Tuesday, December 10, 2019

12 Days of Giving: Books for Animal Lovers

Kids looooove animals. If you're not sure what to buy for a young child, an animal book is a pretty darn safe bet. Lots of older kids love learning about and reading about animals, too. So today, I'm giving you suggestions for the animal lovers in your life.

For babies and toddlers:

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (Little Simon). When a child writes to the zoo to please send a pet, all kinds of different animals show up in the mail. Are any of them good for pets? This lift the flap board book is fun because it has humor and interaction built right in.

Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton (Workman, 2008). Sandra Boynton is a master for young children, of course, and this one is one of my favorites. A little boy names all his pets... they're all named Bob... except for a surprise turtle at the end. This sturdy board book is a great choice to all to a young child's Boynton collection.

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle (Harper, 1997). Available in either board book format or paperback, this book by beloved author Eric Carle is a good choice for young kids since every spread pairs an action with an animal.

Heads by Matthew Van Fleet (Simon & Schuster, 2010). This was one of the first books I gave my formerly youngest niece when I first started dating my husband. She was two at the time and got great joy out of pulling the tabs and making the animals in the book move. It's a sturdy board book with different textures to feel and tabs to make parts of the book move, going through all different kinds of animals.

For preschoolers and early elementary: 

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 1970). Oh the giggles with this one! It turns out there are all kinds of reasons that animals should NOT wear clothing. A snake would lose it, a goat would eat it, it would always be wet on a walrus. The hilarious pictures depicting wacky scenarios of animals wearing clothes will definitely have kids laughing. And bonus, there are several other picture books about animals from this team, so bundle up a few of the paperbacks and you have a nice gift.

Bark George by Jules Feiffer (HarperCollins, 1999). Okay, this book is not everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love it. When young George starts saying other animal noises instead of barking, his mother takes him to the vet who puts on his latex gloves and pulls out... a cat! And so on. I have had major storytime success with this one with ages 2 to about 7, so I think it's definitely a crowd-pleaser. It's a good bet for kids who like funny books that are a little offbeat. 

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry (Dial, 2007). This giant squid certainly likes to brag about being the biggest thing in the ocean... but is he? If you have young marine biologists who teethed on Baby Shark and are still fascinated by ocean animals, this funny book with large colorful pictures is a great choice. 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead (Roaring Brook, 2010). This Caldecott Medal winning picture book is a sweet story about zookeeper Amos McGee who stays home from work with a cold. Worried about him, his animal friends come to see him and cheer him up while he is sick. 

Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks by Skila Brown, illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick, 2016). This collection of poems features all different kinds of poems about all different kinds of sharks. This is another one that's perfect for your young marine biologists and sharks are always a hit. 

Chapter book readers:

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel (Roaring Brook, 2008). This highly illustrated early chapter book series is seriously funny and super popular. Scoop up a handful of them and bundle together for a nice gift. 

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso (Walden Pond Press, 2017). Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat) has some trouble making friends, but he has always related to animals. When his vet mom brings home a baby skunk that's been abandoned, Bat falls in love and yearns to help take care of the skunk. He is super hoping that his mom will let them keep it, even though he knows that skunks are wild animals. Bat loves animals so, so much and young animal lovers, especially those who have longed for a pet, will relate. Bonus for gift giving: there are two more books about Bat. Bundle them up for your big book lovers. 

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson (Henry Holt, 2016). This super cute and funny graphic novel features a trio of class pets determined to break out of school and regain their freedom... until the 4th and 5th grade pets come up with a dastardly plan to prank the students. There are tons of cute and funny details in the pictures that kids will enjoy looking for. This is an early chapter book graphic novel, perfect for the younger elementary set, though older kids may well enjoy it as a quick read.

The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney (Puffin, 2004). This is a really sweet, cute, funny story narrated by a hamster who lives in a classroom and loves to help take care of the humans there. Humphrey has a lot of heart and a great voice. This is a great choice for anyone who loves animals or has ever wanted a pet. And it's also a series, so feel free to pick up a couple of them for the animal lover in your life. 

Middle grade readers:

Animals Welcome: A Life of Reading, Writing, and Rescue by Peg Kehret (Dutton, 2012). Author Peg Kehret loves animals. I mean she loooves them! Enough that she and her husband built a cabin in the woods to be surrounded by nature and after her husband passed away, Peg turned his workshop into a "cat room" as she fostered abandoned animals. This true story will appeal to kids whose dream is to live surrounded by animals. 

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic, 2019). Formerly homeschooled Emma is nervous and excited to start fifth grade at public school, but making friends and learning the school rules is harder than she thought. Each day, Emma longs to get home to the newest addition to her family: a pet rabbit that she and her game warden dad rescued and that Emma has named Monsieur Lapin in honor of the forest stories her Pepere used to tell her. Emma wants to keep Lapi, but what if he has an owner? This is a story with a lot of heart and it's perfect for young pet owners or kids who wish they could be pet owners. 

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (Yearling, 2002). When Roy moves to Florida, he's not exactly thrilled about it, especially when he has to face bullies at his new school. But when he spots a boy running alongside the road, he senses a mystery, and when he investigates he finds himself caught up in an eco adventure he never could have imagined. This is a great choice for kids who like mystery stories and kids who are interested in saving the environment. 

Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins (Charlesbridge, 2015). Neel loves his home in an island village in India. He loves his mother’s cooking. He loves swimming in the nearby ponds. And he loves the tigers that live on the preserve on a neighboring island, the only place where wild Bengal tigers still live. So when a tiger cub turns up missing, Neel wants to help. And he'll do anything to get out of studying for his school exams - he's not even sure he wants to go away to school far from his family. This is an adventure-filled story that's great for kids who love wild animals and who look for ways to care for animals and the environment.

