I feel like this year has simultaneously dragged on for ages and jumped ahead in weird chunks. Either way, we’re approaching that time of year when many of us buy books for all our friends, both being generous and pushy (“You need to read this now-look I’ve gotten it for you so there’s no excuse!”). I’ve got a little guy who’s in the delightful age of enjoying both picture books and chapter books for young readers, so this year’s gift suggestions will be a little varied.
Here are a few that would make great gifts for younger readers!
The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster by Mo Willems
The Pigeon books are extremely popular in our household. They have colorful, fun illustrations and are full of reasons to shout (always a plus with my child). The simple language is perfect for early readers and the stories are always fun. My son doesn’t have this latest addition yet, but I think there’s a good chance that will change by Christmas.
Marty Pants by Mark Parisi
This is my first grader’s new favorite series. It follows an incorrigible kid with a good imagination and a loose grip on reality. The situations he gets himself into are lighthearted and silly. My son is now writing Marty Pants fanfiction. I think that’s a good recommendation for a book right there.
The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
This book is absolutely adorable! All the animals love their bedtime stories, but someone is stealing the books! It up to Eliza, a rabbit with a penchant for reading, to solve the mystery. The illustrations are wonderful and the mystery is cute and happily resolved. This is one of my favorite picture books that my little one and I read together this year.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
This is about Tony Sarg, the inventor of the giant balloons for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The history is fascinating and it’s engagingly told. The pictures are fantastic. This would be a great holiday gift seeing as, for many, the parade officially kicks off the Christmas excitement.
Geronimo Stilton graphic novels by Tom Angleberger
This series follows a hapless mouse detective as he …detects. My first grader loves these books.
The Lives of the Explorers by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt
I don’t think my youngest will ever outgrow his love of history. The books will just update as time goes on. This series has books covering scientists, artists, and writers…they’re all great.
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
I’m pretty sure this series needs no introduction. My youngest doesn’t like Captain Underpants but there hasn’t been a dog book that he doesn’t like. With the number of books already released, this will keep your reader busy for some time.
Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis, Illustrated by Laura Cornell
This is a great book! It’s brightly colored, fun, and perfect for little ones with big feelings. It validates all moods which I think is very important. There’s a mood wheel at the back where kids can find their own moods.
Will your little ones find books under the tree this Christmas? What’s on their reading wishlist?
Well, as much as I want it to slow down, time keeps passing. My youngest is now a first grader and a precocious one at that. He enjoys a mix of picture and chapter books, with the occasional comic sneaking in as well. Here are a few that he loves and my thoughts on them.
Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull and Kathyrn Hewitt
The “Lives of” books are actually a series, one that my youngest loves so much that he begged for them at Christmas last year. Some of them are tough to find, but they’re worth the hunt. He loves the pictures and the history (if you’ve read my blog for a while, you know he’s a little history buff. You should see the walls of the house. They’re so covered with “history people” coloring pages, it looks a little like a murder board on a police procedural). I like the delivery: it doesn’t talk down to kids, but it doesn’t overload them either.
Bunnicula by James Howe
I’ve waited YEARS to share this one with my youngest! I have loved it since I was young, and both my kids also fell in love with the silly dog, paranoid cat, and (vampire?) rabbit. My son was on the edge of his seat and we split the reading time, which was awesome. He learned several new words and was proud of his ability to read a “big kid chapter book”. We’re continuing the series and are currently on book three.
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
My youngest loves the Dog Man books. I mean, he absolutely loves them. He knows when the next one is set to be released (March 28, 2023) and has to bring at least three books each time we go anywhere in the car. What do I think of them? To be honest, I’m not a big fan. The grammar is often purposefully wrong, which is difficult when I’m trying to teach him proper grammar (homeschool mom here). He loves them, though, and that’s what matters. You can be sure he’ll get a brand new copy of the latest Dog Man come March.
