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Picture Books for the (Mostly Younger) Set

Trumpeting legend Gillespie finds his way to "Jazz Heaven" in <em>Dizzy</em>.
Trumpeting legend Gillespie finds his way to "Jazz Heaven" in Dizzy.
A sandwich of rotten, moldy scraps, anyone? <em>Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich</em> serves up silliness.
A sandwich of rotten, moldy scraps, anyone? Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich serves up silliness.
Baby gets to shake things up in Jane O'Connor's clever tale-within-a-tale, <Em>The Snow Globe Family</em>.
Baby gets to shake things up in Jane O'Connor's clever tale-within-a-tale, The Snow Globe Family.

Jazz It Up

This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt; pictures by R.G. Roth (Harcourt Children's Books, $16, ages 3 to 7)

"This jazz man, he plays one, he plays rhythm with his thumb, with a Snap! Snap! Snazzy-Snap! Give the man a hand, this jazz man scats with the band."

That's what "This Old Man" would sound like if an ensemble of nine jazz greats (including Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington) joyfully jammed for the kids. Ehrhardt wittily revises the lyrics, while Roth deploys a pulsating palate of colors and collage to introduce each jazz man and his instrument. Readers are invited to snap their fingers and sing along.

Dizzy by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Sean Qualls (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, $16.99, ages 4 to 8)

Blow, Dizzy, blow! Jazz immortal Dizzy Gillespie may not have been born with a trumpet in hand -- but with equal parts determination and innovation, he found his way to what Winter, in his energetic free-verse text, calls "Jazz Heaven." Vivid illustrations conjure his hardscrabble youth (his father's fists swinging at Dizzy as at a punching bag), the red-hot stream of Dizzy's jazz (fiery clouds smoke from his trumpet) and the nighttime atmosphere of the jazz clubs he headlined (shadows of indigo blue and grey engulf both players and audiences). Our advisers Sutton and Stevenson are both fans. Put on a Dizzy CD and start reading for a warm night of cool sounds.

Yuk It Up

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex (Harcourt Children's Books, $16, ages 5 to 10)

Well, maybe this isn't the most traditional comfort food. (Frankenstein's sandwich is compiled of the rotten, moldy scraps tossed by frightened townsfolk.) But Rex serves up a full menu of outlandish jokes and poems -- with absurd comic illustrations, from haunted horror house black-and-white to full-color fairy-tale scary -- about such misunderstood characters as Phantom of the Opera (who can't get "It's a Small World" out of his head), the Middlewich Witch-Watchers Club (a club which watches witches) and the Lunchsnack of Notre Dame. Need we say more?

G Is for One Gzonk! An Alpha-Number-Bet Book by Tony DiTerlizzi (Simon & Schuster, $16.95, ages 5 to 7)

DiTerlizzi's Dr.Seuss-like tome is as antic as the imaginary animals he invents to illustrate his self-described "silly dilly take on abc" -- from A (for the Angry Ack who "eats your dirty clothes./His favorite snack is stinky socks/with jam packed in the toes") to Z (for the Zanderiffic Zibble Zook).

Traditions and Untraditions

The Snow Globe Family by Jane O'Connor; illustrated by S. D. Schindler (G. P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99, ages 4 to 8)

Traditional comfort and joy don't have to be dull or treacly. In O'Connor's clever Victorian-era tale within a tale, Baby gets to shake things up -- literally -- whenever the snow-globe is in reach.

Merry Un-Christmas by Mike Reiss; illustrated by David Catrow (HarperCollins, $15.99, ages 3 to 7)

Talk about a parallel universe: In Noelle's hometown, Christmas City, Texmas, every day is Christmas, which of course makes Un-Christmas Day the most special event on the calendar because it's just so... ordinary: When the man with a sack isn't Santa but the postman, when a TV dinner replaces a holiday feast and when kids get to go to school and hang out with their friends. Think of this amusing switcheroo, recommended by The Horn Book, as an antidote to the weary aftermath of too many holiday get-togethers.

Eight Wild Nights: A Family Hanukkah Tale by Brian P. Cleary; illustrated by David Udovic (Kar-Ben Publishing, $16.95, ages 4 to 8)

David Udovic pokes affectionate fun at Jewish traditions in this sitcom-style paean to family pandemonium. As the family gathers to light candles and eat latkes (spilling applesauce along the way), we meet Grandpa Dave (who specializes in teaching the kids blackjack and poker), energetic Aunt Rachel (leader of the annual off-key singalong) and other relatives who love tumult -- that's Yiddish for hoo-hah.

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