Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's That Time of Year - Gift Books

For the December Carnival of Children's Literature, Kelly (Big A little a) has asked contributors to come up with ideas for gift books. Here are some of my old and new favorites to give during this time of year. Consider it my top ten and then some.

While my parents in NY have been dealing with lake effect snow for some time now, it is just a dream for my family here in Virginia (though we did have a few flakes today). For the little people on your list who love snow, here are a few favorites.
  • Snowflake Bentley written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian - This Caldecott Medal winner tells the true story of Wilson Bentley, a farmer who spent his life photographing snowflakes. The Buffalo Museum of Science has a digital library of these amazing photographs. You can see them at The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection.
  • Snow by Uri Shulevitz - Even though the adults believe that it will not snow, a boy and his dog don't give up hope. This is a Caldecott honor book that beautifully portrays the transformation of a city when it snows.
I've been known to give gifts with origami animals as the tags. Why not consider giving these books and some colored and patterned origami paper?
  • Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O'Connell George - There are no directions on making origami in this one, just some wonderfully descriptive poems and gorgeous artwork.
  • Lissy's Friends by Grace Lin - Lissy feels alone at her new school, so she creates some origami animals to keep her company. Will she ever make friends of her own? This is a wonderful story for any child who has ever experienced being the new kid. Origami directions are found on the endpapers.
Stories with a good puzzle to solve are always engaging. Here are some books that will encourage young readers put on their thinking caps.
  • The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin - Winston sees puzzles everywhere. Imagine his dismay when he gives his sister a box for her birthday, only to learn that it has a secret compartment containing four wood sticks with puzzle clues. Readers will solve puzzles right along with Winston and his sister Katie as they try to solve the mystery.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - Eleven year-old Reynie Muldoon is intrigued by an ad in the paper that asks “Are You a Gifted Child looking for Special Opportunities?” Reynie and dozens of other children show up to answer the ad and take a mind-boggling series of tests, but only Reynie and three others are left at the end. Puzzles and mysteries abound in this adventurous tale.
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett - Petra and Calder are preoccupied with Vermeer. When a Vermeer painting is stolen in transit from the National Gallery in Washington D.C. to the Chicago Institute of Art, they become intent on finding the painting and solving the mystery. Clues and mysteries abound. Calder carries a set of pentominoes in his pocket at all times, so be sure to print your own set to use while reading this one! (You can also play online.)
There are many great nonfiction books that share information in thoroughly entertaining ways. Here are some of the best of 2007.
  • Lightship by Brian Floca - Imagine spending your life aboard a ship that doesn't sail, but rather remains anchored in order to warn other ships when there is heavy fog. This beautifully illustrated book helps readers to explore life on a lightship.
  • Living Color by Steve Jenkins - Why would an animal have a blue tongue, a red-belly, or a face on it's back? Learn all about color in the animal kingdom in this fact-filled book.
  • One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss - This book provides an instructive and often-times inspiring look at water. Inspiring? Absolutely. The author reminds us that the amount of water on Earth hasn't ever changed. Since this water has been around for billions of year, it is entirely possible that the water we drink may have "quenched the thirst of a dinosaur" more than one hundred million years ago!
My apologies to all you cat lovers out there, but we love our dogs. Here are our favorite dog books, all guaranteed to make you smile, and maybe even make you laugh out loud.
  • Bark George by Jules Feiffer - When George's mother asks him to bark, he meows. Then quacks, oinks, and moos. Whatever will they do? George is off to see the vet, who will surely have the answer.
  • Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh - Martha is a plain old lovable pooch until she is fed vegetable soup and the letters go up to her head instead of down to her belly. Now Martha talks, and talks, and talks.
  • Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion - When Harry runs away from home, he is transformed from "a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots." He eventually returns home, but is not recognized by his family until he's scrubbed clean. Originally published in 1956, this new version is enhanced by Margaret Bloy Graham's updated illustrations that feature added splashes of color.
  • Dear Mrs. Larue: Letters From Obedience School by Mark Teague - Prison or a country club for dogs? You be the judge. In black and white (prison) and color (country club) illustrations, Teague takes readers on a rollicking good ride with Larue, the letter-writing canine.
  • Office Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann - In this Caldecott Medal winner, Officer Buckle gives safety lectures to school kids that are boring, boring, boring. Once Gloria the police dog comes along, safety lectures are never the same again!
If you have favorite books in any of these categories, please share them. I'd love to hear your ideas.


  1. I recently read "Chasing Vermeer" and I was surprised at how engaging it was - it has real depth but the characters draw you in. A good puzzle.

    I'm thinking of picking up the next book with those characters - The Wright 3.

  2. My daughter loves origami, and knows how to make a beautiful tiny star out of a straw wrapper. So every restaurant we eat at gets a few stars left at the table.

    For a dog book, I love "Pinkerton, Behave!" The dog goes to obedience school, but he gets his commands all mixed up, which never fear, eventually leads him to save the day.

    Fun lists, Tricia!

  3. I like Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood, but it doesn't fit your lists. The "broken truth" is YOU ARE LOVED, which you need to know to understand this synopsis:

    "In this profoundly moving fable, the earth and all its creatures are suffering, for the people will not share their Truth, which gives them happiness and power, with those who are different from them. Then one brave Little Girl seeks the wisdom of the ancient Old Turtle, who sees that the people's Truth is not a whole truth, but broken. Old Turtle shows the girl the missing part of the Truth, and the Little Girl returns with it to her people. Then the pieces are brought together, and the broken Truth is made whole at last: YOU ARE LOVED ... AND SO ARE THEY. Then the people and the earth are healed."

  4. Thanks for this great list, Tricia. I just posted my favorites in each of your categories over at my blog ( Thanks again!

  5. Great list. I like Stella, Queen of the Snow and the non-fiction this year (I think it's this year) that knocked me out is Pick Me Up because it has a little bit of everything. I also like in non-fiction Do Not Open, also a little bit of everything but in the area of secrets and spys and such. Tons of fun.