He also really enjoys Cat Kid Comic Club by the same author.
Bailey’s Story: A Dog’s Purpose Puppy Tale by W. Bruce Cameron
My youngest loves dogs. Unfortunately, our landlord won’t let us own one, so my son lives the dog-owner life through books. He read this on his own and I’m so proud: it’s meant for grades 4-6, so he’s reading above his age level. and happily sounding out new words!
Nate the Great Talks Turkey by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat
These books bring me back to my own childhood. They weren’t favorites of mine, but they were always floating around the house. The same seems to be true now that I’m an adult. My youngest has read this a few times over the past month and is asking for a trip to the library to grab more.
What about you, parents and teachers? What do your first graders enjoy reading?
I suppose October is when all the ghosts and ghoulies come out to play. I’ll be honest: I’ve never been big on Halloween. More power to people who are, but it’s just not my jam. I am a fan of a good spooky book, though, and my youngest went through a phase when he loved all things Halloween related (it was an odd choice for a three year old, but…okay?)
Here’s a roundup of some spooky and not-so-spooky books for fiends of all ages. Enjoy!
For little monsters:
Most parents are familiar with the Sandra Boynton books. There are about a million of them, all with cute little critters and fun storylines. The number of times I sang the Pajama Time song with the kids is truly astonishing! Spooky Pookie is another sweet little story, this time about a pig who can’t figure out what costume to wear. It’s great for three years old and under.
The Ghost-Eye Tree
This book scared the snot out of me when I was young! This is a perfect cuddle-up-and-read-aloud kind of book, and the illustrations are amazing.
The Monster at the End of this Book
This has all the trappings of a good horror book: monsters, tension, a twist at the end! All it’s missing is the spookiness. Instead, it has something better: a great sense of humor. This one is so much fun! It’s one I think all parents should read with their littles.
For older elementary ghoulies/ middle grade ghosts:
I love this book so, so much! The Bunnicula books are a blast! They are clever and creative, full of some of the most memorable pets in print. I have fond memories of this book and I loved reading it with my oldest for the first time a few years ago.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Ah, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! I think every adult of a certain age read these when they were young. This is the sort of book that begs to be read while eating s’mores.
The Beast and the Bethany
This book is such fun! It reminds me of nothing so much as a lighthearted, kid-friendly take on The Picture of DorianGray. The characters are delightfully nasty, the Beast is brutally entertaining, and the illustrations are a perfect addition. Plus, there’s a sequel coming before too long! Review
For Young-adult vampires:
House of Hollow
If you’re looking for eerie, this dark fairy tale/ horror is for you. It actually creeped me out a little, which is not an easy feat. I didn’t love the wrap-up at the end, but the rest of the book was great. Review
Tales from the Hinterland
Tales from the Hinterland is a creepy and clever book of shorts stories that take place in the world of author Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. While I didn’t like the final book in the Hazel Wood duology (at all), this collection of fairy tales that take place in that world are fantastic. You don’t need to read the original series to understand or enjoy this book at all, which makes it even better. Review
The Devouring Gray
Uncanny happenings, monsters, and townsfolk who are not who they seem make The Devouring Gray a fun-filled, creepy book. It’s a quick read too, which makes it a great palette-cleanser after a heavy book. Review
For adult zombies:
Meddling Kids is a love letter to the Scooby Gang, the Goonies, or the Hardy Boys. It’s a mystery-meets-supernatural book that answers the question: what happens when those meddling kids grow up and return home to solve one last case?
In the Garden of Spite
I think books about serial killers fall into the “spooktastic” category. I was enthralled by this book from page one. I knew nothing about the Widow of La Porte before reading this and I was shocked to learn that it was based on a real person. Yikes! Review
Nothing but Blackened Teeth
While this never managed to flat-out scare me, Nothing but Blackened Teeth was nonetheless an interesting read. It had a bit of a Shirley Jackson vibe (though with gore). Review
I read this for the first time not all that long ago and holy crap! I still find myself uneasily examining it. It is engrossing and thought-provoking. It’s also believable, which makes it even more unsettling.
