Catholic News Service
The following children’s books are suitable for Christmas giving:
“Black & White: The Confrontation Between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor,” by Larry Dane Brimner. Boyds Mill Press (Honesdale, Pa., 2011). 112 pp., $16.95.
Drama, conflict, adventure, marches, police, Ku Klux Klan — all these elements are contained in this nonfiction history of one the big civil rights battlegrounds: Birmingham, Ala. The tale, told in a fairly straightforward manner from both sides, is gripping in itself, and the author even includes the stories of the children’s march on Birmingham. Excellent use of photos — some quite dramatic — from the 1960s, pull-out quotes and the use of black and white add to the graphic attraction of this book. Ages 12-up.
“Friendship With Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI Speaks to Children on Their First Holy Communion,” edited by Amy Welborn, illustrated by Ann Kissane Engelhart. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2011). 32 pp., $14.95.
This simple, faith-filled “conversation” is based on a chat Pope Benedict had with children in St. Peter’s Square. Engelhart’s watercolors beautifully illustrate the questions and answers — not just related to Communion — that Welborn has chosen, and adults might find themselves inspired if they read aloud to their second-graders preparing for the Eucharist. Ages 7-10.
“Secrets of Siena,” written by Dianne Ahern, illustrated by Bill Shurtliff. Aunt Dee’s Attic Inc. (Ann Arbor, Mich., 2011). 131 pp., $12.95.
This book, another in the adventures of Sister Philomena, has humor and mystery, but its main appeal is its travelogue- and history-in-disguise. The adventure of a young boy and girl spending the summer with their aunt, a nun, takes them from Rome to Siena to Avignon, France. Ahern does a delightful job of weaving in cultural and historical details with real-kid impressions that will keep young readers turning the pages. Ages 8-11.
“Little Croc’s Purse,” written and illustrated by Lizzie Finlay. Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Mich., 2011). 32 pp., $14.99.
Finlay’s humorous, colorful illustrations will draw in the listener, but her text sends a subtle, nonpreachy message about values: honesty and resisting peer pressure. Little Croc finds a purse with money and turns it in to police, but not before being tempted by other options. Ages 4-7.
“Dragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide for Young Dragon Fighters,” by Sir Wyvern Pugilist. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Mass., 2011). 224 pp., $23.99.
This book will not have mass appeal, but young readers who love fantasy can immerse themselves in a parallel world of slaying dragons — bad things, obstacles to good. Sir Wyvern holds up as examples the chief dragon slayer (God) and other prominent slayers (the saints). The author’s engaging story-telling, occasional bravado and clever analogies will draw in the reader, and his low-key humor will help keep them turning pages. Maps and illustrations add to this book’s appeal. Younger children will enjoy the fantasy but will need help reading this. Ages 6-12.
“Snowflake Baby,” by Elise Broach, illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. LB Kids (New York, 2011). 14 pp., 7.99.
If I had to pick one book for toddlers, this would be it! Simple two- and three-word sentences and fun, bright illustrations fill this cardboard book, good for little hands. It has seven lift-flaps to peek under, too. Adult readers, brace yourself: This is one of those books that will end with the child request of “Again!” Ages 6 mos.-3.
“The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman,” by Meg Wolitzer. Dutton Children’s Books (New York, 2011). 294 pp., $16.99.
Wolitzer has woven a clever tale of young characters, each with his own conflicts and accomplishments. Like in Scrabble, she builds the pieces of the plot off each other, until they all come together at a national Scrabble tournament in Florida. This is an excellent read: part about growing up, part just adventure. Bonus: occasional Scrabble tips. Ages 10-13.
Barb Fraze has been reviewing children’s books for more than 20 years. Now she reads them to her grandchild.