By Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press, 2011
40 pages, $16.99
ISBN 978-0-7636-5004-9
This is one of the funniest children’s books of the year, a hilarious rhyming tale about a “mini-monarch” whose kingly ego nearly causes his head to explode.

KING HUGO’S HUGE EGO is written and beautifully illustrated by Maine author Chris Van Dusen, also author and illustrator of the wonderful children’s book, CIRCUS SHIP.  Here he tells the delightful story of diminutive King Hugo, a pompous blowhard whose boastful bragging annoys everyone in the kingdom except himself and a peasant girl named Tessa.

One day the king’s selfish behavior attracts a very unimpressed Tessa.  Unfortunately, King Hugo doesn’t know that Tessa is also a sorceress, who casts a spell on the king in an effort to correct his inconsiderate behavior.  Tessa’s spell creates very funny scenes as King Hugo’s head gets bigger and bigger with every boorish statement he makes.

Hugo’s antics are laugh out loud funny and Tessa’s handling of a delicate situation is smart, humorous, and successful, especially when King Hugo finally realizes what a jerk he’s been.

Van Dusen’s colorful cartoon illustrations are detailed and loaded with subtle humor, making this a perfect story for children ages 4-8.

By Sara Hoagland Hunter
University Press of New England, 2011
28 pages, $17.95
ISBN 978-1-61168-006-5
University Press of New England does not usually publish children’s books, but when it does, they are quality stories, and this one is well suited for the holiday season.

THE LIGHTHOUSE SANTA is based on the true story of Edward Rowe Snow, who actually began delivering Christmas presents to New England lighthouse children by airplane in 1936, flying the holiday delivery for nearly fifty years.  Now author Sara Hoagland Hunter tells that story throught the eyes of a little girl.

Kate and her family live at Great Point Lighthouse, eagerly awaiting the aerial Christmas present delivery of the Lighthouse Santa.  However, a big winter snowstorm hits on Christmas Eve and it looks like the Lighthouse Santa may not be able to fly.  Her father reassures her, “Nothing is impossible on Christmas Eve in a lighthouse,” but Kate is not so sure.

She has a secret Christmas wish, and a miracle occurs that reaffirms her belief in Santa, and her thoughtful wish is fulfilled.  And Kate also gets an unexpected surprise from the Lighthouse Santa, making this a very satisfying Christmas tale.

Nicely illustrated by Julia Miner, the book contains considerable text, but is best for readers ages 4-8.

By Barbara Walsh
Candlewick Press, 2011
32 pages, $16.99
ISBN 978-0-7636-4927-2
Author Barbara Walsh is a journalist who lives in Winthrop, and this is her first children’s book, beautifully illustrated by renowned Maine artist Jamie Wyeth.

SAMMY IN THE SKY is a thoughtful and powerful story of how a little girl and her loving family handle the death of the favorite family pet, a wonderful hound dog named Sammy.  Children’s books usually have a moral or lesson, but few deal with such real-life situations as the loss of a beloved pet.  Walsh handles the subject with tenderness and sensitivity, providing solid life lessons for children and parents.

Sammy and the little girl are inseparable, playing all day, taking care of each other, providing invaluable childhood and family companionship.  When Sammy gets old and sick, and finally dies, the little girl and her family must deal with the sadness and loss.

Her parents provide wonderful support, explaining how such things happen and how they must all find the strength to mourn, yet remember all the wonderful times they had together with the family dog.  The little girl comes to understand her grief, finding ways to celebrate Sammy’s life and the joy he brought to everyone.  Best for ages 6-10.

— Bill Bushnell lives
and writes in Harpswell.

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