Holiday Gift Guide: Books

Nothing's better than curling up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate on a cold night. Check out our mom bloggers reviews of some of the latest book offerings:

Monet's Impressions, 15.99, Chronicle Books

Author: Claude Monet

Best for ages: Recommendation by book, 3-8 years old/recommended by critic, 7-10 years old

What it’s about: This short "coffee-table" type, this book features artwork from impressionist Claude Monet. Words from the author pair simplistically with the full-size paintings describing the subjects of the artwork throughout the book.

Why we like it: This picture-book is beautiful with many of Monet’s paintings and provides you an opportunity to share a slice of art history with your child.

Good to know: The artwork in this book is very nice, but the pages are rather fragile as well as the sparse amount of text. This book is best suited for a child who cares well for books or an older child (8-10 years old.)

--Submitted by arredmom

Fanny & Annabelle, $16.99

Author: Holly Hobbie

Best for ages: 3-7

What it is: On a dreary day Fanny decides to write her own picture book about her favorite doll Annabelle's dilemma of not having enough money to buy Aunt Sally a Gold Locket for her Birthday. This creative journey teaches Fanny and its readers many life lessons. This is the second Fanny book from the best selling author of the Toot & Puddle series of children's books.

Why we like it: Not only does the story alternate between Fanny's and the authors but the illustations go back and forth between Fanny's and the authors as well. Through Fanny's adventures kids learn about being honest and that the value of gift giving isn't always about money.

Good to know: In the back of the book there are 3 punch out bookmarks. Including one that is blank that kids can decorate with their own artwork just like Fanny.

Grade: A

--Submitted by heatherw

Miracle on the Hudson, $25.00

Authors: William Prochnau and Laura Parker

Best for: older teens and adults (some adult language and frightening plane crash imagery)

What it’s about: Flight 1549 was not supposed to have any survivors. After colliding with a flock of Canadian geese mere minutes after takeoff on January 15, 2009, the Charlotte-bound airbus lost both engines and made a swift descent, landing perilously on the Hudson River in the skillful care of Captain Chesley Sullenberger and his copilot Jeffrey Skiles. The “Miracle on the Hudson”, as Governor David Paterson dubbed the incident, would inspire New York City and the world. The book itself is a chronological report of the crash from takeoff to the collision with the geese, to the plane’s river landing, and finally to the harrowing rescue and aftermath—all stitched together from the testimonies of over 150 passengers who all miraculously survived.

Why we like it: It takes a master storyteller to weave together the sometimes disparate and spotty recollections of so many people, but authors William Prochnau and Laura Parker show their adept journalism background by painting a vivid, cohesive and most of all compelling narrative that is almost completely free of forced sentimentalism and hero worship. Just the facts, ma’am; and a little bit of humor to boot. The actions of everyone on board the aircraft during the mere 30 minutes between takeoff and rescue were fascinating; from the flight attendants and crew to the businessmen, mothers, golfers, and others who by their cool heads and determination made flight 1549 a triumph instead of a tragedy—not to mention the countless first-responders to the scene. A well-told documentary of an extraordinary New York afternoon.

Good to Know: You might become frustrated if you want to keep every character and storyline straight. Although the authors provide a glossary in the back with the passengers’ names, seat numbers and descriptions, it is still a little hard to keep track of who’s who. But the overriding sense as you read is that normal, average, unsuspecting people proved themselves in an unimaginable situation, and that maybe you would have too if you had been in their shoes. On another note, I did wish more attention had been paid to Captain Sullenberger and his copilot Skiles. Even by the end of the book, they still seemed a bit mysterious and other-worldly. It would have been nice to know they were normal everyday people like their passengers who did normal things like eat Cheerios and put their pants on one leg at a time. It would have made the story feel even more miraculous.

Grade: A

--Submitted by Julie

Creature, $19.99

Author: Andrew Zuckerman

Best for ages: 4-8 (although kids as young as 2-3 will enjoy it)

What it is: A gorgeous ABC book featuring stunning photos of animals both common and obscure.

Why we like it: This is not your typical ABC book. It's meant to be proudly displayed on your coffee table, rather than stashed away on a toy room shelf. It's truly a work of art that showcases animals in all their majestic glory. Displayed against a stark white background, the cut-out photos reveal amazing details, such as the gloriously wild and unkempt mane of the lion and the sleek oiled skin of the hippo.

Good to know: Older kids will enjoy the glossary at the end with more details about the creatures. Who knew that hippos sweat an oil that acts like sunscreen?

Grade: A

--Submitted by jenniferb

Christmas Miracles, $10.19

Authors: Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson; Foreward by Don Piper, author of 90 minutes in Heaven

Best for: Moms, Mom-Friends, Grandmothers (a great gift "from" a child to a grandparent or parent)

What it is: A collection of 3-5 page true stories of miracles which happened around Christmastime. There is no reason some of these things should have or could have happened, except a divine miracle. It's an inspiring read – sort of a "Chicken Soup" book with a Christmas/religious theme. Someone not only surviving cancer, but having twins after doctors told her the treatment wouldn't allow her to conceive again; people finding peace with lost loved ones, which they thought would never come.

