Sunday, December 31, 2006


HAP-py New Year! Corks are a-popping here, because I'm very proud that since this blog's inception last summer, PlanetEsme has posted reviews and recommendations for over 130 books published in 2006, and at least as many "backlist" (older) titles. Below is a list of the new books (titles with an asterix are slotted to be reviewed in the coming weeks). I always love looking at the complete list of favorites because it is not only a reminder of what talent and beauty springs eternal from the pond, but a reminder of how possible it is to get a engaging and well-rounded base of knowledge using children's literature. If a child were to read every book on this list through the year...well, there's a potential for equal education within the pages, regardless of where a child lives or how much money a child's parent makes. Even after a night's worth of champagne, that is one sobering thought. So let us pour one last glass and raise it high in honor of libraries, parents and teachers who prioritize read-aloud, independent booksellers who work hard to get the best into our hands, and all who live the change they wish to see in the world through literacy. Chin-chin!

January is also the hellatious month of children's book awards. Though I am looking forward to the results of the Cybils, a new blogger-based award that has helped to create the year's best reading lists in cyberspace or anyplace, generally my feeling about awards is that I wish everything could be like in Ezra Jack Keats' PET SHOW, in which every entrant received a ribbon for whatever outstanding trait it might have ("friendliest fish" stands out in my mind). In which case, I might start handing out ribbons like these:

Favorites for sharing in a classroom setting:
LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick)
THE SHOW AND TELL LION by Barbara Abercrombie, illustrated by Lynn Avril Cravath (McElderberry)
HOUNDSLEY AND CATINA by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay (Candlewick)
WHO IS MELVIN BUBBLE? by Nick Bruel (Roaring Brook)
BEST SHORTS: FAVORITE SHORT STORIES FOR SHARING selected by Avi and Carolyn Shute, afterword by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Chris Raschka (Houghton Mifflin)
LUGALBANDA: THE BOY WHO GOT CAUGHT UP IN A WAR (AN EPIC TALE from ANCIENT IRAQ) by Kathy Henderson, illustrated by Jane Ray (Candlewick)
AN EGG IS QUIET by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long (Chronicle)
HOW WE ARE SMART by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Lee and Low)

Made me laugh the hardest:
CHICKENS TO THE RESCUE by John Himmelman (Holt)
MR. PUSSKINS: A LOVE STORY by Sam Lloyd (Atheneum)
SUPERHERO ABC by Bob McLeod (HarperCollins)

Best children's books actually for grown-ups:
SO FEW OF ME by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick)

Most fun to recommend to reluctant readers:
CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Hyperion)

Awwwww award (for cutest book):
ONCE I ATE A PIE by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider (HarperCollins)

Book I'm rooting for to win a Newbery:
COUNTING ON GRACE by Elizabeth Winthrop (Random House)

Book that deserves a Caldecott nod even though the author barely has room on his shelf for another one:
FLOTSAM by David Wiesner (Clarion)

What other awards would you give? Is there a book that made you cry the hardest? That had pictures of language that took your breath away? Is there an author or illustrator who bravely went in a new direction? Best parody? Brave new multicultural contributions? Least predictable? Most fun to read to somebody on your lap? Look over the list of last year's PlanetEsme picks below, and consider your own favorites...then give an award in the comments section below.

PICTURE BOOK (including illustrated poetry):
19 GIRLS AND ME by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Steven Salerno (Philomel)
365 PENGUINS by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet (Abrams)
ABBIE IN STITCHES by Cynthia Cotten, illustrated by Beth Peck (Farrar Straus Giroux)
ADELE AND SIMON by Barbara McClintock (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
ALL FOR PIE, PIE FOR ALL by David Martin, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev (Candlewick)
A BEAUTIFUL GIRL by Amy Schwartz (Roaring Brook)
BOBBY THE BOLD by Donna Jo Napoli and Eva Furrow, illustrated by Ard Hoyt (Dial)
THE CAT WHO WOULDN'T COME INSIDE: BASED ON A TRUE STORY by Cynthia Von Buhler (Houghton Mifflin)
CHARLIE COOK'S FAVORITE BOOK by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Dial)
CHICKENS TO THE RESCUE by John Himmelman (Holt)
CHOWDER by Peter Brown (Little, Brown)
DEAR FISH by Chris Gall (Little, Brown)
DON'T LET THE PIGEON STAY UP LATE by Mo Willems (Hyperion)
THE EXTINCT FILES: MY SCIENCE PROJECT by Wallace Edwards (Kids Can Press)
EMILY'S BALLOON by Komako Sakai (Chronicle)
FLETCHER AND THE FALLING LEAVES by Julia Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (Greenwillow)
FLOTSAM by David Wiesner (Clarion)
THE FRIENDLY FOUR by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist (HarperCollins)
THE GINGERBREAD COWBOY by Janet Squires, illustrated by Holly Berry (HarperCollins)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JAMELA! by Niki Daly (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
HOUNDSLEY AND CATINA by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay (Candlewick)
HOW TO BE by Lisa Brown (HarperCollins)
HUBERT THE PUDGE: A VEGETARIAN TALE by Henrick Drescher (Candlewick)
I'M NOT CUTE! by Jonathan Allen (Hyperion)
IN THE FIDDLE IS A SONG by Durga Bernhard (Chronicle)
JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE & BEN by Lane Smith (Hyperion)
LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick)
LILLY'S BIG DAY by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)
LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Holt)
LOVE YOU WHEN YOU WHINE by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
THE LOUDS MOVE IN! by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Regan Dunnick (Mashall Cavendish)
MAMA OUTSIDE, MAMA INSIDE, by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Susan Gaber (Henry Holt)
MANNY'S COWS: THE NIAGARA FALLS TALE by Suzy Becker (HarperCollins)
MARTHA MOTH MAKES SOCKS by Cambria Evans (Houghton Mifflin)
MAX'S ABC by Rosemary Wells (Viking)
MR. OUCHY'S FIRST DAY by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Paul Meisel (Putnam)
MR. PUSSKINS: A LOVE STORY by Sam Lloyd (Atheneum)
MRS. CLAUS TAKES A VACATION by Linas Alsenas (Scholastic)
MRS. MCBLOOM, CLEAN UP YOUR CLASSROOM! by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Guy Francis (Hyperion)
THE NEW GIRL by Jacqui Roberts, illustrated by Matt Phelan (Atheneum)
OLIVIA FORMS A BAND by Ian Falconer (Atheneum)
ONCE AROUND THE SUN by Bobbi Katz, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Harcourt)
ONCE I ATE A PIE by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider (HarperCollins)
ONE GREEN APPLE by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Lewin (Clarion)
OOPS by Arthur Geisert (Houghton Mifflin)
PIZZA AT SALLY'S by Monica Wellington (Dutton)
PROBUDITI! by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin)
ROAR OF A SNORE by Marsha Diane Arnold,illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Dial)
SANTA KNOWS by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith (Dutton)
THE SECRET KEEPER by Kate Coombs, Heather M. Solomon (Atheneum)
THE SHOW AND TELL LION by Barbara Abercrombie, illustrated by Lynn Avril Cravath (McElderberry)
SINGING SHIJIMI CLAMS by Naomi Kojima (Kane Miller)
SO FEW OF ME by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick)
SO SLEEPY STORY by Uri Shulevitz(Farrar Straus Giroux)
SPARKS FLY HIGH: THE LEGEND OF DANCING POINT retold by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Leonid Gore (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
SUPERHERO ABC by Bob McLeod (HarperCollins)
THERE IS A FLOWER AT THE TIP OF MY NOSE SMELLING ME by Alice Walker, illustrated by Stefano Vitale (HarperCollins)
TOOT & PUDDLE: THE ONE AND ONLY by Holly Hobbie (Little Brown)
A VERY FULL MORNING by Eva Montanari (Houghton Mifflin)
WAY FAR AWAY ON A WILD SAFARI by Jan Peck, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (Simon and Schuster)
THE WHEELS ON THE SCHOOL BUS by Mary-Alice Moor, illustrated by Laura Huliska Beith (HarperCollins)
WHEN THE COWS GOT LOOSE by Carol Weis, illustrated by Ard Hoyt (Simon & Schuster)
THE WILDEST BROTHER by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer (Scholastic)
WHO IS MELVIN BUBBLE? by Nick Bruel (Roaring Brook)
WHY DO YOU CRY? by Kate and M. Sarah Klise (Henry Holt)
WOLVES by Emily Gravett (Simon and Schuster)

THE BEASTS OF CLAWSTONE CASTLE by Eva Ibbotson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Dutton)
BEST SHORTS: FAVORITE SHORT STORIES FOR SHARING selected by Avi and Carolyn Shute, afterword by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Chris Raschka (Houghton Mifflin)
BREAD AND ROSES, TOO by Katherine Paterson (Clarion)
BUNDLE AT BLACKTHORPE HEATH by Mark Copeland (Houghton Mifflin)
CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Hyperion)
COUNTING ON GRACE by Elizabeth Winthrop (Random House)
DEAR MAX by Sally Grindley, illustrated by Tony Ross (McElderberry Books)
A DROWNED MAIDEN’S HAIR by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)*
FLY BY NIGHT by Frances Hardinge (HarperCollins)
GILDA JOYCE: THE LADIES OF THE LAKE by Jennifer Allison (Sleuth/Dutton)
HENRIETTA, THERE'S NO ONE BETTER by Martine Murray (Scholastic)
THE HOMEWORK MACHINE by Dan Gutman (Simon and Schuster)
HORNS AND WRINKLES by Joseph Helgerson (Houghton Mifflin)
I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS by Michael Morpugo (Candlewick)*
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)*
JULIA’S KITCHEN by Brenda Ferber (Farrar Straus Giroux)
LEGEND OF HONG KU DONG by Anne Sibley O'Brien (Charlesbridge)
LUGALBANDA: THE BOY WHO GOT CAUGHT UP IN A WAR (AN EPIC TALE from ANCIENT IRAQ) by Kathy Henderson, illustrated by Jane Ray (Candlewick)
THE PALACE OF LAUGHTER by Jon Berkeley, illustrated by Brandon Dorman (HarperCollins)
POND SCUM by Alan Silberberg (Hyperion)
THE PROPHET OF YONWOOD by Jeanne DuPrau (Random House)
THE RAVEN LEAGUE by Alex Simmons and Bill McCay (Sleuth/Razorbill)
RICKSHAW GIRL by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan (Charlesbridge)*
ROSY COLE’S MEMOIR EXPLOSION by Sheila Greenwald (Farrar Straus Giroux)*
THE SECRET ORDER OF THE GUMM STREET GIRLS by Elise Primavera (HarperCollins)*
THE SILVER DONKEY by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Don Powers (Candlewick)
THAT GIRL LUCY MOON by Amy Timberlake (Hyperion)
THE END by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist (HarperCollins)
TO DANCE: A BALLERINA'S GRAPHIC NOVEL by Siena Cherson Siegel, illustrated by Mark Siegel (Aladdin)
WINNIE AT HER BEST by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis (Houghton Mifflin)
THE WALL AND THE WING by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins)
WITCH CATCHER by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion)
THE YEAR OF THE DOG by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)*

