Children’s picture books, a Holiday Gift Guide


CHEERFUL. A sweet mini storybook about a family of church mice, perfect for small hands. First published in 1957, now in a beautiful reprint edition, $12.95 ** “Adorable is the word to describe Cheerful by Palmer Brown. A tiny book fitting nicely in small hands, it tells the story of a city mouse raised in a church by sober churchmouse father and a light-footed woodmouse mother. Cheerful—so named because that his mother had urged to be when he was little and his long white whiskers made him look sad—played tag cheerfully with his brothers and sisters among the rainbow shadows cast by the stained glass windows, but he longed for his mother’s beloved woods and fields. How he reached them, in a glorious sugar coated Easter egg, and what happened then, will amuse and charm the youngest, oldest, and everyone in between.” – Chicago Daily Tribune


POLAR EXPRESS. This 25th anniversary edition of the Polar Express comes with a CD, holiday ornament and is signed by Chris Van Allsburg from his last visit to Book Beat. A wonderful family keepsake. $18.95 **”The full-page images are theatrically lit. Colors are muted, edges of forms are fuzzy, scenes are set sparsely, leaving the details to the imagination. The light comes only from windows of buildings and the train or from a moon that’s never depicted. Shadows create darkling spaces and model the naturalistic figures of children, wolves, trees, old-fashioned furniture and buildings. Santa Claus and his reindeer seem like so many of the icons bought by parents to decorate yards and rooftops: static, posed with stereotypic gestures. These are scenes from a memory of long ago, a dreamy reconstruction of a symbolic experience, a pleasant remembrance rebuilt to fufill a current wish: if only you believe, you too will hear the ringing of the silver bell that Santa gave him and taste rich hot chocolate in your ride through the wolf-infested forests of reality. Van Allsburg’s express train is one in which many of us wish to believe.” — Kenneth Marantz, School Library Journal


Leopold the Lion. When Jack and Ella come across a friendly–and talented!–lion in their backyard they are thrilled to take him in as their pet. And they’re positive they know just how to care for their new pet, ignoring Grandpa’s cheeky asides. But soon Leopold the Lion grows despondent and chubby. Even the circus who lost him won’t take him back! Do Jack and Ella know what to do to get Leopold healthy again? A sweet story with a subtle commentary on making healthy choices. Book Beat was the bookstore launch for this title, and we have books signed by both the author and illustrator. Makes a great gift! Ages 6-8 years. $16.99 **”An essential look at the importance of an active lifestyle sneakily disguised as a fanciful feline tale.” –Kirkus


The Whisper. Step inside the pages of a little girl’s magical book as she discovers the profound and inspiring notion that we each bring something different to the same story. Two-time Caldecott Honor artist Pamela Zagarenski debuts as an author in this tender picture book about the joy of reading. $17.99 ** “A sumptuously illustrated fable about the magic of storytelling and the power of imagination.” —School Library Journal, starred review


FIVE NICE MICE. The Five Nice Mice devise a creative solution to their housing dilemma, only to face an all too familiar challenge—in feline form… Necessity is the mother of invention and this is exactly what the Five Nice Mice learn in their new adventure. They search for a new place to live because the cats in their neighborhood make life too dangerous. What they find is a mountain of things that have been discarded. The city dump becomes a mountain of treasure and they find everything they need to build their dream house. But their dream almost comes to an end when a cat comes to their new neighborhood. The little mice are able solve this problem too, with a bit of understanding and a lot of heart. $17.99 **”Exquisite painterly sensibility . . . . Children will marvel at the ingenuity of the mice, and revel in the enchanting details of the splendid mouse-house that any creature would love to inhabit….gorgeous picture book.” —Karin Snelson, Shelf Awareness


THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN MICHIGAN. It’s holiday time in the Great Lakes State! Travel with Katie and her cousin to see Motor City, drive down the country’s first concrete highway, tour some of Michigan’s 115 lighthouses, and take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. She even tries her hand at the state’s favorite sport: ice hockey! Goal! Copies are signed by the illustrator Deb Pilutti. $12.95


HANSEL & GRETEL. One of the prettiest books of the year is Holly Hobbie’s version of Hansel and Gretel. $17.00 ** ” Hobbie’s stripped-down retelling of “Hansel and Gretel” maintains a high degree of fidelity to the classic fairy tale, while her illustrations reveal a rich array of artistic influences on her visual interpretation of the story…. A fine addition to the fairy-tale shelves.” –Kirkus Reviews


Mousetropolis by R. Gregory Christie is the author’s first picture book, a lush retelling of an Aesop fable. $16.95 With an exquisite palette and stunning compositions, award-winning illustrator R. Gregory Christie reimagines one of Aesop’s most popular fables. City Mouse leaves his noisy apartment for a vacation in the country only to find drab meals, unseen predators, unbearable heat and too much quiet! So City Mouse takes his country cousin to Mousetropolis, where a rodent can indulge in rich food and rub elbows with the elite. But just as the party is getting started, disaster strikes! A cat attacks, scaring the city sophisticates clear out of their fine attire . . . while Country Mouse runs without stopping until he reaches the familiar fields of home. ** “Country Mouse and City Mouse jump a train to the city. There’s dancing in the subways, ample food, and phalanxes of device-attached mice doing “important things” and back home goes Country Mouse. Christie utilizes appealingly mouse-based language “quicker than a mouse can nibble through a wheel of provolone” to tell his story, and he carefully acknowledges the dangers of country life as well as those of the city. The illustrations effectively depict the dislocated mice’s subjective impressions of each setting; the tilt of an eyebrow communicates emotion. A welcome addition to any folk-tale collection, this clever retelling and its warm, embracing illustrations demonstrate the enduring appeal of this classic tale.” (Picture book/folk tale. 4-8) –Kirkus Reviews


