Books for Children: A Christmas List

The author of several juveniles, Mrs. Jackson is children’s book editor for the San Francisco CHRONICLE.



Once again, with Christmas just around the corner, the question of what book to give that special child becomes one of primary importance. It should be a book to twig the imagination, give pleasure to eye and ear, and impart knowledge without dulling the interest of the recipient. The following books are chosen for appealing, expressive illustration and good narrative quality. The age range is from preschool to fourteen. Beginning with the perennial ABC’s, the list is in chronological order.
ALL IN A SUTTCASE, verse by SAMUEL FRENCH MORSE, pictures by Barbara Cooney (Little, Brown). Aside from learning his letters painlessly, the beginner will have great fun on this trip to Boston playing the suitcase game, in which twentysix animals, ranging from a pianoplaying Aardvark to a Zenopus, are transported. Told in lilting verse with bright and beautiful pictures.
THE CITY-COUNTRY ABC by MARGUERITE WALTERS, illustrated by Ib Ohlsson (Doubleday), is arranged in ingenious turnabout fashion. Half the book takes the child on an alphabetical walk through fields and woods; then when turned around, describes a sight-seeing stroll from a busy city street to the zoo.
ABC. AN ALPHABET BOOK by THOMAS MATTHIESEN, with photographs in color (Platt & Munk). Pictures of apples, balloons, guitars, clocks, and other everyday objects that small children can readily identify are page-size, with a sentence or two about each one.
CAT ALPHABET by TONY PALAZZO (Duell, Sloan & Pearce) is filled with pictures done in soft crayon of all kinds and conditions of ctits, whose names, of course, begin with the proper letter, except occasionally, when some other creature gets top billing; but in each case, a cat is somewhere in the picture.
THE MOTHER GOOSE TREASURY, illustrated by RAYMOND BRIGGS (COward-McCann), is not a run-of-themill edition, but one of the most complete collections now in print. Each rhyme is thoughtfully illustrated in the spirit of the period, with some sketches in pen and ink and numerous paintings in brilliant full color by the distinguished English artist.
OH, WHAT NONSENSE!, poems selected by William Cole, illustrated by Tomi Ungerer (Viking). The anthologist makes a point of omitting from this collection the more familiar “nonsense” poems by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear in order to include delightful rhymes by other poets.
DO TIGERS EVER BITE KINGS? by BARBARA WERSBA, illustrated by Mario Rivoli (Atheneum). This is a hilarious saga in verse, appropriately illustrated, telling how a gentle, obliging king outwitted his vixen of a wife with the connivance of a friendly tiger.
CLUCK, THE CAPTAIN’S CHICKEN, story and pictures by LYNN SWEAT (Macmillan). A seafaring chicken with a nose for treasure leads her captain to a remote island, on which they discover a large chest filled with gold. The gold is guarded by a greedy bird with a hooked beak, whom Cluck hoodwinks quite simply in a battle of wits. The pictures, bright and sparkling, add a great deal to the story.
FIRST DELIGHTS, written and illustrated by TASHA TUDOR (Platt & Munk). Sally, a little farm girl, uses her five senses to enjoy the seasons all through the year. She smells the flowers in the spring, listens to the birds, the running brook, marvels at the bursting leaves, and pets baby kittens. Each page has a painting in soft pastels of Sally and the farm scenes.
PICK A RAINCOAT, PICK A WHISTLE by LILLIAN BASON, illustrated by Allan Eitzen (Lothrop, Lee and Shepard). This expedition into the world of leaves and their uses is written with infectious enthusiasm and illustrated in such eye-catching color and detail that even the most intractable child wall find it fascinating.
JOHN TABOR’S RIDE, story and pictures by BLAIR LENT (AtlanticLittle, Brown), is a fresh version of the ancient legend in which John Tabor, a whaling man shipwrecked on a tropical isle, climbs aboard a whale for a riotously funny journey over the seas to Nantucket, where the whale slithers over the cobbled streets and comes to a halt. When the fishermen converge on the party with harpoons and spears, John shows his mettle in protecting the beast and helps him out to sea. Handsome pictures in color.