Of course I had to have Frankenstein on this list! There’s nothing quite so scary as watching a human play God.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
I generally prefer thought-provoking gothic horrors to gore-fests, and The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the best examples of a smart gothic horror that I’ve read. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, I highly suggest you do.
There are many other great spooky reads that didn’t make this list, mainly because it would be way too long if I added everything. What are some of your favorite spooktastic reads?
I am ridiculously excited about this book! Aside from the subject matter being interesting, I have a new perspective: my child. He’s a little guy, too young to even ride a bike without training wheels, but he has big dreams. He likes mostly nonfiction books about historical figures, people who he sees as world changers. Kids on the March sounds perfect for him. He says he wants to change the world when he grows up: how cool will it be for him to see examples of kids who didn’t wait until they had a drivers’ license or were old enough to vote? Kids everywhere need to see that they can affect change, that they can SHAKE THE WORLD. They’ve done it before. They’re doing it now. And I am so jazzed to read about it.
I’ll have a review coming up before too long. This book will be available on March 23rd.
I’m so excited to talk about my Middle-grade gift suggestions today! I’ve read a couple of amazing middle grade books this year, and my oldest is an expert (being a middle grader, and all). If you’re looking for great gifts for upper elementary/ middle grade age, these are my picks!
The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips
I was fortunate enough to join The Write Reads Blog Tour for The Beast and the Bethany back in August. I devoured the ebook and loved it so much that I’m planning to buy a physical copy for myself, as well as a few to give as gifts. This book is absolutely delightful! It resembles nothing as much as a brilliant cross between Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Read my full rave about it here. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (series) by Chris Grabenstein
My son was gifted these books a while ago and he loved them. He said they’re full of puzzles and riddles and are a ton of fun. He raced through them and could talk of nothing else for quite a while. This would be a great choice for less enthusiastic readers who need to be actively involved. Solving the riddles will suck them right in.
The Oddmire: Changeling by William Ritter
Both my son and I have read and loved the first two books in this series (the third will release next year). William Ritter is the author of the brilliant Jackaby adult series and I am happy but unsurprised that his middle-grade novels are just as wonderful and creative as his adult novels are.
This is about twin brothers, one of whom is a goblin changeling (although no one-not even the changeling himself-knows which is which). They are called to travel into the Wild Wood and save the day. It’s rare to find a book that has so much adventure, and so much heart. I loved all of the characters (especially the protective mom) and my son felt the same. You can read my full review of the book here.
The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
Did you know that the author of the famous Percy Jackson series has also written an Egyptian series. As much as my son loved the Percy Jackson books, he says the Kane Chronicles are even better.
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
My middle-grade reader says this was his favorite book that he’s read this year. It definitely spawned an obsession with magic tricks. This is an incredibly quick read (my middle-grader finished it in a day), so I suggest buying more than one book in the series. That way your reader can jump right into the next installment as soon as they want.
So, there you have it. These are my top suggestions for middle-grade gifts this year. Have you read any of these? What are some middle-grade books you’d recommend? You can find these great books, and more at Bookshop.org, which supports indie bookstores instead of Amazon. That’s pretty nifty. I’ll also get a little kickback at no extra cost to you, if you use my link (above).
Did you know that the second week in November is National Young Readers Week in the U.S.? This is a week to encourage and promote the love of literature in young readers. While mainly celebrated in public schools, I think all of us everywhere should get in on the fun. I’m a homeschool parent (going on seven years of homeschooling!), so my “classroom” looks a little different. Here are some ways that I encourage my young readers:
Book It! Program – This has been around since I was young and it’s as much fun now as it was then. Basically, you sign your kid up and give them a reading goal based on age or skill level. When that goal is reached, Pizza Hut provides the child with a certificate for a one-topping personal pan pizza. Yum!
