Hi all, I’m Kim, I was a Youth Services Specialist in Libraries for 10 years before I became a full time Stay-at-Home-Mom two years ago. Even though I’ve left library Children’s Services, I’m gleeful when someone asks me to give them children’s book recommendations. So when I was asked write a gift guide of Children’s Books for this Holiday season for Anna’s excellent blog, I was thrilled.
But then I panicked, because my children’s book recommendations lists could honestly fill volumes, because every child is different. So what I’m going to do is give you some tips for each age group, along with some favorite authors. If you are really stumped, I encourage you to comment with questions or seek out your local librarian or independent bookseller who will be just as excited as I am to talk to you about books.
Tips for Newborns: High Contrast! A lot of baby books are in black and white for a reason. Babies see poorly, and high contrast books engage them a lot more. My favorite is “I Kissed the Baby” by Mary Murphy, which is a cute enough story that they will keep reading it as they grow.
Tips for Toddlers: Most of us associate Board books for just “babies,” but older toddlers go through a destructive phase. Booksellers have figured this out and they have moved a lot of their classic, longer stories into a hardy board book form. Some of my favorites like Anna Dewdney’s “Llama Llama Series” and Deborah Diesen’s “Pout Pout Fish” can be found as board books. Also “Everywhere Babies” which is still good for toddlers because of its repetition, and “Little one” by Richard Van Camp are great options.
There are so many options for a wide age range, so I’m breaking this down into “Fun Read-Alouds,” “First Readers.” and “Gorgeous Picture books for Patient Listeners.”
Tips for Fun Read Alouds: Attention span becomes this issue for toddlers and preschoolers, so this is the time for books to be really bright and fun. When you are shopping, look for stories that don’t have a lot of words per page and have bright, colorful illustrations. I recommend the hilarious books by Jan Thomas, “Press Here” by Herve Tullet or “Monster Trouble” by Lane Fredrickson.
Tips for First Readers: Think Beyond Seuss! While Dr. Seuss books are delightful and classic for your beginning reader, they are so classic that children either own them or have had plenty of access to them through teachers or the library. If you’re looking to give a gift, try looking at the Theodor Seuss Giesel Award Winners and Honorees. This award is given to books that have the spirit of early literacy like Seuss books, but are by current authors. Mo Willems has won this award or been honored many times for his Elephant and Piggie books, as well as Greg Pizzoli
Gorgeous Picture Books for Patient Listeners: When your child is getting a little older and reading Elephant and Piggie by themselves, you can still read books aloud together, and you should! This is where those books that have multiple paragraphs per page come in handy, and are perfect for bedtime. I suggest the beautifully illustrated fairy tales of Jerry Pinkney or Rachel Isadora.
Early Chapter Books
Kids aren’t quite ready to ditch pictures but they are ready for longer stories. Books like the Popularity Papers, the Franny K. Stein series, and the Strange Case of Origami Yoda books mix chapter with illustrations, and they make the transition to chapter books a little easier. Also, graphic novels like “Pashmina” by Nadi Chinani and “Rapunzel’s Revenge” by Shannon and Dean Hale can be a great bridge to traditional chapter books.
Sometimes a reluctant reader is actually might be a non-fiction reader. Lots of kids like to collect strange and obscure facts. Considering picking up a book like, “The 100 Deadliest Things on the Planet” by Anna Claybourne or “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” by Rachel Ignotofsky.
If the child you’re buying for hasn’t read “Wonder” by RJ Palacio, the book that the now popular movie is based on, I suggest you pick it up immediately! I’m also a huge fan of “Better Nate than Ever” by Tim Federle and “A Time to Dance” by Padme Venkatraman. If your child is desperate to read “The Hunger Games” but you don’t feel ready to introduce them to YA, I suggest “Gregor the Overlander.” It’s also written by Suzanne Collins, is an action story, and has a bit of a light “Lord of the Rings” vibe.
This year, John Green, who has a huge teen fanbase on Youtube and twitter called “Nerdfighters”, dropped a new book, “Turtles All the Way Down.” I also recommend “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas. If you have a Sci-fi/fantasy lover, I’d recommend “The City of Brass” by S.A. Chakraborty.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I know that when I give Christmas gifts, I feel pressure to give the best gift they got this year, and sometimes it feels books like can’t compete with shiny new toys. However, kids get overwhelmed with a lot of stuff at Christmas and often a book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a great bang for your buck, and the parents will usually thank you because a book takes up far less space and makes less noise than some random toy.
What are some of your favorite books to share with the kiddoes in your life?