Educational Books, Toys: Best Children's Books from 2008

Best Children's Books from 2008

Can it be? Is it really time to round up our SavvyPicks for the best books of 2008? It's alarming to think that a year can speed by so quickly, but luckily our Savvy tradition of surveying the year's books is always a pleasure. And this year is no different! Our children's book authors and illustrators have brought us a wonderful batch of new titles full of adventure, humor, beauty and bits of wisdom too.

Adele and Simon in America

Adele and Simon in America

by Barbara McClintock

One good turn deserves another, and Adele and Simon's wonderfully butter-fingered traipsing through Paris certainly merited another journey, n'est-ce pas? This time Adele and her slippery-pawed brother are on a trip across early 20th-century America. Your little one will love scouring the period scenes from Boston to San Francisco, from Cape Disappointment to Lubbock to find what Simon dropped. And his certainty that "we" would find them in the end mirrors what you hear after you've pulled off your own continent-wide search to retrieve a lost lovey. No wonder we are so charmed by this book...
-- Being Savvy 

Elephants Never Forget!

Elephants Never Forget!

by Anushka Ravishankar

This is a brand-new book with an old-fashioned soul. It seems almost like a fable that Aesop lost track of, or at least a story from the 50s that just got a retro re-do. The illustrations in the style of wood cuts are rooted and timeless; the story is part silly, part wise and accompanied by a symphony of animal noises to echo its rhymes. For all its fun, it shows children a little something about appearances and the company one keeps and the importance of sticking together.And it uses the word "natter" -- we're sold!
-- Being Savvy 

Sometimes You Get What You Want

Sometimes You Get What You Want

by Lisa Brown

One of the all-time great lines in the preschool teacher arsenal is "you get what you get and you don't get upset." What's that you say? Your little one would like a bit of an explanation. A smidge of context for why some rules apply in some places and not others. Some guide to the arbitrariness of "yes, now; no, not now" that cycles through a preschooler's day. Well, cue Lisa Brown and Meredith Gary to step in to save you from the dreaded "because I said so." Their accessible words and pictures make it all seem so reasonable. And fair. And struggle-free. A best book, indeed.
-- Being Savvy 

The Donut Chef

The Donut Chef

by Bob Staake

The value of simplicity. The dangers of hyper-competition. The delights of a good donut. All this and more can be found in the new volume from the Golden Books you adored as a child. (No, this edition doesn't have that foil-wrapped edge, and yes, it does use "calamari" to rhyme with "starry," but kids these days are a slick bunch.) The wonderful rhymes and frame-worthy illustrations of Bob Staake (of The New Yorker fame) tell a great tale, amusing all the way through the graceful imparting of such big, big lessons.
-- Being Savvy 

The Little Yellow Leaf

The Little Yellow Leaf

by Carin Berger

We're all afraid of change sometimes. And who faces change more often than small children? Can we blame them for clinging, every now and then, to what they know? The little yellow leaf of this story understands perfectly. He holds tight to his tree branch long after all the other autumn leaves have fallen. He's not ready, not yet. Not until he spies a little scarlet leaf, a friend who gives him the courage to soar. What a lovely image! Indeed, we find this book to be lovely in every way: beautiful artwork, spare lyrical text, and a gentle, brave message every child and grown-up facing change can embrace. -- Being Savvy 

The Pet Dragon

The Pet Dragon

by Christoph Niemann

We love stories about friendship and adventure, so we were well disposed to this tale from the beginning. Little did we know, when first opening its pages, just how impressed we'd be. We're enamored of Lin, the bold heroine, and captivated by her quest to find her lost pet baby dragon. That and a marvelous, unexpected ending would be enough. But this story does more, much more! A trip to Asia inspired author Christoph Nieman to create a book to teach children (and grown-ups) their very first Chinese Characters. Each image in the book incorporates a character, along with the translation below. Thus the story moves along seamlessly while readers also have the fun of learning the visual meaning of over thirty Chinese characters. How clever!
-- Being Savvy 

Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi

by Mark Reibstein

This is an unusual children's book, but we admire it all the more for that reason. It begins with a cat's quest to understand her own name, "Wabi Sabi." As we journey along with her, readers discover the meaning of this Japanese way of perceiving beauty in what is modest, imperfect, natural and mysterious. The other animals Wabi Sabi queries each offer clues, but it is not until a wise monkey offers her tea from a rough clay bowl that she truly understands "simple things are beautiful." The extraordinary collage pictures pick up on this theme, incorporating natural materials (feathers, fur, leaves, pine needles) in a way that could inspire many art projects. Simple storytelling interwoven with haikus and zen philosophy make this a beautiful choice for kids big and small, and an intriguing pleasure for parents too.
-- Being Savvy 

Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland

Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland

by Jon Scieszka

Last year we heaped praise on a new version of the Cinderella story reviving Mary Blair's original storyboard illustrations from the making of the classic Disney movie. This year, we are doubly thrilled that Disney has brought out another volume of Blair's dreamy images, paired, this time, with Jon Scieszka's charming retelling of Alice in Wonderland. The intrepid, curious Alice, we feel, has been unduly neglected of late by the princess-obsessed preschool set, but we think this book will go far in sparking an interest. Our preschoolers, after all, also long for a "world with less sense and more nonsense" and know very well, as the Cheshire Cat says, that "most everyone is mad around here." -- Being Savvy 

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