Best Children’s Books gift guide 2011

This has been a great year for outstanding children’s books. Book Beat owner and children’s book buyer Colleen Kammer has put together her recommended choices and picks for this year’s best. This is just a sampling of some of the best this year. Space does not allow us to list all the best books.. please stop in soon and browse our selection – many of our titles are signed by the authors and artists. Call ahead if you’d like to have a selection of books held for you – just let us know the child’s age and interests. Most of our new hardcover books are discounted 10% in store. Books are always the best gift choice! Thank you for shopping here!

Knockout Picture Books for reading aloud & for early readers:

Belle, The Last Mule at Gee's Bend (hardcover) Belle, The Last Mule at Gee’s Bend (hardcover)

A true story from the civil rights movement

When African-Americans in a poor community– inspired by a visit from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.– defied local authorities who were trying to stop them from registering to vote, many got around a long detour on mule-drawn wagons. Later, after Dr. King’s assassination, two mules from Gee’s Bend pulled the farm wagon bearing his casket through the streets of Atlanta. As Alex looks into the eyes of gentle Belle, he begins to understand a powerful time in history in a very personal way.

A true story inspires the moving tale of a mule that played a key role in the civil rights movement– and a young boy who sees history anew. Staff Favorite Ages 5 and up

The Cats in teh Doll Shop (hardcover) The Cats in the Doll Shop (hardcover)

A Russian/Jewish story for ages 7-11

The Cat in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough is a fictional book aimed at the younger crowd. This book is a sequel to The Doll Shop Downstairs.

Anna, whose family owns a doll shop, discovered a cat in the yard behind the store. What made it even more exciting is that the cat is about to have kittens….

A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Hardcover) A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Hardcover)

Michigan Author & Illustrator  & Winner of the Caldecott Award 2011

“…short and gentle enough to make a fine bedtime story for any child who is getting tired of Goodnight Moon.” – One Minute Reviews

“The artwork in this quiet tale of good deeds rewarded uses woodblock-printing techniques, soft flat colors, and occasional bits of red. Illustrations are positioned on the white space to move the tale along and underscore the bonds of friendship and loyalty. Whether read individually or shared, this gentle story will resonate with youngsters.” – School Library Journal,  Staff Favorite: Ages 2 and up

These Hands (Hardcover) These Hands (Hardcover)

A Detroit Inter-generational Civil Rights Story

“Loving view of gains across generations.” – Chicago Tribune,  Ages 6-9

“With tenderness and pride, a grandfather shares the many skills of his hands with his grandson, who is a happy student. Those hands can tie knots, play the piano, perform card tricks and swing a baseball bat. The text is beautifully cadenced. “Well, I can still teach a young fellow / how to do a waterfall shuffle / —yes I can.” But then comes the mood-shattering remembrance. Those hands, not so very long ago, could not touch the dough in the Wonder Bread factory. Those hands did not stay still: They joined in protest with many other hands and voices and achieved equality. The little boy learns all his lessons well, with a tasty loaf of bread as his crowning achievement. The author has based her story on conversations with an African-American bakery union activist, according to her author’s note. Cooper’s signature artwork in muted shades of yellows and browns intensifies the warmth of the intergenerational bonding.” –Kirkus Review

No Dogs Allowed No Dogs Allowed!

A sublimely touching and funny story… a charmer for cat and dog lovers…

Feline friends Bud and Gabby are back! But this time—and much to Bud’s dismay—there’s a dog in the picture. The dog’s name is Cookie, and although fun-loving Gabby enjoys Cookie’s company, grouchy Bud does not. In fact, Bud gets so fed up with Cookie that he kicks her out of the house. “No dogs allowed!” he declares. But when a big black rain cloud approaches and Gabby looks worried, will Bud have a change of heart?

I am Small I am Small

Cuddle up with your little penguin this winter!

