From the Shelf
Irresistible Gifts for Kids and Teens
It is our great pleasure to recommend 20 top-notch 2016 children's and YA titles for holiday gift-giving. But first, we'd like to highlight three bonus shelves of gift ideas. (And look for our Best Children's and Teen Books of the Year on December 13!)
"In the deep woolen dark,/ as we slumber unknowing,/ let the sky fill with flurry and flight." Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman (Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night) and Caldecott artist Beth Krommes (The House in the Night) team up in this exquisite "invocation," a wish for snowfall in the busy city, the kind of snow that transforms the world overnight into a slower, softer, lighter place. In Before Morning (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Sidman chooses just the right words: feathers, sugar, swaddled. Find more snowy picture books on our Freshly Fallen Snow list.
In my house growing up, the holidays weren't the holidays without a good reference book to curl up with in some cozy corner. Animal! (DK/Smithsonian) will truly wow middle-graders who revel in all creatures great and small, from the tiniest baby seahorse to the chest-beating mountain gorilla. This oversized, full-color encyclopedia teems with photographs and dramatic photorealistic computer-generated images. Evolution, extinction, adaptation and more are explored in lucidly written, visually arresting pages. Find more spectacular reference books on our Did You Know? list.
There's a certain jolly, red-cheeked fellow who looms large in many a child's mind at Christmastime. In Taro Gomi's delightfully offbeat holiday story Presents Through the Window (Chronicle), a helicopter-traveling, pink-suited Santa peers through house windows to determine which gift he will deliver to the animals inside, but gets it wrong every time. Preschoolers will giggle gleefully at Santa's mix-ups. Find more Santastic picture books here.
And now, scroll down to see 20 more heartfelt gift-book recommendations for babies and teens and in-betweens. Enjoy! --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
by Alexandra Tylee
A boy imagines what sort of banana, mountain, bird, cow or cloud he would be in this terrific picture book from New Zealand.
by Lucie Félix
With this brilliant French board book, children pry out shapes on one page and press them in to the next, building a story as they go along.
by Dieter Braun
Exquisite illustrations of Northern Hemisphere animals--many endangered--are accompanied by enthralling facts in this dazzling, oversized volume.
Review by Subjects:
From Elliott Bay Book Company
12/09/2016 - 7:00PMCo-presented with Prographica Gallery. Visual artist Dianne Kornberg presents a slide talk about her extraordinary new illustrated book, Madonna Comix (Media F8). Madonna Comix, part of the artist’s multi-year collaboration with poet Cecelia Bland, incorporates images which include poetic text and speaks powerfully and provocatively about women's experiences as physical, sexual, maternal, sacrificial and spiritual beings. “Limbs, beaks, crotches, feathers all tumble over the...
Children's & Young Adult
Give & Take
by Lucie Félix
This ingenious, sturdy board book by French author-illustrator Lucie Félix (Apples and Robins) not only looks like it belongs in a modern art-museum bookstore, it will also appeal to toddlers' curious fingers and creative minds. Readers pry out shapes as suggested on each page: "TAKE" (a red circle floats on a white background, with a divot for a tiny finger). Turn the page, shape still in hand, for another instruction: "GIVE." Press the shape into a just-right indent, creating a new picture, in this case, of a hand holding a red ball. The instructions, with different shapes, continue with conceptual opposites: "BREAK/BUILD," "OPEN/CLOSE," ending with "TAKE APART/PUT BACK TOGETHER!" But the fun is only half over--now it's time for readers to play their way back, returning shapes to their original spots for next time.
Give & Take is ideal for children just entering the world of reading. No need to tell them they're building small motor skills and learning about shape recognition, sorting and opposites! --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: With this brilliant French board book, children pry out shapes on one page and press them in to the next, building a story as they go along.
If I Was a Banana
by Alexandra Tylee , illust. by Kieran Rynhart
Not every boy daydreams about what kind of banana he would be, but this boy does. He also imagines being a cow: "If I was a cow I would want to be the one standing over there. That cow makes you feel like there is nothing more important than being a black cow standing on green grass." At first he thinks if he were a cloud, he'd be "a big black storm cloud" shooting lightning, thunder and hail, "[b]ut then, maybe a much smaller,/ lighter, fluffy sort of cloud/ would be a better sort of cloud to be." Debut author Alexandra Tylee balances the boy's more reflective daydreams with gut-felt declarations: "I don't want to be a fish." New Zealand artist Kieran Rynhart's splendid, delicately etched, muted illustrations have the same wondrous combination of dreaminess, humor, realism and whimsy as Tylee's imaginative storytelling. Not only a gem, but a potential launch pad for a life-long "If I was..." game. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A boy imagines what sort of banana, mountain, bird, cow or cloud he would be in this terrific picture book from New Zealand.
