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Books for Grandparents March 2009

We've teamed up with the editors of Publishers Weekly to scour the latest titles, from books for babies to cutting-edge fiction and nonfiction for teens, to help you find that just-right book for your grandchild.

FOR PRESCHOOLERS

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

By Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children, $16.99; ages 3 and up)

Not to worry, the nudity in this fable about being true to oneself is strictly G-rated—but that doesn't make it any less funny. Willems's latest animal star is Wilbur, a naked mole rat who, unlike his fellow mole rats, rather likes wearing clothes (be it a turtleneck sweater or a space suit).

Willoughby & the Lion

By Greg Foley (HarperCollins, $17.99; ages 4–7)

A golden lion grants Willoughby ten wishes; the boy initially requests increasingly spectacular things for himself, but then helps the lion with his final wish, gaining a "true friend." Printed in black and gold, Foley's digitally manipulated art, which mixes line drawings and photography, is stunning.

Tillie Lays an Egg

By Terry Golson, photography by Ben Fink (Scholastic Press, $16.99; ages 4–8)

Tillie the hen looks indoors and out for the perfect place to lay her egg. Each photographic vignette she appears in features a multitude of Golson's chicken-themed knickknacks, making the book perfect for poring over. And when story time is over, check out the hens in real-life action on Golson's HenCam.

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!

By Jonah Winter, illus. by André Carrilho (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99; ages 4–9)

A lenticular cover that shows this Hall-of-Famer in action will catch eyes, but what's inside is even more riveting. With an engaging vernacular tone, Winter reveals the life of the storied pitcher, while Carrilho's expressive art, rendered in gold, blue, and red, drives home the physicality—and the glory—of the game.

All God's Critters

By Bill Staines, illus. by Kadir Nelson (Simon & Schuster, $16.99; ages 5–8)

Framed as a theater production starring an expressive cast of animals, the popular campfire song gets a spirited makeover in this picture book. From the tiniest little duck that quacks to an enormous purple hippo that "moans and groans," the animals and their outsize antics will captivate kids.

FOR THE ELEMENTARY SET

Big George: How a Shy Boy Became President Washington

By Anne Rockwell, illus. by Matt Phelan (Harcourt Children's Books, $17.00; ages 6–9)

This picture-book biography offers a revealing portrait of the nation's first president, following Washington's growth from a timid youth to a young soldier and then a leader during the American Revolution. Readers will connect with the very human traits Washington exhibits and be gripped by his path to the presidency.

Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings

By Douglas Florian (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books, $17.99; ages 6 and up)

Free-spirited collage artwork and similarly effusive poetry make for a fresh and funny exploration of prehistoric creatures (on pterosaurs: "With widespread wings and pteeth pto ptear,/ They pterrorized the pteeming air"). An appealing pairing of information and whimsy.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw

By Jeff Kinney (Abrams/Amulet, $12.95; ages 8–12)

Odds are good that your grandchild is already well acquainted with the hysterical misadventures of Greg Heffley, who stars in the third book in this graphic novel/fiction hybrid. And he or she will be eagerly awaiting this latest installment, in which Greg's father just might make good on his intention of sending the boy to military school.

Heroes of the Valley

By Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion, $17.99; ages 10 and up)

Taking cues from Norse epics, Stroud offers a funny and fast-paced novel about the real meaning of heroism. Raised amid legends of ancient heroes, Halli yearns for action—but when his uncle is killed, he learns some startling truths while seeking revenge.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

By Kristin Levine (Putnam, $16.99; ages 10 and up)

In 1917 Alabama, 12-year-old Harry (a.k.a. Dit) strikes up a friendship with the daughter of an African American family who moves to town from Boston. Gradually, Dit's eyes are opened to racial injustice in his small town, even as a crime threatens to divide the community even more.

FOR TEENS

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows

By Ann Brashares (Delacorte, $18.99; ages 12 and up)

Set in the same town as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a slightly younger group of friends has their moment in the sun, as three best friends contend with changes in their lives during the summer before they start high school.

Need

By Carrie Jones (Bloomsbury, $16.99; ages 12 and up)

The teen who has already read (and reread) Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books, might try exchanging vampire romance for vicious pixies. New to small-town Maine, Zara is already balancing a couple of potential love interests, not counting the dangerous pixie king who is after her.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

By Deborah Heiligman (Henry Holt, $18.95; ages 12 and up)

This biography of Charles Darwin centers in on his relationship with his wife, Emma, examining the effects their marriage had on his life. She was as devoted to God as he was to his scientific pursuits.

North of Beautiful

By Justina Chen Headley (Little, Brown, $16.99; ages 12 and up)

Dealing with both a prominent port-wine stain on her face and a domineering father, Terra embarks on a trip to China with a handsome outsider, giving her the chance to rethink her priorities and her future.

Tales from Outer Suburbia

By Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Levine, $19.99; ages 12 and up)

Narratives both visual and verbal carry readers through this heavily illustrated collection of stories and poems that hovers on the edge of the ordinary. A small, silent leaf-like creature visits a family; scraps of discarded poetry form a ball and rain down from the sky; a reindeer arrives annually to take beloved gifts. These and other scenarios will provoke and linger in the mind.

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