I am so embarrassed about this, but I’ve talked about doing a post like this for years.
But this year, finding books for Maddy, Owen, and Cora has been so, so, so much fun.
I’m not sure why.
Maybe because they all can read now?
Maybe because the book choices we have at our fingertips for our kids–and even extended family–are spectacular?
So I’m thrilled to share which books we have loved this year, which books are on our holiday wish lists, and which books will definitely be under our tree this year.
I’ll organize it just like I organized the Gift Guide for Kids and Family–by age.
That might be the most manageable.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Best Books as Gifts for Kids and Family:
For our littlest guys:
- Ten Tiny Toes, by Carolyn Jayne Church: babies love the sweet illustrations in these books, and so do parents. And? there’s counting. Try Here Comes Christmas for the holidays.
- Boynton’s Greatest Hits, by Sandra Boynton: love the rhythm and language in these books, and I still could recite Moo, Baa, La, La, La, The Going to Bed Book, Barnyard Dance, and Snuggle Puppy in their entirety by heart. Don’t sweat me.
- God Made Light, by Matthew Paul Turner. Love this. Wrote about it here: must-read for raising confident kids.
- Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems. The complete series includes Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity and Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion. The books are funny–and I mean funny. Parents will appreciate them as much as their kids.
- Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Schaar. A wordless picture book, this story shows how Flora and the Flamingo become friends without saying a word. Cool way to talk about body language with kids. Pair it with a sweet flamingo stuffed animal for a really cute gift.
- Locomotive, by Brian Floca. It’s a Caldecott Medal winner which means that this book totally rocks. I love the way this book brings to life the summer of 1869 when the first transcontinental railroad takes its journey from coast to coast.
- The Book With No Pictures, B.J. Novak.
Remember Ryan Howard from The Office? Ever-changing dark haired young guy? He wrote this book, and it’s really fun and unique. It plays with language in a way that is engaging, exciting, and new.
- Blizzard, by John Rocco. Rocco shares his own memories woven in a story that teaches the important lessons of helping others and celebrating the little things. Based on his experience in the Blizzard of 1978, which some of us may actually remember.
- Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad, by Henry Cole. I cannot speak highly enough about this beautiful, wordless picture book. A farm girl helps a young, runaway slave who hides in her barn.
- Exclamation Mark, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. This book tells the story of Exclamation Mark, who never really felt like he fit in with all of the periods and commas out there. It’s so fun and a great way to play with language and life lessons.
- Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson. I love everything that Kadir Nelson writes, but this Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner is inspiring and enlightening.
- The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös, by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. This book is an interesting reminder that we all are born with different strengths and that one is no better than the next. For math lovers and non-lovers alike, kids will find this book incredibly intriguing.
For the bigger guys:
- Geronimo Stilton: Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye, by Geronimo Stilton. Geronimo books have been around for a while now, but Cora has recently discovered them and has fallen hard. She laughs out loud at these. Owen does, too. Told by Geronimo, a witty and brave mouse, these stories always involve a mystery, and the engaging print and fonts makes them accessible for younger readers especially.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, by Jeff Kinney. It’s the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Kids love this series. Greg Heffley is every child. He says what’s on his mind, and he’s funny. And life doesn’t always work out in his favor. This book shares his family’s road trip, and it’s a riot. Want a chunk of the series? Get your young reader a Diary of a Wimpy Kid gift set.
- Fantasy League, by Mike Lupica. Owen is pretty much obsessed with fantasy football lately, so when we discovered this book by talented sports writer, Mike Lupica, it opened up a world of reading for him. Lupica rocks when it comes to writing books that speak to young athletes. Love this.
- Game Changers: Book 1, by Mike Lupica. Add this book to Game Changers: Play Makers and Game Changers: Heavy Hitters for a really sweet trio for middle grade readers.
- Family Tree series: Better to Wish, The Long Way Home, Best Kept Secret, & Home is the Place, by Ann M. Martin. Maddy has read–no, devoured–the first book of this series and has begged for the final three books for the holidays.
- Smile and Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier. And Drama. These award-winning graphic novels are written in Raina’s honest, funny, and engaging voice, are faves of my girls. They’re (shhhhh!) getting Drama this holiday.
- The 39 Clues series, by Rick Riordan & co. This book series is still a fave of Maddy’s. The books are quick and clever, and they’re full of history. We listen to a 39 Clues audio book just about every time we drive to Pennsylvania.
- The Spirit Animals series, by Brandon Mull & co. Maddy and Owen have really loved this series. And the cool thing is that there’s a ton of online gaming, support and extensions for each book.
