Books for Kids: Think about giving a child a book this year

Good choices include The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess, and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

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With December – the holiday gift-giving season – just around the corner, many of us are about to come up with the perfect token to let friends and family know we’re thinking of them. Books remain a great option. They come in a variety of sizes and subjects; if carefully chosen, they can have incredible lasting power for the recipient; and they are easy to wrap. Below are a few random titles for the youngsters on your list. Visit your local bookstore to view these and other volumes.

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‘It was the night before Christmas

By Clement C. Moore

Illustrated by PJ Lynch

Candlewick Press

For all ages

In My Family was reading aloud the poem of Clement C. Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas, part of our annual holiday tradition. Available in numerous editions by various illustrators, our copy was a Hallmark pop-up book and my sons took turns pulling out their favorite tab – the one that Santa “put his finger out of his nose, / And gave a nod, the chimney he arose. ” They would love to see him outside the frame of the book!

This year, Dublin’s PJ Lynch gives us a newly illustrated version of Moore’s favorite poem and while it does not lack gimmicky pop-up images, it is rich in evocative paintings that reflect the era in which the words were written. (Originally published anonymously in the 1820s, Moore claimed ownership in print in 1844, although scholars today are inclined to attribute the poem to Henry Livingstone Jr.)

It fell from the sky

Written and illustrated by the Fan Brothers

Simon & Schuster

Age 4 to 8

Terry and Eric Fan of Toronto, brothers who co-created The Night Gardener in 2016, have reunited to produce a glowing picture book that has already gained international fame as one of New York’s best illustrated children’s books. Times / New York Public Library books of 2021.

“It fell out of the sky on a Thursday,” the book begins, with a two-page black-and-white illustration of a garden plot in which the only bit of color is a single marble in the grass. The insects and animals that inhabit the garden, who have never seen a marble before, try to find out what this mysterious object is – but to no avail.

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Smart, self-serving spider spins a web behind it, claiming that the object is his own, and asking all arrivals for a fee to view the mysterious object – until one day a child’s hand goes down to pick up the marble pick it up and take it away.

What follows is a bit abrupt and unbelievable, but opens the book colorfully. The illustrations, especially in black and white, are beautifully detailed and enchanting, and the story will hold the attention of every toddler. Combine this book with a pot of colorful marbles, and you’ve got a gift for art and marble lovers of all ages.

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

Written and illustrated by Tom Gauld

Neal Porter Books / Holiday Home

Age 4 to 8

Tom Gauld, a British cartoonist whose work appears weekly in The Guardian, has several graphic novels to his name, but this marks his first foray into children’s literature. The result is an old-fashioned fairy tale with decidedly modern twists.

It is the story of a king and queen who desperately wanted children. One night “the king went to see the royal inventor, and the queen went to a clever old witch who lived in the forest.” They wanted a child, and both got their wish. The inventor built “a beautiful, intricate little wooden robot” and the witch used magic to turn a block into “a perfect little wooden princess.”

There was only one hitch; every night, when she fell asleep, the log princess turned back into a log and needed her brother to say the magic words to wake her up and turn her into a princess. Everything went well until the day the robot forgot to wake its sister. By the time he realized his mistake, she had been knocked out of the window and landed on a barge lined with hundreds of other wooden blocks.

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The story that follows is one of brotherly love, exhausting adventures, the kindness of strangers, and the insight of a family of beetles. In the end, “they all still live happily.” And Gauld’s distinctive art deserves a place on the NYT / NY Public Library’s list of 2021 best illustrated children’s books.

With the exception of the Harry Potter books a few years back, I usually mark nothing more than the opening book in a series. But Amy Timberlake’s Skunk and Badger book, which I was eight to 88 years old, saw me through months of isolation last year and I would forget if I did not encourage you to watch Book 2 in the series: Egg Marks the Spot (HarperCollins). Like its predecessor, it is clever, entertaining and illustrated by Canadian artist Jon Klassen.

– Bernie Goedhart

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