NON-FICTION (including biography and folklore):
AN EGG IS QUIET by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long (Chronicle)
BALLET OF THE ELEPHANTS by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Roaring Brook)
BE WATER, MY FRIEND: THE EARLY YEARS OF BRUCE LEE by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee (Lee & Low)
BESSIE SMITH AND THE NIGHT RIDERS by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by John Holyfield (Putnam)
BUTTERLY EYES AND OTHER SECRETS OF THE MEADOW by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin)
by Lenny Hort, illustrated by John O'Brien (Henry Holt)
by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino (Lee & Low)
DEAR MR. ROSENWALD by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Scholastic)
DIVING TO A DEEP-SEA VOLCANO by Kenneth Mallory (Houghton Mifflin)
DIZZY by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Scholastic)
EXTREME ANIMALS by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton (Candlewick)
THE HERO SCHLIEMANN: THE DREAMER WHO DUG FOR TROY by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd (Candlewick)
HEY THERE, STINK BUG! by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Leslie Evans (Charlesbridge)
HOW WE ARE SMART by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Lee and Low)
HOW TO SURVIVE IN ANTARCTICA by Lucy Jane Bledsoe (Holiday House)
LITTLE SAP AND MONSIEUR RODIN by Michelle Lord and Felicia Hoshino (Lee and Low)
NOW AND BEN by Gene Baretta (Henry Holt)
OWEN AND MZEE by Craig Hatkoff, illustrated by Peter Greste (Scholastic)
PIRATES by John Matthews (Atheneum)
POMPEII: LOST AND FOUND by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (Knopf)
PUMPKINS by Ken Robbins (Roaring Brook)
STOMPIN' AT THE SAVOY: THE STORY OF NORMA MILLER edited by Alan Govenar, illustrated by Martin French (Candlewick)
TALES OUR ABUELITAS TOLD: A HISPANIC FOLKTALE COLLECTION by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Felipe Davalos, Susan Guevara and Leyla Torres (Atheneum)
TEAM MOON: HOW 400,000 PEOPLE LANDED APOLLO 11 ON THE MOON by Catherine Thimmesh (Houghton Mifflin)
THE WAND IN THE WORD: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy edited by Leonard S. Marcus (Candlewick)
WHAT ATHLETES ARE MADE OF by Hanoch Piven (Atheneum)
WRITING MAGIC by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
Champagne monkey gif from house of the orange monkey.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


THE CAT WHO WOULDN'T COME INSIDE: BASED ON A TRUE STORY by Cynthia Von Buhler (Houghton Mifflin)
When I was a little girl, I had some amazing fairy tale board books that had pages with lenticular plates featuring photographed scenes of dolls in poses, offering a strange depth, like looking through a Viewmaster simply by staring at the page. Occasionally, I meet people who also had these bizarre and beautiful books, indelible from memory. This book is the closest I've come to those unusual volumes. Carefully positioned clay figures in dollhouse scenes seem ready to stroll off the page in this simple, graceful story of a redheaded woman who takes slow, slow steps towards coaxing a stray cat out of the cold and snow. The book became rather uncomfortably surreal to me because with every passing page the cat becomes more and more like a person, until it was explained to me by a colleague who is also an avid cat fancier that it made perfect sense, because the more you get to know a cat, the more and more human they become (something I did not know, being a "dog person"). The author used her own experience as a cat rescuer as the springboard for this story. Whether or not you are a feline enthusiast, the production values on this book are beautiful; no wonder this artist's work for this book has been traveling to gallery after gallery! The pages are full of small, period-piece details that can be discovered and discussed and with repeated readings, and the claw scratches on the end papers are the cat's meow. The website for the book is just gorgeous, visit for a little taste of the special, special delight that is waiting if you are willing to come inside. (4 and up)

Also of interest:
by Robin Pulver (Albert Whitman) A mischievous abandoned kitten finds its way into a cozy home on Christmas Eve, and catches the jolly old elf in the act! Kitty worries that Santa will put him in the sack like his first owner did, but Santa has other plans for this kitten who is more nice than naughty at heart. Positively adorable paintings capture our pet sipping from the milk left for Santa and climbing the Christmas tree. By the author of PUNCTUATION TAKES A VACATION, the children just loved the drama and declared it their holiday favorite, and it will warm your heart like a roaring yule log. (5 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


Here comes Santa Claus, and some holiday literature that shines as brightly as Christmas tree baubles! Just as it is fun to unwrap favorite ornaments come December, there is a special warm feeling in rediscovering these stories year after year.

ANTONELLA AND HER SANTA CLAUS by Barbara Augustin, illustrated by Gerhard Lahr (Kane Miller) Expressive and wet-washed watercolor/mixed media illustration helps tell the story of Antonella in her little Italian village by the sea, who is teased for believing in Santa Claus. She writes him a letter wishing for the red rollerskates, but when nobody knows where to send it until the clever balloon man suggests they try to deliver the letter via balloon. "The balloon floated through rain and snow, clouds and fog. Up and up and up it went, sailing over mountains and rivers, cities and farms." What happens when the letter lands on a playground in Hungary? This colorful, original book shows that you can still communicate long distance without roaming charges, and is a tribute to the true spirit of generosity and faith. This one is as much of an annual favorite in my home and library as Van Allsburg's POLAR EXPRESS. (All ages)

There's more good will to be found in PETER CLAUS AND THE NAUGHTY LIST by Lawrence David (Doubleday), an absolutely brilliant book in which Santa is depicted as a family man with a young son named Peter. When Peter is helping Santa and Mother Claus add names to the "naughty list," he feels badly. After all, he had been on the list only the year before. "I didn't make the rules," Santa said. "But you know what they are: more nices than naughties and you go on the nice list and get lots of presents. More naughties than nices and you go on the naughty list and get nothing." Peter feels there are extenuating circumstances that his father is not taking into consideration, so he takes hold of the sleigh-reigns to investigate. Can Peter help the children who made bad choices redeem themselves in time for Christmas...or will his antics get him in trouble to boot? A great read-aloud with modern, funny illustrations. That this is out of print is insanity; it is definitely at the top of my holiday "nice" list! (5 and up)

THE ANIMALS' MERRY CHRISTMAS by Richard Scarry (Golden Books/Random House) Oversized and glittering, this reissue is truly a Christmas gift to readers. This particularly affordable collection boasts eighteen stories and poems featuring friends from the woodland, farm and jungle, all celebrating and preparing for the season. Scarry has a flair for stories with a real hook: try "The Cold Little Squirrel," "The Naughty Little Reindeer," (note: Scarry fears no naughtiness), "The Goat Who Played Santa Claus" and the cliffhanging "The Goose Who Stuffed Herself" about a feathered friend who is a guest in a tiger home. Old-fashioned and as cheerful as a choir of carolers, this book is calls for gathering 'round the fireside (or lamp) for many nights of read-aloud. (4 and up)

