I love giving books as gifts! Birthdays or holidays, books are one of the things I turn to when giving books to loved ones—especially kids. My thought is that if I give a book to a kid, I am showing them that I think that books, imagination, and reading are important and gift-worthy. Here are some of my favorite books that have come out this year to give to readers who love picture books (plus one easy reader).
In this story, Little Crab is venturing away from his tiny rock pool by the sea for the first time. Little Crab is scared as Very Big Crab takes him in to the ocean, but with a lot of calm reassurance Little Crab finds that there is a wonderful world waiting for those who are brave enough to venture out to see it.
This story follows a polar bear as he walks through the snow. What does the polar bear want to do? What will the polar bear do next? Kids who enjoy learning about animals in a story format will enjoy this cool read.
This is absolutely one of my all-time favorite picture books of the year! The short text which begs readers to recite the text over and over again is great for kids who love a surprise ending. The clever storyline and humorous artwork will appeal to youngsters and the grownups who read to them.
Alright, this one isn’t technically a Christmas book; however, it is full of snow and winter and needing to cozy up to keep warm. So, I’m throwing it on this list. This is the story of Cozy a musk ox who has such thick fur that all the other animals in Alaska come to seek shelter during a particularly bad snow storm. It is another sweet and wintery tale told by Jan Brett.
Moore’s text has been a family favorite and a holiday tradition in my home for decades. In this particular book Loren Long has created illustrations of four different homes that show the diversity of families who celebrate the holiday. Beautiful.
Samantha Duck decides that Christmas shouldn’t just be celebrated by people—animals can enjoy the season of giving as well. With friend Sebastian Tortoise they go around the farm and gather supplies to make gifts for all the various animals around the world. Totally sweet.
In this book a rascally dragon is sleeping—and the narrator wants to keep it that way. However, when pots clang, doors bang, and all kinds of noises abound readers must help to keep that dragon asleep by rocking the book back and forth, stroking the dragon’s scales, or doing other interactive things.
Little Fox has had a bad day at school so Papa Fox decides to help cheer him up by playing and being imaginative. Of course, things go awry when Little Fox takes control with his imagination and Papa Fox must try to keep up.
This is the one easy reader book on my list. But it is hilarious! This is a book about a dog. Even though it says that the book is about a cat. Readers can watch as dog is flummoxed by the way that the narrator keeps referring to him as a cat (and then having weird and crazy things happen to him). Basically, this is one funny story after another (there are three chapters in the book) where readers will laugh and then immediately want to go and read the book again. This is another of my top ten books for the year.
This is a nearly-wordless story of a father and his child as they wake up, prepare, and go on a hike to do something special. This book has gorgeous illustrations that showcase the father and child’s love of nature and family. Beautifully brilliant.
The protagonist of this book tends to think that rocks are boring. Why should anyone want to write or read a whole book about an object that just sits there—or does it? Explore rocks, where they come from, and what their stories are in this humorous tale.
Line art illustrates nine different national parks around North America. On each spread, readers will learn about the various parks as well as getting to find different plants, animals, and land features that celebrate what makes the various parks unique and amazing.
This is the story of a young girl who is in charge of pushing the elevator button for her family—until her little brother usurps her button pushing power. As she tries to come to grips with a new normal she finds a discarded button from the elevator repair man and uses her imagination to relive all her button pushing dreams.
In this story, a young boy writes a letter to an alien to explain how things work on Earth. From talking about how we travel, what animals are here, or the diversity amongst all sorts of cultures the boy briefly explains it all—and then goes on to ask his own questions about aliens.
This is defiantly a thoughtful book. It starts by comparing the size of the book to an average 8-year-old. Then it goes on to examine how that compares to an ostrich, a giraffe, a tree, a skyscraper, and all things in the universe. Readers who love to learn facts and enjoy thinking about science will enjoy this book.
This is the sequel to Shark vs. Train. In this competition readers can cheer along with illustrated children who want to see the Fire Truck spray out the fire of a Dragon; however, they are *mostly* disappointed. Will Fire Truck actually spray water all over the place? Will Dragon blow flames across the pages? Will the illustrated children actually get to see it? Such fun.
An old truck has stopped working and just sits gathering dust (or being a place for imaginative play for the farm’s young daughter). Once the daughter is old enough, she starts working on restoring the old truck and bringing it back to life.
