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2016 Children’s Literary Gift Guide


Lit Mama Homeschool 2016 Literary Gift Guide

The season is upon us, my friends.  And I realize that even though I’m not that girl, you might be already making your lists and checking them twice.

I get you.  I am well aware that I should also be doing that.  But just… let me get through Thanksgiving first.  Because I gave a huge crush on Thanksgiving–all that wonderful cooking and kitchen experimenting and familying (yeah, I just made that word up).  Yeah yeah.  So I don’t really start thinking about Christmas for myself until after Turkey Day.

But for you, my amazing readers–I have been thinking about Christmas for you.  And I know if you’re a Lit Mama fan it’s because either you have bookworms in your life or you are trying to encourage bookworms.  Well, I have the stuff.

Did you doubt me?

So you don’t get confused

I’m dividing this guide into genres.  I’ll try to keep it simple.  All of these books are relatively new.  Because you’ve already heard of the older books.  You want me to give you the goods on the new stuff, right?  There should be something here for every little book fiend on your list.  And if you see something you like?  Um, who deserves a Christmas gift from you more than you?

2016 Holiday Literary  Gift Guide

Picture Books

Finding Winnie - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall

Are you kidding me?  This story is so sweet.  If you have a Pooh Bear fan, he has to have this book.  It tells the story of the true Winnie–how he was bought by a soldier at a train station and named Winnie after Winnepeg, the soldier’s hometown.  How Winnie ended up in the London Zoo so that Christopher Robin Milne could fall in love with him.  The works.  And the watercolor illustrations are adorable.  Every kid should own this along with a copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Float - 2016 Literary Gift GuideFloat by Daniel Miyares

Yes, please!  Float is a wordless picture book, and sometimes they are my favorite.  This is one of those times.  The brightly colored little boy and his boat have adventures against a black and white background and there are even instructions for making a paper boat.  So. Cool.  I heart wordless books because they allow your little to tell the story in his own words.  They’re amazing as writing prompts for older kids, too.  If you only have one wordless book in your library, make it Float.  Seroiusly.

If You Plant a Seed - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

Oh, this book.  It. is. precious.  If you plant a tomato seed, a tomato plant will grow.  But if the birds show up wanting some of your good stuff, what should you plant?  Cooperation.  Kindness. Compassion.  What grows from that?

The world we want to live in.  The world we want to guide our littles to create.  Oh. Yeah.  This one, y’all.  This one.

My Tata's Remedies - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

My Tata’s Remedies

This one is a longer read, but it’s so awesome.  Aaron’s tata (grandfather) teaches Aaron all about how to use herbs, teas, and plants to heal and soothe.  The best part(s)?  One, the remedies are real native remedies.  Two, it’s in both English and Spanish.  And you know how I feel about bilingual books.  How can you not love to read in Two Languages?  Heck yes!

Waiting - 2016 Literary Gift GuideWaiting by Kevin Henkes

What little doesn’t love Kevin Henkes?  The gorgeously simple illustrations forward the story about 5 toys sitting on a windowsill, each waiting for a special something.  But special somethings are happening outside the window all the time, so the toys are just as content to wait as they are when their own special something occurs.  Littles will love the story without even realizing how gently their own impatience is being treated.  Amazing.


Uprooted - 2016 Literary Gift GuideUprooted by Naomi Novik

Seriously one of the best books I’ve read this year, Uprooted is part fairy tale, part action adventure, part fabulous romance, all glorious.  You can read my full review here.  Then go buy it for someone.  Anyone.  This book is special.

Red Queen and Glass Sword - 2016 Literary Gift GuideRed Queen and Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

This super cool story about Mare Barrow, who lives in a world where those with red blood serve the silver-blooded elite, has the main plot points of its type while still seeming fresh.  Mare is red-blooded, but she accidentally discovers she has powers like those with silver blood.  In front of the entire Silver Court.  The king and queen, in order to hide Mare’s anomaly, betroth her to one of their sons and pretend she is silver-blooded.  But Mare is drawn to the cause of rebels called the Scarlet Guard.  By the time you hit the second book, Mare has made some pretty big choices and it’s all action and warfare from there.  The third installment, King’s Cage, hits the market in February, but you could pre-order it for Christmas and score even more points.

The Shadow Queen - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Inspired by Snow White, y’all.  And you do know how I love a book based on a fairy tale.  And this one has just the right elements of romance and action, with enough magic thrown in to make it… well… fantastic.

