The following books are suitable for Christmas giving:
"Friends of Liberty" by Beatrice Gormley. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Mich., 2013). 184 pp., $8.
A forbidden friendship, a stubborn but likable protagonist and political turmoil make this novel a gem for young readers. Set during the months leading up to the Boston Tea Party midnight raid on three tea ships, "Friends of Liberty" is about two young girls who form a friendship despite their families' different economic and political status during a time when being a Whig or a Tory meant everything. Young readers will learn about taxation without representation and America's journey to independence while enjoying a great story with several twists and turns. Ages 10-16.
"Speed" by Nathan Clement. Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, Pa., 2013). 30 pp., $16.95.
Young NASCAR racing and Matchbox car enthusiasts will delight in the vivid illustrations and simple, but exciting, words in this book. Toddlers and early readers will learn about car racing and colors while onomatopoeias give a soundtrack to the bright images of cars racing around a track. A nice little twist at the end will make adults smile as they read the book aloud to youngsters. Ages 2-5.
"Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing" by Amy Welborn, illustrated by Ann Kissane Engelhart. Franciscan Media (Cincinnati, 2013). 33 pp., $15.99.
"Bambinelli Sunday" tells a Christmas tale of a lonely little boy who finds joy in his family and in sharing the baby Jesus with others. Beautifully illustrated scenes of water-colored Italian streets will keep the attention of little readers, and the Christian lesson is appropriate for all ages. Ages 4-8.
"A Girl Called Problem" by Katie Quirk. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Mich., 2013). 256 pp., $8.
When an entire village moves to a new community to help build a free Tanzania, conflict arises. But are the problems the result of evil curses from disgruntled ancestors or is something -- or someone -- else causing the disruption? Set in mid-1960s Tanzania, "A Girl Called Problem" is a wonderful introduction to historical fiction that will teach young readers about the crossroads of tradition and modernization, culture and science. Readers will fall in love with the main character, a spunky young girl who teaches her village that when girls are allowed to go to school, an entire community benefits. Ages 10-14.
"Jorge from Argentina: The Story of Pope Francis for Children" by Marlyn Monge, FSP, and Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, illustrated by Diana Kizlauskas. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2013). 58 pp., $8.95.
We know by now that Pope Francis grew up in Argentina and studied chemistry before becoming a Jesuit. But did you know that as a student, the young Jorge Bergoglio liked playing basketball and worked at a sock factory cleaning floors and equipment? Young readers of this illustrated biography will enjoy interesting facts about Pope Francis' life and discovering that the pope was an energetic student, helpful son and an ordinary child of God called to do extraordinary things. Ages 8-11.
"Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library" by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O' Brien. Calkins Creek (Honesdale, Pa., 2013). 32 pp., $16.95.
This book's clever illustrations and fun narrative about a well-known American president will wet the appetite of future historians. "Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library" is a nonfiction picture book that describes Jefferson's love affair with books. Within the context of his literary obsession, readers also will learn a lot about the nation's third president and early America. Ages 8-10.
"Grumbles From the Forest: Fairy Tale Voices With a Twist" by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Matt Mahurin. WordSong (Honesdale, Pa., 2013). 40 pp., $16.95.
This collection of poems dedicated to beloved fairy tales is witty and smart. Enchanting illustrations and charming poems will tickle the imagination of young children and adults alike. The book will allow readers to revisit their favorite fairy tales and think about them in a new way. This is one of those books that will be pulled from the shelf time and again. Ages 5 and up.
"Dear God, I Don't Get It" by Patti Maguire Armstrong, illustrated by Shannon Wirrenga. Liguori Publications (Liguori, Mo., 2013). 112 pp., $7.99.
Sixth-grader Aaron Ajax is facing some real problems: His dad lost his job, and the family must move in the middle of a school year. How could God do this to his family? They pray and go to church; shouldn't that guarantee Aaron from being the dreaded new kid in school? "Dear God, I Don't Get It" is a well-written chapter book that will help readers trust in God and learn that God has a plan, even if it is not always immediately apparent. Although the predictable ending is perhaps tied up too tightly with a bow, that shouldn't discourage young readers wanting to read more books like this. Luckily, another book about the Ajax family is due to come out next year. Ages 8-12.
"The Prayer of St. Francis" illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. Paulist Press (Mahwah, N.J., 2013). 34 pp., $12.95.
This children's picture book is the St. Francis' prayer depicted in soft illustrations of a fox treating his furry friends with kindness, forgiveness and love. Although the prayer actually was written long after the beloved saint died, this simple and beautiful prayer along with the book's pictures will help young children learn about St. Francis' mission and what they are called to do as children of God. Ages 3-5.