Monday, December 9, 2019

12 Days of Giving: Books for Young Makers

If you have young makers or kids interested in science at your house, this is the post for you! There are tons of science project books; here are some recent great ones. Pair these with some of the supplies needed to do the projects and a commitment to work on these projects together. I'd recommend all of these books for ages 7 and up. 


DK Publishing has a great series of maker project books. Each has a variety of projects at different difficulty levels that would be great for kids and families who love to craft and experiment. Some of the projects are pretty involved - fun for the whole family! The Star Wars book would be a great gift for a Star Wars-obsessed family to tackle together. 

Stem Lab by Jack Challoner (DK, 2018)
Maker Lab Outdoors by Jack Challoner (DK, 2018)
Star Wars Maker Lab by Liz Lee Heinecke and Cole Horton (DK, 2018)

Okay, two mason jar science books may seem a little extra, but I like them both for different reasons. If you are looking for a book that will really challenge your young maker to think like a scientist and explore the solutions to challenges, The Mason Jar Scientist is the one for you. Mason Jar Science is flashier and more visually appealing - I think it's more appealing to kids to use on their own. Both books have kid-friendly experiments that use mostly materials you probably already have around your house (or can easily pick up at the grocery store). 

The Mason Jar Scientist by Brenda D. Priddy (Racehorse, 2018)
Mason Jar Science by Jon Adolph (Storey Publishing, 2018)

This book is perfect for kids who love solving problems and thinking up creative answers. It explains what engineers do and goes over different types of engineers, gives a series of projects to help kids better understand engineering, and presents real-life problems that kids can tackle.

Solve This!: Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You by Joan Marie Galat (National Geographic Kids, 2018)


Of course there are great science books beyond project books. If you're looking for something less hands-on or if you want some additional books to accompany a project book, consider one of these. The Guinness World Records Science & Stuff book follows the super popular format of the Guinness World Record books with tons of visual appeal and lots of fun facts. The Way Things Work Now is an updated classic that explains how so, so many things work, with detailed drawings and diagrams. From pneumatic drills to toilet tanks to car seat belts, this book covers everything a kid could wonder about.

Guinness World Records: Science & Stuff (Guinness World Records, 2018)
The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

12 Days of Giving: Scary, Scary Ghost Stories

Not only are scary stories super popular with kids, they fit right in with holiday traditions. Did you know that telling ghost stories is a Christmas Eve tradition? Here are some scary stories for the young readers in your life. 

For younger kids

Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories by Max Brallier (Scholastic, 2019). These just-right scary stories are perfect for the easy-reader audience they're aimed at. They're definitely scary enough to please kids who really want a shiver down their spine, but the reading level is great for kids who are just starting chapter books. 

Home Sweet Horror by James Preller (Feiwel & Friends, 2013). The Scary Tales series by James Preller is a great horror series with actual scares for the new chapter book reading crowd. 

For older kids: 

Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden (Putnam, 2018 & 2019). These two books are two of my favorite scary stories to come out recently. They star the same characters, but can stand alone. If you're just going to get one, get the first one, Small Spaces. In Small Spaces, 11-year-old Olivia rescues a book and the ghost story in the book becomes all too real when scarecrows come to life on a school field trip. In Dead Voices, Olivia and her new friends face a super haunted ski lodge on winter break. 

A Path Begins (The Thickety series) by J.A. White (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014).  When Kara Westfall was a young child, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes, witchcraft. Even since then, Kara and her family have been outcasts. When Kara finds her mother's grimoire, she starts to experiment with the spells there and starts an adventure to save her world from the evil that resides in The Thickety. 

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins, 2017). When Harper and her family move into a new house, creepy things start to happen. Her little brother Michael seems to be talking to someone none of the rest of them can see. Fans of haunted house stories will eat this one up. Grab the sequel, The Island of Monsters, for a double dose of scares. 

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, 2017). Corinne knows that jumbies are made up stories to scare little kids, but when she goes into the mahogany forest to retrieve her mother's necklace, something follows her out. And it will be up to Corinne and some true friends to save her island home from the most powerful jumbie they've ever known. There are three books in this series, so pick them all up for your brave middle grade readers. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

12 Days of Giving: The Hot New Thing

Grab the latest books in hot series if you've got readers of these series on your gift list this year. Do you have a reader who's not read some of these books? Box sets of many of these series are available and they make great gifts!

The Baddest Day Ever (The Bad Guys #10) by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic, 2019). This one comes out December 26 - pre-order it and then make a date to go to the bookstore together and pick it up! 

Boy-Crazy Stacey (Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #7) by Gale Galligan and Ann M. Martin (Scholastic, 2019). 

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt, 2019). This brand new sequel to the bestselling Children of Blood and Bone is a good bet for teen fantasy readers. 

The Complete Baking Guide for Young Chefs by America's Test Kitchen (Scourcebooks, 2019). Last year America's Test Kitchen published The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs, which is still on the bestseller list. Either of these would make a great gift for kids who like to experiment in the kitchen. 

Fetch-22 (Dog Man #8) by Dav Pilkey (Graphix, 2019). 

Guts by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic, 2019). 

The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade (Last Kids on Earth #5) by Max Brallier (Viking, 2019). 

The Poison Jungle (Wings of Fire #13) by Tui Sutherland (Scholastic, 2019). 

Tales from a Not-So-Best Friend Forever (Dork Diaries #14) by Rachel Renee Russo (Aladdin, 2019). 

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (Rick Riordan Presents, 2019). This latest series starter from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint is a sure bet for fans of fantasy and mythology adventure. 

Wrecking Ball (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14) by Jeff Kinney (Amulet, 2019).