SHALL I KNIT YOU A HAT? A CHRISTMAS YARN by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise (Henry Holt) After receiving a form-fitting chapeau, Little Rabbit has an idea so delicious that it deserves a second piece of carrot cake: mother should knit hats for Christmas presents! When their friends at the market receive the somewhat outrageous creations, they are dubious, but when the snow starts to fall, there isn't any doubt that these are the best gifts ever. Matte illustrations in a warm palette are charming and folksy, and full of droll detail. This first picture book by a talented team celebrated for novels such as REGARDING THE FOUNTAIN deserves a hats-off. (5 and up)

WHAT'S COOKING, JAMELA? by Niki Daly (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
"When our chicken is nice and fat, then it will be Christmas," explains Mama. Between now and then, Jamela becomes extremely attached to the chicken who she has fittingly named "Christmas," while Jamela's grandmother increasingly looks forward to a fine holiday dinner. When Mrs. Zibi the butcher finally pays a house call, wearing a comical scowl and rubbing hands "that looked ready for business," Jamela abducts her pet, only to lose Christmas in a crowd. The story climaxes with a fabulously wild scene in a ladies' hair salon, and resolves in an alternative treat for grandma. Set in a South African township, this story is energetic, and the artwork is both funny and masterful. Daly's treatment of figures is simply awesome, expressive and alive, and so original. Just look at the double-page spread of an African nativity play, with Joseph wearing a Basuto hat, wise men sporting flaboyant Madiba shirts and "Away in a Manger" being played on marimba! A glossary is included in the back, but the text flows as naturally as water to tell a universal story of mischief and affection. If you enjoy the work of "the doyenne of children's literature," Shirley Hughes, you will love Niki Daly, and vice versa. I'm afraid I can't write any more about it, I must go stare at this book with my family for the sixth time. Also, be sure to check out the prequel, JAMELA'S DRESS. (6 and up)

What are your favorites? Unwrap them here in our comments section...a good recommendation makes a great holiday gift!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, it all starts tonight: the delicious latkes (I like to add a little zucchini, but click here for an insane variety), the spinning dreidels, eight glorious nights of light, history and celebration...what a party! And just in time, a gift to us all is the Great Hanukkah Books for Kids list from the Association of Jewish Libraries, which can be downloaded by visiting the link under "News and Announcements" on their website. I am very, very proud that my holiday title, HANUKKAH, SHMANUKKAH! (illustrated by LeUyen Pham) for ages 8 and up, has been included on this distinguished list. From a review posted on (not written by a relative, by the way):

Scroogemacher is the miserly owner of a garment sweatshop in turn-of-the-century New York City. He forces his immigrant workers to work overtime on the last night of Hanukkah, and is visited by the Rabbis of Hanukkah Past, Present, and Future. Scroogemacher is transported to the time of Judah Maccabee, in the middle of the battle to reclaim the Temple, to the crowded tenements where his workers live, and finally, to see his nephew's possible futures based on his choices.

So how did Jewish tradition hold up? The Rabbi of Hanukkah present is a female rabbi, and the text addresses Reform Judaism implicitly. Scroogemacher is outraged when, in the future, he is surrounded by Christmas decorations and music instead of his more familiar Jewish world, to which the rabbi replies, "What can I say? They have good decorations." Liberal sprinklings of Yiddish (a glossary is included) and humorous writing make this an original take on Dickens' work rather than a poor imitation. The artwork evokes a sort of Old World style that works well with the text. many other Jewish children's books make an attempt to address the inescapability of Christmas and Christianity in American society while intelligently discussing the immigrant experience (the poignant tale of Scroogemacher's wife being sent back to the Old Country because of trachoma), Reform Judaism, the widening gap between Jewish as secular cultural identity and Judaism as religion, and workers' rights?

How is (Jewish) Scroogemacher a worse influence than the greedy, stingy Christian personified by Scrooge? The important thing is that both find redemption and closer ties to their respective family and cultures. Dickens' Christmas Carol values seem based on tikkun olam, the Jewish commitment to healing the world. "Hanukkah, Shmanukkah" at least attempts to bridge the gap between the multitude of bright, colorful Christmas books for children and the lack of appropriate Jewish-themed books for older children. Starting with a universal holiday tale of redemption, it enfolds the warmth and light of Hanukkah, the power of love to transform, and the strength of Jewish tradition. A beautiful, thought-provoking read that brightened my Hanukkah.

I hope it does the same for all of you! Additionally, teachers and families be alerted, a free reader's theater script is available for download on-line, for those who would like a communal read-aloud in your home or classroom. Have fun! And in the spirit of the holiday and the grand efforts by the AJL, I'd like to share a few of my personal favorites, not that you should choose one instead of the other:

IT'S A MIRACLE: A HANUKKAH STORYBOOK by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Atheneum) What a Hanukkah, with Owen Block finally old enough to be the new O.C.L…Official Candle Lighter, that is. Nothing could be a better gift for each of the eight night of Hanukkah than a story, and boy, does Grandma pull out all the stops! Whenever Grandma asks, "Ready for a story?" Owen answers, "definitely." Good choice, Owen! From the dentist's parrot who says "open up" to the class clown who stays home from school to entertain his parents, to the space alien who is reminded of his home planet by the four candles lit on the menorah to the little girl that grows up to be a rabbi, could it be that these stories are inspired by Owen's real family? Naaah! In this modern treatment of a Jewish tradition, the stylish gouchae illustrations are as generous as a plate of latkes, and the voices of each character come through loud and clear. You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the offbeat humor here, or the appreciation of the ties that bind. Includes a brief description of the Hanukkah legend, the Hanukkah blessings and a glossary. If a miracle is, as Grandma says, "something that makes you glad to be alive," then this book counts. Definitely. (7 and up)

FOUR SIDES, EIGHT NIGHTS: A NEW SPIN ON HANUKKAH by Rebecca Tova Ben-Zvi, illustrated by Susanna Natti (Roaring Brook) For those visited by Hanukkah Harry instead of St. Nick, check out this nifty little volume that sheds a fresh new light on the holiday. While a bit tricky as a read-aloud, this is an original and exciting informational book, including a list of eight invaluable "Hanukkah Do's and Don'ts," suggestions for potato substitutions on latkes (pinto beans, hmmm!), great ideas for what to bet while playing dreidel and plenty of history throughout. A generous peppering of black-and-white spot illustrations make this book extra festive and kid-friendly, and a lovely resource for teachers as well.

