Holiday Gift Guide

It’s gift-giving season, and there’s not a moment to lose! We present a rundown of the year’s best gifts for children from 1 to 92.

The Nursery Rhyme Book, by Andrew Lang; The Folio Society, $59.95, 280 pages, all ages. 


Acclaimed Scottish folklorist Andrew Lang (1844-1912) scoured the world of children’s literature to compile volumes of stories, and this charming, thematically-organized collection of over 300 nursery rhymes includes well-known ditties like “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” and “Jack and Jill,” as well as lesser-known rhymes like “Ring the Bell” and “Old Betty Blue.”  Introduced by award-winning children’s book author Michael Rosen and accompanied by over 100 black and white illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke and six color paintings by Debra McFarlane, The Nursery Rhyme Book is a beautiful gift fit to stand the test of time.

*N.B.:Folio titles are only available through the Folio Society. Order early to ensure on-time holiday delivery.

The Nursery Rhyme Book by Andrew Lang. Illustrated by Debra McFarlane and L. Leslie Brooke. Copyright 2016 Debra McFarlane. Reproduced with permission from The Folio Society.


The Christmas Story.  Copyright 2016 by Robert Sabuda. Reproduced by permission of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

The Christmas Story, by Robert Sabuda; Candlewick Press, $35.00, 12 pages, all ages.

The birth story of Christ is told in six deceptively simple pop-ups rendered in stark white and gold, and though this book is delicate–the manger scene is a remarkable feat of construction–The Christmas Story would make a magnificent present to those celebrating the holiday. Sabuda gave Hanukah a similar treatment in 2011 when he and poet Michael Rosen explored the 2,000 year-old Festival of Lights.

The Christmas Boot, by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney; Dial Books, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7.


A version of this book was published ten years ago (same author and illustrator) and it’s been updated for 2016. Caldecott Medal winner Jerry Pinkney’s masterful illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to Wheeler’s story about a lonely but warm-hearted woman whose generosity earns the admiration of a certain red-dressed sleigh driver.

The Christmas Boot. Image Copyright 2016 Jerry Pinkney. Reproduced with permission from the publisher. 

The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 75th Anniversary Edition, by Margret and H.A. Rey; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $34.99, 432 pages, ages 2-8.


At seventy-five, George is still a curious little monkey, and this banana-yellow hardbound volume with thick red spine will quickly settle into nightly bedtime rotation. In addition to the seven original tales, the book comes with a free audiobook code to listen to actor John Krasinski read the stories aloud. A lovely gift for adventurous grandchildren everywhere.

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Little One, by Jo Weaver. Copyright 2016 Jo Weaver. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.
Little One, by Jo Weaver. Copyright 2016 Jo Weaver. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.

Little One, by Jo Weaver; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 2-6. 

Debut picture book author-illustrator Jo Weaver hits it out of the park with this lovely examination of the pull between a mother’s love and a child’s need to develop independence. Simple, singing text accompanied by Weaver’s soft black and white pencil illustrations highlight the beauty in nature and in family bonds. A perfect read-aloud while snuggling on a cold winter’s night.

Lego Pop-Up: A Journey Through the LEGO Universe, by Matthew Reinhart; Scholastic, $29.99, 10 pages, ages 7-10. 

Paper engineer Matthew Reinhart takes readers on a tour through the LEGO galaxy in this bright and bold pop-up book. Castles, dinosaurs, and ninjas all leap from the pages accompanied by short bursts of text. A must for LEGO fans of all ages.


Lego Pop-Up, copyright 2016 Matthew Reinhart. Reproduced with permission from Scholastic.

The Grasshopper and the Ants, by Jerry Pinkney; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18.00, 40 pages, ages 2-6.

Aesop’s fable The Grasshopper and the Ants receives the Pinkney treatment in this gorgeous version of the tale. A plucky grasshopper merrily sings his way through the warm months, while industrious ants toil in preparation for lean times ahead. Here, the artist masterfully employs his usual arsenal of pencil, watercolors and ink to wondrous effect. A double-page spread in the middle of the book actually opens to a triad, where the grasshopper sits in the snow above ground while the ants below are warm and toasty.  Unlike some versions of the fable, the grasshopper isn’t left to freeze, but is invited to share his gift of song with the ants, subtly suggesting that everyone has a talent and can be helpful.

Simple, lyrical rhymes bounce along the pages, and serve as a vehicle to invite young readers to explore every nook and cranny in this richly imagined world of tiny creatures.  Informative notes detail how nature has always informed the artist’s work and the joy he derives in illustrating the world outside his window. That enthusiasm is readily apparent in every book Pinkey creates, and that spirit reaches out from the pages, beckoning young readers to share in the pleasures of nature by reading beautiful books.  

What else is there to say about Jerry Pinkney and his work that hasn’t already been said? He enjoys the distinction among his peers as being the recipient of five Caldecott Honors as well as the winner of the Caldecott Medal in 2010 for the second fable in his Aesop trilogy, The Lion and The Mouse. (I would argue that The Grasshopper and The Ants is a contender for the award in 2015.)  In addition, the artist is a five-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award and has been nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.  

As the moral of this fable implores, don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today – share this book with little readers now. 

Recently I wrote about an exhibit showcasing the career of Jerry Pinkney. The Philadelphia Museum of Art kindly sent along some art, as well as a photo of the artist, from the show.  

Fun in Philadelphia on the Fourth


Illustration from The Lion and the Mouse © 2009 Jerry Pinkney Studio. All rights reserved.

Celebrating Independence Day in Philadelphia will be especially patriotic next week, because two of the city’s museums have just installed exhibits dedicated to a pair of America’s most celebrated and accomplished artists.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened an exhibition two days ago showcasing the work of Caldecott award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney.  (June 26th has also been declared Jerry Pinkney day in the city and throughout the Commonwealth.) Five decades of images are on view, ranging from Pinkey’s work on children’s books, record album covers, and even advertising campaigns. The Philadelphia-born artist will be at the museum on July 7th reading and signing books. 

Across town, the Rosenbach Museum and Library is displaying manuscripts and drawings for Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.  The museum is the repository for the majority of Sendak’s papers, and The Night Max Wore His Wolf Suit: 50 Years of Wild Things  showcases his original work. 


Sendak’s relationship with the Rosenbach dates to 1966, when the author began to make use of the library archives. Soon after, Sendak began depositing his own work at the museum, and continued to do so for the ensuing decades.

If trekking to Philadelphia isn’t in the cards right now, these exhibits will be around for awhile. Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney is open to the public from June 28th  through September 22nd and the Sendak show runs through March 2014.