8 new picture books that make great gifts for kids

  • Julie Bookman
  • For the AJC
3:00 p.m Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 Living
For the AJC
In “The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse” by Mac Barnett, the illustrations by Jon Klasssen include the duck and the mouse making themselves at home inside a wolf who swallowed them (but did not eat them). USED WITH PERMISSION FROM CANDLEWICK PRESS

Jimmy Fallon has a hit with “Everything Is Mama,” a happy little “teach a few words” book for tots and tykes. “Where’s Waldo? Destination: Everywhere!” celebrates the striped guy’s 30th anniversary with extra-hard hunt-and-find scenes by Martin Handford. And a certain green crawly critter finds holiday joy in Eric Carle’s “Merry Christmas From the Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

RELATED: A look at Eric Carle’s work when the High Museum hosted an exhibit about him in 2016

Here are eight other new picture books less apt to be on your radar. All are super bets for the gift-giving season.

For the AJC
“Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters” by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Evan Turk (Atheneum). CONTRIBUTED

‘Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters’ by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Evan Turk

Let’s face the music. Yes, you purchase storybooks with kids in mind, but you’ve every right to choose some that float your boat. After all, it’s your lap. Mahin’s extensive research renders a rich portrait of the blues legend and his era. Put on Muddy’s music and plan on a few sittings to get through this fine portrait of the legend who heard the Mississippi Delta in his heart. The big, dark pages hustle and pop, thanks to Turk’s neon and jewel-tone illustrations. (Ages 4-8, Atheneum, $17.99)

RELATED: Who’s playing Christmas concerts in Atlanta this year?

For the AJC
“Creepy Pair of Underwear” by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster). CONTRIBUTED

‘Creepy Pair of Underwear’ by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

This one from the terrific team behind “Creepy Carrots” was a recent big-laughs favorite when read aloud to a first-grade Atlanta classroom. In this rollicking adventure, Jasper Rabbit thinks it’s time to graduate from his tighty whities, so Mom buys him one pair of underpants that have a “ghoulish, greenish glow.” So begins the frightful, entirely silly trouble. Careful what you wish for, kids. (Ages 4-8, Simon & Schuster, $17.99)

RELATED: Hottest holiday toys for 2017

For the AJC
“Hortense and the Shadow” by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara (Little, Brown). CONTRIBUTED

‘Hortense and the Shadow’ by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

Inspired by their Austro-Hungarian heritage, a sister team debuts an enchanting tale about a girl who hates and is haunted by her own shadow. Do we really need our shadow? Natalia writes (“Through the dark and wolfish woods, through the white and silent snow …”) and Lauren provides meticulously detailed illustrations worthy of the extra-thick, elegant pages. This story with a touch of the macabre works on many levels and will encourage such things as confidence and self-esteem. (Ages 4-8, Little, Brown, $17.99)

For the AJC
“The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press). CONTRIBUTED

‘The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse’ by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Caldecott Medal winner Klassen ( “This Is Not My Hat”) again delivers one of the best illustrated books of the year. This delicious fable-like romp from the team behind “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” will induce howls of laughter. A duck and a mouse have been swallowed by a wolf (not eaten, mind you). They dine, sleep and such in the wolf’s dark belly. But when they get noisy, the wolf moans — a lucky break for a nearby hunter. Warning: Adult readers and their listeners may start using expressions like “Oh woe!” and “Oh shame!” (Ages 4-8, Candlewick Press, $17.99)

For the AJC
“Waltz of the Snowflakes” by Elly MacKay (Running Press Kids). CONTRIBUTED

‘Waltz of the Snowflakes’ by Elly MacKay

Known for exquisite cut-paper dioramas, MacKay employs the technique to fine effect in a wordless, breathtaking picture book about a girl’s first trip to see “The Nutcracker.” On a dreary and rainy night, the girl doesn’t want to get dressed up for something so unknown. But then the curtain rises, revealing a swirl of beauty and vibrant colors — a strong contrast to the humdrum “real life” sepia-tone scenes. MacKay opens the door wide so youngsters might invent all sorts of things that might be part of the girl’s special outing. (Ages 4-8, Running Press Kids, $16.99)

RELATED: John McFall’s ‘Nutcracker’ begins its final performance run

For the AJC
“Why Am I Me?” by Paige Britt, illustrated by Selina Aiko and Sean Qualls (Scholastic Press). CONTRIBUTED

‘Why Am I Me?’ by Paige Britt, illustrated by Selina Aiko and Sean Qualls

The simplest concepts often render the best results. Why are we the person we are, rather than “someone else entirely”? As they move through these big pages splashed with multiculturalism and scenes ranging from crowded subways to the night sky, kids reflect on questions of identity and their place in the universe. This could become a new bedtime favorite. (Ages 4-8, Scholastic Press, $17.99)

RELATED: Children’s book author-artist Ashley Bryan’s works come to High Museum

For the AJC
“Rapunzel” by Bethan Woollvin (Peachtree). CONTRIBUTED

‘Rapunzel’ by Bethan Woollvin

Much as she did in her prize-winning “Little Red” (2016), author-illustrator Woollvin churns out a fairy tale as it was meant to be: some danger amid the shenanigans. The witch can’t hold this Rapunzel in the tower forever, just to keep snip-snipping her golden tresses. This Rapunzel has pluck, by golly. Woollvin’s expert gouache and digital artwork, in a black-gray-yellow palette, trips the light fantastic all over these large pages. (Ages 5-9, Peachtree Publishers, $16.95)

RELATED: 9 events for dining with Santa and other holiday food fun

For the AJC
“We’re Going to Be Friends” by Jack White, illustrated by Elinor Blake (Third Man Books). CONTRIBUTED

‘We’re Going to Be Friends’ by Jack White, illustrated by Elinor Blake

“Teacher thinks that I sound funny, but she likes the way you sing.” Sound familiar? “Friends” is a hit from the White Stripes’ 2002 album, “White Blood Cells.” Jack White’s catchy lyrics about little Suzy Lee’s important new school friendship with a boy morph beautifully into text. The old-timey typewriter font is just the right nostalgic choice. Blake’s immensely creative illustrations incorporate familiar images (like Betty Boop) with historic photos. Included: a card offering a code for free download of the tune. (Ages 5-10, Third Man Books, $16.95)

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