Holiday Gifts for Kids and Teens
2018 is just about wrapped up--but hopefully not all of your presents are! Below are 15 amusing, informative, moving and engrossing books for children and teenagers. But first, some fabulous gift-set biographies. (And look for our picks for Best Children's and Teen Books of the Year on November 27!)
Be Bold, Baby!, with these "inspired," "brilliant," "passionate" and "encouraging" board books by Alison Oliver. The first two board books in this new series from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt feature two of the United States' boldest, most brilliant women: Michelle Obama and Oprah. With brief biographies in back, these strikingly illustrated books depict moments from the women's lives with plucky statements: "be motivated" shows Oprah gardening, running, on the cover of Vogue, holding an Emmy; "be active" is paired with a hula-hooping Michelle Obama. Both titles end with a mirror and the most important advice of all: "Be you!"
Coco Chanel, Neil Armstrong, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton and more get the Pocket Bios treatment in these French imports from Roaring Brook Press. With brightly colored illustrations and simple text, these mini biographies include timelines, maps and "Did You Know?" sections. Designed for the little hands of children ages 4-7, the Pocket Bios are sure to enlighten eager youngsters.
For slightly older readers (ages 7-11), there is the "small but in-depth" biography series, Little Guides to Great Lives, from publisher Laurence King. Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela and Amelia Earhart all get their own books in this series about the "lives of some of history's most inspiring and talented people." Featuring timelines, glossaries, approachable text and striking illustrations, the biographies bring these important individuals to brilliant life. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Rediscover: The Story of Ferdinand
Gift season for young readers forces prospective Santas to contend with a wide catalog of classic children's tales. How does one match Where the Wild Things Are against The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Age and taste, of course, but the breadth of new books below shows how deep, and how good, the kids' selection can be. Among so many gems, one comes in an unmistakable ruby cover: The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson.
In Spain, young Ferdinand the bull takes time to stop and smell the flowers. He loves sitting under a cork tree and enjoying nature's scents, not so much the roughhousing of his fellow calves. As the bulls grow, Ferdinand becomes the biggest and strongest, sure to be a fighter--if only he weren't so peaceful. A misunderstanding gets Ferdinand shipped to Madrid, where he has a harrowing stint in the ring (with a sweet ending).
The Story of Ferdinand was released nine months before the start of the Spanish Civil War. In the midst of global catastrophe, the book became a major bestseller. Its delightful illustrations and enduring themes of peace and acceptance continue to pollinate from one generation to the next. The Story of Ferdinand is available from Grosset & Dunlap ($4.99, 9780448456942). --Tobias Mutter
Children's & Young Adult
Under the Same Sky
by Britta Teckentrup
Britta Teckentrup presents a wide, expansive world in Under the Same Sky. All the many species--lions, penguins, wolves, domestic cats--are connected by "the same love," "the same games" and "the same songs." Even forest bears and tropic flamingos "face the same storms" only to "dream the same dreams... together."
Teckentrup's words provide a comforting, calming message of interconnectedness: despite how different we look, how diverse our environments, how different our experiences, there are certain shared, basic traits that bind us together. She visually manifests the connections, using a clever pattern of peek-through cutouts that links two double-page spreads together. The deers dashing through a mountainous range, for example, "play the same games" as the rabbits in a flowering meadow--the two scenes conjoined by a cutout cloud. Warmly inviting, Teckentrup's picture book becomes a wishful hope for world peace. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Wherever we are in the world, Britta Teckentrup shows readers how we are all connected together Under the Same Sky.
hardcover, 32p., ages 5-7, 9781680100945
The Chilly Penguin
by Constanze von Kitzing
In this sweet board book, a "so chilly" penguin tries to warm up, first by knitting a scarf ("Still chilly"), then by building a fire ("Still chilly") and finally by ice skating ("Still chilly"). Two wordless, double-page spreads follow, depicting the beginnings of a snow shower and a very chilly, lonely-looking penguin. The solution comes in an option that can be shared even when it isn't cold out: "What if my friend and I share a hug?" Unsurprisingly, this solution is "Mmmm. Warm and snuggly!" The Chilly Penguin is a quiet, heartwarming story, and a great winter read for young readers. --Clarissa Hadge, bookstore manager, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, Mass.