A CONFUSED HANUKKAH: AN ORIGINAL STORY FROM CHELM by Jon Koons, illustrated by S. D. Schindler (Dutton) It's been a whole year since the town of Chelm celebrated Hanukkah, so can you blame them for forgetting how? In the absence of the rabbi, the questionably "wise" men send Yossel as an envoy to the next town to collect customs, but when he makes a wrong turn into the big city, he comes back with some unreliable information. Can the rabbi straighten things out when he returns? Schindler's style is perfectly matched to the story, fine-lined and full of personality. Purists may have trouble jiving this story about the mixing of holidays and the preservation of tradition with the original "Chelm" noodlehead stories, beautifully rendered by genius Issac Bashevis Singer among others (you do have Singer's Newbery-honor winning ZLATEH THE GOAT AND OTHER STORIES, don't you?) but in the end, it is a laudible attempt. A slightly modern and very funny book. (7 and up)

IN THE MONTH OF KISLEV by Nina Jaffe, illustrated by Louise August (Viking) Mendel the Peddler's children stand under the wealthy merchant Feivel's window, stealing the smell of the latkes, and Feivel expects them to pay for it! How can the rabbi solve this dispute? Children will jump at the chance to deliver justice. This classic Hanukkah story with bold, block cut illustrations is filled with the icons of the holiday and is a perfect read-aloud. In a world of have and have-nots, this is an important book to have...and the one I share every year. (5 and up)

CHANUKAH BUGS by David Carter (Little Simon) Another festive addition to your holiday collection is Chanukah Bugs by David A. Carter. Open a lift-the-flap package for each night of the eight days to to say shalom to the likes of a glowing Shammash candle bug, a Dizzy Dreidel Bug that really spins, sizzling Potato Latke Bugs, foil Golden Gelt bugs, and Menorah Bugs that outshine them all! Again, albeit not absolutely observant, it is great for introducing the symbols of Chanukah in a primary classroom, or for holiday gift-giving (makes an amusing hostess gift as well as a treat for your favorite little
shaneh yingle). You don't have to be Jewish to go bug-eyed over this book! (3 and up)

What else, what else? SAM I AM by Ilene Cooper (Scholastic, 9 and up), powerful fiction about the cross-cultural and religious pulls of the season, Eric Kimmel's HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS (Holiday House, 7 and up) is a classic and beloved story that is enjoyed by all faiths, SAMMY SPIDER'S FIRST HANUKKAH by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn (Kar Ben, 3 and up) teaches colors as well, and works so nicely as a puppet show...there are so many more fine books than there are nights of Hanukkah, but no matter which you choose, they are sure to light a candle in the minds and hearts of our children. What are your reading delights for the festival of lights? Please share!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


MRS. CLAUS TAKES A VACATION by Linas Alsenas (Scholastic)
Santa may have a lot of frequent flyer miles, but in this book, it seems that the Mrs. has some catching up to do. She packs her bag for a solo adventure, basking on beaches, getting in step with folkloric dancers, developing a taste for sushi . Meanwhile, in a drastic role-swap, it is Santa's turn to stay home with the cat, glumly decking the halls and baking the gingerbread cookies sans his better half. When the wife returns, however, Santa has planned one more special trip, and has tickets for two.

Since the focus is on the married Clauses, this could easily be one of those dreaded children's books for grown-ups, and while adults really will enjoy it, it still has plenty to offer a child; lovely holiday borders frame Santa's lonely days while Mrs. Claus's magnanimous enthusiasm takes up double-page spreads, cleverly growing smaller and smaller as her taste for travel wanes. Expressive, bold and colorful acrylics illustrations are a delight on every page, and an artistic stand-out; definitely an illustration style that leaves the reader looking forward to the next book. Most of all, this book overflows with affection, and what could be more Christmassy than that? Though Mrs. Claus's adventures are necessary, well-deserved and well enjoyed, home is where her heart a lot of business- traveling parents and their children will appreciate. A truly romantic trip around the world, and a welcome glance into the private life of two most popular celebrities. (5 and up)

Also of interest:
ELF ELEMENTARY by Edward Miller (Abrams)
When my son was little, he wanted to be an elf when he grew up; well, this book reads like a training guide. Follow an elf class as they make their way through an elf school day, and check out the sidebars as plentiful as a box of ornaments throughout, offering fascinating history, trivia and information (how is the holiday celebrated around the world? Who composed "Jingle Bells"? How did candy canes and gingerbread houses originate?) that will make your reader a true Christmas expert! A fancy flocked cover and mod computer-generated red and green illustrations make this book snazzy as well as smart. An elementary choice for teachers as well. (7 and up)
HOW SANTA REALLY WORKS by Alan Snow (Atheneum) Complete with diagrams! (6 and up)
HOW SANTA GOT HIS JOB by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Simon and Schuster) Chimney cleaner, mail carrier, cook...even the man in red has to pay his dues. (5 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


SANTA KNOWS by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith (Dutton)
Alfie P. Snorklepuss has serious doubts about the existence of Santa Claus. Armed with information garnered from his library's non-fiction section, he writes letters to editors, makes appearances on radio and television, and even advises readers on the World Wide Web to "wake up and smell the cookies!" Even armed with such authoritative research, Aflie has a hard time finding followers, and ripping his sister's stocking from the mantle makes his rhetoric none the more persuasive. Instead, she writes a letter to the big guy himself: "All I want for Christmas is a nicer big brother." Can a trip into the vortex that is Santa's magical sack make a leopard change his spots, or a boy change his candy cane stripes?

