Ha Ha!, by Guido van Genechten; Pleasant Company, 2001; $5.95;
www.americangirl.com, 800-845-0005; ages newborn to 5.
This silly and colorful board book will capture babies’ attention with its
cover illustration of a large laughing bunny. Inside, a variety of farm animals
laugh and laugh some more. The final picture of a boy with cherries on his ears
will inspire a surefire laugh of your own.
Little Pig, Biddle Pig, by David Kirk; Scholastic, 2001; $9.95; 1-800-Scholastic; ages newborn to 5.
The rhyming story of Biddle, a pristine little piglet who learns to get down and dirty: "Dancing for Joy/In the slippery crowd,/With your wiggily friends,/Ever
piggily, and proud." Pinks and greens (and browns) jump off the page in this little book that’s just right for little hands.
Two Little Trains, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon; HarperCollins, 2001; $15.95; www.harperchildrens.com; ages 3 to 6.
All aboard! Two trains take parallel westward journeys -- one, a streamlined train headed cross country, and the other, a little toy train traveling in a home. This book is a reissue of a story by this beloved writer and features new art deco-style illustrations by a Caldecott Award-winning pair of illustrators.
Counting Kisses, by Karen Katz; McElderry Books, 2001; $14; www.SimonSaysKids.com; ages 1 to 5.
A bedtime countdown of kisses, from 10 to 1, helps family members tuck a little baby into bed. Kisses are placed on "teeny tiny toes" and an "itty bitty nose" as numbers are featured in words and numerals with sweet, little pink hearts to count along the way. Sure to become a part of any baby’s bedtime routine.
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, by D.B. Johnson; Houghton Mifflin, 2000; $15; 800-225-3362; ages 5 and up.
"Henry" refers to Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden. But in this meticulously etched picture book, Henry is also a bear trying to hike 30 miles and beat his train-taking friend to Fitchburg. The simple life is best, Henry thoroughly proves. Both the text and the stylized illustrations have many angles and layers.
Olivia Saves the Circus, by Ian Falconer; Schwartz/Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2001; $16; 800-223-2336; ages 3 to 7.
Spare but expressive illustrations in red and black render news of Olivia, the piglet with no self-esteem issues. Properly accessorized, she reports for show-and-tell and, as always, "blossoms in front of an audience." She has come to the aid of all the circus performers out sick, after mastering all their skills. The best part is the photo of her hero over her bed -- the exuberant Eleanor Roosevelt.
Mice and Beans, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Joe
Cepeda; Scholastic Press, 2001; $15.95; 800-Scholastic; ages 4 to 8.
Rosa Maria prepares a birthday party celebration for her grandchild -- including a menu of enchiladas, rice and beans -- with the help of unnoticed mice. Told with an inviting refrain, the story is complemented by cheerful illustrations with interesting perspectives. Recipes for rice and beans are included to assist readers in creating their own celebration. A brief glossary defines the Spanish words that season the story.
The Stray Dog, by Marc Simont; HarperCollins, 2001; $15.95;
www.harperchildrens.com; ages 4 to 8.
Based on a true story by Reiko Sassa, Simont’s book uses minimal lines to express a range of emotions when a scruffy little dog appears at a family picnic and becomes an instant friend. This deceptively simple story has universal appeal to charm all dog lovers.
Highs: Over 150 Ways to Feel Really, Really Good … Without Alcohol or Other Drugs, by Alex J. Packer, illustrated by Jeff Tolbert; Free Spirit, 2000; $14.95;
www.freespirit.com, 800-735-7323; ages 12 and up.
This guide, which could literally save a stressed-out kid’s life, highlights how to replace artificial highs with ones that are legal, healthy and playful. The text is soothing and genuinely witty (laughter is a high) in detailing the advantages of roller coasters, vitamins, yoga, cats, friendship, kindness, the arts, travel, connections of all kinds and, yes, even eating dinner with your family.
Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps, by Andrea Warren; HarperCollins, 2001; $16.95; 800-242-7737; ages 10 and up.
This is the wrenching true story of Jack Mandelbaum, a Polish boy who -- unlike 90 percent of Europe’s Jewish children -- survived the Holocaust. Thrown into a concentration camp at age 14, Jack had memories of his family -- plus luck and his wits -- to sustain him through the misery. Liberation came when he was 18 and down to 80 pounds. Now he shares his unusually detailed story as his way of fighting evil in the world.
Bull’s-Eye: A Photobiography of Annie Oakley, by Sue Macy; National Geographic Society, 2001; $17.95; 800-223-2336; ages 10 and up.
