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Books for Santa’s favorite young readers

“How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney?” by Marc Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Courtesy)
Stuck for a gift? Here are some suggestions for even the tiniest bookworms

This year has a plethora of great books for young readers – and even younger listeners. Santa might have a difficult time narrowing down his choices.

For the “Littles” on the list, there is “How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney?” by Marc Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. This one is a perfect bedtime read for the night before Christmas. The author poses this question and then proceeds to offer some childlike and humorous suggestions about how Santa might get into a house. Some are very brainy, if not probable, silly and pretty much impossible. This book is sure to generate some fun conversations.

“Butt or Face?” by Kari Lavelle. (Courtesy)

Not a typical Christmas topic, “Butt or Face?” by Kari Lavelle is a clever picture book with photos that challenge young readers or listeners to decide whether the picture on the page just shows an animal or an insect’s face or butt. It contains one trick question near the end that will make kids laugh. The author includes interesting facts about each critter. Children will learn where these critters live and what they eat. This is a fun, entertaining book.

“Mexikid, A Graphic Memoir,” by Pedro Martin. (Courtesy)

“Mexikid, A Graphic Memoir,” by Pedro Martin is a warm, engaging and colorfully illustrated book that would be great for reluctant middle school-aged readers. The author comes from a large, loud and loving family of nine children with parents who were born in Mexico. Pedro was number seven and was born in America. The big family adventure begins when the whole family travels to Mexico to bring back their grandfather to live in their already crowded home. The illustrations are well done with great detail. Martin does an excellent job of describing some of the differences between Mexican and American cultures and customs. This is a great read.

“Mascot,” by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell. (Courtesy)

The next book, “Mascot,” by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell, is a stunning and insightful book centered on a topic that has been in the news a lot, causing strong feeling on all sides: Native Americans as team mascots. Written in verse, this story takes place in a well-to-do suburb of Washington, D. C., called Rye. It starts in fall semester, during the last class of the day in eighth grade honors English. Callie, a Native American transfer student from the Cherokee Nation, is distraught by the portrayal of the Rye middle school mascot. It is a caricature of a fierce-looking Brave. Her classmates include, Franklin, Priya, Sean, Tessa and Luis, who all have differing opinions. The student vary wildly in their ethnicity, social and financial situations. Their teacher makes a class assignment where they must take sides as teams of two and use facts to present their opinions. This begins a yearlong project that brings about many changes for the students, the school and the community. This is an excellent topic and is treated deftly by the authors. This should be on everybody’s shopping list as it encourages people to try to understand other people’s feelings and opinions with some respect and patience.

“The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels,” by Beth Lincoln with illustrations by Claire Powell. (Courtesy)

“The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels,” by Beth Lincoln with illustrations by Claire Powell, is a fanciful tale with many delights. The Swifts have been around for hundreds of years with a tradition that sets them firmly apart. When each child is born, their name is randomly selected from the revered family dictionary. Our main character is tween Shenanigan. She lives in the family’s estate with her sisters Phenomena and Felicity, older aunts, an uncle and Cook. The big news is that the family is having a big, really big, family reunion at the weekend in the home. The characters arrive and it is noted that these individuals basically resemble the definition of their names. The mystery begins when the matriarch of the family, Aunt Arch Schadenfreude, is pushed down the stairs after announcing she is retiring and will name her successor. The girls set out to discover the guilty relative and the plot thickens with more deaths, and everyone trapped at the house with no way out and no way to communicate with the outside world. This debut novel is filled with quirky characters, words and their definitions, a huge house filled with tunnels, a secret room and a missing treasure. All of these great elements keep the pages turning.

“Artifice,” by Sharon Cameron. (Courtesy)

Finally, “Artifice,” by Sharon Cameron is a great book for serious readers, especially those who are interested in history. The story takes place during the occupation of the Netherlands by the Nazis during World War II. This novel would have to be classified as historical fiction as it uses the lives of real people and events. The author has created a situation peopled with some fictional characters who bring the story up close and personal. Isa de Smit is the main character. She lives in Amsterdam in 1943 with her artist father in the gallery he and her deceased mother created. For her whole life, Isa has been surrounded by artists, writers, creative characters of many types where acceptance and ideas flowed freely. The Nazi regime, of course, is anything but. Isa, only a teenager, is trying to survive the invasion and take care of her father and keep a roof over their heads. The resistance, a loosely formed bunch of patriots, work to damage the Nazis’ control, and is also trying to save Jewish babies, who are destined for death. Isa’s friend Truus, is involved in this underground effort and unwittingly involves Isa. At the same time, Isa is selling fake Old Master art works to keep alive. She is embroiled in conspiracies on many levels, making her vulnerable to both the Nazis and the resistance, who might consider her a collaborator for dealing with the Nazis. Death can come from either direction. This is a complex and compelling novel that both educates and entertains readers.

So Santa has these great books and many others he can choose to make boys and girls of all ages happy readers. For more information about these titles, visit Maria’s Bookshop at www.mariasbookshop.com.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher and freelance writer.