Steve Bjorkman's loose, colorful illustrations add a lot of humor to the story, from Alfie's Just-Say-No-to-Christmas themed jammies to his sanctimonious posturing that may remind you of a friend or two. Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith show that they can ho-ho-ho with the best of them, and that their fine novels and expertise about children's literature, widely celebrated throughout the literary community, are just two facets of their gemlike talents. When it comes to holiday books, this is definitely one to include on your "nice" list. (6 and up)

Also of interest:
SANTA'S LAST PRESENT by Marie-Aude Murail, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Peachtree) There comes a time in the life of every girl and boy when Santa makes his last visit. After a year of electronic toys and doo-dads, Julian finds himself entranced by a simple wooden toy train, obviously left by mistake. Will Santa take it back on his final visit? No fears; if anyone knows what to do, it's good old S.C. Blake's loose, expressive illustrations add to the humanity of the story, and the small packaging adds to the personal feel. Gentle, touching, and true to both the spirit of the holiday and the spirit of children, this story will toll like a bell for those who are making this first turn toward adulthood. (7 and up)

SANTA CLAUS, THE WORLD'S NUMBER ONE TOY EXPERT by Marla Frazee (Harcourt) "No one knows more about kids than Santa Claus. He is the world's number one kid expert." How does he do it? With a flurry of post-its as heavy as a snowstorm, tireless market testing and the checking and double-checking of burgeoning warehouse shelves, the jolly man in red is able to pull it all together for the holidays and gets it right 99.9 percent of the time. Frazee's illustrations control the preparation frenzy with color and brilliant composition; the wall of wrapping paper is breathtaking, as is the montage of Santa testing a pogo stick. Santa is portrayed, rightfully, as a man of great warmth and ability, and in the end, we discover his gift of choice (though, with due respect, I think he'd prefer this book). (5 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006



I will never forget visiting The Exploratorium in San Francisco, a hands-on mecca for science buffs that had me writhing with desire to recreate just a little of it in a classroom if I could. And now, like a wish come true, we have this absolutely glorious and generous compendium that captures the Exploratorium's inimitable creative energy and commitment to both science education and the glorious cause of curiosity. This inspiring, eye-opening and engaging collection of experiments, descriptions and fun facts shows science is not only a subject but a life-force that exists everywhere (exemplified by the contents: Exploring Yourself, Exploring Interesting Places and Exploring Interesting Stuff). This combo-pack of straightforward information and scintillating activities meet the criteria for great hands-on science text: the experiments are shared step by step, with clear lists of everyday items needed and explanations for why things happen. Some of the experiments are very simple and perhaps familiar (vinegar eggs, anyone?) but they are in such quantity and variety there is something for everyone, and will be a boon to teachers with limited resources. Brimming with both cartoon illustrations and photographs, I think what kids will come away with is the ability to make more careful observations; ever notice the star inside an apple, or that the number of points on that apple's ovary is equal to the number of petals on the apple blossom? Who knew?

This is an amazing gift for educators; to the teacherly eye, it is laid out almost like a collection of lesson plans, and grown-ups could really arrange a whole after school science club just by using the ideas found here. But it's not just for educators; it is accessible enough to turn kids into naturalists, biologists, chemists and (drum roll, please...) readers! This is a belly-flopper of a book, as much fun to pore over as it is to use, and if you want to do an experiment about whether a book of nonfiction can make a hit as a holiday gift, well, I have a hypothesis for you. (8 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

Monday, December 11, 2006


THE SILVER DONKEY by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Don Powers (Candlewick)
Giselle and Coco come across an AWOL soldier in the woods, hungry and cold, without eyesight and with nothing upon his person but a small silver donkey. While the girls sneak food and blankets to their secret friend, he shares stories of donkeys, brave, steadfast and martyred: Ruth's donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem; a folkloric porquoi tale in which a donkey saves the world from drought by bearing the suffering of others; and a tale that reflects the soldier's own experience in the trenches of the first World War. Can the girls give up the secret of the soldier in order to help him find his way across the channel, to the loving brother who awaits him? What does it really mean to be brave?

Every year around the holidays, I seem to have the good luck of finding a book that is a pleasure to give to just about anybody, and this year, THE SILVER DONKEY is that book. Beautifully and simply packaged in a silver embossed cover and an interior laid out with matching silver accents, graphite illustrated plates and a ribbon for keeping one's place. A book that looks and feels like this one is the very reason that we still read books on paper and not on screens. But apart from the loveliness of the thing, the story deftly captures the exhilaration of secrets and hearing stories, and the urgency of the problem at hand. The sometimes argumentative banter of the sisters and their comandeering brother is believable, and the three donkey vignettes are well balanced against the realistic story of a soldier. Best of all, it reads aloud like a dream, every now and then offering the reader the chance to take on the voice of the melancholy, storytelling soldier, and the allegories offer much to discuss. (7 and up)

Also of interest:
THE OLD COUNTRY by Mordicai Gerstein (Roaring Brook)
Well, thanks to Mordicai Gerstein's Caldecott-winner THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS we knew could draw, but this proves him to be a double-threat! This ambitious, mysterious novel intoned from the half-warm, half-warning tones of a grandmother who has seen much, young Giselle stares too long into the eyes of a fox and finds she has exchanged shape with the beast. Set in an unspecific "Old Country" during a time of war, the girl-fox struggles to survive and to reunite with her family. Will the fox and the perpetrators of this terrible war ever come to justice? Told with special sympathies toward the most vulnerable, this book has a special potency as a parable for peace. Folkloric and mystifying, this is one memorable trip into the woods. (9 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

