- Rebecca Purdy
Growing up there was one present I looked forward to more than any other--a box of books. As an adult, it’s still a favorite and I carry on the tradition with my son, nieces and nephews. Whether you give a box full or a handful, here are a few of my favorite 2012 picture books that are perfect gifts for the holiday season.
As soon as they open the book, readers will recognize “Black Dog” by Levi Pinfold as something special. The illustration on the end pages is beautiful--snowy woods with tall, bare trees whose height is echoed by a narrow red house. Turn the page and you see the home’s interior is cluttered, cramped and delightfully cozy. Although similar in theme to the classic storyline, in this case the “monster’s” not under the bed, but outside the house. Both parents and older siblings are frightened by the mysterious black dog they see through the windows and who grows in size as each new member discovers it. It’s not the parents who vanquish the creature, but instead Small Hope, the youngest, tiniest member of the family. She bundles up, steps outside and bravely confronts it in a remarkable illustration where she is a mere yellow spot, barely an inch tall in front of a dog that covers a 2-page spread. His large, realistically rendered nose is so lifelike you can almost feel when it “snuffs” at her. Leading him on a wild goose chase, under a bridge and through a tunnel, the black dog magically shrinks in size until finally, he fits through the home’s doggie door. The rest of the family who has hidden behind a makeshift fort, wearing various household items to protect their heads, gaze in wonder at their heroic little girl.
In “One Cool Friend” by Toni Buzzeo, “Elliot was a very proper young man” so when his father suggested a day at the aquarium, while he thought about the “masses of noisy kids,” his reply was, “of course.” Once there, it was the penguins he loved so much he asked his father for one! After all, “in their tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture, they reminded Elliot of himself.” His father enthusiastically agreed so Elliot selected the smallest one, popped it into his backpack and headed home. Once there, preparations were needed--the thermostat had to be adjusted, an ice pool had to be erected and research was required. At the library, the librarian, who had probably seen everything already, didn’t blink an eye when Elliot plopped the living creature on her desk and asked for information. All of this occurs while Elliot interacts with and around his seemingly oblivious father. I was so delighted by the twist at the end that I won’t ruin it here, but once it’s revealed be sure to go back through the book and find the clues. Caldecott award winner, David Small’s illustrations have a retro feel that are the perfect accompaniment to the whimsical text.
“Sleep Like a Tiger” by Mary Logue is a gorgeously illustrated bedtime story. Every parent has had a child insist they’re not tired and the parents in this story are no different. Rather than argue each time she repeats her refrain, they simply nod and suggest she complete one more step in her nighttime ritual. Finding herself in bed, she uses a new diversionary tactic; asking her parents how and where a variety of animals sleep. The ensuing discussion is lyrically written with lines like “tiny snails curled up like cinnamon buns in their shells.” Even without the picture in front of you can’t you imagine it? A soft palette and textured illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski make this soothing tale a feast for enjoying with someone snuggled close.
Originally published in the 12/17/12 Free Lance-Star newspaper.