Books for kids: Think about giving a book to a child this year

Good choices include The Little Wooden Robot and Log Princess and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.

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With December — the holiday gift-giving season — right around the corner, many of us are scrambling to come up with the perfect tokens to let friends and family members know that we’re thinking of them. Books remain a great option. They come in a variety of sizes and themes; When chosen carefully, they can have incredible staying power for the recipient; And it’s easy to wrap them. Below, some random titles for the youngsters on your list. Visit your local bookstore to see these and other editions.


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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Clement C. Moore

Illustrated by PJ Lynch

Candlewick Press

for all ages

In my family, reading aloud a poem by Clement C. Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas, was part of our annual holiday tradition. Available in several editions by various illustrators, our copy was a Hallmark pop-up book and my sons took turns drawing their favorite tab—the tab in which Santa was “putting his finger to his nose, / And up the chimney.” He got up.” They loved seeing him pop up outside the framework of the book!

This year, Dublin’s PJ Lynch gives us a new illustrated version of Moore’s much-loved poem and while it lacks any gimmicky pop-up images, it is rich in provocative illustrations that reflect the era in which the words were written. Were. (Originally published anonymously in the 1820s, Moore claimed ownership in print in 1844, although today’s scholars are inclined to attribute the poem to Henry Livingstone Jr.)

it fell from the sky

Written and illustrated by Fan Brothers

Simon & Schuster

ages 4 to 8

Toronto’s Terry and Eric Fan, brothers who co-produced The Night Gardener in 2016, have joined forces again to create a new picture book, already among the New York Times/New York Public Library’s Best Illustrated Children’s Illustrated has gained an international reputation as one of the Books of 2021.

“It fell from the sky on a Thursday,” begins the book, with a two-page black-and-white illustration of a garden patch in which the grass has only one color in it. Insects and critters living in the garden, who have never seen marble before, try to figure out what this mysterious object is – but to no avail.


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The sly, self-serving spider scatters a web behind it, claims the object as its own, and charges all visitors to see the mysterious object—until one day a child’s hand picks up the marble and Doesn’t reach down to pick him up.

What happens after that is a bit sudden and hard to believe, but opens the book color wise. The illustrations, especially in black and white, are beautifully detailed and mesmerizing, and the story will capture the attention of any preschooler. Pair this book with a jar of colorful marbles, and you have a gift for art and marble lovers of all ages.

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

Written and illustrated by Tom Goldow

Neil Porter Books / Holiday House

ages 4 to 8

Tom Gould, a British cartoonist whose work is published weekly in The Guardian, has several graphic novels to his name, but this is his first foray into children’s literature. The result is an old-fashioned fairy tale with decidedly new twists.

This is the story of a king and queen who wanted children. One night “the king went to see the royal inventor, and the queen went to see a clever old witch who lived in the forest.” They wished for a child, and both fulfilled their wish. The inventor created “an amazing, intricate wooden robot” and the witch used magic to transform a log into “a perfect little log princess.”

There was just one hitch; Every night, when she fell asleep, the log princess would turn back into a log and her brother needed to wake her up and say magic words to turn her into a princess. Everything went well until the robot forgot to wake up its sister. By the time she realized her mistake, she had jumped out the window and ended up on a barge with hundreds of other lumberjacks.


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The story that unfolds is one of brotherly love, the tedious adventures, the kindness of strangers, and the resourcefulness of a family of beetles. In the end, “they all lived happily ever after.” And Gould’s distinctive art earned him a spot on the NYT/NY Public Library’s Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2021 list.

With the exception of the Harry Potter books from a few years ago, I generally don’t highlight much more than the opening book in a series. But Amy Timberlake’s Skunk and Badger book, which I pegged for ages eight to 88, saw me through months of isolation last year and if I don’t urge you to check out book 2 in the series, I apologize: the egg marks the spot (HarperCollins). Like its predecessor, it is clever, amusing and illustrated by Canadian artist John Klaasen.

— Bernie Goedharta



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