Looking for a perfect gift? How do you find a book that will be treasured among the massive number of publications? Below find fabulous 2015 books to fit all occasions and everyone on your list, regardless of age and interest. (this article published by NoveList, October 2015)
Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Gifts
For babies and toddlers, choose a book that will thrill them so much they beg you to re-read it. Seek books that have drama, rhythm and rhyme, and possibilities for interaction. The best ones will also please adults during repeat readings.
|Wild about us!
It’s never too early to begin building a young child’s strong sense of self, especially with Karen Beaumont’s playful approach and bouncy rhythms. Karen Beaumont’s warthog may have tusks and warts, but in “my own special way, I’m as cute as can be.” His friends feel the same. Crocodile’s proud of his toothy grin, Rhino feels fine in her wrinkly skin and a host of Janet Stevens’ whimsically portrayed zoo animals have similar self-satisfied views. (for ages 2-5)
|Bulldozer’s big day
Bulldozer’s off to invite all his vehicle friends to his birthday but Digger says it’s a scoop day, Cement Mixer believes it’s a stirring day, and the others are busy, too. Active verbs and noises make this a dramatic read-aloud and there’s a special surprise for Bulldozer (and readers) at the ending. (for ages 2-5)
|The full moon at the napping house
In a bed in the “full-moon house, where everyone is restless,” the moon shines over-bright into the room of a sleepless wide-eyed granny. A fidgety child frolics with cat, dog and mouse until the quiet full-moon song of a cricket soothes, calms, gentles and transforms the bed into a dreamy place. Thirty years after The Napping House, this new rendition has all of the magic of the original in Audrey Wood’s rhythms and Don Wood’s gentle blue palette. (for ages 0-4)
First Stories They Won’t Forget
When four- to eight-year-old children are ready for longer stories, introduce them to books that will please them in the moment and provide an additional lasting pleasure. Choosing the appropriate tale can be the ticket to start family conversations that open doors to thought, expression and memories that last a lifetime.
|It’s only Stanley
Stanley howls at the moon and wakes Mr. Wimbledon. This is a normal enough situation for a family’s dog, but soon Stanley’s actions seem exceedingly strange. The rollicking rhyming verses recount one family member after another reporting the dog’s eccentric nocturnal behaviors. Stanley tinkers with the oil tank, messes around in the shower, mixes odd ingredients in the kitchen. Stanley’s doings make for a laugh-aloud ending that demand a re-read to view the brilliance of the story’s construction. (for ages 5-8)
Nods to Nonfiction
Children are curious by nature and new nonfictions have intriguing designs and concepts that teach and satisfy at the same time.
|A nest is noisy
Once again the author and her marvelous illustrator, Sylvia Long, create a surprising title with brilliant execution. A nest is noisy when it’s “a nursery of chirp-chirping, buzzing, squealing, peep-peeping, bubbling babies.” The book weaves fiction and nonfiction, illustrations and text as beautifully as some of the nests portrayed. (for ages 6 to adult)
|I [don’t] like snakes
The small heroine voices big objections to her snake-loving family’s addiction to reptiles. Her family defends their passion and dispute her concerns with stunning nonfiction facts until, by book’s end, she “really, really, reeeealllly” likes snakes. (for ages 6 to adult)
|How to swallow a pig: step-by-step advice from the animal kingdom
Illustrator Jenkins again collaborates with his author wife, Robin Page, in another innovative nonfiction. They draw on the habits of 18 animals, breaking down their patterns in numbered sequences. Illustrations and text show how-to’s such as trapping fish like a humpback whale, cracking a nut like a crow, disguising yourself like an octopus, and swallowing a pig like a python. (for ages 4-8)
The Gift of Gab
One of the hidden gifts in books is the magic that happens when a special book opens doors to fabulous conversations.
|One word from Sophia
Sophia is skilled with words, brilliant at arguments and savvy about people. She needs all three talents to get her “true desire” (a giraffe) and stand up to the “four problems” she faces — four bright family members with different vantage points. Book discussions can range from marveling at the author’s wonderful word choices to analyzing the strategies Sophia uses. (for ages 5-8)
|Last stop on Market Street
As CJ and his grandmother travel by bus, they talk along the way. En route, CJ voices disappointment and resentment about all he doesn’t have. His grandmother poses an alternate, more positive point of view. His matter-of-fact observations contrast with her more lyrical answers. Sensory details and poignant images reveal two engaging characters, their captivating relationship and many stimulating ideas to consider. (for ages 5-8)
|A fine dessert: four centuries, four families, one delicious treat
The author and illustrator picture four families making Blackberry Fool across time and distance beginning in 1710 Lyme, England, then 1810 Charleston, on to 1910 Boston and finally, in 2010 San Diego. The changes in class, tools, and methods provide fascinating opportunities for discussion and perhaps a 2015 recreation of the dessert in your family. (for ages 5-8)
|Tucky Jo and Little Heart
A strong countrified voice with fresh images suits the first-person narrative of Johnnie Wallen, a Kentucky boy and talented sharpshooter who can “hit the eye of a gnat from a furlong away.” Based on a real character, Polacco tells the story of a boy who signs up early to fight in the Pacific War and quickly sees killing and suffering. He becomes a hero to young Little Heart, saves her village, and creates a bond that endures for decades. The contrast of war’s cruelty and man’s humanity is only one of the subjects in this powerful book. (for ages 8 to adult)
Pictures Speaks Louder Than Words
Some of the most glorious art in America can be found in its picture books. Find the story in a wordless book, or view the evocative power of illustrations and their contribution to family conversations and library discussions.
