National Geographic Kids Almanac 2012, (National Geographic, $13.99, ages 9-12, 342 pages, 2011) For any child who likes to yell, "Guess What?!," then share something cool, this is the book to have. As graphic and entertaining as National Geographic Kids magazine, this hand-size encyclopedia tells kids just about everything they ever wanted to know. Like, for instance, that the smallest bone in their body is smaller than a grain of rice or that in India kids pour dyed water and powder over their bodies to say goodbye to winter. Chapters include Going Green, Amazing Animals, Super Science and Awesome Adventures. There's even a chapter filled with boredom-busting games, jokes, puzzles and more. This isn't just a book of facts, it also encourage kids to get involved. On a page about endangered lions, they scan a digital code with a Smart Phone to learn how to help save lions and on another page, they tour a house dialed out with all the latest eco-technology. Watch the hours slip by, Mom and Dad, but perk up those ears. Something tells me, you'll be hearing it all over the car seat.
The Phenomenal Postcard Book, Where's Waldo, illustrated by Martin Handford. (Candlewick, $9.99, ages 5-9, 30 postcards, 2011). This clever little tablet encourages two things at once: practice with letter writing and a game to pass time while traveling. On each cover is a picture search from one of Waldo's journeys and on the back below where kids write is a checklist with a handful of items to find. But just a tip, before sending any of the cards, have the kids do the stamp search from the back page. Hanford shows nine stamps he's snuck into some of the postcard pictures. Could one be hanging on the museum wall of "The Great Picture Exhibition" or escaping slime-spewing dragons in "Bright Lights and Night Frights"? (both from Where's Waldo? The Wonder Book.) Looks like this might take awhile. Maybe, if we're lucky, just long enough to wait for our connecting flight. Fans will delight in seeing some of their favorite scenes from eight Where's Waldo? books and once again searching out the elusive Waldo in red-and-white striped shirt, bobble hat and glasses.
Doodles at Breakfast: 36 Tear-Off Placemats, created by Deborah Zemke (Blue Apple Books, $10.99, ages 4-8, 37 pages, 2011). So you're on the road and pop into a restaurant for breakfast, but of course it's packed, the wait is long and the kids are wiggling in their seats. Whip this tablet out, along with a pack of colored pencils, and see what happens. Who knows? When that stack of pancakes does come, you might just have to coax them away from doodling to eat. One thing's for sure, the kids will be neat and tidy at the table. There's no way they're dripping syrup on this placemat or, forbid, letting a water glass perspire on it. Part of a fantastic new series, this fun tablet teaches kids how to draw everything from aliens with radioactive squiggles to a skateboarder taking flight and a unicorn from a magical forest. Every drawing lesson includes fun facts, questions and tips -- my favorite, how to use the egg shape for heads and bodies. Other books in the series: Doodles to Go, Doodles at Lunch, Doodles at Dinner and Chicken Doodle Soup.
Mix & Match Drawing: A Step-by-Step Drawing Studio (Klutz, $19.99, ages 8 and up, 2011)
Brain Busters, puzzles created by Susie Brooks and Sandy Ransford, illustrations by Adrian Barclay (Kingfisher, $5.99, 2011)
Where is Strawberry Moshi? written and illustrated by Moshi Moshi Kawaii (Candlewick, $7.99, ages 6-11, 2011)
Look! A Book! A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure, written and illustrated by Bob Staake (Little, Brown, $16.99, ages 3-6, 2011)
The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy, by Pat Murphy and the Scientists of Klutz Labs (Klutz, $19.99, 2011).