Branching Out

January 8, 2013

Up until this point, this very point right here, I have only shared my picture book picks with you guys. Well, get ready for change, y’all! “New year, new blog,” I say. Well, not entirely a new blog. And that actually isn’t something that I say on a regular basis. Anyway, what I am trying to say–rather inarticulately, I must add–is that I have decided to branch out a bit and share my Middle Grade and Young Adult recommendations with you all, as well. GASP! I know, pretty life changing, right?

So, for an ever-so-brief lesson on what Middle Grade and Young Adult actually mean, I shall put my professor-pants on and explain that…

Middle Grade refers to the division of children’s books that are intended for readers aged 8-12, give or take a few years on either end depending on reading ability, maturity level, parental strictness, etc.

Examples: Charlotte’s Web, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Island of the Blue DolphinsBasically Everything Written By Beverly Clearly (aka: my favorite person on this planet / best friend)


Young Adult (aka: YA) refers to A. A pretty bad movie with Charlize Theron, but more importantly for this blog, B. children’s books that are intended for readers 12 and up. Notice how vague that “and up” is? That is because more and more 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, you name it, are buying these books for all of their Twilighty goodness. I could go much more into depth on how this is a relatively new realm of the children’s publishing world, and that it is BOOMING, and that you could credit/blame the Harry Potter Generation* for this boom, but I won’t… for now at least…

Examples: Twilight, The Hunger Games, Go Ask Alice, The Outsiders

Usually, bookstores will divide their children’s area into sections for Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult. But for a quick test on whether a book is Middle Grade or YA, look at the age of the protagonist. Under 12? Middle Grade. Over 12? YA. Just 12? Well, good luck with that one. No no, just kidding, read the back cover. Is there any mention of sex, drugs, or rock n’ roll? If so, it is YA. If not, Middle Grade. All joking aside though, YA usually contains much more mature language and themes, so be wary.

Some books are in that uncomfortable in-between section, like the Harry Potter series for example, which begins with 11-year-olds, but those 11-year-olds grow up over the span of seven books and they deal with really dark stuff (however, just as an aside, HP is usually shelved with Middle Grade, because it seems like kids are picking them up younger and younger). Kids themselves also fall into that uncomfortable in-between zone. Precocious readers, for example: they may be 10, but they can read War and Peace. But just because they can read War and Peace, or The Hunger Games, it doesn’t mean that they should. The content in those books, and most YA novels in general, is not appropriate for ten-year-olds. And even if they have “really cool parents who don’t care about that stuff,” they won’t grasp the deeper themes that are central to the book itself. For example, as a bookseller, I have had kids as young as 7 asking me for The Hunger Games. At which point, I ask them if they know what  “dystopia” and “tyranny” mean, and they look at me blankly, and I hand them something else. I just don’t want to deprive these kids of the better reading experience I know they will enjoy later if they just hold off for a bit. (In the same vein: Why on earth do they have 9th graders read To Kill a Mockingbird?)

Now that my ever-so-brief lesson as turned into something not-so-brief, I will cut myself off and dive into my latest recommendations. And I must apologize for the lack of pictures, my computer is not cooperating today, so I must paint WORD PICTURES instead… ok… too cheesy… let’s continue, shall we?

Middle Grade:

The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall, is everything that a Middle Grade book (and series) should be, in my opinion at least (and it was Birdsall’s first book, so she really hit the nail on the head with this one). This best-selling, National Book Award-winning, ultimately five-book series (there are only three out right now), is nostalgic yet fresh, touching yet laugh-out-loud hilarious, and is, at its essence, a total gem. The books follow four sisters: Rosalind (12), Skye (11), Jane (9), and Batty (5). Each girl has a big personality, though they vary greatly from one another. Rosalind is motherly, and just starting to find boys not-so-disgusting, Skye is science-minded, soccer-obsessed, impeccably neat, and impossibly short-tempered. Jane is a dramatic and lovable slob, who writes endless stories about her heroine, Sabrina Starr. And Batty, well Batty is the best, with her shy demeanor, strange connection to all animals, particularly the family’s dog, Hound, and her insistence on wearing butterfly-wings wherever she goes. The four girls have been brought up by their father, a botany professor at the local university, who tends to speak in Latin half the time. Although the girls’ mother passed away when Batty was just a baby, this is not a sob story by any means. Birdsall’s elevated language, and amazing sense of humor, makes this series an absolute joy to read. I love these books because the characters feel real to me, as in, I could very easily live next-door to the Penderwicks (I WOULD LOVE THAT, by the way). And, they display childhood as childhood. The girls aren’t trying to grow up too fast, and they aren’t dealing huge, and horrible, and depressing life-issues. The books are timeless, modern-day Cleary, if you will. I really can’t praise them enough. Perfect for any age (I may or may not be forcing them on all of my 20-something friends), and they are great for reading out loud. Because the sisters themselves span in age-range, the book is appropriate and enjoyable for anyone as young as Batty or as old as Rosalind. While the reading level itself is probably best for 8 or 9-year-olds, they will be enjoyed by kids as old as… well… me… The three books out right now are The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Go read them. I don’t care how old you are. They will fill your heart with joy. Don’t deprive yourself of that.

