There’s a holiday gift for every young person, from picture books to young- adult novels, in this list of books by Washington state authors such as Nikki McClure and Kendare Blake.
With creatures from snowmen to foxes, sports from football to soccer, and settings from Puget Sound to a mythical island, picture books and novels by Washington state authors will entertain children and teens this holiday season.
In “Hap-Pea All Year” by Keith Baker (Beach Lane Books, 40 pp., $17.99, ages 2-6), the titular veggies celebrate each month with a short rhyme and appropriate activities (leprechauns in March, ice skating in December). It’s hard not to smile at the enthusiastic little peas handing out valentines or camping under summer skies. Baker lives in Seattle.
“The Most Perfect Snowman” (Balzar + Bray, 32 pp., $17.99, ages 3-7) is not perfect at first — Drift is plain, with just some stick arms and a coal face. In this picture book by Tacoma author/illustrator (and editorial cartoonist) Chris Britt, the other snowmen make fun of Drift, until a few kind children give him a scarf, hat and longed-for carrot nose. The Rudolph comparisons end there, as the warmhearted snowman uses his new accessories not to win group acceptance, but to help a stranger in this touching winter tale.
Things don’t work out quite as planned for anyone in “Fox and the Jumping Contest”(Balzar + Bray, 32 pp., $17.99, ages 5-8) by debut picture book author/illustrator Corey R. Tabor, who lives in Seattle. Instead of practicing for the jumping contest, Fox schemes and builds a jet pack. He soars into the air, excited to win until he realizes he forgot a parachute. As the other animals receive their consolation awards, Fox’s crash landing puts Rabbit’s first-place win in jeopardy. Will they compromise? And just where did he leave his jet-pack? A peek out Fox’s window suggests other animals might be looking for airtime in this whimsical story.
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Put a bit of summer in the holidays with Nikki McClure’s “Waiting for High Tide” (Abrams, 46 pp., $19.95, ages 7-9).) This picture book follows a family’s efforts to build a wooden raft by hand, based on Olympia author McClure’s own raft on the Salish Sea. McClure’s stunning black paper-cut illustrations, simply colored with blue and pink highlights, capture the tide pool flora and fauna. The story of a family’s day at the beach mingles with poetic details of sea life: “Everyone is feasting: clam, gull, human, and all the life in the mud too small to see or fathom.”
“This is Not a Werewolf Story”(Athenaeum Books for Young Readers, 336 pp., $16.99, ages 10-13) by debut children’s author Sandra Evans is a charming coming-of-age tale about Raul, who changes into a wolf — but not a werewolf, thank you very much. He can do it anytime, not just at the full moon. Abandoned by his parents, he lives at a fictional Whidbey Island boarding school during the week and wild in the woods on the weekend. As Raul develops his first crush, helps a new boy, and battles an evil PE teacher, he learns that not everything he believes is what it seems. The fantastic elements in the narrative stay grounded in Raul’s believable voice. Evans is a Whidbey Island native and University of Washington graduate.
A pithy description of Kendare Blake’s “Three Dark Crowns”(HarperTeen, 416 pp., $17.99, ages 14-17) as “ ‘Hunger Games’ meets ‘Game of Thrones’ ” is true only to the extent that this fantasy novel focuses on characters along with gore. Three sisters are trained in their respective talents — poisoner, naturalist, elemental — to fight to the death when they turn 16. The winner becomes queen, and the group she represents also rules. While the poisoners have long held power, the only sister with true talent is Mirabella, an elemental who can control fire and wind. Twists include a love triangle, attempted escapes, and several betrayals. Blake, who lives in Kent, fashions a dark-edged world with compelling alternating perspectives from the three very different sisters.
Seattle author Carl Deuker returns with a twofer sports novel that includes football and soccer in “Gutless” (Houghton Mifflin, 329 pp., $17.99, ages 14-17). Brock is a soccer goalie who shies away from fast kicks, earning him a reputation as a coward. That designation doesn’t improve when he goes out for football as a wide receiver and misses passes to avoid being tackled. Initially, he’s also gutless about standing up when his friend Richie is bullied by the quarterback, but escalating tensions help him find his courage. The sports plays will captivate readers, but the bigger issues (bullying, racism, parent illnesses) will keep them thinking. Deuker lives in Ballard.