Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The 2015 Holiday Recommendations Post!

This is the post in which I will be answering your book recommendation questions this holiday season. I had fun with this last year, so here we go again! Images will link to the Amazon page for each book, and if you shop through these links I earn a small commission.

Got my Santa glasses on. I'm ready!
Books for a six-year-old girl:Lessa is looking for a 6 year old girl who reads at a higher level (up to 4th grade comfortably) and says that she doesn't want anything with crude  humor.

"Has she read Shannon Hale's books yet?" I asked.
"No, but that's a fantastic idea!!" Lessa replied.
Ok, All set then. :D I highly recommend The Goose Girl, and it's companion books. The Newbery Honor went to Princess Academy, and it now has some really good sequels.



And just as a bonus, I'm going to recommend Jessica Day George in that same vein as well. Good clean books marketed to the 8-12 crowd which feature excellent writing. I enjoyed Dragon Slippers.



Book for a four-year-old girl:
I have yet to meet a four-year-old who didn't smile while reading Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It's so great that I haven't got tired of it yet, and I don't even know how many times I've read it. Bonus points for being illustrated by my favorite living illustrator, as well!



Book for a two-year-old girl:
I  have a two-year-old girl myself, so I could list her favorites for a long time! If you need more ideas on this one, just let me know. For now I'll just say that she and I both love the seasonally appropriate book Let It Snow by Maryann Cocoa-Leffler. It talks about the good parts and bad parts of winter weather, and ends with the transition to spring. Lovely book.



Books for a nine-year-old girl:specifically "a 9 year old girl who enjoys reading, and is interested in animals and the environment"
Is is just me, or is age nine the perfect time to gift a girl The Voyage of the Bassett? Just sayin', in case you hadn't already thought of that one. It was probably my favorite book at your house. 



If you were looking for something fresh, I submit Wildfire Run by Dee Garrettson. It follows a boy (the son of the POTUS, actually) and a girl (a friend of his) as they get trapped by a wildfire. Will they make it out!? Ok, but will her kitten also make it out?!?! I really liked this one, and like to recommend it to parents whose kids want to read The Hunger Games a little too early. It's got suspense, action, emotion, even a little bit of politics, but it's man vs. nature instead of man vs. man. And it's a standalone. It's got animals. It's got the environment, and it's age appropriate. Boom.



Books for a 13 year old boy:specifically "a 13 year old boy who is not a big reader at all, but loves minecraft and sci-fi."
I'm going to recommend the work of Dave Roman here. I've thoroughly enjoyed his Astronaut Academy series, and I plan to read TeenBoat soon. I mean, the tagline alone! "The angst of been a teen...the thrill of being a boat!"


The Astronaut Academy series, which has two books at the moment, is hilarious. I think it's sci-fi, because we could totally recreate dinosaurs in the future and then ride them in school for sport, right? That's only a small portion of the wacky humor you'll get from these books. I had an 11-year-old at my house today, asking if I had any more of these. Obviously I enjoyed them, in my 20's, so I'm thinking a 13-year-old gamer is a good fit. I just recommended these to a fan of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.



Give me a recommendation for my sisters, ages 15 and 13... Angela wrote: I'd love to hear your recommendations for my sisters 15yo, plays harp and is into fantasy; 13yo, plays bagpipes and is into everything Scottish.

Ok, Angela, I knew in a heartbeat that I had to recommend Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books for your sister who plays the bagpipes. The first one is The Wee Free Men. I first experienced this book on audio and that's the way I always recommend it. The narrator is sooooo goood and just does accents wonderfully and now I want to go listen to all of them again. I hope she loves them. If she's already read them, let me know, and I'll think up something else. If not, get on this, STAT.




As for a fifteen-year-old girl who plays the harp and is into fantasy... well, I've picked a book that is not fantasy. Maybe because fantasy is such a broad genre, I didn't feel ready to recommend a fantasy title. However, I have never met a fantasy fan who did not love the work of P.G. Wodehouse. Though his Jeeves books are "realistic fiction" they have all the makings of a good fantasy novel: world-building, new vocab words, high stakes, humor. I recommend Right Ho, Jeeves as a great place to start. Audio is also fantastic on this one, if you're so inclined.  