Young Adult:

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, is epic. Epic and addicting and amazing and awesome! I’m not even exaggerating. It is about two female friends during World War II, one is a pilot and one is a spy. AND THAT IS ALL THAT I AM GOING TO TELL YOU BECAUSE ANYTHING ELSE I SAY WILL GIVE IT ALL AWAY! I mean it. Don’t read the back of the book, or the inside cover of the jacket. Don’t read the review on Amazon. Don’t read any review, really! Not even this one! Stop reading! Ok… keep reading this one. Just go and get it and start reading it. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, because it is such a fun and edge-of-your-seat read. Warning: the first fifty pages or so are a little slow, but power through, because you will NOT be disappointed. Then message me so we can discuss it, ok?

Picture Book:

You didn’t honestly think that I wouldn’t include a picture book recommendation, did you? This Moose Belongs to Me, by Oliver Jeffers, is just as quirky and lovable as most of Jeffers’ other books. One day, Wilfred comes across a moose in the forest, and he decides that it must be his moose. So he names the moose Marcel and things go well for a little while until Wilfred realized that Marcel doesn’t quite understand that he belongs to Wilfred. Wilfred soon learns that a moose likes to go where it pleases, when it pleases, and to make matters worse, other people think that Marcel belongs to them! A hilarious look at love and ownership, Jeffers’ latest book is a new favorite of mine. His weird, and random, and enjoyably formal text pair perfectly with his weird, and random, and adorable illustrations (which are juxtaposed beautifully against the decidedly Bob Ross-esque backdrops). Another winner from the great Oliver Jeffers! In other news, moose are adorable, and I can’t figure out what the plural of “moose” is or should be…




*The Harry Potter Generation is what I lovingly like to call kids like me who were the first generation to devour those 900-page works of love and genius at the ripe age of 10 or 11, and who are now avid readers but perhaps a wee-bit stilted in their tastes. Ya, I said stilted. And ya, I still refer to myself as a kid, got a problem with that?



Adventures in Comp. Exam Prep

April 12, 2012

Why, hello there friends!

Long time, no blog. I know, I know, it’s been ages. And while I’m not one for excuses, boy do I ever have a good excuse…

For the past four months I have been preparing for my Graduate Comprehensive Exam. What’s this I speak of? Well, to complete my Graduate studies, and receive my Masters in Children’s Literature, I must either spend my final semester working on a 75 page thesis or, on May 12th, take a big hairy scary written exam (6 prompts, 3 essays, 6 hours).

What is the difference? Well, a thesis is on something very specific (Historical Fiction written for females in the 1930s, for example), whereas the test could very well be on anything so you have to study pretty much everything. A thesis is the ideal choice for one who plans to continue one’s education by pursuing their PhD (because PhD’s are all about learning everything there is to know on a very very concentrated subject). But to be frank, I’m kind of sick of school (I mean I’ve been at it for nearly twenty years now, you’d want a break too!). And I’m ready to join the work-force; hopefully, of the children’s publishing variety. Thus, I figured the test would be best for me, so I could graduate with a very expansive understanding of Children’s Literature.

Now, I’ve already briefly explained what the test entails. 6 prompts, 3 essays, 6 hours. This means that on the morning of May 12th I will walk into a computer lab and I will be handed two possible prompts. I will then select one of those prompts and write a [hopefully brilliant] essay answering said prompt in 2 hours. Then I repeat that two more times. Sounds SUPER fun, right?

