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Author Comment
Registered User
(12/10/03 12:06 am)
Books for Children for the Holidays
Hi authors and readers,

I am doing my annual mass purchase of books for nieces and nephews and am asking for recommendations for ages 5 - 15. I have had great results in the past from sending books written and recommend by regular participants on this board.

So fire away!

And Heidi, I will try to remember to always click through Surlalune to get to Amazon.


Registered User
(12/10/03 8:20 am)
Re: Books for Children for the Holidays

The list of books I love is too long for this board. But there are two holiday specific books that I always recommend, both by Patricia Polacco: The Trees of the Dancing Goats and Christmas Tapestry.

All the best,

Unregistered User
(12/10/03 10:19 am)
Children's Books

I am a passionate advocate and reader of children's literature. While I know fairytales aren't limited to children, it is because of their presence in children's literature that I visit this board. There are many fine books for people of all ages by authors who frequent this board, but since you asked, I thought I would mention a few of my favorite books from this year, as well as long standing favorites that I love to give to others. Some of these may be a little OT from the board's usual fare, but many have myth or the fantastic at their roots.

One of the things I always think about when I give a child a book, is that I am not just giving them a book, but the gift of reading. There are many great books that are not right for specific children, so please use your best judgment and knowledge of the children to make the right choice.

All time favorite gifts:
Give a child a legacy by giving them a book you loved.

* The D'aulaire's Book of Greek Mythology: I can't tell you how much this book impacted my life. I read it when I was 8 and it shaped my view of the world, not to mention gave me a great background with which to understand much of Western culture. I am very sad their Norse Mythology book is OOP, but a copy of the Greek Mythology is a gift that a child can treasure for a lifetime.

* The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White - funny, and a perfect beginning for the Arthurian set. I don't usually give the entire Once & Future King unless children are older. Other Arthurian favorites include Gerald Morris The Squire's Tale and for precociouus readers the books by Howard Pyle.

* Andrew Lang fairybooks: These books will make young fairytale lovers swoon. The engravings and odd tales are a great introduction to fairytales all over the world. Just one of these books can set a young reader off into an obsession to collect them all.

* A beautifully illustrated edition of a fairytale you already know they love, like one of Ruth Sanderson's editions, or one of the many illustrators on the illustrator portion of the Sur La Lune website.

If kids haven't read any of the classic series, you know which ones I'm talking about, * Narnia, * L'engle, * Lloyd Alexander, * Susan Cooper, etc. a set of these makes a great gift. I still have the ones I was given as a child. * Pat Wrede's Dealing with Dragons is in a nice boxed edition this Christmas.

Lesser known classics recently back in print:
* The Children at Greene Knowe by L.M. Boston - gentle, magical series deeply steeped in Anglo-Saxon mythology. This series is easily compared to Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series or John Masefield's classic, The Box of Delights.

* Elizabeth Goudge - J.K.Rowling cited her as a major influence, so she's back in print, and lucky for us. The Little White Horse and Linnets and Valerians are both marvelous, magical tales.

More American in flavor:
* Many of the books by Natalie Babbit, the author of Tuck Everlasting, have a fairytale or fantastical quality. Kids who enjoyed Holes by Louis Sachar, are likely to be partial to Babbit and also to the work of

* Bill Brittain, who writes marvelous stories in the vein of "The Devil and..." tales. My favorite by him is The Wish Giver, about a town where wishes go fantastically awry.

* Robert McCloskey died this year, so it seems fitting to mention his Homer Price and Centerburg Tales in this category. They are original tall tales dealing with things like out-of-control doughnut machines and giant ragweeds.

* Another memorial author would be William Steig who is the author and illustrator of a number of wonderful books including Shrek upon which the hit movie was based.

* For younger reader's who like talking animals, the tales of Old Mother Westwind by Thornton Burgess can be a charming introduction to both Native American and Brer Rabbit style animal stories. They are available via Dover Thrift these days, so are also good for those on a tight budget.

