Booklist: Picture Books for Gift Giving

Our last two lists of gift-giving suggestion:  Picture Books and Holiday Books. If you’re looking for a gift to give, check these out!  (And see if we picked the Caldecott Medal winner on our favorite gifts of 2010.)

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Picture Books:

Barton, Chris. Shark vs. Train. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
In this hilariously funny book, Shark and Train compete against each other in a variety of contests, including burping, diving, bowling, piano playing, pie eating, and much, much  more! As they quarrel, each finds something that they do better. So who do YOU think will win, Shark or Train?

Birdsall, Jeanne. Flora’s Very Windy Day. Illustrated by Mark Phelan
When Flora and her pesky little brother, Crispin, are whisked away by a swirling and swooping wind, she gets the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to give her brother away. With tempting offers from a dragonfly, the man in the moon, and even the wind itself, she will find it difficult to choose. But  will Flora and Crispin’s adventure change her mind?

Blexbolex. Seasons. Illustrated by the author
Four spreads depict the same landscape during each season. Words and phrases loosely associated with the seasons appear in a blocky pink font on each page, above grainy prints with a decidedly retro flavor. Sometimes the relationships between illustrations are straightforward, other times, turning the page results in contrast or continuity. The pages often play off one another, creating a succession of evocative observations. Figures engage in many recognizable activities, and a subtle sense of humor can be seen at work (a traffic jam mirrors a caterpillar crawl). A book to savor.

Burningham, John. There’s Going to Be a Baby. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
The perfect gift book for an expectant family. With sensitivity and wit follow the questions in the mind of a young child anticipating a baby sibling with excitement, curiosity, and just a bit of trepidation. Combining a warm, timeless story with illustrations both freshly enchanting and wonderfully nostalgic, this gorgeous book has all the hallmarks of a classic.

Fleming, Candice. Clever Jack Takes the Cake. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
What would you do if you were invited to the princess’s tenth birthday party but didn’t have money for a gift? Well, clever Jack decides to bake the princess a cake. Now he just has to get it to the castle in one piece. What could possibly go wrong? While girls will fall for a story featuring a princess’s birthday party, Jack’s adventures with trolls, bears, and gypsies make this the perfect read for young boys as well—and ideal for storytime.

Grahame, Bob. April & Esme, Tooth Fairies. Illustrated by the author
April and her little sister, Esme, convince Mom and Dad to let them collect their first tooth all by themselves. Soon, two tiny fairies fly off into the night, over a highway of thundering eighteen-wheelers, eager to prove how grown up they can be. Danger lurks, and teeth are everywhere. Can they find the right one?

Henkes, Kevin. My Garden. Illustrated by the author
Come see the most unusual garden anywhere! The girl in this book grows chocolate rabbits, tomatoes as big as beach balls, and seashells in her garden. It never needs weeding, the flowers are ever-blooming, and colors change just by thinking about it, but carrots are invisible. So—how does your garden grow?

Hills, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read. Illustrated by the author
Rocket is minding his own business one morning when a little yellow bird gets him hooked on a story she is reading aloud. When he likes the book, she gives him alphabet lessons before flying away for the winter. He practices all season long, spelling out words in the snow and in the mud. When the little yellow bird returns, the two of them settle down to read books together, and it’s clear that a wonderful adventure has begun for Rocket.

Huget, Jennifer. How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps. Illustrated by Edward Koren
Got a messy room? No problem! Follow this guide to cleaning your room is sure to make picking up a snap. Here is the first rule: Always wait until your mother hollers, “GET UP THERE AND CLEAN YOUR ROOM—NOW!” using all three of your names. Once she does, you’d better get moving. From dumping out drawers and dividing stuff into piles to arranging all eight zillion of your stuffed animals, here’s the kind of advice on room tidying that everyone can relate to.

Lies, Brian. Bats at the Ballgame. Illustrated by the author
You think humans are the only ones who enjoy America’s national pastime? Grab your bat—the other kind—and your mitt, and join these captivating bats as they flutter off to watch their all-stars compete. Just like us, these bats will never forget their first game: the green so green, the presence of heroes past, and togetherness with family and friends, rooting for the home team.

Muldrow, Diane.  We Planted a Tree. Illustrated by Bob Staake
A family in New York plants a tree in their small backyard; turn the page and a Kenyan family plants a tree on the bare African savannah. Then in Paris, Tokyo, and more places across the globe, each newly planted tree grows up, as the children in the family do. Celebrate the connections between plants and people, present and long-term, across time and space, as each generation continues the conservation efforts and helps “heal the earth.”