This is a silly counting book. One dog stands at a fence all alone, then two dogs decide to go for a ride on a trike. Various modes of transportation are all used as an additional dog joins the group—until readers find that the tenth dog may not be a dog at all and the countdown to get back home begins.
It’s that time of year when you are making a list and checking it twice. It can sometimes be hard to know what to give the teen readers in your life. Here is a handy gift guide that can help you know what to get this holiday season.
This book is a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet set in 1926 Shanghai. This intricately plotted story follows Juliette Cai who is the heir of the Chinese Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, leader of the Russian White Flowers. The two fall in love but are torn apart by their rival gangs. They ultimately must work together when mysterious deaths threaten their city. For readers who love atmospheric world building and Shakespeare inspired fun, this is a lush and appealing read.
Alex Maki is not happy when he learns that his pen pal from Paris, France is actually a girl named Charlie. But as the two keep writing, Alex and Charlie become dear friends. Neither expected to still be writing in 1941 when the US enters WWII. Alex and his family are put in a Japanese internment camp and Charlie, who is Jewish, must endure the occupation in a concentration camp. Alex ends up enlisting in a segregated company of the army in hopes that maybe he can help liberate Charlie. This is a well-researched, engaging book that is driven by Alex and Charlie’s special friendship.
Stefania Podgórska has known the Diamant family for over four years. She loves Izio, one of the Diamant’s sons. Life is good, until the Nazis come to Przemsyl, Poland. The Diamants are Jewish and are forced into the ghetto and work camps. Stefania, who is Catholic, is devastated when only Max Diamant is able to escape. She decides that she has had enough of the Nazi’s occupation. So, she decides to help everyone and anyone she can, ultimately hiding thirteen Jews in her attic while also caring for her younger sister, Helena. However; this becomes almost impossible when two Nazi’s begin living in her house. For a gripping, emotional read, pick this book!
Jamie Goldberg thinks of himself as an awkward nerd who is afraid to speak to other people. Something embarrassing always happens. But his family is deeply involved with the local state senate candidate’s campaign. When he gets “talked into” canvasing neighborhoods, Jamie figures it is his worst nightmare. But when he is paired with his beautiful classmate Maya Rehrman to canvas a particular neighborhood, he thinks things are beginning to look up. It is so fun to see the growing relationship between Jamie and Maya. Jamie, who is Jewish, and Maya, who is Muslim, must deal with a lot of racism as they become engrossed in the canvasing process. As they try to come to terms with the prejudice in their lives, they become stronger friends. This book is great for anyone who is passionate about politics, Instagram, or making a difference in the world.
18-year-old Frank Li has always known that his Korean immigrant parents want him to date a nice Korean girl and go to Harvard. So, when he falls for Brit, a girl his parents would never approve of, he concocts a zany plan to fool his parents by “fake dating” Joy, a Korean girl who is a close family friend. He will “go on a date” with Joy, drop her off to be with her secret boyfriend Wu, and then go on a real date with Brit. The plan seems perfect for both Frank and Joy, but when they start to have real feelings for one another, things get complicated really fast. Frank is on the cusp of adulthood and is trying to figure out how to be separate from his parents, but Frank soon realizes that he doesn’t really understand that his parents are actual people with fears, hopes, and dreams. With rich characterization of authentic culturally diverse characters, this novel is a delight for anyone who loves deep, rich family dramas wrapped up in a sweet romantic comedy shell.
Skye Shinn wants to be a K-pop (Korean Pop) phenomenon, singing and dancing her way into fame. She has the moves. She has the high notes. She has the sassy personality. The only thing she doesn’t have is the size 00 of a K-Pop star. Her entire life, her mother has told her the fat girls shouldn’t dance, or wear bright clothes, or be on television. But Skye wants to prove her wrong, so she auditions for an American K-pop competition called “You’re My Shining Star.” Everyone is surprised at her talent, but one judge is explicit that fat girls can’t make it in K-pop. But Skye only needs the votes of the two other judges and she is in! Skye soon becomes immersed in the auditions and meets amazing new friends. Will Skye lose herself in the K-Pop culture and forget all the things she is fighting to prove? You don’t have to be a K-pop fan or even know what it is to enjoy this delightful novel about the power of one confident girl.
