San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe employs some of the savviest elves in town, ever ready to help with the eternal question, “What should I get for my niece/cousin/neighbor in the (fill in the blank here) age group?” The large and airy space on Huntington Drive is a mecca for birthday and holiday shoppers, because not only is the advice gratis—and expert—but they wrap anything over $5 for free! Get there early for the best selection of hot titles and/or toys.
We’ve culled a few of the best-looking books from their shelves as an incitement to holiday giving for the 12-and-under crowd. Here’s how they describe these hot books:
All about Christmas: We’re glad to see that the adorable Richard Scarry’s Best Christmas Book Ever! is back in print. Our kids loved their Richard Scarry books so much there was nothing to hand down but a tattered spine and a couple of battered pages. t’s good to know that Busytown, Huckle Cat and lovable Lowly Worm are around to enchant the next generation, even if they tend to be a bunch of mouth-breathers. There are also songs, games, a list of Christmas words, and instructions for making a great gift for Grandma. Ages 4-8, $12.95. Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Holiday Drama gently captures the impatience of a youngster waiting for Christmas and imparts the true meaning of the holiday. When Llama Llama just can’t wait any more, all it really takes is a cuddle from Mama Llama to remind him, “Gifts are nice, but there’s another: The true gift is, we have each other.” Ages 4-8, $16.99.
For the curious kid and family: If your kids love animals and you have found yourself struggling to answer penetrating questions like how fish breathe underwater, how caterpillars transform into butterflies, and why deer grow antlers, How Animals Work: Why and How Animals Do the Things They Do from DK explores the anatomy and behavior of animals with astonishing action photographs. Animal lovers young and old will be delighted, inspired, and informed by this lavish visual celebration of the natural world, presented with DK’s trademark visual panache.Ages 8-adult, $24.99.
To cure your little DIYer’s Holiday boredom: This Book Made Me Do It, written by John Woodward, shows you how to do the Moonwalk, pan for gold, fold origami and slam dunk a basketball. You can make a bird feeder or a flashlight that runs on candy. Clearly, this is the ultimate bad-weather, multiple-cousin, stop the stir-crazies book, perfect for budding artists, scientists, sports stars, and chefs. You could spark a long-term hobby (lord knows we need a new Michael Jackson), take care of a scouting badge, or just while away a day sans video games. Magic. Ages 9 up, $19.99.
Some best read-aloud bets: Who doesn’t love Max and Ruby, the adorable bunnies created by Rosemary Wells? Grandma willingly tells stories of their adventures that keep putting off dreamland in Max and Ruby’s Bedtime Book. Large format and perfect for sharing, it will have Max and Ruby’s many fans begging for just one more story. Indulge them! Ages 3-7, $17.99. Mo Willems is all the rage. and his Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion concludes one of the most beloved picture-book series in recent memory. Here’s a rave from buyer Candace: “Pitch-perfect text and art, photos from around the world, and a stunning foldout spread culminating in a hilarious and moving surprise that no child or adult will be able to resist…. an epic love story… filled with the joys and sadness of growing up and the unconditional love that binds a father, mother, daughter, and a stuffed bunny.” ‘Knuff(le) said! Ages 3-7, $17.99.
For older kids to read on their own (downtime during the holidays is SUCH a good thing!): Hot off the press is Ingrid Law’s Scumble, the companion to her Newbery Honor Winner Savvy and another rollicking, riveting, fantastical adventure. We always buy the first in a series when giving a sequel (just a hint) unless we are intimately familiar with the kid’s bookshelf. Ages 9-12, $16.99. In Rob Buyea’s Because of Mr. Terupt, a mismatched preteen cast of boys and girls is assembled in one classroom. Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes school a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much… until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone. Ages 9-12, $16.99.
San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe, 2424 Huntington Dr., San Marino, 626.309.0222, toysandbooks.com. Open Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.