ONCE UPON A TIME IN JAPAN. Each story is brilliantly illustrated by a talented Japanese artist. The tales  are among Japan’s oldest and most beloved. $16.95 When wily animals, everyday people and magical beings come together in a collection of Japanese fairytales, wonderful things are bound to happen! Bringing Japanese folk stories to the English-speaking world, this book presents eight stories from the popular NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s popular radio series Once Upon a Time in Japan. Each story is brilliantly illustrated by a talented Japanese artist. The tales recounted here are among Japan’s oldest and most beloved stories. Entertaining and filled with subtle folk wisdom, these retold stories have been shared countless times in Japanese homes and schools for generations. Like good stories from every time and place, they never grow old. Kids (and their parents!) will enjoy hearing these stories read aloud on the accompanying CD. “”The overall quality of production matches the care taken in narrative choices and imagery. The stories and artwork work very well together and will likely delight young readers, particularly when read aloud.” —Booklist


VOICE OF FREEDOM: FANNIE LOU HAMER. Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. A picture-book debut by artist Ekua Holmes written by the esteemed poet Carol Boston Weatherford. $17.99 “Caldecott Honor winner Weatherford (Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, 2006) has rendered Hamer’s voice so precisely that it is like sitting at her knee as she tells her story. Holmes’ multimedia collages perfectly capture the essence of each poem. Like Hamer’s life, the illustrations are filled with light, texture, movement, and darkness. They are both abstract and realistic, brilliantly juxtaposing gentle floral motifs with protest placards and Fannie Lou Hamer’s face in bold relief. Ultimately, though this is Hamer’s story, it includes the collaborative struggles of others with whom she worked and fought for a different America. Bold, unapologetic, and beautiful.” —Booklist (starred review)


SAIL AWAY. A celebration of mermaids, wildernesses of waves, and the creatures of the deep through poems by Langston Hughes and cut-paper collage illustrations by multiple Coretta Scott King Award–winner Ashley Bryan. $17.99 *”Readers don’t have to have ever heard Bryan’s unforgettable, theatrical recitation of “My People” or other Hughes poems to understand the depth of the artist’s appreciation of and admiration for Hughes and his poetry: he opens the poems up visually here in the same way that he opens them auditorily when he performs them live. Like Hughes, Bryan, at 91, can also boast, ‘I’m still pulling.'” -Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW.


Ketzel the Cat Who Composed is based on a true story about a cat who won a musical composition contest. $16.99 *”Based on a true incident, this delightfully told story is unlikely and adorable in equal parts. Bates’ watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations feature an un-anthropomorphic kitty whose inquisitive and quizzical nature will be familiar to all cat owners. The author’s note offers all the answers readers will want. An absolute charmer!” —Booklist (starred review)


THE TEA PARTY IN THE WOODS. When a young girl named Kikko realizes her father has forgotten the pie he was supposed to bring to Grandma’s house, she offers to try and catch him as he makes his way through the woods. She hurriedly follows her father’s footprints in the snow and happens upon a large house she has never seen before. Curious, Kikko peers through the window, when she is startled by a small lamb wearing a coat and carrying a purse. Even more surprising, the lamb speaks, asking her in a kind voice, .Are you here for the tea party?. Suddenly, Kikko realizes her trip through the woods has turned into something magical. Award-winning author and illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi has beautifully crafted an original fairy tale picture book that will delight and enchant. The unique visual presentation features mostly black-and-white art with the occasional use of red or yellow to help guide readers through the pages. Kikko’s blend of courage and reticence along with her inquisitive nature makes her a character children will relate to, and the many unexpected twists and turns of her adventure keep the intrigue growing. The ambiguous ending — in which it is not clear whether Kikko imagined the tea party or if the animals simply disappeared back into the woods — provides a terrific opportunity for children to weigh in on what they think happened. This book also could launch classroom conversations about children’s own experiences of being trusted with big responsibilities. $16.95


THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT. Patrick McDonnell’s first bedtime book captures the magic of a sleepover with friends, and reminds us to cherish life’s simplest pleasures. During a fun pajama party, three animal friends dance and play, but at last everyone is getting sleepy. Is it time for bed yet? Not before taking the time to say thank you for the day, the night, and good friends. Signed copies are available in short supply. $15.95 *”A book that readers of all ages will be thankful for.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

**”McDonnell pays homage to children’s literature classics, providing plenty of nods: a red balloon, a bear and a honey pot, and a rabbit in blue-and-white pajamas.” –Library Journal

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