Riders - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Riders by Veronica Rossi

Let me explain.  Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi is in my top 5 favorite dystopian/post-apocalyptic books.  Series.  Just wow.  So I was uber excited for Riders’ release, and it didn’t disappoint.  This fantasy, in which a young man dies and becomes War of Four Horsemen fame, is different enough to feel new and well-written enough to be completely recognizable as Rossi.  In fact, I want 3 copies for Christmas myself.


Stewards of the Plane series - 2016 Literary Gift GuideA Quarrel Called and A Calling of Quarrels by Shannon Wendtland

By far my favorite series from this year, these books are some of the rawest, most realistic paranormal books I have ever read.  Ever.  You can read my full (and highly enthusiastic) reviews here and here.  If you need a gift for a lover of the paranormal, this is the one, my friends.  No, really.

But if you’re like me and can’t read just one…

Boo - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Boo by Neil Smith

This is kind of a ghost story, an afterlife story, in which 13-year-old Boo, an outcast at his school, wakes up in a Heaven populated only by other 13 year olds.  And weird stuff happens.  And Boo is just trying to figure it all out.  This is one of those coming of age stories that Really makes you stop and think.

A Darker Shade of Magic - 2016 Literary Gift Guide A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Parallel Londons?  Magic and mayhem?  A smuggler and a cut-purse working together to save the worlds?  Oh. Yeah.  This one is astounding.

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull

Switched at birth, 2 misfit teens are drawn together to fulfill an ancient prophecy.  Witches, wars, betrayal, and… cute homeless boy?  Hmm.  It’s a good book even though the boy needs a home.

Wake the Hollow by Gaby Triana - 2016 Literary Gift GuideA new legend for Sleepy Hollow?  I’m all in.  Your teens will love the spooky.


The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Four hundred years ago, nuclear war decimated the planet.  Now everyone is born a twin, but not every twin is the same.  One is the Alpha twin, the superior, and the other is the Omega, deformed and exploited.  Because what would dystopia be without an exploited lower class? Bo.ring. Somebody has to rise up and save the world, by golly.  This goes one better–Cass doesn’t choose one side or the other, she chooses a third way: reuniting humanity.  So her enemies?  On both sides.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu - 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Young Elites by Marie Lu

The people of this futuristic society survived the blood fever, but it left the children marked.  But did it give them special gifts as well?  Watch out; I smell a love triangle.

Positive by David Wellington 2016 LIterary Gift GuidePositive by David Wellington

Zombie apocalypse, anyone?  This one is a different–don’t run off.  If you have a zombie fan like I do, this is a bit more intelligent zombie tale.  A thinker with zombies?  Win!

 Flawed by Cecelia Ahern - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

A naive young girl who thinks the rules are for the best.  A nasty leader who is more interested in power and control than what’s really good for people.  An intriguing boy who shows up out of nowhere and catches our interest.  Friends who should be enemies and enemies who should be friends.  And action?  Yeah, pretty much from the very beginning of the book.   See my full review here.

Frost by M. P. Kozlowsky - 2016 Literary Gift GuideFrost by M. P. Kozlowsky

This one might resonate with your younger readers as well as your older ones.  Frost lives in a few rooms in a rundown apartment building with only her pet and a robot who is  sometimes inhabited by her dead father for company.  There’s not really much else living in the world.  So when her pet becomes ill, Frost leaves the safety of her home to trek across town for medicine, where she tangles with rogue robots and Eaters. So yeah.  Zombies again.   Interesting look at a bleak possible future.


Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Anna Waterhouse - 2016 Literary Gift GuideMycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Anna Waterhouse

Yeah, you read that right.  Kareem co-penned this.  But if you have a Sherlock fan, he or she will love getting to know Sherlock’s less-famous brother in this entertaining mystery.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro - 2016 Literary Gift GuideA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Let’s continue the Holmes tradition with this first novel about Charlotte and Jamie, teenage descendants of Holmes and Watson.  Worth it just for the dialogue.

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos - 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

This is one of those beautiful, eerie mysteries.  17-year-old Imogene has only one tie to her mother–the story her father has told her about how her parents met.  When her father disappears, Imogene becomes convinced he is looking for her mother, and she decides to put her own skills to work to find him.  Haunting.