“Dodd chooses a carefully designed spatial arrangement of the text and simple, visual language, repeating the refrain “and I am small” as the little one encounters all that largeness, creating empathy and understanding for the timid little penguin without being overly sweet or cloying.A lovely, reassuring bedtime story with a simple message of parental affection that littlest listeners and readers will take to heart.”  -Kirkus



One of the BEST storytelling books we’ve come across this year! Staff Fave: Ages 4-8

Written by the acclaimed author of “The Phantom Tollbooth, ” this is a simply told story about a boy who moves to a new neighborhood and finds a unique way to make friends. With whimsical illustrations by award-winning illustrator G. Brian Karas, here is a read-aloud that’s great for storytime, and is sure to be a hit among fans of Juster, Karas, and anyone who is “the new kid on the block.”

I Will Not Read This Book I Will Not Read This Book

Excuses, Excuses… Ages 4-8

“I Will Not Read This Book” is pitch perfect for anyone who has ever dealt with a reluctant child. Much of the reluctance comes from doing things on their own, and as we see in this book, once someone the boy loves has someone to read with him, the reluctance goes away.  –

Too Many Frogs! Too Many Frogs!

Cupcake colors animate Nana Quimby’s kitchen and her friendly urban neighborhood, while silly noises (“thump-thump-bang-bang-bonk”), repeating phrases, and improbable numbers (“She opened the door, and a million frogs hopped, jumped, bumped, and bounced across the kitchen floor”) keep this sweet tale moving smartly along. Most satisfying is the way that the children get to order Nana Quimby around, and the humility with which she obeys them. Ages 4–8.

Check out author Hassett’s Frog-filled Home!

The Crown on Your Head The Crown on Your Head


Aimed at smaller children, The Crown on Your Head makes statements and then backs them up with a simple explanation most children will understand. Every colorful page of the book portrays a child living life to the fullest. If you’re looking for a short picture book capable of expressing your love toward a child, this may be the book for you.  Ages 4-8

Queen of the Falls (hardcover, signed 1st edition) Queen of the Falls (hardcover, signed 1st edition)

Classic Chris Van Allsburg

His first non-fiction work, Queen of the Falls (2011) is also one of Chris Van Allsburg’s best.  Indeed, in some ways it marks a return to form….” – Nine Kinds of Pie

Queen of the Falls is an amazing tale of the power of nature — and of the little old lady who might be considered the precursor of today’s reality-show stars. And for kids, it’s a vivid demonstration that you don’t have to be young to do something really, really dumb in pursuit of fame and fortune.”  -WIRED

Signed, first edition copies of Chris Van Allsburg’s Queen of the Falls are still available! Staff Favorite: Ages 6 and up.

Mouse and Lion (hardcover) Mouse and Lion (hardcover)

A Uniquely Retold Aesop Classic for All Ages

“No, this isn’t the story you think it is. Note that the top billing is reversed. Rand Burkert — who wonders whether Aesop was an apocryphal African storyteller — suggests that different Aesop’s fables show the lion sometimes as a tyrant but sometimes still teachable. Few artists can make the coats of both a lion and a mouse call out equally for a touch, but Nancy Ekholm Burkert’s careful pen-and-ink drawings and watercolor washes do just that and help us enjoy the newness.” – Chicago Tribune  Ages 4-8

Love Mouserella (hardcover) Love Mouserella (hardcover) $15.99

This may inspire children to write to someone they love, for Ages 3-7

Mouserella misses her grandmouse, so she writes her a letter. At first she can’t think of anything to say, but once she starts, the news begins to flow – she found a cat whisker at the zoo, she taught her ladybug to fetch, she made shadow puppets with Dadmouse during a blackout – and just like that, the events of the past few days come to vivid life in her letter, as does her love for Grandmouse.

Children will enjoy reading the story from top to bottom, like a real letter, and Mouserella’s funny drawings and lively adventures will spark their imaginations and just might inspire them to start a correspondence of their own.

Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat (hardcover) $16.99

Exceptional art, sensitive story reunite a boy and his bear. Ages 2-5

When Jonathan loses his best friend, a stuffed bear named Frederick, he sets sail on the Big Blue Boat to find him. Along the way he assembles a ragtag crew, including a mountain goat, a lonely circus elephant, and even a friendly whale. Adventure and intrigue (and pirates!) follow.

