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Picture Books to Give

The youngest people on your holiday giving list would appreciate a copy of Chris Gall’s “Dinotrux,” a proven hit with little boys (and girls, too, I’m sure).  According to Gall, many millions of years ago, dinotrux ruled the earth.  Part dinosaur and part truck, creatures like Semisaur and Garbageadon terrorized the cave men for millennia, until finally rusting away.  The trucks we see today are merely their tame descendants.

    Kids will happily suspend their disbelief when they get to see two of their favorite big, noisy things – dinosaurs and trucks – combined into one.  There’s lots of humor tucked here and there between the pictures of great big creatures stomping around. 

    Jon Scieszka and David Shannon, best known for “The Stinky Cheese Man” and “No, David,” respectively, make a terrible twosome when they join forces to create picture books. “Robot Zot” has a minimal text (Scieszka) and over-the-top illustrations (Shannon) that tell the story of an alien invasion.

    Robot Zot crashes his attack ship on Earth and strides forth, chanting “Robot Zot – never fall, Robot Zot – conquer all!”  He’s big, he’s bold, he’s – wait a second, he’s only a few inches high!  It turns out that the robot has entered a house via the cat door. After doing battle with the kitchen appliances, he falls in love with the remote control and, once he’s blown up the TV, he and his beloved “Zoom off to distant galaxies to bravely save more days.”  The nonstop action is perfectly matched by Shannon’s big, bold acrylic illustrations in shades of yellow, orange and black.

    Maybe you want your little ones to quiet down, in which case Judy Sierra’s “The Sleepy Little Alphabet” is just the thing.  It’s sleepytime in Alphabet Town, but are the little letters ready for bed?  No!  “f is full of fidgety wiggles./ g has got the googly giggles.”  As the alphabet progresses, the lowercase letters gradually settle down until “v is very, very snoozy, w is wobbly–woozy.”  The last double-page spread shows each letter tucked into bed.  “See you in the morning, abc’s!”

    Melissa Sweet’s quirky collage illustrations cleverly show the little letters clothed, in the tub, and jumping on the beds.  The uppercase parent letters add a humorous touch.

    “Stick Man” lives in the family tree “with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three.”  But one day he’s snatched by a dog, and his adventures begin.  Captured in turn by a little girl, a swan, a dad at the beach, and a host of others, he does everything he can to return home, just in time for Christmas.  Julia Donaldson’s inventive storytelling and Axel Sheffler’s witty illustrations make this a book kids will ask for again and again.

    Kate Banks captures the anticipation of the Christmas season in her new picture book, “What’s Coming for Christmas?”  “Something was coming,” the text begins on each page.  “You could see it in the way the snow whirled and twirled… in the voices of carolers that echoed through the streets…in the crinkle of wrapping paper and the hiss of scissors curling ribbon.”  But “no one, no one, no one” noticed the farm animals’ rising excitement. 

    Georg Hallensleben’s illustrations feature broad brush strokes that contrast the cool shades of winter and the warm shades of the farmhouse.  Cozy, warm and just a bit mysterious, this will strike a chord with ages five and up. 


First published in the Free Lance-Star on December 22, 2009.