Wild Animals of the North
by Dieter Braun
Big, beautiful and biologically accurate, this compendium of 80 wild creatures from the Northern Hemisphere will impress animal and art lovers of all ages. In three sections (North America, Europe and Asia), German illustrator and children's book author Dieter Braun brings polar bears, rattlesnakes, sperm whales and golden pheasants to life with his stylized, geometrically patterned, up-close artwork in nature's loveliest hues of green, purple, orange, gray, gold and brown. Playful text reveals intriguing facts about the critters: "When searching for a mate the iridescent black ibis use their Mediterranean charm to its full potential. With their splayed crest and raucous croaking, the males and females alike bow to one another several times." The book's thick, linen-like paper is delicious to the touch and allows the rich illustrations to pop. Readers will return to this lush encyclopedia over and over as they await Braun's Wild Animals of the South. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Exquisite illustrations of Northern Hemisphere animals--many endangered--are accompanied by enthralling facts in this dazzling, oversized volume.
My Very First Mother Goose (Twentieth Anniversary Edition)
by Iona Opie , illust. by Rosemary Wells
It's been 20 years since world-renowned folklorist Iona Opie and beloved illustrator Rosemary Wells (who Opie firmly believes is Mother Goose's second cousin) published the ultimate--and award-winning--nursery rhyme collection My Very First Mother Goose. With this anniversary edition (sporting a fetching new pale-yellow cover), another generation of young children will clap their hands, wiggle their toes and sing-song along to 60 "eccentric, funny, goluptious, haphazard" rhymes, from the familiar ("Hey diddle, diddle,/ the cat and the fiddle...") to the obscure ("Bat, bat,/ Come under my hat,/ And I'll give you a slice of bacon...."). Wells's watercolors, as always, are cozily adorable. Toddlers will gleefully point out the cheese-nibbling mouse at the feet of a happily snoozing cat in plaid bathrobe in "Dickory, dickory, dock," or perhaps they'll notice how the grandfather clock looks like it has cat ears or how the wallpaper buzzes with ace-flyer pigs. Every household needs this book. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: This 20th-anniversary edition of an enduring classic features 60-plus nursery rhymes gathered by folklorist Iona Opie and illustrated by Rosemary Wells.
Los Pollitos/ Little Chickies
by Susie Jaramillo
"Los pollitos dicen/ ¡pío! ¡pío! ¡pío!" ("Little chickies squeal ¡pío! ¡pío! ¡pío!") Lift up the cracked egg to reveal a hatched chick peeping away. The story is simple: chicks cheep until their mother fetches them some corn from the field, feeds them, then snuggles up with her babies under her wing "where they'll stay,/ until another day."
This interactive, intuitively designed, cheerfully illustrated book (with slipcase) is charming on its own, but becomes even more memorable when readers hear it sung: the small print in the back reveals how to download the app for "Canticos: Los Pollitos." ¡Pío! ¡Pío! --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: This winning Spanish-English board book celebrates the well-known Latino nursery rhyme "Los Pollitos Dicen."
Flora and the Peacocks
by Molly Idle
Flora, a young girl fluttering a pretty fan, befriends one extravagantly plumed peacock. When another peacock expresses his disapproval, Flora graciously approaches him, but now the first bird is jealous. Friendship is a dance. What's a third wheel to do?
Following Molly Idle's Caldecott Honor-winning Flora and the Flamingo and Flora and the Penguin, this eye-catching and lyrical pop-up book is so evocative, so emotive, it's almost a surprise to realize it's entirely wordless. All the "speaking" is done with facial expressions, body language and visual plot action. One can almost hear the peacock muttering a skeptical "hmm" as Flora curtsies a greeting, and then huffing a resentful "hmph!" Young readers (gently, please!) lift the flaps to see haughty bird faces, peacock tails in full blue-green-yellow glory and--most spectacular of all, in a giant origami-like gatefold--the moment when peace and friendship win the day. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Peacocks pop up and prance in this superb wordless picture book by Caldecott Honor artist Molly Idle.
Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space: A Vertical Story 10 Feet Tall
by Cléa Dieudonné
Megalopolis is an architecturally magnificent city, admired by all: "One day, there was even a visitor from another galaxy." So begins the story of Megalopolis, an extraordinary, eccentric book that must be read on the floor because the thick paper pages unfold into a fabulously, ridiculously long, 10-foot scroll--a stunning vertical cityscape.
A green alien visitor arrives in his bubble-domed flying saucer and lands on a rooftop. The mayor "straightaway declared a holiday so that the entire city could throw a grand party to welcome him." Parades, fireworks atop an "old, dormant volcano," and a "huge game of hide-and-seek in the Chinese Gardens" ensue. A big tea party honors the new "Ambassador of Outer Space," but he is "overpowered by a praline," perceived to be dead, and placed on "a raft heaped with flowers." A mermaid saves his life with "a good hard pat on the back," and they fall in love at first sight. Deliciously odd and truly not-to-be-missed. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: This spectacular picture book folds out into a 10-foot-long scroll that reflects the architectural wonders of Megalopolis as it celebrates a sweet mermaid-alien romance.
by Rachel Williams , illust. by Carnovsky
Rose-colored glasses expose quite the menagerie in the irresistible, jumbo-sized Illuminature, created by Italian designer Carnovsky and written by Rachel Williams (Atlas of Adventures; Atlas of Animal Adventures). Ten of the world's most biodiverse environments--and 180 animals--are "illuminated" by a "magic" three-colored lens strip (snugly stored in a pocket on the inside front cover) that makes creatures and plant life pop into view from several overlaid, multi-colored pages. Look through these cardboard-framed lenses (red for daytime animals, blue for nighttime/twilight animals and green for habitat) on the "Observation Deck" pages to find the rearing blue wildebeest of the Serengeti plains, the howling Eurasian wolf of the East Siberian taiga and the bizarre crocodile icefish of the Weddell and Ross Seas. Then turn to the "Species Guide" that visually highlights and briefly describes each creature. Readers of all ages will fight over this one like two chattering Sonoma chipmunks. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Wildlife and habitat in 10 remarkable environments are illuminated by a three-colored lens in this visually arresting, oversized picture book.
Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books
by Tomi Ungerer
Alsace-born Tomi Ungerer, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's literature, was called "a spectacular graphic genius" by the illustrious Maurice Sendak. Phaidon has outdone itself with this lovingly designed, slip-cased single volume that includes eight of Ungerer's picture books: well-known favorites (The Three Robbers, Moon Man, Otto), recent works (Fog Island) and forgotten treasures (Zeralda's Ogre, Flix, The Hat and Emile), some out-of-print for decades. Fans will also get the inside scoop on several of his unforgettable books via an exclusive interview, an author letter, photographs and many "making of" storyboards and drawings, including some fabulous pencil sketches on the endpapers. Ungerer's picture books are splendidly quirky explorations of human nature and also, as he says, often "campaign against social injustice, prejudice and war." A treasury indeed. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Phaidon's lovely slipcased anthology of eight classic picture books by Tomi Ungerer will thrill his fans and the uninitiated alike.
George Balanchine's The Nutcracker: Presented by New York City Ballet
by New York City Ballet , illust. by Valeria Docampo
E.T.A. Hoffman's 1816 Nutcracker shines like tinsel in this lively version based on the landmark ballet choreographed by George Balanchine for New York City Ballet. (Fun fact: 105 costumes appear onstage in each performance!)
On Christmas Eve, Marie receives a special gift from her beloved godfather: a Nutcracker "dressed as a handsome soldier with a white beard." That very night, Marie wakes to find her Christmas tree grown impossibly large, and stranger still, the Nutcracker comes to life. He defeats the menacing Mouse King, transforms into a handsome Prince, and leads Marie out into the snowy night. The Prince and Marie embark on a fantastic journey in a "cozy walnut boat" to the Land of Sweets where the Sugarplum Fairy honors them with wondrous entertainment by her subjects, including Mother Ginger, who dances with tiny clowns beneath her skirt. Argentina-born Valeria Docampo's luminous illustrations evoke the breathtaking splendor of New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, still performed every winter at Lincoln Center. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI
Discover: Graceful illustrations conjure the wonder of the New York City Ballet's annual production of the Nutcracker, a Christmas classic.
