Books, Music and more... Oh my!
In Part 2 of the 2008 NAPPA Gold Award-winners’ coverage, we highlight outstanding books, music, and software and video games for kids. Our expert judges and kid testers have made it easy for you to find the right gifts for the children in your life this holiday season and all year-round.
BooksBy Helen Foster James, Ed.D., and Kathleen Krull
For Infants & ToddlersBecause You Are My Baby, by Sherry North, illustrated by Marcellus Hall; Abrams Books, 2008; $15.95; www.hnabooks.com. A mom shares her wishes for her baby in this celebration of a parent’s love.
Eebee’s Laundry Time Adventures, Every Baby Co., 2008; $14.95; www.eebee.com. This clever cloth book features colorful items from a laundry basket to sort, play with and talk about.
Say Daddy!, by Michael Shoulders, illustrated by Teri Weidner; Sleeping Bear, 2008; $15.95; www.sleepingbearpress.com. The family welcomes Baby Bear with love and encourage the baby’s first words.
Ten Tiny Babies, by Karen Katz; Simon & Schuster, 2008; $14.99; www.simonsays.com. Ten chubby, bouncy tots exhaust themselves until bedtime.
Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, by Richard Van Camp; Orca, 2007; $9.95; www.orcabook.com. Sweet photos of babies complement an evocative lullaby.
For Preschoolers & UpAlphabet, by Matthew Van Fleet; Simon & Schuster, 2008; $19.99; www.simonsays.com. Join the safari in this tactile alphabet book with 26 pop-ups, moveable parts and a poster.
Alphabet Animals: A Slide-and-Peek Adventure, by Suse MacDonald; Simon & Schuster, 2008; $12.99; www.simonsays.com. Animals form letters that children try to guess in this innovative alphabet book. Pulling out the page reveals the letter and the animal’s name.
Crocs!, by David T. Greenberg, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger; Little, Brown, 2008; $15.99; www.lb-kids.com. These hilarious poems beg to be read aloud!
Dr. Ted, by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre; Simon & Schuster, 2008; $14.99; www.simonsays.com. In this funny delight, a bear pronounces himself Doctor and goes on to misdiagnose everyone he meets.
Dress Up Your Own Paper Pups, Chicken Socks/Klutz, 2008; $12.95; www.scholastic.com. This silly activity book sets the stage for hours of fun.
A Kitten Tale, by Eric Rohmann; Random House/Knopf, 2008; $15.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. Three kittens worry about the coming of snow, but a fourth can’t wait to experience the white wonder.
Monkey with a Tool Belt, by Chris Monroe; Carolrhoda, 2008; $16.95; www.lernerbooks.com. While Chico Bon Bon fixes and builds things with his trusty tool belt, readers learn about tools and what they do.
Trucktown: Smash! Crash!, by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by David Gordon, Loren Long and David Shannon; Simon & Schuster, 2008; $16.99; www.simonsays.com. Big trucks spend the day doing what they do best – smashing, crashing and playing.
For Ages 6 & Up
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham; Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2008; $15.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. An Asian-American second-grader has numerous fears – plus, he never says a word in school. But at home he’s a noisy superhero.
Arthur of Albion, by John Matthews, illustrated by Pavel Tatarnikov; Barefoot Books, 2008; $24.99; www.barefoot-books.com. This gorgeous edition of the King Arthur legend is coupled with fascinating research and a map.
As Luck Would Have It, by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Daniel San Souci; August House, 2008; $16.95; www.august house.com. This lighthearted retelling of a Brothers Grimm tale is full of amusing absurdity and good intentions gone awry.
Create Your Own Books, Creativity for Kids, 2005; $17.99; www.creativityforkids.com. Kids can make their own stories with this nifty kit.
Maybe a Bear Ate It!, by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley; Orchard Books/Scholastic, 2008; $15.99; www.scholastic.com. What happens when you lose your favorite book? Horrifying imaginings make for humorous reading.
TOP PICK! Wabi Sabi, by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young; Little, Brown, 2008; $16.99; www.lb-kids.com. A Japanese cat sets off to discover the meaning of her name. The story is complemented with haiku and beautiful collages.
For Ages 9 & Up
Cicada Summer, by Andrea Beaty; Amulet Books/Abrams Books, 2008; $15.95; www.hnabooks.com. Lily hasn’t spoken since her brother died, but she keeps busy reading every Nancy Drew book in the library. Then, Lily has the chance to solve a mystery and make a friend in this poignant story.
Defiance, by Valerie Hobbs; Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005; $16; www.fsgkidsbooks.com. An 11-year-old cancer patient learns some important lessons about living and dying from a poet and her cow.
