22 November 2019

Gift Giving 2019: 3 Great Books for Family Reading

Okay, so how did it get to be the holiday season already? Seriously, it's crazy. But I know some of you are already searching for the perfect book gift for your young readers, and today I have three recommendations.

Each is perfect for any time of the year and deserves a permanent place on your bookshelves, but each is also a great gift idea for whatever holiday you plan to celebrate next month. (Thanks to Media Masters and the publishers for the review copies.)

Review of Into the Deep by Wolfgang DreverInto the Deep: An Exploration of Our Oceans by Wolfgang Drever (Prestel Junior, Oct. 8) is beautifully illustrated by Annika Siems. I love serious nonfiction that is geared to younger readers because curious children want to know about the real world. Any kid who is drawn to books about science isn't interested in being talked down to. I was relieved to see that Dreyer, a marine biologist, introduces middle grade readers--and the whole family--to the wonders of the ocean in an engaging way, without making the text too simplified. The book starts out by talking about the tiniest of creatures: plankton. Did you know that some plankton are plants and some are animals? Dreyer's technical text (for example, all about oxygen in the water) is explained and expanded by Siems's detailed and clarifying drawings, which show both marine photosynthesis and how gills work. Dreyer works his way up in size from krill to whales and down in feet from surface life to the ocean bottom. Along the way we learn about  bioluminescence, meet horror-movie-worthy sea creatures, and discover how both prey and victim use camouflage as tools for survival. I had never heard of the ocean floor dwelling tripodfish, but both the illustration and the description caught my attention. Another thing I won't forget: what happens to a whale's carcass when it dies. A note on the art: all the incredible illustrations are oil paintings, some of them "in a really large format," which were photographed for inclusion in the book. Young or old, this is a fantastic book to read and then read again and again.

Review of What's Cooking at 10 Garden Street? by Felicita SalaWhat's Cooking at 10 Garden Street?: Recipes for Kids from around the World written and illustrated by Felicita Sala (Prestel Junior, Sept. 24). Although the format of this book will remind you of a picture book for very young children, the text and recipes are geared to middle grade readers and beyond. Although I envisioned the story as taking place in New York, the setting could be any big city in any country in world. In fact, the author lives in Italy and the book has appeared in both French and English. The premise is simple: in an older apartment building (see the cover illustration), the members of each family are busy making a meal that reflects their heritage.  On one side of each spread, we see inside one of the apartments as men, women, or children are prepping, cooking, or tasting a dish. Mister Ping makes stir-fried soy broccoli while his nephew taste-tests, Signora Lella makes spaghetti al pomodoro while her cat plays with yarn, Jeremiah makes peanut butter cookies while listening to Tom Waits, and elderly Mrs. Greenpea bakes up some mini quiches. On the facing page is an illustrated recipe so you and/or your kids can make the featured dish. You'll find directions for how to make tomato-y salmorejo, black bean soup, coconut dahl, Mediterranean-inspired meatballs, and much more. I love the expressive drawings, the global recipes, and how the people represent a range of ages and ethnicities. The very last page shows all the tenants gathered together around a large dining table that is set up in the backyard. Everyone is sharing the wonderful food.

Review of Encyclopedia of American Indian History &d Culture by Cynthia O'BrienEncyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture by Cynthia O'Brien (National Geographic, Oct. 29). I love National Geographic books because I can trust their research, plus their photographs, art, and informative graphics always make the subject matter come alive and grab my attention. This may be advertised as a kids' book, but it's perfect for both adults and teens too. This book features about 160 American Indian tribes (out of many more hundreds) currently living in North America. The book is divided into regions that cover the continent from the Arctic to southern Mexico. Topics include time lines highlighting thousands of years of history, terminology (such as the definition of matrilineal), religious ceremonies, technology, everyday life, contemporary issues (like Standing Rock), and loss of traditional lands. O'Brien and the National Geographic team found historic photographs, drawings, and archaeological artifacts, which are shown alongside images of the ways contemporary American Indians have managed to preserve or revive their spiritual, cultural, and artistic traditions. Not all is romantic: the book discusses the impact of European contact and expansion, the loss of lands, the spread of disease, the introduction of Western religions, and battles and broken treaties. Because this is an encyclopedia, it is not the kind of book you or your kids will read in one sitting. I recommend starting with the region where you live; you might be surprised at how much you'll learn. This would make a wonderful gift for anyone who wants to know more about the people who lived and thrived in North American long before all of us immigrants arrived on its shores.


Tea 11/22/19, 7:14 AM  

I love the second book. I think whole families would enjoy cooking from that one. Some families would identify with the apartment building. Your reviews become better and better.

rhapsodyinbooks 11/22/19, 7:41 AM  

Me too re What's Cooking!

bermudaonion 11/22/19, 8:13 AM  

They all look gorgeous. The cover of Into the Deep makes me want to pick it up and flip through it.

sherry fundin 11/22/19, 11:52 AM  

into the deep looks like a really good one. i love anything to do with water and critters of the fishy kind
sherry @ fundinmental

Nan 11/22/19, 9:19 PM  

I've bought What's Cooking for my grandchildren ... from reading Jama's post. And I was directed there from your Weekend Cooking!

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/22/19, 9:50 PM  

The cookbook looks wonderful.

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