Monday, December 04, 2006


All right. I can no longer proscrastinate the reviewing of
After all, it has just recently won the National Book Award for "young people's literature". It is a compulsively readable book with a wholly original setting and premise, which I will preface by saying what I am about to say is a spoiler; it was an exquisite pleasure going into this book knowing nothing about it, and to have the situation reveal itself page by page, like a flower opening, and allowed me to revel in the extraordinary talent of the author whose impeccable pacing created the illusion that the plot was playing itself out in some alternate universe every time the binding was broken. So if you would rather just read it, please drop down to the next paragraph. But for those who prefer a synopsis: an African American boy has his identity as a slave revealed to him after years of being part of an elaborate experiment to see whether or not children with African roots have the same capacity to learn as Caucasian children. Once realizing his role in the community, it alters his ability to play that role, and when Octavian's mother is brutally sacrificed in the name of the experiment, his humanity forces him to flee though it jeopardizes the experiment, his own life, and the lives and perceptions of many others. Through Octavian's experiences, choices and actions, the reader explores the very nature of freedom and race. Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, this narrative is newly potent in our modern time, when "freedom" is bandied about like some pop-psych buzzword. Based on real experiments and speculations carried on by the likes of the American Philosophical Society, the book bravely takes on the paradoxes of conflicts of interest, education, scientific inquiry, and the role of the almighty dollar, and the way our esoteric and philosophic notions manifest in real life, and more painfully, in the real lives of others. Reminiscent of Margarita Engle's THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA (Holt), this book pulls no punches. A major piece of literature, it is bound to be considered for many more prominent awards.

And now, for my hesitation in reviewing it here. A passage from page four:

"The men who raised me were lords of matter, and in the dim chambers I watched as they traced the spinning of bodies celestial in vast, iron courses, and bid sparks to dance upon their hands; they read the bodies of fish as if each dying trout or shad was a fresh Biblical Testment, the wet and twitching volume of a new-bord Pentateuch. They burned holes in the air, wrote poems of love, sucked the venom from sores, painted landscapes of gloom, and made metal sing; they dissected fire like newts."

Beautiful writing. Nathaniel Hawthorne would be mighty proud. And now, representative of "young people's literature." The thing is, the young people I work with apply the very un-scientific "five finger test" to most texts wider than two thumbs, meaning they open a book up to a random page and try to decode in order to determine whether the book is a pleasure read (zero to one finger up for every unfamiliar word), whether they will need support (a dictionary or an adult from two to three fingers) or whether they need to hang on a few more years to fully get the author's meaning and intent, and honestly, most middle school kids I work with would need to grow a sixth finger for this baby. This does not in any way negate the value and sheer beauty of Anderson's literary feat, but it did confound me midway through, apart from the fact that Octavian himself is a teenager, why is this considered part of the genre of children's literature at all? Would Octavian have gotten lost in the myriad of adult fiction titles, had it been marketed that way? But, is it fair that the measure of a good book for children should be that it is fit for grown-ups? I read OCTAVIAN largely by accident; I do not generally review young adult literature, but this one snuck past the gates armed with the key, that is, a ton of "buzz" that this was a great contribution to children's literature, and I know it is great and I know it is literature, and I know it will land on a lot of shelves that can be reached by kids and, therefore, in a lot of hands of children, middle grade children, especially in a climate in which many five year olds are being read Harry Potter and a great deal of pride is being taken in the achievement of reading books that are intended for older audiences. So I have to ask. Why is this a book for children? Or do we simply need to differentiate between "young people" and "children"?

I get confused, and so generally do not delve into "young adult" literature, because it frequently reads to me like adult literature with kids as protagonists. Classicly, then, is Jane Eyre young adult literature? Huckleberry Finn? Catcher in the Rye? Lord of the Flies? These are frequently read in high school. Is "young adult literature" a creative invention, much like the 20th century invention of the idea of adolesence, which is so confounding in and of itself? Can't adolsecent children generally read at the level of adults to some varying degree, and if so, why do they have a separate literature? I ask this not as an accusation, but rather as a query that I myself have not been able to answer satisfactorily.

Naturally, I asked the woman considered to be a (if not the) foremost guru of young adult children's literature, whose writing, opinions and contributions I deeply respect, Cynthia Leitich Smith, "what is the difference between YA literature and adult literature?" to which she replied:

"I agree with author Laura Ruby when she says that the difference
between adult and YA is reminiscient versus immediacy, and with Flux
editor Andrew Karre when he says the difference is not in reading level,
but point of view. But I'll also go a step further... YA is adult-level
literature about teens and twenty-somethings that doesn't mask its
blemishes or sweat glands. It embraces coming of age for what it is
without pretension or self-congratulation or snide retrospect. No
apologies. Some regrets."

What I love about Cynthia Leitich Smith's answer is the acknowledgement of the adult level, and the criteria of coming-of-age, both of which suits OCTAVIAN NOTHING.

Then there is the POV of trusted reader Richie Partington, who dons an educator's hat and runs the fabulous resource Richie's Picks, where I go to find out the latest and the greatest in literature for older kids:

"It is difficult for me to formulate a strict list of rules that will differentiate young adult literature from adult literature. There are certainly going to be exceptions to every rule. But it is quite easy for me to read a book and characterize it as either a young adult book or an adult book. Why? A portion of this 'knowing it when you see it' has to do with my own adolescent sensibilities and the balance results from my having a whole lot of experience with what works for teens. When I read a book and think, 'Gosh, remember that quirky student in 2001 who was a really sophisticated American history nut? He would have loved this book!' then I know I'm dealing with an adult book. When I finish a book and want to immediately booktalk it to all my high school reading buddies (who still come back to the middle school to borrow from our stash) or to con my wife Shari into letting me read it aloud to her current eighth grade English students, then I know it's real YA literature.

It means the world to me that teen readers see me as someone who knows what books are 'cool' and who knows what he is talking about. I don't believe that I underestimate the sophistication of teens or their ability to be patient with a book when necessary. But I think there are light years between real YA literature and some of what is published as YA literature today but is full of adult sensibility and characters."