Every Soul a Star, by Wendy Mass; Little, Brown, 2008; $15.99; www.lb-kids.com. This story of friendship and finding one’s place in the universe is told in the voices of three kids who arrive at a camp to view an eclipse.
FAMILY FUN Everybody Eats Lunch, by Cricket Azima, illustrated by Titus V. Thomas; The Creative Kitchen/Glitterati, 2008; $16; www.thecreativekitchen.com. This interactive board/puzzle book explores what kids from other countries eat and includes recipes. Yum!
52 Days by Camel: My Sahara Adventure, by Lawrie Raskin and Debora Pearson, photographs by Lawrie Raskin; Annick Press, 2008; $26.95/$14.95 (paperback); www.annickpress.com. This memoir will fascinate armchair travelers as they journey with the author on his real-life trek.
George Washington Carver, by Tonya Bolden; Abrams Books, 2008; $18.95; www.hnabooks.com. This fascinating biography features well-written text and many photographs.
Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, edited by Nikki Giovanni; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2008; $19.99; www.sourcebooks.com. This anthology celebrates African-American culture and comes with a CD of notables reading their poetry.
How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming, by Lynne Cherry and photojournalist Gary Braasch; Dawn Publications, 2008; $17.95; www.dawnpub.com. This authoritative book delves into the science behind the headlines, emphasizing how kids can make a difference.
In Your Face 3-D: The Best 3-D Book Ever!, by David E. Klutho; Sports Illustrated Books, 2008; $19.95; www.sikids.com. This book of amazing sports photos is guaranteed to “wow” when viewed with 3-D glasses (included).
FAMILY FUN Kit’s World: A Girl’s-Eye View of the Great Depression, American Girl Publishing, 2008; $24.95; www.americangirl.com. Pull tabs, secret codes and paper dolls enhance this glorious salute to the 1930s.
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes, by Peggy Gifford, illustrated by Valorie Fisher; Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2008; $15.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. This fast-paced chapter book features a sassy, disaster-prone heroine.
Science on the Loose: Amazing Activities and Science Facts You’ll Never Believe, by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Claudia Dávila; Maple Tree Press, 2008; $22.95/$10.95 (paperback); www.mapletreepress.com. Wit and energetic style capture kids’ attention with high-interest topics and unique activities.
For Ages 12 & UpTOP PICK! A Thousand Never Evers, by Shana Burg; Delacorte/Random House, 2008; $15.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. This book paints a compelling portrait of the Civil Rights movement. When faced with tragedy, the young heroine finds the voice to lead a march of her own.
Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life, by Linda Silvertsen and Tosh Silvertsen; Simon & Schuster, 2008; $10.99; www.simonsays.com. This book outlines ways for each of us to take action.
ghostgirl, by Tonya Hurley; Little, Brown, 2008; $17.99; www.lb-kids.com. Charlotte, invisible in her high school, discovers that visibility and popularity are just as big a deal in the afterworld in this witty novel.
My One Hundred Adventures, by Polly Horvath; Schwartz & Wade/Random House Children’s Books, 2008; $16.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. This is a sensitive, well-written and magical account of Jane’s search for adventures – away from her eccentric family.
Susanna Hits Hollywood, by Mary Hogan; Delacorte/Random House, 2008; $8.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids. A teen intern and celebrity reporter heads off to Hollywood for the Academy Awards.
The Postcard, by Tony Abbott; Little, Brown, 2008; $15.99; www.lb-kids.com. Strange phone calls, old postcards and a grandmother whom Jason has never met create a gripping mystery that uncovers family secrets.
MagazinesHighlights High Five, Highlights for Children; $26/year; www.Highlights.com. This monthly magazine encourages preschoolers to be “curious, creative, caring and confident.”
TOP PICK! KidSpirit; KidSpirit Magazine; $25/year; www.kidspiritmagazine.com. This quarterly magazine, by and for young people ages 11 to 15, is a fresh attempt to talk about spirituality, sans affiliation. Kids explore the search for meaning from all angles.
Kiki, B-books; $7.95/issue, $26/year; www.kikimag.com. This quarterly journal features grooming tips and articles that empower tween girls to develop their own personal styles and gain self-confidence.
MusicBy John Wood
What a terrific playlist of NAPPA Gold winners we have from this year’s highly competitive music competition! All of these CDs represent a love and compassion for children and for the world in which we live. Enjoy!
