WITH A MIGHTY HAND. Text copyright © 2013 by Amy Ehrlich. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Daniel Nevins. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 “With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah,” adapted by Amy Erlich, paintings by Daniel Nevins; Candlewick Press, $29.99, 224 pages, all ages.

Award winning author Amy Erlich decided to tackle the Torah and render it accessible for children, or anyone interested in reading a new interpretation of this ancient story. Here she has managed to condense the five books of the Hebrew Bible into a single, flowing narrative. When Erlich began the project, her goal was to ‘follow the thread of the story’ by keeping the text as clear as possible without being mired in complexity and contradictions. Her mission was a success; simple, powerful words, with lots of white space in the background make for easy reading.  Bringing the people and places to life is painter Daniel Nevins in his debut as a children’s book illustrator. The pigment-laden images capture a world that existed over 5,000 years ago, yet are still exuberant and emotional.  With a Might Hand would be a lovely gift for a budding religious scholar or for children just starting Torah study. 

THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London. 

“The Princess and the Goblin,” by George MacDonald, introduced by Maria Tatar, illustrated by Madalina Andronic; The Folio Society, $44.95, 192 pages, all ages.

This stunning edition of George MacDonald’s eerie tale of Princess Irene and her daring battles with subterranean-dwelling goblins will delight the fantasy fans on your holiday list.  In fact, this offering from The Folio Society would probably be adored by anyone who enjoys receiving beautiful books. Originally published in 1871, readers unacquainted with The Princess and the Goblin will likely recognize similarities with Alice and Wonderland, another Victorian-era fantasy tale.  Here, a young, bored girl discovers a hidden stairway that leads her to an enchanted world filled with magical, otherworldly beings where she must do battle in order to save kingdom from the goblins. A favorite of J.R.R Tolkien, MacDonald’s tale of adventure and bravery will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Harvard University’s Professor of Germanic Languages Maria Tatar wrote the introduction, and readers will benefit from her instructive explication of MacDonald’s creative ideology.  Romanian artist Madalina Andronic’s bright and detailed watercolor and inks perfectly match this timeless flight of the imagination.

Blue Moon Soup Illustrations ©1999, 2013 by Jane Dyer All Rights Reserved.

“Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook,” Recipes by Gary Goss, illustrated by Jane Dyer; Sky Pony Press, $16.95, 72 pages, ages 6-10.

Cooking together is a wonderful way for parents to interact with youngsters, and Blue Moon Soup presents thirty delicious recipes, grouped by season, plus recipes for bread, salad and snacks for the whole family to enjoy.

The book is written to engage sous-chefs of all ages. Small children will happily collect the “Stuff” (ingredients) for each recipe, while older children can advance to tasks such as sorting, whisking and peeling. Everyone in the kitchen will relish the quirky and charming names of each dish: “Mary had a Little Lamb Stew,” “Sob Soup” (an onion-based preparation), there’s even “Bisque in the Sun.” 

Blue Moon Soup is more than just a cookbook; it’s a primer on proper cooking techniques. There’s a kitchen tools checklist, soup kitchen rules, even a diagram for properly setting the table. Before cooking anything, be sure to read aloud Lewis Carroll’s slurpy homage to potage “Turtle Soup” on the first page. 

Cooks can rest assured that these recipes have been thoroughly tested before publication: Chef Gary Goss is an expert soup maker.  In 1997 he founded the successful Soup Kitchen in Northampton, Massachusetts. The proof of his dedication is in the pudding: Since it’s original publication in 1999, Blue Moon Soup has won numerous accolades, including the Smithsonian Notable Books for Children Award, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, and Parents’ Choice Award.

Legendary children’s book illustrator (and fellow Northampton resident) Jane Dyer renders 14 full-page watercolor illustrations of sunbathing vegetables, dancing ducks and sobbing onions in her trademark whimsical style. Children will love pouring over the images of dancing utensils and piano-playing animals while indulging in a bowl of happiness that they helped make.  This book is a visual and gustatory delight to be enjoyed all year long.  

“Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” by Abraham Lincoln, illustrated by James Daugherty; Albert Whitman & Company, $19.99, 48 pages, ages 6-12.

On November 19th, America commemorates the Sesquicentennial anniversary of Lincoln’s immortal speech at the battlefields of Gettysburg.  In recognition, Albert Whitman & Company re-issued Newbery medalist James Daugherty’s 1947 pictoral commemoration of that day.   Daugherty’s sweeping, heroic images accompany the 272-word oration. Lincoln’s address dedicated part of the bloody fields as a sacred burial ground – a testament to those who fought for equality and freedom.  

In the afterword is an image by image explanation of how Daugherty chose to interpret various sections of the text. There’s also a facsimile of the address in Lincoln’s own handwriting and an afterword by Civil War professor Gabor Boritt.  

This is a book meant to be read and shared by generations of Americans, and it’s a superb reminder that despite our current troubles, America will always stand for liberty and equality.  

 

“ABC,” by Damien Hirst; Harry Abrams, $16.99, 58 pages, ages 15 and up.

Describe the achievements of contemporary artist Damien Hirst, and children’s book author is likely not the first thing that comes to mind. Controversial and divisive, the unofficial leader of the Young British Artists group has scaled his art to board book dimensions. 

Let’s be clear: ABC is not for children, despite the back copy saying it’s “Fun for all the family.” Children should not be given this book. It is for collectors who enjoy or appreciate Hirst’s fascination with death, religion and medicine.  

This alphabet book is a retrospective of sorts – each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by a piece of Hirst’s art. If an ignorant parent offers this book to a child, it won’t help young readers learn the alphabet because the images don’t always correspond to the letters they represent. For example, opposite the letter J is a close-up photograph of the artist’s 1991 installation of a dead tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde called The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Here the J refers to “Jaws.” Other creepy images of dead animals, as well as Hirst’s infamous diamond encrusted skull, show up throughout the book. 

That being said, the images are fascinating, and that the artist even produced a book nominally geared towards child-age readers will no doubt provoke discussion among readers. This is an excellent book to consider giving as a holiday gift to anyone who adores modern and contentious artists and would appreciate Hirst’s latest attempt to provoke the viewing public. 

“Lego® Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History,” by Gregory Farshtey and Daniel Lipkowitz; DK Publishing, $40, 256 pages, ages 8 and up.  

Budding architects and lifelong LEGO® collectors will have Lego® Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History, at the top of their gift lists this holiday season. Published by DK, this comprehensive volume chronicles the thirty-five year history of LEGO® minifigures. The company has been in the business of manufacturing plastic blocks since 1949, but minifigures didn’t appear until 1978, and they have covered bedroom floors and tripped unwitting parents worldwide ever since. Every minifigure ever created is cataloged here, and the book also includes significant details about particularly rare and sought after pieces. Author and LEGO® authority Daniel Lipkowitz is a story developer for the company and has authored other books dedicated to the iconic wedges. This hefty tome (weighing just under four pounds) will be a welcome addition in any collector’s reference library and likely encourage die-hard enthusiasts to expand their own ranks of tiny, molded figurines.  For the truly devoted, LEGO® created a complete miniature replica of the book on a 1:15 scale and can be gripped by minifigures’ claw-like hands.