Consider a few arguments on behalf of children's books as holiday gifts:
They make no mess or noise. They promote family. They last forever if you keep them out of the rain or the dog’s mouth. And they don’t require assembly.
Now consider these terrific choices for toddlers on up:
“Three Little Kittens,” by Jerry Pinkney: The words are just the familiar nursery rhyme, but in the hands of Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney (“The Lion & the Mouse”), there is no such concept as “just.” Pinkney has set his kitten drama in late fall, and his outdoor play scenes are lively with flying leaves and small creatures. Kittens and Mother Dear are loaded with personality. Little ones will relate to getting in and out of mitten trouble. (Dial, 32 pages, $16.99, ages 2 to 6.)
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“LMNO peas,” by Keith Baker: From the Seattle author-illustrator comes an inventive book full of detail to pore over. Cute little green peas “work and play” in the ABCs. Quilters drape their work over the top of a big “Q.” A freeway cloverleaf loops through the middle of a “D” carrying peas in cars, trucks and a school bus. And voters atop an inverted V-shaped pile of ballots are next to the letter “V.” (Beach Lane, 40 pages, ages 3 to 7.)
“Llama Llama Holiday Drama,” by Anna Dewdney: The latest in the popular “Llama Llama” series features a typical pre-holiday scenario in a household with children – intense anticipation leading to overload. Mama solves a Llama meltdown with quiet time and extra TLC. (Viking, 40 pages, $16.99, ages 3 to 5.)
“I’m Big!” by Kate & Jim McMullan: Boys especially love the first-person fun-to-read-aloud series that started with trucks and boats (“I Stink!” and I’m Mighty!”) and veered into dinosaurs (I’m Bad!”). In “I’m Big,” a gentle sauropod must figure out what to do when he faces a bunch of fierce predators. Look bigger is the answer, one that is both true to nature and a strategy for dealing with human bullies. (HarperCollins, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4 to 8.)
“Christmas is Here,” words from the King James Bible, illustrated by Lauren Castillo: This treatment of the biblical Christmas story is child-friendly and elegant in its simplicity. The first three spreads depict a family on a snowy walk to the town’s live Nativity scene. A wonderful two-page close-up shows the boy peering over the side of the manger at the baby. Then the beautiful illustrations move the story back to the present. (Simon & Schuster, 32 pages, $12.99, ages 4 and up.)
“Art & Max,” by David Wiesner: The creator of “Tuesday” and “Flotsam” has now won three Caldecott medals for illustration (only the second person to do so) along with two Caldecott honors. It’s exciting to see what’s going to emerge from his wild imagination next. “Art & Max” puts big concepts about art and friendship into a picture book with few words. Set in the desert, trouble (and humor for the reader) ensues, as an exuberant little lizard takes it literally when his grudging artist friend Max says: “You could paint me.” Interesting things happen when the paint cracks and blows away. In the end the reader has taken a journey through the artistic process and various styles. And Art has loosened up his buddy. (Houghton Mifflin, 40 pages, $17.99, all ages.)
“Zelda and Ivy: The Big Picture,” by Laura McGee Kvasnosky: This is the sixth book for beginning readers about the marvelous fox sisters (and their pal Eugene) by Seattle author-illustrator Kvasnosky. Three short chapters have a spy theme after the trio sees a secret agent movie. Kvasnosky’s bright art and true-to-life, humorous treatment of big-little sister dynamics are terrific for youngsters who are becoming independent readers. (Candlewick Press, 42 pages, $14.99, ages 4 to 8.)
“Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!” by Grace Lin: If a young reader loves Zelda and Ivy, here’s another great choice. Six stories tell about twins who look alike and enjoy togetherness, but also work to assert their independence. Lin’s illustrations are charming. The writing is sweet and funny. (Little Brown, 44 pages, 14.99, ages 4 to 8.)
“Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa,” by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Shane W. Evans: Li’l Rabbit is not happy this Kwanzaa. His Granna Rabbit is sick, so that means no Karamu feast, his favorite part of the holiday. But he gets into the Kwanzaa spirit as he searches for something to make Granna Rabbit feel better. Inspired by the tales of Brer Rabbit, this is a good Kwanzaa storybook for younger children. Those haven’t been abundant. (HarperCollins, 32 pages, $12.99, ages 4 to 8.)
“The Lost Hero,” by Rick Riordan: This is a no-brainer, but we’ll include it here just in case it slips your mind. If your child devoured the “Percy Jackson and the Olympian” series, “The Lost Hero” is Book One of “The Heroes of Olympus,” a new series also revolving around Camp Half Blood. A fresh cast of characters features Jason, Piper and Leo. Their quest is to free Hera, imprisoned by Mother Earth. (Hyperion, 557 pages, $18.99, ages 10 and up.)
“Extraordinary,” by Nancy Werlin: This is a follow-up to Werlin’s National Book Award nominee novel “Impossible.” Like that novel, “Extraordinary” blends a modern-day tale of friendship and romance with fantasy and faerie lore, as Phoebe, a member of a wealthy banking family, befriends awkward newcomer Mallory, not realizing she has been sent from the faerie world to fulfill an ancient promise. (Dial, 393 pages, $17.99, ages 12 and up.)
RebeccaYoung: 597-8606 email@example.com