- The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins. I’ve waited a bit to hand these to Maddy because the content is a bit mature; the Hunger Games are not the kind of game you ever really want your kids to play. It’s about survival and doing anything you can to come out on top in a dystopian society with a totally corrupt government. But Maddy asked and asked, and when I allowed her to read them, she literally read the entire three books in three nights. I’m not sure she slept much, and I had to literally pry the book out of her hands and turn off her lights so she’d rest. It’s a fantastic series if you haven’t read it, and it does allow for a ton of interesting discussion if you can read them alongside your tween.
Every family must-haves:
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling and the first Harry Potter movie. Or, go big. Go with the entire Harry Potter book series and the entire Harry Potter movie collection. Awesome. All of it. Awe-some.
- Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton. I have literally gifted this book to almost every adult family member, so of course I needed to add one to our list, too. I am obsessed with Humans of New York. Looking at the photos of everyday people and reading their stories helps me keep things in perspective. I love it, and I’m hoping that it becomes a good eye-opener for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.
- Little Humans, by Brandon Stanton. Same as above. But all kids. All kids. Love times a million.
- 100 Places That Could Change Your Child’s Life, by Keith Bellows. Everything off the beaten path that you need to know is cool and worth visiting so that you are shaping your children’s lives in the best possible way.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, by Sean Covey. This. Totally worth reading. I loved 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Loved it. Covey really does well with this adaptation for teens, though–he adds comics, real-life anecdotes, breaks in the text that teens can appreciate.
- Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, by Rachelle Doorley. Written by the incredibly creative and awesome author of Tinkerlab, my friend Rachelle does an incredible job here providing really cool, thoughtful ways of creating hands-on activities for kids.
- The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity–Includes over 60 Art Projects for Kids Ages 1-8, by Jean Van’t Hull. Jean is an amazing blogger and the creator of The Artful Parent. I love every one of her projects and even used her spider web resist craft for our Halloween Class party this year.
- 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from FunAtHomeWithKids, by Asia Citro. Don’t we all want to provide fun activities for our kids? And don’t we really feel like we’re winning when the activity is screen-free? Yes and yes. Love these activities by my pal Asia, of Fun At Home With Kids blog, and you’ll love them too.
- 101 Kids’ Activities that are the Bestest, Funnest Ever: The Entertainment Solution for Parents, Relatives, & Babysitters, by Holly Homer and Rachel Miller. The creators of Kids’ Activities Blog put their heads together for this rockstar publication, chock-full of the bestest, funnest kids’ activities ever.
- Playful Writing: 150 Open-Ended Explorations in Emergent Literacy, by Rebecca Olien and Laura Woodside. Whether you have 10 minutes or 20 minutes, there’s a cool writing activity that you can do with your kids. Love how easy it is to flip through this book and pick out something that is ‘just right’ for your kiddo!
Other cool books that kids love:
- Sports Illustrated Top 10 of Everything in Sports. For real. Kids eat. This. Up.
- All-Stars: The Big Book of WHO–the 101 Stars that Every Fan Needs to Know, by the Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids and What are the Chances? The Wildest Plays in All of Sports, by the Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids. Two books that I know my Owen would sit down and read repeatedly.
- Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes, by Klutz. Really. paper airplanes to the max here.
- Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects that Kids Will Love to Make, by Andria Lisle. Maddy is way into sewing this year. She. Will. Love. This. Book.
- National Geographic Kids Almanac 2015. This should be a must-purchase for families every single year. It’s one of those books that once you pick it up, you cannot put it down. Full of fun facts from food to animals to planets, it’s awesome. It’s beautiful.
- 5,000 AWESOME Facts (About Everything!) 2, by National Geographic Kids. Not even kidding. There are 5,000 facts in this book. And each is cooler and more interesting than the next. The photos, layout, and topics? Super cool.
- National Geographic Kids Cook Book — A Year-Round, Fun Food Adventure, by Barton Seaver. For foodies and non-foodies alike, this book is a hit. Seaver looks at recipes, crafts, and food rituals. So many of the National Geographic Kids’ titles are awesome. Check out 100 Things to Do Before You Grow Up or the Ultimate Bodypedia or the Big Book of Why? –all are the kind of books that kids will look at over and over and over and over.
Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out:
- True Holiday Spirit Lunchbox Notes
- Holiday Fun Fact and JOKES Lunchbox Notes (with Hannukah!)
- Holiday Time Fun Fact Lunchbox Notes
- Little Holiday Notes and Jokes
- Holiday Notes for Families
- The Polar Express tradition
- Scratch-off Cards
- K-Cup Advent Tree
- New Year’s Family Interview
- Happy Holidays Backyard Birds
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