2006 Best Children's Book Honorable Mentions

These runner-up titles also deserve recognition for their original illustrations, lyrical text, and memorable characters.

AGES BIRTH TO 2

Hush, Little Baby

Adaptation and illustrations by Brian Pinkney

An adaptation of the classic nursery rhyme "Hush, Little Baby" accompanies cozy scenes of an African-American family in the early 1900s. When a father is left at home for the day by his wife, he finds himself compelled to entertain his little girl, and lavish promises fly: "Papa's gonna bring you a horse and cart. If that horse and cart get stuck, Papa's gonna bring you a fire truck!" Pinkney's graceful yet energetic images of a loving father, guitar-strumming older brother, and playful puppy will entertain your little one too-until the lyrical text eventually lulls her to sleep. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $16.

AGES 2 to 4

Moon Plane

Text and illustrations by Peter McCarty

A boy's imagination takes flight when an airplane passes overhead, leaving him to wonder what it would be like aboard that plane, soaring over a train and a sailboat. The boy's creativity skyrockets when he imagines a journey to the moon in his plane. McCarty, a previous Child Best Book Award winner, uses soft grays and delicate lines to make even the most massive machines seem tame and inviting, all the while reassuring little ones that anything is possible. Henry Holt, $17.

AGES 4 to 6

Bats at the Beach

Text and illustrations by Brian Lies

When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, bats head for a fun night at the beach. Kids will get a kick out of the humorous images of these night creatures shivering in the cool water and roasting "bug-mallows" around a campfire. Whether it's putting on "moon-tan lotion" or hitting the "snack bar" (consisting of various flies and bugs on the ceiling), this laugh-out-loud tale of an unusual outing (unusual for us at least) proposes the entertaining notion that all creatures, nocturnal or not, enjoy a beach getaway. Houghton Mifflin, $16.

Brave Bitsy and the Bear

Text by Angela McAllister, illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke

Little Bitsy, a small toy rabbit, has fallen out of her owner's pocket and landed in a forest she doesn't know. Luckily, she meets Bear and, with his help, makes it home safely. But she worries about how Bear will find his way back to his cave. Now it's Bitsy's turn to help her new friend. Children will cheer on Bitsy's bravery in this sweet story about the bonds of friendship. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin, $16.

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons

Text by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrations by Jane Dyer

Through the simple, homey act of baking and eating cookies, Rosenthal gently teaches the golden rules of life: "Cooperate means how about you add the chips while I stir?" and "Respect means offering the very first cookie to your grandmother." To go with the delicious text, Dyer's charming illustrations depict children interacting with cats, horses, beavers, and other animal friends who love cookies as much as the humans do. HarperCollins, $13.

Mommy?

Scenario by Arthur Yorinks, illustrations by Maurice Sendak, paper engineering by Matthew Reinhart

Through the simple, homey act of baking and eating cookies, Rosenthal gently teaches the golden rules of life: "Cooperate means how about you add the chips while I stir?" and "Respect means offering the very first cookie to your grandmother." To go with the delicious text, Dyer's charming illustrations depict children interacting with cats, horses, beavers, and other animal friends who love cookies as much as the humans do. HarperCollins, $13.

Winter Is the Warmest Season

Text and illustrations by Lauren Stringer

'When winter comes, my jacket puffs warm with feathers, my hat grows earflaps, my pants hide deep in fuzzy boots, and my hands wear warm woolly sweaters." Cozy words and vibrant illustrations set out to prove that winter indeed is the warmest time of the year. With images of dragon-like radiators and dancing snowmen wearing warm scarves, this picture book offers a unique twist on how we think of the seasons. Harcourt, $16.

AGES 6 to 8

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and Other Poems

Text by Jack Prelutsky, illustrations by Carin Berger

From Alarmadillos to Ballpoint Penguins, each of Prelutsky's creations has its own delightful description: 'The bizarre Alarmadillos/Are a clamorous quartet,/For they're in a constant frenzy?/They're incessantly upset," and "The Ballpoint Penguins do not think,/They simply write with endless ink./They write of ice, they write of snow,/For that is all they seem to know." These clever poems go hand in hand with Berger's whimsical collage illustrations of alarm clocks with armadillo heads and tails, and pens with bowties and black wings. Kids will be inspired to play their own game of "What do you get when you cross an animal with a ?" and come up with creative combinations. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $18.

