Christmas is exactly one week away. If you don’t have all your Christmas shopping done, fret not! There are always books! If you need some books for tots, here are a few good last-minute options (or check out my other kids’ book lists here). In need of teen or adult book gift suggestions? Contact me or comment below with the details (age or relationship, interests, etc.), and I’ll do my best to give you some suggestions!
Over the River & Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure
by Linda Ashman
illustrated by Kim Smith
As a biracial kid myself, I love to see mixed-race families in picture books (in case you hadn’t noticed, it doesn’t happen very often). This book, about a family converging on Grandma and Grandpa’s house (via plane, train, car, boat . . . and even hot air balloon!) for the purposely-non-specific “holidays,” features two mixed-race couples, some biracial kids, two Asian kids (another thing you don’t see in picture books too frequently) with white parents, and a gay couple. But it’s not done in a “Look at us! We’re so multi-cultural and proud!” kind of way. They are all just one big, beautiful, diverse family. [Insert all the heart emojis in every color of the rainbow here!]
Oh, and bonus: my daughter loves this book because it has fun, cartoon-y illustrations, it rhymes, and it features a horse that swoops in and saves the day again and again with a “NEEEIIIIGGGHHHHH!”
The price fluctuates on Amazon frequently, but the hardcover has been hovering in the $6 range for the last couple weeks. BUY THEM ALL and send them to your friends’ kids for the purposely-non-specific holidays!
The Wish Tree
by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Chris Turnham
This is a new addition to our library, but we have already read it approximately 8 million times. And, honestly, I don’t mind a bit. Full disclosure: the first time I read this aloud, I got a little misty-eyed. It’s just so damn sweet.
Here’s the gist: young Charles is determined to find a wish tree. Despite being told by his a-hole older siblings that such a thing does not exist, he and his trusty sidekick, Boggan (the toboggan), venture into the woods one day on a quest. They search and search, but they do not find a wish tree. Instead, they find several animal pals in need of assistance. And Charles and Boggan happily help them (singing merrily each time—my daughter’s favorite part of the book). The book ends with a little bit of magic and wonder and beauty . . . and more singing. Delightful. (Excuse me while I dab my eyes.)
FYI, this is another great one for the winter holidays generally (i.e., the wish tree is not a Christmas tree).
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth
by Oliver Jeffers
If you don’t know who Oliver Jeffers is, then you probably don’t have kids. He’s a hipster Irishman who is famous for his illustrations (most notably, The Day the Crayons Quit), as well as for books he wrote himself (like my daughter’s personal favorite, The Way Back Home, about a boy and a martian who both crash-land on the moon, realize they are not alone, help each other fix their respective vehicles, and then go their separate ways).
This is his latest book, which he wrote for his first kid. The illustrations are incredible (more detailed than his usual fare) and the message is sweet and hopeful and loving (something we can all use a dose of in this day and age). This is the book that my daughter got (signed by Mr. Jeffers when he came to our local book shop) for some of her pals for Christmas (surprise!).
The Curious Garden
written and illustrated by Peter Brown
You’ve probably heard of Peter Brown (he wrote the delightful Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and illustrated the Caldecott-Honor winning Creepy Carrots), but probably not for this book. This is a book that really flew under the radar, in my opinion. Inspired by New York City’s High Line, it’s about a boy, Liam, who becomes an accidental gardener.
In a city that is dark and dreary and devoid of color or nature, Liam happens upon a patch of plants and wildflowers growing around an abandoned train track. He decides to try to help it grow. Before long, Liam’s garden begins to thrive. And, as the garden grows and spreads all over the city, new gardeners begin to pop up, too.
Y’all these illustrations are like, whoa.
written and illustrated by Graham Carter
Normally, I wouldn’t get excited about another animal alphabet book (‘A’ is for aardvark. We get it.), but this is an exception. First of all, there are some interesting animal choices (Nope, ‘M’ is not for monkey; it’s for manatee! Not to mention, ‘A’ is for armadillo!!). Secondly, the illustrations are true works of art.
Speaking of which, get this: you can get a limited edition Giclée print of any of the gorgeous Alphamals . . . personalized! Eeeeep! Check them out here (they are awesome, but a little spendy): http://www.boxbird.co.uk/gallery/alphamal-prints/. Too late to get one for this year’s holidays, obviously, but the book with a personalized print would be an amazing baby shower gift.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Y’ALL!
(By the way, I am reading adult books, and I’ll get around to writing about them soon. I have recently finished Turtles All the Way Down, John Green’s new book about a teenager with OCD and anxiety, and Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng’s debut novel, both of which are worth reading. I’m currently finishing Caraval by Stephanie Garber, a YA book that has a kind of Night Circus vibe, the hardcover of which is on sale on Amazon right now for under $6. Annnnnnd I just started the so-far AMAZINGLY written, but really, really dark (we’re talking incest), My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. More on those soon-ish . . . I hope.)