From the moment in 2008 when I picked up "Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things," I was smitten. Alvin is so scared of school, he is unable to speak there. But at home he is the energetic and vocal Firecracker Man. Alvin's adventures are full of suspense and action, despite being limited to the world of home, school and the doctor's office.
• When I picked up "A Coyote's in the House," from way back in 2004, I was skeptical. There seems to be no end of well-known adult authors writing kids books that are more about name-dropping than having an interesting and readable story to tell. But with Elmore Leonard, author of gritty, contemporary adult fiction such as "Get Shorty" and "Out of Sight," have no fear.
Meet Antwan, cool, wild and savvy. He wanders into a Hollywood Hills mansion one day, up to no good, where he meets Buddy, an aging film star who wants to get away, see what he's missing, fill a void in his life. Did I mention almost all the characters are dogs, except for the coyotes?
The sharp dialogue and the picture-perfect storytelling make this book go.
• Finally, another volume I'm giving this year is "A Tale Dark and Grimm" by Adam Gidwitz, published in 2010. I didn't realize until I saw the Google doodle that this is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
I just know this book to be a crowd pleaser. This volume restores the blood and suffering that had been purged from the original stories to make them "suitable" for children. That makes it sound like a lot of gratuitous violence.
But it's not. The old Grimm tales have been strung together into a novel about Hansel and Gretel. You'll encounter old folk tales and characters you may not have known, a chatty, easy style, and a story full of love, mistakes, struggle, sacrifice, forgiveness, redemption and growth.
That makes it a very seasonal choice, indeed.
Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at d...@wvgazette.com.