Nannerl Mozart was destined to be a child prodigy. She even played before royalty, but the appearance of her younger brother Wolfgang made her miss a note. Now everyone is focused on Wolfgang and Nanerl is pushed into the shadows of housework and preparation for marriage. She is desperate to have her music heard by the public, so when a mysterious magical entity named Hyacinth promises her that she will be remembered, Nannerl makes a pact. She will help Hyacinth regain his crown in the Kingdom of Back. But when events start to tumble out of control, Nannerl must be brave and save her brother, the world, and most of all herself. Filled with all the best parts of historical fiction and fantasy, this compelling and well researched novel will sweep you away into a magical kingdom where nothing is as it seems.
Seventeen-year-old Alice doesn’t have time for fairy tales. Especially the fairy tales from Tales of the Hinterland, penned by her grandmother Althea Proserpine. She is constantly avoiding the cult-like fans of the book, while also trying to keep her mother Ella out of trouble. And trouble seems to follow them everywhere. When Ella goes missing, taken by a figure who claims to come from The Hinterland, Alice must join forces with a die-hard fan of her grandmother’s dark fairy tales, Ellery Finch. Together they begin the search for Ella and are led to her grandmother’s mysterious estate The Hazelwood. If your reader loves fairy tales and the sometimes dark truths that they hold, this book will be an especial treat. This has several companion novels, so also look for the sequel The Night Country—A Hazel Wood Novel and Tales from the Hinterland.
In this story based on West African folklore, refugee Malik and his sisters travel to Ziran to work at the Solstasia festival. The festival only happens once every 50 years. After an encounter with a malevolent spirit, Malik finds himself making a pact to kill the princess of Ziran in order to save his beloved little sister. Meanwhile the princess of Ziran, Karina, is pushed into leading Ziran after her mother the Sultana is assassinated. Karina doesn’t want to rule, so she plans to resurrect her mother through necromancy. But the price is steep, the heart of the king, so Karina creates a contest for suitors. The winner will receive her hand in marriage. Malik takes this opportunity to get close to the princess. This places both on a crash course for disaster. This book has so much going on, but the world-building is impeccable. With elements of mystery and romance, this fantasy novel has something for everyone.
Spensa Nightshade has always lived under the dark shadow of her father’s desertion. She is determined to prove that the Nightshades are worth something as she enters the flight academy. Her world, Detritus is under attack from Krell raiders who have driven her people underground. The need for defense pilots is great, and Spensa dreams of being a starfighter. Hailed as the cross between Katniss Everdeen and Conan the Barbarian, this series starter is a wild ride. Also look out for the next in the series, Starsight.
This book is set after the invasion of the Ilori, beings made of electricity that want to turn Earth into their next vacation spot. More than 1/3 of earth’s population has been wiped out. Humans are being kept in lock; they are not allowed to read or listen to music because that makes them “rebellious.” Janelle is running a clandestine library, until one of her books goes missing. This could lead to a death sentence. But the Ilori who found it doesn’t turn Janelle in. Instead, he talks to her. M0RR1S is a lab made Ilori whose sole existence has been to create a vaccine to subjugate the humans so the True Ilori can take over their bodies. But then he finds the human’s music, ostensibly to study it. Music makes him feel alive in ways he has never felt before, especially the music of the human called David Bowie. Janelle and M0RR1S are immediately drawn to one another, and not just because they both love music and books. M0RR1S soon determines that the humans must be saved, especially Janelle. This determination sends them on a road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums in a race to save humanity. The Sound of Stars has something for everyone. It’s post-apocalyptic, dystopian, Science Fiction, and romance. But most of all, it is a delight.
Tyler Jones is an overachieving legionnaire who is all set to choose his space squad, but on Draft Day he is busy rescuing a girl cryogenically frozen girl from a ship full of dead bodies. Tyler is left with just the misfits of the academy for his squad. The frozen girl, Auri, has to deal with being 200 years behind everyone else. When Tyler’s team runs into her on their next mission, Auri will lead them into what could be a catastrophic war. This book is classic Sci-Fi, there are space ships, gadgets, and artificial intelligence. Tyler’s team is so randomly awesome. Basically, this book is like a space buddy movie in book form.
After being socially-distanced and cooped up all summer long, mindfulness is more important than ever. If your kids are like mine, the first couple of weeks school let out, being home was a novelty and everyone enjoyed playing games together and getting creative. As time wore on, the squabbles and grumpiness increased as each day passed. With life continuing in a sort of limbo between chaos and normalcy, the stress in our house is almost unbearable. Cue mindfulness practice! Focusing on breathing and regulating emotions can improve the energy in your whole house. If not a total revamp, then at least a few moments of peace and quiet.
