Their parents may cuddle up with Kindles on Christmas morning, but little ones are still delighted with a gift of books whose illustrations bring to life new and treasured holiday tales.

"There is no better gift than the gift of reading," said Lee Hope, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library coordinator of services for children and young adults.

"Research shows that 2-year-olds who have been read to on a regular basis since birth have a greater language comprehension, larger vocabulary and higher cognitive skills that those who are not read to," adds Shawn Kurrelmeier-Lee, chief reading officer of Read 20, a Hamilton County reading initiative.

Here's a look at some new children's books out in time for holiday gift-giving, as well as gift suggestions from Ms. Hope and the children's staff of Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

* A CHANUKAH PRESENT FOR ME or A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR ME. Scholastic Cartwheel Books. $6.99 each. Appropriate for ages 12-24 months.

Designed like a present, this book's lid lifts to reveal its pages. These books will grab toddlers' attention from page one. Each page is illustrated with a symbol of Christmas or Hanukah -- elves, reindeer and Santa or dreidle, latkes and menorah -- all in eyecatching, vivid colors.

* COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS by Dr. Mary Manz Simon, illustrated by Siobhan Harrison. Scholastic Inc. $9.99. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

If it's hard for you to wait until Christmas, think how much tougher it is for a preschooler. This little advent calendar helps count down 25 days in December. Using a Christian theme for each day, it includes a lesson on the reason why the birth of God's son is celebrated and a complementary craft or play suggestion. Sturdy cardboard pages are brightly colored with whimsical illustrations that will hold a child's attention.

*THE BIGGEST CHRISTMAS TREE EVER by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Jeni Bassett. Scholastic Inc. $4.99. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

This little paperback is the newest in "The Biggest" mice series. City mouse and country mouse are searching for the biggest Christmas tree when they fall in love with the same pine. This whimsical, and short, bedtime story teaches a lesson in sharing and teamwork as the two mice work out their problem. An added perk: a page of candy-cane stickers.

*THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC by Lauren Thompson and illustrations by Jon Muth. Scholastic Press. $16.99. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Santa is selecting the perfect toy for each boy and girl on his list, packing his bags and feeding his reindeer in preparation for his Christmas Eve ride. But Thompson never quite captures the magic of the night; prose and illustrations are somewhat elevated for the target audience.

* THE MITTEN by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Scholastic Press. $16.99. Appropriate for grades K-3.

As a first-grade teacher, Jim Aylesworth told this story to his classes, now he shares it with all young readers; delightfully brought to life with the humorous illustrations of McClintock.

"The Mitten" is a charming tale of how several forest animals share a cozy home within a mitten lost by a boy playing in the snow. It's humor will delight all ages.

* STICK MAN by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Arthur Levine Books. $16.99. Appropriate for grades 1-4.

Scheffler's wit shines as Stick Man escapes one peril after another throughout the changing seasons. A dog wants to play with him, a boy throws Stick Man off a bridge into a watery race down a swollen spring creek. Summer vacationers make him the flag mast in their sand castle, and he assists a snowman in need of a new arm. Stick Man faces the greatest danger of all -- a fireplace grate -- before being rescued by Santa's arrival down the chimney. After helping Santa deliver toys, he gets a lift home on the big man's sled.

* ON THIS SPECIAL NIGHT by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Simon Mendez. Scholastic Press. $14.99. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

On a silent winter night, a brightly shining star awakens a barn cat and her kitten. Before the night is over, the mother cat offers water to a donkey who has traveled a long way and a tired lamb, whose shephards have journeyed to see a new baby. The farm animals follow the lamb back to a stable, where they watch the arrival of three visitors who have followed the shining star to find a special baby.

Mendez's ethereal illustrations capture the magic of that special night.

* THE SOUND OF KWANZAA by Dimitrea Tokunbo, illustrated by Lisa Cohen. Scholastic Press. $16.99. Appropriate for grades K-5.

