Dear Alex Bernstein: How could you title your latest book Miserable Holiday Stories: 20 Festive Failures That Are Worse Than Yours!? It’s so…unwelcoming! And besides, the 19 stories in your book aren’t miserable; they are creative, funny, bittersweet and different from most holiday fare. I found the stories were perfect for reading right before bed.
Bernstein’s book is a series of short stories in a paperback book that, to me, was just the right size: 5″ by 7″. Don’t know why I liked the size so much, but I did. Reading about Santa being kidnapped, an annoying twitch, an unbreakable toy and the almost-true-to-life program titles in a telethon…all seemed easier in the small book. I found most of the stories enjoyable…and many, I knew, came from real life.
The 264-page Miserable Holiday Stories is, to my mind, a book for adults, but two “Happy Fox” books are for kids 2 to 5 years old. The books are about animals, environments and facts about them both, but I think adults can learn a thing or two as well.
Discovering Nature on the Mountainside, by Lenka Chytilova and Hedviga Gutierrez, is a delight. The first five pages are cut to reveal scenes behind them that are colorful and help tell the stories.
Within Mountainside on every page are paragraphs that teach about animals. Here is one sample paragraph from the book:
“Did you know eagle nests can be 10 feet across? Bats live deep in dark caves and hear so well it keeps them from crashing into things. Salamanders, newts and frogs love the crystal clear waters of mountain Lakes.”
(Note: I didn’t know about the large eagles’ nests myself.)
Discovering the Hidden Woodland World, by Magda Gargulakova and Martin Sojdr is equally intriguing.
“Between 25,000 and 500,000 insects and other animals live in a tree, depending on location and season. Even when a tree has died or been cut down it is still home to these creatures.”
Again, the illustrations in Mountainside are colorful and true to the subject. Lots of small animals are featured, such as insects, beetles and mice, and the trees of the woodland get special emphasis.
Both Mountainside and Woodland World, I guarantee, would be proud and beautiful gifts for children or grandchildren.