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Books for Grandparents January 2008

If there’s one thing more overwhelming than the number of choices for grownups, it’s the overstacked, overstuffed children’s sections of the bookstore. What’s a grandparent to do when confronted with the thousands of new titles? Here, then, is the inaugural list of Books for Grandparents, in which the editors of Publishers Weekly team up with AARP to examine the titles of 2007 and help you pick a book that’s perfect foryour grandchild.


Orange Pear Apple Bear

By Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster, $12.99; ages 1-4)

You can teach colors or shapes, or just enjoy a good book, as Gravett deploys the four words of the title (with a fifth for the punch line) and strikingly simple watercolors both to tell a story and to juggle a series of visual tricks.

Puff the Magic Dragon

By Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton, illus. by Eric Puybaret (Sterling, $16.95; ages 3-7)

The famous song comes to life in dreamlike paintings, rendered in a soothing palette highlighted by greens and blues. The song’s potentially sad denouement takes an uplifting turn in this version: Puff eventually finds a new playmate (and a grown Jackie Paper looks on).

1 2 3: A Child’s First Counting Book

By Alison Jay (Dutton, $15.99; ages 4-8)

It doesn’t matter if your grandchildren already know how to count: the pleasure here arises from the fairy-tale figures Jay conjures in her dreamlike, crackle-glazed paintings, and from the visual stories they suggest.

Waking Up Wendell

By April Stevens, illus. by Tad Hills (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, $15.99; ages 4-8)

If you enjoy read-alouds with lots of lively sounds, you’ll want to share this funny story that begins when a pet bird wakes the next-door neighbors and touches off an aural chain reaction of wake-ups down Fish Street.

The Castle on Hester Street

By Linda Heller, illus. by Boris Kulikov (Simon & Schuster, $15.99; ages 4-8)

As a couple tells their granddaughter about emigrating from Russia and settling on NYC’s Lower East Side, the wife’s factual account can’t compete with her husband’s hyperbolic stories in this beguilingly re-illustrated book.


How Many?

By Ron van der Meer (Random House/Robin Corey, $24.99; ages 7-up)

If you think pop-up books are all show and not much substance, take a look at this dazzler, which pairs elaborate paper-engineering with text that challenges the way readers approach basic geometric shapes.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

By Jeff Kinney (Abrams/Amulet, $12.95; ages 8-13)

A junior high student chronicles the traumas of his year in this very funny novel spliced with cartoons. The sequel, equally good, arrives in February.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

By Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, $22.99; ages 9-12)

Combining magic, mystery and Paris in the early days of cinema, this pathbreaking novel, winner of the 2008 Caldecott Medal, relies on lengthy sequences of black-and-white drawings for more than half its storytelling; it’s almost as if a silent movie has been transposed to paper.

Book of a Thousand Days

By Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, $17.95; ages 10-up)

Princesses, handmaidens, exotic settings, a subtle social critique and a great romantic plot—this novel by the author of Princess Academy is a royal treat.

The Aurora County All-Stars

By Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, $16.00; ages 10 and up)

In a funny and beguiling slice of small-town life, a town's historical pageant just might dash hopes for the annual baseball game.


The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

By Peter Sís (FSG/Frances Foster, $18.00; all ages)

Sís’s art was his salvation during his youth in Cold War–era Prague; it’s used flawlessly in this gripping account of his path to freedom. Don’t be put off by the picture book format: this 2008 Caldecott Honor Book rewards a sophisticated reader.

Wicked Lovely

By Melissa Marr (HarperTeen, $16.99; ages 12-up)

Romance plus fantasy add up to a fresh, carefully plotted urban “faerie tale” that will keep many girls reading happily ever after, or at least to the last page.


By Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster, $19.99; ages 13-up)

Imagining a future in which controversies over abortion have radically transformed American society, Shusterman’s nonstop thriller introduces a teen who learns that his parents have decided to “unwind” his existence.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

By Sherman Alexie, illus. by Ellen Forney (Little, Brown, $16.99; ages 14-up)

Alexie’s first work for teens, this semiautobiographical novel renders an alternately funny and painful account of adolescence on a Spokane Indian reservation. Give this to readers who can handle candor about alcoholism and other gritty subjects.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

By Peter Cameron (FSG/Frances Foster, $16.00; ages 14-up)

If you have an ambitious reader/aspiring novelist on your list, you can’t do better than this coming-of-age novel, narrated by a brilliant, hyperarticulate, possibly gay and desperately alienated 18-year-old.

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