Books for boys:
I am personally offended that kids can be asked to read Huck Finn in school, but not Little Women. I think it is part of the continuing gender bias in this country that girls can read books about boys, but boys are somehow not supposed to read books about girls. Nevertheless, I would not want to alienate a young reader by forcing Anne of Green Gables onto him. For some reason parents seem to think there are a shortage of books for boys. (I think it's perhaps because fathers rarely share books with boys.) Shows how much they read! Here are some quick answers whenever I am accosted with the question about books for boys:

* Jerry Spinelli - Writes mainly books about contemporary adolescent experience in school. Stargirl is quite possibly a Cinderella tale told from the boy's pov in which the boy does not get the girl
* Will Hobbs - adventure stories often set in the American West and including Native American characters and elements
* Daniel Pinkwater - quirky and fantastical tales about the bizarre adventures of average characters. He is also writing "chapter books" these days, which appeal to the Capt. Underpants set.
* Bruce Coville - a favorite and friend of many board members. Bizarre and whimsical worlds filled with unpredictable magic.

Books for Older Readers
What do you get for the older reader who has read everything? This board has a number of wonderful novelizations of fairytales that would be appropriate for readers in this category. This year two titles really stood out for me:

* Lian Hearn: Tales of the Otori - this Australian author is in the middle of a trilogy about a magical world that has a Japanese-like feudal system. There was a lot of press when the first book came out, but they seem to have been buried under the mounds of publicity and popularity of other books. The first book Across the Nightengale Floor is now available in PB. This book is violent and heartbreaking, but something about it caught my imagination and restored my excitement about books. It has some mature subject matter, mostly violence, some sexuality, but is appropriate for older readers who like adventure stories and is likely to appeal to movie goers who enjoyed The Last Samaurai.

* Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve - This book about "traction cities," that roll about looking for other cities to devour, is an engrossing read. The world is original and well envisioned, but also violent. Two of the young protagonists do not survive the tale. Great for fans of His Dark Materials, but not for very young or sensitive readers.

Finally, don't forget books by our boards authors:
* Jane Yolen surely has a book for any reader of any age, sex, or interest.
* Holly Black's Spiderwick Books have really caught on with young readers (her Tithe is a sure thing for older ones),
* Laura McCaffrey's Alia Walking has great reviews
* Terri Windling's Fairytale Series or her Year in Fantasy collections are classics for older readers. These books are often a great opportunity for teen readers to crossover into grown up fiction.
* Sharyn November's Firebirds collection promises to be a favorite with fantasy fans. (Check the Firebird website for paperbacks for the YA crowd.)

And please anyone, if you are an illustrator, I have forgotten you, or if you think your book might have young reader appeal (I haven't read Gregory Frost's Bluebeard any of Nalo's books yet, so I don't know about their appropriateness), please chime in.

It's a long post, I know, but I just had to chime in on a subject I love.


Charles Vess
Unregistered User
(12/10/03 10:43 am)
Some more books...
Okay, I'll be a bit self serving here and reccomend my two latest books:

A CIRCLE OF CATS (Viking), writen by Charles de Lint, is a childrens picture book set back in the hills where young Lilly lives with her aunt. She is playing in the woods one day, after finishing all her chores, and falls asleep under a giant beach tree (the very tree where "cats come to dream and be dreams") and is bitten by an "awful, dreadful snake" and begins to die. All of the many stray cats that she has befriended come out of the woods and choose to save her life by changing her into a cat like themselves. Her quest to become a girl once again brings her into contact with many interesting characters, including The
Apple Tree Man and The Father of All Cats.

PETER PAN (Starscape), a new edition aimed at the YA market, hence Peter, Wendy and all the Lost Boys are bit older and
more muscular. A painted cover and some 30 b/w interior illustrations enhance the original and unexpergated text by James M. Barrie. This was a joy to work on indeed!

Hope that helps...

Registered User
(12/10/03 12:03 pm)
Some more books...
I would highly recommend anything by K. Y. Craft and Christian Birmingham (who has a stunning version of "Sleeping Beauty" out now in the U.K.), especially if the ones you are buying for are art lovers. Also, the Paul O' Zelinsky books, like "Hansel and Gretel", "Rapunzel", and "Rumplestiltskin", which I consider to be classics.