Here are some books to get your family started on lowering the stress and pent up energy in your home:
Young readers are encouraged to explore their emotions and notice the beauty around them through stunning illustrations and powerful rhymes. This poetic journey to a place of happiness and calm will inspire and empower your child to enjoy the practice of mindfulness.
Susan Verde tells the story of a young boy whose emotions and rushing thoughts start to take over. He takes a deep breath, steadies himself, observes his thoughts, and focuses on feeling thankful and kind to reset himself and be at peace. Peter H. Reynold’s iconic illustrations help bring the message home for the wiggliest of readers.
We breathe all day long and don’t even spend a moment to think about it. But what if we did? William Meyer helps kids learn to use their breath to go on adventures without leaving their favorite comfy spot. By the time your kids open their eyes, they will feel calmer and more relaxed.
Children can learn their ABCs and basic mindfulness techniques through creative breathing exercises that connect them with nature and remind them to fill their heart with thankfulness. The simple and playful illustrations are a wonderful introduction to the power of breath awareness.
I have always loved Thanksgiving. Every year, I view it as welcome break to spend time with family, express gratitude for the blessings and privileges I enjoy, and eat yummy foods that for some reason we only make once a year (if anyone wants to normalize making cranberry sauce and stuffing year-round I will support that crusade). But, like everything good, Thanksgiving will probably look pretty different this year. Here’s hoping that we are all still able to express gratitude for all that we do have, and eat some delicious food with our families.
As you prepare for Thanksgiving, here are some of the best kid-lit chefs to get you in the mood to cook up a delicious feast of your own. Be warned – better not to read while hungry!
Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle with her parents and is still trying to adjust to her new school and country. More than anything, she misses her grandmother back in Taiwan. When she sees an advertisement for a kids’ cooking contest with a cash prize, Cici cooks up a plan to win the prize money and bring A-ma to Seattle for her 70th birthday. It seems easy enough, until she meets her assigned competition partner – the intimidating Miranda who works in her family’s fancy restaurant and insists that they won’t win the competition by making Taiwanese food. This new middle-grade graphic novel focuses on Cici while she figures out where she fits in.
The summer before seventh grade, 12-year-old aspiring pastry chef Zoe Washington, plans to spend her free-time preparing to audition for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge by interning at a local bakery. But when she receives a letter from her father who’s been imprisoned for murder since before Zoe was born, she secretly begins a correspondence with him. As Zoe gets to know her father better, she learns about inequality in the criminal justice system and strives to get her dad’s verdict appealed – all while perfecting a recipe for a signature cupcake. This book balances discussion of social justice, family connections, and mouthwatering descriptions of treats.
Jingwen has just moved to a new country -- but it feels like he’s landed on a new planet. School is torture, making friends is impossible because he doesn’t speak English, and he keeps getting stuck babysitting his very annoying little brother Yanghao. To distract himself, Jingwen plans to make fancy cakes like his dad used to make before he died. The only problem is, his mom won’t let the brothers use the oven while she’s at work, so Jingwen and Yanghao bake cakes in secret – carefully eating all the evidence before she returns home. This middle grade novel with spot-illustrations is a hilarious and heartwarming immigrant story filled with some tasty looking cakes.
Jasmine Toguchi’s family is gathering to celebrate the new year and make mochi, sweet rice cakes from Japan. Though Jasmine is considered too young to help with the mochi-making like her older sister Sophie, she is eager to help out. Jasmine becomes determined to involve herself in the mochi-making process, despite being too young and a girl, and commits herself to proving to her family that she is strong enough to help the men pound out mochi – even lifting weights with her cousins. This intermediate chapter book is all about food, family, and togetherness – with instructions for attempting your own mochi to boot.
Bilal and his dad are making his favorite dish for dinner – chana daal – and Bilal invites his friends Morgan and Elias to help. Though the boys are excited to help prepare the classic South Asian dish, they begin to express a little uncertainty that it smells and looks funny. Bilal becomes worried that his friends won’t like his favorite food and spends the day worried as the boys play and wait for the daal to cook. When the meal is finally ready and the friends sit down to dine – the daal’s a hit! This foodie picture book is perfect for young food obsessed readers interested in exploring new cuisine and includes a daal recipe to try making your own at home.