Discover: In The Chilly Penguin, knitting a scarf, building a fire and ice skating don't work to warm a penguin, but another option that anyone can share might do the trick.
board book, 24p., ages 0-4, 9781782854067
Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year
by Fiona Waters, editor, illus. by Frann Preston-Gannon
In Sing a Song of Seasons, editor Fiona Waters (Why Does My Mum Always Iron a Crease in My Jeans?) curates a collection of poems that evoke the atmospheres, memories and pastimes we cherish as the months pass. Verses by favorite romantics (William Wordsworth, Victor Hugo), modernists (E.E. Cummings, D.H. Lawrence) and realists (Thomas Hardy, John Updike) accompany selections from popular children's book authors (Margaret Wise Brown, Beatrix Potter) and a refreshing number of anonymous but recognizable entries ("Star Wish," "Red Sky at Night") and singable classics ("Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat").
Stunning mixed-media illustrations by Frann Preston-Gannon (The Journey Home) depict critters, environments and weather phenomena with lifelike textures and contrasts that pop. This anthology impresses with its captivating art, careful balance of melancholy and uplifting verses, and timeless themes of playing, observing, aging and enduring through the years. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer.
Discover: Sing a Song of Seasons is a treasurable (hefty) picture book collection of nature poems to read, remember, recite and carry into adulthood.
hardcover, 336p., ages 5-up, 9781536202472
Every Month Is a New Year: Celebrations Around the World
by Marilyn Singer, illus. by Susan L. Roth
Prolific author and poet Marilyn Singer (Follow Follow; Rutherford B., Who Was He?) teams up with illustrator Susan L. Roth (Parrots over Puerto Rico) in the spectacular Every Month Is a New Year.
People commemorate the new year the world over, but it's not always with a ball drop nor on December 31. In some cultures, people celebrate in July by writing injustices or bad habits on clay pots, then smashing them. In others, crowds hold giant water fights to wash away misfortune. Working through the months of the year, Singer presents verses from a child's perspective that set the stage for each New Year celebration (Rosh Hashanah, Matariki, Diwali and so on), while Roth's stunning collages provide textured layers of imagery. End pages include information about calendars, New Year's greetings, more details about the holidays and a glossary and pronunciation guide. Fantastic! --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: This gorgeously illustrated picture book-in-verse is jam-packed with lively and lovely descriptions of New Year's traditions around the world.
Lee & Low,
hardcover, 56p., ages 5-9, 9781620141625
by Alison McGhee, illus. by Joe Bluhm
"Dear Sister,/ They told me to draw a picture of you for your baby book./ Here you go." So begins a series of illustrated letters from a brother to his younger sister, a less than welcome addition to his life--at least at first. The letters are accompanied by Joe Bluhm's gag-filled illustrations, some in what suggests a child's hand. The letters highlight the brother's frustrations: "Congratulations! According to the judges' calculations, your Cry Olympics scores place you in the top 3% of three-year-olds nationwide." But he has to admit that, by his sister's 10th birthday, she's no longer his nemesis: "Whininess: Could be worse./ Annoyingness: Could be worse." Alison McGhee (Pablo and Birdy) is so unremittingly funny that readers may be caught off guard toward Dear Sister's end, when it's time for the brother to go to college and--who would've thought?--both sibs are heartbroken. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: In Alison McGhee and Joe Bluhm's picture book, a boy writes a series of hilarious letters to his younger sister during her first decade.
hardcover, 192p., ages 10-up, 9781481451420
by Ryan T. Higgins
Move over, Grinch! Bruce, the grumpy black (well, purple) bear from Ryan T. Higgins's Mother Bruce, Hotel Bruce and Bruce's Big Move, is suffering yet another case of mistaken identity. His family of adopted geese and mice wants a Christmas filled with glee, and Bruce just wants to sleep. But when their young woodland neighbors mistake red-flannel-bundled Bruce for the big, jolly guy himself, all hope for a peaceful holiday is ruined. Before Bruce knows it, the little "critters" are on his knee, telling Santa Bruce what they want for Christmas (a race car, world peace, a "power compound miter saw").
Higgins is a master of creating stories with dead-serious protagonists who don't get their way (Be Quiet). But readers will never mistake Bruce's heart for anything other than what it really is: big and soft. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: In this hilarious Christmas tale of mistaken identity, Bruce the bear (Mother Bruce) finds himself doing just what he doesn't want to do in the middle of winter: being Santa.
hardcover, 48p., ages 3-5, 9781484782903
Power to the Princess: 15 Favorite Fairytales Retold with Girl Power
by Vita Murrow, illus. by Julia Bereciartu
The fairytale princesses in Vita Murrow's Power to the Princess anthology are ready to reclaim their narratives and save the world with responsible sustainability measures!
