- Darcie Caswell
Holiday shopping for children can be great fun and also challenging. You want to give children something they will love and hopefully enrich their lives. The perfect gift? A book, of course!
One of my favorite board books for babies this year is Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions. Babies love pictures of other babies, and this book is full of babies with a range of emotions on their cute little faces. The last page has a baby-safe mirror, where babies can delight in seeing themselves. Another of my favorites this year is Hello, Humpback! by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd. The sparse rhyming words introduce sea life from the West Coast, including salmon, otters, orcas, and, of course, humpback whales. The high-contrast illustrations draw babies’ visual interest, and the laminated figures attract curious hands for an interesting tactile experience.
My favorite picture book this year is Creepy Pair of Underwear, by Aaron Reynolds. When Jasper goes underwear shopping with his mom, she buys him plain white underwear, but, on the way out, Jasper sees what he really wants: creepy underwear. Its Frankenstein monster face and green color are perfect. Jasper feels so grown-up with his new underwear that he does not need a nightlight to fall asleep, which turns out to be fine since his cool, creepy, new underwear glows "A ghoulish, greenish glow." Jasper is totally creeped out, so he buries his glowing underwear at the bottom of the laundry basket. Somehow by morning, he’s wearing it again. He puts the underwear in the garbage, but it finds its way back to his drawer. He sends it to China and even cuts it into pieces, but it still finds its way back. After he frantically buries it in a deep hole to finally get rid of it forever, he finds he can't sleep in the pitch black and misses its soft green glow. This book is perfect for kids who like stories with surprises and who can handle a little suspense.
If you know children who are fans of Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie books, they will love The Good for Nothing Button, by Charise Mericle Harper. Red Bird and Blue Bird are intrigued and excited when Yellow Bird shows them a new toy: a button. What does it do? "Nothing!" Yellow Bird proudly exclaims. The birds enthusiastically press the button over and over and indeed find it does nothing. But when Blue Bird presses the button, he feels surprised at how easy it is, and when Red Bird presses the button she feels sad that it does nothing. And when Red Bird and Blue Bird go on and on about how the button really does do something, Yellow Bird presses the button, and it makes him mad. Perfect for children who like funny books, this book is one big gag, with page after page of silly humor riffing on the same joke.
There is both inspiration and fun in Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall. Jabari just passed his swimming test and is excited to jump off the diving board. But, as he waits to climb the ladder, he begins to feel nervous. After talking about trying the diving board another day, Jabari's dad reassures him that it is okay to be scared and that if he thinks about it, some scary things really feel more like surprises. Jabari thinks about the diving board and thinks about how much he likes surprises, so he climbs up and takes a big jump, and then he is flying, and it feels great! Children will connect with Jabari’s fear of trying something new and will celebrate with him as he soars off the diving board, wide grin on his face, reveling in the joy and freedom he feels in flying through the air.
Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, the creators of the beloved Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, are back to show how big trucks start their day on the construction site. In Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, rhymes and a catchy rhythm energize the lives of these trucks as they begin their biggest building project yet. The project is so big, they need to call in friends for help and form a super crew, working together to get the job done. Little lovers of big trucks never seem to get enough of reading about them and will be enthralled by the different rigs and the work each one does.
Classic tales always make great gifts, and Jerry Pinkney’s The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a wonderful opportunity to introduce a child to the three spunky goats who manage to cross a bridge in spite of a dangerous troll. This is certain to become a beloved book, with award-winning Pinkney’s vivid illustrations complementing this traditional re-telling.
This article first appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper