Award-winning, Classy Books as Holiday Gifts

By Lee Littlewood

December 11, 2015 6 min read

Need a gift for a child that will last years and offer art appreciation, education, imagination and wonder? Books fill that bill. These are award winning tales that will make perfect presents. They're also some of my favorites of 2015.

"Home" by Carson Ellis; Candlewick Press; 36 pages; $16.99.

A lovely tribute to the cozy and awe-inspiring possibilities of home is the debut of acclaimed artist Carson Ellis, illustrator of the "Wildwood" series and for the band the Decemberists. The oversized, understated coffee table-worthy tome begins with "Home is a house in the country" and ventures on to "Some homes are boats. Some homes are wigwams. Some are palaces. Or underground lairs." Her charming, woodsy, retro depictions upon white backgrounds are whimsical and fun. They get bolder and more elaborate with "French people live in French homes. Atlantians make their homes underwater," depicting a woman blowing a horn by a French flag and an underwater character tooting a conch shell with an octopus underfoot.

The book starts asking questions — "Who in the world lives here? And why?" — that open up the conversation about different cultures, people and living arrangements. Ellis ends succinctly with her own studio and the line, "An artist lives here. Where is your home? Where are you?" Simply beautiful!

"How Big is Big? How Far is Far?" by Jan Metcalf; illustrated by Jan Van Der Veken; Little Gestalen; 50 pages; $24.95.

Super hip, muted colors and a 1950s feel add a playfulness to this translated German measurement book. How fast is 56 miles per hour? How heavy is one ounce? A giant red kangaroo jumps through Australia at 56 mph, while one serving of spun sugar, or cotton candy, only weighs one ounce. The world's oldest tortoise was born in 1825, and the book shows a red X over a phone, electrical socket and airplane, presenting that those things didn't exist when the tortoise was born. Explaining that it's "more or less impossible to picture how big space is," the creators explain that if the sun was a ball three feet in diameter, the Earth would be a cherry and Mars would be a pea.

Amusing comparisons and lighthearted artwork make units of length, distance, weight, speed, volume and time easier to grasp for young children, (and adults). Super cool looking and incredibly informative, this fun comparison book should rouse plenty of curiosities.

"Like a Wolf" by Geraldine Elschner; Antoine Guilloppe; minedition/Michael Neugebauer Edition; 28 pages; $17.99.

The world needs to show more kindness towards animals, and that's exactly what Geraldine Elschner's bold, black-and-white picture book promotes. Starring a misunderstood dog with pointy ears, sharp teeth and has been raised in harsh circumstances, Elschner's thoughtful tail is told from the dog's point of view. He longs for freedom, friendship and to romp in the sun. Eventually, a man comes to get him from his cold kennel and turns him into a sheep dog, where he sings to the moon when his herd sleeps.

With stunning silhouettes and a thoughtful story of loneliness and the longing for a home, "Like a Wolf" is a beautiful tale that will tug at the heartstrings of dog lovers and those who value animals' lives. It also includes a profound thought on the back cover — "Everyone deserves a chance at friendship."

"Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs" by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart; Candlewick Press; 12+ pages; $34.99.

A #1 New York Times bestseller, this incredibly elaborate book features more than 35 intricate pop-ups of dinosaurs, from the Tyrannosaurus rex to the feathered archaeopteryx and many, many more. With little, side pop-ups in every page spread, there's an army of dinosaurs that come to life with every turn and pull out. Plenty of facts and information add to the total package, making this stunning collaboration truly a dream come true for dinosaur fans. Sabuda and Reinhart are the dream team of pop-up artists.

"Alpha" by Isabelle Arsenault; Candlewick Press; 54 pages; $18.99.

Isabelle Arsenault's bold and beautiful alphabet book is perfect for nurseries and preschooler's bookshelves, or even as a modern decor piece. With a muted orange cover and a vintage paper airplane (and the bold lettering "Alpha), the book flows from "Bravo," (a dark pair of hands clapping), to "Echo" ( boy throwing the paper airplane in class), to "X-Ray" (a retro man with crazy x-ray glasses).

A truly unique and cool way to learn the alphabet, this abecedarian offers the young reader a fun way of communicating in an internationally recognized code. The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet has long been used by emergency services as a way to communicate clearly in urgent situations. Cat, for example, would be "Charlie-Alpha-Tango." Simply cool and with hip mid-century artwork, "Alpha" is a gift book extraordinaire.

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

Photo credit: Norio NAKAYAMA

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