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Guide to children's books makes gift-giving easier

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
(217) 333-2177;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —Books make great gifts for kids – no doubt about it.

But, as anyone who has ever shopped for a child’s book knows, the problem comes in deciding which shiny, fun, appealing – and even important – book would be good for any given child.

With some 5,000 new children’s trade books published in the United States every year, and some 188,000 children’s books in print, you’d almost have to be an expert in kiddie lit to make an informed decision.

But now the experts have done the work for you.
Reviewers at The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have culled the titles of more than 150 of the best books they have reviewed during the past two years to help gift-givers navigate the dense forest of children’s books.

The "Guide Book to Gift Books: An Annotated List of Books for Youth" is available as a downloadable PDF file that can be printed out. The price for the 13-page guide is $3.50, which can be paid online with a major credit card. The Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois published the guide.

According to Deborah Stevenson, the editor of the guide and of the Bulletin, all listed books were previously recommended in full Bulletin reviews, and all titles are in print. Entries are divided into three age groups: picture books for young readers, 6-8 years old; books for middle readers, 9-11 years old; and for older readers, 12-18 years old.

In addition to a brief annotation, each entry includes author, title, publisher and current list price.

A wide range of styles, genres, subjects and challenge levels are included in the new guide. Books deal with personal challenges, including ADHD, sibling rivalry, dysfunctional families, Chinese poetry, divorce, growing up Arab-American and even with the late but ubiquitous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. A sampling of reviews:

Anderson, Laurie Halse "The Big Cheese of Third Street"; illustrated by David Gordon. Simon, 2002. $16. 4-7 years. In this comic tale of underdog triumph, Little Benny is the downtrodden pipsqueak of his oversized neighborhood until one day his special skills allow him to rise above the others and earn the title of "The Big Cheese of Third Street."

Billingsley, Franny "The Folk Keeper." Atheneum, 1999. $16; paperback, $2.99 Grades 6-10. Disguised as a boy, Corinna Stonewall leaves her orphanage to take a dangerous job as Folk Keeper, ensuring that the fierce and supernatural beings of the Manor are restricted to their own world.

Anderson, M.T. "Feed." Candlewick, 2002. $16.99. Grades 7-12. In this darkly funny futuristic satire, most people get their information, education, and conversation from a computer feed in their brains – but what happens when something goes wrong?

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, founded in 1945, is published monthly except August by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. It is devoted entirely to the review of current books for children and young adults, and is one of the nation’s leading journals of literature for youth.

The Center for Children’s Books, also at Illinois, houses a research (non-circulating) collection of more than 12,000 recent and historically significant trade books for
youth – birth through high school – plus review copies of nearly all trade books published in the United States in the current year. The collection also includes more than 1,000 professional and reference books on the history and criticism of literature for youth, literature-based library and classroom programming and storytelling.

Although the collection is non-circulating, it is available for examination by scholars, teachers, librarians, students and other educators, said Janice Del Negro, the director of the center.