Written on 11/19/13
Hello, I’m Devon and I’m a book snob, but not the kind you think. I love all sorts of books, except the boring ones. This is especially true for kids’ books. I first started recommending books after reading a particularly blah holiday book list in a major newspaper. I read through the expected choices — books practically oozing “serious,” “educational,” and “something your grandmother would buy you” — and thought, we have to be able to do better than this. Not that there’s anything wrong with traditional or educational. I just think kids deserve more. So this month I have a slew of fabulous books to recommend — and they are anything but boring. I’ve been hoarding books that are off-kilter, out of the ordinary and sometimes just plain odd, because sometimes you just need something different. Want an escape from the pre-holiday ramp-up? Try “Fortunately, The Milk” by Neil Gaiman. Need something to distract the kids on Thanksgiving Day when food coma sets in? Give them “The Goods” by McSweeney’s. Done with those long dark hours between when the kids get off the bus and dinnertime? Check out “Brief Thief” by Michael Escoffier. Just don’t give your kids “Sophie’s Squash” and then invite them to help you make butternut squash soup. Consider yourself warned.
By Neil Gaiman
Ever get sidetracked when running an errand and when you get home your kids ask you why you were gone so long? Oh right, me neither. On the off chance that you’ve ever had to explain yourself to people who really should just be grateful that you went out to get them their favorite cereal at all, I think you’ll enjoy Neil “I’m so brilliant I make everyone else feel a little inferior” Gaiman’s latest. Gaiman calls this “the silliest book I have ever written” and he may be right. It’s also hilarious, captivating, funny, wacky, and profoundly odd. How else to describe a story that has an academic stegosaurus, alients, pirates, wumpires (vampires of a sort), questions about the nature of reality and time and a volcano god? And, of course, a very important bottle of milk.
By Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf
My kid has a baby doll named Jack. Sophie has a butternut squash named Bernice that she saved from being baked with marshmallows. To each his or her own. This book is sheer perfection – from the wonderfully unique Sophie with her vertical pigtails to the gradually mushy and bumpy Bernice – your views of friendship will never be the same again.
By Oliver Jeffers
If I had a moose, I would definitely name him Marcel. And I would train him to follow the “rules of how to be a good pet” like “providing shelter from the rain” and “maintaining a certain proximity to home.” And I would do a background check before I brought him home to make sure that someone else didn’t think they owned my moose. Especially someone who would name a moose Rodrigo or, heaven forbid, Dominic. Not appropriate moose names. Period. And if I could, I would write a book about it with amazing oil paintings of landscapes and a strong-willed and slightly fickle moose. Then, of course, I would realize that Oliver Jeffers has already done it perfectly.
By Michael Escoffier
Leon the Chameleon (or at least I think he’s a chameleon – he could be a green lizard, but you shouldn’t love him any less) needs to go poo. But there is no toilet paper – just a holey pair of underwear hanging from a nearby branch. A lizard’s gotta do what a lizard’s gotta do, right? At least until his conscience butts in. Come on, you know you want to laugh.
By Lauren Child
There are people who loved to be noticed and people who are happy to blend in. Maude is the latter. Her family, however, insists on being the center of attention and will do anything not to be missed. From peacock hats to outlandish moustaches to great beauty and stunning talent, the Shrimptons are anything but ordinary. But sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to be invisible. Especially when there is a hungry tiger on the loose. It’s just something to think about.
By Brianne Farley
Procrastinators and writers everywhere, this one’s for you. Before Ike can write the story he knows he has inside him, he must make the perfect ink. His ingredients make sense: shadows (“Shadows, he thought, are like ink. They are shady and shifty and mysterious.”), the dark side of the moon, and Booga Bird feathers, of course. Once the perfect ink is ready, so is Ike.
I’m not exactly sure how to describe “The Goods” so I’ll just say it’s like an unexpected Christmas present just arrived on my door filled with puzzles, nonsense, activities, paper dolls, riddles, mazes, more nonsense, sort of crafts, brainteasers, secret words, and other stuff that I haven’t figured out yet. Best of all, contributors include some of my favorite children’s book authors like Jon Klassen, Mo Willems, Oliver Jeffers and Jon Scieszka. You’ll be tempted to hand this off to your older kids to let them entertain themselves on their own, but you’ll be missing out if you do. This is fun for adults and kids alike.
By Ammi-Joan Paquette
I may have included this book just because it contains the word “defenestration” which isn’t something you find in children’s books every day. It also has all sorts of other unexpected words, like cacophony, mayhem, hornswoggled, and serendipity. The perfect way to introduce bigger words to your littlest kids, which is great if you’re feeling tricksy.
By Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Sometimes the best stories are the ones you make up yourself, which is why Mamoko is such a treat. Kids are encouraged to use their eyes as they follow a variety of characters meandering through a small town in order to arrive at the Town Carnival. Aside from the opening page, on which children are given prompts to search for specific items and questions to answer about the characters in the book, there isn’t a single word in Mamoko, just wildly engrossing illustrations. Your kids get to create their own narrative and the results are both fun and enlightening.
By E.S. Redmond
Little Dude refers to this book as “Mommy’s favorite” and when he’s feeling magnanimous, he’ll let me read it to him every night for a week. I’ve recommended it before, and I’ll probably throw it into every holiday book list I ever write. It’s just that good. Think Eloise with more snark and dark and a clever nanny. Not to be missed.
Hello, I’m Devon and I’m a book snob, but not the kind you think. I love all sorts of books, except the boring ones. This is especially true for kids’ books. I first started recommending books after reading a particularly blah holiday book list in a major newspaper. I read through the expected choices —