The Gift of a Good Book

’Tis the season of joy and goodwill. Newsbee’s gift is to spread the word on some fan-tab-u-lous finds, the cream of the crop — books that will wow you right into the New Year and bee-yond. Hope you can check one out at the library, or purchase one as a present, an extra-special gift that can be read again and again. A good book is a prized treasure for the ages, no matter how old you are.

‘Stars’ by Mary Lyn Ray, Illustrated by Marla Frazee

Eyes and hearts will light up when reading “Stars,” a poetic picture book by Mary Lyn Ray, with illustrations by Marla Frazee, one of Newsbee’s special pals. The team has combined their talents to create a wondrous book of insurmountable beauty that’s a joy to read aloud.

“A star is how you know it’s almost night. As soon as you see one, there’s another and another. And the dark that comes doesn’t feel so dark.”

So begins a grateful nod to the sparkly friends that greet us each evening, dotting the night sky with diamonds.

But stars aren’t only found by looking up to the heavens. Ray and Frazee remind us that stars abound all around — in the shapes children cut out from construction paper, and in our natural world, in delicate blossoms that lead to juicy strawberries, in five-pointed flowers that become happy pumpkins, and in dandelions and snowflakes.

All the magic that a star provides is on display thanks to Frazee’s marvelous illustrations, and Ray’s rich writing. Readers of all ages will reach for “Stars” again and again.

‘The Lost and Found Pony’ by author/illustrator Tracy Dockray

“The Lost and Found Pony” is a sweet tale told from a pony’s point of view by author/illustrator Tracy Dockray. This beautifully illustrated picture book is reminiscent of the classic story, “Black Beauty.”

A dapple-gray pony is born on a farm to a mare not much bigger than him. Like all youngsters, human and horse, the pony can’t wait to grow up — but he doesn’t grow very tall. He remains small of stature, but to his delight his future is bright.

The pony becomes a surprise birthday present for a girl who is tiny too, but who has huge affection for her new friend. The two have great times together taking part in horse shows and jumping competitions. But that all changes one day when the girl falls off the pony and is hurt. The little pony is sold to a traveling circus; then he is sold again, his fate mirroring Black Beauty’s painful path.

All is not lost in this book with a sweet ending and purpose. Eventually the little pony’s journey becomes a smooth ride once again.

‘Secrets at Sea’ by Richard Peck

Set sail with “Secrets at Sea,” a rollicking novel that’s pitch-perfect by Richard Peck. The author’s in top form in this tale of the Upstairs Cranstons, an Ohio family who embark on a voyage to England during Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. Meet beefy Mrs. Cranston, her stick-in-the-mud husband, plain, oldest daughter Olive, and sweet, comely, Camilla, sure to send a sailor’s heart a-zinging.

Another family is off to London as well; a mess of mice that have lived below the Cranstons for years and decide it’s in their best interest to steal aboard the ship in a steamer trunk. Oldest sister Beatrice is at the helm; in tow are her siblings Helena, Louise and Lamont. Strangely enough they bear the same names as Queen Victoria’s children.

There’s plenty of British humor, slapstick fun and enough upper crust shenanigans to curl a mouse’s tail as the social-climbing Cranstons try to land a man for poor Olive, already “pushing 21” without a suitor in sight. Life isn’t all crumpets and crème tea for the mice either. They’re under attack from the shipboard cat.

Illustrations by Kelly Murphy will float your boat. Pay heed to the views she includes in the portholes on chapter headings. They’ll have you wishing for a trip to merry Old England.

Reprinted with permission, Missourian Publishing Company. Copyright 2011.