Books as Gifts
Holiday Buying Guide 2009
What is often remembered long after they've been used, are often passed on from one generation to the next, and can create connections between people far and near? Books, of course! They make readers weep and laugh, learn and question, introduce ideas and deepen them.
They are gifts that last and are just right for any occasion. They are truly the gift that keeps on giving. So give a book, share a book, and enjoy a book with the children in your lives.
Happy Holidays from Reading Rockets!
Browse through the 2009 holiday buying guides online or download and print the PDFs before you head out to the library or store.
- Download 2009 Books as Gifts Buying Guide (387K PDF)
- See books for 0-4 year olds or download the list (372K PDF)
- See books for 4-5 year olds or download the list (332K PDF)
- See books for 6-7 year olds or download the list (377K PDF)
- See books for 8-9 year olds or download the list (376K PDF)
For 6-7 year olds: To read with you
Everyone knows that book characters come alive only when the book is opened. In this clever picture book, characters awaken when readers open it; sleep when the book is closed. Illustrations allow readers to literally look down into the book characters’ lives and enjoy the entire notion of storytelling.
A Chair for Always
In a companion to A Chair for My Mother, young Rosa awaits the birth of her baby cousin in the now slightly frayed chair so lovingly purchased long ago. When the baby is born, Rosa introduces him to the much-loved chair and its history in this sincere and warmly told and illustrated family story.
Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem
When Billy Twitters refuses to change his slovenly habits, his parents bring in an immense blue whale which Billy must care for and transport everywhere. How he solves this problem makes a slightly surreal and slyly funny whale of a tale through understated humor in both text and illustration.
Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings
Mixed-media illustrations and playful poetry portray a range of mostly well known dinosaurs from their start to extinction. Wordplay and poetry combine to present prehistoric creatures in a large format just right to support the subject.
Imogene's Last Stand
Imogene's town has abandoned the building which she makes into a museum. Can feisty Imogene save the museum from destruction in the name of progress? She finds a letter (George Washington slept there!), protests, and puts herself in a stockade until the building is saved. This book is fast, funny, and rich with an appreciation for history.
Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies
A range of poetic styles, some rooted in the authors' family, are shared in this handsome, easily accessible collection. Attractive illustrations are sprinkled throughout, building the joy when the poems are shared, even when listening to the beautifully read CD.
Snow White: A Three-Dimensional Fairytale Theater
The traditional tale has been retold and newly presented to create a theater within the covers of a book. Scenes unfold and become 3-dimensional with text hidden under "curtains" — flaps that unfold.
Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles
Short rhymes are riddles, asking readers to figure which books are being described while additional clues are presented in animated illustrations. From Click, Clack, Moo to traditional folktales, young readers (and their adults) will enjoy this interactive book.
Bespectacled Sunday Chutney has an unusual name — and she's always the new girl as her family moves frequently for her dad’s work. Her voice is real as is her take on herself and her life (which she admits is sometimes lonely) and utterly charming. The illustrations are as quirky as the character herself.
Leonard is disappointed in superhero school; the only thing his teacher, The Blue Tornado, talks about is math and other dull stuff. Fractions and division come in quite handy for the student team, however, when Ice Zombies appear! Exaggerated humor in both text and illustration make this a real champ.
Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends
Friendships come in all sizes and shapes — even among animals of different kinds. Here crisp photographs and a straightforward text chronicle the unusual friendship between a retired circus elephant named Tarra and a stray dog, Bella, who appeared at the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. Fans of Owen and Mzee are sure to enjoy this story.
The Longest Night
Though larger animals try to call the sun up on the long, snow-filled winter night, only the song of a small chickadee awakens the day. Told with a storyteller's voice, this gentle tale is luminously illustrated with limited colors to evoke the depth of a wintery forest and the brilliance of a new day.
When I Wore My Sailor Suit
Though he lives in a small apartment, the boy who wears his sailor suit has an expansive imagination. It takes him to a remote island where a pirate lives and only ends when reality intrudes. Watercolor illustrations add detail but leave imaginative wiggle room in this gentle adventure.
For 6-7 year olds: To read on their own
A bug-eyed squirrel is obsessed with acorns. He gathers and hides them until he decides to eat them. Instead of finding his own acorns, he snitches other animals' snacks — but all ends well for squirrel and the others. Readers will enjoy the repetition of words as they look for clues in the very funny, bold illustrations.
Inspired by his book for adults, the photographer uses striking full color photographs to introduce animals, tidbits of animal information, as well as the alphabet. From A to Z, readers are encouraged to guess and learn in this intriguing and sophisticated book.