Why we like it:

Good to know: A couple of the stories are kind of hokey, but that could very well be because I'm just too cynical. Adversely, a few even moved me to tears. Also, God is mentioned in just about all of the stories, so if Grandma is an Atheist, it's probably not the book for her.

--Submitted by HeyLaura

The Lion and the Mouse, $16.99, Little, Brown and Company

Author: Jerry Pinkney

Best for Ages: 4-8, for comprehension, but even very small children will love the colors and animals.

What it is: Award-winning artist, Jerry Pinkney, stunningly adapts one of Aesop's most beloved fables into a wordless visual adventure.

Why we like it: The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and each of the animals' facial expressions easily tell the story. Your children will enjoy "reading" the book many times, with every "telling" offering a slightly different story. My son has actually imagined conversations between the fierce but kind lion and the meek but brave little mouse.

Good to know: Mr. Pinkney has done extensive work in the world of children's literature. If you and your family are looking for more of his artistry, visit his website:

Grade: A

--Submitted by kimb

Crystal Healer, $7.99

Author: S.L. Viehl

Best for:

What it is: This book made no sense to me whatsoever (I can't pronounce 90% of the names they came up with for characters and planets), but my daughter (14) liked it. The story follows Dr. Torin, her husband and their crew to planet oKia, where they are looking for a mysterious black mineral they are suspicious is killing planets. (This is the part when I start to go, 'Seriously?')

Why we like it: I didn't, but luckily it wasn't for me. If you are a Sci-Fi nut or your kiddo is, I'm sure they'll be enthralled by this story. My daughter really liked Jarn's character (Dr. Torin's alter-ego) and the cliffhanger ending of the book - now she wants to read them all and play catch-up.

Good to know: Evidently, this is the ninth book in a series. You may see it referred to as "Crystal Healer: A Stardoc Novel" around bookstores (the first book in the series is called "Stardoc").

--Submitted by HeyLaura

Cape Storm, $7.99

Author: Rachel Caine

Best for: Teens with an affinity for "dark" fiction/magic stories

What it is: This thrilling book comes out from the get-go with a hurricane (the hurricane is a result of magic from good-weather-warden-gone-loopy character "Bad Bob" - yes, really). It's faced-paced and a quick read as a newlywed couple of weather wardens try to get ahead of the storm in order to save Florida.

Good to know: This is the eighth book in the author's "Weather Warden" series. A key part of the plot in this, which I didn't really understand, is that one of the weather wardens is infected with some kind of poisonous "demon mark." Due to the dark nature of that part of the story, I wouldn't give this book to anyone under 13/14.

Why we like it: My daughter seemed to grasp the plot better than I did, save a couple slightly confusing details/background info on the characters that I'm sure would be explained in the series. And while there were some holes in the story, once she started it, she couldn't put it down — and I like just about any book that can hold her attention that well!

--Submitted by HeyLaura

Birdie's Big Girl Shoes, $10.87

Author: Sujean Rim

Best for: Ages 4 to 10

What it is:It's all about wearing mommy's grown up shoes in every size, shape, and color. Birdie is a little fashionista who loves her mommy's shoes, she wants to wear them and has picked out a pair for every day of the week. She loves how the shoes look and feel but finds as she begins to wear them that they are uncomfortable and hard to manage. Kind of like being an adult, especially an adult with kids. The author does a great job of showing kids that adult shoes are hard to fill. Once she walks a mile in her mom's shoes, Birdie realizes there is much more freedom and liberty in wearing her own shoes. She loves the ability to twirl, dance, and play in her little shiny ballerina flats.

Why we like it: Initally, my daughter and I were both drawn to the book, I think it was the pretty bright pinks and all of the hot shoes. I mean there were pumps throughout the book in every color and craft and being a shoe lover myself I thought hey here is a book for the both of us. Turns out not only where the illustrations true page-turners but the book had a great moral to its story and although she is just six my daughter summed it up with a "mommy I think I want to stay a little girl for a while," that let me know she truly understood the story. All in all, Birdie's big girl shoes is a great story for every little diva and doll who is trying to grow up way to fast. It illustrates beautifully that life is more than what it seems and it does so in a way that kids can truly understand. I loved the story and would recommend for little fashionistas everywhere!

--Submitted by Tiffany2you

Origami on the Go!, $14.95

Best for ages: 7 and older

What it is: It’s a travel book and origami book combined. Interspersed with factoids about various countries are different origami patterns. The book also contains several colorful sheets of origami that correspond with the designs. The sheets tear away from the book which make it easy for parents to keep track of the origami sheets until they use them.

Why we like it: It has a lot of fun designs beyond the usual kabuki hat or cicada origami designs. You can fold the New Zealand Rabbit or the Grand Canyon Rattlesnake. Also with the patterned paper, the pig finger puppet looks like a pig.

Good to know: Even though the title suggests you can take this book on a nice car trip, it stresses you should use a flat surface when making the origami. We just did these origami designs on our kitchen table as the creases came out uneven when we tried it in the car. Also, the origami paper provided is a slicker and slipperier than traditional origami paper.

Grade: A-, this is definitely worth the money, particularly if you have a child that likes crafts or art projects.

--Submitted by ajkoos