Leon's Story by Leon Walter Tillage, collage art by Susan L. Roth (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $14) Leon Tillage, born the son of a sharecropper in 1936, grew up in the segregated South. His account of those days of terror, and of the family who sustained him, is a remarkable American document.
Children of Summer: Henry Fabre's Insects by Margaret J. Anderson, illustrated by Marie Le Glatin Keis (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $14) A biography of the 19th-century Provençal entomologist who "was a famous explorer," although he "seldom left his own backyard." This superb introduction to the challenge and joy of scientific observation should inspire the next generation of field scientists.
The Atlas of the Classical World by Piero Bardi, illustrated by Paolo Ravaglia and Matteo Chesi, Ferruccio Cucchiarini, with Michael Grant, consultant (Peter Bedrick, $19.95) The large-format volume represents a foray into worlds from Minoan Crete to classical Athens and Rome. Spectacular illustrations and accessible scholarship make for a rare and wonderful reference book.
Oh Freedom! Kids Talk About the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made It Happen by Casey King and Linda Barrett Osborne, foreword by Rosa Parks (Knopf, $18) In a series of 31 interviews, children took tape recorders into the homes of family members, friends and activists and created a vivid documentary account of the movement. The message, as Rosa Parks writes, is clear: "ordinary people working together can change history."
Nesuya's Basket by Carol Purdy (Roberts Rinehart, $8.95) The Maidu Indians of Northern California were a peaceable nation of hunter-gatherers. This novel, recounting a Maidu girl's adolescence in the 1840s, as settlers began to arrive, is a revealing portrait of an imperiled culture.
The Acorn Eaters by Els Pelgrom (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $16) From the distinguished Dutch novelist, a young boy's journey to manhood, set in a village near Granada in the years following the Spanish Civil War. This remarkable work of historical fiction, now adroitly translated, is based on the childhood recollections of the author's late husband. Note: there is a minimal amount of sexual content.
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster, $16) Into the night, soaring with bats: a tour-de-force fantasy starring a chiropteran hero trying to make his way back to his home colony. A can't-put-it-down adventure for readers from around age 8 all the way to adult.
Warriors, Warthogs, and Wisdom: Growing Up in Africa by Lyall Watson, illustrated by Keith West (Kingfisher, $16.95) Writer and world traveler Watson, who spent his childhood in the African bush, has produced an extraordinary memoir. His cast of characters includes a warthog who became the family watchdog. Not to be missed.
Finding the Lost Cities by Rebecca Stefoff (Oxford University Press, $24.95) Nineveh, Angkor Wat, Chaco Canyon, Machu Picchu and beyond. This lively survey of 12 buried and re-discovered cities is spellbinding. The aspiring archaeologists on your list will cherish such a book.
Big Bang: the story of the Universe by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest, illustrated by Luciano Corbella (DK, $16.95) Expanding galaxies to black holes: this stellar excursion into astro- physics, astronomy and beyond is stunning, lucid and lavishly illustrated.