This season abounds in "best" lists. Here are some top picks for gift-giving to kids.
"I Must Have Bobo!"
by Eileen Rosenthal, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
Atheneum; $14.99; ages 3 to 6
When toddler Willy shouts the title phrase, his body language makes his need for Bobo the sock monkey clear. "Bobo helps me with everything." Children will enjoy seeing just who's ahead in the race for Bobo.
"I Want My Hat Back"
by Jon Klassen
Candlewick; $15.99; ages 4 to 6
The bear is large, and, at first, polite in asking who might have seen his missing red hat. No luck, no hat, and the bear's on the ground, felled by his grief. Children will enjoy figuring out, from both pictures and words, just what happens next.
by Eric Rohmann
Roaring Brook, $14.99; ages 4 to 7
Though the cover evokes
— a boy in a skeleton costume — this book is about something larger. Gus' dog, Ella, knows she "won't be around much longer," but she promises, "under a full moon," to always be with him. Ella keeps her promise, in a way that is comforting and comic.
"The Emerald Atlas"
by John Stephens
Knopf; $17.99; ages 8 to 10
Life is full of mysteries for Kate, Michael and Emma, taken from home one gloomy Christmas Eve. They survive dreadful orphanages, travel in time and finally each manages to help as they journey toward the mysterious Emerald Atlas.
"The Trouble With May Amelia
by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrations by Adam Gustavson
Atheneum; $16.99; ages 9 to 12
With seven brothers, a family with money troubles and a father who thinks "girls are useless," May Amelia is looking for the "sisu" (a Finnish word for "guts") to deal with it all. Like the "Little House" world, but with an edgier center. Short chapters, good for reading aloud.
"The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making"
by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Ana Juan
Feiwel & Friends; $16.99; ages 9 to 12
What began as a serial Web novel is, in print, coherent, fun and deep. A 12-year-old girl named September journeys from Omaha, Neb., to Fairyland with the enticing Green Wind. She then defeats an evil Marquess in the quest for a spoon.
"Okay for Now"
by Gary D. Schmidt; Clarion Books
$16.99; ages 10 to 14
Here are the plot elements: 1968-69, school troubles for rising eighth-grader Doug Swieteck, an angry father and
's "Birds of America, Volume 3." Say what? As we watch the Audubon images speak to Doug's needs, we care about him and his world, so carefully detailed.
by Brian Selznick
Scholastic; $29.99; ages 10 to 14
In this lengthy book, Brian Selznick continues the method he began in "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" (the basis for the
in theaters now), telling the stories sometimes in words, sometimes in pictures. We follow the stories of Rose, in 1927, and Ben, in 1977, running away to
. Both struggle with hearing loss (both partial and profound) and seek knowledge and nurturing from their extended families. It's a treasure-map adventure, in museums, models, stars and secrets, making a landscape of wonder.
"Close to Famous"
by Joan Bauer
Viking; $16.99; ages 10 to 14
Foster McGee "got an Easy-Bake oven when I was four and the rest is history." Sixth grade wasn't great (Foster has trouble reading), and when she and her mother exit Memphis pursued by an angry Elvis impersonator, tiny Culpepper doesn't seem a promising site to begin changing the world, "one cupcake at a time." Culpepper is full of other folks with big dreams (Macon, budding film documentarian) or wounded hearts (Miss Charleena the movie star). With the energy of a great country and western song, and the witty humor of Joan Bauer's eye for the hopes and foibles of all generations: Something good is baking here.