Poetry, illustrations, more help ring in children’s Christmas reading

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — The following books are suitable for Christmas giving:

I Lived on Butterfly Hill” by Marjorie Agosin. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, 2014). 455 pp., $16.99.

Lucila has a good life: a loving family, close friends and a home in her cherished hill city of Valparaiso, Chile. But her sense of security quickly crumbles when political turmoil turns violent. Classmates disappear and her parents flee for safety. Then her grandmother, a refugee from Nazi Germany, sends Lucila to Vermont. Now a refugee, Lucia must overcome language barriers, homesickness and anxiety. But Lucila triumphs, finding inner strength in her creative writing and will to flourish. Author Marjorie Agosin, who was raised in Chile by Jewish parents, wrote a story of survival particularly of interest to preteen girls. Full of many meaningful messages, the novel will remind readers to welcome “the new kid in class” with patience and understanding. Ages 10-14.

This is the cover of "Manger" poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann. The book is reviewed by Regina Lordan. (CNS)
This is the cover of “Manger” poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann. The book is reviewed by Regina Lordan. (CNS)

Manger” poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014). 34 pp., $16.

Wild and domestic animals rejoice and give praise to the baby Jesus in this unique collection of poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. One by one, each awestruck and curious animal — from the cow to the spider — lends a voice to the chorus of Christmas celebration. Illustrated in lovely watercolor images by Helen Cann, this book will be enjoyed for many a Christmas season. Ages 4-8.

Grandfather Gandhi” by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, 2014). 37 pp., $17.99.

Arun Gandhi had a lot to live up to, not least of whom his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi. But the12-year-old boy did not feel peaceful during prayers or successful at his lessons. Instead he felt fidgety and frustrated. And after a friend shoved him during a soccer game, Arun’s blood boiled with anger. With tears streaming down his face, he ran to his beloved grandfather, who explained to him how the power of anger can do good. The product of years of collaboration between author Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi, “Grandfather Gandhi” is a story with unique, three-dimensional collage illustrations that will be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Ages 5-9.

This is the cover of "Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children" by Christine Pedotti. The book is reviewed by Regina Lordan. (CNS)
This is the cover of “Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children” by Christine Pedotti. The book is reviewed by Regina Lordan. (CNS)

Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children” by Christine Pedotti. Magnificat (San Francisco, 2014). 96 pp., $16.99.

This hardcover book is a valuable resource for teaching young children about the Bible, saints, early church history and faith traditions. Young children will be engaged in the simple language and colorful illustrations while adults will find the book’s organization and clear information helpful. The Catholic faith is rich and complex, and this book’s simplicity can help start build a foundation for a life of faith. Ages 3-6.

Little Lamb Finds Christmas” by Cathy Gilmore, illustrated by Kim Wilson. Liguori Publications (Liguori, Missouri, 2014). 40 pp., $16.99.

Little Lemi is a curious lamb who has a habit of getting lost. Thankfully, his loving young shepherd brings him back home to the herd. One evening a glorious star beckons the shepherd to find a child king sleeping in a manger. Inquisitive Lemi follows after his shepherd, but loses his way until he too follows the light and finds the baby Jesus. With its splendidly real watercolor illustrations, “Little Lamb Finds Christmas” is a true gem that children and adults will enjoy time and again. Fans of this little lamb also will adore the main character in author Cathy Gilmore’s “Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day” about a frightened bunny who discovers the risen Jesus. Ages 3-6.

The Great Big Green” by Peggy Gifford, illustrated by Lisa Desimini. Boyds Mill Press (Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2014). 32 pp., $15.95.

What is big, round and green all over … except where it is blue? Take a look inside this clever book by author Peggy Gifford and illustrator Lisa Desimini to find out. The rhyming riddle will delight little readers while the multidimensional illustrations created with scanned images and materials will keep them interested and curious. Ages 3-5.

The Legend of Saint Nicholas” by Anselm Grun, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014). 26 pp., $16.

Jolly old St. Nicholas is an interesting fellow, wrapped in legend and lore. But really, who is this humble bishop who helped the poor, and why is he the patron of so many people from seafarers to children? Anselm Grun offers several stories about the saint in this book illustrated with the vibrant and inviting paintings of Giuliano Ferri. Ages 4-8.

Cover of Adam Baker's first book (image from book's website). Free coloring book download is also available.
Cover of Adam Baker’s first book (image from book’s website). Free coloring book download is also available.

Maury C. Moose and the Forest Noel” by Adam Baker, Morgan James Publishing, (New York, 2014). 96pp., $10.95 retail, separate pricing if buy direct.

In order to save his Christmas-loving forest, Maury and his friends must band together and prevent the construction of the new Bar Hum Bug. This Christmas chapter book mixes adult humor with childhood whimsy to create a story that kids and parents will love reading together. Written by an Arizona native who recently shared the story with students at St. John Bosco School in Ahwatukee.

Outside the Box: A Book of Poems” by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Diane Goode. Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, 2014). 172 pp., $17.99.

Appropriately dedicated to the beloved poet and author Shel Silverstein, this collection of witty and brief poems will delight poetry enthusiasts. Author Karma Wilson and illustrator Diane Goode team up to deliver word-play fun paired with animated sketches in black and white. Although some Silverstein fans might consider this collection a wimpier version of his mastery, young readers nonetheless will enjoy its silliness. Ages 7-10.

Real Life Faith: Bible Companions for Catholic Teens” by Mary Elizabeth Sperry. Liguori Publications (Liguori, Missouri, 2014). 160 pp., $12.99.

By using fictional but authentic anecdotal stories to accompany the Bible stories of Miriam, Solomon, Timothy and others, author Mary Elizabeth Sperry connects the Old and New Testaments to today within the lens of teen understanding. Many of the challenges biblical figures faced were rooted within the context in which they lived, but, as Sperry points out, their struggles and lessons remain valuable. This book makes the connections tangible, and is appropriate for individual teens, youth groups and classrooms. Ages 13-Up.

Thank You, God” by J. Bradley Wigger, illustrated by Jago. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014). 24 pp., $16.

“Thank You God” is a beautiful prayer of gratitude for all things created by God. Young children and parents together will reflect on the day’s graces as they flip through the hardcover book illustrated by Jago and written by author and religious education professor J. Bradley Wigger. Ages 3-8.

— Reviewed by Regina Lordan Catholic News Service. Lordan, who reads to her two young children, is a former assistant international editor for Catholic News Service. The Catholic Sun in Phoenix contributed to this review.

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