Pirates, by John Matthews; Atheneum Books; $19.95; ages 6 to 12.
Suddenly, pirates are everywhere: movies, TV, candy, and especially children’s books. This is the best of the lot, deciphering the inner world of those pillaging bad guys in illustrated-encyclopedia form. Kids will find a boatload of fun facts about pirate dress code and the story behind the Jolly Roger. There’s also a handy pop-up booklet inside on pirate slang.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game, by Jim Burke; Little, Brown; $16.99; ages 3 to 6.
It’s nearly 100 years since “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” became baseball’s greatest hit. This tribute runs through the lyrics during a tightly matched game as bits of baseball trivia make their way across the pages like hot-dog vendors. Fascinating info on those unintelligible hand signals and the origins of Cracker Jack. Great intro by Pete Hamill.
Zoe Sophia in New York, by Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley; Chronicle Books, $14.95; ages 6 and up.
Nine-year-old Zoe and her octogenarian aunt Dorothy embark on their next trip together in this follow-up to the popular An Adventure in Venice. This time, the two come to our town and (in classic New York tourist fashion) sample a great meal, an experience almost never narrated in children’s books. A mystery unfolds with a magical scarab at the Met. Illustrations are cartoony, and the text is heftier than in most picture books.
What Athletes Are Made Of, by Hanoch Piven; Simon & Schuster; $16.95; ages 6 to 10.
Champion jocks become funky collage characters, fleshed out with quirky backstories. The young Michael Jordan mimicked his father’s stuck-out tongue, and the habit became his on-court trademark. David Beckham—represented here with a bottle of pink nail polish for a nose—relished a childhood role as a wedding-ring bearer, wearing a frilly shirt and ballet slippers.
Charlie Bone and the Hidden King, by Jenny Nimmo; Scholastic; $9.95; ages 9 to 12.
In four previous books, readers learned about this Harry Potter knockoff who can hear the thoughts of people in photographs. This time around, the Flame Cats, Charlie’s protectors, warn him about an ancient ghost, just as pets all over his hometown begin to disappear and the 12-year-old goes out to search for his missing father. Expected to be a best seller.