How to Disappear by Ann R. Stampler - 2016 Literary Gift GuideHow to Disappear by Ann R. Stampler

This story is told in alternating chapters by the 2 main characters, Jack and Nicolette.  See, a girl was murdered in the woods near Nicolette’s house and chances are Nicolette is the murderer.  Jack is convinced she is.  And it’s his job to catch up with her and take her out.  No, really take her out, as in End Her.  A great mystery with a lot of action.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando - 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Leaving by Tara Altebrando

This might be the spookiest of the mysteries on this list.  Eleven years ago, 6 kids disappeared.  Now teenagers, 5 of them return.  Out of the blue.  With no memory of where they’ve been.  The 6th boy, Max, is the only one who hasn’t come back, and his sister is determined to find the truth.   Plot twists abound, my friends.  This is a good one.


Going Over Home by Katie Andrews Potter - 2016 Literary Gift GuideGoing Over Home by Katie Andrews Potter

This book?  Good for all ages.  It’s a brilliant back-and-forth between the present and the 1800s, with lots of references to the Underground Railroad and pioneer life.  I’m reviewing it in full next Tuesday, but don’t wait.  Your history buffs will love it.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

This Depression-era novel tells the story of a young girl whose segregated southern town is rattled by the reappearance of the Ku Klux Klan.  I can’t stress how important books like this are for teaching our children how wrong it is to be prejudice.  This one’s a keeper.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

This is another time travel-type novel, in which a modern violin prodigy is thrown back in time to land on a ship in the distant past.  She discovers she is the descendant of one of a number of time-traveling families and she has something the most powerful time-traveling family needs.  She and the ship’s captain travel through time together to find the object.   This is kind of an all-in-one history.  Very cool.

Adam & Thomas by Aharpm Appelfeld and Phillipe Dumas - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Adam & Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld

During World War II, two 9-year-old Jewish boys band together in the forest to survive.  And they do survive.  This isn’t just about the war, it’s about making it against all odds and keeping your heart.  Another important one for your littles to read.

Gone Crazy in Alabam by Rita Williams-Garcia - Literary Gift Guide 2016Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Set in the 1960s, this is the story of 3 feisty sisters from Brooklyn who go to rural Alabama for the summer to visit even feistier relatives.  It’s good as a stand-alone, but it is actually the final book in a trilogy about these sisters, and every book is as good as the last.  So you might consider gifting all 3.

Books for Music Lovers

Blackbird Fly By Erin E Kelly - 2016 Literary Gift GuideBlackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

That awkward middle school age when you lose your childhood friends and have to find ways to replace them?  Apple jams that by turning to music.  And she makes new friends, like we always do.  And the best part?  Apple’s biggest desire is to learn to play the gorgeous Beatles’ song on guitar.  Because Beatles.

The Haters by Jesse Adrews - 2016 Literary gift GuideThe Haters by Jesse Andrews

In this brilliant book, a couple of dudes attend a lame jazz camp where they meet a girl who helps them create magical music.  In one swift moment, they decide to escape camp and go on the road.  Your readers will love the camaraderie.  And the antics.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan - 2016 Literary Gift GuideEcho by Pam Munoz Ryan

A cursed harp ties together the story of 3 kids in 3 very different places.  There’s a reason this one won a Newbery Honor.

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle - 2016 Literary Gift GuideDrum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle

This picture book is based on the life of Millo Castro Zaldarriga, who dreamed of drumming in Cuba, where girls were not allowed to be drummers.  Music and feminism all rolled into one.  Yeah yeah.

The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine - 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine

We used this very cool book in school when we studied orchestral music.  It’s a great book for learning about the instruments of an orchestra as well as about famous composers.  Plus, it comes with a 70+ minute CD to introduce your music lover to the music from the book.  Win!

Books for Writers

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine - 2016 Literary Gift Guide

Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine

Are you kidding me?  What burgeoning writer wouldn’t want advice from Levine?  And she guides you through all the hard stuff–coming up with ideas, writing great beginnings and endings, even what to do when you get stuck.  Golden.

Spilling Ink by Potter and Mazer - 2016 Literary Gift GuideSpilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer

Two children’s book authors provide a humorous, sensible guide to writing for young people.   “In this book, Anne and I are going to tell you some things about writing that we wish someone had told us when we were kids.”  I mean, Come on.

Guy-Write by Ralph Fletcher - 2016 Literary Gift GuideGuy-Write by Ralph Fletche

If you know a boy who dreads writing (or even just wants to write stuff for other boys), this book is the thing.  Ralph Fletcher has written over 40 ‘guy’ books, and he includes advice from other ‘guy’ authors, too.