Stars Stars (hardcover) $16.99

Twilight is a liminal moment, especially in a child’s day.

A star is how you know it’s almost night,” looking over the shoulder of a little boy, dog-walking, looking toward a star in the twilight sky. In a loose star-celebrating narrative, Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee direct our gaze to the mind- and heart-lifting power of stars — both in the night sky and in the star shapes around us. The text recognizes the power of stars children are given at school, for instance, or meritorious stars they might make for themselves. Blue-sky-thinking, luminous children are set against a sky-blue palette.  -Chicago Tribune   Ages 2-6

Never Forgotten Never Forgotten (hardcover) $18.99

Forceful & Iconic – a treasured keepsake for African-American families

In eighteenth-century West Africa, a boy raised by his blacksmith father and the Mother Elements–Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth–is captured and taken to America as a slave.

The willingness to turn the dark history of the past into literature takes not just talent but courage. McKissack has both. All ages. -Publisher’s Weekly Ages 6 and up

Making a Friend Making a Friend

What you love will always be with you  

Bestselling author, Alison McGhee reminds us all that nothing that has been cared for can ever disappear for good, for, “What you love will always be with you.” And, this tender story about the power of friendship will stay with readers long after they turn the last page. Ages 4 and up

A Nation's Hope: The Story of Joe Louis A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Joe Louis

Introducing Joe Louis to a New Generation                                                                                                       a NY TIMES BEST ILLUSTRATED OF THE YEAR 2011!

On the eve of World War II, African American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title; for much of America their fight came to represent America’s war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to put aside prejudice and come together to celebrate our nation’s ideals.  Ages 6 and up.

Bun Bun Button Bun Bun Button

This heartwarming story celebrates the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren, and is perfect for children who imagine their toys have secret adventures when no one’s watching. Ages 3 and up.

Patricia Polacco ( was inspired to tell this story when a young visitor to one of her programs brought the much loved and tattered real-life Bun Bun Button up to her table – and gave it to her. Patricia is the beloved creator of over fifty picture books, and is also an energetic and enthusiastic public speaker – she visits over one hundred classrooms every year.

We Are All Born Free Mini Edition: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures We Are All Born Free Mini Edition: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures

“This is an important book, best shared with children in a setting where discussion of both the rights and the illustrations is encouraged.”  – PW

This beautiful collection, published 60 years on, celebrates each declaration with an illustration by an internationally-renowned artist or illustrator and is the perfect gift for children and adults alike.

Memoirs of a Goldfish (hardcover, signed) Memoirs of a Goldfish (hardcover, signed )

Michigan Library Association Book Choice ages 3 and up

With his bowl to himself and his simple routine, Goldfish loves his life..until assorted intruders invade his personal space and bowl. Goldfish rethinks the pros and cons of a solitary life. And discover what he’s been missing.

Middle Readers & Young Adults

Pie (signed 1st edition, hardcovers) Pie (signed 1st edition, hardcovers)

“A delicious, fun read, this book of pie and mystery is a treat whether read with alamode or alone. It’s an ideal book for classroom sharing as well, after all who doesn’t like pie?” – Waking Brain Cells, Appropriate for ages 9-12.

“PIE, set in Ipswitch during the summer of 1955, is a high-spirited, hoot of a whodunit for upper elementary and middle school readers.  This tale is going to inspire a mess of pie baking in your neck of the woods…Those who are familiar with a certain famous and esteemed children’s literature award are going to get quite a belly laugh out of reading the history and details of the national pie making award that Polly wins an unprecedented thirteen times in a row.  And as sure as life imitates art, I bet that there will be a passel of people dishing about PIE when the year-end lists are being compiled.” – Richie’s Picks

Vordak the Incomprehensible : Rule the School (hardcover, signed edition) Vordak the Incomprehensible : Rule the School (hardcover, signed edition)

“Prepare to be conquered by the world’s funniest supervillian”

But this isn’t just an instruction manual for school-age world dominating wannabes. Grown-ups will get plenty of tips themselves, and the humor with which the book is written is great for all ages. I, particularly, took plenty of notes in my Take Over the World notebook. When I wasn’t laughing maniacally, that is.  Ages 9 and up.