Lego Magazine– I believe that this is only available in the U.S. and Canada (please correct me if I’m wrong). My kids love getting mail and this magazine, while in essence a long advertisement, still has little comics and such whatnot for young kids to read.
Origami Yoda– My oldest loves the Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger. They’re a blast to read. After reading them, have your kids check out the Origami Yoda website for free origami instructions. They can make their own origami Star Wars characters, and (with parental supervision) even create and submit their own foldable fun on the site. Warning: you will go through a ridiculous amount of paper while your kids fold away.
Lunch Doodle with Mo Willems– If you have a little reader, you’re probably familiar with the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. If not, you definitely need to fix that. They’re a blast! Well, author Mo Willems has a delightful YouTube channel which he started back in March when the U.S went on Quarantine lockdown. It is just a fun, calm way to encourage kids to get creating along with Mo Willems. There is also an email address where kids can send their own doodles.
I think it’s important to encourage reading of any kind. Yes, I mean that comics are just as valid as picture books, or even The Great American Novel. Reading is reading. If it excites your kid, then there’s a bigger chance they’ll keep reading. What are some great free reading resources for kids that I’ve missed? Are you doing anything special with your littles to spark a love of reading?
Beauty comes at a price. And not one knows that better than Ebenezer Tweezer, who has stayed beautiful for 511 years. How, you may wonder? Ebenezer simply has to feed the beast in the attic of his mansion. In return for meals of performing monkeys, statues of Winston Churchill, and the occasional cactus, Ebenezer gets potions that keep him young and beautiful, as well as other presents.
But the beast grows ever greedier with each meal, and one day he announces that he’d like to eat a nice, juicy child next. Ebenezer has never done anything quite this terrible to hold onto his wonderful life. Still, he finds the absolutely snottiest, naughtiest, and most frankly unpleasant child he can and prepares to feed her to the beast.
The child, Bethany, may just be more than Ebenezer bargained for. She’s certainly a really rather rude houseguest, but Ebenezer still finds himself wishing she didn’t have to be gobbled up after all. Could it be Bethany is less meal-worthy and more…friend-worthy? (taken from Amazon)
I’m so excited to be joining in The Write Reads blog tour today! The Beast and the Bethany will be available for purchase on December eighth (Psst! This would make a great Christmas gift!).
Take The Picture of Dorian Gray , and make it less gothic and more fun, and you’ve got The Beast and the Bethany. This book follows Ebenezer Tweezer, a 511 year-old who is ridiculously rich and remarkably spry for his age. His secret? He has a beast hidden in his attic. Ebenezer feeds the beast in exchange for a potion that keeps him young. At first, the beast wants small things, but as time goes on its appetite grows and…well, let’s just say that the beast is not a vegetarian.
Eventually, Ebenezer is asked to put a child on the beast’s menu. Ebenezer finds this vaguely upsetting, but not enough to keep him from bringing Bethany home. Bethany is a brat. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Then again, can someone who’s planning on feeding his houseguest to a monster really make judgments? Ebenezer can handle her staying with him prior to the Big Meal. It’s only for a little while, after all. Then it’s bon apetit! But then something unexpected happens: Bethany and Ebenezer start to become friends! Whatever shall Ebenezer do?
This book is monstrously delightful! Bethany and Ebenezer are the most likable jerks that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. They’re good for each other, and it was wonderful seeing them slowly change (just a little!) and learn to appreciate each other. I particularly loved Ebenezer and seeing how he’s basically been going through a mid-life crisis for the last fifty plus years.
The way the story is told is perfect for older elementary and middle-grade kids, but it will keep any age group entertained. The language is simple and snappy, and the book is a quick read, though the concepts are most understood and appreciated by the slightly older crowd. My oldest will be reading The Picture of Dorian Gray in school this year and I’m adding The Beast and the Bethany to his curriculum. I know he’ll love it! I may have to make it a read-aloud so I have an excuse to enjoy it again.