LullabiesFAMILY FUN Down at the Sea Hotel, various artists, The Secret Mountain, 2007; $12.98 CD, $16.95 Book/CD; www.thesecretmountain.com; all ages. Songs by artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Carole King, Neil Young and Tom Waits are given new folk arrangements and accompanied by a beautifully illustrated book.
Putumayo Kids African Dreamland, various artists, Putumayo Kids, 2008; $14.98; www.putumayo.com; all ages. This soothing music makes a fine introduction to some great African artists.
Stardust, Cher & Gene Klosner, Audible Chocolate Productions, 2007; $24.95 double CD; www.stardustlullaby.com; all ages. Gorgeous lullabies arranged for piano and acoustic guitar with orchestral touches will cure even the most stubborn case of insomnia.
For Toddlers & UpBest Pals – Kathy & Janet Lennon Sing Their Favorite Childhood Songs, Kathy & Janet Lennon, KatJan, 2006; $17; www.bestpals.net; all ages. These two Lennon sisters have been singing together since 1955, and they are still “best pals,” performing their childhood favorites for today’s kids. Timeless songs and perfect harmonies!
It’s A Gymboree Party!, Parachute Express, Trio Lane Records, 2007; $15; www.parachuteexpress.com; ages 1 to 4. Upbeat kiddie rock with guitar, piano, hand claps and a bit of funk and calypso thrown in for good measure.
Tall as a Tree, Hullabaloo, Hullabaloo Music, 2008; $12; www.hullabalooband.com; up to age 6. These clever original tunes emphasize the wisdom of parents and sneak in some useful lessons, too. “Use Your Words” is a catchy reminder to talk instead of tantrum. Also includes traditional tunes like “Froggy Went a Courtin’.”
For Preschoolers & UpFamily Tree, Frances England, Paper Bird Records, 2008; $14; www.francesengland.com; ages 2 to 8. These 16 songs entice the listener into a safe and childlike world of wonder and play. England’s whispery voice is accompanied by acoustic guitar, banjo and piano, with fun added touches like the wooden spoons providing the rhythm for “Giddy Up.”
Here Comes Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, Brady Rymer, Bumblin’ Bee Records, 2008; $15.99; www.bradyrymer.com; all ages. These songs about traveling will appeal to families who enjoy roots and country-rock together. The messages are sound and the sound is contagious.
FAMILY FUN I’m Growing, Gunnar Madsen; Gee, Spot! Records, 2008; $14.98; www.gunnarmadsen.com; ages 2 to 10. Witty lyrics sparkle atop crisp, tasty pop-rock. Don’t miss “Mozart’s at the Window,” a silly symphony in which the composer sneaks into your house and creates chaos: “Swinging from the chandelier / Drinking Papa’s beer / In his underwear!”
Pop Fly, Justin Roberts, Carpet Square Records, 2008; $15; www.justinrobertsmusic.com; ages 3 to 8. Full of clever and goofy wordplay, these catchy pop songs are populated with everyday heroes and everyday victories.
Snacktime!, Barenaked Ladies, Desperation Records/Nettwerk, 2008; $13.99; www.barenakedladies.com; all ages. This may well be “best of show” this year. The band’s radio-friendly pop translates perfectly to kids’ music: always clever, never cloying and endlessly witty.
Very Derryberry, Debi Derryberry, Very Derryberry Productions, 2007; $12.99; www.debiderryberry.com; ages 2 to 7. Derryberry is a prolific voice-actress in cartoons, and you can hear why on this collection: her sweet, high and slightly raspy voice is a total kid-magnet! New arrangements of classics and solid originals make this CD the complete package.
For Ages 4 & UpBig Round World, Trout Fishing in America, Trout Records, 2008; $14.98; www.troutmusic.com; for ages 4 and up. The duo’s gentle folk-rock is laced with touches of world-music and pro-social messages.
Experience … 101, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Appleseed Recordings, 2007; $15; www.sweethoney.com; for ages 5 to 15. This African-American a-cappella ensemble’s influences range from gospel, traditional hymns and spirituals, and African chants to modern hip-hop and jazz. The vocals are simply amazing.
Yes to Running, Bill Harley, Round River Records, 2008; $17.99 double CD; www.billharley.com; for ages 6 and up. Harley has a gift for pulling audiences into the world of childhood and school with irreverent humor and impeccable comic timing. With stories and songs from Blah Blah Blah, I Wanna Play, The Teacher’s Lounge and more, this concert CD is the next best thing to seeing Harley live.
Software, Video Games & Web SitesBy Alex Chisholm
This year, we noted an increase in the number and quality of online offerings, enhanced features that personalize play, and a raising of the bar in software that enables kids to explore their creativity and practice musical performance skills. Here the ones that earned NAPPA Gold.
