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Written by:  Carol McGarrahan
Date: February 1, 2010

Mark Twain once said, "My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it." Maybe Twain (see biography below) was like the boy in Michael, who is exceptionally different. February is a month for celebrating our differences, as well as our nation's rich history and Groundhog Day. These selections offer those themes and more for your family to enjoy.

The New York Times best-seller I Love you More by Laura Duksta (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $6.99) is the perfect Valentine's Day gift for young readers who need to know how much they are loved. This clever flip story (the book ends in the middle and starts from either side) shows the boundless love between a mother and son. Ages birth-3.

The Indestructibles series by Kaaren Pixton is built not only to entertain, but also to withstand the way babies explore the world — with their mouths and hands. Babies can chew away on these nontoxic, rip-proof books, which also are washable. Kid-tested by Carolina Parent, these books endured regular use by preschoolers in a day-care environment. Titles include: Flutter Fly, Wiggle March and Creepy Crawl (Workman, $4.95 each). Ages birth and up.

Shades of People by Sheila M. Kelly and Shelley Rotner (Holiday House, $16.95) celebrates the diversity in the world with delightful photos by Rotner of children of all colors: bronze, brown, cream ivory, gold and pink. Teaches children about our differences (in skin tones) and similarities as people. Ages birth-4.

Michael by Tony Bradman and Tony Ross (Allen and Unwin, $9.99) is about a boy who is different. His teachers say he is the worst boy in school. He is always late and a little scruffy. He likes reading, but not the books they have in school. His teachers are completely at a loss. Find out what becomes of Michael in this exceptional book about finding your own way in the world. Ages 5-7.

Will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow? Why is Groundhog Day on Feb 2? And how did this groundhog weather-predicting begin anyway? Groundhog Weather School by local author Joan Holub (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99) is a fun way to teach children about Groundhog Day, the seasons and the history of weather prediction. The book chronicles some well-known groundhogs, including North Carolina's Sir Walter Wally at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Ages 5-8.

A Kid's Guide to Native American History by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder (Chicago Review Press, $16.95) celebrates diversity with more than 50 activities and recipes that encompass the culinary, athletic, artistic and literary characteristics of the many Native American cultures. Each chapter focuses on a different geographical region and the Native peoples who originated there. Ages 7-9.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley (Scholastic Press, $17.99) is told in the voice of Samuel Clemmons' 13-year-old daughter who once wrote a biography of her father. Includes excerpts from her diary as well as tips on how to write a biography. Ages 7-11.

Carol McGarrahan is associate editor of Carolina Parent.


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