This just in from Kym...
Ok, I'm in need of a few more book recommendations. Kjerstin just turned 8 and does not like things like fancy nancy at all, which is ironic in many ways. She liked the how to train your dragon books and Harry potter, but around book 4 she burned out. Little Brian is 5 and likes to read but he is still growing in his reading. He loves to learn, like science and those type of books more than fun stories, but a lot of the words are a bit complicated for him to read on his own, so I'm looking for some books to keep him interested in reading. And then some to read to Brandon the 3 year old. He likes trains and the usual.
Book for an eight-year-old girl:



For a girl who doesn't embrace the girly, and who was interested in Harry Potter up through book 4, I'd recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society books. Kate is my favorite character, and Constance is pretty awesome, too. Like Harry Potter, these books have a clear villain, a group of kids who are friends that team up against him, and they're full of ingenuity. I'd categorize The Mysterious Benedict Society as sci-fi more than fantasy. Bonus: If you haven't read them yet Kym, I think you'd like them as well. You could do a read-aloud. :)

Book for a five-year-old boy:



Ok. So I just discovered non-fiction picture book author Ruth Heller, thanks to my friend Kate. I think her books might be exactly what Little Brian is looking for. I've only read two of her titles, Chickens Aren't the Only Ones (about oviparous animals) and The Reason for a Flower (about botany). But when I got this from my library, I noticed that Ruth Heller is prolific. I'm hopeful that her books are just what you're looking for.

Book for a three-year-old boy: You say little Brandon likes trains? Then I have to mention my personal favorite train book for the preschool crowd: Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton. I love it! Young Benjamin reviewed it, here.



Alysa, give me a recommendation for a three-year-old girl. Jen said, "the book doesn't have to be gender specific, and she's not reading yet but I want the book to grow with her."

I asked Jen, "Does she have younger siblings?" Because they're making lots of great longer board books these days for kids. A three-year-old could probably handle a paper book just fine, but if you want the book to last a long time, and if she's got younger siblings, a board book might be the way to go. ---> Turns out, she's got a baby brother. :)


I recommend the adorable Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator. It came in our most recent Bookroo box (I've written more about Bookroo here), and Levi (age 5) and Jubilee (age 2) both loved it. More importantly? I loved it. The illustrations are enchanting, and the rhyme scheme is more complex than the typical board book. So fresh! The book follows a mother rabbit and her preschooler bunny through their day together.

I think it would be a particularly good book for a beginning reader for two reasons. 1) Levi is a beginning reader and he was reading it in no time at all. Likely due to 2) It rhymes and most of the rhyming words can be inferred from the illustrations. For example, "Eleven, twelve, the raindrops fly, / What shall we do? Let's bake a pie!" is accompanied by a big picture of the two bunnies making a pie. Good readers use pictures to glean information that supports their reading of the text and in the very first stages of reading, that means associating the letters p-i-e with a picture of a pie. Enjoy!

"Alysa, I have two boys who always need new books for Christmas."
Thank you for asking for this post, Debra! You're fantastic and so are your boys. Ok. So. Fantastic books for you guys. Have I told you about author Doug TenNapel yet? I just read another book by him, and it's as solid as all the others! I'm really becoming a fan. Starting to trust this author in a major way. It's not every author I would just buy a book by them without having read or heard anything about it, but I think Doug TenNapel may be one of those authors for me now.


I started with Ghostopolis, which has a great "dark adventure" feel to it, and turns out to have a moving Christian message at the end of it. I know you are a Christian family, and I bet you guys would like this one. It's solid storytelling, and the religion isn't preachy, but is totally integral to the story. I gave it to my brother for Christmas when he was about Kolt's age, I think.


I went on to read Bad Island, and that one also had good family values. Also giant robots. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember that much.

And just the other day I checked Cardboard out of my local library. I was a little worried, because, you know, scary eyes on the cover. Would it live up to the other two? Yes. It sure did. It was about a boy and his dad, celebrating the boy's birthday by making something out of cardboard. Magic cardboard. Things get really, really crazy, but it has a happy ending and I give it two thumbs up.
Anyway, I should probably read more of Doug TenNapel's stuff, because he's got 5 stars from me on all three of his books that I've read.


Also have I told you about Mameshiba? I definitely recommend Mameshiba. They're silly and smart and . . . mostly just silly. I bought the third one for Levi for his birthday. I had to help him read it, but I didn't mind. ;) I think both your boys would enjoy those. Each book contains several short stories, and you don't really need to read them in order. I do recommend watching the commercials though. If the commercials make you chuckle, the books will make you laugh. Where the commercials show humans, the books are all bean dog.

Alysa, give me recommendations for my daughters who are 8 and 10 years old... "Okay, Gwen (10) and Cecily (8). Gwen just read Wee Free Men, so I was thinking of Hat Full of Sky for her, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated for Cecily (too old?). But I also kind of would like to take it away from fantasy for a while, simply because they read it so often electively--broaden their tastes. I was thinking the Shipwreck at the Bottom of the Earth, but for whom? Any other ideas?"

Aislin, I agree that Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World is a fantastic choice. I'd give it to Gwen, just because she's older and it does have quite a bit of meat to it. One of the great things about it is that it doesn't pander. Anyway, I thought of few more non-fiction titles I recommend whole-heartedly, for either of them.


Anubis Speaks:A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egytian God of the Dead by Vicki Alvear Schecter -- Journey through the Duat, learning about ancient Egyptian rituals and beliefs surrounding death. Very engaging, and great to pair with The Kane Chronicles, I'm sure (though I only read the first one, myself).

