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Butler Center Recommends Books for Holiday Gifts
by Dan Armstrong
Holiday Book Gifts
Thom Barthelmess, curator of the Butler Children's Literature Center, has created a list of recommended books to give as holiday gifts to young people of different ages. 

"In a season overcome with ill-fitting sweaters and batteries-not-included gadgets, books make the perfect gift. These titles promise afternoons full of cozy, fireplace-adjacent escape, and there’s absolutely no assembly required," Barthelmess says.

The following books have been recommended based on quality and age of the reader:

Applegate, Katherine, illustrated by Patricia Castelao. The One and Only Ivan (grades 3-6)

Ivan the gorilla is resigned to his life in a glass enclosure at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. But when Ruby the baby elephant arrives, Ivan commits himself to winning a better life for her. Beautiful prose tells a beautiful story. Poignant, emotional and uplifting.


Barnett, Mac, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Extra Yarn (ages 4-8)

A young girl discovers a mysterious box full of a seemingly inextinguishable volume of yarm. She knits sweaters for all of the people in her coastal village, and, with yarn to spare, knits sweaters for the buildings, the trees, and everything else stationary. An evil Archduke absconds with the magical box, but the truth will out. Warm, sweet and lovely.


Bingham, Kelly, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky. Z is for Moose (ages 2-7)

Zebra is staging an alphabet book and is busy corralling a cast of characters to represent the different letters. When Moose’s letter is up and Mouse takes his place, bedlam ensues, with hysterical chaos leading to a heart-warming finish. Hilarious, irreverent and satisfying.


Thom Barthelmess
Thom Barthelmess is curator of the Butler Children's Literature Center.

Close, Chuck. Chuck Close: Face Book (grades 5-9)

The famous portraitist tells his remarkable story, overcoming severe dyslexia, prosoagnosia (the inability to recognize faces) and paraplegia to become one of the most celebrated artists alive in an interactive book brimming with stunning detail. Exquisite, tactile and inspirational.


DaCosta, Barbara, illustrated by Ed Young. Nighttime Ninja (ages 2-7)

A stealth ninja sneaks through a house at midnight in pursuit of treasure of inestimable value. Just as the prize is in his grasp, his mother flips on the lights, seizes the ice-cream and sends him back to bed. Gorgeous, funny and irresistible.


Johnson, R. Kikuo. Shark King (grades K-3)

A Hawaiian legend about a shape-shifting boy who becomes a king is just the thing for a picture-perfect beginning reader with graphic illustrations, comic book panels, word-balloon dialogue and ebullient excitement! Bright, smart and ebullient.


Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (grades 7-12)

In this un-put-downable record of the Manhattan Project historian Sheinkin weaves three distinct narratives into an utterly compelling page-turner about spies, science and sabotage with abundant facts and indelible lessons. Gripping, informative and scrupulous.


Silvey, Anita. Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac (grown ups)

For the children’s-book-loving adult on your list, this treasure trove by noted critic Anita Silvey makes a different recommendation for every day of the year and comes overflowing with corollary tidbits of fascination. Erudite, expert and comprehensive.


Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity (grades 9-adult)

Shot down behind German lines during WWII, and enduring starvation and torture, Julie trades Allied secrets for prolonged safety and a few trifling comforts. Or does she? Wein’s startling novel weaves espionage, honor and indelible friendship into a gripping, revelatory package. Dense, complex and thrilling.

The Butler Children's Literature Center will host a book sale on Friday, November 30, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A variety of children's books from the past year will be available for purchase, along with fre expert recommendations. Hardbacks are $7.50. Paperbacks are $2.50. For more information, contact the center at (708) 524-6861 or butler@dom.edu ​​

Contact: Dan Armstrong - (708) 524-6452 - darmstrong@dom.edu
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