Splendid Gifts for Young Readers and Art Lovers

By Lee Littlewood

September 30, 2016 5 min read

It's almost the time of the year for gift giving. Here are a few new books teeming with retro art and the "it" factor.

"Animals" by Ingela P. Arrhenius; Candlewick Studio; 34 pages; $22.

Talk about retro splendor. This oversized posterworthy book showcases whimsical vintage-looking animals. The names on the animals are written in various types of artsy lettering, while the creatures themselves are drawn with round eyes and friendly demeanors, looking as if they stepped off a 1950s child's bedspread. Toddlers will love the 32 sophisticated yet innocent animals smiling at them, while older kids and adults will appreciate the hip, retro artwork. Just as suitable for a child's introduction to animals as it is a decoration for the shelf, Ingela P. Arrhenius' book is downright groovy and would make a great gift.

"Under Earth, Under Water" by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski; Candlewick Press; 116 pages; $35.

Another large artsy coffee table-worthy book from Candlewick Press, this one shows off whole worlds to explore just below the surface. When you open the big book one way, it's everything underwater; the other way is everything under Earth. With double pages packed with clear, vintage-looking illustrations and cartoon captions, "Under Water" shows off what's under lakes, oceans and coral reefs and also explains sinkholes and buoyancy, diving suits and submarines. Even the Titanic, scientists and the Mariana Trench are covered. "Under Earth" explores bugs and microorganisms, how volcanoes and geysers form, plant roots, Earth's layers and burrowing animals, among other things.

A beautiful, unique book that will get kids of all ages thinking about and appreciating the bottommost parts of this world, "Under Earth, Under Water" is innovative and enlightening.

"Art of Coloring: Moana: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity" from Disney Editions; 128 pages; $15.99

The widely anticipated new Disney movie "Moana" comes out in November, but fans can color 100 pages of intricate "Moana"-inspired Pacific Island artwork, patterns, tattoos and designs right now. This lovely coloring book is not just for kids; it features the strong female character Moana, as well as palm trees, suns, roosters, serene islands, oceans and other very detailed, exotic images fit for framing.

Other new Disney "Moana" books include the picture book "Moana and the Ocean" by Heather Knowles and Annette Marnat; and the chapter book "The Story of Moana: A Tale of Courage and Adventure," complete with a tattoo page and an authentic island feel. This book is especially beautiful with original content in the form of mini folktales about the culture of Oceania. Also up is "Moana Read-Along: Storybook & CD," a 32-page paperback picture book complete with a CD of Moana's story.

"There Is a Tribe of Kids" by Lane Smith; Roaring Brook Press; 40 pages; $21.99.

Lane Smith is a huge talent. He has won several awards, including being named a Carle Artist for lifelong innovation in the field of children's picture books. "There Is a Tribe of Kids," his latest book, follows a child on a journey with animals and other natural elements that all have a tribe of their own. Though he finds fun and companionship with a colony of penguins, a smack of jellyfish, a crash of rhinos and a trail of shells, he explores until he comes across an exotic tribe of kids, playing and frolicking on and around a big tropical tree.

A marvelous expedition of a life journey, told from a child's perspective, this ode to discovery, curiosity and imagination is brilliant; it's made even better by Smith's enchanting and timeless yet retro-cool illustrations. This is another Lane Smith masterpiece.

"Disney Frozen: A Pop-Up Adventure" by Matthew Reinhart; Disney Editions; 12 detailed foldout pages; $40.

I imagine every child would be thrilled with this latest Disney edition from paper-engineering master Matthew Reinhart. Truly magical, the pop-up scenes and foldout treasures in this breathtaking tribute to the movie "Frozen" are so carefully engineered that even adults will marvel. The new work of art revisits Elsa and Anna's epic journey to break the spell of a perpetual winter. Inside, there's more elaborate wording than most pop-up books. This one is simply gorgeous!

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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