Monday, December 21, 2020

😷🎄Unplugged Gifts for the Young and the Young at Heart in My Family (Part 2)

The books I've included in this roundup of gift suggestions are a little more sophisticated than the last unplugged roundup, but they are every bit as exciting and interesting, and since they will appeal to readers of all ages, they may very likely generate some lively conversations between kids and the adults in their lives. And they have all been kid tested and received their 'seal of approval.'  

One of a Kind: A Story about Sorting and Classifying
written and illustrated by Neil Packer
Candlewick Studio, 2020, 48 pages, age 7+
At first, a book about sorting and classifying may seem like an odd gift choice, and more like a topic kids might study in school. But once readers open this book, they will meet Arvo and travel with him throughout his day. learning how Arvo and the individual objects he comes into contact with belong to much larger but related groups. For example, Arvo belongs to a whole family tree that goes back generations and includes a diverse number of people. Arvo's cat Malcolm belongs to a large family of all kinds of cats, and Arvo's violin belongs to a whole group of instruments. The book goes on like that, until the end when it circles back to the one-of-a-kind individual. By the end of Arvo's day, readers will definitely appreciate the idea of sorting things as a way to making sense of the world. As the author says, imagine trying to find a library book without the benefit of classifying them. I thought the mixed media illustrations in this oversized book were wonderfully quirky with a kind of old-fashioned feeling to them and spent quite a bit of time exploring them, especially the wide variety of apples Arvo found in the farmers' market until I found my individual favorite, the honeycrisp. This is surely a book that young and old readers will enjoy alone and together.

Gridiron: Stories From 100 Years of the National Football League
written by Fred Bowen, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020, 112 pages 8+
I do not know much about football and yet, I found the stories in this book to be more than just interesting. The book covers 100 years of the NFL, and is set up like a football game. After the introductory Pregame Show, it is divided into four quarters with each quarter covering 25 years of football history. Did you know that the NFL had some humble beginnings, formed in an car dealership by the managers of some important midwestern football teams?  Or that the Super Bowl wasn't always called that, and that it wasn't always to popular games it is today? Originally, it was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, but thanks to Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, it's name was changed to Super Bowl and how he came up with that name is worth reading about. This is a book that is mostly about fun anecdotes like that, but Bowen doesn't ignore problems of racism within the league, or CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) injuries, either. Back matter includes an extensive bibliography and articles. What really makes this book special are the many beautiful, wonderfully detailed watercolor illustrations by James Ransome. I bought two copies of this book - one for an 11-year-old fan and the other for my 95-year-old uncle who literally grew up with the NFL.

The Language of the Universe: A Visual Exploration of Mathematics
written by Colin Stuart, illustrated by Ximo Abadía
Candlewick: Big Picture Press, 2020, 80 pages 8+
When I was a kid, if someone had given me a math book for Christmas, I would probably have been pretty disappointed. So why am I recommending this math book? Because it's fun and different and interesting and useful. The book is divided into four sections: Math in the Natural World; Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering; Space;  and Technology. Using visuals, readers will discover "how, as [they] go about [their] life each day, everything around [them] is buzzing with math." They will also learn some basic scientific principles and mathematical terminology, covering areas like atom patterns, Einstein's energetic equation, a great explanation of the Fibonacci sequence, and even a section on Cryptography and Encryption. Each concept is clearly defined and explained, and then visually illustrated. This is an ideal gift for math lovers, but even people who aren't into math will appreciate this book, and who knows, it may even spark a dormant interest. I'm a diagnosed dyslexic who has avoided math all my life like the plague, so I can honestly say this is an exceptional book.
Lost in the Imagination: A Journey Through 
Nine Worlds in Nine Nights
written by Hiawyn Oram, illustrated by David Wyatt
Candlewick Studio, 48 pages 8+
If you are looking for something different for the fantasy lover on your list, look no further than this beautifully executed book. The conceit is that it is the notebook of a fictional theoretical physicist named Dr. Dawn Gable after she had visited nine imaginary worlds in nine nights. She did this with the help of Hyllvar, a dragon descended from ancient Norse dragons, and his flying machine. The first world they visited was the lost city of Kôr. But when Dr. Gable protested that they could not be there, Hyllvar merely said "Be curious. Curiosity will take you further than you can dream." And it does, including Camelot (my favorite), Lilliput, Atlantis, and four more worlds. Each world has illustrations showing what they look like, the animals and beasts that inhabit them along with vegetation and other interesting bits. It isn't a book that goes into great detail, but it will inspire readers to seek out more imaginative worlds and perhaps develop a love of fantasy and science fiction if they don't already. Diehard fans of fantasy will no doubt appreciate having this lovely book as part of their library. I'm giving a copy of this book to a 10-year-old fan who has coveted my review copy since it arrived. Oh, yes, there's a coded message in the books edges. Can you decode it? Hint: read Dawn's introductory letter.
How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of
Science Behind Humanity's Greatest Adventure
written and illustrated by John Rocco
Crown BFYR, 2020, 264 pages 10+
Space may be the final frontier, but it is a mystery that we have already begun to explore, beginning with man's first trip to the moon in 1969. And for anyone who has wondered how it was done without the benefit of today's technology, Rocco has provided all the answers from the beginnings of NASA's space program, and including the step-by-step work of the engineers, mathematicians, and scientists involved in that successful moon landing. Rocco leaves nothing to the imagination, giving realistic explanations and descriptions of every step in the process of what he calls humanity's greatest adventure. He clearly loves his subject, and has done all the detailed illustrations himself. His goal was to produce the kind of book he would have wanted and poured over as a boy. The result is both informative and riveting. What makes it really work for young readers interested in science is that it isn't dry or boring, but written in a reader-friendly narrative style. Rocco has also included many of the diverse people who worked on the moon landing and who don't generally get the credit they deserve. Back matter includes A Note About Research, Sources, Documentaries, websites, Places Visited, and suggestions for Further Reading, and more. If you have a young or old reader who is interested in space, this is the book for them. It will keep them occupied for a long time and I wouldn't be surprised if they returned to it again and again. I'm giving a copy of this to a friend's son, as well as to my 95-year-old uncle who will love it. 


  1. Nice! Christmas is a perfect time for all. Reading is also good for all. And Christmas story is all nice.

  2. Looks like some very cool books! I would have loved to receive One of a Kind as a kid (says the person who wanted to be a librarian since high school). In fact, I will go see if my library has a copy for me to request, haha.


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