Drannen offers up the story of Wren, a girl who lost her way and ended up involved in drugs.

The story begins when Wren is awakened in the middle of the night and whisked off to a juvie camp in the Utah desert for wilderness therapy for 60 days. It’s a last-ditch effort to rehab Wren, who has proven resistant to therapists, counselors, and every other kind of help her parents tried to get for her.

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‘Suspect Red’ by L. M. Elliott — Fear and Loathing in ‘53 D.C.

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L.M. Elliott’s riveting Young Adult historical novel “Suspect Red” takes us on a rough ride through one thicket-filled thorny year in the life of early-adolescent Richard Bradley. He is a thirteen-year-old Washington D.C. resident circa 1953-54. And he is faced with the dilemmas and demons that would haunt any teen-ager whose father, whom he idolizes, is an FBI agent suffering from severe PTSD (making him, in those days, a “psycho”), and who, worse yet, works directly under J. Edgar Hoover during those dangerous and desperate months of June, 1953 to June, 1954: The Cold War rages. Continue reading

‘Malala’s Magic Pencil’ by Malala Yousafzai Is a Story About Possibilities and Kids Love It

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While the name “Malala” is quite familiar to adults, children may not know who the author of this picture book is. In “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” Malala Yousafzai tells her story, and it’s one that opens the eyes of the kids hearing her tale.

She starts her story telling about a show that she watched as a child, a TV show about a magic pencil that could create anything that was drawn with it. The boy who used it, the hero, always used the magic to protect people who needed help. Malala thought of the things she would do with a magic pencil.

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‘Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race’ by Chris Grabenstein Is a Worthy Third Book in the Series

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Can author Chris Grabenstein keep on writing “Mr. Lemoncello” books that will have new plots and  new twists and will keep kids (and adults) entertained? From the looks of “Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race,” it appears to be a certainty.

In this third book in the series, Kyle Keeley is once again determined to win a game sponsored by Mr. Luigi Lemoncello, his idol, the famous game maker and inventor extraordinaire. Lemoncello is to libraries what Willy Wonka was to candy in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

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