I guess I get a little grumpy when the small amount of recogniztion given to children's literature is given to works so clearly meant for people on the cusp of adulthood; I am appreciative of the Printz award for that reason, and I hope the National Book Award follows suit and gives "props" to book creators for both young adults and children. I still think young adult literature it is a genre apart from children's literature on the whole, a genre on its own. Though I personally enjoy some young adult literature (Laurie Halse Anderson, for example), what I miss in so much of it, I think, is the author's intent to give a gift to a child through the work...though I guess this could also be said increasingly of picture books, as they become graphic art books for adult appreciation instead of books that kids actually enjoy. When I read, I wonder, does the author, at any point, imagine the audience? In order to write great literature, I don't think you need to imagine the audience, you just need to tell a great story in the best language and most honest way you know how; this seems to be what goes on in both good YA and adult literature. But in order to write great children's literature, I do think it comes out better when the audience is considered. Not that literature should be dumbed down to one or two fingers (William Steig certainly didn't), but I do deeply appreciate and immediately recognize an excellent children's author's intent to share something with a particular audience: a child, to whom the world is newer, and to whom impressions press upon the senses like a kiss or a whisper, or bruise like a thumb against an apple skin. These books are not always clean or safe or perfect, but, well, how do I put it? Have you ever crossed a street while holding someone's hand? Have you ever crossed a street without holding someone's hand, just standing next to them? There you go.

Shortly after finishing OCTAVIAN NOTHING, I came across an old, out of print copy of WOLF STORY by William McCleery, in which a beleaguered father strives to entertain his son with stories made up off the top of his head. As I read it, I knew which lines would make the children laugh if I were to read it aloud. I knew the pleasure the children would have, looking at each other knowingly, sharing in the joke that the boy had over on his dad: the understanding of the quality that every story needed to be good, which the little boy in the story knew instinctually, and which the father needed to be constantly reminded.

I open it up to you...

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Snow day today!!! That's right, school was cancelled. Thousands of children were jumping up and down, yanking on snowpants and ransacking closets in search of sleds...meanwhile, hundreds of teachers were readjusting their teddy bears in the crooks of their arms and hunkering down for another couple of hours of sleep as the white fluff collected higher and higher in the corners of the windows. Honestly, a snow day is indescribable bliss, nature's mental health day, and one of the greatest occupational perks ever known to man or woman. Reason enough to go into teaching...though I must say, the kids are pretty fun, too!

The sounds and sights of this blizzard brought immediately to mind one of my favorite seasonal titles:

WHEN IT STARTS TO SNOW by Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Martin Matje (Holt)
"What if it starts to snow? What do you do? Where do you go?" Gentle, lilting verse takes us through the woodland animal kingdom, from the predictable hibernating bear, migrating goose, seed-searching sparrow and playful otter ("I go with the flow when it starts to snow"), to the more unusual frogs, worms cats and stoats. And where does a child go when it starts to snow? Look out the window, or in the pages of this book, to find out. A subtle scientific intro to hibernation and animal habitats with a lovely search-and-find double page spread, it also serves as a flawless seasonal read-aloud. The cartoonish illustrations are cheerful and sweet, and applies a pastel palette evocative of that perfect time in a winter evening where everything turns blue and gray. (4 and up)

Also of interest:
ALL YOU NEED FOR A SNOWMAN by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Barnara Lavalee Crisp, stylized illustrations (by the same artist who did the arctic tale MAMA, DO YOU LOVE ME?) depict step-by-step the process of building a well-dressed snowman with a bevvy of friends. This spirit of community climaxes in a delightful surprise conclusion. Oversize illustrations require the reader to tilt the book vertically at one point to fully appreciate the grandeur. (4 and up)

NAMES FOR SNOW by Judi Beach, illustrated by Loretta Krupinski (Hyperion) The Inuits have more than fifty names for snow, which inspired the author to come up with fourteen of her own. How many can your children come up with? A little mouse living on the farm has the many kinds of snow defined for him by a loving mother. Silver-blue frames add to the wintry feel, and the delicate paintings of landscapes are charming and evocative in turn. A book as satisfying as a cup of cocoa that truly captures the spirit of winter, with it's chill on the outside and warmth on the inside. (4 and up)

HOW TO SURVIVE IN ANTARCTICA by Lucy Jane Bledsoe (Holiday House) Part memoir, part survival tips, part fun facts, all adventure, this nonfiction guide is very handy in case you fall into a crevass, need to build your own igloo, have trouble differentiating a weddell seal from a leopard seal, or want to see an arctic animal mummy. Fans of adventure survival guy Gary Paulsen will love this book. And do you know whether or not there are polar bears at the South Pole? Then you need this book, too. (8 and up)

THE BIGGEST, BEST SNOWMAN by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand (Scholastic) The little girl's sisters thought she couldn't do it, but she showed them! The spirit of a primary child's can-do attitude is bigger than life in this beautiful book. (5 and up) (Gosh, how long did they keep this title in print in hardcover? Two minutes? Por favor, publishing people, howzabout letting a book build up a head of steam?)

THERE WAS A COLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED SOME SNOW! by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee (Scholastic)
"There was a cold lady who swallowed a scarf. She tried not to barf." Admit it, you know a kid that would love this irreverent parody of that infamous little old lady who swallowed a fly (I'd take snow, wouldn't you?), matched with appropriately manic art. Thanks to Wonderland Books in Rockford, Illinois for sharing this title with friends at PlanetEsme! Nobody recommends books with kid-appeal like an independent bookseller! (6 and up)

And I know you won't forget about Calecott winner SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin), one of the best children's books ever, about the first scientist to capture a snowflake on photographic film (All ages), and Amy Timberlake's Newbery-contending novel THAT GIRL LUCY MOON (Hyperion), in which a pre-teen does worthy battle with a curmudgeon for rights to a sledding hill. (10 and up)

Hope these choices keep you warm if you happen to get snowed in...

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


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