December 2013 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Stocking Stuffers


Give the gift of great books this holiday season. Below are four at the top our list. 

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THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London. 

"The Princess and the Goblin," by George MacDonald, introduced by Maria Tatar, illustrated by Madalina Andronic; The Folio Society, $44.95, 192 pages, all ages.

This stunning edition of George MacDonald's eerie tale of Princess Irene and her daring battles with subterranean-dwelling goblins will delight the fantasy fans on your holiday list.  In fact, this offering from The Folio Society would probably be adored by anyone who enjoys receiving beautiful books. Originally published in 1871, readers unacquainted with The Princess and the Goblin will likely recognize  similarities with Alice and Wonderland, another Victorian-era fantasy tale.  Here, a young, bored girl discovers a hidden stairway that leads her to an enchanted world filled with magical, otherworldly beings where she must do battle in order to save kingdom from the goblins. A favorite of J.R.R Tolkien, MacDonald's tale of adventure and bravery will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Harvard University's Professor of Germanic Languages Maria Tatar wrote the introduction, and readers will benefit from her instructive explication of MacDonald's creative ideology.  Romanian artist Madalina Andronic's bright and detailed watercolor and inks perfectly match this timeless flight of the imagination.


WITH A MIGHTY HAND. Text copyright © 2013 by Amy Ehrlich. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Daniel Nevins. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 "With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah," adapted by Amy Erlich, paintings by Daniel Nevins; Candlewick Press, $29.99, 224 pages, all ages.

Award winning author Amy Erlich decided to tackle the Torah and render it accessible for children, or anyone interested in reading a new interpretation of this ancient story. Here she has managed to condense the five books of the Hebrew Bible into a single, flowing narrative. When Erlich began the project, her goal was to 'follow the thread of the story' by keeping the text as clear as possible without being mired in complexity and contradictions. Her mission was a success; simple, powerful words, with lots of white space in the background make for easy reading.  Bringing the people and places to life is painter Daniel Nevins in his debut as a children's book illustrator. The pigment-laden images capture a world that existed over 5,000 years ago, yet are still exuberant and emotional.  With a Might Hand would be a lovely gift for a budding religious scholar or for children just starting Torah study. 


Image reproduced with permission from HMH Books for Young Readers.

"What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings," by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski ; HMH Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 80 pages, ages 7-10.

Newbery Honor winning poet Joyce Sidman has crafted a book that will touch readers' hearts and stir their emotions. What the Heart Knows offers poems to address just about every possible feeling; pleas for forgiveness, incantations to summon bravery, and chants simply to find happiness.  The book is organized into four sections, with each group exploring a different theme. Ultimately, Sidman's words provide courage, comfort and strength no matter the topic.  This is the poet's third collaboration with Caldecott winning illustrator Pamela Zagarenski, and it's easy to see why; Zagarenski's dreamy, expressive paintings are a perfect match for Sidman's soulful verses.

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Images reproduced with permission from Phaidon Press.

"Bugs at Christmas," by Beatrice Alemagna, Phaidon Press, $12.95, 38 pages, ages 3-5.

 It's Christmas Eve in the bugs' cozy blanket world, and they're trying to organize a holiday party.  Unfortunately, they each seem to have a different idea of how to celebrate; Little Yellow Bug wants to sing Jungle Bugs around a piano, while Little Long-Legged Bug prefers dancing the Santa Samba until he drops. The critters can't agree on the best way to ring in Christmas until they learn that the spirit of love and togetherness triumphs over creative differences.  Beatrice Alemagna created these surprisingly loveable hairy creatures using appliqué, fabrics, and stitching techniques that together resemble the texture of a nubby, wooly quilt. 


Image Reproduced with permission from Quirk Books 

"Winter Cocktails," by María Del Mar Sacasa, photographs by Tara StrianoQuirk Books; $22.95, 160 pages, all ages.


No, this is definitely not a book for children, but it would make a wonderful present to parents who have been busy helping Santa prepare for Christmas. These  winter drinks  infuse the body with warmth and ooze holiday spirit.  Recipe developer María Del Mar Sacasa shares 100 delicious liquid infusions such as English Christmas Punch, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate and Pumpkin-Bourbon Eggnog.  Tara Striano's enticing up-close photographs plus step-by step photo instructions will bring out the holiday barista in everyone.  Try out the Nutella Melt recipe here and enjoy in front of a blazing fire. 

Check out more great images from these books here!