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Originally published Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Gift guide: Children's books to give and to cherish

Local authors Brenda Guiberson, Jack Prelutsky, Peg Kehret and Richard Farr have penned new books for kids on polar bears, poetry, an embattled baby-sitter and a heart-stopping Antarctic adventure, while Lynn Brunelle has created stocking stuffers that make learning fun.

Special to The Seattle Times

Kidnappers, fuzzy polar bear cubs, silly poems, puzzles and a heart-stopping Antarctic adventure await readers of new kids' books by local authors, just in time for gifts and winter-break reading this season.

• Cute polar bear cubs star in Seattle-area author Brenda Guiberson's nonfiction picture book "Ice Bears" (Henry Holt, 32 pp., $16.95, ages 4-8). Illustrated by Ilya Spirin, "Ice Bears" follows a mother bear as she struggles to feed and care for her new cubs. Guiberson's imagery and sound effects ("Chuffchuff!" the mama scolds the bears when they wander too far) help readers imagine the bears' frozen world. The narrative ends on a hopeful note as the bears get ready to fatten up on seals, but a final "arctic ice report" warns of the environmental threats to polar bears as the sea ice melts and they lose their main hunting technique. Guiberson includes a list of organizations working to protect the fragile arctic ecosystem.

• Bainbridge Island author Lynn Brunelle, a former teacher, serves up educational fun in The World Almanac for Kids Puzzler Decks series; her new titles include "Science for ages 7 to 9," "Phonics for ages 5 to 7" and "Early Math for ages 3 to 5" (Chronicle Books, 75 pp., $9.99). With all sorts of activities, from trivia to riddles to matching games, these colorful, portable decks make great stocking stuffers or an easy way to pass the time driving to a relative's house for the holidays. Kids might stump their parents on a few questions.

• At a hefty 195 pages, a new collection of Seattle resident Jack Prelutsky's poetry, "Be Glad Your Nose is On Your Face and Other Poems" (Greenwillow Books, 195 pp., $22.99, ages 7-11), is a quintessential holiday gift book. As the author ends his two-year tenure as the Poetry Foundation's first Children's Poet Laureate, the collection highlights 112 of "some of the best" poems from Prelutsky's prolific output of more than 50 books. Illustrated by Brandon Dorman, "Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face" also includes 15 new poems and a CD of author performances. Prelutsky's fanciful poems — odes to everything from dragons to performing bananas — are always a fun read.

• Even reading next to the fire, kids will get chills with Peg Kehret's new thriller, "Stolen Children" (Dutton, 165 pp., $16.99, ages 10-12). Fourteen-year-old Amy has a cushy baby-sitting gig at a rich family's house — until the job turns nightmarish. Kidnappers nab her charge, and then grab her, too, when she tries to stop them. Kehret, who lives in the Pierce County town of Wilkeson, situates the hide-out cabin in the forests east of Olympia. The threat of danger is real enough to be scary but lightened by the cute toddler and inept bad guys. Kehret keeps a fast pace as Amy tries to outwit her captors before the ransom deadline.

• Faced with a situation that defied even superlatives — pulling a sledge with 250 pounds of gear across Antarctica in minus 77 degrees F weather — young explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrad took the British approach: droll understatement. "Antarctica is not for the fainthearted" he notes in "Emperors of the Ice: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13" (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 217 pp., $19.95, ages 11 and up). Seattle author Richard Farr adopts a charming (and fictionalized) first-person narrative of "Cherry's" compelling adventures with Robert F. Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole.

The fictional memoir — based on Cherry-Garrad's own book — includes black-and-white pictures, an extensive bibliography, maps, sketches and even packing lists. However, readers shouldn't let the footnotes deceive them into thinking this is a boring scholarly tome. The extreme conditions are exciting; references to "the place where I would almost lose my life in a few months' time" make it hard to put down.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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