With Christmas quickly approaching, local gift ideas with local themes should be part of that annual shopping list. Luckily, local presses and local authors have brought to the bookshelf some new and notable children’s book titles to consider.
“The Lucky Hat” by Matthew Henry Hall, Illustrated by Jim Madsen. The Grand Canyon Association is releasing two great titles of children’s picture books this year. It follows on the heels (or tail) of one of its bestsellers, “Whose Tail on the Trail,” which followed different animals in Grand Canyon National Park. This year, they have what will likely be another winner with “The Lucky Hat,” written by local author Matthew Henry Hall and illustrated by Jim Madsen. It tells the story of a boy named Michael, whose grandmother makes him a lucky hat.
The hat gives him the bravery to explore the Grand Canyon. Michael loses his hat, but it brings him back year after year — and later married and with a daughter of his own — in search for the hat. And the search itself brings him many treasured moments. A dual story illustrated on what really happens to the hat along the way makes this book especially charming and a sure-to-delight title for the 5-to-8-year-old set.
“Paula Goes to the Pound” by Bill Mann, Illustrated by Alexandra Columbo. Another great children’s book to cheer this year is “Paula Goes to the Pound,” which was written by Sedona resident Bill Mann and illustrated by Alexandra Columbo. It tells the story of a poodle named Paula, who loves to doodle and eat strudel (and her human mom, Cathay). Mann’s fun with rhyme blends with the vibrant and quirky illustrations. Paula, of course, ends up at the pound. But what happens along the way leads to a fun-filled animal adoption adventure.
According to a story in the arts magazine Kudos, Mann met Kevin Hertell of Second Chance Center for Animals. Mann wanted to make a difference in animal rescue operations and hoped to do this through the new book. Along with the neat local connection, the solid characterizations both in words and image make the book especially fetching for the 8-and-under reader. It also includes a fun glossary of special words that appear in the story.
“Celebrate My Hopi Toys” and “Celebrate My Hopi Corn” by Anita Poleahla, Illustrated by Emmett Navakuku. Flagstaff’s Salina Bookhself has long been known for the publication of bilingual children’s books for Navajo youth, Native American themed series and novels and Navajo language textbooks. This year, the publisher has expanded more into representing Hopi with two new early reader board books, “Celebrate My Hopi Toys” and “Celebrate My Hopi Corn.” The former works as a counting book, enumerating each of a different kind of Hopi toy, such as dancing sticks and turtle shells. It also brings some cultural instruction with images of dancers and Hopi icons.
“Celebrate My Hopi Corn” is another great title for young Hopi and non-Hopi alike. It shows in a simple yet thoughtful way the importance of corn in the Hopi tradition. With both books, the illustrations of Emmett Navakuku are colorful and complex, with vibrant and contrasting scenes and backgrounds. The integration of Hopi imagery further defines the books.
“The Ravenous Raven” by Midji Stephenson, Illustrated by Steven Gray. “The Ravenous Raven” represents the second of two children’s picture books the Grand Canyon Association is celebrating this season. Written by Midji Stephenson, who is a delightful children’s book author and who had a Grand Canyon hit with “Whose Tail on the Trail,” is back with “The Ravenous Raven.” It’s vibrant and comical illustrations by Steve Gray make it a real eye-catcher that will likely excite young readers.
“Raven” tells the story of a bird who cannot stop eating. Each turn of the page has Raven stealing fish, eggs, following California Condors for some “dead food ahead” and raiding campsites and picnic spots. While “Whose Tail” provides more educational elements on the different animals of the Grand Canyon, “Ravenous Raven” is more of a fun, plucky story — thought it does have the don’t feed the wildlife message. Both books are great editions of strong regional titles deserving a place on the children’s bookshelf.