Look Up! Bird-watching in Your Own Backyard -- I don't know if either of your girls are into bird-watching; I never thought much about it until I read this book and I find myself SO much more interested now. I mean, I still think about this book regularly, and I read it two years ago. I checked it out from the library last year and Levi *loved* it. It's just super engaging, even if bird-watching isn't your thing. You could pair it with some of the supplies suggested in the book (a field guide, blank notebook, colored pencils etc).
*Note: more info about both Anubis and Look Up at this Cybils page.



Since you brought up Shipwreck, I thought of Children of the Dust Bowl. Fantastic book, similar in design. Plenty of photos, plenty of meaty text. Since they're a little young for Steinbeck, it would be great paired with The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan, a wordless graphic novel which won many awards.


However my personal favorite of Matt Phelan's books is Around the World. It tells the true stories of three people first around the world: I assume you know Nellie Bly, but also the first to sail around the world solo and the man to first bicycle around the world. You should probably definitely own this book, whether or not you buy it this Christmas.


Also definitely look into Bad Machinery, cuz your family would love it.


Alysa, give me a recommendation for my husband. "Ok, so Brian has pretty much read all the classics from War and Peace Frankenstein.  He loves Terry Pratchett and Brandon Sanderson.  He also loved things like Harry Potter of course or historical books, he read a 32 volume set on the civil war.  I really would love to get him some books that he hasn't read yet, but it is a bit difficult to find something he hasn't read yet since he reads several books a week."

Challenge accepted, Kym! If he has read all three of these, let me know and I'll whip out some more!
Jacob suggested The Information by James Gleick. It is about information theory, and the people who developed it. Jacob loves classics, Pratchett, Sanderson, etc. and thought that if Brian likes non-fic as well this one would be an excellent choice. "It was really fascinating to read about the development of the theory that makes all of our computers go," he said.


I thought of Feynman by Ottaviani and Myrick. It's a graphic novel biography of the man. Brian would probably have it read in a single sitting because graphic novels go fast, but that's ok. It stands up to re-reads. I reviewed it in this post

So I haven't read this one, but I was kind of thinking of getting it for Jacob for Christmas. I got the recommendation for this one from Mike, when he took over his wife's blog, Sunlit Pages for a little while. He says "This is a historical account of the life and adventures of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas.  It can be summed up in three syllables:  A-MA-ZING!" Here's his full post.  

Alysa give me a recommendation for my 4-year-old boy "Oliver (4) loves superhero joe. I think it's partially the format (sort of like a comic book). Is there something similar for a beginning reader?"
YES! Tanya there definitely is. The Elephant and Piggie books come to mind right off the bat. I feel like you probably already know these books well. But I had to mention them in case you didn't. We're looking for something with panels, though, right? E&P have dialog bubbles, but no panels.



My top recommendation for easy-reader graphic novel is Bean Dog and Nugget by Cherise Mericle Harper. I've only read book one, but that's just because I didn't notice that book 2 had come out. Take a look at the inside of the book on Amazon. It's silly and simple and my boys *loved* it when we checked it out from the library a couple years ago. Thanks for reminding me of it! Parental warning, there is a pair of undies shown in the book! Haha, don't worry though. I found the sequence in good taste and (very) age appropriate.




Owly is also well-loved, though my boys never got into it. It's wordless, and adorable, and sometimes there are speech bubbles, but with pictures in them? I don't know though. it might have been too slow paced for me. I got kind of bored when I tried to read Owly. Depends on if Oliver is the type to search a picture for all its details or not. Definitely look into Owly though.

And a couple quick ones that you can enjoy reading to Oliver (goodness knows I've read these ones SO many times to my boys):


Bird and Squirrel (Levi particularly loved book two, Bird and Squirrel on Ice, when he was 4)
Nursery Rhyme comics (Just a super duper excellent book to have anyway. I really love it. My review.)
The 3-2-3 Detective Agency - this one reminds me most of Superhero Joe in design. Benjamin made us read it over and over to him when he was 4 and 5.





Alysa, give me a recommendation for my husband."I would love to buy him a good paperback series for Christmas. He just finished Brandon Mull's Beyonders. Among his favorites are the Black Cauldron and Eragon series. What do you think?"




I think that if he hasn't read the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud yet, that's the one. I would recommend Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz series, but the last book isn't out yet. So Bartimaeus it is! I admit that I haven't read Beyonders and have only started the other two series you listed as his favorites. But I also admit that I haven't read the Bartimaeus books. Jacob has, and he insisted we buy them at the library book sale and move them twice across the country. I read the graphic novel adaptation of the first one and was like "Hey, these seem good, actually!" So, I think it's definitely worth a shot to get him those three.


You're next! Who do you want a recommendation for? This post will be updated with new recommendations throughout the holiday season. *sparkle sparkle* so fancy. 

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