Here are some books to consider for the children on your holiday gift-giving list. Selections and reviews are from two area teachers of children’s literature: Melissa Cain (MAC) of the University of Findlay and Alexa Sandmann (ALS) of Kent State University.
LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG CITY. By Mike Curato. Henry Holt and Company. $16.99.
Who doesn’t love a book that involves cupcakes? Little Elliott, a polka-dotted elephant, finds it challenging to be noticed in the city. Being small is not an advantage when standing in crowds, reaching a table’s height, or purchasing — what else? — a cupcake. Still, because he notices the little things, he finds a friend — a treat far sweeter than any baked good. With soft illustrations reminiscent of the 1940s, Curato has created a modern fable. A great book for sharing. (ALS)
IF YOU WERE A DOG. Written by Jamie A. Swenson. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Farrar Straus Giroux. $17.99.
“If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick, lickety-sloppidy, scavenge-the-garbage, frisbee-catching, hot-dog-stealing, pillow hogging, best-friend-ever sort of a dog?” What if you were a cat, a fish, a bird, a bug, a frog, or even a dinosaur? This book is a delightful look at pretending to be animals. Swenson’s text is full of rhythm, making it fun to read aloud. Raschka’s impressionistic illustrations incorporate wide lines and basic shapes. They perfectly complement the joyful language. (MAC)
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN OHIO. By Carole Gerber. Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. Sterling Children’s Books. $12.95.
In a series of lively letters to her parents about her Ohio adventures with her cousin Matt, Megan learns about the state, tidbits about geography (the Black Swamp), history (Delaware tribe), animal life (cardinals), plant life (buckeyes), special events (Akron’s Soap Box Derby), and lots more, including “Six horse-drawn buggies, 5 zooming planes, 4 tooting trains ….” A collage at the close of the book highlights many other Ohio travel destinations, plus brief biographies about famous Ohioans such as Steven Spielberg and Maya Lin. An enlightening version of the traditional song. (ALS)
AND AWAY WE GO. Written and illustrated by Migy. Henry Holt. $17.99.
When Mr. Fox’s balloon is delivered, he declares, “Now I can fly to the moon!” But, one by one, friends ask if they can come along and bring various items to make the journey more fun. Cheerful fox agrees, but the balloon has its limits and the smallest bird puts them to the test. The text is repetitive, making the book a good choice for young children who are learning to read. Children should also enjoy poring over the action-packed illustrations to see what each charming animal character is up to. (MAC)
OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY. By Karen Foxlee. Alfred A. Knopf. $16.99.
Under curious circumstances, Ophelia and her sister accompany their father to a city where it never stops snowing so that her father can curate a special exhibit intended to open in just days. Her first day in the museum, Ophelia discovers the Marvelous Boy who pleads for help so that he can help save the world. Two stories weave themselves through the book: Ophelia’s experience and the story and events revealed by the Boy. Through it all, Ophelia perseveres. A modern fairy tale about the Snow Queen — with a most satisfying ending. (ALS)
WINTERFROST. By Michelle Houts. Candlewick Press. $16.99.
In Denmark, it’s a Christmas tradition for families to put out a bowl of rice pudding for their nisse, a gnome-like creature who takes care of the family and their livestock. When Bettina Larsen’s parents are unexpectedly called away right at Christmas, they forget the rice pudding and the family nisse takes offense. He takes Bettina’s baby sister Pia during her afternoon nap. Bettina must go through a number of trials to find Pia and make things right with the nisse before her parents return home. This book is bound to become a Christmas classic. (MAC)
THE PRINCE OF VENICE BEACH. By Blake Nelson. Little Brown and Company. $18.
Cali is an unlikely choice to be the “Prince” of anything. He lives in a tree house and hangs with a gang of surfers. At 17, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t have a plan for his life. However, when he unofficially becomes successful as a private investigator, he begins to think he does. His perspective shifts again when he is asked to find Reese Abernathy. Whom should he believe? Teenage Reese, who says her father isn’t telling Cali the truth? Or the father, who thinks Reese is not telling Cali the truth? An engaging read with important messages. (ALS)
THE MAGICIAN’S LAND. By Lev Grossman. Viking. $17.99.
This is the conclusion of the best-selling Magicians trilogy, often referred to as a grown-up Harry Potter story. The main character, magician Quentin Coldwater, has been ousted from Fillory, the magical land he ruled in a previous book. Worse, he discovers that the land is in danger of extinction. Quentin truly grows up in this book. One goal is to return his former girlfriend, Alice, to her human form. Another is to keep Fillory from destruction. There are lots of adventures along the way. Fans will be satisfied with this final installment. (MAC)
365 DAYS OF WONDER. By R.J. Palacio. Hyperion. $14.99.
A lovely companion to Palacio’s Wonder, this book highlights “a precept a day.” A precept, as defined by Mr. Brown, the middle-grades teacher in Wonder, is a “principle to live by.” Each precept in this volume was chosen by Palacio from various sources — songs, literature, famous persons, even fortune cookies, as well as from more than 100 submissions from readers. Precepts by Henry Ford, Theodore Roosevelt, and Alice Walker are interspersed with those much younger, such as Matea, age 12: “SUCCESS does not come through grades, degrees or distinctions. It comes through experiences that expand your belief in what is POSSIBLE.” A wonderful addition to any family’s library. (ALS)
THE BOOK OF THREE: THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION. By Lloyd Alexander. Henry Holt. $24.99
If you don’t know Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, this 50th anniversary edition will get you started. It kicks off the story of Taran, an assistant pig keeper. The pig is not your ordinary swine, though. It is an oracle pig and Taran must protect it at all costs, thrusting him into epic adventures against the forces of evil. His companions in this quest include Eilonwy, a sharp-tongued, strong-willed princess; Fflewddur Fflam, whose breaking harp strings betray his constant exaggerations, and faithful Gurgi, who loves crunching and munchings. This edition contains a number of bonus features. (MAC)
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