The holiday season is fast approaching, and because of supply chain problems, we are being cautioned to order early.

Jean Greenlaw

Jean Greenlaw (2021)

There have been so many wonderful books for children published this year that I will be writing two columns in November to suggest books for children and young adults. Watch in two weeks for the next column. Remember, toys break, clothes wear out, but books can last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations!

Interactive books

Young children want to be part of the process of reading. They want to touch, open flaps, pull tabs, spin wheels, etc. The books in this section fulfill that desire.

Are you familiar with the popular Little Blue Truck series? What Do You Say, Little Blue Truck? (Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021, 20 pages, $14.99) is a board book with the addition of a sound panel.

What Do You Say, Little Blue Truck?

What Do You Say, Little Blue Truck? (Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021, 20 pages, $14.99)

The panel plays recordings of the accurate sound each animal makes, as well as the sound of a beeping truck. The familiar rhyming pattern of the series is pleasant and children will easily be able to “read” along with the predictable, repetitive pattern. The truck beeps at each animal as it passes and the animal replies in its own “language.” The book was the hit of the party at a recent birthday celebration.

The Sing Along With Me! series is perfect for the very young child. A familiar nursery rhyme song is presented on eight pages with sliders to push and pull to keep the child engaged. Hickory Dickory Dock (Illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang, Nosy Crow, 2021, 8 pages, $8.99) presents the song, but as the child becomes familiar with the book, more of a story is told in the pictures than in the words. The sliders are sturdy and there is a QR code on the back of the book that sings the song after you scan it. The book is also good for learning English as a second language.

Wiggle, Walk, Wash! Baby’s First Animals (Eliot Kruszynski, Candlewick Press, 2021, 16 pages, $8.99) will delight very young children. A single sentence in very bold type describes each of the eight double page spreads. For example: “Baby elephant loves to wash” accompanies a large picture of a mother elephant splashing her baby with water from her trunk. The words “splish splash” are on the page. Bright colors and childlike illustrations lead to giggles and the last page is a mirror to show the child giggling.

What child does not like to play peek-a-boo? Following that pattern, Where’s the Car? (Ingela P. Arrhenius, Nosy Crow, 2021, 10 pages, $8.99) poses the question of where four common vehicles are and the answer is on the facing page under a piece of felt. The last spread asks where the child is and the facing page is a mirror. It is simple but effective.

Ah, the delaying tactics children can invent when it is time for bed. Tough Chicks Go to Bed (Cece Meng, illustrated by Melissa Suber, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021, 14 pages, $9.99) mirrors this with three chicks that wiggle, giggle and set off for adventure, arousing the other farm animals who are sleeping. Finally, all are tucked in and off to sleep. Bold, childlike illustrations along with textures on most of the pages and tabs with the various animals engage many of the senses.

Brian is a dachshund, a veeerrry long dachshund. In a concertina book (named for the clever and long fold-out), we follow him from his head through many rooms trying to find his tail. Where’s Brian’s Bottom? (Rob Jones, Pavallion Books, 2021, 24 pages, $9.95) introduces the other animals in the house as they pass the reader to the next room. The front end page has a photo of each of the animals and children will find it funny that it takes two photos to show all of Brian.

In a book for toddler’s, Sophie’s Seashell Scramble (Educational Insights, Candlewick Entertainment, 2021, 14 pages, $11.99) invites you to assist a sea otter find shells with matching patterns. Sophie describes what she is looking for and the child lifts flaps to find the matches. Brightly colored illustrations add to the attractiveness. You can also locate a matching board game that is fun to play.

Learning to control emotions is quite a task for young children. Sloth & Smell the Roses (Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle, Abrams Appleseed, 2021, 24 pages, $11.99) uses the techniques of mindfulness to help children learn how to deal with their emotions. Mindful Mo is a sloth who demonstrates techniques for when a child is feeling angry, sad, rushed, that the world is unfair and when a child is unable to calm down. There are suggestions for caregivers on using mindfulness at the end of the book.

Sloth & Smell the Roses

Sloth & Smell the Roses (Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle, Abrams Appleseed, 2021, 24 pages, $11.99)

I know that Halloween is over, but you must read the most engaging board book of that holiday I have read. Spooky Tale (Christopher Franceschelli, art by Allison Black, Abrams Appleseed, 2021, 56 pages, $14.99) follows two children as they head to a haunted house through some very spooky places. Monsters lurk at every turn of the page, but all are merely preparing to go to the party at the haunted house. Sound plays a large part and the child will enjoy joining the reader in making them. Clever die cuts, fold out pages and an amazing gatefold at the end all add to the attraction.


Matthew Reinhart, noted creator of pop-up books, has a new design for the younger reader. What’s Up , Construction Truck? (Matthew Reinhart, art by Toby Leigh, Abrams Appleseed, 2021, 10 pages, $16.99) tells a simple story of what the workers do on a construction truck. The joy comes in the complex pop-ups that then lead to turning the book into a large model of a bulldozer.

