Five adventurous "Lumberjanes," two gamers on an epic quest and one owl with giant green eyes all add up to inviting titles for gift-giving this holiday season. Read on for choices for all ages that will endure long after winter break is over.
Austin illustrator and animator Divya Srinivasan captured the joys of nature through Little Owl’s days and nights in her previous books featuring her wee forest dweller. The great outdoors has even more to offer with the change of seasons, as Srinivasan shows us in her latest picture book, “Little Owl’s Snow” (Viking, $17.99). Little Owl mistakes a leaf blowing on the wind for a moth and watches Raccoon’s breath turn into fog in the frigid temperatures. When the first flakes begin to fall, Little Owl misses hibernating friends like Bear, but he soon discovers the distinct pleasures that only snowfall can bring. Srinivasan will sign and read from “Snow” at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at BookPeople. (Ages 2-6)
The tree at the farthest corner of the farm loves trains — the sound makes her pine needles tingle. But when a young boy chooses her for his family’s Christmas tree, she’s inside, far away from the trains she loves. Fortunately, the boy’s Christmas gifts include a solution to the problem, as Annie Silvestro relates in “The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains” (HarperCollins, $17.99), illustrated by Paola Zakimi. And when the season is over? Even more fortunately, the family has taken care to preserve the tree’s roots so that she can end up in her favorite spot. This sweet Christmas story is full of quiet wonders and moments of connection with the earth as well as family. (Ages 3-7)
First published beginning in the 1950s, Sydney Taylor’s “All of a Kind Family” chapter-book series depicted a Jewish family of five girls and their everyday adventures on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Now award-winning author Emily Jenkins and illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky have teamed up to introduce Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie to a whole new generation of readers in “All-of-A-Kind Family Hanukkah” (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99). Like the quotidian details lovingly showcased in the original books, “Hanukkah” takes readers step by step through the process of getting ready for the winter holiday through the eyes of 4-year-old Gertie, who pouts at being the only one of the sisters not given a job to do in preparing the traditional latkes. (The potato peeler is too sharp! The pans bubbling with schmaltz are too hot!) Fortunately there’s still one very important task that’s perfect for the littlest member of the family. Hanukkah begins this year on Sunday night, so this is an ideal one to snap up early to bask in the classic story or introduce your little one to holiday traditions from a different culture. (Ages 3-7)
“Five minutes. Then I want you off the computer for the rest of the day.” Sound familiar? Then Mari Mancusi’s reimagined Camelot tale might be for you (or, ahem, your screen-obsessed middle-grader). As “The Once and Future Geek” (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99) begins, Sophie’s dad has just interrupted her game at an oh-so-crucial point. But as Sophie soon discovers, she and fellow gamer Stuart will have a bigger quest to follow — helping soon-to-be King Arthur reverse his time travel IRL. Mancusi will read from and sign “Geek,” the first in her "Camelot Code" series, at 2 p.m. Saturday at BookPeople. (Ages 8-12)
The "Lumberjanes" love the great outdoors, each other and lots of adventure. There’s plenty of all three in “The Good Egg” (Amulet, $14.99), Mariko Tamaki’s newest novel centered on the quintet of Scouts first popularized in comics format. Ripley, the youngest, finds the basketball-size gilded Eggie at the edge of a nest in the woods surrounding camp. When all the other eggs hatch, Eggie doesn’t; the mystery of why occupies the Scouts just as much as the drama foisted upon them by Miss Annabella Panache (“Miss Panache’s hair was about as big as Eggie. Which is big, for hair. Also her hair smelled like chemicals and roses.”) The Lumberjanes are witty, observant and smart; this third title doesn’t require advance knowledge of the series to enjoy, but the diverse and accepting characters are delightful enough to warrant investing in the set. Brooklyn Allen illustrates. (Ages 8-12)
Nathan Bird wishes life were like the romantic comedies “Notting Hill” or “Sixteen Candles” — three perfectly paced acts punctuated by banter and happy endings. But the teenage film buff knows that more complicated fare is realistic. After all, he’s struggling with his relationship with his widowed mother, his ex-girlfriend is pushing him to date others (even though he sometimes still wants her back), and his former best friend Ollie is back in town (and Nathan may have romantic feelings for him). Kheryn Callender’s “This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story” (Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins, $17.99) adeptly plumbs the depths of teenage angst, from the fluidity of Nathan’s romantic relationships to the universal challenges of surviving high school. (Ages 14-18)
Mark Falkin spins the spookiest of apocalypses in the Austin-set “The Late Bloomer” (Rare Bird Books, $16.95). The book opens with errant high-schooler Kevin relaying the events of Oct. 29: the screams, the flames, the disturbing smiles on people’s faces just before they jump, the white cottony webbing suddenly choking adults. What happens next is equally terrifying, in the most compulsively readable of ways; Falkin, the author of 2015’s “Contract City,” is also a gifted wordsmith who renders Kevin’s bleak new world with precision. Austin readers will find “Bloomer” particularly chilling, as Kevin zooms down familiar highways, visits a lab near the Draught House and makes a nerve-wracking discovery at Butler Park. (Ages 13 and older)
More good holiday reading
Don’t forget these titles we featured earlier this year, which are ideal for holiday gifting as well. Bonus: They’re all from Austin authors.
“What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan” (Beach Lane Books, $17.99). Chris Barton’s timely picture-book biography of the Houston-born, nationally renowned lawmaker.
“Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’” (Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins, $17.99). Bethany Hegedus’ picture-book biography of the famously reclusive novelist.
“Kate, Who Tamed the Wind” (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $17.99). Liz Garton Scanlon’s picture-book ode to the power of trees.
“The Boy, the Boat and the Beast” (Simon & Schuster, $17.99). Samantha M. Clark’s magical middle-grade tale of a boy stranded on the beach and his efforts to return home.
“The Parker Inheritance” (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, $16.99). Varian Johnson’s small-town middle-grade mystery that’s both a puzzle and exploration of identity.
“Hearts Unbroken” (Candlewick, $17.99). Cynthia Leitich Smith’s young-adult tale of an American Indian high school journalist’s struggle to battle prejudice at her high school and beyond.
Want more ideas for the youngest of readers? Don’t miss the Dec. 15 edition of Statesman Select Kids, our collaboration with BookPeople that showcases our picks for new and inclusive picture books.