Outstanding historical photographs and a well honed text present the truth and
explain the legend surrounding Annie Oakley’s life. The result is a
fascinating and attractive biography of "Little Sure Shot," a spunky
and inspirational woman of tremendous character, known for her sharp-shooting
talents and world travels, as well as her philanthropic work.
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian
Selznick; Scholastic Press, 2001; $16.95; 800-Scholastic; ages 6 and up.
Victorian artist Waterhouse Hawkins was the first person to make life-size models of dinosaurs, including an iguanodon that was large enough for Waterhouse to use as the setting for an elegant party for top scientists. This skillful presentation of this dinosaur pioneer features extensive author and illustrator notes.
Folklore, Poetry & Song
Fireman Small: Fire Down Below!, by Wong Herbert Yee; Houghton Mifflin, 2001; $15; 800-225-3362; ages 2 to 5.
This is an amusing tale in verse about a little firefighter named Small. He checks into the Pink Hotel, which is full of little animals doing typical hotel things, for a well deserved rest. But sure enough, duty soon calls, and he must alert everyone on his way up to the top of the building. The action is nonstop, our fearless hero is resourceful, and both words and pictures are droll.
Shota and the Star Quilt, by Margaret Bateson-Hill, Lakota text by Philomine Lakota, illustrated by Christine Fowler; Zero to Ten Limited, 2001; $14.95; 800-888-4741; ages 5 to 10.
This modern story, told in both English and Lakota, uses traditional folktale themes of friendship, collaboration and triumph over greed when a young Lakota girl fights a powerful real-estate developer. The text is full of details about reservation life versus city life, while the vibrant paintings beautifully rework traditional Lakota quilt patterns. The book also includes background information, a template of the Lakota star pattern and quilt-making instructions.
The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat, by Catherine Ann Cullen, illustrated by David Christiana; Little, Brown and Co., 2001; $14.95; 800-759-0190; ages 3 to 5.
This book offers a perfect match of dreamy watercolors to an Irish writer’s tongue-tripping verse. A girl’s coat is her "chunkiest, funkiest, favorite thing" -- and no wonder, with its six magic buttons. A young giant, a white swan, a ship’s captain and crew, an old wizard, three frightened bunnies, a small elf -- each button goes to the aid of those in need. The reward is the endless renewability of her very own "megacooliferous, truly meltificent" coat.
Pieces: A Year in Poems & Quilts, by Anna Grossnickle Hines;
Greenwillow, 2001; $15.95;
www.harperchildrens.com; ages 5 and up.
Nineteen original and handmade quilts are paired with poems reflecting the seasons of the year. After savoring the beauty of the words and quilts, readers will enjoy reading a note from the author, which explains her quilting process and her personal and family connections with quilting. Poetry and quilt lovers of all ages will embrace this stunning book.
Squashing Flowers, Squeezing Leaves: A Nature Press and Book, by the editors of Klutz; Klutz, 2001; $19.95;
www.klutz.com, 650-857-0888; ages 8 and up.
What fun -- an assortment of lovely projects that "collect" nature -- candles, sun-catchers, flower magnets, picture frames, cards and envelopes, and more. This book contains instructions for drying leaves and flowers, and an actual nature press of your own, plus supplies. Best of all, this book is perfect for kids to share with their friends -- or their parents.
The Sleepover Book, by Margot Griffin, illustrated by Jane
Kurisu; Kids Can Press, 2001; $14.95; www.kidscanpress.com; ages 8 to 12.
This is the ultimate guide to having your friends over for a terrific party. Light and airy illustrations enliven over 140 pages of tips -- from planning and invitations, to games and crafts, to lots of fabulous recipes to keep you up all night. It will make just about anyone want to pack up their pajamas.
Paper Punch Art, by Laura Torres; Pleasant Company, 2001; $19.95; www.americangirl.com; ages 8 and up.
Over 200 designs, a selection of paper and four paper punches -- including a heart, star, circle and spiral -- will inspire budding artists and assist them in creating unusual scenes. Seasons, card making and a variety of settings are explored with step-by-step instructions to ensure success.
The Completely Amazing Slightly Outrageous State Quarters Atlas and Album, by the editors of Klutz; Klutz, 2001; $14.95; www.klutz.com; 800-737-4123; ages 7 and up.
Collect the new state quarters in this album while learning wacky and interesting facts about each state. The book lists a timeline of issue dates, and each state is profiled on its own page filled with a host of information. The whole family can save money, learn something new and be entertained all in one clever book to be enjoyed by all.
Helen Foster James, Ed.D., teaches children's literature for San Diego State University and National University. She reviews children's books for a variety of journals. Kathleen Krull is a frequent contributor to United Parenting Publications and the author of the "Lives of …" series and other books for young readers.