Christmas in the Barn
by Margaret Wise Brown , illust. by Anna Dewdney
Discover: Margaret Wise Brown's 1952 picture book, Christmas in the Barn, is reissued anew with winning illustrations by the late Anna Dewdney of Llama Llama fame.
The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes
by Duncan Tonatiuh
"Once upon a time, there lived a kind and beautiful princess named Izta. Even though she was the daughter of an emperor, she loved to spend time with the people who grew corn in the milpas." So begins Mexican author-illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh's (Rancho Rabbit and the Coyote; Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras) retelling of one of his country's most cherished legends about two young people in love. Sadly, Izta and her beloved warrior Popoca were betrayed and fated to spend the rest of eternity as two side-by-side volcanoes: Iztaccíhuatl, who still sleeps, and Popocatépetl, "who spews ashes and smoke from time to time, as if attempting to wake his sleeping princess." (These real volcanoes are located about 40 miles southeast of Mexico City.) Tonatiuh's warmly hued, textured illustrations are inspired by the 11th-century Mixtec warrior codices, "where people and animals are always drawn in profile." A touching story of two true hearts. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: In Duncan Tonatiuh's fine picture-book retelling of a stirring Mexican legend, two betrayed young lovers eventually take the shape of two real-life volcanoes.
The Complete Adventures of Curious George (75th Anniversary)
by Margret & H. A. Rey
Three-quarters of a century has passed since George, "a good little monkey and always very curious," began winning the hearts of readers worldwide. Created by German husband-and-wife team Margret and H.A. Rey, Curious George embarked on a series of misadventures, such as swallowing a puzzle piece, floating away under a bunch of balloons and rescuing an escaped bear cub. In addition to the seven original tales--Curious George, Curious George Takes a Job, Curious George Rides a Bike, Curious George Gets a Medal, Curious George Flies a Kite, Curious George Learns the Alphabet and Curious George Goes to the Hospital--this bright yellow volume includes an access code to free downloadable audiobooks, a new illustrated biography of the Reys and an original illustrated map of Curious George's world. Fans from every generation will love having this classic on their shelves. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: This handsome 75th-anniversary edition starring everyone's favorite mischief-maker features bonus materials including an endpaper "map" of Curious George's world.
Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon
by Torben Kuhlmann , trans. by David Henry Wilson
Armstrong is the inventive, lavishly illustrated history of a 1950s-era New York City mouse who is fascinated by the moon, a companion book to German author-illustrator Torben Kuhlmann's Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse.
Every night, this little mouse gazes through his "iron tube full of glass lenses" at the starry sky. Though the other mice believe the moon is made of cheese ("as yellow as Gouda, then as white as Camembert"), the little mouse tries hard to convince them it's actually stone. When he receives a mysterious, "mouse-sized" invitation to the Smithsonian, he hops on a train to Washington, D.C. In a basement underneath galleries of "human inventions," the little mouse discovers artifacts of the long-forgotten history of mouse aviation and vows to be the first mouse on the moon. So, on July 21, 1969, when the first humans walked on the surface of the moon, one extraordinary little mouse had already beaten them there! A whimsical take on space-travel history. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI
Discover: German author-illustrator Torben Kuhlmann's richly imagined drawings distinguish this inspiring story of a mouse inventor on a mission to the moon.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2): The Illustrated Edition
by J.K. Rowling , illust. by Jim Kay
Award-winning British artist Jim Kay (Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls) illustrated J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 2015. Here, he follows up that wildly successful venture (Rowling-approved!) with 115 more of his lavish, atmospheric, full-color paintings in an unabridged, jacketed hardcover edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, complete with orange-ribbon bookmark and an easy-to-read two-column format. Kay brings Harry Potter's second year at Hogwarts to dramatic life, including the bug-eyed house-elf Dobby, a rousing full-bleed spread of the flying car, Knockturn Alley, the giant Hagrid, Moaning Myrtle, the insufferably self-centered professor Gilderoy Lockhart and much, much more. A smashing gift for Potter fans of all ages. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets leaps to life in this deluxe jacketed hardcover edition, illustrated in full color by award-winning British artist Jim Kay.
The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown
Sensitive, nature-loving readers will thrill to this adventure story written and illustrated by Peter Brown (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild) in his middle-grade debut. ROZZUM unit 7134, a brand-new bipedal robot with a dome-shaped head and glowing eyes reminiscent of the Iron Giant, gets shipwrecked on an unpopulated island and is accidentally activated by curious otters. At first the animals on the island run from "Roz" and call her "the monster." But when the robot adopts an orphaned gosling she names Brightbill, the once-hostile community of wildlife rallies around her as she struggles to feed and shelter her fluffy charge. In time, resourceful Roz cleverly, contentedly adapts to motherhood and the only home she knows, but her Makers have not forgotten her, and they want her back at any cost.
Filled with Brown's terrific, geometric black-and-white illustrations, The Wild Robot combines humor, family ties and an intelligent wilderness survival story for a quirky and thought-provoking romp that will leave readers pondering whether artificial intelligence can give rise to real love. --Jaclyn Fulwood, lead librarian at Del City Public Library, Okla.
Discover: Peter Brown's middle-grade debut is the touching survival story of a marooned robot.
Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
If you've been waiting for Jacqueline Woodson's (Another Brooklyn; After Tupac and D Foster) award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming to be released in paperback, your moment has arrived.
Originally published by Nancy Paulsen Books, Brown Girl Dreaming--Woodson's memoir in verse about growing up as an African American girl in the 1960s and 1970s in Ohio, S.C., and Brooklyn, N.Y.--won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature; a 2015 Newbery Honor and a 2015 Coretta Scott King Award. As Shelf Awareness reviewer Kyla Paterno wrote, "Woodson offers readers an accessible, first-hand look at African American childhood during decades of tremendous turmoil and change.... [Her] beautiful words and fantastic characterization make this story a true gem." This handsome 2016 paperback edition includes seven new original poems by Woodson. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Jacqueline Woodson's award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir in verse, is now available in paperback.
Super Cool Tech
by DK Publishing
Any tech-minded sort will flip over DK Publishing's Super Cool Tech. Designed to look like a laptop with a silver cover, metallic-edged pages, rounded corners and landscape orientation, this dynamic exploration of tech developments and inventions--present and future--overflows with excellent full-color photos, graphics and intriguing facts. Curious about ice hotels? (Hint: it involves "snice," a slushy mixture of snow and ice.) How about the Bio-Bus (runs on human waste), teleportation (scientists have already teleported small amounts of light energy 89 miles!) or colorful musical jellies (they change the electric field of a capacitor board, creating a sound that varies according to the shape, color and saltiness of the jelly)? The answers are all here.
Seven sections--Play, Move, Construct, Power, Live, Future and Reference--cover super-cool technology advances in the world today including smartwatches, hoverboards, 3-D printers, drones, underwater hotels and driverless cars, providing just enough information to tantalize and inspire. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: With stunning images and astonishing facts about cutting-edge technology, Super Cool Tech is the How Things Work for post-millennials.
Sad Animal Facts
by Brooke Barker
Discover: Brooke Barker's dryly funny, illustrated collection of sad animal facts will entertain teens and adults especially.
The Lunar Chronicles Boxed Set
by Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles are imaginative, futuristic retellings of classic fairy tales, and this boxed set collects hardcover editions of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter and Fairest. Meyer's debut YA novel, Cinder, introduces a self-reliant, 16-year-old cyborg Cinderella who cobbles together her own coach from a junkyard car and is the breadwinner for her adoptive family. As Meyer explained in a 2011 Shelf Awareness interview, "Book two is Scarlet, and it's based on Little Red Riding Hood. Book three is Cress, inspired by Rapunzel. And the fourth, Winter, is based on Snow White. We'll continue to follow Cinder as she puts together the pieces of her past and how to defeat Levana [ruler of Luna]. They'll have separate, parallel story lines, and Cinder's path will cross with theirs. They'll form one group with a mission to defeat Queen Levana and stop the war." In the stand-alone Fairest, Meyer reveals the background of the villainous Queen Levana. Meyer fans present and future, rejoice! --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Marissa Meyer's futuristic YA retellings of classic fairy tales--the bestselling Lunar Chronicles--are now available in a boxed set of five hardcovers.