For Preschoolers & UpBob the Builder Can-Do Zoo, Brighter Minds Media, 2008; $19.95; www.brightermindsmedia.com; ages 4 to 6. Requires: Windows 2000, XP or Vista, or Macintosh OS X 10.3.9 or newer. Kids create their own scenes and earn stickers, while learning to identify tools, organize and sort, develop memory and hand-eye coordination, and exercise basic problem-solving and planning.
TOP PICK! Tag Reading System and the Little Engine That Could, LeapFrog Enterprises, 2008; $49.99 (Tag Reading System) and $13.99 (Tag-enabled book); www.leapfrog.com; ages 4 to 7. The Tag is a “fat pen” that brings audio interactivity to specially printed books. Wherever the child touches the page, characters talk or the printed words are read aloud, complete with sound effects. Tag offerings include classics such as The Little Engine That Could and Olivia, plus Activity Storybooks that feature popular characters.
For Early Elementary StudentsBEST BANG for the BUCKClub Penguin, Disney Internet Group, 2005; $5.95/month; www.clubpenguin.com; ages 6 to 10. Requires: Web browser and Flash. Club Penguin sets the gold standard for fun, online games for kids. They can create their own penguin, play with friends and explore different roles in the virtual community.
FAMILY FUN KidJamz Studio, VTech Electronics, 2008; $59.99; www.vtechkids.com; ages 4 to 10. Our kid testers said that this was one of the coolest toys they’d seen. This stand-alone music station lets them create and record their own songs and music, experimenting with multiple sounds, styles and rhythms. A microphone enables voice effects and a detachable player lets kids take their hits with them.
Word Girl PBS Web Site, Scholastic Media, 2007; free; www.pbskids.org/wordgirl; ages 4 to 7. Requires: Web browser with Flash. Fun and clever activities reinforce language arts with mini-videos and games that allow kids to explore at their own pace. The site also includes resources for parents and teachers.
For Tweens & UpTOP PICK! Animationish, Fablevision, 2008; $59.95; www.animationish.com; ages 10 and up. Requires: Web browser. Kids can create their own animations in three levels of difficulty that span from the simple Wiggledoodle-ish to the intermediate Flip Book-ish and the full-blown tools of Advanced-ish. This is a well-designed application that doesn’t look or act like the usual productivity or creativity software.
TOP PICK! Boom Blox, Electronic Arts, 2008; $49.99; www.info.ea.com; ages 9 and up. Requires: Wii console. This new hit from Electronic Arts and Steven Spielberg features more than 300 levels. Players “explore the visceral gameplay that keeps you destroying your way through brain-twisting challenges,” according to the creators. Our kid testers agree. Funny characters engage players in the game’s four themed worlds. Players can remix levels and add new elements to challenge friends or share with others.
Deca Sports, Hudson Entertainment, 2008; $29.99; www.hud sonent.com; ages 6 to 14. Requires: Wii console. Leveraging the interactivity afforded by the Wii, Deca Sports features 10 different athletic events, including basketball, soccer, badminton, archery, kart racing, motocross, beach volleyball, figure skating, curling and snowboarding.
The Greens, WBGH Interactive Kids Group, 2007; free; http://meetthegreens.pbskids.org; ages 8 to 12. Requires: Web browser with Flash. Fun characters, led by a spunky 12-year-old named Izz, help kids learn about recycling, global warming, composting and harnessing natural resources. Downloadable resources support learning and inspire discussions.
Whyville, Numedeon, 1999; free; www.whyville.com; ages 8 to 15. Requires: Web browser with Flash. In Whyville, kids take responsibility for different aspects of the community. Players earn “money” through fun learning games that help them grasp concepts such as angular momentum, latitude, vector arithmetic and more. It really inspires kids to learn!
The NAPPA JudgesBooks – Helen Foster James, Ed.D., is a lecturer at San Diego State University and former coordinator of library media services for the San Diego County Office of Education. She is the author of S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet. Kathleen Krull reviews children’s literature for parenting magazines nationwide. She is the author of the “Lives of …” series and other books for young readers.
Music – John Wood brings more than 30 years of expertise to his reviews of children’s music, which appear in parenting magazines across the country and on Kidzmusic.com. He has also performed more than 8,000 shows with his children’s group, J.P. Nightingale.
Software & Video Games – Alex Chisholm is a media research and development consultant who has most recently created the games for iCue with NBC News and produced Generation Cures at Children’s Hospital Boston. He is a founding member of the Learning Games Network, a nonprofit supporting innovation in the use of games for learning.