Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

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Holiday Gift Picks: Books

By Teresa DiFalco
After all the games and toys have been open and played, sometimes the best Christmas present is the quietest one - a great book. This collection of Parents Choice award-winners, past and present, represents young readers of all ages and tastes. From playful picture books to absorbing middle grade and young adult fiction, this is a stellar collection from a talented group of authors.

More importantly, though, each one of these books pairs perfectly with a mug of hot cocoa and a cozy chair by the tree.

Neville Neville
Ages: 4 & Up
Author: Norton Juster   Illustrator: G. Brian Karas  
Random House Children's Books, $17.99 (Hard Cover)   

Norton Juster, author of one of our favorite classics, The Phantom Tollbooth, puts his spare prose to good use in this lovely picture book about a boy trying to make friends in a new neighborhood. G. Brian Karas' earnest round-faced characters are endearing and the story is sweet. Everyone wins.

The Frank Show The Frank Show
Ages: 5 - 7 yrs.
Author: David Mackintosh  
Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

The young narrator of David Mackintosh's appealing book is tasked with bringing a person to school for show-and-tell. Grandpa Frank volunteers but seems pale in comparison to Tom's musician uncle and Kristian's comedian Dad. Grandpa Frank, though, has a trick of his own. Fun story and adorable characters deliver a great message.

Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-up Adventure Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-up Adventure
Ages: 7 & Up
Author: Matthew Reinhart  
Scholastic, $36.99 (Hard Cover)   

With rumors of another Star Wars movie in the works, the timing is perfect for this dazzling piece of art. This is not your ordinary pop-up book. Matthew Reinhart takes paper design to a new level, but he also includes enough narrative about the series' villains, heroes and droids for the most ardent fan.

Iron Hearted Violet Iron Hearted Violet
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Kelly Barnhill   Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno  
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

An unlikely princess, a magic castle, and an uncertain dragon are just a few of the treats in Barnhill's sweeping fantasy. Violet has messy hair and mismatched eyes, but she's loyal and brave and loves a good story. Barnhill offers a fresh take on the fairytale. It's not often clear where the Kingdom's stories end and its reality begins, and the blurred line harbors danger. This is simply a great read.

Dear America: With the Might of Angels Dear America: With the Might of Angels
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Andrea David Pinkney  
Scholastic, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Scholastic's Dear America series is a collection of historical novels written by prize-winning authors and told through the journal entries and letters of young female narrators. This book's subject is civil rights in 1955 Alabama as the story's 12-year-old heroine breaks racial barriers to attend an all-white school. It's a heart-rending story of one girl's courage, resilience and fierce will.

Lost and Found Lost and Found
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Shaun Tan  
Scholastic, $21.99 (Hard Cover)   

Shaun Tan's graphic novels are a treasure and Lost and Found is a wonderful collection of three of them. The illustrations are whimsical, the stories are rich. This is a book to enjoy again and again.

Your Friend in Fashion, Abby Shapiro Your Friend in Fashion, Abby Shapiro
Ages: 9 & Up
Author: Amy Axelrod  
Holiday House, Inc., $17.95 (Hard Cover)   

It's 1959 in Massachusetts and sixth-grader Abby Shapiro desperately wants both a Barbie and a bra. In an entrepreneurial attempt to earn the money to buy them, she launches a fashion line and sets out to make Future First Lady Jackie Kennedy her first customer.

There are some harsh realities in Abby's life, yet it's also an enviable one, full of colorful neighbors and relatives and rich heritage - an insightful peek at mid-century, middle-class Jewish life through the eyes of a spunky pre-teen girl.

Built To Last Built To Last
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: David MaCaulay  
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/ Harcourt Children's Books, $24.99 (Hard Cover)   

Here is a great collection from the author of How Things Work. Three of MaCauley's books — Castle, Cathedral and Mosque — are combined with added text and illustrations. His lessons in architecture are made even more compelling with personal stories.

Same Sun Here Same Sun Here
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Silas House   Author: Neela Vaswani  
Candlewick Press, $22.99 (Hard Cover)   

Two gifted authors write this book as a series of letters between 12-year-old pen pals. Meena is an Indian immigrant living in New York City, and River is a native of Kentucky mining country. Their worlds are wildly different and yet they find much in common. Change is difficult for the characters, but they face it and grow. It's an emotionally gripping narrative and uplifting story.

Jasper Jones Jasper Jones
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Craig Silvey  
Random House, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

In small-town Australia, 1965, the Vietnam War looms large and the anger and confusion of that time shadow this story like a storm cloud. There's a crazy murderer down the road, a body in the clearing, and Jasper Jones is tapping at the window. It's coming-of-age at its finest for 13-year-old Charlie Bucktin. Well-developed characters, great dialogue and strong plotlines make this book hard to put down.

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