Much like the beast, I gobbled this up and I’m hungry for more. This author is fantastic! I most definitely recommend picking this book up. If you have kids, buy this for them. If you don’t, buy it for you. It’s a great read!
Human-raised brothers Tinn and Cole join forces with Fable, daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, to stop the fighting between the people of Endsborough and the creatures of the Wild Wood before violence turns into all-out war.
Human and goblin brothers Cole and Tinn are finding their way back to normal after their journey to the heart of the Oddmire. Normal, unfortunately, wants nothing to do with them. Fable, the daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, has her first true friends in the brothers. The Queen allows Fable to visit Tinn and Cole as long as she promises to stay quiet and out of sight—concealing herself and her magic from the townspeople of Endsborough.
But when the trio discovers that humans are destroying the Wild Wood and the lives of its creatures for their own dark purposes, Fable cannot stay quiet. As the unspoken truce between the people of Endsborough and the inhabitants of the Wild Wood crumbles, violence escalates, threatening war and bringing Fable’s mother closer to the fulfillment of a deadly prophecy that could leave Fable a most Unready Queen.
In this second book in the Oddmire series, the New York Times bestselling author of Jackaby takes readers on an adventure full of monsters, mayhem, and magic. (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to Kelly Doyle at Algonquin Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.
After reading and loving The Oddmire: Changeling, I couldn’t wait to read The Unready Queen. The series continues wonderfully, combining the fantastical with the everyday wonder of childhood.
Cole and Tinn are still a large part of this book, but Fable takes center stage this time. Oh, wow, I love that character! She has a self-confidence and a desire to believe the best of everybody that is refreshing. Each character is nuanced, and Fable is no exception. She doesn’t feel ready to take on the responsibilities her mom is training her for, completely unaware that her unique way of doing things is exactly what the Wild Wood needs.
Of course, Tinn and Cole each have their own obstacles. Tinn is learning how to be a goblin after discovering that he is, in fact, a goblin changeling. More importantly, he’s learning how to be himself, without fading into his brother’s shadow. Cole, on the other hand, is learning that there are places his brother goes where he can’t follow. He is discovering how to be his own person. I really love Tinn in particular. He reminds me of my oldest in many ways.
As with the first book, a lot of attention is paid to relationships. I absolutely love that both the boys’ mom and Fable’s mom are very involved in this book. Not only that, it’s apparent that they are caring and involved, subverting the “hero alone” trope. From an adult standpoint, I love seeing positive relationships between parents and children in literature.
The fantasy aspect of this book is epic. Spriggins, and goblins, and hinkypunks, oh my! I adored the sheer variety of fantasy creatures that show up in these books. It’s not often that I read a book that includes hinkypunks. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The adventure is fabulous, the story moves quickly, and there’s never a dull moment.
This series is so much fun! William Ritter is an excellent author (I highly recommend the Jackaby series to adults) and I can’t wait to see what happens as the Oddmire adventures continue.
In the beginning there was only One World, where creatures with white magic, with black magic, and with no magic lived. As their powers grew, so did the thirst for power until it all ends during the War of Magic. The One World is divided into 8 worlds: 7 with magic and 1 with no magic–the human world.
For thousands of years, the 8 worlds live in peace. But secrets begin to brew to either protect or to threaten the peace. One secret, was Aline, who lives in the human world with no awareness of the other seven magical worlds. Where nothing special ever happens to her. She lives a plain life with horrible school mates where she has no friends.
On her 12thbirthday, on Halloween, she has to flee to a new magical world. In this world she learns that she has magical powers and must figure out how to use them in order to defend herself from a horrible warlock named Dashiok. She meets two sisters, Cristina, a nature sylph, and Sofia, a sense sylph, who become her best friends. Together they receive powers from magical meteors in an Endowing Ceremony.