But what will these possible prompts entail? Why, only the 45 stories that I have been slogging my way through for the past four months, of course! As stated, the questions could be on anything (time, sanity, insanity, individuality, masculinity, femininity, violence, romantic love, personal growth, family, power structures, etc.), but they will reference any number of titles from the list below. But, I haven’t just been reading these books, I’ve been studying the living daylights out of them: researching critical scholarly essays, author bios, historical contexts, relevant literary movements, themes, motifs, symbols, the list goes on and on…

So, I give you the 45 tales that I have grown to like, love, or throw across the room. Most are children’s titles, but we were also given a smattering of American Lit, British Lit, and Comparative Lit texts to study as well.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland | Lewis Carroll
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Mark Twain
  • The Wind in the Willows | Kenneth Grahame
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | L. Frank Baum
  • Robinson Crusoe | Daniel Defoe
  • Heidi | Joanna Spyri
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit | Beatrix Potter
  • The Cat in the Hat | Dr. Seuss
  • Where the Wild Things Are | Maurice Sendak
  • Charlotte’s Web | E.B. White
  • The Mouse and his Child | Russell Hoban
  • Kitchen | Banana Yoshimoto
  • Weetzie Bat | Francesca Lia Bloch
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Mildred Taylor
  • The House on Mango Street | Sandra Cisneros
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone | J.K. Rowling
  • “The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods” | Charles Perrault
  • “Little Red Riding-hood” | Charles Perrault
  • “Blue Beard” | Charles Perrault
  • “Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper” | Charles Perrault
  • “Beauty & the Beast” | Madame Le Prince de Beaumont
  • “Snow-white” | The Brother’s Grimm
  • “The Frog Prince” | The Brother’s Grimm
  • “Hansel and Grethel” | The Brother’s Grimm
  • “Aschenputtel” | The Brother’s Grimm
  • “Rapunzel” | The Brother’s Grimm
  • “The Sleeping Beauty” | The Brother’s Grimm
  • “The Snow Queen” | Hans Christian Andersen
  • “The Little Mermaid” | Hans Christian Andersen
  • “The Princess and the Pea” | Hans Christian Andersen
  • “The Little Match Girl” | Hans Christian Andersen
  • “The Swineherd” | Hans Christian Andersen
  • “The Emperor’s New Clothes” | Hans Christian Andersen
  • “The Ugly Duckling” | Hans Christian Andersen
  • “Jack and the Beanstalk” | Joseph Jacobs
  • “Molly Whuppie” | Joseph Jacobs
  • Selected poems by Emily Dickinson
  • Selected poems by Walt Whitman
  • Beloved | Toni Morrison
  • Hamlet  | William Shakespeare
  • Othello | William Shakespeare
  • Gulliver’s Travels | Jonathan Swift
  • Emma | Jane Austen
  • The Odyssey | Homer, trans. Robert Fagles
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude | Gabriel García Márquez

How many of these have you read??

And please, send me LOTS of happy thoughts on May 12th!


Press Here

February 19, 2012

Title: Press Here
Author: Hervè Tullet
Illustrator: Hervè Tullet
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780811879545
Publisher: Chronicle (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $15.99

I have a little bone to pick with the world. And that little bone is that we have become quite an impatient bunch of individuals. Spoiled by our iPhones, iPads, iEverything, we want what we want when we want it. And we want it right now. Delayed gratification is just not an option. And, to be honest, we’re not even that great at simply sitting still anymore.

Thus, it isn’t too surprising that “plain old” picture books are being tossed aside for interactive ebooks; in which, letters glow, pictures move, and characters come to life. But the question must be raised: Is the child even reading anymore at that point?

So for those naysayers out there, who claim that printed books are not nearly as entertaining or interactive as their technological brethren, I present Press Here.

Hervè Tullet’s imaginative and engaging picture book is practically flying off bookshelves everywhere (we can barely keep in it stock at my bookstore because it is in such high demand). Tullet greet’s his eager readers with a single yellow dot in a sea of white, and one word, “Ready?”

Seriously, what child wouldn’t be?

After turning the page you see the same yellow dot, and a simple request, “Press here and turn the page.” When you turn the page you see that the single yellow dot has turned into two yellow dots, and you’re asked to press the same dot again. So you do as you’re told, and you turn the page to find that there are now three yellow dots. Tullet congratulates you on your work so far, and urges you on,  “Perfect. Rub the dot on the left… gently.” You rub the dot on the left, turn the page, and see that the yellow dot on the left is now red.

