Children's librarians often act as their family and friends' personal librarian. We regularly get asked for book recommendations for children of various ages - and we LOVE it! Talking about kids' books is one of our favorite things to do. So, before you even have to ask, I've put together, with the help of some friends, a list of books that would make great holiday gifts for the children in your life. But because we can't read EVERY book that's out there (although we try), at the bottom of this list there are links to other 'best of' lists that will also help you make your book-buying choices.
Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like? by Catherine Thimmesh
For the true dinosaur aficionado in your life, this book explores the history of dinosaur exploration. Since we've never actually seen a dinosaur, how have scientists used the information they've found - bones, fossils, etc. - to re-create the look of a dinosaur?
Locomotive by Brian Floca
Young train enthusiasts will love this richly illustrated story of traveling on one of the first steam trains from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco. They'll pore over the endpapers that explain how steam trains work (including a cross-section drawing) and provide historical context of the Transcontinental Railroad. They'll learn about all the different people who worked on the train and what their jobs were. They'll even learn how the bathroom worked - remember not to use it when the train is in the station!
Poems to Learn By Heart by Caroline Kennedy; illustrated by Jon J. Muth
This book is truly a keepsake. Jon J. Muth's ethereal watercolor illustrations set a perfect tone, and Kennedy has chosen a nice variety of poems - there's surely one or more to delight every reader. The poems are divided into several categories - including family, friendship and love, school, sports, and nonsense. There are both contemporary writers like Billy Collins and Nikki Giovanni and the likes of Shakespeare and Ogden Nash. I've already decided which poem I will learn by heart - Eve Merriam's "Catch a Little Rhyme," the last one in the book.
The Silver Moon: Lullabies and Cradle Songs by Jack Prelutsky
A collection of serene and lyrical poems, this book makes a perfect gift for a family with a new baby. What really makes this book stand out are the illustrations by Jui Ishida. Soft and deep, these loving images evoke a feeling of snuggling with the one who loves you most. - Marcy, Arvada Library
The Animal Book: A collection of the fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest- and most suprising- animals on earth by Steve Jenkins
Jenkins is a Colorado author/illustrator and creates his animals out of paper. They are TRULY amazing. He's organized this book not by type of animal, but by things like "defenses," "animal senses," "predators," and "animal extremes." There's so much fascinating information to pore over in this book - kids (and adults) will spend hours with it.
BOARD BOOKS (MADE FOR HANDLING AND CHEWING!)
My First Touch-and-Trace ABC and My First Touch-and-Trace Count 123 by Tiger Tales
These books are a great way to start your baby or toddler on the road to reading and writing! The letters and numbers are indented, allowing the child to trace the shape with their finger. Learning the shapes of letters and numbers is one way literacy starts!
Diggers Go by Steve Light
A variety of construction vehicles are shown, and, in bold print, we learn their noises and can make them ourselves! Did you know a dump truck goes: BEEPbeep BEEPbeep SCREEEECH RUUURRRUMP PA-LUMP? Making sounds like these help young children learn about language! There are two other books in this series: Trucks Go and Trains Go
Green by Linda Vaccaro Seeger
I think my love of children’s books is derived from my love of art and this book is a work of art. You can get lost in the lush up-close illustrations that allow you to experience each new manifestation of green. Just follow the die-cuts from one scene to the next and enjoy the journey. - Marcy, Arvada Library
Journey by Aaron Becker
This is a stunning wordless picture that will spark a lot of conversation. Follow a girl through a magic door that she draws on her bedroom wall into a world full of adventure - including a dangerous encounter with a bird! - Jennifer, Lakewood Library
Mo's Mustache by Ben Clanton
This read aloud will have everyone laughing. Mo loves his mustache and feels very unique until all of his friends want one of their own. - Jennifer, Lakewood Library
Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea
While the rainbow colors and sparkle on the cover may draw some young readers in - the story inside lives up to the cover's hype! Goat thinks the things he can do are pretty great, until Unicorn arrives and does something "greater." But just as Goat's ready to give up, he discovers that Unicorn actually thinks Goat is pretty great too.
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
This story of Flora, who imitates a dancing Flamingo, doesn't have any words. But it doesn't need any - the beautiful lift-the-flap illustrations clearly tell the story of the budding friendship between the two pink-bedecked pals.
Again! by Emily Gravett
Little Dragon wants Mama Dragon to read his bedtime story again. And again, and AGAIN! At first, she concedes, but when she falls asleep, little dragon reacts, well, the way a dragon would. Parents and young children will find this story pretty familiar.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Mr. Tiger, a proper animal in a suit and hat, decides that he's tired of city life. It's time to GO WILD! But will he want to stay wild, especially after all the other (buttoned-up animal) city residents express their disapproval? Brown's graphic illustrations are as much fun as the story.
I Dare You Not to Yawn by Hélène Boudreau; illustrated by Serge Bloch
“Yawns are like colds, they spread.” Parents and kids alike will get a laugh out of this. During story time it even garnered a few yawns from my audience. Just remember DO NOT LET IT OUT! If they catch you yawning, they are going to send you to bed! - Marcy, Arvada Library
MIDDLE GRADE FICTION
Playtpus Police Squad #1: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
In this story written in what adults will recognize as a noir style, follow along as newbie Detective Zengo, anxious to prove himself, and veteran Detective O'Malley crack the case of the missing teacher and a possible illegal fish trade. Bonus: this book is only #1 in a series!
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Know a kid who loves the library? Or puzzles? Or mysteries? They'll all love this tale, in which a group of kids compete to find their way out of a brand-new, state-of-the-art playground - um, library. The contest is run by the eccentric Mr. Lemoncello, a Willy-Wonka-esque character who has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K.G. Campbell
When Ulysses the squirrel is accidentally sucked up into a vacuum cleaner, he develops the ability to write, understand humans, lift heavy things, and fly. Flora, who saves him and takes him home, believes he's now a superhero and must use his powers to vanquish evil. But perhaps there's a relationship that needs saving even more?
Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
Young Roan Novachez is SURE he'll be accepted to Pilot Academy. He's disappointed when that doesn't happen, but when he gets a mysterious invitation to attend Jedi Academy, he decides that's a much better option than learning to be a farmer. Master Yoda takes a particular interest in Roan, and while it's rough going for a while (he CANNOT seem to manage to use the force to get that rock to float!) he soon feels like he's found the right place. Young fans of Star Wars will love this graphic novel series!
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Dad goes to the corner store to pick up some milk for his kids' cereal (and his tea), but is a long time returning. What happened? Well, there are aliens, pirates, wumpires, and a hot-air-ballon-flying Stegosaurus involved. Fortunately, he managed not to lose the milk. Wait - did all of this REALLY happen? Brilliantly illustrated by Skottie Young, this tale by legendary writer Gaiman will make a great read-aloud and might spark some parental storytelling of your own!
If none of these titles spark your (or your child's) fancy, DON'T DESPAIR! Here are some more "best of" lists with even more great suggestions!
Reading Rockets Holiday Buying Guide
School Library Journal's Best of 2013 (includes lists for non-fiction, picture books, apps, dvds, and more!)
New York Public Library's 100 Books for Reading and Sharing 2013
Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Books of 2013