THEODORE by EDWARD ORMONDROYD, illustrated by John M. Larrecq (Parnassus). Lucy accepted Theodore for what he was, a shabby, jam-spotted, mangy-looking old teddy bear. One day he was accidently tossed into the laundry basket, which rather upset him at first, but then, with bearlike philosophy, he decided to take a nap. The rest of the storytells how Lucy missed him, and, in fact, didn’t even recognize him when they did come face to face. One of the most original bear stories of the year, with engaging, sensitive illustrations in line and color.
and pictures by ARNOLD LOBEL (Harper & Row). On a snowy, windy day, Martha, homeless and friendless, sought shelter in a movie theater glowing with warmth and lights, where, fortunately, the man who ran the projector had a certain fondness for mice. From that point on, Martha’s life took on a new dimension, and eventually her fame spread far and wide.
SHERWOOD WALKS HOME, written and illustrated by JAMES FLORA (Harcourt, Brace & World). With a galaxy of page-size pictures in clear bright color, and comic text, the author tells of the adventures of a windup bear who is abandoned in the park during a sudden shower. How he managed to get home under his own motor-power, bringing a group of odd followers with him, is the story.
SONGS OF INNOCENCE by WILLIAM BLAKE, illustrated by Ellen Raskin (Doubleday). A boxed two-volume set containing twenty-two of the poet’s poems that eloquently express the wonder, the joys, and the sorrows of childhood. In one volume, the artist has set the poems to music.
The books, however, may be purchased separately.
PRINCE RABBIT and THE PRINCESS WHO COULD NOT LAUGH by A. A. MILNE, illustrated by Mary Shepard (Dutton). Published for the first time in book form, these tales are suitably illustrated by the artist whose drawings for Alary Pappins are so well loved by children. The first fairy story is about the rabbit who aspired to be the king’s successor but had difficulty because the people wanted a king they could look up to. The other story is about the princess who couldn’t manage to smile at the funniest joke, or see the point of the simplest riddle until, as is usual in good fairy tales, the right prince came along.
SAM, BANGS, AND MOONSHINE, written and illustrated by EVALINE NESS (Holt, Rinehart and Winston). Samantha, a fisherman’s small daughter, usually called Sam, lived in her own imaginative world. She insisted that her dead mother had been a mermaid and that her cat, Bangs, was actually a fierce lion. Her father called her talk moonshine and took it for what it was worth, but her little friend, Thomas, took her every word for truth, which in one instance brought him to near disaster. A perceptive, witty, and altogether childlike story, with illustrations to match.
THE TROLL MUSIC, story and pictures by ANITA LOBEL (Harper & Row). When a group of strolling musicians, who charmed everyone with their tunes, were put under a spell by an angry troll, all the villagers were concerned but helpless. Then the musicians, with the aid of some friendly animals, thought of a way out of the dilemma, and the countryside echoed once more with tinkly music. This traditional tale lends itself to beautiful decorations, which the author-artist supplies most generously.
KENNETH GRAHAME, illustrated by Tasha Tudor (World). This adventure tale of Mole, Toad, Rat, and Badger, which has delighted children for three generations, has just emerged in a handsome new edition. Soft pencil drawings and paintings in delicate watercolor reflect the spirit of the story.
JOCO AND THE FISHBONE, written and illustrated by WILLIAM WIESNER (Viking), is a retelling of the humorous tale from Arabian Nights in which a hungry lute player decides never to eat fish again after an almost fatal experience. Illustrated in four eye-catching colors.


STORIES by ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER, pictures by Maurice Sendak (Harper & Row). This group of seven unusual tales steins from Middle European Jewish folklore. Many of the strange situations and beliefs no longer exist, but some still have special significance in situations today. Tragedy, comedy, and stupidity, with a good bit of fantasy thrown in, give Mr. Sendak a perfect foil for many distinguished blackand-white full-page drawings.
PIG IN THE MIDDLE by WlLLIAM MAYNE, illustrated by Mary Russon (Dutton). A group of English boys, fed up with parents, school, and rules, found a derelict barge called “the pig” rotting away in an old mill on the wharf and decided to fix it up and sail away to Holland. A younger brother, one of the group always excluded from secret meetings, tagged along, and if it were not for his persistence in trying to find out what was going on, the whole enterprise would have ended in disaster.
THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY by NORMAN DENNY and JOSEPHINE FILMERSANKEY, illustrated in full-color photographs (Atheneum). This is the historical account of the events that led up to the famous Battle of Hastings, and of the battle itself, embroidered on a long linen strip almost nine hundred years ago and here reproduced in its original colors.
