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Cook, Color, Sing and Learn With a Child Today

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These innovative, creative new books will inspire kids to use their imaginations, have fun and learn new things.

"The Forest Feast for Kids" by Erin Gleeson; Abrams Publishing; 112 pages; $19.95.

More and more children these days are opting to be vegetarians. Parents worry, though, about whether all their nutritional needs can be met without meat. This beautiful cookbook shows off the rustic simplicity of kid-friendly vegetarian recipes that are quick, easy and fun to make. Author/photographer Erin Gleeson uses her own home in the woods as the setting for the photos in this gorgeous book, with real children cooking the dishes themselves.

The book conveys the importance of using local produce and safe kitchen practices. The natural feel and homegrown approach Gleeson uses reigns strong here. Her recipes are presented with large, clear text and big, bold photographs of strawberry salsa and peanut-butter-and-avocado shakes, kale and black bean tacos and carrot and zucchini ribbon pasta. Gleeson adds sections on parties; healthful desserts; and utensils and techniques. Best of all is the beautiful scenery of her idyllic cabin near San Francisco. This refreshing cookbook is also available in her blog and book for adults, entitled, "The Forest Feast."

"That's What You Think!" by Jan Von Holleben, Michael Madeja and Katja Naie; Little Gestalten; 183 pages; $24.95.

Subtitled "A Mind-Boggling Guide to the Brain," this cool photo-filled, thoughtful book asks questions such as "Can plants think?" "Did Albert Einstein have a bigger brain than everyone else?" and "Why can little kids usually remember more than grown-ups?" Answers of a few paragraphs for each question are perfect for young brains to comprehend, and colorful photographs of real kids against clear backgrounds shows off the subject matter in a playful way.

This book explores 80 questions about brains, memories, development, what they're made of and how they work. The answers are astounding, with fascinating information not only about human brains but also the brains of some animals.

Penned thoughtfully by a photographer/educator, a neuroscientist/doctor and a writer with degrees in biology and neuroscience, "That's What You Think!" is a truly fascinating gray-matter guide for ages 11 and up.

"Imaginary Cities," "Amazing Animals," "Once Upon a Fairy Tale" and "Extraordinary Machines" by The Coloring Studio; 32 pages; $7.99.

Recent research suggests coloring is a helpful practice to combat stress and anxiety, and many non-childish coloring books have emerged on the market. The Coloring Studio's releases are cool, beautiful, imaginative, affordable books for all ages. "Imaginary Cities" describes wondrous places, from majestic skyscrapers to ornate palaces. "Once Upon a Fairytale" brings to life the fun details of the world of make-believe, with stories of Arabian nights, Little Red Riding Hood and the frog prince. Wacky flying ships, whirring gears and imaginative rockets star in "Extraordinary Machines." My favorite of the set, "Amazing Animals," features some partially colored pages that bring life to whimsical drawings of chameleons, parrots and peacocks. Easy-to-remove pages make displaying artwork simple.

Coloring books make great gifts for stressed out college students, hospital or retirement home patients and busy kids and adults. Keep calm and color on!

"Rise Again Songbook" from Peter Blood and Annie Patterson; Hal Leonard Publishing; 300 pages; $27.50.

With a preface by Pete Seeger and foreword by Billy Bragg, this huge, spiral-bound songbook is perfect for musicians, camps and teachers. It's packed with the words and chords to hundreds of songs. Best of all, the beloved songs are grouped by genre, from "Ballads and Old Songs" to "British Invasion and Rock," "Home and Roots," "Motown and R&B," "Seas and Sailors" and "Surfin' USA." No stone is left unturned: there are gospels and spirituals, songs for healing and letting go, songs for traveling, seasonal classics, pub songs, bluegrass jams, lullabies and blues and farm songs. It's all here, in one easy-to-use guide.

As the prolific Seeger says, "If there's a human race still here in a hundred years, one of the main reasons will be that we found ways we can sing together." Music doesn't get any more powerful than that. This book is a celebration of that power.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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