Max Spaniel is a dog on a mission: to track down the dinosaur in his backyard. Find it he does, but it is as imaginative (and nonthreatening) as the dinosaur hunter himself. Limited vocabulary combines with very funny illustrations for a comic and satisfying story.
A boy's grandfather is always grumpy, fussy, and yelling. But when grandfather and grandson go fishing together, they wind up having a laugh and finding a way to communicate. Stylized illustrations are used effectively in this story of learning to appreciate relatives who may have forgotten what it’s like to be young.
I Spy Fly Guy!
Buzz and his pet fly, Fly Guy, like to play hide and seek but Fly Guy's favorite place to hide is the dump. Will Buzz and Fly Guy ever be reunited in a place that’s filled with flies? The outrageous illustrations add to the humor of a bug-eyed Fly Guy and his bug-eyed buddy.
Nate the Great and the Hungry Book Club
Nate, boy detective, and his dog Sludge work to solve the mystery of missing pages. Called in by the head of a book club, the young detective uses his powers of observation and various clues to solve the latest whodunit in the Nate series.
Panda cubs living in China's Wolong Nature Preserve provide a unique opportunity to observe the animals from birth to the time they join "panda kindergarten." There, these appealing animals learn skills for survival in the wild. Colorful photography combines with a readable text for an engaging, informative look at these endangered animals.
Ready, Set, Skip!
The narrator can do many things well but she just cannot skip. The rhyming, repetitive text allows readers to see what else they are likely good at doing but will help them figure out steps for skipping, too. Spare illustrations add appeal to the pleasing text.
Rhyming Dust Bunnies
Are dust bunnies real? In this silly book they are, and Ed, Ned, Ted, and Bob speak in rhyme all the time! Large illustrations and conversation bubbles show which dust bunny is speaking — that is, until the cleaning tools come out. The broad humor makes for an appealing, easy-to-read tale.
There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System
The famous cat in a red and white striped hat is used to introduce basic information about space as well as space trivia. As in others in the series, the limited vocabulary in a predictable format provides easily accessed and understood information about a popular topic.
Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer
Winnie Finn wants to win a prize at the county fair but she is a worm farmer. Instead of winning one herself, Winnie helps others win with her prize wigglers. Simply told and comically illustrated, this engaging tale is enlightening, informative, and just plain fun.
For 0-4 year olds
All of Baby, Nose to Toes
All of a newborn, from head to toe, is appreciated and loved by various members of an adoring family. Lively language and joyful illustrations are used in this ebullient celebratory book.
A girl tells readers about the birds she sees around her, describing size and color in spare, almost lyrical language. Richly colored paintings accompany the text to enhance and build the concepts presented in the narrative.
Dog and Bear: Three to Get Ready
A teddy bear and a small dog share a great friendship in these three satisfying short tales. Young listeners and new readers will appreciate the gentle humor and vivid, boldly outlined illustrations in this latest Dog and Bear installment.
Dog Wants to Play
The round little dog has a colorful ball but no one to play with; all of the farm animals have excuses. Dog is forlorn until a pair of human hands picks up the ball — and fun can start. Simple language in an easy rhyme combines with colorful, gentle illustrations for a satisfying story.
Have You Ever Tickled a Tiger?
Short rhymes introduce out-of-the ordinary animals and invite readers to touch a part of the illustration to feel such things as an octopus' textured tentacles. This could be a colorful companion to the much-loved classic, Pat the Bunny.
Highly textured, realistic collages on uncluttered backgrounds combine with rhythmic, rhyming, and repetitive text to introduce a range of animals. Ranging from very familiar to lesser known, young listeners will meet creatures and language in this compelling and participatory book.
How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?
While parents may be miffed when young dinosaurs test limits, they are always reassured of their parents' cunfailing love. Told in rhyme, this latest addition to the series by this talented writer/artist team is sure to please young children as they cuddle with their parents.
Maisy's Animals / Los animales de Maisy
Maisy’s favorite animals are introduced in both English and Spanish accompanied by Cousin’s signature illustrations on sturdy pages. Maisy is a familiar character with a simplicity of illustration and text that captivates young children.
My Little Polar Bear
The arctic environment contrasts with the warmth of a mother polar bear and her cub who emerge from their den for the first time. The mother's encouragement allows her child to build confidence as he grows and explores his wintry but safe surroundings. This gentle, handsomely illustrated story makes a comforting bedtime book.
