So, there’s going to be three parts to this one – Picture books, early readers/middle grade books, and grown-ups. Because books are perfect books forever, for everyone the end. Up first, picture books.
Little Blue Truck, Little Blue Truck’s Beep Along Book, Little Blue Truck Leads The Way & Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle, Illustrated by Jill McElmurry – Do you have a three-year-old boy in your life? If so, chances are that he is obsessed with cars. And trucks. And construction equipment. I base this on teaching preschool, and having six nephews, all of whom I watched when they were three. The current three-year-old is no exception – If we’re riding in the car, he’s pointing out trucks, and ‘woo-woo cars’ and ‘amboolinces’. If we’re watching a movie, Cars better be in the lineup. “Kachow!” is a legitimate answer to any question, in his mind. So Little Blue, a series of board books with a friendly blue truck and his distinctive “Beep! Beep! Beep!” is both entertaining and educational. The first book is filled with farm animals and their various sounds, and highlights the importance of friendship in a simple, succinct way. In Leads the Way, Little Blue ventures into the city, which is not as friendly, at the outset, as his normal countryside ride. Blue helps the city cars figure out how to take turns and smooths things out, though. The Beep Along book has a soft fabric Little Blue, complete with green toad driver, that actually beeps, and a play on the “If You’re Happy & You Know It” song text. And, Blue’s Christmas Book has flashing Christmas lights and a counting game that will keeps kids enthralled. Seriously: Kids love these books; the rhymes and rhythms of the stories are excellent (I’m a stickler for a syllable count); and there’s lessons in each one that don’t get in the way of the fun. Highly recommended. (Bonus points for being a series because when you get sick of reading one, you can switch it out without too much argument, usually.)
Animalium Curated by Katie Scott & Jenny Broom – This is a lovely, over-sized, artfully illustrated experience of a book. I love everything about it, but I have to give the copy I bought away anyways, because it is Christmas. Each group of animals has it’s own gallery – reptiles, mammals, fish, invertebrates, birds or amphibians. Each gallery has a general definition, then each animal gets its own specific definition, along with detailed intricate illustrations & a slew of interesting facts and figures about how/where the animal lives. It’s so beautiful, I’m almost sad that I have to give it to children who might not take as good care of it as I would, but I’m wrapping it today, so I’m not tempted to stick it in my library instead. (The book says ages 8-12. I bought it for a 5 year old, who is obsessed with animals, and will treasure it, but still sometimes has grubby hands. I’m just going to let it go with the Velveteen Rabbit definition of Real in mind.)
Hello Ninja by ND Wilson, illustrations by Forrest Dickison – This is a cute, short, adorably illustrated board book about what a Ninja does during their day. In case you’re wondering, some of those things include belly-flops, cutting your hair, and training the king of France. The illustrations just make this book, and the ending is pretty important, too. (Because honestly: Yes, even Ninjas need their rest, little boy I am gifting this one to. Please go to sleep now.)
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin – These last two books are new additions to my baby shower rotation, because they’re lovely and sweet, and powerful. (They also have the likelihood of making the expectant mother cry, so… buyer beware? Oops.) The text is moving and thoughtful, and only highlights the distinctly gorgeous artwork. This book, in particular, has some of the most striking and singular illustrations I’ve seen in picture books in a while. (And I read a lot of picture books. A LOT.) The author/illustrator is an artist as well, and it definitely shows.
You’re Here For A Reason by Nancy Tillman – Is another tear jerker of a book, for more than one reason. It’s a great reminder for kids (and parents. And, anybody, really.) that they play a role in the world, even when they feel small or insignificant. “You’re here for a reason. It’s totally true.. You’re part of a world that is counting on you. So don’t be too worried if some days fall flat. Good things can happen, even from that.” Or this “If not for your hands and your eyes and your feet, the world, like a puzzle, would be incomplete.” ” Remember that next time a day goes all wrong…to somebody else, you will always be strong.” It’s such a heartfelt message – and not overtly religious, which is what I was dreading when I first picked the book up – that I am not giving this book to a child in my life, but to a friend who desperately needs to hear the message. Books are powerful, I think. And sometimes they can say things, can help people see things, that they just can’t see or hear any other way.