On Writing by Stephen King - 2016 Literary Gift GuideOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Sure, this one is older, but I Could Not leave it off this list.  Because King.  And because it was one of the first books I ever read about writing, and all its advice still holds true today.  Perfect for an older teen.

A Teen's Guide to Getting Published by Jessica Dunn

A Teen’s Guide to Getting Published by Jessica and Danielle  Dunn

What young writer doesn’t dream of getting published?  Um, none.  This book is written by two former teen writers and includes lots of writing advice plus a listing of all the markets that publish teen works.  Perfect for any young writer.

Books for Cooks

An Unexpected Cookbook by Chris-Rachael Oselund - 2016 Literary Gift GuideAn Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery by Chris-Rachael Oseland

Combining cooking fun with Hobbit goodness?  If you know a little who loves all things Hobbit and loves to cook, this cookbook will definitely win.

The Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook by Virginia Elison - 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook by Virginia Ellison

Everybody loves Pooh.  For your little cook, the illustrations will be just as entertaining as the new recipes.

The Little house Cookbook by Barbar M. Walker - 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker

So many mamas use the Little House series to teach their littles about pioneer days.  Why not let your little try his hand at some of the foods from the series?  Over a hundred recipes, just begging to be made.

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham - 2016 Literary Gift GuideThe Fannie  Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham

Okay, so this one isn’t necessarily for kids, but I got my first copy when I was 19 and it has been my cooking bible ever since.  I’ve replaced it twice.  I have 100s of cookbooks, but this is the one I almost always turn to.  If you have an older child who really wants to get to the heart of cooking every fabulous thing, this one will stay with him or her forever.

Y’all, I think that’s it.  I could splinter into a dozen more genres, but I’m betting there’s something on this list that will fulfill the dreams of the bookworm in your life.  Happy holidays, and happy reading!

Love wins,


 Check Out These Other Fabulous Gift Guides to Complete Your Holiday Shopping!

50+ Holiday Gift Guides for Kids of All Ages 2016

Looking for more holiday fun?  Check out:

Dinner and a Movie: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Story Time: How Santa Got His Job

Story Time: Gingerbread Friends

Story Time: Snowmen at Christmas

Story Time: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Story Time: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Cuddle Up With Christmas Classics


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KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys.Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
KT Brison
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About KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
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  1. I love giving books to my kids for Christmas. Thanks for sharing with us at Family Joy Blog Link Up Party this week.

  2. Wow, what an amazing list! There are so many options here that I’m sure my teens/young adults will love. Thank you so much, I’m bookmarking for Christmas shopping! And thanks for linking up to Funtastic Friday!
    Kimm at Reinvented recently posted…Funtastic Friday: Number 103My Profile

  3. Awesome List! I haven’t read many of these so I’ll be sure to pick them up.

  4. Great list! I read YA like crazy… even if I’m a little old for it 😉 Thanks for sharing with Hearts for Home!

  5. I love real books! Great list. Thanks for sharing at Dishing It & Digging It!

  6. We love that Winnie the Pooh book! Such a great and diverse list!
    Mother of 3 recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Aquarium TripMy Profile

  7. You found a book for everybody. We always give books and it’s exciting to find ones that we haven’t seen before. Thanks for the suggestions.

  8. Great list! It’s so hard to narrow it down, isn’t it? 😉

    Thanks for linking up with the Homeschool Blog and Tell. Hope you’ll be back this week!
    Sara @ The Homeschool Post recently posted…Homeschool Blog and Tell Weekly Linkup #4My Profile

  9. The variety in this list is amazing. Truly a thing (or three) for everyone. Thanks for the time you put into it. I’m particularly drawn to Stella by Starlight and am looking that one up.

  10. Great List! I have to put more YA books on my list. I’m visiting today from the #smallvictoriessunday link up.
    Bonnie recently posted…With Malice Book ReviewMy Profile

  11. Thank you for taking the time to put this together! I love reading (wish I had more time, but…kids 😉 ), and appreciate a good, diverse books list. And it’s nice to hear about “new” kids books (though we do love the oldies around here too).

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Meredith. Maybe find time to read just one of them. (I’ve often wondered if it would be bad to take a reading vacation–you know, just a 3-5 stay at a remote cabin or beach where all I do is read all the books I don’t have time for in my normal life. I think my family would not appreciate it any more than they do when I hide in the bathroom with a book and run the shower for 45 minutes without ever stepping into it.)

  12. I love this list! It has a lot of variety and ideas for all sorts of book lovers

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