During her training sessions with the sisters, she discovers that a magical blue bottle needs Aline’s help. Dashiok wants to use the powerful blue bottle to take over the 8 worlds. This leads Aline to go on her first quest. Some of the members of the High Wizard Council join Aline and her friends and they become the quest carriers.
The quest carriers travel through the Winding Forest, the Bleak forest, and finally the Southern Shores where they fight an army of hobgoblins, enchanted colossals, and yawares to find the blue bottle. Here Aline faces Yakar, the first and only vampire.
Aline finds out that before she was born, when Dashiok was trying to take her, he transfers some of Yakar’s powers to Aline and this creates the only real connection Yakar ever had to another leaving being.
The link between the Yakar and Aline secures her safety, and the quest carriers are able to take the blue bottle away from Dashiok.
See if you can uncover all of the secrets hidden in the magical worlds where Aline and her friends have their adventures…(taken from Amazon)
Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.
This sort of premise always interests me. The idea of an “ordinary” person suddenly being transported to a fantastical world and having adventures is so much fun. I was very much looking forward to seeing a new take on this classic idea.
There were a few hiccups for me. First of all, there is a lot of exposition. I mean, a lot. While I found it interesting, I think the book would be better served if all the additional explanations were put in the back, instead of before the beginning. I know I would have enjoyed it more if I’d already had a chance to become acquainted with the characters and story. As it was, it dragged a bit. It felt a bit like the Silmarillion; it would be better appreciated after reading the main event.
Once the story got going, I really liked it. The author’s strength lies in her attention to world development. There’s origin mythology, and complex descriptions. If you’re looking for a fast-moving, simple book, this isn’t it. There is a wealth of detail in everything, which was alternatively very good, and not-so-great, depending on what was happening.
The characters were all great, especially Aline. She was so upbeat, no matter what was going on. Ultimately, I’m glad I read this book. I think the series will continue to improve as it carries on, and the author “finds her groove,” so to speak.
Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.
So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.
When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil — and herself. (taken from Amazon)
I’ve read some excellent reviews for these books lately, so when I saw them at the library, I had to snag them. After reading them, I can see why both books are so popular. Victoria Schwab is an excellent writer, and is able to effortlessly suck the reader into the world she’s created.
These books follow Cassidy, a girl who sort-of briefly died. She was saved by a ghost who has become her best friend. Now she can see ghosts and is able to cross the veil between the living and the dead. Her parents, who oddly enough host a ghost-hunting show despite not believing in ghosts, have decided to travel to “most haunted places,” with Cassidy, her ghostly bff, and their cranky cat in tow.
In the first book, they go to Edinburgh. There, Cassidy meets a girl named Lara who has the same ability she does. Lara informs Cassidy that they have a responsibility to reap the ghosts, basically sending them “on.” Cassidy unfortunately catches the attention of a very powerful and extremely angry ghost. Will she survive the encounter? Or will she end up truly dead?
I quite enjoyed the book. It felt like the first few episodes of that show Supernatural. It was episodic and a very good introduction to both the characters and the world the author has created. I found it highly entertaining, though lacking in some details I would have loved to had. For example, the Big Bad wasn’t as fleshed out (pun intended) as I was hoping. I loved the idea behind the villain and would have loved a bit more detail. However, Cassidy is a likable main character, and there’s a lot of potential in her ghostly buddy.
The sequel, Tunnel of Bones, started to see a bit more of a storyline. The foil in this book had more of a background, and this book focused more on solving the mystery behind all the ghastly, ghostly activity. I liked that aspect. Adding a bit of a mystery to the book made it much more interesting to me. Tunnel of Bones takes place in Paris, and the author made good use of the Catacombs. The final surprise has me very interested in seeing what comes next.
The best way I can describe these books is as Supernatural light. They’re entertaining, quick reads, that make for fun weekend reading.