But first, take 5 minutes and take a look at a few of my general suggestions as a place to start.
Beginning with teacher gifting mode, Mrs. Spitzer's Garden is a lovely little picture book -- a perfect gift for any teacher you know, especially with a handwritten note inside. I won't give away the ending but I promise it will make you smile (and probably even tear up a little). Pair this with a bouquet of flowers or some packets of seeds and a few garden tools!
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires is picture book about a girl with an idea that isn't quite right; I love the message of this story. This is a great choice for for the "makers" in your life. Pair this with some cardboard, straws, popsicle sticks, and other supplies for the reader to start creating.
It seems wrong to tell you to start in the middle of a series, but I'm going to do it. Jedi Academy: A New Class is a graphic novel with text elements woven throughout. It is special in our family as it is the book that has turned my youngest son into a reader. Essentially, it is book #4 in the series, but this starts a new storyline and first three books were written by a different author. Jarrett J. Krosoczka has newly taken over the reigns and the series just feels different (one might argue, better). Pair this with other Star Wars paraphenalia -- a cool t-shirt, a mug, or a small LEGO set.
I first discovered TOON Books when a colleague sent me an article from Smithsonain Magazine last fall: The New Yorker Editor Who Became a Comic Book Hero and then promptly ordered several of them for my son for Christmas. Having lived in NYC for 5 years, one of my favorites from this publisher is Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadia Spiegleman. The author incorporates maps and historical photographs into this beautifully drawn story of a boy who gets lost on a field trip. I certainly admit to having a true affection for the City, but this book is extra special. A great choice for graphic novel readers, history and transporation buffs, or anyone who loves New York City. Pair this with a neat subway map poster -- easy to find online or print out yourself.
The paperback edition of The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation) by Daniel James Brown just came out this summer and is a must-have in any middle school classroom library. Subtitled: The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics, it tells the inspirational tale of a ragtag crew team from the Pacific Northwest in a time when crew was the bastion of the wealthy, East coast elite. (And for those of you who read grown up books, I first read this story in that format and can highly recommend it as well). Pair this with a set of crew patent prints!
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon is a YA selection told in alternating voices by Natasha, a practical science-minded girl whose family is hours away from being deported, and Daniel, a boy who always meets family expections, but turns into a poetic believer in fate. Throughout the day in New York City, their paths keep crossing. This is a lovely, magical, and smart love story that highlights the connections between us all. You will adore this book almost as much as you do Natasha and Daniel. Pair this with a writing journal -- a little black notebook like Daniel's.
I can't think of a single person who shouldn't own the March box set. Congressman John Lewis and his staffer Andrew Aydin co-wrote this beautiful and important graphic novel trilogy drawn by Nate Powell, telling the story of Lewis' life and the Civil Rights movement. I was lucky enough to hear Lewis and Aydin speak about this work this past October, just prior to March book 3 winning the National Book Award for Young People's Literature; they were extraordinary (and no, my signed box set is not for sale). We all need this trilogy on our shelves. Pair this book with a gift contribution to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I'm not sure why Lian Tanner's book Icebreaker just appeared in our new book order (well, likely, because I just recently ordered it for our middle school library), but the benefit is that you won't have to wait for book 2 of this trilogy (Sunker's Deep), just published this past summer. Icebreaker tells story of Petrel, a "Nothing Girl" who fits in with no one on board a huge ship that has been following the same course for 300 years. This dystopian novel with a bit of a steampunk feel has such clear descriptions of the ship that you are actually THERE with Petrel. You'll discover warring factions, a mysterious beginning and a long-hidden secret and will draw readers in from the start. I would give this to a middle or high school student who likes science fiction and fantasty but was looking for something a bit different. Pair this with. a warm scarf to keep the chill away on this icy adventure or steamship trunk tags.
My hands-down favorite series of the past several years came to an end in 2016 with the release of The Raven King. YA writer Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle began with The Raven Boys in 2012 -- this is a stay-up-all-night kind of read. Blue, the daughter of a psychic in a small Virginia town with an elite private boarding school, strikes up an unlikely friendship with several of these Aglionby boys as they search for a ley line. Woven with Welch magic, romance, and supernatural mystery, this is a fantasy series unlike any other. It really wouldn't be fair to just give the first book to someone you care about -- you truly must share all four. Pair this series with The Raven's Prophesy Tarot Cards (illustrated by Maggie Stiefvater) or an Aglionby Academy t-shirt.
I like to gift books from my own childhood. Elizabeth Enright's The Saturdays is the first book in one of my most beloved series. The Saturdays introduces us to the Melendy family, Mona, Rush, Randy and Oliver who decide to pool their allowances and take turns spending the whole amount in order to have the chance to experience grand adventures. It's a lovely family read-aloud as well. Oooo! You should pair this book with Lost in NYC and a last-minute family getaway to NYC!
Based on author Susan Cain's adult non-fiction book titled Quiet, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts is the perfect choice for the quiet kid or teen in your life. I love the way this book shares the strengths and strategies of being an introvert for kids who often feel undervalued in school and in their social lives. Pair this book with a cozy throw so your quiet reader can snuggle in.
How to Celebrate Everything Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between is the newest cookbook from one of my favorite food writers and bloggers, Jenny Rosenstrach. Her cookbooks are divine because of her exquisite writing; they are all so perfectly readable and this one doesn't disappoint. Pair this book with a fun kitchen utensil or serving dish.
Other resources to help you find books to give:
NPR Book Concierge. You must check this one out. NPR never fails to disappoint.
School Library Journal: Top 20 Books of 2016. Curated by librarians John Schumaker (aka Mr. Schu) and Travis Jonker, this is a list of best books for grades K-6. This list is being released countdown-style 5 titles a day beginning on December 12. Take a look at the selections: #20 through #16 | #15 through #11 | #10 through #6 TBD | #5 through #1 TBD
The New York Times: The 10 Best Books of 2016: These are all adult titles, carefully selected by the editors of the newspaper.
What are some of the books that you love to give as gifts?
May your holiday season be full of good books!
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