On and on, Tullet has his readers pressing here, tapping there, shaking the book up and down, tilting it too and fro, blowing on the the pages to move the dots this way and that, and clapping to make the dots grow.

Kids (especially those aged four to six) LOVE this book, because they feel like they are in charge of something magical! Little do they know that they are actually learning how to follow directions, and absorbing important information like knowing right from left.

Tullet’s dots are colorful and imperfect, which gives the reader the feeling that each page has been freshly finger-painted just for them. And to make the book even more kid-friendly, it is published with a hard cardboard cover, which provides the sturdy casing needed to meet the demands of all that pressing, poking, and shaking.

Now, a lot of adults don’t understand this book. You want proof? How about the fact a number of big name publishers actually rejected Tullet’s ingenious proposal. Thankfully, the fabulous, and über creative, Chronicle Books, located in San Francisco, saw Press Here for what it was– a silly, but brilliant, text that children could not only learn from, but actually interact with.

Press Here is an automatic favorite with little ones everywhere!

So, TAKE THAT, ebooks!


Dear Hug Time, Will You Be My Valentine?

February 14, 2012

Title: Hug Time
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 978-0316114943
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (2007)
List Price: Hardcover, $14.99 / Board Book, $6.99

I know that a lot of people are not too fond of Valentine’s Day. They argue that it is some sort of corporate conspiracy– an evil marketing ploy invented to make us spend money. But don’t you fret, because I am not one of those people. And if you are one of those people… well… you should maybe still read this because it just might melt that cynical little heart of yours…

Homemade Valentine, next to a photo of my actual Valentine. (Please, don't sue me, Maurice Sendak...)

I love February 14th because it combines most* of my favorite things:

  • Chocolate
  • Flowers
  • Snail Mail
  • Super Cute Children’s Books!

The new board book format!

Patrick McDonnell’s Hug Time is the perfect book to read to your little loves this Valentine’s Day. This oh-s0-adorable rhyming picture book, which is also now available as a board book, follows a little kitten named Jules (as seen in McDonnell’s MUTTS comic strip), on his trek around the globe. What is driving this furry feline’s adventure? Why, only his desire to give the whole world a hug, of course!

“There was no one this kitten wanted to miss, so he made (and checked twice) a Hug To-Do List. He hugged his best friends, Mooch, Noodles, and Earl, a butterfly, buttercups, a little gray squirrel. He hugged all the birds he could find in the park. So many to hug before it got dark! Jules jumped on a boat and set out to sail and soon he spotted a big blue tail… attached to a huggable BIG blue whale**”

McDonnell’s writing is simple and sweet. His soft rhymes have a natural flow to them, which make the book perfect for reading out loud (just ask my friends… they’ve all sat patiently to hear it from me at least once). And the story’s soothing message of peace and love is ideal for a cozy bedtime setting. McDonnell introduces his readers to the most lovable, and empathetic, little kitten. And Jules’ genuine care for this world is not only heartwarming, it is also inspiring.

“The boat docked in Africa and Jules kissed the ground– the earth so precious, so fragile, so round. He hugged an elephant and a chimpanzee… a giraffe, a hippo, and a baobab tree. Exploring the rain forest by foot and canoe, Jules discovered a species brand-new. Kneeling, he whispered, ‘We welcome you.'”

Of course, McDonnell’s illustrations are what really make this story a smash. With so few words, each page of colorful drawings is what really carries the reader along Jules’ journey. McDonnell’s strokes may seem simple, but they create so much life. Each of the animals that Jules encounters seems to be more animated than the last. Please pay particular attention to each animal’s facial expression, like the lion’s below. Every animal’s demeanor is different, and yet they are all adorable. With just a few lines, McDonnell can create an exceedingly life-like expression of calm, delight, surprise, or indifference (as with the giraffe, who seems entirely unfazed by the little kitten clutching his nose in a hug). Each animal is beautifully depicted, and each page presents something lovely for little eyes to devour. Honestly, if I could have any of these pages framed for my wall at home, I would do so immediately.

So this Valentine’s Day, instead of those gross conversation hearts, treat the little ones that you care about to Hug Time!