Unregistered User
(12/10/03 12:06 pm)
children's books
This is my first post, and I hope I am doing it correctly.

I teach fourth grade, and one of my favorite books is Skellig by David Almond. The story is beautiful The prose is almost poetic at times. Almond moves from the magical to mundane seamlessly.

Although not magical, Hoot is a fantastic book. The author's name escapes me at the moment, but it is widely available. My students loved it last year, as did I.


Heidi Anne Heiner
(12/10/03 3:36 pm)
Re: children's books
See, this is always hard for me as a children's librarian because I always want to know what the kids like to read first. I'll just spout off and maybe something will be of interest.

A deceptively frivolous teen read, for those who love Princess Diaries, I have to recommend a rare find: "The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman" by Louise Plummer. It's hilarious and romantic. For fantasy teen readers, I recommend Sherwood Smith's "Crown Duel" and "Court Duel." Rebecca Tingle's "The Edge on the Sword." Wrede and Stevermer's "Sorcery and Cecelia." And the Firebirds imprint is wonderful. I just finished the Firebirds anthology myself. Wonderful stories are appearing and reappearing thanks to Sharyn's hard work.

Every five-year-old should own a copy of Judith Viorst's "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." IMHO. Actually, everyone should own it. I keep extra copies in paperback around just to give out occasionally instead of greeting cards. Another one I used to do the same with is "Hey World, Here I Am!" by Jean Little.

My favorite Donna Jo Napoli in the last few years has been "Daughter of Venice."

Then Anthony Horowitz's spy series for teens has been popular with the men folk. As well as the classic "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card.

Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes series is consistently good.

Then there are Robert Sabuda's pop-up versions of "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz" which I adore.

A book conference I attended in October had several children's authors. The only author who had groupies in the children's section was Bruce Hale. His Chet Gecko series is popular and still fun to read. The film noir and hard boiled detective allusions are over most of the kids' heads, but they love it.

Then there's "How I Became a Pirate" by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon. It's the picture book I have requested for Christmas.

Arnold's "Parts" and "More Parts" are appropiately educational and gross. Lauren Child's picture books are fun; my favorite is "Beward of the Storybook Wolves." Parents and kids like Demi's "The Empty Pot." My southern drawl loves the exercise of reading any of Stephen Kellogg's American folktale books. Buehner's "Snowmen at Night" was one of my new favorites last year.

I also enjoy Andrew Clements for middle readers. And Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series has some books in the middle readers. Don't forget Clearly's Ramona books if this is their taste.

And any kid who has gone through a dinosaur phase will enjoy the older story of: The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Artist and Lecturer by Barbara Kerley.

Theodore Taylor writes sdventure books consistently better than Gary Paulsen. "The Cay" was on reading lists at my library, but the students enjoyed it.

I saved the most obvious for last. I tried not to list much of the fairy tale themed stuff. Just in case...

"Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine
If they haven't read it yet. With the movie due out in April, this is the last chance to have the book read first. I haven't had a single girl not love it. Then I pass along "Shadow Spinner" by Susan Fletcher and "The Ordinary Princess" by M. M. Kaye. And Shannon Hale's "Goose Girl" should please any Robin McKinley fan.

I also endorse the stuff mentioned above--Black and DiTerlizzi's Spiderwick books work really well with the kids in love with Lemony Snicket's "Unfortunate Events" series. I will always be a L'Engle fan. And a Yolen fan. And Spinelli fan. And a fan of so much! I can't list them all...

Actually, if you have specific reading tastes and ages in mind, feel free to e-mail me off list, too.


Laura McCaffrey
Registered User
(12/10/03 7:21 pm)
Re: children's books
First a quick thanks to Sarah for even mentioning ALIA in the same breath as such wonderful books. And we seem to have had the same childhood because D'Aulaire's Greek Myths was also one of the most important books of my childhood. My best friend and I constantly acted out the stories, a game we called "goddesses." I also remember devouring some mythology collections at about 10 or 11 - some Norse and Greek. Sadly, I can't recommend by title because I don't know what the actual books were. I just remember they were very long and the type was very small and I loved them.

