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Books for Grandparents November 2008

From the most playful books for toddlers to spycraft manuals, from a beginning reader worthy of the Marx Brothers to a fascinating look at the White House, here are Publishers Weekly's and AARP The Magazine's recommendations for great autumn books for your grandchildren.


Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

By Mem Fox, illus. by Helen Oxenbury (Harcourt, $16; ages 3-5)

In this paean to babies around the world, Fox’s rhymes feel as if they always existed in our collective consciousness and were simply waiting to be written down.

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime

By Bob Shea (Hyperion, $15.99; ages 2-6)

Shea makes a hilarious commentator as his hero, a small red dinosaur, elevates everyday encounters into a series of matches worthy of the World Wrestling Federation. Dinosaur easily defeats a bowl of spaghetti, a pile of leaves, and a big slide (“Dinosaur wins again!”)—but the title hints at his Achilles heel.

There Are Cats in This Book

By Viviane Schwarz (Candlewick, $16.99; ages 3 and up)

Utterly playful, innovative in its design, this cheeky lift-the-flap book invites readers to romp with a trio of cats.

Jack and the Box

By Art Spiegelman (Raw Jr./Toon, $12.95; ages 4 and up)

In a stylish comic-book format specifically designed to encourage beginning readers, the Pulitzer Prize winner times his jokes with a Cat in the Hat meets Marx Brothers perfection.

Adèle & Simon in America

By Barbara McClintock (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Frances Foster, $16.95; ages 4–8)

Fresh from Paris, two siblings take a train journey across the early 20th-century United States; rendered in McClintock’s old-fashioned, precisely detailed style, each of 12 destinations affords a hide-and-seek game as Simon loses possession after possession (and as McClintock peoples the scenes with historical figures, identified in well-researched endnotes).



By Elise Broach (Henry Holt/Ottaviano, $16.95; ages 8-13)

With overtones of The Borrowers and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, this inventive mystery about a boy, a beetle, and an art heist is packed with perennially seductive themes: hidden lives and secret friendships, and miniature worlds lost to disbelievers.


By Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster, $16.99; ages 10 and up)

Within the context of a fast-moving and emotionally involving story, a young slave in New York City offers readers a startling, provocative view of the Revolutionary War.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

By the National Children's Book and Literary Alliance, intro. by David McCullough (Candlewick, $29.99; ages 10 and up)

An all-star roster of more than 100 children’s authors and illustrators, as well as a few scholars and former White House employers and residents, convenes to offer a history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Entries range from poems to presidential speeches, satirical cartoons to stately portraits—a blue-ribbon choice for intergenerational sharing.


By Dugald Steer, illus. by Ian Andrew, Anne Yvonne Gilbert et al. (Candlewick, $22.99; ages 8 and up)

Posing as a collection of items assembled in 1958, stored in national archives and now declassified under the “50-year rule,” this book includes a spy-training manual and such enticing extras as a secret panel, a red-tinted magnifying lens, and a code-maker/breaker.

Rapunzel’s Revenge

By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illus. by Nathan Hale (Bloomsbury, $14.99; ages 10 and up)

Transplanted to a Wild West setting and a graphic novel format, this famous fairy tale will cast its magic over an older gang with its can-do heroine, witty dialogue, and detailed, candy-colored art.


The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, $17.99; ages 12 and up)

In a dystopian fantasy that blends folklore elements, a kill-or-be-killed competition, and reality television, the author explodes a series of surprises, all the while challenging readers to consider how far her heroine can go while retaining her humanity.

Bog Child

By Siobhan Dowd (David Fickling, $16.99 each; ages 12 and up)

The discovery of the ancient corpse of a child launches this multilayered novel about moral choices, set in Northern Ireland amid the Troubles in 1981.

Dark Dude

By Oscar Hijuelos (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.99; ages 12 and up)

The smooth, jazzy flow of the narration—along with very, very funny writing—will sweep your grandchildren through a ’60s-era story about a Cuban-American teenager in search of his identity.


By Kristin Cashore (Harcourt, $17; ages 14 and up)

An exquisitely drawn romance, political intrigue, a take-charge heroine, and a magnificently imagined fantasy realm—this riveting debut offers something for almost everyone, adults as well as teens.

The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body

By David Macaulay (Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine, $35; ages 10 and up)

Winner of a MacArthur genius grant, Macaulay has spent years preparing this astonishingly comprehensive illustrated guide aimed at demystifying the workings of the human body. Get this for a motivated teenager, and he or she will be in premed heaven.

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