Schaefer, Lola. Just One Bite. Illustrated by Geoff Waring
A life-sized introduction to what animals eat, how they eat it, and how much they eat in a single bite! For a worm, that means a speck of dirt; for a Komodo dragon dripping saliva, it’s a snake, which it gulps down after a page turn (“What a tasty treat!”). A giraffe’s snout barely fits on a spread, and when a sperm whale chomps down on a giant squid, all readers see are a few teeth, some squirming orange tentacles, and the squid’s enormous eye. Yum!

Underwood, Deborah. The Quiet Book. Illustrated by Renata Liwska
There are many kinds of quiet: Quiet can be delicate, or thundering, or sweet. Quiet can be cozy and can most definitely help you fall asleep. Quiet moods and quiet reasons are shared between friends in this quiet book.  Children will enjoy talking about the feelings that are shown, and every page tells a different story.

Wiesner, David. Art & Max. Illustrated by the author
Max and Arthur are lizards who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Max is a beginner. Max’s first attempt at using a paintbrush turns into a disaster when his artistic expression changes Art from a blob of color to a line to…nothing! Although Max is inexperienced, he’s courageous and a quick learner. His energy and enthusiasm bring the adventure to its triumphant conclusion.

Willems, Mo. City Dog, Country Frog. Illustrated by John Muth
In spring, when City Dog visits the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. Ttogether they play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. In winter, things change for City Dog and Country Frog. Come spring, friendship blooms again, a little different this time. This is a story about happy chances and the rewards of being with a friend, as well as a story about surviving loss and moving on.

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Winter Holiday Books:

Castillo, Lauren. Christmas is Here
With sparse text from the King James Bible, the strength of this book is the illustrations. A modern family is out for a stroll on a snowy evening when they come across a small, outdoor Christmas pageant. As the child peers into the manger, readers are taken back in time to Bethlehem. The theme–that the most basic meaning of Christmas has remained the same over the centuries–is conveyed with a warm and captivating simplicity that even the youngest child will understand

Hills, Tad. Duck & Goose: It’s Time for Christmas!
Duck and Goose are getting ready for Christmas. The only problem? Goose is more interested in catching snowflakes, skating, sledding, and making snow angels than in helping Duck decorate their Christmas tree. While Goose has the time of his life in the snow, will poor Duck be left to do all the work?

Hughes, Shirley. The Christmas Eve Ghost Illustrated by the author
In 1930s Liverpool, Bronwen and Dylan live with their widowed Mam. When the children are left alone while the mother runs an errand on Christmas Eve, they are frightened by ghostly noises coming from the other side of the wall. Although they have been warned to stay away from the neighbors, the O’Rileys, who go to a church for a “different kind of people”,  the noise sends them straight to Mrs. O’Riley. Not only do they find that the house next door harbors nothing to fear, but it may hold a blessing for Mam, too.

Jay, Alison. The Nutcracker
Based on the Balanchine ballet, this sumptuous package is the perfect gift for any fan of The Nutcracker young or old. The nicely balanced text (not too much, not too little) captures all the best moments and sets the stage for Alison Jay’s richly imagined art. Sharp-eyed readers will notice tiny details playing out thrillingly over the course of the story (keep an eye on the gifts under the Christmas tree!). From the cozy Christmas party to the delectable Marzipan Palace, Alison Jay’s artwork is truly enchanting–a snow-globe version of The Nutcracker to read every night before Christmas and all winter long.

Kraus, Robert. The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher. Illustrated by Vip
In a snowy village, a little boy named Nat is determined to catch the Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, who has stolen all the sprinkles for Christmas cookies.  It’s very important to find him, because “Christmas cookies without sprinkles are like raisins without wrinkles or like sleighbells without tinkles are Christmas cookies without sprinkles.”  Available new for the first time since 1969, this is a classic you’ll love.

L’Engle, Madeleine. The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas. Illustrated by Jill Weber
To Vicky Austin, the twenty-four days before Christmas are the most wonderful days of the year. Not only is she going to be an angel in the Christmas Pageant, she and her brother and sister do something special every day to celebrate. This year, they’re also preparing for the birth of a new baby in January. But Vicky is worried; if the baby comes early, what kind of Christmas would it be without Mother to help them hang up stockings and sing carols? A newly illustrated version of a book first published in 1967.

