And there's the price tag. Children's and young adult book sales are up this year, according to the American Association of Publishers, and book sellers see a glimmer of hope for the holidays.
"What I'm hoping is that this holiday season will not be as bad as the last one in which there seemed to be a lot of people pulling back and scaling back really rapidly," said Michael Norris, a senior analyst for the media and publishing research firm Simba Information. "Parents understand the value of a book."
"A Pop-Up Book of Nursery Rhymes" (Simon & Schuster, $26.99) by Matthew Reinhart. Look for this gem in the Little Simon Classic Collectible Pop-Up series to avoid serious sticker shock over a far pricier limited edition. Intricate paperwork with multiple pops per page. Fifteen rhymes in all.
"The Nursery Rhyme Book: Remember the Rhymes of Yesterday" (Scholastic, $9.99) illustrated by Anne Anderson and Lisa Jackson, compiled by Helen Cumberbatch. Portable classics for new or otherwise sleep-deprived parents who need help conjuring ALL the words to "Little Miss Muffett" or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Nearly 100 rhymes.
"A Children's Treasury of Poems" (Sterling, $12.95) illustrations by Linda Bleck. Oversized board book merrily illustrated with work of Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear and more. Nineteen poems.
"How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats" (Scholastic, $6.99) by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mark Teague. Delightful look at caring for kitties with dinosaurs that are nurturing, lovable and not at all scary.
"A Little Books Boxed Set" (Chronicle, $19.99) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace. Board book versions of "Little Pea," "Little Hoot" and "Little Oink," all packed with life lessons on dinner, bed and cleaning up. Babies might not care but toddlers will. Good for slightly older kids, too.
"Peter Rabbit Naturally Better Classic Gift Set" (Penguin, $19.99) original and authorized editions by Beatrix Potter. With color illustrations in editions small enough for little hands: "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," "The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher," "The Tale of Tom Kitten" and "The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck."
"Jan Brett's Snowy Treasury" (Penguin, $29.99) Richly illustrated with four of Brett's most memorable stories set in chilly Switzerland, the Ukraine, Denmark and the Arctic. Included: "Gingerbread Baby," "The Mitten," "The Hat" and "The Three Snow Bears."
"Aesop's Fables" (Sterling, $16.95) retold by John Cech and illustrated by Martin Jarrie. Bite-size animal parables - 36 in all - accompanied by sweeping folk-art style illustrations that are far more fanciful than fearsome. Each animal story includes the life lesson Aesop intended.
"Winnie the Pooh Deluxe Gift Box" (Dutton, $99.95) by A.A. Milne with one volume by David Benedictus. Originals illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard and new sequel by Mark Burgess. Nicely illustrated hardcover box set of five volumes, including "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood," the first authorized sequel to the classic stories.
"The Owl and the Pussycat" (Kids Can Press, $16.95) by Edward Lear and illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. Ink-and-watercolor interpretation of Lear's text portrays the lovers from opposite sides of the track in a disapproving world. They shed masks and sail away to find happiness among a more accepting crowd.
"Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales" by Lucy Cousins. $18.99. Big, bold illustrations for classic tales like "Little Red Riding Hood."
"Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Complete Series" (Hyperion, $89.99) by Rick Riordan. Fans of the five-book series are awaiting the February release of "The Lightning Thief," the first film based on the first book. This set is boxed in a steamer trunk. Also look for "The Lightning Thief Deluxe Edition" with cloth cover and full-color illustrations. $25.
"Twimericks: The Book of Tongue-Twisting Limericks" (Workman, $8.95) by Lou Brooks. Just plain goofy crowd pleaser with colorful, comic portraits for each twist of the tongue: "Sherman shops at Shorty's Shorts & Shirts for shiny shoes."
The Tween Lifestyle Collection by Marlene Wallach, president of Wilhemina Kids & Teens Modeling Agency.
Four spiral-bound guides: "My Beauty," "My Life," "My Self" and "My Look." Positive girl-power tips on fashion, style, health, fitness, friends and developing a beautiful attitude. Guides, from Simon & Schuster, sold separately, $12.99.
"The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum" (Random House, $18.99) by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Ray Fenwick. Biography made fun, with factoids about the famous showman and visuals of old circus posters and ticket stubs.
"The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" (Henry Holt, $16.99) by Jacqueline Kelly. At the close of the 1800s, a Texas girl prefers nature to sewing. Her grandfather gives her Darwin's "On the Origin of Species," setting her on a crash course with her mother.
"Fire" (Dial, $17.99) by Kristin Cashore. Companion to Cashore's well-received "Graceling," compelling girl heroin and complex romantic fantasy set earlier than the first book. For older teens.
"The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time)" (TOR Books, $29.99) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. The last book in the fantasy series featuring themes of good versus evil was partially written by Jordan before he died in 2007. Sanderson was plucked by Jordan's editor, wife Harriet McDougal, to complete the book, which morphed into a planned three-volume conclusion to the series. This is the first of the three.
"Shiver" (Scholastic, $17.99) by Maggie Stiefvater. Girl fascinated with wolves in the woods behind her house meets strange and eerily familiar yellow-eyed boy leading a werewolf's life.