REVIEWS: Stories for children that adults will love, too

Nov. 16, 2013 @ 09:39 AM

Christmas music is already on the radio, and diligent holiday shoppers are making their lists and checking them twice. For the little ones on your list, there are a few new hardcover picture books that should be well-received by children, and another great one for kids and adults to read by the hearth.

This reviewer recommends:

-- “An Otis Christmas” by Loren Long ($17.99, Philomel Books)

Personifying vehicles is a hit with kids, and Otis the tractor is a likeable character who saves the day for his farm, the farmer, his friend the horse and the new foal in “An Otis Christmas.” Children are already fans of the talking tractor and Long’s best-selling books, including “Otis,” “Otis and the Tornado” and “Otis and the Puppy.” For Otis first-timers, “An Otis Christmas” is a nice story about the tractor using his new Christmas gift from the farmer, a horn, to get the attention of the local doctor to come save the horses. It’s a heart-warming book that makes you smile.

-- “Little Santa” by Jon Agee ($17.99, Dial Books for Young Readers)

It’s an interesting idea, Santa being the one member of a family who loves rather than loathes the cold of the North Pole. Who better than a kid with boundless enthusiasm to take advantage of an opportunity to friend a houseful of elves? “Those elves can do anything,” said a 5 year-old who read the book along with this reviewer. It is little Santa’s meeting of elves that sets him on the snow-covered rooftop career path we all know.

-- “Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella” by Jan Brett ($17.99, G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

It seems absurd. Chickens? As Cinderella? Well why not, and, of course. Children and parents already familiar with Brett’s lovely illustrations (“The Mitten”) will delight in more illustrative scenes in a wintry Russian setting where chickens dress more elaborately than expected on a farm or a ballroom. This works for a nice seasonal book because of the snowy scenes, but is worth a spot on the shelf year-round, too. The detailed illustrations are a visual treat, in particular Brett’s style of extra images on the pages’ borders, too. Brett, by the way, loves snow and has fancy chickens of her own. She’ll also be making a book tour stop – in a “Cinders” decorated bus – at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh at 5 p.m. Nov. 23.

-- “A Child’s Christmas in New England” by Robert Sullivan, illustrated by Glenn Wolff ($16.95, Bunker Hill Publishing)

Sullivan and Wolff, who brought you “Flight of the Reindeer,” return with another holiday treat mixing a great story with beautiful illustrations. “A Child’s Christmas in New England” is one for adults and kids old enough to sit still during long but interesting family stories. Just like the story’s premise, listeners should gather around to hear a parent’s tale of yules of yore. The cover illustration, which is also inside, draws readers in immediately so you want to jump into the pages of this delightful winter world. Assuming, of course, it’s not on fire like that one Christmas when the house burned. If you don’t have your own grandfather storyteller – or even if you do – “A Child’s Christmas in New England” is a place to hear about a dog following a boy home from his paper route and grownup holiday gatherings from another era.

-- If your child is a fan of the classic book, “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney, you probably already know about the Disney Jr. television show of the same name. Entertainment One is distributing a DVD collection of seven episodes, “Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare: Hidden Treasure.” The image on the cover is of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare building a rabbit snowman, and the episodes take place during winter. They’re nice stories that also include a moral, like in “Finder’s Keepers” when Little Redwood Fox finds acorns that belong to a friend and learns to give them back. The DVD available this month is $12.95 and 80 minutes long.