Weekend Highlights

Published December 5, 2012
At Home & Living

A Sack Stuffed with Books by Local Writers

by Ruth Schubert
seattle child article photo
seattle child article photo

I always like to give books for the holidays – especially to kids. But they have to have enough appeal that they won’t just be glanced at and set aside. Fortunately, there are enough new books from our talented Northwest writers and illustrators to fit any child or teen on your list.


Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?
By Brianna Caplan Sayres, illustrated by Christian Slade
Random House Books for Young Readers, $16.99
Ages 2 and up

Given the extraordinary success of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (it has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year), it is perhaps inevitable that we’d see more stereotypically boy-themed nighttime picture books. What’s nice about Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?, from first-time Seattle author Brianna Caplan Sayres, is that it has really good, adorable illustrations and imaginative verse: “Where do diggers sleep at night?/ Do they dream of holes they dug?/ Do their moms reach front to backhoe when they give a good night hug?”

Annie and Helen
By Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Raul Colón
Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99
Ages 4 and up

Deborah Hopkinson, who lives near Portland, Ore., has made biographical fiction a specialty, winning awards and a devoted following with her stories about such well-known figures as Charles Dickens and the Obamas. This fall, she added Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller to the list. Through excerpts from Sullivan’s letters, prose that highlights Annie’s patience and Helen’s wonder, and Raul Colón’s old-fashioned ink and watercolor illustrations, Annie and Helen captures this famed tale for young readers.

Sylvia’s Spinach
By Katherine Pryor, illustrated by Anna Raff
Readers to Eaters, $15.95
Ages 4 to 8

Our School Garden!
By Rick Swann, illustrated by Christy Hale
Readers to Eaters, $17.95
Ages 8 to 12

These are two of the first books to come from local publishers Readers to Eaters, started in 2009 “to promote food literacy from the ground up” by Philip and June Jo Lee. Philip Lee was a co-founder of Lee and Low books, an awarding-winning publisher of multicultural children’s books. June Jo Lee is a food ethnographer, who travels the country to study how people shop, cook and eat.

Sylvia’s Spinach tells the tale of Sylvia, who hates – and I mean hates – spinach, and the class vegetable-growing project that changed her mind. Our School Garden! combines the tale of a new kid discovering the wonders of his new school’s garden with information and resources for starting a garden at your school.

Also noteworthy: Snowboy 1, 2, 3, by Joe Wahman, illustrated by Wendy Wahman, is a wintery counting book with some mighty adorable snowpeople. Henry Holt and Company, $14.99. Ages 3 and up. Who Has This Tail? is Laura Hulbert’s follow-up to Who Has These Feet? Gorgeous illustrations by Erik Brooks, who lives in Winthrop, are essential to the appeal of both books. Henry Holt and Company, $16.99. Ages 3 and up.


Under Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book II
By Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis
Balzer + Bray, $17.99
Ages 8 and up

The bestselling fantasy Wildwood, by Portland’s Colin Meloy (of the indie rock band the Decembrists), now has a sequel. Prue McKeel meets up with her bandit-in-training friend Curtis in the Impassable Wilderness to save their friends, themselves, and quite possibly all of Wildwood. They face industrialists intent on exploiting the Impassable Wilderness’s resources and those from within who will stop at nothing to seize power over Wildwood. This suspenseful tale is even more engaging than the first book, although reviewers have noted the frustrating conclusion of Under Wildwood. Readers must wait for the third book to find out how the story ends.

Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School
By Kim Baker, illustrated by Tim Probert
Roaring Book Press, $15.99
Ages 8 and up

This middle grade novel from first-time author Kim Baker is really quite funny – as you might expect a book about pranks to be. From filling a classroom with ball pit balls (used ones – yuk) to dumping soap in the drinking fountains, there’s plenty of good, clean pranking going on. The school principal thinks the League of Pickle-makers is, as the name implies, a club devoted to making pickles. When the club’s pranks start to get out of hand, the president of the club is forced to reconsider what makes a good friend – and learn how to make pickles!

Also noteworthy: Smells Like Pirates is the third book in Suzanne Selfors’ series about a boy member of L.O.S.T., the mysterious Society of Legends, Objects, Secrets, and Treasures, and his treasure-sniffing dog. Little, Brown, $16.99. Ages 9 to 12.

By E.T.A. Hoffmann, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Crown, $24.99

In a way, this book takes place in Seattle. More specifically, it takes place on the stage at McCaw Hall every time the Pacific Northwest Ballet performs its stunning version of Nutcracker with the sets designed by acclaimed illustrator Maurice Sendak. The book came after the premier of the ballet, and combines designs for the ballet with new illustrations to tell the full – and odd – original tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann. This is a beautiful book. Be aware, though that the tale is somewhat creepy, and the book is 100 pages long. I’d recommend it for kids 6 and up.


By Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers, $17.99
Ages 12 and up

When Rachel Hartman’s debut novel, Seraphina, went on sale in July, it immediately hit the New York Times bestseller list and was named “Best Teen Book of the Month” by Amazon. It was a far cry from the Vancouver, B.C., author’s days of selling hand-stapled comic books at conventions. Seraphina deserves its success. The dragon novel is a captivating combination of beautiful writing, an imaginatively detailed world, and a heroine struggling with some of the most basic, soul-searching questions of adolescence: Who am I, and where do I fit in?

Read the full review of the book and an interview with the author.

The Edge of Nowhere
By Elizabeth George
Viking Juvenile, $18.99
Ages 12 and up

This New York Times bestselling author of adult mysteries populated Whidbey Island with teens-with-issues, gave the main character a supernatural ability to hear the “whispers” of peoples’ thoughts, and then added what could be an attempted murder. The result: a promising page-turner of a young adult novel that ends with such a cliffhanger that I wanted to throw the book across the room. In the novel, Becca King is sent to Whidbey Island to hide from her crazy, violent stepfather, but the woman who is supposed to look out for her dies, leaving Becca to fend for herself. You’d think being able to hear other peoples’ thoughts would help her understand what’s going on, but for Becca, the fragments she hears only add to the mystery that seems to surround everything and everyone on this island. The characters are slightly one-dimensional, but I couldn’t put the book down – right up until the end, when I wanted to throw it! Read it? Yeah, but expect to wait for the sequel to find out what happens.

Also noteworthy: Necromancing the Stone is Seattle author Lish McBride’s sequel to her award-winning debut, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. In the sequel, powerful necromancer Sam LaCroix is sort of adjusting to his magical new life. Sort of. Henry Holt and Company, $16.99. Ages 14 and up.

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