Here at Smithsonian Magazine, we're reviving a tradition: our annual selection of outstanding books for children, a compendium of surprising, inspiring titles—everything from picture books and novels to memoirs—for youngsters and the grownups who read to, and with, them. Please note that the age categories listed below are necessarily arbitrary; adjust to the predilections of the individual child.
From This Story
For the Youngest Readers (Ages 1-6)
Elena Odriozola (Peachtree, $16.95) In a mythical, close-knit village, as winter closes in and days grow icy, mysterious gifts appear: mittens for the schoolmaster; a coat for a frost-nipped cat. A story to spread warmth and cheer on the coldest nights.
Aaron Blabey (Front Street, $16.95) Opposites attract, in a tale of friends, one an extrovert, one an introvert, who are "different in almost every way" —yet linked by loyalty and generosity.
Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown (Knopf, $16.99) Sam, the reading-est kid ever, proves that books can save the day and "readers can do anything!"
Christoph Niemann (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $16.99) A clever introduction to the Chinese language and an excursion into a rich and ancient culture.
Jeanette Winter (Harcourt, $17) A tribute to the Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist, where "if you were to cling to the to the top of Mount Kenya today, you would see the millions of trees growing below you, and the green Wangari brought back to Africa."
Tim Warnes (Scholastic, $12.99) An irresistibly droll account of Boris, who blunders into Miss Cluck's classroom and turns into an accidental hero. Likely to become a perennial favorite.
Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Brandon Dorman (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $22.99) From the nation's first Children's Poet Laureate, a treasury of rollicking, wacky, laugh-out-loud verse. Contains a CD with poems read by the author.
Ned Gannon (Boyds Mills, $16.95) On a festival night in the Persian Gulf, as the full moon rises, Noor recalls the essence of the holiday: celebrating the bonds of family and sharing with those less fortunate.