Melmed, Laura. Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book. Illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg
From traditional holiday foods to the story of the Maccabees, the authors capture the warm sights, sounds, and tastes of this wintertime festival. A family’s preparations for and celebration of Hanukkah are described in short, informal verse to a  bouncy, eight-line poem celebrating a favorite dish.

Milgrim, David. Santa Duck and his Merry Helpers
Nicholas Duck is excited at the prospect of collecting wish lists for Santa. Unfortunately, his three enthusiastic siblings want to help. When they keep promising increasingly fabulous and unreasonable presents, Nicholas explains that Christmas is not just about gifts, but also about love and kindness and goodwill. Although you’ll laugh, the message comes across just fine.

Moore, Clement.  ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Illustrated by Kat Whelan
Santa Mouse has just landed on the Mouse family’s roof! A holiday tradition begins with Clement C. Moore’s beloved Christmas poem, now starring an adorable family of mice. Glitter-assisted sparkly lights and candles appear to glow in the cozy interior scenes, while outside, stars twinkle against a night sky. A festive read-aloud to share every holiday season.

Rawlinson, Julia. Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas
It’s Christmas Eve, and the rabbits have moved to a new burrow. Fletcher is excited about celebrating the holiday with them, until he realizes . . .Santa won’t know where to deliver their presents! But after a cozy night of caroling and blackberry pie, Fletcher wakes to a snowy Christmas morning full of wonderful surprises. Get into the spirit of the season with Fletcher and friends!

Robinson, Sharon. Jackie’s Gift. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Baseball fan Steve Satlow is thrilled when his hero Jackie Robinson moves onto his block and they become friends. So when Jackie hears that the Satlows don’t have a Christmas tree, he decides to give them one. He shows up at their home with a tree for Steve, and his wife comes later with extra ornaments. When they learn that the Satlows are Jewish, what could have been an awkward moment becomes a lesson in tolerance and friendship.

Schulman, Janet. 10 Trim-the-Tree’ers. Illustrated by Linda Davick
Ten kids are ready to trim a tree in their building’s lobby. The youngsters dress for the occasion; each child adorned with a halo, antlers, or red-and-white stripes, placing corresponding ornaments on the tree. Nine menorah candles “mark the gift of light” on the mantle, and they all go caroling when their job is done. A one-page summary of the ornaments and appropriate numerals appear at the end, prompting beginning counters to turn back the pages and count some more.

Shannon, David. It’s Christmas, David!
Wild child David strikes again! Trying to peek at hidden gift packages; writing scrolls of wish lists to Santa; and struggling to behave at formal Christmas dinner parties, Christmas comes in the form of new temptations. From playing with delicate ornaments to standing in an endlessly long line for Santa, here are common Christmas activities–but with David’s naughty trimmings.Always in the background, we know Santa Claus is watching, soon to decide what will be under David’s tree.

Smith, Maggie. Christmas with the Mousekins
It’s a whirlwind of December activities as the Mousekins pick out and decorate a tree, make paper snowflakes with Nana Mousekin, bake cookies for friends and neighbors and write letters to Santa Mouse. Share family stories of Christmases past and find secret corners of the house as they work on surprise presents for each other. Celebrate along with the Mousekins; the book includes recipes for cookies, instructions for paper and felt crafts, and stories and poems to share with your family.

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Happy Holidays!


2 thoughts on “Booklist: Picture Books for Gift Giving

  1. I saw THERE’S GOING TO BE A BABY a few days ago. It is so wonderful. At the same time Oxenbury’s style is always her, she continues to evolve in so many ways. Her use of flat, mat colors this time is a perfect match for mother’s patience and the gentle passage of time and perspectives. Did the title page illustration of the baby on the camel remind you of a preschool Tintin? Using Tintin would certainly be in keeping with the period tone of the illustrations.

    George Shannon

    • I did look at the illustration of the baby on the camel, and he does look a little like Tintin! I think it’s mainly the tuft of hair, but it would be funny if Helen Oxenbury used Tintin as an inspiration. The baking scene looks a little like Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen…not so much the actual illustrations as the intent. Hmm…

      What I love most about the book though, is how the passage of time is handled. It’s never stated outright, it’s just there in the illustrations. And the little boy’s thoughts about what the baby might do in the future are so much fun. The kids I showed the book to loved that part the most. It’s just a wonderful book for sharing with anyone, of any age!

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