Children’s Books Holiday Round-Up

Here’s a few of our favorite new books to give to your loved ones this holiday season:

The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith, Folio Society; $59.95, 208 pages, all ages.

Smith’s 1957 classic children’s story gets the Folio treatment in this lavish update, complete with a black and white spotted slipcover. Illustrated by award-winning Sara Ogilvie and introduced by National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson, share this special edition with someone with a soft spot for canine capers. NOTE: Order by December 14th to ensure Christmas delivery.

Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zacharia OHora, Little, Brown & Company; $17.99, 40 pages, ages 3-6.


While sailing in freezing waters, First Mate Foxy reads that lemmings don’t jump off cliffs, only to finding his furry shipmates doing exactly that. “Guess they didn’t read the book,” he muses. As they keep leaping into the icy drink, Foxy takes it upon himself to solve the mystery of these jumping lemmings. Dyckman’s on-point humor is perfectly matched by OHora’s retro-inspired artwork. A warm and funny look at compassion and patience that’s perfect for all ages.

The Little Reindeer, by Nicola Killen, Simon & Schuster; $15.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5.


Just as Ollie snuggles under the covers on Christmas Eve, she’s jolted awake by the sounds of jingle bells. Away she slides on her sleigh into the snowy night, where she meets a reindeer who sweeps her up on a magical journey. The black and white palette, punctuated by pops of red and metallic silver ink, makes for a most enchanting tale about the magic of the season.

Red Again, by Barbara Lehman, HMH Book for Young Readers; $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7. 


A boy discovers a red book on the side of the road. Inside it is another book where another child finds a similar book, and two worlds collide in this wordless examination of loneliness, adventure, and the never ending pleasures of storytelling. Lehman’s sequel to her 2005 Caldecott Honor winning The Red Book is sure to delight fans both old and new.

The Nutcracker Mice, by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Candlewick Press; $17.99, 336 pages, ages 8-11.

nut mice

A family of mice live in Saint Petersbourg’s famous Mariinsky theater, and the little critters adore the ballet performed by both the humans and their furry cohorts, but a new ballet called the Nutcracker features mice as villains, sending the mice into distress. Meanwhile, among the humans, nine-year old Irinia, the daughter of a mouse exterminator, believes the mice she’s seen hidden at the theater may be more than just four-legged pests. Can Irina help save the Mariinsky mice from certain annihilation? Will the dancing mice make it in the ultra-competitive Russian Mouse Ballet Company? Veteran YA author Kristin Kladstrup gives The Nutcracker a delightfully whimsical origin story, and Brett Helquist’s full-page illustrations provide just the right touch of magic.

 Countdown to Christmas: A Story a Day, Disney Press; $10.99, 64 pages, ages 3-8.


This compendium of twenty-five stories includes characters from the wide world of Disney characters, from Bambi, the Aristocats, Wall-E, and the 101 Dalmatians. Serious Disney fans may notice some stories are repeats from the Five Minute Christmas Stories, but this update will surely please fans of the Mouse on your holiday list.

Fall into Good Books

For many of us, October heralds a change in temperature and the arrival of Halloween. Below are two selections that celebrate this distinctive season.

Anne Sibley O’Brien invokes magical incantations to toast autumn in Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! Shazam! A gust of wind encourages youngsters to pull a leaf-filled flap to find a forest carpet of foliage, while other rites of the season–picking apples, donning heavier clothes, scanning the skies for migrating flocks–are enchanting when infused with the youthful sense of wonderment that permeates the book. Susan Gal’s mixed-media illustrations of chubby-cheeked chipmunks and cherubic children reveling in the natural world are bathed in tones of gold, orange, and russet. Warm and inviting, this charming tale will put a spell on you. (Abrams Appleseed; $12.95, 24 pages, ages 2-5)


Meanwhile, for those of you who eagerly await the arrival of Halloween might enjoy Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil by Jen Darcy (Hyperion; $40.00, 192 pages, all ages). This update on the 1993 publication by Frank Thomas celebrates Disney’s darkest characters, from Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations to Tangled’s Mother Gothel to the duplicitous Hans of Frozen. Sheathed in a dust-jacket highlighting a blood-red illustration of the Evil Queen, this coffee-table book includes concept art, photographs,and movie stills, while the text explains the origins of evildoers and their influence on popular culture. Organized thematically, those moviegoers who find themselves rooting for the bad guys will happily revel in all this book has to offer. 


(Children’s) BookNotes, Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What do Beatrix Potter, Helen Mirren, QE2, Eric Carle, and Winnie-the-Pooh have in common? They all made news this week in the world of children’s books. Read on! 

