“A book is a gift you can open again and again”. In the words of Garrison Keiller, books make wonderful holiday gifts, and this holiday review column shares favorites for babies to tweens.

“My Dad is the Best Playground” by Luciana Navarro Powell, Random House, 2012, ages birth to 2.

Two young children enjoy an evening of play with their dad, who serves as a human climbing wall, tunnel, seesaw, and bouncy trampoline. Adults will appreciate the exhaustion of the father and children at the end of the evening.

“Mine!” by Shutta Crum, Illustrations by Patrice Barton, Knopf, 2011, ages birth to 3.

Charming illustrations and sparse, but effective text, tell the story of two toddlers’ and one dog’s lesson in sharing. Mine was named a 2011 Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal.

“Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops” by Jill Biden, Illustrated by Raul Colon, Simon & Schuster, 2012, ages 5 and up.

Inspired by Jill Biden’s granddaughter, “Don’t Forget” is the story of the year Natalie spent awaiting her father’s return from deployment in Iraq. Natalie misses her father, but is reminded to be brave. She and her family use video chat to keep in touch, and Natalie pulls her loose tooth for her dad to see. Textured water color and colored pencil illustrations depict the ways faith and community help this, and other military families to patiently await their loved one’s return.

“Jangles: A Big Fish Story” by David Shannon, Blue Sky Press, 2012, ages 5 and up.

This big fish story, passed on from father to son, retells the catch of Jangles, the biggest fish anyone had ever seen. But in this fantasy story, readers will wonder if the boy catch Jangles, or if Jangles catch the boy. When the boy must makes an important decision about what is right, he ends up with an unexpected surprise. The author, David Shannon, is well-known for his nearly wordless picture books about the mischevious David.

“The Whites of Their Eyes: Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School” by Andrew Clements, Illustrated by Adam Stower, Atheneum, 2012, 224 pages, ages 7 and up.

The old Oakes School is slated for demolition to make way for a new school, but Ben and Jill, want to keep their beloved school. They hatch a plan to save the school, but evil Janitor Lyman and his vicious guard dog are keeping an eye on them. A gold coin and a middle school spy provide important clues to the school’s mysterious beginnings and possible ways to save the school.

“A Prairie Peter Pan: The Story of Mary White” by Beverley Olson Buller, Kansas City Star Books, 2010, ages 8 and up.

Mary White loved adventure and mischief, much like Peter Pan. Also like Peter Pan, she did not grow up, but continues to live through the stories, some retold in “A Prairie Peter Pan”, a biography of Mary’s tragic young life. The daughter of newspaper editor and author William Allen White, Mary’s story takes readers from her birth in Estes Park, Colorado to accidental death in Emporia, Kansas at the age of 16. Told in a scrapbook style, black and white photographs, postcards, and drawings depict not only Mary’s life, but also life in the early 1900’s. Designated as a Kansas Notable Book, this book is also on the William Allen White Award Nominee List for 2012.

“Wonderstruck” by Brian Selznick, Scholastic, 2011, ages 8 and up.

Two children share a secret wish. Ben’s story, told through words, and Rose’s story, told through pictures, unfold in parallel, although set fifty years apart. The tales ultimately intertwine as each child searches to fill an empty space, the ultimate granting of their wish. Brian Selznick, the author of award winning The Invention Hugo Cabret, utilizes his imagination and storytelling skills in a similar format for the equally powerful story of Wonderstruck.

“Starwars: A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure” Matthew Reinhart, Orchard Books, 2012, ages 8 and up.

Even those who don’t consider themselves Star Wars fans will be amazed at the exquisitely intricate pop-up scenes, characters with moving parts, and color-changing light saber of “A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure”. The author, Matthew Reinhart, combined his skills as a paper engineer with his Star Wars fascination to create a book that is informational, yet ornate. Star Wars fans, young and old, will be entranced by this collection of facts and stunning pop-up creations.

“Out of My Mind” by Sharon M. Draper, Atheneum Books, 2010, 295 pages, ages 10 and up.

Although Melody is eleven, she has spent her life watching and listening, rather than playing and talking. Melody has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak or care for herself, but she has a photographic memory and is brilliantly intelligent. This story of longing and determination is told from Melody’s view, a perspective that is both honest and unnerving, as it reveals the cruelty and goodness of people. Out of My Mind, currently on the 2012 William Allen White Award list, is a must read for teachers.

Books, especially when read by both the giver and the receiver, can forge connections. If you are an adult selecting a book to give as a gift, read it yourself too. Then you and the child have a shared experience and can build a reading connection which lasts long past the holiday season.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler

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