Books, the holiday gifts that keep giving

BOOKS FOR KIDS

December 19, 1992|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Staff Writer

If the thought of yet another reconnaissance mission through the jammed aisles of a toy store fills you with dread, buy books as gifts instead. They're more durable than Barbie's Magical Motorhome, easier to wrap than a Nintendo Super Scope 6 and require no assembly, batteries or instant lines of credit.

* For the preschool crowd, there are board book versions of "Carl Goes Shopping," "Carl's Christmas" and "Carl's Afternoon in the Park" by Alexandra Day (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $5.95 each, ages 2 and up). Another stocking-stuffer is a series of new "Paddington" board books from HarperCollins ($2.95 each).

Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple -- who teamed up on "Sheep in a Jeep," "Sheep in a Ship" and "Sheep in a Shop" -- are back with "Sheep out to Eat" (Houghton Mifflin, $13.95, ages 2-5). An excerpt: "Table tips. Tea cups smash. Tea drips. Dishes crash. Dishes break, waiters stare. Tea and cake are everywhere."

If you know a 4-year-old who spent her formative years with "Goodnight Moon," check out "A Child's Good Night Book" by Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Jean Charlot (HarperCollins, $10, ages 4-8). The illustrations in this new edition of the 1944 Caldecott Honor Book have been restored to their original colors.

Here are two "must-haves" for bear aficionados. "Where's My Teddy?" by Jez Alborough (Candlewick Press, $14.95, ages 3 and up) is a rollicking, rhyming good time that begins: "Eddie's off to find his teddy. Eddie's teddy's name is Freddie." It's a case of mistaken identity that harks back to "Blueberries for Sal."

"Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?" by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth (Candlewick Press, $14.95, ages 3 and up) is already a classic. Grandparents, aunts and uncles get to stretch their dramatic talents while reading in Big Bear's baritone and Little Bear's worried whisper-whine.

Finally, no bookshelf is complete without at least one book of nursery rhymes. My latest favorite is "Elephants Never Forget: Classic Nursery Rhymes" illustrated by Graham Percy (Chronicle Books, $12.95, ages 2-6). The verse is pure and unadulterated, and the detailed illustrations star elephants as every character, from Georgie Porgie to Jack Sprat, from Old King Cole to Little Boy Blue.

* The age group from roughly 4-8 is the most fun to buy for. Allow jTC some time for browsing and you're sure to find personal favorites to supplement this list.

"The Fortune-Tellers" by Lloyd Alexander, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Dutton, $15, ages 5-8) is a story set in Cameroon about a handsome young carpenter who is clever enough to tell fortunes that can't go wrong.

"Back Home" by Gloria Jean Pinkney, pictures by Jerry Pinkney (Dial, $15, ages 4-8) follows 8-year-old Ernestine as she visits, for the first time in her memory, Lumberton, N.C. -- where she was born and where her mother grew up. As soon as she climbs off the train platform, she is embraced by the warmth of her extended family and magic of life on a farm.

"Carmine the Crow" by Heidi Holder (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16, ages 5-8) combines exquisite paintings with a fable about generosity rewarded.

"Jamal and the Angel" by Anita Rodriguez (Clarkson Potter, $14, ages 5 and up) opens as a tale told by Aunt Martha "in the heart of the big city." Jamal lives with his mother,brother and baby sister. He never gives up on his dream: "He was going to be a musician when he grew up and what he wanted most in the world was a guitar." With a lot of hard work and plenty of faith, he gets his wish.

Fans of Miss Frizzle and her fascinating science classes will welcome the latest in the series, "The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor" by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen (Scholastic, $14.95, ages 6-9). Each page is jammed with painless lessons about everything from plankton to coral polyps.

"Don't You Know There's a War on?" by James Stevenson (Greenwillow Books, $14, ages 5 and up) is the perfect gift to give a grandparent who likes to read to the kids. In another of his fine autobiographies, Mr. Stevenson tells of what it was like to be 10 during World War II. It's funny and sad -- and mostly it's wonderful.

* A couple of quick hits for older kids:

"Morning Girl" by Michael Dorris (Hyperion, $12.95, ages 8 and up) is a well-written and researched story about one family among the native people who greeted Christopher Columbus' ships when they landed in the Bahamas in 1492.

"What Hearts" by Bruce Brooks (HarperCollins, $14, ages 10 and up) is a new novel by the author of "Everywhere" and "The Moves Make the Man." Brooks, Walter Dean Myers and Robert Lipsyte are masters at writing about teen-age boys. This is a book of four stories about a boy who keeps getting let down by the adults in his life.

* Finally, a gift that gives twice:

"South and North, East and West: The Oxfam Book of Children's Stories" edited by Michael Rosen (Candlewick Press, $19.95, all ages). Here are folk tales from all over the world, illustrated by some of the best in the business, from Helen Oxenbury and Nicola Bayley to Satoshi Kitamura and John Burningham. All of the royalties benefit Oxfam America, one of seven Oxfam organizations around the world that provide self-help projects and emergency aid to poor people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

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