 @ericcarle @GuardianBooks 



From The Guardian: Eric Carle talks about how children identify with the helpless, small, insignificant caterpillar

From Galley Cat: Disney celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday with a new Winnie-the-Pooh story.

The BBC reports that Helen Mirren is slated to narrate the audiobook version of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, a story rediscovered after 100 years.

Just the Ticket

Railway locomotion is a big theme for children’s books this fall, and we’ve found two coffee-table/reference guides for conductors of all ages.

All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains, by Dana Amendola; Disney Editions Deluxe, 192 pages, $50.00 all ages.

Perfect for fans of Disney history and railway enthusiasts, this lovely oversize compendium chronicles how trains have always held a prominent place in Disney lore – Walt himself was a lifelong admirer of locomotives, and even worked aboard the Missouri Pacific Railroad as a teenager. Disney incorproated trains into many of his animations – Mickey Mouse’s first appearance on a train was in a black and white short called “Mickey’s Choo-Choo” in 1929. Trains continue to figure prominently in Disney films, and engines including the Fort Wilderness Railroad, the Monorail, and the Disney Express are just a few  that dot the various parks throughout the world. Clocking in at just under 200 pages, there’s enough train trivia in All Aboard coupled with Disney lore to keep readers happy for hours.

Iron Rails, Tough Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad, by Martin W. Sandler; Candlewick Press, $22.99, 224 pages, all ages. (A Junior Library Guild Selection)

In 1845, Asa Whitney (a relative of cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney) went to Congress to propose a transcontinental railroad, but the lawmakers rejected the bill, mostly due to backbiting and squabbling over who would most profit from the endeavor. (Sound familiar?) The country would have to wait until 1862, when Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act that authorized two companies to build railroads linking the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, thereby thrusting America into the modern era. Pulitzer-Prize nominee Martin Sandler presents all the moving parts in this six-year saga clearly and in wonderful detail, and doesn’t skimp on the intrigue and greed found at every level of the project. Still, there’s a palpable understanding among everyone involved that these 1800 miles (all laid mostly by hand), were an historic moment and great change was coming to the country, one rail at a time. Thoroughly researched, including a timeline, notes, sketches and photos, this volume will long remain an invaluable and entertaining resource for research projects on the American West and Reconstruction periods.

Late Summer Dances

Yes, it’s August, whether we like it or not, and in these dog days, let’s remember to relish this time before young ones return to school and life resumes its daily rhythm. With the summer’s ease in mind, the following two books are wonderful reminders that this is the season for fun, whimsy, and cultivating friendships.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea (Disney-Hyperion, $9.99 ages 5-8) appeared on many summer-reading lists, and for good reason: Shea  cornered the market with his brand of bold, slightly retro art and snappy writing. In this early reader, we meet energetic Ballet Cat and her best friend Sparkles the Pony. The pair are having trouble figuring out what to play, and even though they decide on a dance party, Sparkles moves are less than inspired, and Ballet Cat can’t figure out what’s wrong. Yes, there is a secret, but Sparkles is scared about sharing this one – what if it ruins their friendship? Parents will find the pace similar to Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie early readers, and kids will happily read this one aloud, on their own or with adults. Looking forward to further installments in the series.

Marilyn Singer has written over 100 books for children, and her Tallulah books are particularly beloved. In Tallulah’s Tap Shoes (Clarion Books, $16.99, ages 5-8) the budding ballerina and her younger brother Beckett sign up for summer dance camp, and this is the first time our heroine tries tap. Tallulah’s confidence plummets in tap class, while another camper named Kacie excels. Both girls eventually learn that patience and hard work bring rewards, and that no one is the best at everything – themes that will certainly resonate with young perfectionists.  Alexandra Boiger’s watercolors evoke all the sparkles and glitter a tiny dancer could ever hope for, while also capturing the subtle struggle of self-acceptance and and self-discovery. Every page is a treat, right down to the endpapers where Kacie demonstrates a tap shuffle.

Out at Home, by Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kevin Cowherd; Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 202 pages ages 8-12.

Out at Homeis the fifth novel in the All-Stars baseball series penned by baseball legend Cal Ripken and sports writer Kevin Cowherd. Here, two rivals must work together in order to win the championships. Mickey Labriogla is the dedicated catcher for the Dulaney Orioles, whose position on the team is suddenly jeopardized by the arrival of Zoom, an arrogant newcomer with undeniable talent. Eventually, the Orioles make it to the “Super Regionals” where they will have to face the indomitable Laurel Yankees, (Zoom’s former team) and the boys must set aside their differences if their team is to have any chance of winning. Ripken and Cowherd combine their prolific understanding of the game to craft an engaging story about overcoming adversity through teamwork.