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
The familiar rhyme continues all the way to 20 as a rabbit helps the farm animals get ready for a party. A small chick on each page encourages young readers to look closely as chicks are hidden on each spread. Bright, boldly lined illustrations are appealing and child-like.
Each sturdy page begins with "peek-a-boo" in words and a die-cut page that folds over to reveal the hidden object. Clues are included before the flap opens and provide lots to point to and talk about with young children in this rhyming, playful, and colorful board book.
A baby kangaroo jumps out of its mother pouch, each time going a little farther, but each time returning after meeting an unexpected animal. Like children, however, Joey, finally recognizes itself in another and leaves his mother's safety for a bit longer. Repetition and lively illustrations make this an engaging story.
The Little Dump Truck
Hard hat Pete and his dump truck dutifully execute their work, from hauling rocks to traveling to another worksite. Other trucks they meet along the way have personalities as well, shown in crisply lined illustrations on sturdy pages and described in spritely, repetitive text.
Move over Mother Goose! These cheerfully illustrated ditties not only take off from the earlier rhymes, but add a decidedly contemporary feel with likely appeal especially for truck and grit lovers. The rhymes can be shared aloud or even read aloud with more traditional offerings.
Wow! Said the Owl
A young owl decides to stay awake during the day and discovers a range of colors, from pink dawn to yellow sun to blue sky. But the small owl decides that the nighttime stars are the most beautiful of all. A color wheel is included and displays the same vibrant colors used throughout the story.
For 4-5 year olds
All of Me! A Book of Thanks
As a young boy inventories himself from feet to head, he and his cat celebrate his body, its uses, and his world. Bright collages capture the joy of the celebration that complements the recognizable, slightly egocentric young voice. An endnote describes the creation of the illustrations and suggests a project for children.
Even though there's a special day called Children's Day/Book Day, children and books can be celebrated everyday and in any place as is demonstrated in this vibrant book. Energetic illustrations show a wide range of children and animals playing, reading, and just plain having fun with each other and with books.
Every Second Something Happens: Poems for the Mind & Senses
A feast for the eye as well as the ear, this collection is just right for sharing. The poetry and rhymes include work by known poets as well as by children. Different sections are sure to appeal to different interests and tastes but all are imaginative. A note for adults helps demystify sharing poetry with children.
Farley Follows His Nose
A bath made Farley, a hairy (and very pleasing) pooch, hungry and so before his owner could slip his collar back on, Farley is off following delicious smells. Although Farley becomes disoriented, he finds his way home and even helps a lost child along the way. Comic strip fans will recognize the characters, though this tale stands alone.
In spite of a grumpy dad who literally turns into a grizzly bear — as seen in the very amusing illustrations — the grizzly dad and his son enjoy an outing together. By the time the mom and other child return home at the end of the day, dad has returned to himself. The literal transformation is not only child-like, but the notion will be broadly appreciated!
Here Comes Jack Frost
A lonely child says he hates winter until he meets an angular, spiky kind of spiky fellow that covers his house with frost and ice. Together they enjoy the snowy day but Jack Frost asks his playmate to "never mention anything warm in front of me." Limited colors and a simple text show an unusual friendship and a wintertime adventure.
How Do You Wokka-Wokka?
The narrator begins his neighborhood trek with an infectious rhyme, saying that some days "you just gotta wokka." In fact, he is so infectious that others join him to say and show how they wokka-wokka, too. Lively illustrations and playful nonsense rhymes make this a joyful walk down any street.
Beauty is a small kitten who becomes a large gorilla's best friend as they happily share their lives together (reminiscent of Koko's Kitten). When "King Kong" is mistreated, the gorilla smashes the television. The keepers come to remove Beauty, but Beauty signs that she broke the TV, not her friend. Realism and fantasy combine in this smart, expressive book.
Little Mouse Gets Ready
The little mouse struggles to get dressed to go out to the barn with efforts that children will readily recognize just as they will appreciate the humor in mother mouse's reminder that mice don’t wear clothing! Simple illustrations in graphic novel-like format for the very young make a pleasing package.
Miranda's Beach Day
Miranda's day at the beach with her mother is filled with the normal activities, from building castles in the sand to placing a crab in it. The child is disappointed when the day comes to an end but is reassured by her mother that more special days will follow. The joy of sharing a day at the beach is a pleasure all year long.
How many kinds of lights will you see as you and your mother go out on a warm evening? Rich illustration and sparse text allow readers to explore lights all around them ranging from streetlight to starlight in this handsome, cozy book.
As an Inuit mother and her child paddle home in their boat, they notice other animal mothers and their children preparing for sleep. Attractive, stylized illustrations evoke the Arctic setting as mothers and their young prepare to rest.
Otis, a small tractor, becomes despondent when he is replaced by a larger, more modern tractor. Even his friend, a once lonely calf, can't stir Otis — that is, until the calf becomes stuck in a pond of mud and only small, brave Otis can save her. A limited palette and onomatopoeic language create an old-fashioned feeling and completely satisfying book.
Polo and the Dragon
Polo's adventure begins as his others do: leaving home for an imaginative journey. Here, the small dog sails away in his boat but gets frozen in ice. He gets help from a new friend whose fiery breath allows them to sail off together. Words are not needed in this enjoyable tale.
Shape by Shape
Shape by shape, a friendly and colorful creature is built with simply shaped overlays of die-cuts (such as squares or triangles) while the reader is asked if they recognize it. The entire beast unfolds at the end to reveal a large dinosaur with pointy teeth in a grinning mouth — and with a big heart.
The King's Taster
A long-eared hound is the king’s official taster whose job is to make sure that nothing will harm the young royal. Even after dog and his cook search worldwide for new, tasty recipes, the king refuses to eat. Intervention by royal parents is required when secret candy eating is revealed, resolving all issues. Humor abounds in this satisfying saga.
The Lion and the Mouse
The well-known fable about how the smallest creature — a mouse — saves the majestic lion is a tale of kindness returned. Here it is effectively recast as a wordless story in a new setting. Stunning illustrations are expressive and emotive, evoking Africa's Serengeti while retaining the tale's power. (2010 Caldecott Medal Winner)
The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale
The cumulative tale of a child's lost mitten — but found to become home to a host of animals — is told in straightforward language and intricate, bordered illustrations. Now 20 years old, Brett's interpretation of a Ukrainian folktale will be enjoyed anew.
The Sleepy Little Alphabet: A Bedtime Story from Alphabet Town
From A to Z, the 26 lowercase letters rowdily get ready for bed. Told in verse and illustrated with slightly eccentric but appealing mixed-media illustrations the letters bounce and cavort until the uppercase "parent" letters put their kids to bed.
The Super Hungry Dinosaur
A boy and his dog foil the ravenous intentions of a super hungry T-Rex that shows up unexpectedly in the backyard. After taming the creature, mom provides a huge plate of pasta to make a "super full dinosaur" who happily leaves, but only after after a very large, satisfying burp. Child-like illustrations add appeal in this very silly, engaging tale.
The Terrible Plop
A loud "plop!" sounds while a bunch of bunnies are eating. Off they run, frightening other animals into running away as well, including a big brave bear. Only the smallest and brightest young rabbit (who notices the apples dropping into water) enjoys a repast alone. Rhythmic language and retro illustrations make this cumulative tale fresh.
This Is the Firefighter
A group of firefighters respond to an apartment building and save its residents — including a small cat. The rhythm and rhyme along with brightly hued illustrations in a larger format make this ever-appealing subject satisfying and accessible.
Whoo Goes There?
A hungry owl sits on a branch to listen for something he might catch for dinner, like a plump little mouse. The predictable pattern, onomatopoeic words, and realistic, highly detailed illustrations combine to make a satisfying story for all except for the still-hungry owl.
For 8-9 year olds: To read on their own
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters (Book 2)
The timid 2nd grader is back, this time fearful of an upcoming camping trip with his father. Alvin's siblings try to help him but actually create a different sort of disaster. Readers will enjoy laughing along with these memorable characters.
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy US Marshall
Formerly enslaved in the 19th century, Bass Reeves escaped Texas and lived with Indians. It was in Indian Territory that he gained the skills he most needed when he became a lawman, known for his talent and integrity. Lively language and stylized illustrations provide a memorable portrait of this real western hero.
Friend or Fiend? With the Pain & the Great One
Jake (aka the Pain) and his older sister Abigail (the Great One) are back, each sharing one of their experiences, alternating perspectives and voices from one chapter to the next. Each vignette is plausible, recognizable, and often humorous. Cartoon-like illustrations enhance the characterization and their wit.
How Oliver Olson Changed the World
When his teacher assigns a science project, 3rd grader Oliver is enthusiastic about doing it independently. His rather overprotective parents, however, have different ideas. How Oliver and his newfound friend and classmate overcome the obstacles makes for engaging reading with lots of laughs.
Little House on the Prairie: 75th Anniversary Edition
In the second installment of the classic series, Laura and her family travel in a covered wagon to settle in Kansas. Additional background materials are included in this 75th anniversary edition including letters from Laura, information about the book's first printing and a bit about the play. Garth Williams' black and white illustrations have been gently colored for a fresh new look.
