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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Parallel Londons? Magic and mayhem? A smuggler and a cut-purse working together to save the worlds? Oh. Yeah. This one is astounding.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Everybody loves Pooh. For your little cook, the illustrations will be just as entertaining as the new recipes.
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.
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!
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