I’m sending love to you all! Thank you for reading!



* If Valentine’s Day somehow included whales and Jane Austen, I would probably die of happiness…

** Ah ha! This Valentine’s Day DOES include a whale! Wait ’til you see the illustration of Jules trying to hug a giant blue whale… le sigh…


Like Patrick McDonnell? Check out what I have to say about one of his other books, Me… Jane.

One Cool Friend

February 3, 2012

Title: One Cool Friend
Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator: David Small
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780803734135
Publisher: Dial (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99

So… I know it is only February, but I think I may have found my favorite book of the year. Is that even possible?

If One Cool Friend, by Toni Buzzeo (Penelope Popper, Book Doctor) and David Small (Imogene’s Antlers, So You Want to Be President?) is any indication of the quality of picture books that will be published in 2012, then we are in for quite a treat. Clever, silly, and surprising, young readers will love this tale of unlikely friendships and hilarious misunderstandings.

Buzzeo writes that “Elliot was a very proper young man,” which all readers can see from his quiet disposition, elevated language, and a black & white wardrobe (complete with bow-tie) that would make Edgar Allen Poe proud. While visiting the aquarium with his father one day, unruffled Elliot becomes quite taken by the Magellanic Penguins.

“In their tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture, they reminded Elliot of himself.”

Elliot identifies with the little dapper dudes so much that he decides to take one home with him… only after first asking his father for permission, of course.

Unfortunately, Elliot’s turtle-obsessed father, distracted by his latest copy National Geographic Magazine misunderstands Elliot’s request, and believes that the boy would simply like to take home a plush penguin from the gift shop. Hilarity ensues, as the young boy turns his room in to an Antarctic wonderland for his new friend, Magellan, and Elliot and his father continue to misinterpret one another. Can Elliot and Magellan successfully evade detection? Readers will be laughing out loud when all comes to light at the end of the story.

I fell in love with David Small’s art at a very young age, when Imogene’s Antlers was my bed-time book of choice (I could, and probably should, write a whole separate post about that one, because it such a personal favorite, so stay tuned). However, his illustrations for One Cool Friend are just as charming. His celebrated mixed-media artwork is full of creative details, interesting snippets of newspapers & maps, and fabulous pops of color. He has also drawn speech and thought bubbles around Elliot & his father’s dialogue, as well as their inside thoughts, which adds a creative, and slightly comic-strip, feel to the text. Readers will find themselves looking back through each page, searching for the small details that hint at the book’s silly conclusion.

One Cool Friend is an absolute joy to read! It is imaginative, hilarious, and adorable. I also find it rather amusing that it is a book about a penguin, and it is published by Dial, which is an imprint of Penguin… is that only funny to me?

Either way, I’m serious folks… this one is a winner…



January 14, 2012

Title: Stuck
Author: Oliver Jeffers
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780399257377
Publisher: Philomel (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99


Oliver Jeffers (The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, The Great Paper Caper, Up and Down) has done it again. The author/illustrator’s latest picture book, Stuck, is just as quirky and hilarious as his other works.

Jeffers is known for his ridiculously silly plot lines, unique writing, and illustrative style. In Stuck, Jeffers’ protagonist, Floyd, finds himself facing a very ordinary problem: his kite has merely gotten stuck in a tree. But the fun begins when Floyd tries to remedy this problem in a very extraordinary way. Floyd attempts to free his kite by throwing whatever he can find up in the tree as well, including his shoes, a cat, the neighbor’s ladder, the milk-man (“who surely had somewhere else to be”), an orangutan, a lighthouse, and “a curious whale” who was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The talented author/illustrator from Northern Ireland takes a simple everyday experience and escalates the situation until it reaches absolute absurdity. Jeffers uses a mix of mediums to depict his outrageous scenes and his own scrawling and imperfect cursive handwriting for the text itself, which greatly adds to the book’s childish and playful tone.

The ending is a bit elusive; however, this may prompt an interesting discussion with children about how they think Floyd got his kite back. Overall, Stuck is a masterpiece of imagination and whimsy that is sure to entertain and elicit fits of belly laughs from young readers.


Holiday Gift Guide: Season’s Readings!

