The Perfect Birthday Gift Book-Toy Pairings Win Over Kids
My children always look forward to their birthday parties, celebrating with their friends and opening up their presents. Art sets, dolls, balls and games always draw their attention. But do you know what present brings them joy time after time? A favorite book. I’ve seen them time and again curled up with a book that a best friend has given them. So now I always try to pair a favorite book with a toy, so children have something to play with right away and a book to last them throughout the year.
Fun Books for 4- to 6-Year-Olds
A magic tooth box and The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez, by Rene Colato Lainez, illustrated by Tom Lintern (Tricycle, 32 pp., $15.99, ages 4-8).
These make a perfect gift for someone who’s on the verge of losing their baby teeth. Rene Colato Lainez has written a wonderful story blending the traditions of the Tooth Fairy, who visits children throughout North America, and El Raton Perez, who visits children in Spain and throughout Latin America. When both arrive at young Miguelito’s bedside ready to take his newly lost tooth, they can’t believe that there’s competition for this pearly white tooth. Both must work together to figure out the best way out of this. It’s full of humor and imagination, and is a perfect way to celebrate blending traditions of families from many backgrounds.
A toy shark, a little train and Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Little, Brown, 40 pp., $16.99, ages 3–7).
There’s no doubt little boys love to crash things into one another. And they love to have contests. This story is pretty simple: You have a shark, you have a train and they compete to see which one will win in an increasingly crazy set of contests. Sometime it’s the train (winning the burping contest with a big belch of smoke), but sometimes it’s the shark (winning the high-dive contest with grace and power). The art is at once simple enough for preschoolers and silly enough for kindergartners and 1st graders. This book is a definite winner, no matter who comes out on top!
Longer Books for 5- to 9-Year-Olds
Model Breyer horse, a western saddle and Dust Devil, by Anne Isaacs and Paul O. Zelinsky (Schwartz and Wade, 48 pp., $17.99, ages 5–10).
Angelica Longrider is an oversized hero who would give Paul Bunyan a run for his money, and she is the star in this hilarious tall tale by Bay Area author Anne Isaacs. When Angel moves to the wide, open plains of Montana, she can’t find a horse large enough for her to ride. A dust storm covers Montana and rips the roof off Angel’s barn, sucking up the oats, apples and hay. So Angel leaps up into the storm and rides that bucking dust devil until the dust washes away and reveals the perfect horse for Angel. Angel is a hero perfect to inspire any young girl that she can wrestle any bad guy out there — and do any job she wants to. No sooner than she finds a worthy horse, Angel sets out to rid Montana of the worst vermin to ride the land: Backward Bart and his Flying Desperadoes. Although the sheriff tells her that only men can serve as deputies, Angel shows that she has the wits and the strength to put Bart and the Desperadoes in jail better than the sheriff’s deputies. This pair will make any horse-loving, adventure-loving kid kick up her heels.
Little black stuffed kitty and Jenny and the Cat Club, by Esther Averill (New York Review of Books, 160 pp., $16.95, ages 5–9).
Jenny is a little black cat taken in by Captain Tinker, a sea captain and gentle old man. She is a shy little cat who loves looking out the window at the cat club that gathers at night in the garden below. With the help of the special red scarf that the captain knits for her, Jenny musters the courage to introduce herself to the cat club. But she will need a special talent to join the club. Whatever might that be? This is a collection of five of the original Jenny stories that Esther Averill wrote in the 1940s and 1950s. This is one of my favorite chapter books to read to young children, and it makes a perfect early chapter book for second-graders. It makes a purr-fect present with a little stuffed animal, naturally a little black cat with a red ribbon tied around its neck. For older cat-lovers, also try the Catwings series, by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Mary Ann Scheuer is the librarian at Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley. Find more great ideas for reading on her blog, Great Kid Books, http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com.