Keepsake Books: Children's Gifts For a Lifetime


My Very First Mother Goose

Edited by Iona Opie

Illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Candlewick Pres

108 pp., $19.99

Ages 2 and up

Picture Books:

I Spy a Freight Train: Transportation in Art

Devised & selected by

Lucy Micklethwait

Greenwillow, unpaged, $19

All ages

Going Home

By Eve Bunting

Illustrated by David Diaz

HarperCollins, unpaged $14.95

Ages 4-8

The Tempest

By William Shakespeare

Retold by

Ann Keay Beneduce

Illustrated by Gennady Spirin

Philomel Books, 32 pp., $16.95

Ages 4 and up


Beyond the Western Sea: Book Two, Lord Kirkle's Money

By Avi

Orchard Books,

380 pp., $18.95

Ages 11-14

Toad Triumphant

By William Horwood

Illustrated by

Patrick Benson

St. Martin's Press,

282 pp., $19.95

All ages

Informational :

Leonardo Da Vinci

Written and illustrated

by Diane Stanley

Morrow, unpaged, $16

Ages 7 and up

The Art of Eric Carle

By Eric Carle

Philomel Books, 125 pages, $35

Ages 8 and up

The Kingfisher: Young People's Book of Music

Edited by Clive Wilson

Illustrated by various artists

Forward by Sir George Solti

Kingfisher Books,

128 pp., $19.95

Ages 9-13


The 12 Days of Christmas

Created by Robert Sabuda

Simon & Schuster,

unpaged, $19.95

All ages

I still have a book my grandmother gave me decades ago. I cherish it, as well as the slanted scrawl that says she presented it to me at Christmas. Such gift books are special - worth giving, receiving, and saving. In the hope of adding a keepsake volume to your holiday gift list, here's a selection of 10 worthy new books.


Few collections of nursery rhymes are better than My Very First Mother Goose. Just out this season, it combines the talents of noted folklorist Iona Opie and award-winning illustrator Rosemary Wells. Opie selected more than 60 familiar ditties, each delightful for rhythm, rhyme, or content. Irresistible animals and appealing human characters dance, fly, leap, and laugh together in this gloriously illustrated book.

Wells's vivid watercolors capture so perfectly the wit and whimsy of these centuries-old poems that Mother Goose herself must surely approve.

Picture Books

I Spy a Freight Train: Transportation in Art is Lucy Micklethwait's latest installment in her superb "I Spy" series. Micklethwait's concept is brilliant: She engages youngsters in world-class art by making a game of examining the work of famous painters.

In this volume, readers are invited to "spy with my little eye" such vehicles as a rowboat,

Books for All Ages and Tastes

a wagon, and a camel in paintings by Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Dali, and others. With repeated viewings of these attractive, full-color reproductions, young readers are likely to discover additional modes of transportation and a greater affinity for art.

Going Home is a beautiful book, brimming with emotion and unique art. Eve Bunting has crafted a touching story of Carlos, whose Mama and Papa eagerly take the family back to Mexico for Christmas. Carlos and his sisters don't fully understand or appreciate the homecoming, because they consider California their home. However, when the children see their parents quietly dancing for joy on a moonlit street of La Perla, they realize Mexico will always be home for Mama and Papa. Former Caldecott Award-winner David Diaz dazzles readers with rich jewel-like colors and intricate patterns in his stylized illustrations.

Now, nearly 400 years after it was written, William Shakespeare's enchanting play The Tempest is easily accessible to children. Ann Keay Beneduce's retelling is a simplified - but accurate - version of this timeless tale of treachery, adventure, love, and forgiveness. Adults will also enjoy reacquainting themselves with deposed Duke Prospero, his beautiful daughter Miranda, evil Calaban, and handsome Prince Ferdinand. Award-winning illustrator Gennady Spirin uses a muted pallet of blues and browns to create visual magic. His splendid, detailed watercolors are a perfect match for this literary classic.


This spring, award-winning author Avi enthralled readers with the first of a two-part adventure story. (See Monitor review, May 23.) Now the sequel, Beyond The Western Sea: Book Two, Lord Kirkle's Money, is in bookstores ready for holiday gift giving. Once more, Avi proves himself a master of page-turning action. This volume picks up with young Irish immigrants Maura and Patrick O'Connell aboard a ship heading to America. Their friend Laurence Kirkle is a stowaway on the same vessel. But enemies and thieves also lurk on board.

Action during the ocean crossing is a bit slower than in other parts of the book - and much grimmer, because many passengers die from an illness that sweeps the ship. When the travelers reach Boston, the chase begins anew. Full of surprises and historical insights, this story will hold readers spellbound until its breathtaking conclusion.

William Horwood has penned a new sequel to Kenneth Grahame's 1908 classic, "The Wind in the Willows." Fans will delight in Toad Triumphant, which features original River Bank friends - Mole, Ratty, Badger, and Toad.

This entertaining story intertwines two parallel plots: Mole and Ratty row upstream to explore "Beyond," while vain and pompous Toad gets into and out of trouble with the law, a motor launch, and - a woman. Yes! In this tale, the threat of matrimony hangs over the previously all-male community. With its humor, tenderness, suspense, and happy ending, this novel will appeal to everyone who likes a pleasant story and a good read.

Patrick Benson's fine pen-and-ink drawings make this a visual as well as literary treat.

Information Books

In Leonardo da Vinci, author-illustrator Diane Stanley deftly chronicles the life of a genius from his illegitimate birth to his passing, in the arms of the king of France. Young readers will encounter a true Renaissance man. Da Vinci was not only a man of his time, but a great artist, architect, scientist, engineer, and inventor. Stanley's distinguished picture book contains sketches from da Vinci's notebooks, decorative borders based on da Vinci's designs, and full-page paintings of her own that cleverly incorporate some of the master's art.

Eric Carle has created more than 60 children's books that have been translated into 23 languages. Now, he brings the best of these works together in The Art of Eric Carle. Bursting with his distinctively bright and bold illustrations, this retrospective will be treasured by art lovers, longtime fans, and newcomers to Carle's work. In a step-by-step photo-essay, Carle creates one of his trademark painted tissue papers. An information section - complete with autobiographical sketch, family photos, and recollections by friends, editors, and colleagues - makes this a valuable reference work as well as a lush coffee-table book.

The Kingfisher Young People's Book of Music is a fascinating book and an extremely ambitious project that incorporates the work of many writers, artists, and photographers. It is chock-full of information on music from all times and all corners of the world. Every double-page spread showcases a different musical topic: African drums, Scottish bagpipes, opera, and modern recordings, to name a few. This absorbing book is bound to intrigue music lovers, and may well create some, too.


Robert Sabuda has designed the ultimate Christmas pop-up book. Using words from the familiar carol as text, The 12 Days of Christmas is an astonishing feat of paper engineering. Even inveterate pop-up-book Scrooges (and I am one) will be amazed to see a partridge fly out from the page; a reindeer lift its antlers, decorated with five gold rings; and a life-sized jewelry box open up to display 11 ladies dancing. This beautifully conceived and executed book will be a terrific gift, to be enjoyed for many years to come.

*Karen Williams regularly reviews children's books for the Monitor.

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