Holiday Gift Guide
40 More awesome gifts for kids!
The Year’s Best Books, Music, Apps, Software, Video Games and More
In Part 2 of our 2011 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Winners’ coverage, we bring you more of the year’s top children’s products. Our expert judges and child testers have selected the most engaging books, magazines, apps, software, video games, websites and more—all to help you find the right gifts for kids and
adolescents this holiday season and throughout the year.
Books & Magazines
Infants - Age 2
Count 1 to 10
A simple concept of counting from one to 10, with each consecutive number popping up with the turn of the page. A pop-up book by Kees Moerbeek, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011; $15.95; www.abramsyoungreaders.com.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations of this classic rhyme will ease little ones to sleep while the adults in their life are charmed by every inch of this stunning book. Written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney;
Little, Brown Young Readers, 2011; $16.99; www.lb-kids.com.
The Splendid Spotted Snake
Brilliantly imagined and durably produced, this snake truly is splendid. This is a clever story of a newborn whose spots change colors as it grows and grows right before the reader’s eyes. Written by Betty Ann Schwartz and Alexander Wilensky, Workman Publishing, 2011; $13.95; www.workman.com.
Baby Einstein First Book of Puppies
You and your child will play slide-and-find peekaboo with adorable
illustrations and real photographs of puppies in this sturdy board book. Produced by The Baby Einstein LLC, 2011; $7.99; www.disneybooks.com and www.babyeinstein.com.
Ages 3 - 5
Harry Bliss has an uncanny way of creating a story that will appeal to the youngest child and still delight children of all ages. Here’s Bailey, the most enthusiastic student at Champlain Elementary, going through the school day eager to please and achieve. Written by Harry Bliss, Scholastic Press, 2011, $16.99; www.scholastic.com.
Look! A Book! A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure
This is a blast. Everything is here—cowboys, pirates, submarines, robots, animals, ice cream, everything. Readers can search on their own or follow prompts to discover the beautifully rendered worlds. Written by Bob Staake; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011; $16.99; www.lb-kids.com.
Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond
Jo and young readers learn about the wild creatures at a pond in this fun twist on the popular farmer song. Written by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant, Dawn Publications, 2011; $16.95 ($8.95 paperback); www.DawnPub.com.
Press here, shake, brush and make this simple book come alive as it moves dots through their journey. Translated by Christopher Franceschelli, Chronicle Books, 2010; $16.99; www.chroniclekids.com.
Ages 6 - 8
A Book for Black-Eyed Susan
Ten-year-old Cora loses her mother, and her father must give her newborn sister to Aunt Alma to raise. Together, Cora and her father must continue their journey along the Oregon Trail in this historical-fiction picture book that depicts a family’s trials and love. Written by Judy Young, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger, Sleeping Bear Press, 2011; $16.95; www.sleepingbearpress.com.
Me … Jane
Jane loves to be outside with animals while sitting in her favorite tree reading Tarzan books. Simply told, author Patrick McDonnell cleverly presents a glimpse of the young girl who would become Dr. Jane Goodall. Written by Patrick McDonnell; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011; $15.99; www.lb-kids.com.
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
An exquisite celebration of women and men who’ve made significant contributions and breakthroughs to our country’s social and cultural greatness. Stirring illustrations accompany concise, moving text to make this an inspiration for all children. Written by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long, Random House Children’s Books, 2011; $17.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids.
Ages 9 - 12
One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street
The children on Orange Street make surprising discoveries about themselves and their street while treasuring a
vacant lot’s orange tree that has bonded the neighbors for decades. Written by Joanne Rocklin, Abrams, 2011; $16.95; www.abramsbooks.com.
A moving, unforgettable story told in rich narrative verse and provocative illustration. This is a heart-rending ode to the families of West Africa whose loved ones were torn away by slave traders, who then delivered the stolen to the harsh fate of slavery in North America. Written by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon, Random House Children’s Books, 2011; $18.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids.
Two stories, 50 years apart, are told in this “Novel with Words and Pictures.” Ben’s story is told in words and Rose’s in pictures. The style is reminiscent of the author’s Caldecott Award-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Written by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2011; $29.99; www.scholastic.com.
Ages 12 and Up
Paper Covers Rock
An absorbing novel set at a boys’ boarding school. A student is killed in a tragic accident and the reader and surviving characters are left in a precarious position somewhere between partial and whole truth. Written by Jenny Hubbard, Random House Children’s Books, 2011; $16.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids.
The Secret of Rover
Grab your hats—we’re off for an intriguing mystery thriller with spies, chases, kidnapping and stowaways. Even the president of the United States becomes involved. This page-turner will have readers intrigued. Written by Rachel Wildavsky, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011; $16.95; www.abramsbooks.com.