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
Relive the journey of the Apollo 11 where the first people stepped on the Moon's surface and saw Earth from a very different perspective. Eloquent language and illustrations combine to present this historical event in a unique, unforgettable way.
Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle
Nubs was the leader of a pack of wild dogs in Iraq but became part of a human pack when he met Marine Major Brian Dennis. The story of this amazing friendship is all the more remarkable as it happened in a war zone. It is documented in photographs and a lucid text that comes to a very satisfying conclusion.
Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book
Dyamonde, a bright, articulate and confident 3rd grader, is entering the library's poetry contest to win the prize money. Then Dyamonde and her friend, Free, learn that their new friend, Damaris, who is also the best poet in their class, lives in a homeless shelter. The duo of friends turns into a trio — who take a different look at what wealth really means.
The Daring Miss Quimby
She was the first woman to gain a pilot's license and to cross the English Channel in an airplane alone. The life and accomplishments that this remarkable woman achieved in her short career are energetically conveyed in a readable, informative text and lively images.
Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again
A young, injured, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was rescued and taken to the Clearwater (FL) Marine Aquarium. There the dolphin was treated, named Winter, and was given a prosthetic tail to allow her to swim properly. Full color photographs, an informal text, and additional sources for more information complete this inspiring tale.
You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?
Sandy Koufax's early career with the Brooklyn Dodgers was not terribly memorable. But by 1961, the team had moved to Los Angeles and Koufax had perfected his pitch. His amazing story his told through the voice of an unnamed teammate and illustrated with stylized, stunning illustrations.
For 8-9 year olds: To read with you
Arlington: The Story of Our Nation's Cemetery
The history of Arlington National Cemetery is presented in a detailed text and watercolor illustrations, concluding with a timeline and several period photographs. The picture book format introduces a place, its history, and traditions in an understandable, accessible way.
Based in the author's experiences of her father's return from a war, this sophisticated, evocative story still resonates. Lizzie goes out with her dad to call crows, the pests that eat the family’s crops. Call them Lizzie does but her father decides not to shoot them. Atmospheric illustrations further distinguish this timeless story.
Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist
Born into a poor Roma family, Django Reinhardt's musical talent takes him to perform on European stages for appreciative audiences. Here, the basics of his life are presented in vibrant, expressive paintings and a poetic text. An author's note encourages finding out more about this little known musician.
Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems
Schools and students create many lists. This collection is filled with poetry made up of lists, generally suggesting the pattern of a school year. A range of contemporary poets offer accessible and appealing work in a delicately illustrated, long list-like format.
Ever wonder what pencils and pens do when you fall asleep? Well, Tony's tools try to help him out by writing his story for school. Humorous illustrations animate writing instruments in this retro-looking fantasy.
The lesser known animals in this book have something in common: they are all marsupials with particular habitats, habits, and traits. The amazing animals are presented in crisp, full color illustrations and a highly readable narration from this award-winning photographer and science writer.
Mission to the Moon
The encyclopedic presentation in an oversized format support about 200 photographs from NASA as well as other illustrations to chronicle the history of space flight. Rockets and the moon landing are also included. A DVD with historical footage from the moon landing completes this attractive package, sure to be enjoyed by a range of readers.
Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace
Paulie Pastrami is just a kid, and a kid who even has trouble getting his socks to match. But Paulie has big plans. In order to achieve his plan of world peace, Paulie begins with small kindnesses which are sure to grow. Bold, comic illustrations complement this recognizable, winning, and empowering story.
Poets have always looked to the sky for inspiration. A range of contemporary and older poets and their exploration of the stars, sky, moon — and more — are presented, illustrated with lush, evocative paintings.
Ten year old Allie Sherman resists her family's move until she learns that they will live on Strawberry Hill. It is on this intriguing sounding street that Allie finds a friend, confronts racism, and comes to appreciate her family. Set during the Great Depression, this nostalgic novel continues to ring true.
Testing the Ice
Baseball great, Jackie Robinson, never joined his children at the lake near their Connecticut home until the winter he made sure its ice was safe for skating. His daughter recognizes that courage is shown in many ways — from testing ice to breaking the baseball color barrier. Rich illustrations extend this well-told family story.
The Wonderful O
What would life be like without benefit of the vowel 'O'? That's just what the people of Ooroo must cope with when despotic, O-hating pirates take over their island. Wordplay makes the humorous, original tale even funnier in this classic tale by James Thurber.
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