On that note, and since everyone else has already made some great contemporary children's/teen literature lists:
If any of the kids in your life, Jess, are on a big folktale kick, they might enjoy Asbjornsen and Moe's Norwegian Folktales, any of Duncan Williamson's collections but especially The Broonie, Silkies, and Fairies, Phelp's Tatterhood collections or The Maid of the North, Lester's Uncle Remus retellings, good old Grimms or Joseph Jacobs or Andrew Lang, Howard Schwartz's Elijah's Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales, Dasent's East 'O the Sun and West 'O the Moon collection. Jane Yolen, of course, has many wonderful collections to choose from, as well.

Edited by: Laura McCaffrey at: 12/10/03 7:23 pm
Registered User
(12/11/03 4:38 am)
More recommendations
I love Diana Wynne Jones-- her books are splendidly plotted and peopled, and so much fun to read. I particularly recommend Howl's Moving Castle and Hexwood for slightly older readers.

I second the Lloyd Alexander, of course. The Gawgon's Boy is my favorite of his recent books, with all of Alexander's warm wit. It's different in tone from his usual fantasy adventures, but I think it works terrifically. For younger readers, there's always the Vesper Holly series, which is a lot of fun to read, and other standalones, like The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen and The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian.

Oh, and I am absolutely addicted to A Series of Unfortunate Events. Can't wait until the next one comes out! Teachers (and friends of teachers' daughters...) can get them in paperback from Scholastic for significantly less than the commercial hardback versions.

For more fairy tale oriented books, I quite liked Jean Ferris's Once Upon a Marigold (particularly for people who liked The Ordinary Princess), Vivian Vande Velde's A Hidden Magic, and Patrice Kindl's Goose Chase. I haven't read Hale's Goose Girl or Pattou's East yet, but I think those look excellent as well. And I'm definitely looking forward to reading Alia Waking!

Registered User
(12/11/03 8:59 am)
Re: More recommendations
Wow! This will definitely get me started.

Oh, and Charles, self-serving is good. One of the best received books I ever sent was one by Terri Windling (no great surprise there).

Please keep the recommendations coming.


Unregistered User
(12/11/03 9:53 am)
Yay! Books!

What fabulous recommendations! I just discovered Naylor's Alice books this past year. I liked them so much I gave my best friend a copy of ALICE IN AGONY for Christmas, and then sent her a book from the series each month. It was a great way to share the books and to stay in touch with my friend, who is currently living on the opposite side of the continent from me.


Registered User
(12/12/03 11:05 am)
Re: Treasures
The Hounds of the Morrigan, by Pat O'Shea, is an absolute jewel and is perfect for older children, or as a read-aloud. Or for anyone. I haven't finished it yet but am confidant it will be superb to the end. Daulaire's Greek Myth changed my life too

Registered User
(12/13/03 11:08 pm)
Re: Books for Children for the Holidays
I love children's picture books, especially the quirky, odd ones. So for the quirky, odd children in our lives, some of my suggestions:

-A Day with Wilbur Robinson, by William Joyce

-Nappy Hair, by Carolivia Herron

-Where the Girls Are, by by Nikolaus Heidelbach

-The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch

-The Boy in the Drawer, by Robert Munsch

-Sukey and the Mermaid, by Robert D. San Souci

In terms of children's novels, I've enjoyed Hiromi Goto's _The Water of Possibility,_ about two children who encounter a kapa from Japanese mythology.

Young adults: _The Dollmage,_ by Martine Leavitt

-The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, by Chris Van Allsburg

Niniane Sunyata
Registered User
(12/13/03 11:54 pm)
Re: Books for Children for the Holidays
I have just read a beautiful book that I think I would have loved reading as a kid:

Momo by Michael Ende

Anita Harris.
Terra Mythogene

Registered User
(12/19/03 10:11 pm)
Re: Books for Children for the Holidays
This was fantastic! Thank you, everyone. All the books are ordered or sent. With the exception of one, I got my ideas from your suggestions.

And Charles, be looking for that royalty check. I sent both your "Peter Pan" and your "Circle of Cats" books. I saw the Peter Pan at our local independent bookstore. Your illustrations are really fun and never fail to please.


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