The princesses in this straightforward collection aren't perfect but they know that sometimes you have to get your hands dirty--like Ella, Murrow's Cinderella, who wants to be the kingdom's top workers' rights activist. Belle, an undercover agent with the Fairyland police, brings the fairy who unjustly cursed Beast to justice; Zade is an innovator who keeps the Sultan on the edge of his seat with 1,001 invention pitches; and Marisha, the little mermaid, marries Melody, her princess charming, and the couple share a mission to keep the sea free from pollution. Power to the Princess, featuring a bright color palette with characters of diverse hues and features, is a timely and inspired reimagining of classic fairytales. --Breanna J. McDaniel, author, freelance reviewer
Discover: Power to the Princess is a collection of retold fairytales with a "girl power" focus.
Lincoln Children's Books/Quarto,
hardcover, 96p., ages 7-10, 9781786032034
The Poetry of US: More than 200 Poems that Celebrate the People, Places, and Passions of the United States
by J. Patrick Lewis, editor
Former U.S. Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry), has selected traditional and contemporary poems to reflect the regions of the United States in this handsome volume, wittily titled The Poetry of US. The works of a diverse group of poets--Douglas Florian, Bobbi Katz, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Joseph Bruchac, Pat Mora, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove and many more--are included here, covering topics like patriotism, gay pride, civil rights and immigration (several offered with bilingual texts). The placement of poems often makes as powerful a statement as the poems themselves, as in a double-page spread featuring "You're a Grand Old Flag" by George M. Cohan on the left-hand page and an excerpt from Langston Hughes's "Let America Be America Again," with its strong refrain reminding readers "It never was America to me," on the right. The poems, presented in varied layouts with an incredible array of color photographs, create an excellent gift for older children. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer
Discover: The U.S.'s great beauty, history, diverse cultures, contradictions and controversies are expressed in the impressively illustrated The Poetry of US.
National Geographic Society,
hardcover, 192p., ages 8-12, 9781426331855
Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts
by Leah Tinari
To honor everyone selected for inclusion in Limitless: Twenty-Four Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts, Leah Tinari has painted each subject's portrait in gouache, sticking with black paint and a single-color accent as fierce as the featured maverick. On each facing page is a quote from or about the subject, some better known (Louisa May Alcott, Aretha Franklin) than others ("warrior, prophet of the Chihenne Chiricahua Apache" Lozen, designer Ray Eames). Basic factual information swirls around each woman's head, and readers with piqued interest can find supplemental tidbits at the back of the book. Women who persist are indeed having a moment in children's books, but what distinguishes this ode is Tinari's disinterest in prettifying: stopping just short of caricature, she emphasizes the curve in Georgia O'Keeffe's nose, the creases around Ellen DeGeneres's eyes. Limitless also stands out because of its inspired inclusions: sure, it's always a pleasure to be reminded of Annie Oakley's pluck, but it's also a joy to see Dolly Parton getting her due. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: Leah Tinari presents gouache portraits of 24 iconoclastic American women.
hardcover, 56p., ages 10-up, 9781534418554
The Kissing Hand 25th Anniversary Edition
by Audrey Penn, illus. by Nancy M. Leak, Ruth E. Harper
"Chester Raccoon stood at the edge of the forest and cried." Like many children facing their first day of school, Chester would prefer to stay home with his mother, doing familiar things. Mrs. Raccoon promises that, at school, he will "make new friends. And play with new toys." Also, she has a secret to share: Mrs. Raccoon kisses Chester "right in the middle of his palm," and says that anytime he's lonely and needs "a little loving from home," this "very kiss" will fill him with "toasty warm thoughts." Not to be outdone, Chester turns the tables on his mother in a satisfying twist at the end of this gentle, reassuring picture book. The expressive illustrations bring Chester to life and help to ensure that The Kissing Hand is as lovely and relevant today as it was when it was first published 25 years ago. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI
Discover: When it's time for Chester Raccoon to start school, his mother shares a secret that will make their separation easier.
hardcover, 32p., 9781939100184
How Airports Work
by Clive Gifford, illus. by James Gulliver Hancock
Clive Gifford takes young readers on an interactive tour of the airport in his lift-the-flap board book, How Airports Work. Guiding his audience through this busy transportation hub, he introduces the terminal, plane, runway, maintenance hangar and control tower. Each page includes James Gulliver Hancock's colorful, detailed illustrations, all surrounded by informative tidbits and flaps to open for additional fun facts on plane spotting, plane lights, unclaimed baggage and more. Alternating page spreads extend out for an extra-wide image and even more flight travel trivia. Plus, references to specific airports around the world add a global experience. The perfect read for youngsters anticipating their first flight or those with a heightened curiosity about how things operate, How Airports Work is an engaging excursion through the world of air travel. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: Young readers learn about the inner and outer workings of airports with interactive lift-the-flap pages full of fascinating facts and detailed illustrations.
