A local book buyer’s guide to the best children’s books


Liesl Freudenstein spends a lot of time reading children’s books. And not just because she has a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old at home.

Freudenstein is the employee at the Boulder Book Store responsible for buying the kids’ books.

And, as any good book buyer would, she has some alternatives to the latest video game when it comes to holiday gifts for children.

When asked to discuss four or five good books for kids, Freudenstein has trouble narrowing her list down to seven:

• The Lion & the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney. This book has no words, other than “Grrr,” Freudenstein says. But what it lacks in text it makes up for in amazing color-pencil illustrations by Pinkney. It’s Aesop’s classic tale of lion captures mouse, agrees to let mouse go, then mouse later helps free lion. She says this is a good book for ages 1 to 5 — or for anyone who appreciates good art. $16.99

• Tell Me a Dragon, by Jackie Morris. Another great illustrator, this time from Wales and this time in water color. Freudenstein says each page has Morris pairing one of her dragon illustrations with a poem about dragons. At the end, it invites children to describe their own dragon. For ages 4 to 6. $17.95.

• Fu Finds the Way, by John Rocco. A good book for boys, especially those between the ages of 4 and 8, Freudenstein says. This is a Taoist parable about a boy who doesn’t want to plant rice, and who gets frustrated when his father simply tells him he must do it with purpose. He storms off, throws some dirt at a warrior, and the warrior challenges him to a fight. So the boy goes to a swordmaster to learn how to fight, but the swordmaster will only teach him how to pour tea correctly — with purpose. She says the book ends with a nonviolent resolution to the conflict, as his tea-pouring abilities end up winning over the warrior. $16.99.

• The 39 Clues, by various authors. This series published by Scholastic has been gaining popularity among kids old enough to read for themselves, the 8- to 12-year-old crowd. “It’s really starting to take off,” Freudenstein says. The series, which combines reading, card-collecting and online gaming, centers around the Cahills, the most powerful family the world has ever known. The source of its power is a mystery that can only be solved by finding 39 clues hidden around the world throughout history. Six books have been published so far; presumably there will be 39 of them. $12.99.

• Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman. This take on Norse mythology features a crippled boy named Odd in ancient Norway who encounters a bear, a fox and an eagle who are really gods that have been tricked into assuming the form of animals by the Frost Giants. His challenge is to find out how to restore them to their godly status. Freudenstein says this one is good for reading aloud to 6- to 9-yearolds, or for older kids who can read. $14.99.

• Book of the Maidservant, by Rebecca Barnhouse. This piece of historical fiction revolves around a secondary character in the first autobiography ever published in the English language, The Book of Margery Kempe.

In that book, Kempe undertakes a pilgrimage to Rome in 1413, along with her maidservant, Johanna. Barnhouse tells the story in the first person, from the perspective of Johanna. Freudenstein says the tale is fascinating and contains rich description. $16.99.

• The Doom Machine, by Mark Teague. This space adventure is a flying-saucer thriller for kids 10 and up, Freudenstein says. “It’s Lost in Space meets The Jetsons meets Star Trek,” she explains. Set in the 1950s, this book tells the story of aliens that look like giant bugs who try to take over earth. Two kids try to save the day. Complete with slime and time paradoxes. Good for kids who like science, Freudenstein says. $17.99 Other good children’s books: (from friends who have kids and from the libraries of my own 5-year-old and 8-year-old)

• Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

• Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne

• Pigs Over Boulder by Kerry MacLean (an ABC book about Boulder)

• Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman (a Dr. Seuss book)

• Love You Forever, by Robert N. Munsch

• A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket

• Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (for teens)

• Finally, an oldie but a goodie, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

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