The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy
Klutz delivers again—this time with the whole galaxy in your hands. Here’s a book that is a kit with remarkably clever tools—a telescope, flashlight, sundial and more equipping young astronomers to explore the galaxy. Written by Pat Murphy and the Scientists of Klutz Labs, Scholastic Press, 2011; $19.99; www.klutz.com.
Boys and girls in early elementary school—get ready for some fun! This hands-on magazine is packed with comics, puzzles, animals, crafts and jokes. Publisher Owl Kids also offers award-winning magazines for other ages. Owlkids; $5.25 an issue; $29.99 for a one-year subscription (10 issues); www.OwlKids.com; age 6-9.
A wide range of topics, from serious to fun, are presented in this visually appealing magazine. Read about fashion, puzzles, book reviews, practical help for difficult situations, and more. Discovery Girls, Inc.; $4.99 an issue; $19.95 for a one-year subscription (6 issues); www.DiscoveryGirls.com; for girls age 8 and up.
You can’t go wrong with any of the outstanding Highlights for Children mag-azines. Find one that best meets the interests and age of your child, such as this publication filled with fun puzzles. Highlights for Children; $5.95 an issue; $2.67 an issue plus postage for subscriptions; www.highlights.com; age 7 and up.
This hip and fabulous set of nighttime music features originals and well-chosen cover tunes that are good any time of day—and for any age as well. Putumayo Kids, 2011; CD $14.98; www.putumayokids.com; infants to age 5.
Ella Jenkins – A Life of Song
The “First Lady of Children’s Music” is back with a healthy dose of classic African- American folk songs. This inspirational collection, including “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and “Summertime,” infuses deep, soulful joy in the listener. The featured child singers and authentic American folk instrumentation make this album a
must-have, never-give-away classic. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2011; CD, $15; www.folkways.si.edu; infants and up.
Ages 1 - 3
Singin’ and Groovin’
Music for Little People has delivered classic children’s music for years. This time, there’s a twist—it’s groovy. Think “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as a gospel tune. Picture “Miss Mary Mack” as groovy funk/blues and “The Wheels on the Bus” as an old-school country jig. This is one eclectic mix of songs that every toddler will love. And the varied acoustic instrumental foundation will hold your attention on the long car ride home. Music For Little People, 2010; CD, $13.98; www.musicforlittlepeople.com; ages 1-2.
Hullabaloo – Road Trip
A San Diego-based duo delivers an engaging set of traveling tunes that will stop kids from asking, “Are we there yet?” Hullabaloo Music, 2011; CD, $12; www.hullaballooband.com; infants to age 6.
Ages 4 and Up
The Golden State
California-based “kindie” rock group the Hipwaders pay homage to their home state on this catchy album. Part Beach Boys, part Elvis Costello, The Golden State is all about having fun and residing in that carefree California state of mind. Dreams flourish on this album through songs like “Bubble Machine” and “Summer
Day.” So, come on in. The water’s warm! The Hipwaders, 2011; CD, $11.97; www.hipwaders.net; age 3 and up.
In A Big Warehouse
Imagination Movers will have kids movin’ and groovin’ to these highly energetic tunes drawn from the popular Playhouse Disney Channel group’s TV series. Walt Disney Records, 2010; CD, $11.98;
www.waltdisneyrecords.com; ages 2-5.
Chicken Joe Forgets Something
A comical tale about a cat named Chicken Joe whose barnyard pals have a fun surprise for him. The Secret Mountain, 2011; Storybook and CD, $16.95; www. thesecretmountain.com; ages 4-10.
Love Me For Who I Am - Songs Celebrating Children of All Abilities
Brady Rymer’s album celebrates individuality and carefree abandon. Even the title track exclaims,
“Please don’t try to fix me. Love me for who I am … ,” and we do! In “Picky Eater,” being selective is applauded. Also celebrated on the album are those who “don’t want to wear shoes” and others with “So Many Ideas.” Rymer captures the joy of youth through his Roy Orbison meets Tom Petty rock stylings. Bumblin Bee Records, 2011; CD, $9.90; www.bradyrymer.com; age 4 and up.
These Are My Friends
Alastair Moock’s wonderful knack of filling catchy ditties with humorous lyrics will bring a smile to your face. Moockshake Music, 2011; CD, $15; www.moockmusic.com; ages 3-8.
My Name Is Handel
George Handel’s life and work (particularly his “Water Music”) come alive in this informative and interactive disc. Performed by Yadu, Bonnie Ward Simon, Stephen Simon and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Classics, 2011; CD, $16.98; www.maestroclassics.com; age 9 and up.
Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights: What A Zoo!