|Around the clock Roz ChastNew Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast shows equal wit with words and illustrations as she romps through a day, hour by hour, demonstrating the essence of eccentric children. A double-page spread, for example, shows an enormous Ann stretched through grocery store aisles in front of horrified shoppers as from three to four she “throws a tantrum on the floor.” Each picture is intricate, full of discussion-worthy inferences and details, and pauses for laughter. (for ages 5 to adult)|
Crossing countries, time periods, and even entering fantastical worlds, the writer-illustrator reveals homes of all kinds. Whether they are modern or futuristic, in France or underwater in Atlantis, all are cozy and charming, and the spare text encourages imagining. (for ages 4-8)
|Sweep up the sun
Rick Lieder’s photograph on the flyleaf depicts tiny nestlings, their beaks wide-open-and screaming for food. This visually strong image initiates a dramatic mood for Frost’s ode to birds. Lieder captures 11 different types of birds, most of them in flight, displaying gorgeous wingspreads. Frost’s marvelous metaphors about growth are equally descriptive. (for ages 4 and up)
|The night world
A small boy is awakened by his kitty, Sylvie, who ushers him outside with a mysterious message: “It’s coming.” After creeping through a silent, shadowy house, they experience the spectacular magic of dawn. There’s genius in the pacing of illustrations, color changes, and a sense of drama that is fulfilled by the emotionally stunning ending. (for ages 4-7)
Picture book biographies are one of the fastest growing genres in children’s books. They are great ways to talk about experience, values and the way people lead by example.
|Talkin’ guitar: a story of young Doc Watson
The author-artist uses similes, verbs, and sensory images, combined with a colloquial tone to give a sense of the mountain home and growing up of Doc Watson, who had a “heart full of melody and head full of song.” The author wonders if his blindness helped him love the “quiet between sounds” and develop his “ears like a cat.” (for ages 5-8)
|One plastic bag: Isatou Ceesay and the recycling women of the Gambia
Isatou Ceesay sees plastic bags as silky and useful until one bag turns into two, then hundreds. When grown, she’s oblivious until “the ugliness finds its way to her” and she unites women to crochet these bags into purses. The book is filled with refrains and imagery that showcase the beauty of the Gambian setting. (for ages 5-9)
|Poet: the remarkable story of George Moses Horton
Long-time illustrator Tate proves his excellence in writing with imagery and verbs that sing. These serve as a proper tribute for George Moses Horton, who was born enslaved and taught himself how to read and compose poetry. His talent with words “loosened the chains of bondage long before his last day as a slave.” Tate’s telling packs an emotional punch that befits Horton’s powerful poetry. (for ages 6 and up)
Books with attention-grabbing features have an inventive strength that captivates all ages as they signal sure fun!
|Bird & Diz
Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker “are friends who play together just like kids.” Illustrator Ed Young interprets their energetic bebop collaboration with electric colors on a bronze background and pages that unfold to create a two-sided panel. Golio vividly describes the musicians “tossing notes back and forth like jugglers” and their notes mixing like “two hearts-one heartbeat.” The afterword provides musical and historical context. (for ages 5 to adult)
The book introduces a “curious little kid” who “looked through the hole and saw all sorts of things!” This segues into a series of pages, each with a suggestion for viewing and a rectangular hole that acts as a frame for young children to see the world in terms of color, shapes, sizes, distance, shine and texture. (for ages 3-6)
|Welcome to the neighborwood
An intriguing lyrical nonfiction text and dramatic pop-ups unite in a playful tour of the amazing animal homes found in nature. The inventive designs and spot-on titles are fitting representation of the diverse views Sheehy gives. These include Hummingbird’s “Craftbirdship,” Garden Spider’s “Loom of Doom” and Honeybee’s “Home Sweet Home.” (for ages 5 and up)
Classics Renewed and Holiday Happiness
Once illustrators and writers have proved themselves, they often retell, or re-illustrate their favorite tales. Collecting these versions (or special holiday books) can create an extraordinary heirloom library
The powerful imagery of the flood story finds book expression as Linda Falken adapts Genesis, Chapters 6-9 in a text that will be understandable to children and pairs it with 14 amazing works of art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (for ages 5 and up)
|Miracle on 133rd Street
José’s mami doesn’t have room in her oven for their roast and José knows that “every Christmas she got homesick for Puerto Rico.” She’s not the only one, José realizes as he and his father head to off to get their roast cooked. Everyone in their apartment building seems to lack Christmas spirit. When José and his father return, the roast’s fragrance wraps “itself around all of them like a scarf” and everyone celebrates joyfully together. (for ages 6 and up)
|The grasshopper & the ants
This Aesop’s fable, retold and illustrated by the author, weaves whimsy and his “homage” to nature. Brilliant colors of summer later contrast with monochrome and starkness as Pinkney shows seasonal changes. Grasshopper, portrayed as a one-man-band, tries to convince the busy insects to enjoy fall’s “playground of leaves” with colors that “twirl and glide” and “the sparkle of first snow.” Later, when he needs shelter, he’s given a royal welcome by a colorful Queen Ant and her colony. (for ages 3 and up)
|Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone
Double-columned text allows for Kate Greenaway Award-winning illustrator Jim Kay to picture Harry Potter’s magical world with more than 100 lavish, carefully detailed, brilliantly colored, richly imaged illustrations. (for ages 8 and up)
|Oskar and the eight blessings
After the Nazis executed the Night of Broken Glass, Oskar’s parents put him on a ship to America with only a picture of an aunt he doesn’t know and a final reminder that “even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” Oskar arrives in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve. The many illustrations and brief text serve as witness for the many blessings he finds. (for ages 7-10)
Susie Wilde, a read-aloud advocate and children’s book crusader for over 30 years, has reviewed for magazines and newspapers and shared her favorite titles wit