Children’s Books to Gift this Holiday Season

There are some books that are so well done they practically beg to be read again and again. Here are some of favorites of the year that young book lovers will want you to read over and over and are good enough that you won’t mind doing so. It’s not too late for a little more holiday shopping, right?

Board Books











These are all very cute board books. I read Quantum Entanglement and I still couldn’t tell you what it really is but what a great way of introducing science to babies! One of several titles in the Baby University series.

Picture Books


A beautifully illustrated story of what life is all about.

An outrageously silly story that you will enjoy reading as much as your child enjoys hearing it.

A new Olivia story that’s as sophisticated, clever and sassy as ever.

The story is thoughtful and interesting but this book is worth it for the illustrations alone.

A tribute to America and all Americans illustrated with Kadir Nelson’s gorgeous paintings.

New parents will appreciate the clever, sly humor and graphic style of this.

A riot of color and sound!


Chapter Books

Historical fiction with strong characters and a good plot. At times a little sad but handled delicately.

Feisty, larger-than-life characters (mostly Gertie) who get themselves into unbelievably embarrassing and hilarious situations. Would make a great family readaloud.

A thought-provoking coming-of-age story about family, mental health and dealing with the curveballs life throws your way.




Now Reading….

I’m doing the audio book of The Serpent King and after the first couple of CDs I was ready to drop it, but the friend who recommended it convinced me to stick it out. I’m glad I did. It’s great storytelling. It’s also sad. Dang it, Zentner, why’d you do it?!? If you’ve already read it, you know which part I’m talking about. Still, it’s too good not to finish despite its bittersweetness. Continue reading

2016 Newbery and Caldecott Awards, The Morning After

Well, I’m shocked but not altogether surprised by the committees’ mind-boggling choices. They routinely give these awards to titles that just aren’t very good compared to others and end up sitting on the shelf because no one wants to read them. Cases in point…..


Even for 1957 this couldn’t have been the best picture book of the year.

Not even people wanting to read Newberys read this one.











Let’s break it down.

Caldecott winner: Finding Winnie illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Some were saying this was Blackall’s year. I’d say so with two books showcasing her delightful style and both with lots of book buzz. IMO, she should’ve gotten the medal for Fine Dessert but I figure the backlash and author apology on that one ruled it out. The only disappointment here was In a Village by the Sea not getting an honor.

Newbery winner: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Ugh. Blech. Yuck. I mean, congrats to Peña. He becomes the first Hispanic author to win the Newbery. I’m all for minorities breaking boundaries. But. Market wasn’t the best book of 2015. I know lots of people did love it, and that confuses me because I’m not sure what they saw that I missed. If that’s you, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments. My first issue is that there were so. many. better. books. Of all the books that were published last year this is supposed to be the best one? There were lots of other picture books with much better stories including Song of Delphine, Beyond the Pond and Boats for Papa. You’re going to give a picture book the award for best story and you don’t give it to Boats for Papa????

And second, what about the chapter books they could’ve given it to?

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At least they got honors but, come on. Can anyone really make the case that Market is a better story than either War, a beautiful, sophisticated story so exquisitely written that it transcends children’s literature or Echo which is nothing less than a tour de force of writing and Ryan’s best work? That they got honors diminishes their place in the canon of children’s literature. Strictly from a literary perspective these books were executed at a level so far above Market that it’s not fair to even have them in the same category. It’s like comparing a Cadillac to a Fiesta. Bradley, you were robbed. Robbed!

Third, this is yet another Newbery choice that will be a hard sell to the usual 3rd-6th grade crowd that reads them. The award brings much attention to the winning book so it’s unfortunate that this year’s winner is a picture book in which the illustrations and the text don’t match up.

Lastly, it seems that the focus was more about rewarding the best diverse books rather than the books that were simply the best. However, since the committee is forbidden to discuss it the world will never know.

What are your thoughts?

Vive la Paris!

Our hearts and minds are with France in light of recent events. I thought of my favorite Parisian children’s books. There’s a lightness, a joie de vivre that the French do better than anybody. Reading and sharing these stories seems like a way, be it ever so small, to celebrate this beautiful city. How fitting that Paris is the “City of Light” since Light always triumphs over darkness.


There are lots of kids’ books set in Paris and these are a few of my favorites. Whimsical stories and sophisticated illustrations lend a worldly air to these Francophile adventures.

Diva and Flea

Loved everything about it. This book is beautiful and sets the standard for early chapter books. From the thick pages, the sprinkling of French, the delicate pen and watercolor illustrations to the Eiffel Tower spread this book is a reminder of all the things that make reading an actual book a much more pleasurable experience than reading a screen which could never do this book justice. The story–of taking a chance, being brave and having grand adventures–is just as sweet as the illustrations. Having read this the day after the Paris attacks it feels like a wonderful little ode to Paris. A must read.

paris books

à bientôt!