Lonely Planet Kids,
hardcover, 24p., ages 6-8, 9781787012936
The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs
by America's Test Kitchen Kids
Young chefs get their turn in the kitchen with America's Test Kitchen's The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs. Each recipe is broken into three sections: Prepare Ingredients, Gather Cooking Equipment and Start Cooking! Along the way, America's Test Kitchen explains to kids why certain methods are used, along with extra details such as techniques for slicing chicken or instructions for making homemade croutons. Additionally, The Complete Cookbook's introduction offers instructions on food preparation, safety and kitchen basics.
Kids will be delighted to find recipes that are adaptable, offer alternative methods and even include reviews from other kids who've tried them; parents will love the highly educational format. With each recipe clearly labeled for skill level, there's something for every young chef. --Kyla Paterno, former YA and children's book buyer
Discover: Young chefs learn bold new recipes and the tricks of the trade in America's Test Kitchen's The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs.
hardcover, 208p., ages 8-12, 9781492670025
The Atlas Obscura Explorer's Guide for the World's Most Adventurous Kid
by Dylan Thuras, Rosemary Mosco, illus. by Joy Ang
The team behind Atlas Obscura presents the Explorer's Guide for the World's Most Adventurous Kid, an extensively illustrated visitors' guide to 100 awe-inspiring places.
Budding wanderers country-hop around the world in this full-color, inspiring guidebook, visiting two must-see places in each stop. Experiences for different types of travelers are highlighted, including Snake Island in Brazil for animal lovers; the Last Wild Apple Forests in Kazakhstan for nature enthusiasts; and the Capuchin Catacombs in Italy for those interested in the macabre. Each experience fits into a category, such as "Sweet Treats" or "Incredible Caves," and isn't limited to one country. For example, readers can visit a tremendous tree in South Africa, then fly to Washington State where they'll "find an equally unusual tree," proving that their next adventure could be in their own backyard. Bonus features include obscure facts, varied routes, GPS coordinates and tips for getting the most out of exploring. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader
Discover: This full-color guide to a trip around the world features some of the most remarkable and mysterious places on Earth.
hardcover, 112p., ages 8-12, 9781523503544
America Border Culture Dreamer: The Young Immigrant Experience from A to Z
by Wendy Ewald
In this unconventional abecedary for young adult readers, photographer Wendy Ewald (This Is Where I Live) joins forces with 18 teen immigrants to create an alphabet reflecting their experiences.
For each letter, a group of the teens chose a word and wrote their definition for it, then illustrated it with original art and photos conceived by the groups and taken by Ewald. Most of the photos feature the teens themselves, a diverse bunch from countries including Sudan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. In between the photos, the teens tell their stories.
This eye-opening collaboration explains that a border (Vietnamese: biên giới) is "an imaginary line," and that "[e]very immigrant starts their journey from zero." America Border Culture Dreamer will make the perfect gift for the young artist or activist, or any young teen interested in expanding their horizons. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services division manager at main branch, Dayton Metro Library
Discover: Photographer Wendy Ewald collaborates with 18 immigrant teens to bring their experiences to life in their own art and words.
hardcover, 64p., ages 10-up, 9780316484954
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices: Words and Images of Hope
by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, editors
Inspired by their seven-year-old great-niece's distress over the 2016 elections, Just Us Books' co-founders Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson created We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices as a contemporary antidote for fear. Recalling their dangerous experiences growing up in the 1950s and '60s segregated South, the Hudsons also remembered the "accepting arms... encouraging words" and "watchful eyes" that provided safe havens of love and support.
Here, they gather 50 stellar diverse authors and artists to help a new community of younger readers confront a daunting sociopolitical climate. Jaqueline Woodson reminds us "kindness is a choice" and Sharon M. Draper softly repeats, "Stay safe, my child.../ Come home to me each night." James E. Ransome paints a gorgeous mural marking generational change; Innosanto Nagara vibrantly captures protestors toppling racism; Marilyn Nelson assures "good will win." Embodying an impressive spectrum, these words, pictures and photographs become opportunities to learn, find comfort and motivate change. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Wade and Cheryl Hudson gather the works of 50 outstanding authors and artists to encourage young readers in times of turmoil.
hardcover, 96p., ages 8-12, 9780525580423