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

Text and illustrations by Adam Rex

How can the Phantom of the Opera compose his haunting arias with the song "It's a Small World After All" stuck in his head? Would you want to be the one to tell Count Dracula he has spinach in his teeth? Everyone's favorite monster shows a softer side in this hilarious collection of stories. Equally entertaining are illustrations of the Invisible Man attempting to get a haircut and Count Dracula's terrified son sitting in the dentist's chair. Sure to keep kids reading and laughing all the way through, this unusual picture book will appeal to grown-ups too. Harcourt, $16.

Ivy + Bean: Book 1

Text by Annie Barrows, illustrations by Sophie Blackall

Opposites attract in this story about two soon-to-be best friends. Ivy, a nice, quiet girl, moves in across the street from Bean, and Bean wants nothing to do with her because "nice, Bean knew, is another word for boring." But when Bean plays a trick on her older sister and needs a place to hide, Ivy-who has a secret up her sleeve-comes to the rescue. Perfect for young readers who are graduating to chapter books, this is the first title in a series. Fans of Junie B. and Ramona will feel right at home with these two pals and their antics. Chronicle, $15.

Jackie's Bat

Text by Marybeth Lorbiecki, illustrations by Brian Pinkney

This uplifting tale of baseball great Jackie Robinson is told from the perspective of a young batboy, who gradually learns that the true measure of a man comes from his actions, not his skin color. While Lorbiecki's poignant narrative portrays Robinson's quiet heroism in the face of racism on and off the baseball field, Pinkney's bright illustrations contribute beautifully to the heartfelt message of her story. Simon & Schuster, $16.

Mercy Watson Fights Crime

Text by Kate DiCamillo, illustrations by Chris Van Dusen

In this third book in the Mercy Watson series by the bestselling author of Because of Winn-Dixie, a robber decides to rob Mr. and Mrs. Watson while they're asleep. Unfortunately, he's not very good at it. When Mercy, a roly-poly pig with a huge appetite for buttered toast, hears the toaster scrape the counter as it goes into the thief's bag, comical pandemonium ensues. Van Dusen's cartoon-style illustrations add to the fun, and early readers will gladly tag along with Mercy as she again saves the day. Candlewick, $13.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

Text by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

In lyrical gospel style, Weatherford recounts the heroic dedication of a woman who helped guide her fellow African Americans from slavery to freedom. When God speaks to her, Harriet Tubman, a deeply religious woman, gains the courage she needs to overcome her fears of being caught and punished. Equally moving, Nelson's gorgeous illustrations dramatize Tubman's perilous journey-all the while showcasing her inner light and strength. Hyperion, $16.

Roxie and the Hooligans

Text by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, illustrations by Alexandra Boiger

What would you do if you were stranded on an island with a gang of school bullies and a pair of murderous bank robbers? Why, consult your copy of Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive Them of course! Roxie Warbler has it memorized, and by working together with the bullies (while calmly repeating Lord Thistlebottom?s mantra, "Do not panic"), she finds a way to save herself and her new friends. Any child who has ever been the outsider looking in will cheer as Roxie defeats the bad guys and wins the respect of her peers. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, $16.

AGES 8 to 12

Toys Go Out

Text by Emily Jenkins, illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky

Toys come to life in this sweet, endearing story of what happens when three toys-a stuffed buffalo, a stingray blanket, and a plastic ball-dare to venture out of their beloved Little Girl's room. Accompanied by charming pencil-sketched illustrations from Zelinsky, each chapter features the musings, terrors, and triumphs of one of the Little Girl's favorite playthings. By the time the book comes to an end, young readers will feel they?ve made three close friends. Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $17.

AGES 12 AND UP

Emil and Karl

Text by Yankev Glatshteyn, translated by Jeffrey Shandler

Originally written in Yiddish and published in 1940, this newly translated edition tells the story of two young boys who survived the Holocaust. Emil, a Jewish boy whose father is killed by the Nazis and whose mother has become mad with grief, and his school friend, Karl, who sees the Nazis drag his Socialist mother away, must flee pre-World War II Vienna. Haunting and filled with descriptions of harsh events, this fast-paced novel, still relevant 66 years after it was written, will stay with readers long after the final page. Roaring Brook, $18.

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