Share this article

print logo

THE RETURN OF SEUSS AND OTHER CHILDHOOD CLASSICS

Among the tidal wave of full-length novels, paperbacks, board books, pop-up books and gimmick books aimed at the children's market this year, there are many that would occupy a special place in any child's library.

In the 100th anniversary year of Theodor Geisel's birth, you can't go wrong with "Your Favorite Seuss" (Random House, $34.95, 368 pages), a collection of 13 Dr. Seuss stories including "To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," "Horton Hears a Who" and "Oh, the Places You'll Go" along with author photos and short introductory essays. (From Richard Minear we learn that Yertle the Turtle was Adolf Hitler and originally had a mustache.) As with all story collections though, this is less kid-friendly than Seuss books purchased one at a time. Drop it on your foot, and there could be broken bones.

Another handsome classic is a 40th anniversary edition of Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (Knopf, $22.95, 147 pages) complete with Quentin Blake's original illustrations printed on candy-colored pages. From Scribner Storybook Classics comes a handsome picture book adaptation of of "Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson ($18.95) with the spectacular original oil illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. "Nonsense" poems of Edward Lear (Atheneum, $16.95) get a spectacular visual treatment from artist Valorie Fisher, whose multimedia approach vividly evokes Lear's wacky world, of a man living in a tea kettle, a man baked in a cake or someone waltzing with a fly.

For wee ones, there's "The Helen Oxenbury Nursery Collection" (Knopf, $19.95, 91 pages), a lovely collection of nursery rhymes and favorite stories including "Red Riding Hood" and "Three Little Pigs" with Oxenbury's whimsical illustrations. Dan Yaccarino offers familiar rhymes in an urban setting in "Mother Goose" (Golden Book, $14.95), with Mary's little lamb following her to school in a taxi and Miss Muffet running into a spider at the diner. "Baby Goose" from Kate McMullan (pictures by Pascal Lemaitre, Hyperion, $15.99) adapts familiar rhymes to include babies; the pencil and watercolor illustrations are fun. Christopher Wormell's striking lino-cut prints offer vivid images of animals in "Teeth, Tails & Tentacles: An Animal Counting Book" (Running Press, $18.95).

Fans of Ian Falconer's "Olivia" books may enjoy "Teatro Olivia" (Rizzoli, $24.95), a foldout stage with Olivia paper dolls in costume and plot summaries of "Swan Lake," "Turandot" and "Romeo and Juliet."

Most spectacular among the Christmas-theme books is "A Christmas Like Helen's" (Houghton Mifflin, $16), Natalie Kinsey Warnock's beautiful evocation of a Vermont childhood before the introduction of telephones or electric lights. Her poetry is beautifully paired with Mary Azarian's glorious hand-colored woodcuts. "Shall I Knit You a Hat?" by sisters Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise (Holt, $16.95) is the charming story of a mother rabbit and son creating odd-shaped hats for their animal friends. "Petunia's Christmas" by Roger Duvoisin (Knopf, $15.95), first published in 1952, is the amusing story of Petunia goose and her heroic fight to save Charles the gander from becoming Christmas dinner. French sisters Marie-Aude Murail and Elvire Murail evoke the spirit of Christmas in the heartwarming story of a boy who thinks he's outgrown Santa in "Santa's Last Present" (Peachtree, $12.95, illustrations by Quentin Blake). "B Is for Bethlehem: A Christmas Alphabet" (by Isabel Wilner, Dutton, $8.99) tells the story of Jesus' birth in elegant couplets with delicate illustrations by Elisa Kleven. "My Penguin Osbert" by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (illustrated H.B. Lewis, Candlewick Press, $16.99) is a very funny picture book about a boy who wishes for a penguin for Christmas -- and lives to regret it.

Fairy tale books this year include Shirley Hughes' lively "Ella's Big Chance: A Jazz Age Cinderella" (Simon & Schuster, $16.95) with the nasty stepsisters in flapper outfits and ball scenes inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Heather Solomon's distinctive paintings are the best thing about "Clever Beatrice and the Best Little Pony" by Margaret Willey (Atheneum, $16.95), a charming folktale with a French Canadian flavor of a clever girl who outwits an elf, or "lutin," who wants to steal her pony. Author-illustrator Demi offers a fascinating picture book about a 13th century Turkish folk hero, Nasrettin Hoca, known for his wisdom and good sense, in "The Hungry Coat" (Margaret K. McElderry, $19.95).

Mary Stolz's entertaining 1962 Newbery Honor book, "Belling the Tiger" gets new life as a picture book (Running Press, $15.95) as Pierre Pratt's vibrant paintings bring to life the two tiny mice who become heroes in a most unlikely way.

In the nonfiction category, "Cave Paintings to Picasso: The Inside Scoop on 50 Art Maserpieces " by Oregon State art history professor Henry Sayre (Chronicle Books, $22.95, 91 pages) pairs beautiful full-color reproductions of masterpieces with lively stories about who painted them and where they fit into art history. From Joy Hakim, the grandmother who has been dubbed the "J.K. Rowling of texts", comes "The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way" (Smithsonian Books, $21.95, 270 pages), the first volume in a six-title series of science written as narrative.

Among the marvelous titles for readers 8 to 12 are Kate DiCamillo's enchanting fantasy of a mouse, a rat and a princess, "The Tale of Despereaux" (Candlewick, $17.99, 272 pages), which won the 2004 Newbery Medal; the Peter Pan prequel "Peter and the Starcatchers" from humor columnist Dave Barry and thriller-author Ridley Pearson (Disney, $17.99, 464 pages); the hilarious "A Coyote's in the House" by Elmore Leonard (HarperEntertainment, 149 pages, $15.95); and "The Sunbird" by Elizabeth E. Wein (Viking, 184 pages, $16.99), a marvelous work of historical fiction set in 6th century Aksum, Africa, and the last of a trilogy ("Winter Prince" and "A Coalition of Lions").

e-mail: jwestmoore@buffnews.com