Most of us are aware of the mythological dragons and unicorns. But there are so many other beasts we can enjoy learning about. My First Pop-Up Mythological Monsters (Owen Davey, Candlewick Studio, 2021, 32 pages, $17.99) is simple in concept, but intended for older readers. Each spread is a beautiful pop-up of the monster. On the left-hand page is the area of origin. On the right-hand page are the name and a brief description. I was fascinated to find at least four beasts I was unfamiliar with!

The most common pets we share our homes with today have prehistoric ancestors that would give us shivers to be around. Prehistoric Pets (Dr. Dean Lomax, illustrated by Mike Love, Templar Books, 2021, 30 pages, $17.99) begins with an introduction from the author, a paleontologist, explaining that species change over time. Each of the seven spreads follows the same format. The left page describes the pet of today, the facing page gives other examples of animals of that family. Open the fold and you have a large pop-up of the sometimes terrifying ancestor, with a description and at the bottom a fossil file providing scientific information. Did you know that the ancestor of a parakeet is the velociraptor? Excellent design in a large format.

Picture books

Something I have missed during the pandemic is hugs. The Book of Hugs (Tim Harris, illustrated by Charlie Astrella, Flowerpot Press, 2021, 28 pages, $12.99) introduces Teddy Bear Tim who loves to give hugs. He provides three steps for giving a good hug and appropriate times for them. Most of all, be sure the hug is filled with love. The author is a person with Down syndrome who has given more than 75,000 hugs, even one to a president of the United States. A warm and fuzzy book with delightful illustrations.

The Book of Hugs

The Book of Hugs (Tim Harris, illustrated by Charlie Astrella, Flowerpot Press, 2021, 28 pages, $12.99)

In a paean to play, We All Play (Julie Flett, Greystone Kids, 2021, 40 pages, $17.95) illustrates the pure joy that both children and animals exhibit in their natural environment. The pictures are lovely. A minimal background allows the animal or child to be highlighted and the spare style is riveting. The author is of Cree descent and she provides a glossary of Cree words for the animals and a site where one can hear the pronunciations. It’s one of my very favorite books.

In an original pourquoi tale, or an origin story, the moon yearns to see the children and the earth in the daytime. The sun scoffs at the possibility, but does describe the earth in beautiful text. The moon replies with a description of the earth at night and mentions the stars, which also are suns. A deal is struck and The Children’s Moon (Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Jim LaMarche, Scholastic Press, 2021, 40 pages, $17.99) can appear twice in the daytime during the phases of the moon. The book is beautifully illustrated and has “Strange & Wonderful Facts About the Moon” at the end.

The poignant 75 Words of Wishes (Muon Thi Van, illustrated by Victo Ngai, Orchard Books, 2021, 40 pages, $18.99) are gracefully illustrated in double page spreads that capture the mood of each wish. What are the wishes? They are those of a family in Vietnam trying to escape to America. The loss and hardship of the journey are many, but the possibility of freedom calls to the migrants. It is the story of the author’s family, which she recounts in an essay at the end of the book.

Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park asks a provocative question in her new picture book, The One Thing You’d Save (Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng, Clarion Books, 2021, 65 pages, $16.99). As a class assignment, students are asked this question and are told that family and pets are safe from the fire, so choose a thing. Their ruminations make the point that it is not the thing that is so important, it is the reason why. This would be a good question to ask at a family gathering over the holidays.

Many of us gather around a table during the holidays, so it is a good time to read Our Table (Peter H. Reynolds, Orchard Books, 2021, 48 pages, $17.99). Violet remembered her family’s table where so many memories were made. But, each day the table got smaller as her family was too busy to gather around it, until it disappeared. Violet decides to do something about it and she enlists the help of each family member to build a new table: “A place to come together, to share stories once again.” The understated beauty of this book is enhanced by the illustrations. The illustrations where Violet is alone are in monochromatic violet. When the family is engaged, they are in full color.

Our Table

Our Table (Peter H. Reynolds, Orchard Books, 2021, 48 pages, $17.99)

Bear Is a Bear (Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Dan Santat, Balzer + Bray, 2021, 48 pages, $18.99) and is many things to the young child he is introduced to. As we see all they experience together, she grows up as the story advances. After college, Bear is a memory and relegated to a trunk in the attic. But he is remembered and introduced to the child the young woman now has. Until the last page, bear is huge. Then he is shown in standard teddy bear size. There is so much story in the pictures to go with the simple text. Most of all, we must realize that “Bear is a bear full of love.”

Here comes Bear, dancing through the woods. Soon he is joined by Moose, Snake and other forest animals. They can’t move like their friends, but each finds a rhythm. After all, The More the Merrier (David Martin, illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, Candlewick Press, 2021, 40 pages, $17.99) when one is having fun. The friends dance until they are exhausted, collapse in a heap and fall asleep. The illustrations are as joyful as the text and boldly colored. The book is a great read-aloud.

Check the Denton Public Libraries for these books and more and remember there will be more coming in two weeks! Our local Barnes & Noble will have a display of some of these books and others related to the theme. Patchouli Joe’s will carry some of them.

Jean Greenlaw is a specialist in literature and has been a reviewer for decades. She can be reached at

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