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Great Kids Books


There’s a saying about what to give kids for the holidays: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. It makes good sense—kids won’t be overrun with presents they’ll barely glance at, and gift buyers will save time and money while choosing more thoughtful items for the young people in their lives. So, after you pick up, say, that Xbox game, package of guitar strings, and fleece, choose a special book from the list provided here as an invitation to children to explore the world they live in.


DIY Box Creations: Fun and Creative Projects to Make out of Really Big Boxes!

By Courtney Sanchez (Quarto Publishing Group, 2016)

If you visited the Buffalo Museum of Science’s Make It Up! exhibit this summer, you’ll know what fun it is to make stuff out of cardboard boxes. This book offers twelve unique cardboard box projects you can create with step-by-step pictures and easy-to-follow directions. While more advanced projects that call for spray paint, hot glue guns, and crafting knives require adult supervision, many can be made by kids using tape and scissors. The resulting creations are good looking, functional, and surprisingly long-lasting, including a boxcar, puppet theater, dollhouse, indoor dog house, (non-seaworthy) sailboat, and, of course, a fort.


Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson

By Christine Davenier, edited by Susan Snively (Quarto Publishing Group,  2016)

This beautifully illustrated introduction to the Belle of Amherst’s work is organized by the four seasons, starting with summer-themed poems (“In the Name of the Bee,” “A Bird Came Down the Walk”); moving to autumn (“Blazing in Gold and Quenching in Purple,” “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”), to winter (“There’s a Certain Slant of Light,” “Like Brooms of Steel”), and finishing with spring (“New Feet within My Garden Go,” “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers”). Explanations of oddly used and unfamiliar words, like “quibbled” (answered) and “doges” (rulers of Venus) are provided. The section explaining in plain language what Emily Dickinson may have been thinking as she wrote each poem helps kids make real-life connections with the sometimes difficult to grasp verse.


The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day

By Jessica Courtney-Tickle (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2016)

Follow young Isabelle, a potted apple tree, and Pickle, her puppy, through the seasons, with Vivaldi’s music to guide the way. As a sign of the changing seasons, the apple tree buds, blossoms, and sheds its leaves. Each spread features a musical note to press and a (surprisingly robust, brace for it) ten-second sound clip from the original score of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The illustrations of landscapes teeming with animals, flowers, people, trees, and seasonal details are so rich and colorful, readers will want to hop right in. A supplemental section introducing Vivaldi and describing the movements is a valuable tool to understanding the composer’s method and intent.


The Hello Atlas 

By Ben Handicott; illustrated by Kenard Pak (Quarto Publishing Group, 2016)

Learn how to say “hello” and several other basic phrases in more than 100 languages from all over the world. The charming illustrations show kids doing ordinary things in their home countries, from snorkeling in Fiji to dog sledding in Russia. Fully illustrated word charts of languages from well-known and lesser-known indigenous languages introduce us to some of the world’s most remote communities. A free downloadable app for iOS and Android allows you to hear the phrases from the book recorded by a native speaker.


Natural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature

By Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley, illustrated by Owen Davey (Quarto Publishing Group, 2016)

Packed with information and gorgeous illustrated charts of plants and creatures from land, sea, and sky, this hefty book is sure to answer many burning questions kids have about the natural world. Covered are how animals and plants grow, reproduce, excrete, and breathe, and where in the world they’re found, with special focus on habitats, species, and adaptations. You’d be surprised to learn just what and how many critters take up residence in a single tree, for instance. The pictures will capture the youngest kids’ attention, while the thoughtfully written and comprehensive descriptions will inform them as they continue to grow and learn. Bonus: The book’s jacket unfolds to become a giant wall poster.     



Wendy Guild Swearingen is senior editor of Spree.


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