HONEY ... HONEY ... LION!, by Jan Brett, Putnam, $16.99; ages 4-8.
According to the legend author Jan Brett heard while in Botswana, the honeyguide (a bird) leads the honey badger to find the honeycomb and then on a lion hunt. Along the way, we are introduced through beautifully detailed illustrations to African animals via a water hole, a hollow log and tall grass. At the acacia tree, the badger gets a big surprise. Brett has one of the best Web sites for children, www.janbrett.com.
FLOATIES! FIVE LITTLE DUCKS, pictures by Juliet Williams, Sterling Publishing Co., $7.95; ages 0-3.
Mother Duck is out for a swim with her brood. Each time she calls them, another one is missing. This board book is the right size for small hands as children begin to learn to count and the spine has a removable cylinder filled with five floating ducks. Listen to music for the rhyme at www.angelfire.com/music4/nurseryrhymes. Five similar "Floaties!" books are also available.
MONSOON SUMMER, by Mitali Perkins, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $15.95; young adult.
This is a lovely story of friendship, first loves, taking chances, faraway places, and for 15-year-old Jazz, discovering who she really is. And yet, this book is so much more than that. Jazz’s family spends a summer in Pune, India, where we get the chance to learn about India and the subtle ways in which race and caste are a part of the culture. We meet Danita, an orphan girl who works for Jazz’s family. She knows how to make a perfect cup of tea and how to make Jazz see herself for who she is. The girls become friends and teach each other to be proud of who they are.
RUNNY BABBIT: A BILLY SOOK, by Shel Silverstein, HarperCollins, $17.99; ages 7-12.
Yes, the title is spelled correctly. It’s a spoonerism—a mixing up of the beginning sounds of two or more words. This collection of poems was 20 years in the making and found among Silverstein’s papers after his death in 1999. My favorites are "Runny’s Heading Rabits" and "Runny Cooks for Linderella." It takes practice reading these poems to yourself. Reading them out loud is even harder. Have fun with these poems.
Drum roll, please
Kid culture columnists share their favorites from 2005
Most of us could use a little expert advice in choosing just the right movie, music or book for a holiday gift. So we turned to our experts, Chicago Parent’s Kid culture columnists—Sylvia Ewing on movies, Fred Koch on kids’ music, Judy Belanger on books for young readers and Sandi Pedersen on books for tweens—for help. The following are their picks as the best books, music and movies for gift-giving this year.