The Unwanteds (fantasy, signed, hardcover) The Unwanteds (fantasy, signed, hardcover) Ages 13 and up

“Imagination runs wild in this creative adventure.” – NY TIMES

The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter… [The Unwanteds] is sure to be a double hit.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“Reading Lisa McMann’s THE UNWANTEDS was like discovering a brilliant, lost children’s classic—except it’s never going to be lost, because readers will never, ever forget the magic they’ll experience in its pages.” –James A. Owen, author and Illustrator of HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS

The Big Crunch The Big Crunch

Hautman skillfully subverts clichés in this subtle, authentic, heart-tugging exploration of first love, but his sharp-eyed view of high-school social dynamics and the loving friction between parents and teens on the edge of independence is just as memorable. Grades 8-12. –Gillian Engberg, Booklist

A funny, clear-eyed view of the realities of teenage love from National Book Award winner Pete Hautman.

Jen and Wes do not “meet cute.” They do not fall in love at first sight. They do not swoon with scorching desire. They do not believe that they are instant soul mates destined to be together forever….

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales

The Visionary Art of Chris Van Allsburg Inspires Best-selling Writers

“There are no clunkers here. Each contribution has its own telltale flavor of menace, leaving readers to discover their favorites. For those wishing to catch a good fright while simultaneously having their leg pulled, Jon Scieszka’s light-gauge horror story toys gingerly with the genre’s conventions, mingling chatter about dust bunnies with a veiled reference to cannibalism. Readers who would rather step headlong into “Twilight Zone” territory will enjoy M. T. Anderson’s creepy account of a boy who accidentally learns that reality is nothing more than a fabrication designed for his benefit, or Walter Dean Myers’s resonant fable about a book that has a different ending each time it is read.” –NY Times, Reading level: Middle grades -Ages 10-15

Tuesdays at the Castle Tuesdays at the Castle

This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic. Ages 8 and up.

“This enjoyable romp turns mischief into political action and a stone palace into a cunning character. These kids are clever, as is George’s lively adventure. May pique castle envy.” —Kirkus Reviews

The Apothecary The Apothecary

“…intricately constructed plot, well-paced suspense, credibly rendered fantastical elements, thoughtfully drawn characters and authentically detailed settings, satisfies on all levels.” – NY Times, Ages 10-14 years.

A mysterious apothecary. A magic book. A missing scientist. An impossible plan. It’s 1952 and the Scott family has moved unexpectedly from Los Angeles to London. There, fourteen-year-old Janie gets a homesickness cure from the neighborhood apothecary and becomes fascinated by his defiant son, Benjamin Burrows—a boy struggling with his destiny, who isn’t afraid to stand up to authority and who dreams of becoming a spy.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Found photography drives ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’

“It’s a gothic tale with a teenage protagonist, which is why the publisher is marketing it as a young adult novel, but I read it and liked it, and I’m in my 30s. The book came about when Riggs started collecting found photography at flea markets and swap meets about three years ago.  He kept coming across strange creepy pictures of kids and felt like he wanted to do something with them. ..” –LA Times

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Staff favorite; Ages 13 and up.

Blood Red Road (hardcover, signed) Blood Red Road (hardcover, signed)

“Better than The Hunger Games. . . . This book will blow you away.” – MTV Crush

“Recommended to fans of sci-fi post-apocalyptic fiction.  Readers who are missing new installments of The Hunger Games might find a kindred book spirit here.” –Early Nerd Special

“Young’s powerful debut, first in the Dustlands series, is elevated above its now familiar postapocalyptic setting by an intriguing prose style and strong narrative voice that show a distinct Cormac McCarthy vibe. It’s a natural for Hunger Games fans.”  _ PW

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction. Ages 13 and up.

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