This year’s gift guide from the University of Illinois Center for Children’s Books contains 90 top-quality picture books, from holiday adventures to the story of a (very) young budding journalist.
One book that editor Deborah Stevenson adores is a new version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” told from the perspective of the three bears, who see her like a naughty squirrel coming into the house. It’s amusing, not remotely threatening for young children and, thankfully, not satirical, she says.
“It’s really nice to see you can return to a classic and make it wonderful, without going all new wave and ironic,” she says. “This is just a lovely little tale.”
Aimed at 2- to 5-year-olds, the book is by Emma Chichester Clark and retails for $14.99.
The gift guide contains hundreds of books published in the last three years, from picture books to serious novels, divided into age groups with capsule reviews by library professionals.
Other top picture books:
“Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy” by Denise Fleming, ages 1 to 3 ($16.99)
This gentle bedtime story features a series of baby animals falling asleep. Fleming makes her own paper for the rich, textured color illustrations a giraffe nodding off with her baby eyelids getting heavy, a penguin leaning into his dad, and, in the end, a beautiful baby curled up with her sock monkey.
“Robot” by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by David Shannon, ages 4 to 8 ($17.99)
The author of the “Stinky Cheese Man” is back, this time with an amusing story of an alien who lands in a house and unknowingly “goes to war with the household appliances.” Scieska, a terrific author, is proponent of a “Guys Read” effort that recognizes boys’ reading tastes are different from girls, Stevenson says.'
“Jingle-Jingle” by Nicola Smee, ages 1 to 3 ($14.95)
Mr. Horse takes Cat, Dog, Pig and Duck for a ride in his sleigh, and the result is joyous mayhem. This charming winter story is perfect for the 2-year-old set, “wonderfully interactive, briskly paced with great dialogue,” she says. “One thing I look for in picture books: Have they used the medium to make a message appropriate for the age group?” The answer here is yes.
“Pele: King of Soccer,” by Monica Brown, with Spanish text by Fernando Gayesky, ages 5 to 9 ($17.99)
This bilingual picture-book biography features high-impact illustrations about “the greatest figure in the biggest sport on the planet,” she says. The art is complex, some graffiti-inspired, and the story focuses on how he grew up as a normal kid, just kicking a ball around.
“Born Yesterday: the Diary of a Young Journalist” by James Solheim, ages 6 to 9 ($15.99)
There are lots of big sister or big brother books around for children about to get a new sibling. But this “pants-wettingly funny” tale is told from the new baby’s point of view, starting with, well, day one.
It begins: “July 7: “Talk about unexpected. I was in the dark, thinking about my future career as a writer, when suddenly I was in this cold pan and a lady was rubbing me all over with a wet towel.”
He is, of course, enamored with all the things his big sister can do, like keeping a bug running in circles on her macaroni dinner. “Note to myself: imitate that girl. Just imitate her. Every second of the day, be just like her. But first learn to roll over.”