Staff Picks: Favorite Books

December 19, 2016


How I love Winter Break!! We moved around a lot when I was growing up… and no matter where we ended up, I always pulled out some of my favorite books that took me to places that I felt right at home. One of the first books that I will share is:

Alexander and the Magical Mouse by Martha Sanders. In this wonderful tale:

“The Old Lady, her Magical Mouse, a Brindle London Squatting Cat, a Yak, and Alexander, the smiling alligator, lived together on a hill without any friends until the thirty-day rain endangered the town below them.”

You will have to read it to find out what happens! The illustrations by Philippe Fix are beautiful as are all of the unlikely animal friends. I still read that one to this day, especially when it’s cold and rainy!

Another one of my all-time favorites is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrations by Jules Feiffer. It just really doesn’t get much better than this splendid story:

For Milo, everything’s a
bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

This book is so clever, fabulous and inspiring – I hope you will all run to library to check it out!

I could go on and on about favorite books… but will just share one more for this last 2016 blog post! I would be absolutely remiss to not tell you about Tasha Tudor. She is, actually, my name mother (I had the absolute delight of meeting her on two occasions and she told me herself that she was my “name mother”! Love!) Tasha Tudor was an extraordinary artist illustrator, and her life itself took on a magical quality as she aged. Her book: Take Joy! The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book is an annual must for me to pull out and immerse myself in her drawings and lifestyle. She has oodles of special books, and some specifically about Christmas time, but no matter what holiday celebration you choose the idea of taking joy is what it is all about!


The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt was always my favorite book to read if I was feeling blue or needed a good cry. I recently got my childhood copy back in a big box of books from my mom. Here is the synopsis:

“Abused by his mother and her boyfriend, Georgie Burgess learns to hide his hurt. He withdraws into a safe and secret world of beautiful gardens filled with roses—just like those in the library book he treasures. When Georgie wins a small rosebush in a grocery store lottery he gives it all the love and caring he’s never had. Georgie’s life begins to open up for him when the courts send him to a home for boys where he will be safe. Slowly, and not without pain, Georgie learns to give—and to receive—love…”

I will probably read it over the holidays now that I have been talking about it.

Crazy Hair
by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean, was introduced to me by my husband. He is a huge Gaiman fan and I was fascinated to learn of all the great children’s books he’s authored (another excellent one is called Blueberry Girl, which I can only assume is even better if you are the mom to a daughter)!

“Bonnie tries to tame her father’s hair, but to no avail, as birds and beasts of every type jostle for space amongst the curls and tresses of this hirsute book. A warm and funny conversational text combine beautifully with Dave McKean’s edgy and dramatic illustrations to make this another perfect picture book by Gaiman and McKean.”

This book is SO FUN!! I pluck it from the bookshelf and spend 15 minutes looking at the amazing illustrations ALL the time!


Every year since before I can remember my ma and sister and I read e. e. cumming’s little tree in our living room by our tinsel-covered tree on Christmas Eve, or after we finish hanging our ornaments. It’s the sweetest poem written to a Christmas tree, about how much it is loved and how beautiful it will be with a ring on every finger, and how proud it will feel sitting in the window! cummings is a favorite poet of mine thanks in part to his important contribution to my family’s holiday tradition.

Tales from Old Ireland
is a beautifully illustrated collection of Irish folklore, which is also close to my heart, being first generation Irish-American! The stories include The Children of Lir, Fair, Brown and Trembling, The Twelve Wild Geese, Lusmore and the Fairies, Son of an Otter, Son of a Wolf, The Soul Cages, and Oisin in Tir na nOg. Some of these are traditional tales passed down thanks to the country’s centuries-old oral tradition, and some are a bit more original, but all are enjoyable for all ages and magical and whimsical and take place in one of my favorite places – the Emerald Isle.

From all of us at your WFSU Public Media, PBS Kids station, we wish you and yours much joy, happiness, and warmth this holiday season!

WFSU’s Speedy Delivery