December 14, 2011

Sometimes, I get the sneaky feeling that the majority of book-buyers out there think How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express are the only two Holiday titles in existence…

Don’t get me wrong, I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I actually had it memorized for a few years when I was little because I would listen to the book-on-tape every night before bed. And, well, I think the jury is still out on Polar Express… maybe my parents ingrained “stranger danger” into me too well or something… seriously though, does no one else think it’s weird that the little boy just hops on board a random train that pulls into his yard?

My point is, there are so many fantastic Christmas and Holiday themed picture books out there! Here are just a few of my favorites:

Olivia Helps with Christmas (Hardcover, $18.99): Who doesn’t love Olivia? As equal parts Ramona Quimby, Eloise, and Curious George, dear old Olivia is a wee bit sassy, pretty darn stubborn, remarkably creative and, unfortunately, incessantly “helpful” in all of the wrong ways. Ian Falconer’s witty text and mixed-medium illustrations are entertaining for parents and children alike. And the fold-out page in the middle that display’s Olivia’s method of decorating the dinner table will have you laughing out loud.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas (Hardcover, $16.95 / Board Book, $7.99): You may recall my minor obsession with bears (see prior post on Very Hairy Bear). Well, Karma Wilson has a whole picture book series about an adorable bear and all of his woodland-creature friends. Though Wilson’s simple rhyming narratives are well written, and perfect for reading out loud to little ones, it is Jane Chapman’s illustrations that make this series really stand out. Bear Stays Up for Christmas is just as sweet as the rest of the books in the series, but I think this is my favorite because it really highlights the importance of friendship, and spending time with one another, during the holidays. I’m warning you though… it is dangerously adorable…

Santa Claus: The World’s Number One Toy Expert (Hardcover, $16.00 / Paperback, $6.99): While often overlooked, Marla Frazee’s silly Santa book is my latest (and greatest) discovery. Though it was published in 2005, I just got my hands on a copy and I don’t ever want to let it go. Readers will love this original, and entertaining, look at all of the hard work Santa puts in before Christmas, as he tries to find the perfect gift for each boy and girl. Frazee’s illustrations are vibrant, playful, and wonderfully detailed! Whether it is the mini file folders where Santa keep all of his post-it notes, the ever-growing mass of cocoa mugs that litter each page, or the back-brace and walkie-talkie that Saint Nick dons in his warehouse, adults and kids will love to look for all of Frazee’s fun details in this hilarious holiday find. *This book is also available as a “Send -A-Story,” a cute little paperback storybook that you can throw a stamp on and mail directly to a friend!

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas (Hardcover, $17.99): If you are looking to get glamorous, and expand your vocabulary this Christmas, check out Fancy Nancy. A crowd favorite among little girls right now, Nancy loves everything to be fancy, including the way she speaks. Nancy teaches her readers elevated language on the sly, “I love Christmas so much. It is important to find a tree with a wonderful aroma (That’s a fancy word for smell). I think bigger is always better, but my dad says we must compromise. That means we end up with the tree my mom wants.” Author Jane O’Conner presents readers with a great story about how to make any Christmas splendiferous, even when things go wrong. And Robin Preiss Glasser’s intricate and elegant illustrations will have little ones oo-ing and awe-ing for hours.

Christmas Cookies: Bite Sized Holiday Lessons (Hardcover, $12.99): Follow up Fancy Nancy with another sneaky way to introduce new vocabulary. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s holiday follow-up to her earlier book Cookies: Bite Sized Life Lessons, teaches little ones the meaning of words like “celebrate,” “tradition,” and “appreciative” through baking. “Tradition means each year at the same time we make the same cookies and wear our special matching aprons.” Jane Dyer’s illustrations of cherubic children and anthropomorphic animals are as sweet as Rosenthal’s words. And the recipe to make your own sugar cookies, located in the back of the book, is also wonderful touch.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama (Hardcover, $17.99): If you are looking for something slightly sillier, pick up Anna Dewdney’s latest book in her Llama Llama series. Though a bit repetitive, this is a great rhyming book for early readers to practice on this holiday. Kids love Llama Llama, and can relate to his total and complete impatience for Christmas to arrive. But in the end, a cuddle from Mama Llama reminds him that “Gifts are nice, but there’s another: The true gift is, we have each other.”

So this holiday season, give that old Grinch a rest and reach for something new! And don’t forget to support your local independent booksellers if you can!

From my bookshelves to yours, Season’s Readings!