Each brightly colored page describes one of the seven principles of the Kwanzaa celebration: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani. Tokunbo's narrative reaffirms values of the celebration while explaining the custom to those unfamiliar with Kwanzaa.

* THE NUTCRACKER AND THE MOUSE KING, E.T.A. Hoffmann's classic tale illustrated by Gail deMarcken. Orchard Books. $18.99. Appropriate for grades 4-6.

A magical Christmas Eve, as told in the Hoffmann classic, when toys come alive at the stroke of midnight. DeMarcken's lovely Victorian illustrations complete the fairy tale.

* THE CHRISTMAS BOOK: How to Have the Best Christmas Ever. Scholastic Inc. $9.99. Appropriate for ages 10 to adult.

A little paperback brimming with Christmas trivia, holiday games, party ideas and gift ideas.

Christmas Gift Books

Suggested by Steve Vismor, Barnes & Noble children's department manager


"Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," by Richard Scarry.

"Scuffy the Tugboat," by Tibor Gergely.

"The Monster at the End of this Book," by Jon Stone.

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Disney edition.

"Goodnight Gorilla," by Peggy Rathman.

"The Napping House," by Audrey Wood.

"Stella Luna," by Janell Cannon.

"Fancy Nancy," series by Jane O'Connor.


"Alabama Moon," by Watt Key.

"Code Orange," by Caroline Cooney.

"Tempted," by P. Cast.

"Crocodile Tears," by Anthony Horowitz.

"Shadowland," by Alyson Noel.

"Bobby Pendragon," series by D. J. MacHale.

"Twilight Saga," by Stephenie Meyer.

"Graceling," by Kristin Cashore.

"Dog Days" (Wimpy Kid series No. 4), by Jeff Kinney.

"Percy Jackson," series by Ric Riordan.


Suggested by Lee Hope, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library coordinator of services for children and young adults.

1. "The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear," by Don and Audrey Wood. Ages: birth-6.

Little Mouse worries that the big, hungry bear will take his freshly picked strawberry for himself.

2. "The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a Novel in Words and Pictures," by Brian Selznick. Ages: 9-12.

When 12-year-old Hugo, an orphan living and repairing clocks within a Paris train station in 1931, meets a mysterious toy seller and his goddaughter, his undercover life and his biggest secret are jeopardized.

3. "Fantastic Mr. Fox," by Roald Dahl. Ages: 8-12.

Three farmers, each one meaner than the last, try all-out warfare to get rid of the fox and his family.

4. "The Snowy Day," by Ezra Jack Keats. Ages: 2-7

Ezra Jack Keat's classic pays homage to the wonder and pure pleasure a child experiences when the world is blanketed in snow.

5. "The Miraculous Journey," of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Ages: 8-11.

Edward Tulane, a cold-hearted and proud toy rabbit, loves only himself until he is separated from the little girl who adores him. He travels across the country, acquiring new owners and listening to their hopes and dreams.

6. "The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963: A Novel," by Christopher Paul Curtis. Ages: 9-12.

The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an black family living in Flint, Mich., are drastically changed after they visit Grandma in Alabama in summer 1963.

7. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective," by Dr. Seuss. Ages: 4-8.

The Grinch tries to stop Christmas by stealing all the presents and food from the village, but to his surprise it comes anyway. This anniversary edition includes 32 pages of rarely seen Seuss images and commentary by Charles D. Cohen.

8. "Time For Bed," by Mem Fox. Ages: birth-6.

Darkness is falling and little ones are getting sleepy, feeling cozy, and being tucked in by a loved one.

9. "Charlotte's Web," by E. B. White. Ages: 9-12.

Wilbur the pig is desolate when he discovers he is destined to become the farmer's Christmas dinner until Charlotte, his spider friend, decides to help.

10. "Polar Express," by Chris Van Allsburg. Ages: 5-9.

A magical train ride on Christmas Eve takes a boy to the North Pole to receive a special gift from Santa Claus.

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