THE CASE OF THE GONE GOOSE by SCOTT CORBETT, illustrated by Paul Frame (Atlantic-Little, Brown). After he had solved the Grimshaw Campstool Case, life had become fairly humdrum for twelve-year-old Inspector Tearle, otherwise known as the boy bloodhound. He hadn’t long to wait; in fact, just a short bike ride from his tree-house office, he and Thumbs Thorndyke, his associate, came upon the victim of a most puzzling murder. The two detectives, with the dubious help of Inspector Tearle’s small sister, solve the whole business in true detective-story fashion, with marvelous touches of humor throughout.
NIGHTBIRDS ON NANTUCKET by JOAN AIKEN, illustrated by Robin Jacques (Doubleday). Captain Casket, skipper of a whaling ship homeward-bound to Nantucket, rescues from the cold North Sea an elevenyear-old girl, who remains unconscious for ten months. Upon awakening, she appears fresh as paint, no doubt from the diet of whale oil and molasses that she had been forced to swallow during her long sleep. All sorts of weird occurrences take place during the voyage, with a roster of some of the most lovable as well as most wicked characters that ever graced a melodramatic plot.
FEBRUARY’S ROAD, written and illustrated by JOHN VERNEY (Holt, Rinehart and Winston). When the father of the irrepressible Callendar family, a newspaper columnist, heard that his pet project, “better highways for Britain,” was about to begin, he was jubilant until he found that the first segment was planned to run straight through the grassy fields of the family’s farm. February, the oldest of the brood, suspected skullduggery from the start, and in her own way, proceeded to do something about it. How the situation resolves itself makes a delightfully amusing story.
WEAVER OF DREAMS by ELFRIDA VIPONT (Henry Z. Walck). This is a skillful re-creation of the life and times of Charlotte Brontë from her early girlhood to her eighteenth year. The author captures the atmosphere of the bleak moors and the rigid atmosphere of the parsonage in Wuthering Heights.
LIFE AND TIMES OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS by FREDERICK DOUGLASS, adapted by Barbara Ritchie from the final biography Douglass wrote in 1892, when he was seventy-five (Crowell). In his own words, Douglass tells of his life as a slave, his struggle for an education, and his long fight for equality for his race. An eloquent and moving account of a great American.
THE QUEEN’S OWN GROVE by PATRICIA BEATTY, illustrated by Liz Dauber (Morrow). The BromfieldBrown family were forced to leave cold England and seek a more suitable climate because of Father’s health. Grandmother Thorup, who was to accompany them, resented the move most of all, because of the family’s social standing. Her prejudices stayed with her in Canada, where they first settled; and then, later, when the family were told to move to the desert country of California, she simply didn’t know how she was to survive among the rough characters and the crude way of life that were part of the West in the last century. But she had a toughness and a determination to overcome anything and to keep her dignity while doing so, even to marrying the town millionaire, whose manners she couldn’t abide at first. An engrossing family story, with a fine historical background.
ALL DAY LONG by DAVID McCoRD, illustrated by Henry B. Kane (Little, Brown). A virtuoso with words and complete master of the light touch in versifying about any subject has written a worthy companion to his Far and Few and Take Sky, with fifty new poems on subjects meaningful to children of all ages. The poems are highlighted with illustrations in black and white.
MAURICE’S ROOM by PAULA FOX, pictures by Ingrid Fetz (Macmillan). Maurice, champion junk collector of all time and chief protagonist of this story, had his room so crammed with rusty bolts, sockets, small rodents, dead and alive, dried tar balls, and shrimp eggs, among other equally prized objects, that his distracted parents had to call a halt. A depressing interlude followed, but as anyone knows, a collector can’t be stopped. A marvelous deadpan account that will amuse parents and will prove inspiring for boys whose collections are limited.
THE KING’S FIFTH by SCOTT O’DELL (Houghton Mifflin), the author of Island of Blue Dolphins, winner of seven awards, including the John Newbery medal. This novel for older boys and girls is set against the background of the vast Southwest at the time when the Conquistadors were marching across the land in search of the seven golden Cities of Cibola and the treasure to be found there. The hero of the story is Esteban, a young cartographer who accompanied the party to draw the maps that would go to the court of Spain. The hardships, cruelties, and particularly the greed for riches have an evil effect on the men, and for a time infect young Esteban, who ultimately finds himself. A dramatic tale, well told, about one of the most colorful periods of American history.