From funk and blues to country and pop, with even a little hip-hop thrown in, this album has a style for everyone. The eclectic stylistic mix is sure to keep a child entertained. It’s original, catchy and suitable for the age group. The band is high caliber, with kid-hop rapper 23 Skidoo featured on a song, and the raw energy of the songs jumps off the speakers. City Kid Music, 2011; CD, $15; www.citykidmusic.com; age 2 and up.
Tom Chapin – Give PEAS A Chance
Tom Chapin keeps the folk music tradition alive through his myriad of recordings over the years. Having worked with such luminaries as the legendary Pete Seeger, Chapin’s Give Peas A Chance is steeped in the traditional folk genre, while addressing modern issues like being green, healthy food and sustainability. Sundance Music, 2011; CD, $15; www.tomchapin.com; age 3 and up.
Grow It At Home
The sage-like Peter Alsop shares his enlightening music, which includes tunes about dragons, St. Patrick, recycling, nutrition, beets and feet. Moose School Productions, 2010; CD, $15; www.peteralsop.com; ages 4-12.
Age 9 and Up
Mannheim Steamroller – Christmasville by Chip Davis
For more than 20 years, Mannheim Steamroller has brought us Christmas joy through music. Just when you thought they had covered it all, “Christmasville” comes along with 13 new recordings that feature yuletide ditties in varying styles, from classical to big band and, of course, the touching ballad here and there. Though kid-oriented, the album’s high-quality production can be enjoyed by the whole family. American Gramaphone, 2008; CD, $6.90; www. mannheimsteamroller.com; age 9 and up.
Apps, Software, Video Games, Websites & More
Ages 2 - 6
Surf safely! This kid-safe Web browser comes with a ton of great games, videos and Web destinations for kids, and includes safe email and video chat functions. Best of all, easy-to-use parental controls give complete control over what’s available for your kids. Fuhu; free; www.foozkids.com; ages 2-11.
Pat the Bunny
An extraordinary digital update version of Dorothy Kunhardt’s classic touch-and-feel children’s book. The illustrations are now interactive with lovely background music, excellent reading of the text and vocal feedback when the child does something interesting. Random House; $3.99; www.randomhouse.com/kids/apps; ages 2-6.
Toca Hair Salon
A delightful “e-toy” app that lets kids cut hair, style it, color it, and experiment with all sorts of wild hairstyles for people and animals. No matter what though, a touch ensures that the hair will always grow back. Simple and easy to understand, but provides plenty of stimulating, imaginative play. Tocaboca; $0.99; www.tocaboca.com; ages 2-6.
Age 4 and Up
An online art studio with an amazingly powerful set of art tools for kids. They can make pictures, mini movies, cards, stories and more. Design original creations or use pre-made Disney art images. There’s also a wonderful community of people who discuss each other’s work and help each other become better artists. Disney Interactive Media Group; free; www.disney.com/create; ages 5-15.
This is an amazing iPad-style kid’s touchscreen computer. Comes with fun apps including a virtual art studio, digital camera and more. New apps are $10 each and all are the same high quality. Includes impressive online and parent features, including emails that track kids’ educational progress. LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc.; $99; www.leapfrog.com/leappad; ages 4-12.
Age 10 and Up
MLB 11: The Show
State of the art for baseball videogames! The controls are great. Lighter modes like home-run derby make the game fun for younger fans and those who aren’t baseball junkies, but if you want deep baseball stats, they’re there. True baseball fans will love this game. Sony Computer Entertainment America; $59.99;
www.us.playstation.com; age 10 and up.
Books – Helen Foster James, Ed.D., is a veteran teacher and former coordinator of library media services for the San Diego County Office of Education. She is a book reviewer and author of the children ’s books E is for Enchantment: A New Mexico Alphabet and S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet. She has also received the International Reading Association’s Celebrate Literacy Award. Rubin Pfeffer has held top executive positions at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; Pearson, Inc.; and Simon & Schuster Children’s Books. He founded Beach Lane Books, and as a partner with the East West Literary Agency, founded that agency’s Boston base.
Music – Tor Hyams has composed scores for film and television and produced top recording artists and live music festivals for children. He wrote and produced A World of Happiness, a NAPPA-winning children’s CD, and coauthored a book by the same name. He launched the first KindieFest Family Music Conference, in 2009, and his family music record label, Happiness Records. Michael Berick is the calendar editor at L.A. Parent, where he also reviews children ’s CDs. He has written about children ’s music for the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly, and about music, in general, for m o re than 20 years.
Apps, Software,Websites & Video Games – Allen Rausch has worked for such renowned game developers as Acclaim Entertainment, Toys R Us, Interplay Entertainment, UbiSoft, Riot Games and Nexon America. The PC editor for GameSpy.com for seven years, he has also been a contributing author for games published by White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast, a noted columnist-reviewer, and an editorialist for publications such as PC Gamer, GameSpot and Gamasutra.