Julia Null Smith (for the Austin American-Statesman) and Thomas Maresca (for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) look past marketing blitzes, movie tie-ins, and celebrity-penned titles to recommend literary presents "that haven't had the benefit of massive marketing campaigns." (Smith)
Null Smith suggests eight new titles from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Vincent's Colors for the youngest readers to Donna Jo Napoli's The King of Mulberry Street.
Maresca seems particularly bothered by the merchandizing of children's literature. He writes, "Walk into the children's section of any bookstore this holiday season and you might think you've accidentally wandered into the lobby of the multiplex instead. Kids' books and movies seem to be cross-pollinating more than ever. There are blockbusters made from books ('Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,' 'Zathura,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia'); books made from movies ('March of the Penguins'); and an overwhelming number of kids books by celebrity authors - most of whom should stick to making movies." I agree and Maresca didn't even get into those awful cardboard stands such books are "merchandized" in. I'm forever catching them with my computer bag and knocking a few books to the floor.
Maresca recommends a number of good books, including Sabuda's Winter Tale, Funke's Inkspell, and Willems' wonderful Leonardo the Terrible Monster. He also notes a few recent Wisconsin titles and has chosen some interesting middle-grade and young adult novels.