Updated Monday, December 10, 2012 at 07:01 AM
Lots of action — firefighting, pranks, alien encounters, battles with the undead — will hook young readers who receive gifts of books by Washington state authors and illustrators this holiday season.
A peacock is an easy one, but young readers might have a harder time answering “Who Has This Tail?” (Henry Holt, 40 pp., ages 2-4) as they look at the ends of other creatures in the newest picture book offering by author Laura Hulbert and illustrator Erik Brooks, who lives in Winthrop. Brooks shows a tail — some bushy, some scaly — against a white background, and then the whole animal in its habitat on the next page. A simple sentence explains how the tail is used, but the highlight is the detailed illustrations.
To create the illustrations for “Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter” (Calkins Creek, 32 pp., $16.95, ages 7-9), Seattle resident Kathleen Kemly traveled to the New York City Fire Museum to research her historical character. Kemly’s vibrant pencil-and-watercolor artwork helps readers imagine Williams’ heroic efforts, dramatically outlined in author Dianne Ochiltree’s fictionalized story.
Give and run might be the best option for “Pickle” (Roaring Brook Press, 234 pp., $15.99, ages 9-11) by debut Seattle author Kim Baker. Otherwise, watch out for high jinks inspired by main character Ben, who starts a prank club with several middle-school classmates (but not his best friend, whose grandma happens to be the school principal). Ben is an endearing and funny narrator, even when some of his ideas go awry. Tim Probert’s black-and-white drawings add to the fun.
Little green men are always a hit, and Spokane author Kelly Milner Halls (“Tales of the Cryptids,” “In Search of Sasquatch”) knows how to balance curiosity with skepticism in her fiction/nonfiction hybrid, “Alien Investigation: Searching for the Truth about UFOs and Aliens” (Millbrook Press, 64 pp., $20.95, ages 9-12). The first chapter starts with a UFO sighting near Mineral, Wash., in 1947, and includes other reports of odd aircraft, lights, crash debris and aliens. Halls includes official explanations but notes that, in some cases, “the truth is uncertain.” Interviews, photographs, source notes and an incident map will help wannabe Mulders.
Part “The Incredible Journey,” part post-apocalyptic survival story, “The Last Dogs: The Vanishing” (Little, Brown, $16.99, ages 10-12) follows Max, a golden Lab, and his dachshund sidekick, Rocky, as they navigate a world where humans have disappeared. In this fast-paced chapter book by Seattle author Christopher Holt, the dogs must escape from hungry wolves, suspicious cats, nasty subway rats and a totalitarian society of their own kind called “the Corporation.” Expect a sequel soon.
Bainbridge Island author Suzanne Selfors twists a new fairy tale (with a bit of Rumpelstiltskin thrown in) in her young-adult novel, “The Sweetest Spell” (Walker Publishing, 404 pp., $16.99, ages 13 and up). Cows saved Emmeline’s life as a baby, and they’ve always shown an affinity for her. Indeed, one magical bovine gifts her with a precious ability: to churn milk into chocolate. Suddenly, the poor dirt-scratcher’s daughter and her shy beau, Owen, are thrust into a cross-kingdom adventure when Emmeline is kidnapped and Owen thrown into jail. Of course readers will unwrap a happy ending, but they’ll savor the sweet story along the way.
In “Necromancing the Stone” (Henry Holt, $16.99, ages 15 and up), the sequel to the award-winning “Hold Me Closer, Necromancer,” Seattle author Lish McBride doesn’t let poor Sam enjoy his victory over an evil necromancer for long. Though Sam has moved into his vanquished foe’s mansion, it comes with vengeful gnomes. And he’s earned a spot on the magical council, but his werewolf girlfriend breaks up with him after her father is killed. And oh yeah, is the bad guy really dead? It’s laugh-out-loud funny in parts, and even readers who haven’t read the first (more violent) book will still enjoy this one.
Stephanie Dunnewind, a former Seattle Times reporter, is an elementary school librarian in Bothell.
Mark Evans / The Seattle Times