After a wild Christmas morning of unwrapping, there’s nothing better than the silence of children who are completely absorbed in their new gifts. With these books, kids can create, build, bake, imagine and marvel all year long.
Kids and adults alike will want to try out Oscar Sabini’s alluringly creative Paper Monsters: Make Monster Collages! Following on the heels of Paper Zoo, Italian illustrator and educator Sabini presents a variety of templates to make a menagerie of unbelievably cute critters. Cardstock and colorful paper are included, so all that’s needed is glue to follow his simple instructions for assembling a collage and slipping it into a pocket with a monster-shaped window. Add a few eyes, noses and teeth, and the creatures come to life. Sabini notes that any paper can be used, such as newspaper and even stamps. This self-contained art class will appeal to a wide variety of ages and act as a springboard for future collage projects. Believe me, you’ll want to try this yourself!
Open this ingenious box and have fun exploring Pinball Science: Everything That Matters About Matter by Ian Graham and Owen Davey. Inside you’ll find an instruction book and all the components needed to build a retro, science-themed pinball machine. There are no electronics here: Just insert and fold the tabs of 63 pieces of cardboard (a sturdy box slips out of the package to form the base of the pinball machine), and you’re ready to play. Meanwhile, there are accompanying lessons about gravity, force and acceleration—everything that matters when that pinball rolls out of its starting gate. In addition to instructions and science lessons, the book contains suggestions for very simple science projects using common household items. Budding scientists will have a ball.
FOR THE LITTLEST SOUS-CHEF
Roll up your sleeves and get out the oven mitts for Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake! This colorful, spiral-bound guide, presented by the aptly named kids’ cookbook writer Deanna F. Cook, features easy instructions paired with helpful pictures. There are eye-catching recipes for crispy cheese squares (think Cheez-Its) and brownie pizza, plus adorable bread art (bake an octopus or a snail) and cake and cookie decorating ideas, all rated for difficulty using a scale of one to three rolling pins. Who knew you could put designs and initials on toast using foil shields? A section on the basics gets young bakers started, and additional bonuses include stickers, bake-sale tags and design stencils to use with confectioner’s sugar.
READ AROUND THE WORLD
“How [do you] love a story?” asks prolific children’s author Jane Yolen. “Read it aloud. Let it melt in your mouth. There is magic between the mouth and ear when a story is involved.” Yolen has assembled a wonderful collection of more than 30 short folk tales for preschoolers, Once There Was a Story: Tales from Around the World, Perfect for Sharing. Old favorites (“The Gingerbread Man,” “The Ugly Ducking”) mix with little-known offerings, such as “The Little Old Lady Who Lost Her Dumpling” from Japan and “Plip, Plop,” a rabbit tale from Tibet. Yolen partners with longtime collaborator Jane Dyer, whose softly colored illustrations bring these stories to life. This enriching, thoughtful collection is sure to be a bedtime favorite.
“Welcome to nature’s very own super-clever construction world,” writes Moira Butterfield in How Animals Build. There are fun facts and lifting flaps galore in this lively compendium, with entire pages that unfold to reveal a bunny warren and a beehive, the many animals living in one tree and the wonders of a coral reef. Paired with Tim Hutchinson’s illuminating illustrations are brief discussions of everything from a naked mole rat’s burrow to the nearly five-foot wide nest of a European white stork. Readers also learn about some extreme builders, like two orb spiders who traveled to the International Space Station. This nicely laid out book will engage a variety of ages and interests.
DID YOU KNOW?
Somehow kids never tire of fun facts and trivia, especially when they’re alongside eye-popping photos. Middle school and older elementary readers will find plenty of tidbits to entertain everyone in the family with 13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything. Each of the book’s two-page spreads has a theme, such as “Blood Rush” (circulation), “Medical Marvels,” “A Way with Words” (language) and “On the Ball” (sports). In “Making Movies,” we learn that not everyone eats popcorn at the movies. In Norway, movie snacks can include reindeer jerky, while Indians might eat samosas, Japanese love dried sardines, and South Koreans munch on chewy dried cuttlefish. Each spread contains 13 facts, plus a “½” fact, which addresses a half-truth or misconception, such as: “Whales and dolphins don’t squirt water out of their blowholes—they use them to breathe. The stream of water vapor often seen shooting out is the result of the warm expelled air condensing when it meets the cold outside air.” Get ready for a trivia smackdown.