Miniature books come in all shapes and sizes and may be tucked into the foot of a Christmas stocking, or slipped into the top once the stocking is filled with the usual small toys and games.
SLEEPY PEOPLE, story and pictures by M. B. GOFFSTEIN (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). A bedtime tale of a soporific family, pictures in all stages of drowsiness, standing, reclining, stumbling off to find cocoa and cookies, and, at last, singing themselves to sleep in their own beds.
DEEP IN A HAYSTACK by MICHAEL SAGE, illustrated by Arnold Spilka (Viking). A puppy snoozing in a haystack dreams that he is a huge whale, a tiny fish, and even a manylegged octopus skating in the park, all of which was great fun. Upon awakening, however, and a bit of serious thought, he decides that a puppy’s life is best.
A BOY WENT OUT TO GATHER PEARS, illustrated by Felix Hoffmann (Harcourt, Brace & World). A distinguished Swiss artist illuminates the old rhyme in which the boy refuses to gather pears, the dog refuses to bite the boy, and so forth, until the whole panorama of events is concluded in a rainbow of miniature pictures.
COME AND SEE ME by MARY KENNEDY, pictures by Martha Alexander (Harper & Row). In this sequence of simple text and beguiling pictures, a little girl invites her friend into her garden to see what she has planted, smell the flowers, listen to the wind in the trees, and savor other secrets of the out-of-doors that she has discovered.


A CHRISTMAS PANORAMA: THE FRIENDLY BEASTS and A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE, illuminated by Virginia Parsons, calligraphy by Sheila Waters (Doubleday), is a panel of nativity scenes on one side, and the partridge, pear-tree sequence on the other, with appropriate verse and captions. The panel folds neatly into a miniature book, snugly boxed.
CHRISTMAS TREE ON THE MOUNTAIN, story and pictures by CAROL FENNER (Harcourt, Brace & World). On a snowy New England day, three children, armed with saw and rope, went to the woods for their Christmas tree. At first they found the going hard and only scraggly trees; then a bright-eyed red fox led them to the perfect tree, one that perfumed the whole kitchen with its fragrance.
SING ROUND THE YEAR, songs of praise selected and composed by DONALD SWAN (David White). This compilation has many of the traditional carols that maintain the Christmas theme, some from the gospel of Saint Luke, although the bulk of the songs are drawn from unusual sources. The music is simply written for young pianists, and the collection as a whole is a stimulating gift for those who like to gather around the piano at Christmas.
THE CHRISTMAS SKY by FRANKLYN M. BRANLEY, illustrated by Blair Lent (Crowell). This story is based on the annual Christmas show given at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. Wood blocks in rich blue and yellow.
A DONKEY FOR THE KING by JOHN and PATRICIA BEATTY, woodcuts by Anne Siberell (Macmillan). Jesse, a mute, homeless young shepherd of the Holy Land, whose only method of communication was his flute, joined a traveling circus, where he was in charge of a performing donkey, Belschazzar, who became his trusty companion. During their travels, the donkey is sold, and the story tells how they came together again in Bethlehem during that first Christmas, where the donkey played an important role in the life of the Holy Family. The authors succeed in making the time and place come alive, as well as in telling a moving story.
A GIFT FROM THE LONELY DOLL, photographs and story by DARE WRIGHT (Random House). Edith, the lonely doll of other stories, decides that she will make a very special present for her friend Mr. Bear. It turns out to be big enough for three bears, which makes Edith very unhappy until she solves the situation and delights all of her toy friends. A most enjoyable Christmas story, with exceptional photographs of all the toy personnel in action.
THE CHRISTMAS STORY, edited by Marguerite Northrup (New York Graphic Society). Selections from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, King James version of the Bible, with full-color reproductions of famous paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, make this a handsome Christmas gift book. Index of paintings with notes on each.
JOY TO THE WORLD by RUTH SAWYER, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Little, Brown). Six legends of Christmas from faraway places, alternated with carols, each page decorated with traditional scenes, handsomely executed in shades of bronze, which is most effective and conveys the holy spirit of the season.