Gift ideas for the budding bibliophile
Lush, beautiful coffee table books aren't only for adults. A number of stunning new volumes will please the younger members of the family and make welcome gifts this holiday season.
HarperCollins Treasury of Picture Book Classics: A Child's First Collection covers a lot of territory and will make the perfect gift for a new baby or a child who is just entering the world of books. Most adult readers will sigh and smile as they turn the pages and renew old friendships. The magical first words of Goodnight Moon, published in 1947, still sound fresh and spare and alive: "In the great green room/There was a telephone/And a red balloon/And a picture of/The cow jumping over the moon."
Like Brown's classic, each book in this volume has stood the test of time, from the funny peddler and his monkeys in Caps for Sale to Harold and his magical crayon. There are a few lesser-known characters here, but that's all the more reason to love this treasury of 12 stories, all beautifully illustrated and presented in one big (and heavy!) volume. The perfect way to start a library.
Yann Arthus-Bertand and Robert Burleigh have created the breathtaking Earth From Above for Young Readers (Abrams, $12.95, 77 pages, ISBN 0810934868). Arthus-Bertand is the well-known aerial photographer and author of numerous adult books, including last year's Earth From Above 365 Days. Though readable and interesting text accompanies these double-page spreads, the photos are the elements that will truly captivate young readers. Each photo demands close inspection: Is that a human dancing on a block of ice? (Nopeit's an exuberant penguin.) Are those really ghostly camels? (Or shadows?) Each continent is represented in these brilliant pictures, which reflect the awesome diversity of life on earth.
The Making of America (National Geographic, $29.95, 224 pages, ISBN 0792269446) is a history book for elementary readers and a fine reference book for every family. From the first chapter, the author, Robert D. Johnston, Ph.D., does not mince words about Columbus' role in American history. "It was Christopher Columbus who set in motion the most dramatic and devastating assaults on Native American life and culture," he says. This straightforward telling of the story of our country's birth and development is just one of the reasons this beautifully designed and illustrated book should find a spot in the library of every family and school. The chapters are sensibly short, and each page has informative paintings, pictures, photographs or maps to draw the reader into the story and allow browsing by the casual reader. Biographical profiles and questions for debate punctuate each of the eight chapters, giving a framework for the interpretation of history. Even the last chapter, which brings us to events that are shaping our history right now, asks the difficult question, "How Should America Combat the War on Terrorism at Home?" Web sites, a state-by-state visitors' guide to historic places and scrupulous source notes complete this reference book .
The World Almanac for Kids 2003 (World Almanac Books, $11.95, 336 pages, ISBN 0886878780), edited by Kevin Seabrooke, is just the sort of book my children loved and dragged out during games of Trivial Pursuit. What child can resist looking up his birthday in an almanac to find out who shares it? The colorful, busy pages will attract and keep the attention of the most dedicated multi-tasker in your house. Even the table of contents, with subtitles like "Largest, Smallest, Fastest" and "20 Popular Kids Videos of 2001," will draw in fact-finders. While there is certainly enough information in these pages to help with almost any school assignment, most kids will stick this under their pillow to sneak a forbidden peek late in the evening. In the morning, your little scientist will be able to tell you all about puffer fish and their toxins and the number of Chihuahuas registered with the American Kennel Club. All this might come in handy if your well-informed child ever gets to show his stuff on Jeopardy. And if you keep supplying him or her with good books, it could happen.